Loden prepares for Tupelo school transition

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Now that his replacement has been chosen in Amory, incoming Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said he will have more time to focus on his new job.
Since being hired by Tupelo on Feb. 28, Loden has had to spent most of his time in Amory, where he has been the superintendent for the past three years. Last week, Amory’s school board hired Tony Cook, assistant superintendent of the Pontotoc City School District, as its new leader.
“I still need to finish state testing, graduation and end-of- the-year activities in Amory, and then I will be able to focus on Tupelo,” Loden said after Tupelo’s school board meeting on Tuesday. “I’ve been trying to make sure we end the year on a solid note in Amory.”
After Memorial Day, he will begin spending the majority of his time in Tupelo, although he will continue to help Cook with his own transition. Both men officially begin their new jobs on July 1.
“I’m excited for Amory,” Loden said. “Mr. Cook will do a wonderful job.”
Loden’s first major task in Tupelo will be to rework the district’s organizational chart. He hopes to have a new chart and job descriptions ready to present at the June 26 board meeting.
The district did make one change to its chart on Tuesday, changing the title of “deputy superintendent” to “assistant superintendent.” It means the district will have three assistant superintendents.
Diana Ezell had served as deputy superintendent. The move is a lateral one because the deputy position had the same salary and rank on the organization chart as an assistant superintendent.
Loden said he studied 12 districts similar in makeup to Tupelo and found the trend was to use assistant superintendents and directors, but not deputy superintendents.
“I want to have a clear chain of command and three people who are equals and working together with clearly defined roles and responsibilities,” Loden said.
Ezell said she was happy with the shift.
“Because of Dr. Loden’s reputation for integrity and strong leadership, I am looking forward to being part of the team that his reorganization supports and defines,” she said. “Currently, I am writing my doctoral dissertation and am grateful to have been given the opportunity to shift my responsibilities and obligations and still contribute to Dr. Loden’s plan for improvement and to the education of Tupelo’s children.”
Loden said he feels central office will have a well-rounded leadership team with Ezell, whose background is in elementary schools, and Assistant Superintendents Fred Hill and Matthew Dillon with backgrounds in middle and high school.
“We have a strong leadership team, and I look forward to working with the assistant superintendents as we continue to transition into TPSD,” he said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com