It's Ellis' "final argument," in courtroom terms, as the board considers whether to uphold or overturn the administration's decision to discharge the popular teacher, and it will be held in closed session.
Under state law, it's the board's responsibility to review the transcript of 10 days of hearings held since December and decide if there are grounds to reinstate Ellis. A decision is likely in the near future.
The Ellis case has been an unfortunate disruption to the school year in Tupelo, producing divisions within Tupelo High School and the community and worsening already strained relations between the school board, administration and some segments of the community. A decision either way will produce at least some level of unhappiness.
But whether Ellis' dismissal is upheld or he is reinstated, the work of improving Tupelo's schools and reuniting the community behind new leadership must proceed. That imperative transcends the strong feelings surrounding the Ellis case and the lessons to be learned from it, including how the administration handles such matters.
Come summer, Tupelo will have a new superintendent. Dr. Gearl Loden will walk into a challenging situation, even with all the resources, advantages and positive accomplishments the Tupelo schools still have to offer. Tupelo's proud tradition of academic excellence has taken a setback with three consecutive state rankings of Academic Watch. There's a huge achievement gap between racial and economic groups in the system and a widespread perception of discipline problems. The dropout rate is higher than it should be. Community support is wavering. Demographic shifts are both cause and effect of migration of many white middle-class families out of the city and school system.
Loden has the unenviable task of tackling all these challenges, and he will need a united and determined community to succeed. He understands what the issues are, and his track record in Amory and elsewhere shows he can effectively lead. He must have community support unencumbered by lingering divisions or unhappiness over past issues as he attempts to get at the root of the problems.
Calvin Ellis has meant much to many Tupelo High School students and parents, past and present, and the support he has received in recent months is an understandable demonstration of loyalty and appreciation. It's clear he made some mistakes. The board must decide, based on the evidence presented it, whether those mistakes rose to a level justifying his dismissal.
Whatever the decision, it must not detract from the larger work at hand - work that will have long-term implications for the entire community, one way or the other.