OUR OPINION: Be as quick to celebrate VWSD’s success as you are to criticize

Published 4:00 am Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees met on Thursday night, and the meeting was largely consumed by one thing: School Board Member Appreciation Month.

Students, teachers and support staff from across the district thanked the school board for their efforts to keep things going during the pandemic, to make the tough decisions regarding instruction and safety precautions, to not only meet but exceed goals.

In previous meetings when there were more controversial topics to discuss, such as mask mandates, people turned out in droves, both in-person and virtually through Facebook Live. At some meetings, as many as 500 people watched the live feed. Comments abounded and viewers and attendees were engaged.

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On Thursday, the board room was noticeably less crowded and at any point, there were no more than 50 people watching the meeting on the live feed and no one cared to comment.

Like every other school system in the country, VWSD’s administration, faculty and students have been put through the wringer over the last two years. While there was no shortage of obstacles, they worked to be at the front of the pack.

Our school district boasted one of the fastest transitions to virtual learning in the state. They still managed to prioritize the often-mentioned “exit strategies”: enrollment, enlistment, entrepreneurship or employment. Superintendent Chad Shealy said on Thursday that school districts from across the state view VWSD as a model district. No other district views academies the way VWSD does. No other district allows students to participate in externships on such a broad scale.

And over the last nine years, no other district has managed to rise from a graduation rate in the 50-percent range to one in the high 80s.

Why is it that, when the district does well, people are silent? Is it easier to point out flaws than it is to uplift one another? Is it more gratifying for unqualified individuals to give their “expert” opinion behind a computer screen than it is to take a vested interest in improving the district’s perceived shortcomings in person?

The space between the reality of the school district’s successes and the social media court of public opinion is so vast that one person accused parents praising the district of “peddling propaganda” in The Post’s comment section.

Elected officials and public entities open themselves up for criticism — and a good portion of the time, some criticism is warranted and necessary. That’s the nature of the beast.

However, there is also room for praise. It’s most definitely deserved, especially after the last two years. Critics, challenge yourselves to take one of the many school tours offered every week at VWSD. Attend an academic event as a spectator — the district’s energy fair next week would be a great option.

In order for our schools, and our children, to succeed, we need to support our public education system. That begins with being quick to praise, and slow to criticize.