Oakes retiring as school superintendent in June

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2003

[1/17/03]After other business at Thursday night’s meeting of Vicksburg Warren School District trustees, Superintendent Donald Oakes announced his retirement, effective June 30, to the district’s board.

“I’m happy with my decision,” Oakes said this morning, adding he believes there are many good people in the school district and that it will continue to serve students well.

Oakes, a 40-year veteran of public education, has been a teacher, a principal at all school levels and, for three years, chief of the 16-year-old, 9,200-student consolidated district.

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“Mr. Oakes’ retirement came as a shock to me,” said Betty Tolliver, one of two new trustees sworn in to start a six-year term. “As a new board member, I’m just trying to let it soak in.”

Oakes is the district’s fourth superintendent, following Ed Gilley, Charles Craft and Robert Pickett. Trustees are elected in staggered years from supervisor districts and, in turn, hire a superintendent.

Today, his fellow administrators called Oakes’ retirement a devastating loss to the school district.

“He is a tremendous person to work for and work with,” said Agnes Lyles, assistant superintendent. “He has bridged a lot of gaps. He’s a very good friend and I will miss him.”

Dr. James Price, administrative assistant to the superintendent, said Oakes is a walking history of the school system.

“Very few people have the knowledge of the system that he has,” he said. “It will be extremely difficult to find someone who has that expertise. He genuinely loves these kids.”

Administrative assistant Dr. John Walls said Oakes was not afraid to try something that he thought would benefit the school district or the children.

“He has the best interests of the school district, the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County and the children in the district,” Walls said.

Oakes also said today he hopes the district will continue improving and diversifying the curriculum to reach all students. A new program he’s favored is allowing older students still in lower grades to pursue vocational skills.

Before the board’s first meeting of the year, held at Redwood Elementary, Jan Daigre and Tolliver took oaths to begin their elective terms after unseating incumbents in November balloting.

“I’m very excited, and I think the community is ready to see some good changes,” said Daigre, who was also elected board secretary.

Tolliver said she wants the community to be happy with the public school board.

“We have the people, teachers and staff to be a top-notch school district,” she said.

Oakes said he and longer-serving board members would be on hand to help the new members in any way.

“We will be available to answer any questions they might have,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with them and using their experiences.”

The new members were sworn in by Warren County Judge Johnny Price and Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick.

Daigre defeated John Carlisle for the District 4 seat, and Tolliver won the District 3 seat over Pearline Williams, who had been board secretary.

District 5 representative Kay Aasand is board president and Chad Barrett was elected from District 1. Zelmarine Murphy of District 2 was elected vice president of the board, replacing Carlisle.

In other matters, the board:

Voted to begin the bid process to reroof Bowmar Avenue Elementary School and the new wing at Vicksburg High School. The estimated cost is $510,000.

Accepted a donation of 22 computers from the Mississippi Governor’s Office. The estimated value of the computers was $15,081.

Accepted the highest bid of $207,107 from Copiah Forest Products from a timber sale on Section 16-T8N-R4W.

Approved the modification of the girls’ softball practice field on Army-Navy Drive to be in compliance with the Title IX agreement. The work will be subcontracted locally for an estimated cost of $25,000.

Accepted a donation of eight lights, four 30-foot poles, hardware and brackets for mounting the lights from Cooper Lighting to be used at the Warren Central High School football practice field. The estimated value of the donation is $2,500.

Accepted a $1,580 donation from Riverside Publishing Company to be used for computers and the awards program at Bowmar Elementary School.

Accepted an $83.54 donation from SAKS, Inc. to South Park Elementary to be used for the S.E.A. Lions/Environmental Projects.

Approved hiring of teachers, substitutes and tutors for the remainder of the school year.

Approved an out-of-state travel request for Vivian Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Warren Central Intermediate School, to attend the advisory meeting for the Mississippi Association of Educators in Nashville, Tenn.

Approved an out-of-state travel request for Marti Gunkel, the director of accounting, to attend the 2003 Southeastern Association of School Business Officials conference in Savannah, Ga.

Approved an out-of-state travel request for Francis Gaddis to attend the Louisiana Educational Research Association meeting in New Orleans, La.

Approved out-of-state travel for Lee Ann Whitley, Mary McGregor, Warren Central High School student council officers and class officers to attend a leadership conference in New Orleans.

Approved out-of-state travel for Linda Strong and qualifying WCHS students to attend the Future Business Leaders of America National Conference in Dallas.

Approved GATES teachers at Beechwood, Redwood and Sherman Avenue Elementary schools to travel to Poverty Point, La.