By Travis Smola
High school Principal Keevin O’Neill had some exciting news to report to the Vicksburg school board regarding the National Merit Scholarship group.
Every year 1.5 million students take the PSAT test and around 16,000 are named semifinalists for approximately $35 million in scholarship money. “About every year we have at least one, sometimes two qualify,” O’Neill said.
But this year, Vicksburg schools had two students named to the finalists group for the first time. They are seniors Benjamin Gangloff and Savannah McDowell. Approximately 8,000 students will receive scholarship money from the finalist group. “It’s just a great honor,” O’Neill said.
He said the students will be introduced to the board at a later date.
Middle school Principal Matt VanDussen gave a report to the trustees on operations at the school.
He thanked the board for updates to the building including the new bathrooms. “We’ve had a lot of positive comments about the look of those bathrooms from people coming in,” VanDussen said. He also said implementing technology like Chromebook laptop computers means more technology time for students and less competing among teachers for lab time.
VanDussen stressed the importance of creating a positive culture climate within the school, something that’s been noticed by the board members.
Vice-President Carol Lohman and Trustee David Schriemer both noted how activities traditionally viewed as “geeky” like band, choir or robotics club, are actually cool activities for Vicksburg students to participate in.
“Those positive types of things, particularly at the middle school when everyone feels like the awkward one, I don’t think you can undervalue that,” Schriemer said.
Lohman noted parents and the community also play a big role in creating this culture. “They really take part in the things we do and encourage their kids,” Lohman said.
The positive culture of the community was echoed in Tim Fuller’s report on the Performing Arts Center (PAC) where things are always busy. The Center hosted 25 theatre performances and 22 concerts in 2016, as well as various award presentations, meetings, talent shows and more.
“We truly have something for everyone on our stage,” Fuller said. “Come down and check us out, that’s the best way to get an idea of what’s going on at the PAC.”
The high school productions have been very popular and Fuller credits the teachers at the elementary and middle school levels for helping to foster an interest in performing arts early before students get to the high school level.
The trustees are extremely appreciative of the job Fuller is doing. “Especially in the community productions, you are unbelievably diplomatic with people,” Christina Forsyth said.
President Virgil Knowles agreed. He also noted how well-attended most performances are. “It makes me feel good to see the community there,” Knowles said. “I tell my family we have to get there an hour earlier or we won’t have place to sit.”