Crews resigns as TPSD COO

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Citing weakness in the culture and leadership of the district’s Central Office, Billy Crews resigned Thursday after less than four months as chief operating officer for the Tupelo school system.
Crews emailed all district employees early Thursday morning to tell them he intended to leave the position he had held since Jan. 1. After meeting with interim Superintendent David Meadows on Thursday morning, Crews made his resignation immediate.
In the email, Crews said Meadows advised him that the superintendent “did not see a need for my role under his leadership.”
Meadows has been the district’s interim superintendent since April 14, the day the district completed former superintendent Randy Shaver’s request for an early release from his contract.
Meadows said Thursday he could not comment in any detail about Crews’ resignation because it was a personnel issue. Law prohibits district employees from speaking about personnel issues without the employee’s permission.
“I have accepted Mr. Crews’ resignation,” Meadows said. “In looking at the email this morning, there are always two sides to all things. That is as far as I can go.”
Meadows said he had not had time to consider whether the district would fill Crews’ position.
In a statement issued later in the day, Crews was critical of his time in the district, calling the 100 days of his employment “less than satisfactory.”
“There have been obvious concerns and misunderstanding about my new role as chief operating officer by the Board of Trustees as well as among some top administrators who, in my opinion, seemed threatened by an ‘outside’ perspective,” he said.
When contacted for a response, school board President Amy Heyer said the board had unanimously approved Crews’ position in October at the request of then-Superintendent Randy Shaver.
“We regret that Mr. Crews has made that decision to resign,” Heyer said.
She said it was a personnel issue that by law is handled by the superintendent.
Attempts to reach Meadows for comment on Crews’ statement were unsuccessful.
In that statement, Crews said that, in his view, the system “is not operating as a high-performing district despite having many great assets and people engaged and supportive.”
“The key weakness I have witnessed is in the culture and leadership at the central office,” he said.
Crews said he does not have any immediate career plans. He also said he intends to eventually share his perspective about his experience with the district.
“There are lots of lessons to be learned from the recent failure of leadership at all levels,” he said.
Crews left his job as chief executive officer of Journal Inc., the parent company of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, to join the school district in the non-traditional position created by Shaver.
Crews, who had not previously worked as an educator, was put in charge of non-instructional departments in the district, such as human resources, technology, communications, district operations and finance.
The $122,000-a-year position was equivalent in rank to that of an assistant superintendent. The idea was that Crews would oversee non-instructional services to allow Shaver, Deputy Superintendent Diana Ezell and Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill to concentrate on instruction.

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

Billy Crews statement
Billy Crews, in resigning as chief operating officer of the Tupelo Public School District, released this statement Thursday:

“In good faith, I left my job of 32 years to serve our community through the Tupelo Public School District. I have supported public schools throughout our state during my entire professional career and have considered TPSD the most important unifying asset of Tupelo.

“The 100 days of my employment have been less than satisfactory. The school system has been under siege due to its under-performance and the corresponding dissatisfaction in our community. In my new role I have observed lots of room for improvement and can understand the justification for community concern.

“There have been obvious concerns and misunderstanding about my new role as Chief Operating Officer by the Board of Trustees as well as among some top administrators who, in my opinion, seemed threatened by an “outside” perspective.

“I agreed to serve in this role if I could make a positive contribution to teaching and student performance by providing excellent support and service, and helping to make systemic improvements. Unfortunately, it does not appear that under the current leadership and in the current environment my goal is possible.

I am sad to say that it is my view that our system is not operating as a high-performing district, despite having many great assets and people engaged and supportive. The key weakness I have witnessed is in the culture and leadership at the central office. I intend to share, at a later time, a summary of my perspective about my experience in hopes that it will be of some value to the School Board and broader community. There are lots of lessons to be learned from the recent failure of leadership at all levels.

“I wish only the best for the children of our district.”