By Sue Moore
A smooth settlement of school union contracts marked Keevin O’Neill’s first meeting as superintendent in July. “I was very pleased with the degree to which the employee groups worked thoughtfully and collaboratively with the administration to make the best use of our limited resources.
“I believe in all three cases, we were able to apply some of the new revenue in a way that allows the District to continue to compete for the very best talent, but which also protects the financial stability that Vicksburg Community Schools is known for,” O’Neill said.
Three-year contract agreements with financial openers each year were negotiated with the Vicksburg Parapro Association (VPA) and Vicksburg Educational Support Personnel Association (VESPA) with salary increases of 2.5 percent across the board for VPA and 2 percent for custodians, maintenance, food service, building secretaries and transportation union members.
For the Vicksburg Education Association (VEA), the teachers’ salary schedule will be increased by 1.9 percent. Employer subsidies for health insurance will remain unchanged at 2017-2018 levels, effectively passing the 2.5 percent premium increase to employees. The savings generated by passing the increase to employees was applied to the salary schedule, accounting for 0.4 percent of the 1.9 percent increase.
Additional one-time payments to VEA members will be made if enrollment meets certain targets. The salary schedule will be reduced if enrollments fall significantly below projections. “We are proud of the great relations we have with our employee units and appreciate the joint effort to reach an agreement that is fair to both the employee groups as well as the schools,” said Skip Knowles, school board president.
In other business, Asst. Supt. Steve Goss walked the board through the construction work going on across the school district. Frederick Construction is the construction manager on the projects and runs a tight ship for making sure the work is complete by the time school starts Sept. 4, Goss pointed out.
The high school’s west side is receiving a major renovation with the courtyard being built out with a retaining wall, bike racks, tables and benches for outdoor space for students and visitors. A sidewalk will connect this area to the stadium. “In addition to the construction projects, the third and final series of the 2014 bond issue includes $1.5 million for technology upgrades and replacements,” Goss said. A new accounting system and new on-line student/parent/teacher portal called Skyward is being installed and should be ready to roll out in September. It is headed by Don Puckett, the director of technology, who was questioned in depth by board members as to how parents and students will be notified of the change. Teachers will be trained first, Puckett said. Then the portal will be opened to students and parents for assignments and grades in early September.