Choosing Mary Ann Plasencia as the Tupelo Public Schools’ Parent of the Year extends and enhances the communitywide value placed on strong parental involvement in achieving school excellence at every level and in every activity.
Plasencia, a Floridian by birth and former Louisiana resident who moved to Tupelo in 1996 with her husband, Bruce Toppin, threw herself into public education involvement as a novice – a product of Catholic education who had never been in a public school building.
She was nominated by Tupelo High School, where she is president of the PTO.
She engaged without hesitation in support of her three children’s education at the schools they attend as they have advanced through the grades. Nothing has been too small or unimportant for her effort. If she has refused a request for assistance no one remembers because Plasencia has been constantly in motion and focused in volunteer work for schools – and many other community activities, including St. James Catholic Church.
Plasencia’s selection affirms the previous honorees, all of whom built the foundation and legacy of parental and community activism that have so enriched the Tupelo schools for decades (the district’s 130th anniversary is in 2010).
To her credit, Plasencia knows how and when to offer constructive criticism leading to action. She was asked and served on the Community Development Foundation’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Public Education, in long-term roles with the Association for Excellence in Education – and she was a member of the search advisory committee for a new district superintendent.
Her footprints are found everywhere her children’s activities and academics lead.
Tupelo is among the fortunate school districts in Mississippi that have intentionally maintained strong bonds with their core support community: parents.
Some districts lost parental support during the tragic white flight of desegregation 40 years ago. Tupelo weathered that crisis, in part, because parents remained loyal and committed to their children’s public school education.
Plasencia and the others nominated this year – Angie Bell by Carver Elementary; Linda Lee Brawner by Church Street Elementary; Kelly Kenney by King Early Childhood Center; Heather Wolfe by Joyner Elementary; Susan Griffin by Lawhon Elementary; J.J. Thornton by Lawndale Elementary; Trentice Imbler by Milam Elementary; Martha Ann Wilson by Parkway Elementary; Marilyn Smyly by Pierce Street Elementary; Julia Gaines by Ranklin Elementary; Ragan Miller by Thomas Street Elementary; and, Jane Miller by Tupelo Middle School – are the Tupelo system’s best recruiters and advocates.
Their work proves that long hours well spent make critical differences in the quality of schools, their inclusiveness, and their successes in the classroom and in every other undertaking.