Schools see changes for new year

Published 10:35 am Monday, August 8, 2016

The first day of school is a sad day for some and a joyous day for others, and this year schools are gearing up for amazing things.

As of Thursday, the Vicksburg Warren School District had 8,296 students enrolled for class. This number has increased since last year when enrollment was 7,966 on the first day of class.

“If the trend holds true to previous years, it usually goes up slightly as some students arrive on the first day of school that have not enrolled,” said Zena Keen personnel manager in the VWSD.

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There are about 78 new faculty and administrators taking to the classrooms and schools this year. However, the district is still in need of bus drivers.

“These 78 people are replacing staff that have either resigned or retired,” Keen said.

She said all teaching positions are currently filled, but there are about 25 teacher positions in the school district that are not filled with permanent certified staff.

“Many of those positions are filled with individuals that are awaiting their temporary teaching certificate,” Keen said.

Temporary licenses are necessary, she said, because of a teacher shortage in the state of Mississippi. Those working toward standard certification can obtain these short-term licenses, and they can teach while still in school because of the shortage.

“This time of the year the Mississippi Department of Education licensure office has an unusually large number of certificate applications to review, and it is not uncommon to be waiting on certificate approval for some staff members,” Keen said.

As for Vicksburg Catholic Schools, because of retirement and people moving, St. Francis Xavier will welcome five new teachers this year.

“It’s going to be an exciting year. Lots of new things, new faces, new events and new equipment coming in,” St. Francis Xavier Elementary School principal Mary Arledge said.

Four new teachers are coming in to St. Aloysius including a replacement for retired teacher and coach Jimmy Salmon.

“We’re going to miss him tremendously,” principal Buddy Strickland said, calling Salmon the face of St. Al. “But the person who’s taking Jimmy’s place we feel so excited and blessed to have.”

Those teachers are social studies teacher Karla McHan, girls basketball coach and math teacher Gary Post, chemistry teacher Jessica Ashley and boys basketball coach Eddie Pickle. All teaching positions are filled at the school.

Strickland said enrollment changes daily in the schools, but he believes overall the high school is up a couple students and the elementary school is down a couple students.

“It’s really close to where it was last year,” he said.

This year, he said, the school is focusing on one theme, “One school, one family.”

“We are composed of a number of different faith traditions here, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, the whole gamut. Regardless of what we are, we are all members of one body and one family and one school,” Strickland said.

Pam Wilbanks, headmistress at Porters Chapel Academy, said enrollment in the school is holding about even compared to last year. At the end of the 2015-2016 school year PCA had 275 students, and as of Thursday 270 students were enrolled in the school.

“Enrollment is holding basically steady,” she said, and as with the other schools, the specific number of students they have enrolled changes daily.

PCA is adding honors classes to its math department after adding them to the English department at the beginning of previous school years, she said, and the addition of new classes this year, in conjunction with teachers retiring and others opting to work part time, means the school will be adding and replacing faculty.

“Any time you change your curriculum or add classes, it’s going to incorporate another faculty member,” Wilbanks said. “In my experience, you just have a turn over. I see most of it as everything changes and nothing remains the same for long. It’s a positive (for the school),” she said.

A new math teacher, biology teacher and art teacher will join PCA’s faculty this year.