QUESTIONNAIRE: District 5 VWSD School Board candidates speak on priorities

Published 1:14 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

Voters will elect Vicksburg Warren School District Trustees for Districts 1 and 5 on this coming election day, Nov. 8.

The Vicksburg Post asked candidates to fill out a questionnaire regarding their candidacy. This article contains answers given by the District 5 candidates, Orlon Derrick Smith and Joe Loviza.

Responses from District 1 candidates are available in the Oct. 28 edition of The Post and on vicksburgpost.com.

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The following are the responses given by District 5 candidates.

1. What has been your and your family’s experience with the Vicksburg Warren School District?

Smith: My experience was the observation of students while I was speaking to students at our elementary schools. The students were listening attentively and participating in the book discussions. They asked questions and were thankful for me being there. Students are now learning in many different ways than in the past. I observed teachers: providing students with extra resources and services. The teachers used their funds to assist students on a daily basis. Thank you teachers for your hard work and sacrifice.

Loviza: Very Good. There is always room for improvement. I taught at Cooper High School, Vicksburg High School, Warren Central High School, Hinds Community College and Mississippi State University.

2. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the school district right now? Do you have a solution for that challenge?

Smith: I think we need more parental involvement. Our community is facing poverty, mental health crisis, teacher shortage and pay (disparities). Parental involvement has a positive influence on the student’s attitude and behavior and enhances academic performance. The solution is being beneficial and available to assist parents to help their children become successful in their academic studies and through extracurricular activities, asking for more mentors to be involved and attend community meetings, board members being more visible in the community, listening to parents, teachers and staff concerns, and continuing to motivate and encourage parents and students in a productive manner. Sometimes we have to go out into the community. We need to collaborate with community leaders about better pay for teachers. Teachers want to have a voice in the decision-making process and feel valued as professionals.

Loviza: Workforce development, dual credit and graduating all students prepared to be employed, continue their education at the college level, and/or join the armed forces. We should emphasize our partnership with Hinds Community College and work toward better state scores.

3. What other specific issues would you advocate for as a VWSD School Board Trustee?

Smith: I would advocate proper funding from the MAEP for every department within the school district. Advocate for children to have strong relationships with parents and mentors. Advocate with community leaders concerning our children’s education, along with better pay for teachers and staff. Advocate for more qualified counselors. This will help improve student performance and help lower disciplinary actions. Improve teacher recruitment and retention and increase the Special Education department. Advocate for funding to assist teachers with getting advanced degrees.

Loviza: Appoint an Advisory Council to promote public education and to increase partnerships in the community. As a U.S. Navy Vet, I realize the responsibility that goes with public service and leadership.

4. What made you want to serve as a VWSD School Board Trustee?

Smith: Serving this community for 15 years as a law enforcement officer, mentor and youth coach, I have listened to the concerns of the children, teachers and families in our community. Also, the love I have for this community and a personal interest in improving the quality of our school district. I want to help build positive relationships throughout our community and schools. Focus on serving all children in this community, by putting students first. I think parents want more communication and transparency. I believe it is better to serve than to be served.

Loviza: I have experience on the VWSD Board of Trustees (two terms) and I have worked at every level in the school district for 50-plus years. I was appointed by Governors Winter, Mabus and Fordice to state commissions.

5. What is your opinion about the current state of the VWSD School Board of Trustees?

Smith: My opinion is that the board is doing an outstanding job. They work very hard focusing on serving the children of this community and building positive relationships throughout the district. There is always room for improvement.

Loviza: Each member has varied experiences and can contribute to the VWSD based on their ability to relate to public education for all people. The trustees must operate within state and federal law. All trustees must ensure student safety at all school events.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. To find out where to vote and to see a sample of the ballot, you can visit hco.warren.ms.us/polling-places.