OUR OPINION: Community expectations undergird TPSD progress

When it comes to public schools, there is no doubt that community expectations and support affect quality and performance in a big way.

If a community expects to have excellent public schools, and provides the resources to achieve it, the biggest part of the battle is won. A community that tolerates mediocrity or worse will continue to get subpar performance in its schools.

Tupelo always has been a community that both demands much of its public schools and consistently backs up those expectations with support – financial and otherwise. That community connection with the schools has been a critical component of Tupelo’s extraordinary economic success for many decades.

Whenever the schools have not met community expectations, Tupelo citizens have made it known that they expect better. That was the case four years ago when the district earned an “Academic Watch” designation under the old state ranking system, the fourth of seventh tiers. The next couple of years brought public expressions of dissatisfaction and changes in leadership, and much disagreement on causes and solutions, but the message resonated that the community expected improvement.

Today the results are clear: A school system long considered one of the state’s best, and which drew national attention at times, has made significant progress in reclaiming that status. A decided turnaround during the last two school years, including two “A” schools this year and a second straight “B” rating as a district – the “Academic Watch” rating would have translated to a “D” – have given not only the schools but the community a new injection of confidence, pride and optimism about the future.

That rejuvenated spirit about Tupelo’s schools was on full display Saturday when hundreds of parents, community members, teachers, school administrators and city leaders gathered in Fairpark for a festive celebration of the progress represented by last week’s state rankings. Tupelo’s school system isn’t all the way to where it needs to be yet, but it has made remarkable progress in a very short time, and celebrating that progress and renewed pride was fully warranted.

Just two or three years ago, there were those who thought the Tupelo schools – and by extension, the wider community – had seen their best days. So tied together have the fortunes of the schools and the community been in Tupelo that it’s fair to say that as go the schools, so goes the community.

But Tupelo citizens and educators have proven that a mobilized community, working in tandem with its schools, can right the ship. It’s happening in Tupelo, and it all began – as it always has – with high community expectations and strong community support.