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Teachers upbeat at school year’s first meeting

Warren County High School teacher Nancy Robertson leaves a bus at City Auditorium Tuesday for the district’s convocation.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[08/08/01] A light mood dominated as the Vicksburg Warren School District kicked off its 2001-2002 school year Tuesday with a two-hour convocation of district personnel at City Auditorium.

Superintendent Donald Oakes handed out door prizes and joked with teachers, bus drivers, custodians and other employees. Students report Monday.

“If my voice is a little hoarse it’s because I’m so well-seasoned,” Oakes said, referring to the adjective School Board President Zelmarine Murphy used to describe his career.

Although the convocation represented the start of teachers’ first official work day, many of them have been preparing their classrooms for weeks.

“We never stop,” said Millie Wolfe, a fourth-grade teacher at Bowmar Avenue Elementary.

Riding on buses from their schools, teachers arrived downtown in a mood more characteristic of student field trips than districtwide staff meetings.

The Bowmar group swayed to rap music played over their bus radio. Third-grade teacher Betty Ables tried to lower a window to yell greetings at colleagues from other schools.

The lively mood was carried inside by the approximately 600 teachers, whose chatter often caused Oakes to raise his voice like a principal in a full auditorium near the end of a school day.

Aside from the door prizes donated by businesses, the convocation also featured speeches by the district’s administrator, parent and teacher of the year and a choral performance by an ensemble of school employees.

Oakes drew cheers after announcing that all school personnel will be able to attend district athletic events at no cost, starting with the Red Carpet Bowl at Viking Stadium on Aug. 31.

Peggy Gouras, the teacher of the year, received a standing ovation for her remarks in which she talked about learning from other teachers.

“I have sat at the feet of heroes of education, the teachers of the Vicksburg Warren School District,” Gouras said.

Administrator of the Year Charlie Tolliver and Parent of the Year Janice Kiser also addressed the teachers.

Also recognized were teachers who who did not miss a day of work last school year and educators who have won national awards since last August.

“We’re a family here,” Oakes said. “We’d like to think we know who everyone is in our family.”