VWSD priority should be strong leadership

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2010

On one hand, trustees of the Vicksburg Warren School District seem to be moving carefully to select a new superintendent for the 9,000-student district. The time and expense of hiring a professional search organization sends that signal.

On the other hand, the trustees seem to be in a hurry. They’ve indicated they want a new superintendent on the job by July 1, which is eight weeks away. The possible selection of an interim superintendent has been mentioned and is a good option for trustees to keep in mind.

Turnover is problematic in any organization and public schools are no different. Here, there are new principals just winding up their first years at the helm of a couple of the district’s schools and, in addition to Dr. James Price, other administrators whose retirement plans we have reported this year include Dr. John Walls, deputy superintendent, and elementary principals Jack Grogan and Charles Hanks.

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The district also is reeling from its new designation under the Mississippi Department of Education’s standards as “at risk of failing.” Frankly, when we read in our School and Youth section weekly of the many innovations and successes teachers and students here are achieving, that ranking seems overly harsh. Regardless, as always, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

A changing of the guard — especially one that involves as many positions as the trustees have been and will be filling — should not be done in haste. Rather, trustees need to define the experience, reputation and the personal attributes they want to see in candidates and then move toward making a selection. Another factor, of course, is that many working superintendents already will have signed contracts for the next school year.

It’s not impossible for a fast search to reveal the strong leader the district needs. Speed, however, should not be the priority.