School board stalled on superintendent decision

Published 12:30 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

School board members met for nearly four hours Friday night, but were unable to decide who will be the next superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Trustees will meet again, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district offices on Mission 66, to continue their discussion and review of four finalists for the position.

“At this time, we have not made a decision,” Board President Zelmarine Murphy said after Friday night’s executive session. “We looked at the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates as they were presented to us by the stakeholders — the administrators, the faculty and staff and the support staff.”

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Murphy said trustees examined all the application materials and read and considered all comments given to them by constituents and stakeholder groups, which met during the week with each of the four candidates — Dr. Elizabeth Swinford of Baton Rouge; Dr. Marvin Jeter of Tulsa, Okla.; Jerry O. Payne of Pine Grove, La.; and Dr. Roy “Cole” Pugh of Fort Worth, Texas.

The board held private interviews with each of the candidates Monday through Thursday evening before meeting Friday night. Murphy said the school-based groups did not make specific recommendations, but offered their views on what each candidate had to offer.

The local NAACP, however, which was represented at the community candidate forums by its president, John Shorter, sent trustees a letter recommending that either Payne or Swinford be selected. Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce representatives also delivered comments to the board which were not made public.

When they meet Tuesday, trustees could decide not to choose one of the finalists, meaning the search process would continue. The four finalists emerged from a pool of 16 applicants evaluated by McPherson and Jacobson, a national search firm based in Omaha with consultants in more than 20 states. The firm was hired by trustees to help find a replacement for Dr. James Price, who retired June 30.

A number of district staff and school administrators waited during Friday night’s deliberations, including Donald Oakes, who served as superintendent of the district from 2000 to 2003 and has returned as interim head until the position is filled.

In addition to Murphy, the VWSD board is comprised of Jerry Boland, who represents District 1, the Culkin, Oak Ridge and U.S. 61 North area; Jim Stirgus Jr., District 3, city areas; Joe Loviza, District 4, southwest Warren County, U.S. 61 South and Fisher Ferry to the Big Black River; and Tommy Shelton, District 5, south of Interstate 20, east from Fisher Ferry Road. Murphy represents District 2, which is northwest Warren County, Kings and Eagle Lake.