Tupelo School Board plans for next school year

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

PICKWICK LANDING, Tenn. – Tupelo’s school board members want to better measure the district’s progress.
Discussion at the trustees’ annual retreat last week centered on goals for the upcoming year and ways to use specific data to monitor each of them.
“Last year we focused on writing our goals, and this year, we focused on measurable indicators and really seeing if our goals have been reached,” said TPSD School Board President Beth Stone.
This was the second consecutive year board members met during the summer at Pickwick Landing State Park Hotel to develop their goals. Like last year, the discussion was facilitated by Mississippi School Boards Association Executive Director Mike Waldrop, who encouraged the board members to focus on results rather than strategies.
“The biggest challenge is getting boards to really understand the importance of planning, goal-setting and monitoring through the use of data,” said Waldrop, a former school superintendent who leads similar training with 30 to 35 school districts annually. “You need to look at what you want to do and how do you determine if you’ve met that based on data.”
Goals for the upcoming year include improving student achievement; having a safe, secure and orderly environment; recruiting and retaining students, families and top-quality educators and maintaining sound finances.
They’ll measure those using such indicators as graduation rate, ACT scores, findings on safety audits, survey results, discipline incidents and data on entering and exiting students and teachers, among other things.
Superintendent Gearl Loden will take the notes from their discussion to develop a draft with the goals and indicators. A final version will be approved at a future board meeting.
“We spend so much time together in board meetings just doing the business of the district,” said School Board Vice President Rob Hudson. “A meeting like this gives us time to plan. It is one of our most essential parts of the process to speak with the superintendent and get his thoughts and insight. It is just good, honest dialogue.”
The retreat began around noon on Wednesday, and board members worked until about 9:30 p.m., with a break for dinner. They also met for more than an hour on Thursday, when Loden updated them on several district initiatives, such as plans for buildings and grounds, the Early Childhood Education Center and the new Bring Your Own Device initiative.
“It gives us time as a board and superintendent to reflect on the past year and see what we want to refine over the next year,” Loden said.
After also working with Waldrop last year, board members said they were able to go more in-depth this time.
“Dr. Waldrop talked about paradigm shifts in the questions we ask,” Hudson said. “We need to move from focusing on the process to focus on the results we need to achieve.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com