Superintendent expects test scores to help focus

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2003

[7/30/03]The superintendent of public schools here said Tuesday he thinks the Vicksburg Warren School District will face a challenge when results of new state tests are released in September.

“I do not anticipate our being comfortable with our test scores,” said James Price. “We are, however, anxiously awaiting the results so that we can focus our efforts on the areas in need of attention, student by student, class by class and school by school. After all, the purpose for evaluation is to use the results for improvement.”

Tests were taken in 2002 and 2003, but were not counted toward establishing baseline ratings for individual schools until this year. When the results are published, parents and community leaders will have access to detailed reports from each school, and each will receive a rating as will the Vicksburg Warren School District overall. The results will not be released until Sept. 15.

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Also, under Mississippi law augmented by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools that don’t show improvement year-to-year will be subjected to more and more accountability measures.

“We are not in fear of these assessments and accountability standards,” he said. “We will use them as a tool to reach our ultimate goal, which surpasses the state and federal mandates.”

Price became superintendent of the 9,200-student school district July 1, as Donald Oakes retired June 30.

As he addressed members of the Vicksburg Kiwanis, he reiterated what he said Friday to Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce members.

He said changes to the school district were coming, but would not comment on specifics regarding those changes.

In both Friday’s and Tuesday’s speeches, Price said the primary focuses of administration are providing safe and orderly schools and academics.

He has said the needs of each student in the school district will be assessed and met and has mentioned discipline plans with the Warren County Youth Court.

Price spoke of helping potential students before they are actually enrolled.

“We can no longer afford to wait for children to come into our schools and expect them to have the skills they need to be academically successful,” Price said. “We, as a community, must assess the skills being offered and help out as close to birth as possible.”

Those plans, which he did not comment in detail on, were met with mixed reactions by some members.

Donna Osburn, a Vicksburg resident and the mother of two children, said she disagreed with his plan to intervene with children at an early age.

“I don’t believe we should take children because we feel like we can raise them better,” she said.

Another member, David Hosemann, who owns a home medical equipment business, said he believes Price will have community backing.

“He’s very enthusiastic,” Hosemann said. “With his concept and background, I know he’d have community support if they had a blueprint of his plans.”

Tuesday, and in his appearance Friday, Price called on the community to be involved in the school district and to volunteer to help teach children to read.