That was the message on Tuesday at the school district's annual Back to School Meeting for its roughly 1,100 staff members. It was held at the Tupelo Middle School Civic Auditorium.
"In the past we've called this a convocation," said Tupelo Interim Superintendent David Meadows. "Let's think of it as a new beginning, a celebration of excellence."
Tuesday's message came after a school year that saw concerns about discipline, frustration over teachers not being respected, Superintendent Randy Shaver's request for an early release from his contract and protests about a personnel move.
"The past year was a rough school year," said Carver physical education teacher Sherry Rial. "We put it behind us and are moving forward and feel great."
The district's educators were told on Tuesday that they were the ones with the ability to set the tone for the new year.
"It was very positive," Rial said. "I feel like I'm believed in. They believe in what we're doing, and they are behind us."
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr., one of the event's eight speakers, emphasized the opportunity those educators had to make an impact.
"You have a privilege this year to be on the front line of what could be one of the most important years in the history of our school district," he said.
Referencing last year's turmoil and the current community interest in its schools, Reed said that the importance of the upcoming school year may be second only to 1970, the year when Tupelo schools were fully integrated.
Meanwhile, eighth-grade student Leah Davis thanked the teachers for the difference they make in their students' lives. Her address drew a standing ovation.
"With you, no child is left behind, and without you, there is no TPSD," she said.
Glenda Scott, the district's curriculum coordinator, delivered the keynote address about the summer curriculum writing project. More than 100 teachers in the district collaborated to rewrite the district's K-12 curriculum and create several supplemental documents. Those who worked on that project were honored on Tuesday.
"I have been renewed, exhilarated and inspired by the work of 100 teachers this summer," Scott said.
Standing in the auditorium shortly after the meeting, Tupelo Middle School teacher Eileen Bailey said she is eager to begin the new year.
"I think it will be a great year, and I think they did a great job of getting us ready," she said. "The message was upbeat, and everyone took that with them."