TUPELO • Dr. Paul Moton will work to improve educational outcomes for Tupelo Public School District students in his new role as Director of Educational Enhancement and Innovative Design.
Moton took over the position after confirmation by the TPSD Board of Trustees in April.
Summing up his new role in a single sentence, the former Milam Elementary School principal said the plan is “to make education better for all students on all campuses regardless of socio-economic status.”
A major aspect of Moton’s job will be working to close the district’s achievement gap.
The current gap in levels of proficiency between minority and majority students is wide. White students are 41% more proficient in language and 33% more proficient in math than Tupelo School District’s minority students. The district hopes to lower the gap to 10 to 15% in the coming years.
Achievement gaps aren’t commonly discussed, although most educators know they exist, Moton said.
“It’s hardly discussed because, ultimately, the success of the district is for all students,” Moton said. “So as long as the district is successful, you really don’t talk about it. But when you start to falter, you’ll see why.”
For example, districts may notice that one particular group of students needs to improve its scores for the overall district to receive an “A” rating.
TPSD has maintained a “B” rating for more than five years, and is looking to change that as Moton works to improve all schools, with a focus on sixth through twelfth grade.
“The more successful our students are, the more successful the schools are, and more successful the schools are, the more successful our workforce will be,” Moton said. “We’re looking at this position as something that enhances ‘K-14’ education versus ‘K-12.’ When we say ‘K-14,’ we mean, ‘Are we preparing our kids to be college and career ready when they leave the high school?’”
Specific programs he’ll work on include community partnerships with Itawamba Community College through initiatives like Middle College and the PACE program at the alternative school, which is for students who are two or more grade levels behind academically.
He’ll work to recruit teachers, enhance the dropout prevention program and add more advanced placement and dual credit classes.
Moton has worked for 23 years as an educator, two decades of which have been with Tupelo Schools.
During his seven-year stint as Milam’s principal, Moton was named TPSD’s Administrator of the Year twice – in 2014-15 and 2019-20. Before that, he served as Rankin Elementary School principal for three years.
Moton said the time he’s spent within the Tupelo School District will serve him well in his new role.
“A lot of these students, I’ve already formed relationships with,” Moton said of working with the entire district. “I know their parents, I know where they’re from, I know their stories.”
Moton left a legacy of high achievement at both Milam and Rankin. The schools were “A” rated and ranked in the top 10% of the state during his time there, he said.
Leaving Milam was one of the most difficult decisions Moton ever made, but at the same time, he saw how the educational enhancement and innovative design job could improve the lives of so many children.
He said as a principal, it’s easy to focus just on your own school and students while striving to be the best that there is.
“You can lose sight of everything else,” Moton said. “But in this role, my focus is the district and making sure that the district does well while building relationships and supporting administrators.”
He plans to make daily visits to campuses across the district to foster personal relationships with teachers, administrators and – most importantly – students.
“Some of these kids just need someone that they can talk to and somebody to check on them, somebody to say ‘Hey, what happened?’” Moton said.
He’ll begin the 2021-22 school year making sure the district’s principals see his role as supportive. He wants them to know their success is the district’s success.
“I want them to know that I’m there to support their endeavors and I want to work hand-in-hand with them to help them in any way that I possibly can,” Moton said.