2017 a year of change for schools in Vicksburg and Warren County

Published 6:07 pm Monday, January 1, 2018

It was a year of change for education throughout Vicksburg and Warren County.

In 2017, the Vicksburg Warren School district implemented Leader in Me at every school from elementary to high school. The district also introduced career academies at the high schools, was officially designated a Ford Next Generation Learning community and capped off the year by approving a $132 million facility plan that will transform the district.

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The VWSD Board of Trustees also made major changes to the leadership throughout the district hiring six new principals for the 2017-18 school year.

The changes weren’t limited to VWSD either.

In 2017, the Vicksburg Catholic Schools kicked off a capital campaign to build a new early childhood learning center and continued to expand its program offering with performing arts classes and pottery.

Starting with the 2017-18 school year, Vicksburg High School, Warren Central High School and River City Early College were among 25 high schools throughout the world that implemented the Leader in Me program at the high school level.

“What this does, it puts us in a very specific marketable place, because you are talking about only 25 in the entire world have a high school model, that’s it,” Superintendent Chad Shealy said in May. “When the symposiums come open, people will be coming to Vicksburg because you can’t see it anywhere else. That will be a unique offering that we have.”

Along with the high schools, Warren Central Intermediate, Vicksburg Intermediate, Warren Central Junior High and Vicksburg Junior High also added the program this year.

“It is transformational in the context of a child understands the world is larger than themselves,” Shealy said of the Leader in Me program. “They are setting goals. They are no longer victims. It doesn’t matter who I am, I can get to where I need to go based on these set goals.”

The partnership between VWSD and Ford NGL was officially announced in August during the school system’s convocation kicking off the school year.

The Vicksburg Warren School District becomes the first in Mississippi to earn the designation and the 25th in the country.

The partnership paved the way for VWSD to implement career academies at Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools.

Starting in ninth grade, all students will have to choose between three career academies — ACME (Architecture, construction, mechatronics and engineering), CAB (Communications, arts and business) and HHS (Health and human services).

The academy structure will focus on project-based learning in conjunction with business partners in the community. The goal is to teach students real life skills within their chosen career field.

“When we start to do our project-based learning within the academies, that is a key part. What we are doing is going to reflect what the workforce is doing here in Vicksburg,” Warren Central principal Eric Green said in August. “Our teachers are in communication with our business partners.”

Students at the two high schools were divided into the three academies this year and in December eighth graders attended a showcase of the academies before choosing their academies for next year.

VWSD also opened up the academies to parents during free night classes through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

The program lasts 15-months and follows much of the same track as the academy programs at the high schools.

At the beginning of the school year, new principals were hired at South Park Elementary, Sherman Avenue Elementary, Dana Road Elementary, Vicksburg High, Vicksburg Junior High and Beechwood Elementary.

The semester then ended with the announcement that the board had approved a $132 million facility plan to renovate and expand the school district’s existing buildings.

The plan also calls for the construction of a new Academy of Innovation on the same campus of Vicksburg and Warren Central junior highs and the expansion of the Bowmar Elementary magnet program into the current AOI building.

The Vicksburg Catholic Schools have a construction project of their own planned as the school announced in November that it plans to build an early childhood learning center for students up to the age of 3.

“The early childhood learning center has been a topic of discussion around here for, I understand, 20 years,” VCS development director Kristi Smith said in November.

“It has been discussed and been on the table because childcare is a calling of the Catholic church, but also because there is a growing and evolving need for early childhood learning in the community.”

The new 8,300 square foot facility will be located on the corner of Howard and Clay streets and have space to offer classes to approximately 100 students, Smith said.

To pay for the facility, VCS launched a five-year capital campaign aimed at raising $1.2 million.

Other educations highlights from 2017 include:

  In January, VWSD hosted a Leader in Me symposium for the second year in a row

  Then Beechwood Elementary School principal Tamikia Billings was named by the Vicksburg Warren School District as administrator of the year in January.

• Kristy Brumfield, an elementary school music teacher at Porters Chapel Academy, and Sylvia Lamb, who teaches biomedical science to high school students at the Vicksburg Warren School District’s Career and Technical Education Center were named teachers of the year by the Chamber of Commerce in February.

• Bowmar Elementary School fifth grader Adalyn Reece Anderson took home the best in fair award at the regional science fair at Jackson State University for her “Eggceptionally Safe” project in March.

• Starting in April, the news SPLASH program, which stands for Schools Practicing Life Altering Swim Habits, offered free swimming lessons for third graders throughout Warren County

• Warren Central choir director Nancy Robertson was named Outstanding Music Educator for the state of Mississippi for the 2016-17 school year in April.

• Randy Jolly, the director of the Gore Gallery at Mississippi College, in Clinton, and was named Museum Art Educator of the Year in November.

• Jacob’s Ladder Learning Center continued to expand its pottery program.