Both Birds to retire, volunteer in Maine

Director of Financial Aid and French teacher Geoff Bird and Upper School Dean Mike Bird have spent 47 years working for schools. Now they’ve announced that this is their last.

“I love coming to school everyday, but we’d rather leave when we aren’t tired of our jobs than when we’re too tired to do anything,” Mike Bird said. “We’ve got lots of energy and we’re excited about all the other things we can do, so we should start doing them while we can.”

Once retired, the married couple will move into a new house, travel and spend more time with their grandchildren, who live on the east coast.

“I think it was seeing our children at Christmas that kind of pushed us over the edge and let us know how far away we are,” Mike Bird said. Geoff Bird added, “And [the grandchildren] don’t stay young all that long, so we want to be part of their lives before they get to be teenagers and don’t want anything to do with us.”

The two also plan to do volunteer work with teenagers from resettlement communities in Portland and Lewiston, Maine.

“There are big Somali and Sudanese populations,” Mike Bird said. “There are a lot of kids who aren’t getting a lot of attention. Between my college counseling experience, just counseling teenagers in general, and Geoff’s financial aid knowledge, I think we would make a good team to help underserved kids like that.”

Both will serve on the board of a private school in Belfast, Maine, where one of their daughters, Amy, lives. Amy Bird once taught yoga at Harvard-Westlake.

The Birds first came to Harvard-Westlake in the fall of 2000, after nine years on School Year Abroad’s campus in France, where Geoff Bird was resident director.

Former president Tom Hudnut, who was on the board of School Year Abroad, hired the Birds when they decided to return to the States.

Mike Bird started as a dean, while Geoff Bird started as the chair of the upper school foreign language department and a cross-country coach.

Five years later, Geoff Bird became Director of Financial Aid, but he still teaches and coaches.

“I’m proud of what the school has been able to do in financial aid,” he said. “We’ve got 50 percent more kids on financial aid now than we did when I came in in 2005. I think there are big plans to move ahead, and I think that the job isn’t finished.”

Before the couple moved to France, he coached track and taught French at the Thacher School in Ojai, while Mike Bird got her start in admissions – she would move into college counseling while in France. It was at Thacher that their children grew up, the Birds said.

Now it is their 14th year at Harvard-Westlake, and their 42nd walking to school together every day.

“We’ve talked about this all the time; we’ve looked back on our lives, and we’ve been very fortunate,” Geoff Bird said. “We’ve had a chance to live in really great places with great schools and have great colleagues and teach really great students. I couldn’t complain about anything.”

“It’s the activity and the energy of a school,” he said. “Part of this job is that it keeps you young. I will miss the energy and we’ll try to replace it with being around kids.”

“Sure, you get frustrated that there’s always trash around the lounge, but I can’t say won’t miss that; I’m going to miss the kids who make it,” Mike Bird said. “We have to think this decision’s going to be just as good as all those other decisions we made, which were hard to make at the time. It was hard to leave France; it was hard to leave to leave Thacher, but they turned out to be the best decisions, so this is going to be a good one, too.”

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