By Sue Moore
In a report to the Vicksburg School Board, Tabitha Farnham, president of the Vicksburg Band Boosters Inc. said her organization’s operating budget for 2020 is $72,300. “What money we raise to fund band programs is necessary to keep our band program top notch. It has helped to keep the band competitive with surrounding schools that are much bigger than us. With improved equipment, it has even encouraged some students to come to Vicksburg schools to be a part of our award-winning band program,” she told the board.
The group has maintained the instrument repair program for middle and high school bands to the tune of $3,100 each year. “We have covered what the three directors call their wish list and needs of the program that wouldn’t be funded otherwise,” she said. The organization purchased a whole new set of uniforms six years ago at a cost of $90,000. It also raised funds for the huge travel trailer that houses the band’s instruments on site and other items when they go to perform, such as the holiday trip to New Orleans.
With the help of the Vicksburg Foundation, they have been able to purchase $100,000 in band instruments. The program has grown to include one third of the student body in the Middle School and one fourth of the students in the High School.
Don Puckett reported on the technology advances the district has made over the last six years, especially with the funds from the technology bond issue of 2014. He cited the following:
A total of 5,000 outside devices connected in any one day.
2,000 Chromebook laptop computers in use.
Over 180 phones.
Over 300 desktops and laptops in use.
236 wireless access points.
302 security cameras installed.
41 door and door entry systems.
115 printers and copiers, a number which has actually decreased over the years by utilizing bigger and more efficient copiers.
Over 150 presentation systems.
18 servers on the network.
Countless software platforms.
Google for education has been used over the last six years because it is free. It was a hodgepodge all over the district. Now each building has wireless coverage.
Plans for the future include rolling out new teacher computers, updating and replacing Chromebook laptop computers which are nearly eight years old. Replacing the network infrastructure will be the big expense, he said.
Dawn Simpson, math teacher in the Middle School, demonstrated the use of Chromebook software that allows her to see what every student in her classroom is doing on their device.
Matt VanDussen, Middle School principal, spoke to the board about data on student performance. Math compares well to other schools in the area, he said. It points to a lot of things the teachers and staff have been working on the past few years.
While social studies scores were lower than expected, teachers have worked hard to transition to the new social studies standards, which haven’t been tested by the MSTEP yet. Students showed a very high level of achievement in English Language Arts, according to the PSAT, with 83 percent of 8th grade students demonstrating college readiness.
He described Walkin’ the Dawgs as the one and only fundraiser the Middle School now uses. “This means that parents only have a one-time donation to make rather than all the little requests for dollars that typically came home with students. They raised $17,000 the first year they tried this approach and $19,000 in 2019. The money supports band, social studies program, teachers’ supplies, Civil War Days for the 8th grade, student council, athletics, fall musical, podcast equipment purchase, anti-bullying presentation, student incentives, respect rewards and principal’s awards to students.