Tupelo citizens enthusiastically reaffirmed and renewed the community's unified, historic support for public education Monday night, filling the Tupelo High School Performing Arts Center with a showcase of pride in achievement.
Citizens for Tupelo Public Schools, organizers of the rally, achieved its first goal of visibly and dramatically demonstrating the depth of commitment to successful public education as a community cornerstone.
More importantly, the rally set the stage for continuing 40 years of authentic unity – bridging race, economic standing and every other issue that has so divided many Mississippi towns, shredding public school support, and retarding community growth.
It is precisely because Tupelo is growing, largely as a result of long ago anchoring its potential in strong public schools, that the story and the work must be constantly retold and renewed.
Parents and other school advocates uncompromisingly embraced the quality, the purpose, the proven performance – and the challenge – of standing with public education.
Dr. Frank Hodges (whose young family will become the fifth generation of his kin to attend the Tupelo schools) summarized what's required. Hodges told the audience of 1,000 that the community should relish the challenge of creating and sustaining excellence for every child in the face of competition – from private schools, the larger global economy, and rapidly advancing knowledge. A tradition of excellence, he said, must be matched with a current effort ensuring excellence.
Not unexpectedly, it was the students who became the stars of the evening, the proof and reward for effective work and effort. Academic all-stars, athletes, and performing arts groups representing all ages and all schools brought the crowd repeatedly to its feet.
The students are the reason, and each generation of them requires our best.