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Price chosen superintendent of local schools

[5/21/03]James Price was chosen Tuesday night as the fifth superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District in a 3-2 vote of the board of trustees.

“The people of this community deserve the best we have to offer,” Price said after the vote. “And I intend to see to it that this is what they get.”

Jan Daigre, District 4 trustee, said she thinks Price will do a great job for the district.

“Schools are the strongest economic tool in this community, and I think he’ll lead us in the right direction,” she said. “We have a long, hard road ahead of us, and I feel very confident that he’s the man that can do this.”

Price, 51, said he’ll work closely with Superintendent Donald Oakes over the next month to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Tuesday night’s vote ended the superintendent search that began with Oakes’ January announcement that he would retire June 30. The superintendent’s salary will remain the same, $104,000.

Price has a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss, a master’s from Mississippi College and doctorate from Jackson State. He’s been with the 9,200-student district here since 1991 and was a teacher, assistant principal and principal before becoming administrative assistant to Oakes three years ago.

The vote was split across racial lines with Daigre, Kay Aasand and Chad Barrett voting for Price. Price is white; Lyles is black.

Barrett, District 1 trustee, said he and Price share a similar educational philosophy, namely the idea of returning to centering elementary schools on neighborhoods.

“From the interview I think that Dr. Price is for that, and that gives me a chance to do what I came to do,” Barrett said.

The school district moved from neighborhood schools in 1999 with School Choice, a program that allows parents to pick the elementary school their child will attend. The plan resulted in the closing of five elementary schools and building two new megaschools, on Dana Road and Sherman Avenue.

“We’d like to study the ramifications to going back to a kindergarten through sixth-grade neighborhood-school configuration,” Price said.

Betty Tolliver and Zelmarine Murphy voted for Agnes Lyles, 56, who will continue as assistant superintendent.

Murphy said Lyles got her vote because she is the more qualified candidate.

“She was far above in qualifications than anybody else in the district,” Murphy said. “How can you overlook 33 years of experience starting as a classroom teacher?”

Though the board was split, Murphy said that does not mean the trustees won’t continue to work together.

“Just because we disagree, doesn’t mean we don’t have the district at heart,” she said.

Tolliver expressed similar feelings.

“I am still looking forward to working with the district,” Tolliver said. “We’re not going to agree all the time, but we’re still going to work.”

Kim Stasny, 47, superintendent of the Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District, was the third finalist. Only when it was formed in 1986 did the district opt for a non-local applicant. Ed Gilley of Tennessee was hired as the district’s first superintendent and was followed by Charles Craft, Robert Pickett and Oakes, all of whom had careers in local public education.

Aasand said each candidate was excellent, making her decision difficult. She said she took into consideration calls and information from District 5 citizens, the candidates’ backgrounds and information from last week’s town-hall-type meeting at which the three finalists faced public scrutiny.

“I hope the community will get behind Dr. Price and give him the support he needs to move this district forward,” she said. “I feel like he can do that no doubt.”