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Seven from here chosen for ed, economic boards

[9/24/04]With appointments by Gov. Haley Barbour, Warren County has become a key player in education and economic issues at the state level.

For Barbour’s new Teacher Advisory Council, seven Vicksburg Warren School District teachers were appointed to serve, and Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, and Jimmy Heidel were two of 133 chosen o serve on the governor’s economic development initiative, Mississippi Momentum.

“The key is that education and economic development go hand-in-hand,” said Chaney, a 12-year legislator and chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “You can’t have economic development without an educated work force, and that all correlates into taxpayers.

“What we need is more taxpayers, not an increase in taxes.”

Teachers from the VWSD asked to serve on the governor’s council are Redwood’s Judy Williams and Peggy Gouras, Bowmar’s Debbie Freeman, Warren Central High School’s Inez Ehrgott, Warren Central Junior High’s Marla Bonelli, Vicksburg Junior High’s Dianne Different and the Youth Court Assistant Center’s Josie Williams.

The teacher council’s first meeting was Thursday in Jackson, and teachers said they were impressed with the open forum that allowed them to speak their minds.

“We weren’t scared to say what we thought,” said Freeman, a first-grade teacher at Bowmar. “And we were able to share some of the things we’re doing in Vicksburg.”

Discussions, the teachers said, focused on merit pay, career advancement, administrative support and technology. And conversations included the pros and cons of each issue. Discussion also centered on discipline.

“Our district has some very innovative programs in place that other districts are still trying to create,” said Williams, Redwood’s theme coordinator, noting the Youth Court Assistance Center that the district has set up with the Warren County Youth Court.

The center received statewide attention when County Judge Johnny Price and VWSD Superintendent James Price addressed the Senate Education Committee and when Henry Johnson, the state superintendent of education, toured the facilities.

“We felt blessed to be a part of this district,” Freeman said.

She said the council will primarily correspond via e-mail and conference calls, but plans to meet again Oct. 26 for the Mississippi Education Summit.

Vicksburg was also at the forefront of state news last week, when the governor appointed longtime resident Howell N. “Hal” Gage to a seat on the state Board of Education.

And in economic plans for the state, Chaney and Heidel will serve on Barbour’s Mississippi Momentum, which draws on the goals of Blueprint Mississippi’s recommendations in fulfilling the Statewide Economic Development Planning Act of 1987.

Heidel is the executive director of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce, the Warren County Economic Development Foundation and a former director of the Warren County Port Commission and has begun drawing state retirement.

He spent eight years as head of the Department of Economic and Community Development under former Gov. Kirk Fordice.