School superintendent on the job by 5|[01/16/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 16, 2007

By the time the school day begins for students and teachers throughout the Vicksburg Warren School District, Superintendent Dr. James Price and his staff have already been at work for nearly 3 hours.

&#8220That’s when everything gets done,” said Price, in his fourth year as head of the 9,200-student district.

He chooses to get to his office at 5 a.m., arriving bright-eyed and alert after almost a full seven hours of sleep and a walk on his treadmill.

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&#8220I quit drinking coffee 20 years ago. I just drink water now,” he said.

First on his agenda is a to-do list for the day. On one particular morning – the day before the schools closed for Christmas break – the 38 individual items listed included checking on the construction progress at Redwood Elementary, finalizing student zone transfers for January and designating holiday work schedules.

Although the items differ day to day, the list is always lengthy, Price said.

&#8220I make my list at night and organize it by whom I need to talk with about what,” Price said.

By 5:15, Price is checking his e-mail.

&#8220Only 24 this morning,” he says. &#8220Legislative updates, ads, Rotary Club newsletter, a joke from a teacher… You just hope for no bad news.”

Then it’s time to write a memo to Shannon Daniels, administrative secretary. The note focuses on phone calls Price needs to make for the day.

&#8220I have to get her to get them on the phone and patch them through to me wherever I am. Otherwise, I won’t sit down for long enough to make the calls myself,” he said.

At 5:30, it’s time for Price’s first meeting of the day, with Morris Keith, buildings and grounds supervisor. On the agenda are the progress of the concrete pouring at Redwood, work on the sewage lagoon at Warren Central and Beechwood, access for disabled students at Warren Central and the holiday work schedule of cleaning carpet and waxing floors in several of the schools.

&#8220I’ve got 16 things on my list to talk to you about, and I’ve only gotten to No. 9,” Keith tells Price at about five until 6.

The two will meet again at lunchtime to finish the agenda.

Meanwhile, just outside, bus driver Monroe Carson starts cranking the buses in the school’s fleet that are parked at the central office overnight.

&#8220It takes a while for diesel to get warmed up,” Carson said, after checking the headlights on Bus 19. &#8220I usually crank them about half an hour so they’re warm when the drivers get here,” said Carson, who’s been employed with the district for nine years.

Price heads back to his office after his meeting with Keith, answering a phone call from Jack Grogan, principal at Beechwood, as he walks.

He spends from 6 to about 6:30 chatting on the phone with principals – Pam Wilbanks from Warren Central about a discipline issue and Charles &#8220Bubba” Hanks from Vicksburg Intermediate about holiday plans.

At about 20 minutes until 7, Dr. John Walls, deputy superintendent, and Debra Hullum, assistant superintendent, arrive for their morning meeting with Price.

Each sits at his or her designated spot at the conference table and reads over the &#8220homework” Price organized for them nearly 2 hours before.

For the next hour, the trio will talk about discipline issues and student transfers to Grove Street. They talk about which students are complying with discipline orders, which ones aren’t, which parents have problems with how discipline is handed down to their children and which parents don’t.

About 7, Dewayne Sims, the law enforcement officer employed by the district, joins the meeting. He gives an update on when the schools’ alarms were activated and the probable cause of each disturbance.

&#8220We’ll have the drug dogs at at least one of the junior highs this morning so the students can see him,” Sims told the superintendent.

After another 15 minutes of general housekeeping business, Sims heads off to meet Vicksburg Police Officer Bo McLeod and his drug dog, Kargo, at Warren Central Junior High.

Soon after his departure, Dr. Susan Bentley, the district director of federal programs and special education, joins the meeting for further updates on Grove Street and testing.

Close to 8, the meeting is adjourned and all involved head their separate ways, full of coffee – or water – and ready for the &#8220real” school day to begin.