TUPELO – After nearly two months of uncertainty, the Tupelo Public School District announced a new assignment for Tupelo High School Principal Lee Stratton on Tuesday.
The district also shuffled around several of its administrators to fill vacancies created by the retirement of three elementary school principals.
Stratton will fill a newly-created administrative position, as the executive director of athletics and extracurricular activities. He also will be an assistant to the superintendent.
Interim School Superintendent David Meadows called Stratton’s move a lateral one and said he will continue to make the same salary that he did as THS principal. That exact figure was not immediately available.
Meanwhile, the district will move three current principals into vacancies created when the leaders at Carver, Parkway and Thomas Street elementary schools retired.
Church Street Elementary Principal Kay Collins will move to Thomas Street, Lawndale Elementary Principal Terry Harbin will now lead Carver and Rankin Elementary Principal Anna Guntharp will take that job at Parkway.
Paul Moton, the lead teacher of the High School Advancement Academy, will be the new principal at Rankin Elementary. Lawndale Assistant Principal Brock English will be that school’s principal.
The Tupelo High School job is vacant. Meadows said he has been searching for the person to fill that job and he hopes to have a recommendation prepared by the June 28 board meeting.
Stratton’s future has been uncertain since the school board voted on March 29 to reassign him to another position within the district and replace him with an administrator from North Carolina. That administrator, Chris Barnes, later opted to stay in his current job, but it was unclear what that would mean for Stratton.
The initial news of his reassignment incited several student and community protests, including a march to a city council meeting. The upshot ultimately led superintendent Randy Shaver, who had made the recommendation, to ask for and be granted an early release from the final two years of his contract.
Stratton said he is pleased with the new position.
“It is exciting to see an opportunity presented to me,” he said. “Mr. Meadows is reviewing all of the personnel in the district. I respect and honor his decision, and I am excited about the position he has given me.”
That said, it will be difficult for him to leave Tupelo High School, where he has been for the last 25 years, including the last year as principal.
“It is strange,” he said. “It is a weird feeling right now. We set the foundation for great success for all of our students. We are really proud of our faculty and teachers and students. They have laid a foundation for great success and that success will continue.”
In the new position, Stratton will work along with athletic director Danny Porter. Meadows said that Porter will work with athletics, while Stratton will help with athletics but also will oversee other extracurricular activities, such as band and drama.
Meadows said Porter has expressed he likely will retire in a year and that he expects Stratton to continue to fill those duties after Porter’s retirement.
Stratton said he will focus on tying those activities to academics and helping the district reduce its dropout rate.
As assistant to the superintendent, he will help represent the district at functions Meadows cannot attend.
Meadows said he considered the position to fit Stratton well, given his knowledge of the district and experience as a teacher, coach and administrator.
“We wanted for Mr. Stratton to remain a part of the Tupelo Public School District,” he said. “As I thought about the position, it was almost the hand that fit the glove perfectly.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal