Family needs draw John Pipkins away
GREEN FOREST -- John Pipkins had hoped to slip away quietly to ease the pain of parting, but rumors were circulating about his pending departure and he reluctantly confirmed it is so.
Pipkins, or Mr. P as he is affectionally known, is the Green Forest Intermediate School principal who has coached Tiger cheerleaders to multiple state titles over the years.
Pipkins said he has accepted a position as K-5 principal at Mayflower, a suburb of Conway.
"This was the hardest decision I ever made in my entire life," he said. "I lost sleep for weeks battling this issue of whether or not to leave.
"It's really hard to leave somewhere you consider home.
"However," he continued, "anyone who works in this building knows that I always tell them family comes first. That's the philosophy we live by in this building.
"I had a decision to make. Do I practice what I preach, or do I give lip service only?"
Pipkins said his parents, who live in Nashville, Ark., near Texarkana, had a tough year and need him nearby.
"I've got to do what's best for my family," he said. "My mom and dad are important. They have no one else. I have to take care of them. It's been a tough decision for me. I love this building and the teachers in this building. We've built an awesome relationship, we're an extended family and they understand. My leaving is strictly a family decision."
Pipkins said he and his wife, Pam, a librarian at the elementary school, moved to Green Forest in 1989. He first taught preschool before becoming a fifth and sixth grade teacher, then intermediate school principal three years ago.
"I've been given a lot of opportunities to grow by the district," he commented. "I've seen a lot of positive things happen."
Although he's leaving, Pipkins says he'll always be a Tiger at heart.
"I grew up believing once a Scrapper always a Scrapper at Nashville, and believed it until we played Nashville in football this year. When talking mid-field with former classmates and they wanted me to join them in the singing of the Alma Mater, I realized I was in that town as a Tiger. It was an ah-ha for me."
Pipkins said he's had the privilege of knowing many wonderful kids over the years and his heart will always be here because of that.
Looking toward the future, he said, "We had to realize, Pam and I, at this point in our lives, we're being given a different task. That is the major force in our decision to move.
"The school I'm going to is just like we picked up Green Forest and moved it there. It's like a mirror image, even the community itself, a suburb of Conway. It will give me the opportunity to get experience in different grade levels. I feel like God answered our prayers. My heart is broken about leaving, but I'm excited about the new job."
Pipkins said he couldn't talk about the cheerleading program that he and Pam coached the past dozen years because it was too difficult emotionally.
"Let's just say that we ended the 2004-05 school year with one of the best squads that Pam and I have ever put together," he said. "These young people were incredible. Not only did they win the state championship, but uplifted us everyday with their Tiger pride. They are incredible, dynamic kids and it's going to be tough to leave them.
"There are so many kids we've had through the years that have made an impact on our lives.
"People need to stop and realize all the negative they hear is not nearly as important as all the good things going on.
"I want people of this community to look within themselves and realize not everyone gets to be a red Tiger. They should do whatever it takes and be proud to be a Tiger because it's important.
"This town has wonderful kids and people, who 17 years ago, opened their arms and welcomed us. We found a pot of gold when we moved here."
Pipkins said the move will be a new chapter in their lives, although a bit uncertain at this point. Pam, he said, has a promising interview for an elementary librarian position in the Conway area coming up, but no contract as yet.
He says they aren't selling their house or land because there are too many ties to the area. Daughter Laura, he said, loves Silver Dollar City, Celebration City and White Water while he loves Razorback football games.
"We're not selling the house or land," he said. "We're going to have a vacation home. And, who knows. We may be back."