Ford, VWSD get set for partnership

Published 12:51 am Sunday, May 21, 2017

For Vicksburg Warren Schools Superintendent Chad Shealy, Aug. 3 is a significant date for the school district.

And it will be a milestone.

“Aug.3, they will designate us as a Ford NGL community,” he told members of the Vicksburg-Warren County Board of Realtors last week. “This is huge for us.”

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The Ford Next Generation Learning program is a five-phase, approximately three-year program aimed at transforming existing secondary education into an educational program that prepares students for life, college and other careers.

The program’s result, Ford facilitators said, will be students better prepared for college and careers, and the community’s labor force would be strengthened for the future.

Shealy said Ford “dropped another community that’s very close to us to pick us up, because they sat in a room with nine folks from this community who walked in and told them about Vicksburg, Miss., and they agreed hands down, this is the place where we’re going to start our milestone in Mississippi.”

Part of the requirements for selection, he said, was the preparation of a community-wide master plan.

“We put together an organization: people with kids in our district; people who worked here but didn’t live here; we had people who had kids in our district; people who used to teach who still teach.

“You talk about a good portion of Vicksburg came together to create this plan, they did it. It was Vicksburg at the table creating a plan. It took other communities three to five years to reach that designation. It took us a year-and-a-half.”

Vicksburg’s school district, Shealy said, is on the brink of becoming a model for other systems.

“When you talk about Vicksburg and where it’s going, I hear all the time that ‘I want it to be as good as it was,’” he said. “We’re about to be something we’ve never been before. This community is about to be the answer for a lot of things across the nation and people are looking at us.

“There is no bigger cheerleader than us. I’ve never seen anything like Vicksburg coming together.

Any school system is only as good as the people that are in it (and) we have a fantastic community.

“The answers for our state are going to be the same answers for Vicksburg, and our state is looking at us.”

When Mississippi State University brought people from other states to look at Mississippi’s education system, he said, they came to Vicksburg. Gov. Phil Bryant called him asking to come see what the school district was doing,

“Our state governor called us, I didn’t call him. He said, ‘I need to come see this.’ He called our name out, Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the state of the state address and nobody else.”

Shealy outlined some of the school district’s programs, starting with the district’s arrangement with Hinds Community College to allow students to take college level coursed for free to earn college credit,

“You go find another community college that works with a school district like us. It doesn’t happen,” he said. “We have children in this community right now that’s earning all kinds of college credits at Hinds Community College.”

Alcorn State, he said, is also offering college level courses in the district.

“We have students earning college credit and it doesn’t cost a dime,” Shealy said. “You talk about huge, that’s huge. Every kid that graduates this school district will be college, career and life prepared.”

He also discussed the Academy of Innovation on engineering, and other future academies for otherr subject areas to prepare students for careers, adding students will have the opportunity to select a field of interest before going to high school

“These academies are open to every child,” Shealy said. “Every single child has a place in these academies. The academies give every child an opportunity to select a subject area.”

He said he is continuously looking for areas where the school system can be better and for ways to give students better opportunities.

“They hired a guy who never sleeps,” he said, pointing out his children are enrolled in the public school system, “So it’s personal.

“I want to see a school system where my sons can go to school, graduate, go to college, and then come back here to work and live.

“I tell people, ‘I’m from Vicksburg, Miss.; I work here, and I intend to retire here and spend time with my grandchildren.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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