Tupelo High’s “successful” rating on the new, more rigorous state accountability standards established last year falls short of community expectations that the school should be among the state’s highest performers, and eventually among the nation’s best. Much work lies ahead in improving performance and lowering the dropout rate.
But Tupelo High has many strengths and an enormous reservoir of support and good will to build on as Stratton, a longtime teacher, coach and administrator, assumes the principal’s position.
The mid-year retirement of longtime principal Mac Curlee, who had been in Mississippi education for 40 years, created predictable uncertainty among THS students, faculty and the education support community. Stratton was named interim principal in the spring after Glenda Scott, the original interim, asked to be reassigned.
Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver, who recommended Stratton after an executive search firm made him one among several finalists interviewed, said Stratton takes the post with great expectations of him and with full commitment that he will be given the support needed to succeed.
Stratton comes into the position as Shaver is taking the Tupelo schools in new directions – adopting high technology as a basic teaching method and intent on adding rigor in curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Tupelo High’s moving to the next level and beyond is a key to overall improvement in the Tupelo system. If familiarity and confidence born of long association matters in adapting to new and more demanding practices, Stratton surely has that asset on his side – and he should use it to the fullest. He’s also widely appreciated and well-liked in the community as an educator and person.
Stratton has been a teacher, coach and/or administrator for 30 years, 24 of them in Tupelo. He comes to the principalship at THS with the same kind of good will enjoyed by Robert Khayat when he became chancellor at the University of Mississippi and Mark Keenum, when he became president of Mississippi State University in early 2009, both of whom had been long associated with their schools.
They both moved quickly and decisively on many issues that were both necessary and clear indicators that the old ways no longer work best.
We hope Stratton considers that kind of leadership as Tupelo High seeks to fulfill its enormous potential, raise expectations, and produce measurably better results.
Schools that do not lead and shape positive cultural and educational changes will forfeit their standing as bellwethers of progress and sources of hope for the future of all who attend and teach in them.