2011: Year in Review – Public unrest initiates early departure of superintendent

By Chris Kieffer | NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A personnel decision made last March led to a week of unrest in the Tupelo Public School District and the early exit of its superintendent.
Randy Shaver’s tenure as the leader of Tupelo’s schools lasted less than two years and was marked by much backlash, often stemming from a lack of consensus for rapid changes he introduced to the system.
The public’s frustration hit a crescendo on March 29 when the school board approved Shaver’s recommendation that popular Tupelo High School Principal Lee Stratton be reassigned to another job within the district and be replaced by a North Carolina administrator.
Residents at that night’s school board meeting voiced displeasure that parents were not consulted about the change. That was followed by a student protest at the school, a community gathering in Fairpark and a large march to City Hall. Many people spoke out on social media and bought T-shirts that proclaimed “We back Strat.”
As the unrest continued, the City Council drafted a resolution asking for Shaver to resign, saying he had lost the trust of the community.
The next day, the school board held a special-called meeting and announced that at Shaver’s request, it had begun negotiating the superintendent’s early release from the final two-plus years of his contract.
“A very real part of any superintendent’s job is to protect the integrity of the board and the system,” Shaver said at the time. “For me to stay on at this time would not accomplish that.”
Those negotiations were completed April 14, and David Meadows was named interim superintendent. The search for Shaver’s full-time replacement continues.
The district announced Stratton’s new position in May, naming him executive director of athletics and extracurricular activities. He was replaced at THS by Jason Harris, the former principal at Joyner Elementary School.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com