By NEMS Daily Journal
Discipline in the Tupelo Public School District has been a topic much on the minds of many city residents this school year, and it has taken on increasing importance in recent weeks as community leaders grapple with ways to reverse a trend of middle class erosion in the city.
While opinions on the nature and extent of the problem differ significantly, a widespread public perception exists that discipline is a problem at Tupelo High School. The school system initially reacted earlier in the year with a degree of defensiveness, which was understandable given the rampant rumors that sometimes blew incidents out of proportion and painted an overly negative picture of the school environment.
Recently, however, TPSD leadership has begun to take action that should help reassure parents, teachers and the wider community that 1) it hears the concerns, and 2) it wants to correct problems where they exist.
First, Superintendent Randy Shaver announced that Chief Operating Officer Billy Crews would lead a review and evaluation of “real and perceived” discipline concerns. That process will involve teachers, parents and community members, according to district officials.
A second announcement last week involved a special focus on academic and discipline issues at the high school. Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill will lead a team of administrators and others who will provide support to teachers in improving academic performance and better utilizing the extensive technology now available to them. Two new school security officers will also be brought on board at THS.
These tangible actions won’t by themselves be enough to redirect the community conversation, but they are important signs of the school system’s understanding of the need to take seriously the concerns expressed.
As the school district implements these decisions, it is right and proper for the community to expect improvements. An orderly environment is essential to learning.
But parents, teachers and others in the community have a concurrent responsibility not to spread unfounded rumors or otherwise inflame passions unnecessarily.
It is in everyone’s interests that problems be resolved in a spirit of teamwork and collaboration – both within and outside the school system.
In other words, the community needs to hold both school officials and itself accountable. Only with the clear understanding that the schools and community are in this together, not pitted against each other as antagonists, will Tupelo’s schools regain the traction needed to achieve the excellence the community wants and expects.