Tupelo School Board plans to focus more on results

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

PICKWICK LANDING STATE PARK, Tenn. – Tupelo’s school board will be monitoring the district’s measurable progress in five areas during the next year.
The group discussed those on Wednesday during a retreat at Pickwick Landing State Park Hotel.
Held on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, this was the board’s first retreat in four years. It was intended to give the group an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion of its expectations as new superintendent Gearl Loden begins his tenure in the district.
The goals outlined for the 2012-13 school year were:
• Increasing student achievement.
• Providing a safe and orderly climate in every school.
• Improving the recruitment, development and retention of personnel.
• Maintaining financial stability.
• Improving internal and external communication.
Loden will take this list and develop metrics to quantify ways each goal can be met. He’ll report back to the board in July, and it will formally adopt the goals at a future meeting.
“When you come in to a new position, you want to know what is expected of you,” Loden said, calling the meeting very productive.
The meeting was facilitated by Mike Waldrop, the executive director of the Mississippi School Board Association, who spoke to the group about refining its objectives.
The board, he said, should be more focused on results than processes. They should receive regular updates on the district’s progress in meeting the board’s goals, but should leave it to administrators to develop plans for doing so.
“We want to look at more trend lines and at whether we’re getting the results we expect,” said School Board President Eddie Prather. “We have people working hard, but is our trend line going in the right direction?”
Vice President Beth Stone said board meetings will soon look different, with most presentations tied directly to those goals.
“We are concerned with the end result,” she said.
Waldrop said he holds similar meetings with school boards about once or twice each month, but noted that Tupelo’s meeting was much more extensive, lasting about nine or 10 hours rather than the usual three or four.
“The commitment of the board and the superintendent to understand this is high,” Waldrop said. “They are committed to moving this district forward.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com