By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO - In the past year, Mary Ann Plasencia has played a part in selecting a new superintendent, helped hand out thousands in grants and hosted a Renaissance feast.
For those efforts, and many more, she was honored Tuesday as the Tupelo School District's Parent of the Year.
"I'm just very humbled," Plasencia said after receiving the award at the Tupelo School Board meeting. "I feel like there's always an army of people who partner to get things done."
Plasencia was nominated as parent of the year for Tupelo High School, where her children Drew and Alex are students. Her daughter, Gabi, is a student at Tupelo Middle School. She is married to Bruce Toppin.
Plasencia has been volunteering with schools since her family moved to Tupelo in 1996.
"I had never stepped foot in public schools before I came to Tupelo," said Plasencia, who attended Catholic schools while growing up in Florida and Louisiana. "I got a very clear message from the community that we were expected to actively support our schools."
As president of the Tupelo High School PTO, she has coordinated volunteers, special events and establishing a pilot mentoring program.
She is assisting with a comprehensive long-range plan to improve the campus. She also served as lead parent for the Tupelo High Madrigals, planning and hosting the three-day Renaissance feast and community performance in 2008.
Her volunteer committments didn't start with the high school. For Milam School, she helped secure funding, equipment and installation of two large playground areas for the school.
At Rankin Elementary, she served as a volunteer teacher at Rankin Elementary After-School Spanish Program.
As a board member of the Association for Excellence in Education, Plasencia worked as the small grants chairperson and the vice president of projects.
Over four years, she had an integral role in the distribution of $300,000 in grants to Tupelo classroom teachers, said Janna Sowers, president of the Association of Excellence in Education.
"Mary Ann personifies the Tupelo volunteer spirit: capable, passionate, insightful, energetic, responsible and willing," Sowers wrote in support of Plasencia's nomination as parent of the year.
As part of the superintendent search advisory committee, Plasencia and a small group of community members interviewed candidates and gave the Board of Trustees insight on each person. She also is a member of Citizens for Tupelo Public Schools.
Outside of the Tupelo Schools, she served on the Community Development Foundation's Blue Ribbon Committee on Public Education.
Keeping the Tupelo volunteer spirit alive is vital, Plasencia said.
"We have to keep asking the hard questions," Plasencia said. "We have to stay engaged."
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.