Tupelo’s general election mayoral nominees – Democrat Doyce Deas and Republican Jack Reed, Jr. – on Monday strongly agreed that their most important appointments, if elected, would be to the Tupelo School Board, important common ground in a year of transition within the Tupelo district.
Deas and Reed appeared at the Tupelo Rotary Club, whose members earlier submitted questions to be asked at what was billed as a debate. Both candidates were given two minutes to answer the same eight topical questions:
- Mayor/City Council relations;
- The city’s role in aiding economic development;
- Annexation issues;
- Relations with other Lee County governments and unincorporated areas ;
- The future of the Major Thoroughfare Program;
- The importance of Tupelo’s appearance;
- Views on the strong mayor-council form of government; and,
- A mayor’s role in supporting public education.
Both candidates offered clear answers on all the topics, and there was more agreement than disagreement in what was said.
Their strongest affirmative answer related to the Tupelo schools, of which both are graduates and in which both have been deeply involved in voluntary supportive capacities. Deas served 15 years on the school board.
Their empathy for the public schools would be immensely helpful as a communicator, advocate and tone-setter in the coming year during which a new superintendent, North Carolinian Randy Shaver, will succeed the retiring Randy McCoy, and school alignments by grade and intra-district lines will change.
Tupelo’s communitywide support for its public schools helped carry the district successfully through the challenging transition to full integration in the 1960s and early 1970s. That support included the steadfast backing of boards of aldermen and mayors – along with an amazing core of civic leadership that included older members of the two candidates’ families.
Unlike other communities in Mississippi and elsewhere, there’s never been an assumption that Tupelo’s public schools would fail. The intent always has been success and improvement – relying on confident, competent leadership in key positions.
The mayor and City Council don’t have direct input in school policy. The mayor’s chief role is in nominating exceptionally qualified and enthusiastic trustees, with the council following in confirming them.
All citizens, including the mayor and members of the City Council, should play a role in maintaining an outlook in which the schools can continue to change, improve and remain fully appealing to parents and students.
NEMS Daily Journal