School's in for Tupelo teachers

This week’s school openings
Monday – Aberdeen, Chickasaw County, Houston
Today – Union County, New Albany
Wednesday – Pontotoc city
Friday – Tupelo

By Michaela Gibson Morris
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo Public School teachers officially rang in the new school year and a new superintendent at Monday’s district convocation.
Students will start classes Friday, but teachers officially went back to work Monday. The annual convocation gave Tupelo educators their first look as a group at new Superintendent Randy Shaver, who received high marks on his opening comments.
Tupelo High School social studies teacher Braden Bishop said Shaver came across as accessible and authentic.
“I think he gave a lot of people good first impressions today,” said. “He’s definitely someone you want in your corner as a teacher.”
Shaver drew chuckles with cultural references to the start of his career as an educator in 1975. Shaver spent 21 years as a English, speech and debate teacher in North Carolina schools before moving into administration.
“I like that he has been in the classroom,” said Leslie Hilliard, a second-grade teacher at Parkway. “I appreciate that because he understands what we go through.”
Shaver told the district staff that his job was provide what they needed to do their job. In return, he asked them to pour their enthusiasm, love and professionalism into their students.
“We don’t make widgets,” Shaver said. “You make citizens for tomorrow.”
Tosha Armstrong, who teaches third grade at Lawndale, said she liked what she heard about Shaver’s priorities as superintendent.
“I liked that the superintendent was so student-centered,” Armstrong said. “Everything he said came back to focus on them.”
Shaver set out a set of extraordinary goals including the widespread use of laptops, a 90 percent graduation rate and ranking in the top 10 internationally by 2014.
Parkway second-grade teacher Laine Godwin said she was encouraged by Shaver’s “faith in our school district that we can reach these goals.”
After Tupelo Teacher of the Year Pam McAlilly rang in the start of the new year at the end of the convocation, teachers said they were leaving encouraged.
“It’s a fresh start,” said Greg Dillard, who will be changing roles himself this year moving from a classroom at Tupelo Middle School to working with homebound students. “It should be interesting. It’s going to be a good year.”

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal