By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Incoming Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said Friday that getting a handle on discipline will be a priority of his administration.
Loden, who officially takes over the district July 1, was the speaker for this month’s “First Friday” event held in the food court of The Mall at Barnes Crossing. It was on the second week of this month because of Good Friday.
Currently Amory’s superintendent, Loden addressed parent and community involvement, instruction and discipline while speaking to the crowd of more than 100 people.
Community members have expressed concerns about discipline in the schools the past couple of years, and Loden said on Friday it is something that must be addressed quickly.
“Discipline starts with adults,” he said, noting that puts responsibility on himself, administrators and teachers.
Teachers, he said, must use focused “bell-to-bell instruction” that engages students for an entire class period. Those teachers, he said, must also be given the ability to write referrals for students who misbehave. Complaints during the past two years have questioned whether teachers have been constrained from doing so.
If teachers aren’t able to address a discipline problem as soon as it occurs, the pent-up frustration will make it worse later, he said.
“We may have more referrals than ever before, but we are going to have discipline in our schools,” he said.
His message caught the attention of Allen Pegues in the audience.
“I think that it is a big need that he is responding to discipline,” he said, adding that many people will be watching to ensure policies are applied consistently.
“It remains to be seen if that is successful,” he said. “If it is done consistently across the board, I think they will get the message.”
Joseph Wood, a teacher who recently moved to Tupelo from Maryland and is currently looking for a job in the region, said he liked what he heard on the subject.
“I think he was right on point,” Wood said. “I think his philosophies were simple. I love his discipline policies.
“It is really good as a teacher for someone to have your back.”
Speaking about community involvement, Loden encouraged those in the audience to contact him with concerns and suggestions they have about the school district.
“I welcome your full input on the ways we can rebuild schools, restore relationships that have weakened and build new relationships,” he said. “If you have something on your mind, let me know. If you don’t tell me, I’ll never know.”
He noted that parental involvement is very important but is also something the school district can’t control.
“It is critical that we focus on what we can control without making excuses,” he said. “We need to look for ways to communicate with more parents. Every parent won’t be involved. What can we do when they are not?”
The district must fully use its instructional time, making sure no time is wasted, Loden said. Doing so means making sure movies watched in class serve an academic purpose and ensuring that substitutes are fully prepared to teach lessons when they are used, he said.
Loden also mentioned the need to take stock of the district’s resources and programs and determine which ones are the most useful.
“We need to create a culture where everyone is learning,” he said. “Real change will occur. No matter what happens, we have to stay focused on high-quality instruction.”
The “First Friday” speaker series will resume on Sept. 7.