By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Realtors are often the first points of contact for people moving to a new area, and the Tupelo Public School District wants to ensure they’re armed with information about what it offers.
Tupelo High School hosted an open house on Wednesday for Northeast Mississippi real estate agents. About 30 of them gathered at the school and heard presentations from its principal, students, a local business owner and a leader of the Community Development Foundation. They also were given student-led tours of the campus.
“It is just overwhelming to see all the school offers,” said Cindy Black, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Southern Real Estate.
It comes on the heels of a period in which Tupelo has lost middle-class residents to its suburbs. Some said the city’s schools were among the reasons people were deciding to live elsewhere.
The district has been working hard to address those concerns and recently earned a “B” grade from the Mississippi Department of Education with two “A” schools. Wednesday’s event was an opportunity to showcase the results of those efforts to a group it hopes can share them with prospective homebuyers.
“Realtors are an important link to the development of Tupelo and our community,” said Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden, who also met with a group of about 30 employees of Coldwell Banker on Tuesday. “We’d like them to be able to ask questions and see what we have to offer in our high school and at all of our schools.”
The event was the idea of Greg Gillespie, managing broker at Crye-Leike. Gillespie grew up in Oxford, left the region for about 12 years and moved back to Northeast Mississippi a year ago.
When he did so, he was surprised to hear the Tupelo School District did not have the reputation it once did. But after he did more research, he believed the district to be better than its perception.
“When people come from another town, a lot of times we are the only voices they hear,” he said. “We have to educate people about what Tupelo has.”
Laura Watson, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Southern Real Estate, said she was impressed by some of the classes offered at the school, such as the number of Advanced Placement courses and the culinary, art and music offerings.
“There is more opportunity than I realized, and I wouldn’t have been aware of it without seeing it in person,” she said.