On Friday, Jan 29, the Vicksburg Daily News reported a snafu that caused teachers to not get paid on time. Most VWSD employees are paid on the last working day of each month, so they had not been paid since mid-December. The 6-week gap is nothing new and educators plan for the time period.
Educators know that mistakes happen. The issue was not the mistake.
The issue was many VWSD employees have bank drafts scheduled for their once monthly pay date and, unfortunately, many of them live paycheck to paycheck. Because of the direct deposit mistake, many teachers found their bank accounts seriously overdrawn that Friday and had incurred large overdraft fees by the time the error was corrected the following Monday.
That story garnered so much attention that it was picked up by other media outlets such as WLBT. Most of the comments were expressing outrage at the poor treatment and lack of consideration given to the district employees that are actually in the schools with the students.
Later that day, while editing a story about the board’s vote to increase Superintendent Chad Shealy’s pay to $190,800, an executive decision was made to not publish it immediately as we were aware of the public’s intense feelings toward school leaders at that time. That is not a decision most news sources would’ve made, but we did as a courtesy.
We held our story and respectfully requested a statement from VWSD concerning the matter. For reasons unknown the VWSD, in particular media contact Christi Kilroy, chose not to respond. We waited until the end of the business day before publishing the story as we had it. To date, Christi Kilroy has not responded to that request.
The response from the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County was intense. Thousands of social media posts expressed anger at the board for the teachers not getting paid on time while increasing Shealy’s pay to almost $200,000 a year. Practically every post on social media expressed disappointment with the district and/or board members.
The Vicksburg Daily News received several messages regarding the stories and also some pointing out other concerns with the management of the schools.
By the following Sunday, a long list of questions had been sent to us by numerous members of the community, including educators and support staff of the school district who requested to remain anonymous out of concern for their jobs. Every member of our staff has been approached by citizens sharing stories or wanting us to get more information about many of the district’s decisions and actions.
We narrowed down the enormous amount of questions to 10 main issues and posted them.
Our intent was to give the VWSD board members a chance to address the tax payers’ concerns and give them a platform to explain why certain decisions were made.
At the time of this report, the Vicksburg Warren School District Board has yet to respond to the questions posed to them by VDN last Sunday.
We also sent an email to media contact Christi Kilroy to ensure the board saw the story and knew about the questions.
To date we have received no official response from Kilroy or the board members. Kilroy has not responded to our email on Shealy’s pay or the email on the questions to the board.
The community continues to comment on social media about the questions. It has been reported to the Vicksburg Daily News that the students are talking about the issue as well and want to know why they, the students, are held accountable when the school leaders are not.
The Vicksburg Daily News is going to stay on this story and all issues related to the school district. We invite the community to send their verifiable information to us so we can address the board to explain their actions to the people that voted for them and pay the taxes that support them.
A newspaper is part of the American system that ensures elected officials are held accountable for their management of the taxpayers’ money. A free press holding elected officials’ feet to the fire is the greatest of American traditions.
At the Vicksburg Daily News we take our responsibility to our readers seriously, and our readers deserve answers.
Therefore, we are once again inviting VWSD board members and administrators to address the concerns of the citizens of Warren County. We feel they deserve a public platform on which they can answer the questions posed to them last week or explain why they choose not to answer. We will not alter their words in any way and will publish them in entirety regardless of length.
Lastly, we are very aware it is much easier to tear something down than to build it. However, if questions arise from those who are paying for the build, it is, in our opinion, only prudent to respond to those questions. At the Vicksburg Daily News we believe every taxpayer deserves to be heard and answered. From the lowest paid to the wealthiest, we are all taxpayers and voters.
Consider this us begging you, our elected officials, to respond to these questions. We want to see the district survive and thrive. This is our community too.
As previously reported, the VWSD school boards members are:
District #1 – Bryan Pratt
District #2 – Alonzo Stevens
District#3 – James Stirgus, Jr.
District#4 – Kimble Slaton
District#5 – Sally Bullard