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Vicksburg Warren School District saves families over $9 million in college tuition while increasing graduation rate

In 2013, the Vicksburg Warren School District was graduating a significantly low percentage of its students.

Since then, each year the graduation rate has risen continuously from that low starting point of 58.5 percent in 2013. In 2020, the district had 487 graduates totaling 86.9 percent. According to VWSD Director of Communications Christi Kilroy, much of this success can be attributed to the leadership of Superintendent Chad Shealy.

“He did a couple of things since he’s been here that have been really instrumental in how [the school] is moving forward,” Kilroy said.

First, Shealy and the school board updated facilities, which Kilroy said hadn’t been done in 50 years.

“Getting the community on board to support us in updating our facilities was a huge part of what Mr. Shealy has done to help move the school system forward,” Kilroy said.

He also expanded the preschool availability in the Vicksburg-Warren schools. Previously, there were only four pre-K classrooms in the district, but now there are 17 classrooms and the only elementary school in the district without one is Bowmar.

“When Shealy got there, they were writing rejection letters, because they didn’t have space for all the kids that wanted to be in pre-K,” Kilroy said. “Even though we didn’t get additional funding, he said that is the silliest thing he’d ever seen.”

Kilroy said the superintendent believed if these people wanted to give their children a head start so they’ll be successful in school then they needed to give it to them.

Shealy also started the Vicksburg-Warren College Career Academy and set it apart from other academies in the state. He did so by making sure every student is a part of the academy, not just selected students.

“In our district, every child in 9th through 12th grade is in a college and career academy to help get them ready for what’s after high school,” Kilroy said.

Not only have the changes in the district kept kids in the classroom, but high school students are getting ahead by accumulating college credit before they’ve even graduated high school.

Based on the US Department of Education statistics, the graduates in 2020 data saved over $9 million in college tuition. These graduates earned 12,951 hours of college credit throughout their four years in Vicksburg Warren School District — the highest in district history.

These credit hours earned by students at no cost to them has provided relevancy to keep them in school. Kilroy said they are more motivated to stay in the classroom because what they are doing now is aligned with their goals after school, whether that be college or industry certifications.

“They stick around because they can see into their future now and how sticking around will help them,” Kilroy said.

Kilroy said it helps build confidence in the students and gives them a jumpstart into what they want to do next. It also is helping families not have to spend as much on college tuition.

I think in our community, where we do have a higher poverty level, it’s just a real important piece of what we are doing for these kids to get them headed in the right direction after school,” Kilroy said.

Kilroy said these improvements in the school will provide the community with not only more graduates, but a prepared workforce to choose from and a source to recruit businesses to the area.

There’s a sense of pride that we’ve cleared this obstacle and are continuing to get better,” Kilroy said.