By Jeff Harrison
The last day of school has come and gone.
But Jeff Holland was back at Solider Creek Elementary recently, cleaning out more than three decades of memories. The longtime principal said he’s sad to leave education, but is looking forward to the next step in life.
“This was a hard decision to make,” Holland said. “Solider Creek is a great school with great students, great parents and a great PTA. I’m 50 years old and it’s time to let someone else lead.”
Holland has been the principal at Soldier Creek for the past seven years. He helped close out the old school building that hugged the corner of Douglas Boulevard and SE 15th Street, and opened the beautiful two-story building that replaced it in 2014.
Holland said he decided to retire this year to spend more time with his family and pursue a new business venture with his brother. He plans to work for an oilfield service company that his brother owns. The two are also opening a sports memorabilia store in Moore.
“We’ve always had a passion for sports and collecting cards, so it’s a chance to get back to that,” he said.
Mid-Del Schools has a special place in his heart. Holland has spent nearly his entire life connected to the district, as a student, student teacher, custodian, teacher and finally principal. He estimates that he’s seen about 13,000 students during his three decades in education.
“Some of the students I taught are now enrolling their own children here and some are middle schoolers,” Holland said.
Holland comes from a family of educators. His father Dave Holland was a teacher and principal in Mid-Del Schools for more than 30 years, and his late mother was a longtime preschool teacher at First Baptist Church in Midwest City.
“Education is a big thing in our family. Growing up, we were always involved in a lot of school events,” he said.
His daughter, Kenzie plans to continue the family tradition and is studying education at UCO.
“It’ll be fun to watch her grow up and prepare her classroom and impact the lives of kids,” he said.
Holland said his role as principal has been challenging and rewarding. His priority as a principal was creating a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.
“This isn’t just a job. It’s a 24/7 community service to try and help kids be successful. Sometimes that means being a doctor, a lawyer, a judge and sometimes it’s being a mom and dad,” Holland said.
Holland was first introduced to Mid-Del Schools in 1974 as a kindergartener at Parkview Elementary, which was a new school at the time. His family later moved to Del City and he attended Townsend Elementary and later Kerr Junior High and Del City High School.
After high school, Holland went to Central State in Edmond, what is now UCO. He completed his student teaching at Townsend and worked nights as a custodian at Barnes Elementary.
He graduated college in May of 1991. One month later, he married his wife Christie. And in August, he started his teaching career at Townsend.
Shortly after that, his father moved from the classroom to administration. Holland followed in his father’s footsteps again. He went back to UCO to earn a degree in school administration, studying nights after teaching and coaching.
Holland got his first administration job as a vice principal at Epperly Heights Elementary. He later returned to Townsend as principal for seven years, before moving to Soldier Creek. And he even played a part in designing the new school building.
“I got to order furniture, carpet and bookshelves for the office, so it all has my little stamp on it,” he said. “It was neat seeing it all come together.”
The school district also modified the building plans following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012. Holland said they halted construction and redesigned the lobby to increase security. The district later passed a bond issue to enhance security at all sites.
“This building is as safe as we can make it and everyone that comes follows the procedures,” he said.
Family, friends and staff celebrated Holland’s career with a baseball-themed retirement party.
“They did an awesome job with the retirement celebration,” he said. “There were over 200 people there and it was cool to see my old baseball coach at Townsend, and they even had a picture of me playing in elementary school.”
Jeff and Christie have two children, Caleb and Kenzie, who both graduated from Carl Albert High School. Caleb and his wife Madison have a 4-month-old daughter Hampton. Caleb is a firefighter in Moore and Madison is a nurse. Christie works as a dental hygienist in Midwest City.