WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita Public Schools USD 259 Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson and Gardiner Elementary School Principal Larry Perlman gave their last speeches Wednesday at the GES graduation. Both worked in the district for over 30 years.

“It just slapped me in the nose that this is my last official speaking engagement as superintendent of the Wichita Public Schools,” Dr. Thompson said. “So my emotions are high.”

Dr. Thompson has been a part of the district for 50 years, attending the district kindergarten through 12th grade.

“Wichita Public Schools really made me,” Dr. Thompson said. “As a student, they trained me, they taught me how to read and to do mathematics, and they sent me on my way to college. And then I came back, and I really owe a lot to the Wichita community as well as the Wichita Public Schools.”

She is passing the torch in confidence.

“This district is in great hands,” Dr. Thompson said. “Mr. Kelly Bielefeld will do a fantastic job as a superintendent of the Wichita Public Schools. He has an amazing team around him. There’s great teachers, custodians, clerical folks, and those people are what makes the school district anyway, so he’s just joining a great team of people to continue the great work that the Wichita Public Schools does for students.”

Perlman says he has loved working alongside Dr. Thompson.

“She’s been a great leader but a great partner in terms of helping me grow in my role as a building principal,” Perlman said. “She’s been so supportive, and she’s just a kind of humble person. Being the leader of a huge school district is such a responsibility.”

He says his last days are bittersweet.

“It’s been amazing to just be part of the hearts and minds of so many kids and families and the impact of that over the years,” Perlman said. “It’s so amazing, and looking back on that over the years having parents who are former students, it’s such a great thing for me to be part of that, and there’s been a great opportunity for me, and I feel blessed to have been able to do this for so long.”