When industries and individuals consider the prospect of relocation, most assuredly the quality of life as exemplified by schools in that area becomes an issue.
Schools must offer a challenging curriculum, teachers must be nurturing and knowledgeable in their subject areas, facilities must be up to date and conducive to learning, the safety of students must be assured, and there must be a strong tradition of excellence upon which the future of those schools is built. The Tupelo Public School District views its responsibility in each of these areas very seriously.
First of all, Tupelo's curriculum is competitive with any comprehensive school district in America. The core subjects of math, science, language arts, and social studies begin in the lower grades and are coordinated throughout the thirteen years of schooling. Students even have the opportunity to choose from fifteen college level or advanced placement courses before they graduate from Tupelo High School.
Secondly, over 500 dedicated teachers presently work with students each day giving our students the lowest pupil/teacher ratio this district has ever had. Ninety of these teachers hold the highest level of certification offered in the United States, the National Board Certification, and approximately 50 percent of our teachers hold advanced degrees.
Tupelo principals spend many hours interviewing prospective teachers before a recommendation is made to the board of trustees for hiring. The district has long recognized that the most critical element in a student's success is the quality of the teacher in the classroom, and our teachers are among the best trained anywhere.
In order for children to be successful, they must have high quality experiences outside the core subjects. Our facilities offer an educational atmosphere conducive for every day classroom instruction, for the teaching of vocal music, band, strings, drama, interscholastic athletics (32 teams), business technology (24 courses), and vocational training (24 courses) that are second to none. Daily, we are maintaining and upgrading a physical plant of over 1.2 million square feet to ensure that our students have the privilege of attending schools in facilities that are of the highest quality.
Over the years the Tupelo Schools have had many successful grade configurations. We have had K-9 schools, K-8 schools, K-6 schools, K-5 schools, a 6th grade school, a 7-9 school, a 10th grade school, an 11-12 school, a 9th grade school, a 10-12 school, K-3 schools, 4-6 schools, a 7-8 school, and a 9-12 school. In all arrangements, the academic achievement of students was maintained and improved. As the Facility Utilization Advisory Team now does its work, the primary objective is to push student achievement to the next level while maintaining the socioeconomic and racial balance of our schools. The history of the Tupelo Public Schools clearly predicts that the school district, while improving student achievement, will be successful with any grade configuration.
In addition, every school within our district maintains and practices emergency management procedures for the safety of our students. Tornado drills, fire drills, intruder alerts, and even the process of visitor identification on campuses are reviewed for their effectiveness and are updated annually. Our security staff and the school resource officers provided by the City of Tupelo have developed school security plans that are models for other school districts all across our state.
Finally, the tradition of any school district is important, not merely to dwell on the past, but to inspire and to encourage great things to come. Consequently, there are several critically important questions that we must never lose sight of in our district:
Are the test scores of the past being improved upon?
Is the quality and dedication of the staff consistently high?
Is the curriculum keeping pace with the needs of our students, local industry, and the economy?
Perhaps most importantly, do our graduates continue to have the skills necessary to move to the next level of their lives?
The answer to all these questions for our school district is a resounding yes! As our community continues to support us in our mission, the Tupelo Public Schools will continue its tradition of excellence for many years to come.
Randy McCoy is superintendent of the Tupelo Public Schools.