Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2000

teachers, staff meet to prepare for school

It wasn’t just teachers and administrators who gathered Tuesday for the district’s annual kick-off convocation.

This year everyone from the man who mops the bathroom floor to the woman who drives the bus was invited.

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“It got everybody in one place all at once so we could recognize everybody’s part,” said Patricia Stevens, a cafeteria worker at Warren Central Junior High School.

For two years, Stevens has been a cook and cashier for the two meals served daily to the 500 students at the school. She left her job as a retail store manager to have more time with her daughter, who will begin the first grade this year at South Park Elementary.

“I’m at home when she gets off the bus and I’m at home with her during the summer,” she said.

The convocation brought 1,150 teachers and staff members together before the start of the 2000-2001 school year.

“I was worried it was going to be boring, but it was very upbeat,” Stevens said.

Monday morning, the district’s 650 teachers will be joined by about 9,000 students in the halls and classrooms of the county’s 14 public schools.

Superintendent Donald Oakes said the number of teachers and students will be about the same as last year, but subject to change after the year begins. Last school year, about 9,500 students attended school in Vicksburg and Warren County, but more students are continuing to be enrolled this week, Oakes said.

Class sizes will be limited to fewer than 30 students per teacher as mandated by the state, except for in first grade classes. Federal funding obtained by the school district will limit the size of first-grade classes to 18 students, he said.

“At the end of the day, you may be the only adult who has had a positive influence on a child,” said Board of Trustees chairman Zelmarine Murphy told teachers and staff members.

Awards were handed out during the hour-and-a-half-long pep rally to recognize 60 district employees who had perfect attendance during the last school year.

“We think it sets a good model for our kids,” Oakes said.

He also listed five areas the district would be working to improve during the 2000-2001 school year:

Updating the school curriculum to be more in line with new state standardized testing.

Improve communication districtwide.

Implement computer databases in each school.

Continued implementation of the school strategic plan.

Implementation of the CyberStar computer system, a Web-based assessment tool that tracks student progress using tests accessible on the Internet. The software will cost the district between $4 to $20 per student.

“We will be adjusting to help provide the best education for every student,” Murphy said.