The Tupelo Public School District is beginning a new school year. Please note the emphasis on “public” for our schools do in fact belong to the public. They are funded-adequately or inadequately- by our nation, state, county and city. They exist for the benefit of present and future generations. They are our schools.
While we entrust the management of our schools to school boards, administrators, teachers and other staff, the driving force behind the success or failure of TPSD and other public schools is public expectation. Just as the expectations of parents are major factors in the life decisions of their children, community expectations are major factors in the functioning of our schools. As we begin a new school year, we need to ask ourselves, “What do we expect?” Below is a list of my own personal expectations. (I am sure your ideas would be different, so I encourage you to make your own list.) But here is mine. I expect TRPSD to:
• Refuse to accept unacceptable behavior from students.
• Value the individual student more than they value test scores.
• Honor and respect teachers who earn that respect and provide a path for improvement or exit from the profession for those who do not.
• Maintain a professional relationship with parents.
• Provide a rigorous instructional program that acknowledges both academic standards and individual differences.
• Value diversity that enriches-not diminishes-the atmosphere of our schools.
• Place its resources and energy on the school and classroom –not on building a top heavy bureaucracy.
Those of us who care deeply for TPSD are encouraged by the current changes in our schools. Dr. Loden’s leadership style is positive and supportive – a rare combination of vision and practical action plans. There is still much work to be done,
(There always will be!) but the district seems to be addressing its challenges with courage and openness.
Let me end where I began, TPSD is a public school district. It depends on the involvement of the public for its creative growth. Tupelo has remained dedicated to its public schools for one hundred years. Sustaining this commitment has not always been easy but it has been constant. While I acknowledge that some educators may wish the community would require less involvement: that is simply not the history of Tupelo. Tupelo Public School District has always existed in an opinionated community that expects excellence. There can be no doubt that this tradition remains strong. As Tupelo High School celebrates its 100th Anniversary I encourage community and school leaders to find creative avenues for connecting the rich resources of our city to our schools. Let’s keep our expectations high for another one hundred years.
MARTHA CHENEY is a retired educator who lives in Northeast Mississippi. She is an occasional columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.