Teachers back Price proposal to alter schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

Six-year-old Ishmael Pendleton, the son of Warren Central teacher Candy Thomson, rests his head during a talk by Dr. James Price, top.(Melanie Duncan Throtis The Vicksburg Post)

[1/9/04]In early rounds, teachers are overwhelmingly endorsing a return to neighborhood or community schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Superintendent James Price began visiting schools Wednesday to discuss the idea with faculty and staff members, and after hourlong and wide-ranging discussions, teachers have voted by secret ballot.

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At Beechwood Elementary, Price’s first school to visit, 50 voted for the change; five were against it; and seven were indifferent.

At Warren Central, where Price visited Thursday, 61 voted in favor of the concept, six voted against it and eight had no preference.

There are 14 schools in the district and Price said he’ll visit them all to see if a community school approach is what faculty desire.

“I will never do anything without your advice and consent,” he said to teachers. “I only do what you give me the authority to do.”

Price’s proposal calls for:

Returning all elementaries to K-6 schools,

Reopening Bovina as an elementary,

Building a new elementary inside the city limits, and

Redrawing neighborhood zones to achieve racial balance.

The move would essentially reverse the modified school choice plan in place for four years.

Though votes showed strong support, they didn’t come without questions.

“A teacher’s biggest concern is the unknown,” said Vikki Tubman, a first-grade teacher at Beechwood. “Where are we going to be, and what are we going to be teaching?”

Topics raised by teachers included how the change would affect Bowmar; transportation; new school zones; and possible sites for the location of a city school.

Price said he has picked four possible sites for the new school, but would would not disclose those locations.

As for transportation issues, since each child in a neighborhood would attend the same school, one bus would pick up the children in the neighborhood, Price said.

Under the current system, children who live next to one another may attend schools miles apart, meaning busing is more complicated and requires some students to change at hubs.

Price told teachers that new lines would ensure racial balance in each school as required by federal courts and monitored by the U.S. Justice Department.

Bowmar would be allowed to continue to operate under different rules than the other elementaries under the proposed plan. It is no longer federally funded as a “magnet” school, but is considered a magnet school for the district.

If most of the teachers are receptive to the plan, Price said he will then take the issue to the community. If the community supports the plan, the proposal will go to the board of trustees.

Five elementaries were closed and two mega schools were built and opened to create the present alignment. The mega schools, Dana Road and Sherman Avenue, have K-6 students. All other elementaries are K-4.