Council approves LEAPS leader to TSPD board

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Last week, Rob Hudson led a public meeting that outlined some of the community’s concerns about its school district.
On Tuesday, he was given greater responsibility to address those issues.
The Tupelo businessman was named to the city school district’s Board of Trustees after the City Council approved his appointment by a 7-0 vote Tuesday night.
His nomination was announced earlier in the day by Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
Tupelo’s school board members are by law appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council.
Hudson’s five-year appointment begins immediately. He replaces John Nail, whose term ended at the beginning of March. Reed had indefinitely extended Nail’s term until a replacement could be named.
“I was looking for someone with a financial background, someone with children in the school system and someone who had shown dedication to the school system, as Rob and his wife had,” Reed said.
Reed said the financial background was important for this board appointment because that person would be replacing Nail, a certified public accountant.
Hudson, 46, heads Hudson Management Corp., which owns several McDonald’s restaurants in the area. The company has supported education in Tupelo and won the 2009 J.C. Whitehead Award as corporate education advocates from the Association for Excellence in Education.
More recently, Hudson became president of Leaders Engaged for the Advancement of Public Schools Inc., or LEAPS, a nonprofit that started last month to serve as a bridge between the community and school district.

District survey
As its first initiative, LEAPS launched an online community survey that drew 1,500 respondents to answer 22 questions about the district.
Hudson outlined that report at a community gathering last week. It acknowledged community concerns about discipline, school district communication, the Apple laptop initiative and preparation for state tests, among other things.
“My time and experience with LEAPS really has helped me to understand the desires of our community to also be engaged,” Hudson said, adding that the issues he heard the most concerned communication and trust between the community and district.
He and his wife, Tracy, have four children who attend Tupelo public schools: Hannah, a senior at Tupelo High School; Larkin, a freshman at THS; Mary Grace, a seventh-grader at Tupelo Middle School; and Caroline, a third-grader at Rankin Elementary.
Reed, who said he interviewed 17 candidates for the board over the last three months, said Hudson was on his radar before LEAPS emerged. Still, Reed said that Hudson’s role with the organization demonstrated his passion for the school district. Hudson did not know he was being considered for the position until after he began working with LEAPS.
“That will certainly be an added bonus now that he will have that bridge of trust and respect from the people active in LEAPS,” Reed said.
Hudson will step down from the organization as he takes on his new role, but LEAPS will continue its work to support the school district, said Lisa Hawkins, a board member for LEAPS.
“I know that the district desires the same things the community does,” Hudson said. “When the community and school board move together in a direction toward improving that partnership, it will accelerate the results the district will achieve.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.