GEARL LODEN: TPSD parent, community input channels increase

By Gearl Loden

In a few days, this school year will draw to a close. It has been a fast-paced and fruitful year for everyone. We have spent a good bit of time recently reflecting on what has worked, what didn’t and what we can improve upon for next year.
One of the pledges we made to the community last August was to listen more critically – to our teachers, parents, students and community members. That being said, this year we embedded some mechanisms to get input – constructive and honest input.
Our surveys have yielded a vigorous response. They have been instrumental in gauging interest on dual enrollment, the adequacy of services to elementary students, the long-term goals for administrative staff, evaluating block scheduling and whether or not students feel safe at school. We also have reestablished online exit surveys for those families who have left our district.
Some of the valuable and most candid input we’ve received has come from our online suggestion boxes. We have received about 80 suggestions from parents since March of this year. These comments are collected and forwarded to our principals for their review. Teachers also have expressed their concerns via an internal suggestion box allowing them to leave completely private suggestions that help us in defining our direction.
At Tupelo High School, this give and take of information had a different face – the creation of the Council of Excellence – a group of parents, students, teachers and community stakeholders interested in getting the facts and pushing out accurate information. We intend to tweak and expand this model so that in the upcoming school year, each of our schools will have a Community Advisory Committee, made up of teachers, parents, community members, building leadership and in some cases, students. They will begin by meeting quarterly to communicate and discuss new initiatives or programs, and clarify information for parents. This committee also will serve as a vehicle to regularly give the building principal feedback.
We also will designate a staff member to be a Community Liaison at each of our schools. Considered a trusted spokesperson among the staff, he or she will be the point person or “go to” contact for parents and community members with questions about programs, procedures and school tours. We hope that this individual will develop healthy relationships with parents and have a good pulse on parents’ needs and expectations.
As we enter into the summer months, I hope our Kindergarten through 5th grade students will enjoy the “Getting Ready for Next Year” summer packets that will be distributed next week to each of them. They are filled with fun activities and suggested reading lists that will encourage reading throughout the summer break. Reading is a rewarding pastime and a sure path to becoming a life-long learner.
Our Media Centers will be open every Thursday from noon until 6 p.m. from June 6 through July 18 for students to check out and discover new books.
Don’t forget that TPSD’s Camp Opportunity offers 21 camps this summer, offering creative, athletic and science-based opportunities for students completing grades K-6th.
Please visit to register for camps and to download extra copies of the grade-leveled summer packets.
Have a safe and happy summer.
GEARL LODEN, Ph.D., is superintendent of the Tupelo Public School District. Contact him through

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