School district down one spot in accreditation

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Vicksburg Warren School District has dropped a notch in accreditation status on its 2011 Children First annual rating, a snapshot prepared by the Mississippi Department of Education as a kind of report card for the schools.

The district fell from “Accredited” to “Advised,” but Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford said she is not concerned the district could lose its accreditation.

“We dropped because we had two teachers who were not fully certified,” said Swinford. The teachers in question were in core academic subjects and had been with the district for a number of years, she said.

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One taught at Warren Central Junior High School and has been replaced with a certified teacher. The other is a math teacher at Vicksburg Intermediate School who will be replaced as soon as a qualified teacher is available, or retained if she becomes certified, which she is attempting to do, said the superintendent.

“She is an excellent math teacher,” Swinford said. “Her (students’) math scores are excellent. I hate to have to let her go, but she does not have the piece of paper that they require.”

Swinford said the teacher, whom she did not identify, did not pass the writing portion of the Praxis test required for certification, but plans to retake the test.

Wendy Polk, DOE spokesman, confirmed what she termed a “deficiency” in the licensing of the two teachers as the reason for the district’s latest accreditation status. She was not certain of the timetable to reconsider the rating but said the accreditation commission is scheduled to meet Thursday.

The report should have been published in a local newspaper by Nov. 1, however, said Polk, according to the timetable established by the Children First Act of 2009. Polk said the information was made available to each of the state’s 152 school district’s during the last week of October.

The VWSD has not placed an ad locally, but has complied with the requirement to post the report on its website. Swinford said she was not aware that the deadline had passed.

According to this year’s Children First report, VWSD employs 541.5 full-time equivalent teachers, 27 of whom are National Board Certified. Nearly 6 percent are classified as emergency or provisional. Swinford said those who are not fully certified and teach in such specialty areas as gym and music are not counted against the district for accreditation status.

If districts do not meet specific state standards for instruction and curriculum, accreditation status can fall to “Advised,” “Probation” or “Withdrawn,” Polk said.

The report also includes race and free/reduced lunch percentages for the district’s 8,878 students, academic achievement and graduation rates and financial data such as per pupil expenditures from local, state and federal funds.

The VWSD spends about $8,800 annually per pupil, about $100 a year less than the state average.