David Meadows is named interim leader of Tupelo Schools

TUPELO – David Meadows was named the interim leader of the Tupelo Public School District on Thursday, the day that Randy Shaver’s term as superintendent officially ended.
Meadows is a retired educator who has been serving as Tupelo’s chief accountability officer on a part-time basis. He’s been in the district for the last 16 years and was also Tupelo’s interim superintendent for six months in 2002, between Mike Vinson’s retirement and Randy McCoy’s arrival.
It is not known how long he will serve in his current role, which will depend upon the search process for the next superintendent.
“I am very humbled at this opportunity to serve the Tupelo Public School District in this capacity,” Meadows said. “I will work tirelessly for the benefit of all of our students.
“In all of my time in Tupelo, I have never met a parent who did not absolutely want the best for his or her child, to be supported academically and to stretch their wings and fly.”
Tupelo’s school board approved Meadows’ new position at its regular meeting Thursday, shortly after school board President Amy Heyer announced that the district had reached an agreement with Shaver on an early release from his contract.
Shaver, whose contract was due to expire on June 30, 2013, had asked last week to begin negotiations to end that contract early.
He made that request after his decision to reassign Tupelo High School Principal Lee Stratton to another school and to replace him at THS with an educator from North Carolina was met with upheaval in the community.
As part of the agreement with its former superintendent, the district will pay Shaver $88,828.50, an amount that represents half of Shaver’s annual $177,657 salary, or less than a fourth of the amount the district still owed Shaver under this contract.
Attorney Otis Tims, who represented the district, said the negotiation process was smooth.
A statement released by the school board on Thursday noted that during the district’s search process in 2008, it was seeking a visionary superintendent and agent for change and that it found those characteristics in Shaver.
“But as we have seen, change is not easy,” the statement said. “It often causes controversy, frustration and sometimes even anger.
“Dr. Shaver has not shied away from controversy. He has not sacrificed his professional judgment to achieve popularity. But he cares enough about Tupelo schools – and is gracious enough – to realize that continuing controversy can make necessary change very difficult to manage.”
The board acknowledged several of Shaver’s accomplishments, including the laptop initiative, programs for student mothers and students who have fallen two years behind their age peers, a better aligned curriculum and a Department of School Improvement focused on teacher coaching.
In a statement he released on Thursday, Shaver said that he believed his administration had laid the foundation for “essential change” that would lead to stronger public schools for Tupelo students.
“My sincere belief is that our schools are not made stronger simply by retaining a middle class, but that they are made stronger when we commit to providing the best possible education for all students regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” he said in the statement.
Meadows will take over the system in the midst of the recent turmoil. As the district searches for Shaver’s long-term replacement, it will fall to Meadows to ease the tensions.
“I appreciate having the opportunity to step in and restore trust and confidence and relationships among our many constituents,” he said. “I think there is a wonderful opportunity in terms of mending relationships and being in sync with our diverse community.”
Heyer said the board now will turn its attention to outlining its search for that long-term replacement. She said that the board chose Meadows after exploring who was available and would be interested in the interim position.
“We are very fortunate Mr. Meadows is willing to serve because of his experience,” Heyer said. “He has a proven record of leading school districts.
“One of the reasons he was chosen is that he will bring a lot of stability and security to our students and staff and parents.” Heyer and Meadows said no decision had been made on next year’s THS principal.
Meadows, 62, spent 38 years as an educator before retiring in June 2008. He has continued to serve the district since then in various part-time roles and will remain retired, meaning he can work 120 days per year.
After spending three and a half years as superintendent in Quitman, Meadows came to Tupelo in 1994. He served first as curriculum director and later became deputy superintendent. Meadows was also a teacher, administrator and assistant superintendent in Moss Point.
He said his immediate goal is to ensure that students are as prepared as they can be for the looming state standardized tests.

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

Former Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver issued the following statement on Thursday, concerning his separation from the Tupelo Public School District

“I am pleased that the Board of Trustees and I have been able to come to terms for the settlement of my contract as Superintendent of Schools. While the series of events that have unfolded over the past few weeks have been divisive, I believe that we all want to move forward in the spirit of doing what is best for students in Tupelo. I urge the Board of Trustees to honor their statutory commitment to the governance of our schools and I strongly urge the City Council to refrain from usurping the Board’s statutory authority to do so. I think that my administration has laid the foundation for essential change that will lead to stronger public schools for all Tupelo students in the 21st Century. My sincere belief is that our schools are not made stronger simply by retaining a middle class, but that they are made stronger when we commit to providing the best possible education for all students regardless of race or socioeconomic status. In conclusion, I have taken great spiritual solace over the past week in reciting, every night, silently, the Beatitudes, which my second grade teacher taught me and required me to memorize so many years ago. No doubt Miss Angel Herndon knew there would come a time in my life when I would need the comfort of that Scripture. Thank you, Miss Herndon. Thank you, Tupelo.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio