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Board president asks for unity in face of unfavorable views’

[7/30/04]Calling for a stop to negativity and division, the president of the Vicksburg Warren School District pleaded with the community, board members and Superintendent James Price for optimism and unity as the new school term begins.

“We have always supported Dr. Price, and for influences in the district to say otherwise is not true,” said Jan Daigre, elected from District 4, said during Thursday’s regular meeting. “Information has been put out there that has given unfavorable and disrespectful views of this board.”

Her speech came on the heels of three private meetings last month, heat from the public at a luncheon two weeks ago with the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce and just before two board members resigned.

“There seems to be a tremendous amount of negativity in the district and a lot of untruths about this board, and I felt like it was time some things needed to be said,” said Daigre, who was elected to a six-year term in 2002 and president in March.

“Someone out there is causing problems with the board and our relationship” with the superintendent, Daigre said. “And we’d like it to stop.”

She would not identify the source of the problems.

“We’ve got a rampant virus, and the only people getting hurt are the children,” Daigre said. “And that makes me very angry.”

The board has been split on key votes including last year’s vote to employ Price.

A lifelong Warren County resident, Price was named to the helm of the 9,000-student public school district on a 3-2 vote, with Trustees Betty Tolliver and Zelmarine Murphy dissenting.

The trustees were also split on the community school concept until the plan to return elementary schools to K-6 was taken before the public, faculty and staff.

Most recently, the board denied a recommendation from Price to appoint Jack Grogan as the head of the district’s Special Education department. That action prompted questions at the chamber luncheon.

The board approved filling the position Thursday night by hiring Susan Bentley of Jackson as the director of special education.

Daigre said neither Chad Barrett nor Kay Aasand, who both resigned at the meeting, had been a problem on the board, but was hopeful that with new members the board could “start fresh.”

“With all the new changes, including community schools, we have a lot on our plates right now,” she said.

Price’s community school plan won a final federal approval this week, and all elementaries will return to a K-6 configuration with the start of the 2005-2006 school year.