3 sign up for 2 seats on school board

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

[9/9/04]Three people have filed to run in November for the two open seats on the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees.

Those who have filed with the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s Office are Brenda Theriot, 52; Steven Elwart, 51; and Joanne Gibbs, no age available.

Each must qualify to seek the positions by having signatures on their candidate petitions verified as registered voters of the districts in which they are running. One of the three had been certified, Warren County election commissioner Gordon Carr said this morning, but he did not know which.

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Theriot and Elwart are running for the District 1 seat vacated when Chad Barrett resigned July 29. Gibbs is running for the District 5 seat that Kay Aasand gave up the same day as she, too, resigned to move with her family to Clinton.

Both of their terms were to expire in November. Last month, the three remaining board members, in a 2-1 vote, elected former superintendent Donald Oakes and former assistant superintendent James Wilson to fill the remainder of the six-year terms. District 4 trustee Jan Daigre voted against the choices, and District 2’s Zelmarine Murphy and District 3’s Betty Tolliver voted for them.

School board trustees are paid about $2,400 annually.

Elwart, the director of system engineering at Ergon, said he sees two problems he’d like to fix within the 9,000-student district.

“I think we have a problem with perception,” he said. “And I also think we have room for improvement.

“I want to work with the administration and the superintendent to help them work through their plans and see that those are put in place.”

Elwart said he’d also like to see an increase in the schools’ ratings, which are handed down by the Mississippi Department of Education after statewide tests. Ratings released last week showed that all of the district’s 13 schools were given a 3, or successful, with the exception of the Level 5, or superior-performing-ranked, Bowmar Avenue.

“I understand that there is a lot that goes into those scores, but right or wrong, the schools are graded by those in parents’ eyes,” Elwart said.

A resident of Vicksburg for 20 years, Elwart is the father of five children who attended public schools here and has three grandchildren enrolled in the district.

Theriot, a former secretary at Vicksburg High School, said she is running to give the board a positive influence and move the district forward.

“The board needs to pull together, and I don’t see that right now,” she said. “That hasn’t been there.”

Theriot worked at the high school at City Park for nine years, first as an attendance secretary and later as a principal’s secretary.

“I feel like I can give insight from being on the inside,” she said. “I have seen what’s working and what’s not working in schools.”

A Vicksburg resident since 1978, Theriot said she knows the current board members and has a working relationship with them.

Gibbs was not available for comment.

The deadline to file to run for the seats is Oct. 1. The candidate must be a registered voter in the district for which he or she is running, and the candidate must obtain 150 signatures from registered voters in that district. Forms may be picked up at the Warren County Circuit Clerk’s office on the second floor of the Warren County Courthouse.

The election is Nov. 2.