By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
From Chris Kieffer …
4 p.m. – Tupelo board approves Loden with 5-0 vote. … Loden will have a four-year contract for $182,000 annually. It is $5,000 a year more than Shaver’s contract three years ago.
TUPELO – Amory Schools superintendent Dr. Gearl Loden will be introduced this afternoon as the new superintendent of the Tupelo Public School District.
Loden, who is in his third year leading Amory’s schools, said that the Tupelo job is one that has long interested him.
“Northeast Mississippi is my home,” the Mantachie native said. “I taught at Tupelo High School back in the 1990s. Today, when I am talking about the fact that I’ve judged other districts based on Tupelo, I really mean that. I’ve always admired Tupelo, and I know there is a lot of pride and people wanting to make sure the tradition of excellence endures the test of time.”
Loden, 42, will be officially introduced to the community this afternoon at 4 p.m. in a special public ceremony at the Tupelo High School Performing Arts Center.
Tupelo’s school board is also scheduled to meet in special session at 3:30 p.m. today at the PAC. It is expected to approve Loden during that meeting.
School board president Amy Heyer said that Loden has “proven himself as an instructional leader in improving academics.”
“He has a proven track record of improving performance in every school where he’s worked,” she said.
During Loden’s first year in Amory, he raised student achievement in the 1,860-student district from Academic Watch to High Performing. The district maintained that ranking this past year and saw all of its schools also earn a High Performing ranking.
Academic Watch is the fourth of seven tiers in the state rankings, while High Performing is second best. Tupelo has been ranked Academic Watch for the past three years.
Loden replaces Randy Shaver who was given an early release from his contract in April after an unpopular reassignment of a high school principal led to community unrest. David Meadows has been interim superintendent since then.
Loden acknowledged the school district’s recent turmoil but said that he is ready to reunite community support.
“We have to build relationships, be involved and mend fences,” he said.
He said he plans to be visible in the community and asked those thinking about leaving the school district to give him a chance.
Prior to his arrival in Amory, Loden spent four years as principal of South Panola High School. He has been an educator for 21 years, including 14 in administration.
His career began 1991, when he was a social studies teacher and coach at Noxapater Attendance Center. He served in similar positions in Kosciusko and Tupelo before being named an assistant principal at Oxford Middle School in 1998.
Loden was principal at Houston Lower Elementary form 1999 to 2003, and later served as director of Human Resources in Meridian Public Schools and as an adjunct professor at Mississippi State, teaching graduate level educational leadership students.
He and his wife, Monica, have two sons, Trey, 10, and Arthur, 3.
Check back at djournal.com or see Wednesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper for more information.