New school year time to focus on mission

Published 12:02 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

New school years are a fresh start. They never fail to bring new problems, new opportunities, new challenges.

This year, the Vicksburg Warren School District, which commences classes Thursday, will also have a person new in top leadership. And, as has been said before, leadership is what the district needs most.

Dr. Elizabeth Duran Swinford appears to be an excellent choice to follow Dr. James Price, who retired during the summer. She’s highly credentialed, experienced and had been a finalist for several other superintendent positions.

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She comes into the job on a 3-2 vote, facing another year of reductions in state funding and a state labeling of the district as “at risk of failing.” Those are the negatives.

There are plenty of positives, too, and she pointed out many of them she’d observed while joining other finalists here for a week of interviews. Dr. Swinford also said she wants to know more. “I plan to spend a lot of time in the schools, learning about them, about the school environment, what the needs are, what the perceptions of the community are,” she said. “I will be conducting some community forums and finding out as much as I can before making any decisions that will impact the district.”

Our hope is that she will commit to the district and accept the challenges, be willing to make hard decisions and empower faculty and staff to perform to their professional capacity. No officious intermeddling. No tolerance for distractions or diversions from the schools’ mission.

There are high-quality students, parents and teachers involved with local public schools, but there are a lot of naysayers and whiners, too. Maintaining focus will not be easy. But the alternative is failure, which should be rejected as an option.

The district doesn’t need “reinvention.” It doesn’t need gimmicks. It needs clarity. It’s Dr Swinford’s job to provide that. The duty for the rest of us is a supportive response.