Vicksburg Warren School District (VWSD) Superintendent Chad Shealy is irrepressible. Whether you are talking about COVID response, CTE strategies, or curriculum content, Chad not only makes you feel happy you asked, but even happier with his answers.
VWSD serves all of Warren County, Mississippi, and has an enrollment of approximately 7,200 students in grades Pre-K through 12. VWSD consists of three high schools (grades 9-12), three middle schools (grades 7-8), 10 elementary schools, and an alternative program.
In this conversation with eSchool News, he provides insights for any district administrator looking to thrive next fall.
The following has been edited for clarity.
eSN: We’re certainly sick of asking about it, but there really isn’t a choice. How has your experience been in dealing with pandemic learning in your district?
CS: It’s kind of hard not to talk about COVID because it’s the thing that is connected to everything we’ve had to deal with over the last few years. Luckily, our district, a few years back, made the decision that we would move to a different type of platform in delivering student information and lessons. So we began with infrastructure upgrades and a lot of research into types of devices. We landed on Chromebooks and the Google platform.
So when the pandemic arrived, we were in a situation where we had an asynchronous delivery system. We had taken all of our content and we have a digital app through the district so that every teacher, every student, and every administrator, for that matter, could go into any building at any time and see all the work of education.
eSN: Sounds like these transitions have been relatively painless…
CS: I’m very thankful that I have a progressive board and community that was willing to make a lot of the commitments that we made four or five years ago to get us where we were ready to just take advantage of this. Even during COVID when we began our school year, we had a fully, asynchronous delivery device. We had a blended option and we had an in-person opportunity for our parents to choose. So we’ve had all those choices since day one.
eSN: Your recent content deal with Discovery Education to use their resources seems to emphasize connecting current classroom instruction to students’ possible future career paths. Talk a little about your big picture strategy when it comes bridging education to careers.
CS: What does that mean for a kid to leave our district and what do you want them to be able to do? We landed around the four E’s: The first one is employed with credentials that you earn with us—that’s a real job, high paying wage with an industry credential or an associate’s degree tied to a specific scale; second, enlisted in the armed forces, because that is an appropriate exit strategy for us to have our students join one of the branches of armed forces; three, enrolled in a post-secondary institution, because your goals require a bachelor’s degree or above; and then the last one was to be an entrepreneur because it’s okay to work for yourself.
I will tell you that technology is absolutely permeated through all of it. And what we understand is that it doesn’t matter what field you choose. If you’re not technologically fluent that you’re going to be in a world of hurt, you’re going to be out-performed. You will not get promoted.
eSN: But there are still issues surrounding getting students that tech right?
CS: I think the educational community now is forcing us to have a conversation around how do we get every student with a device; How do we get them access at their homes. If you look at what’s happening in Mississippi for the first time ever, you have dark fiber that’s being accessed. I mean, whoever thought that we’d be in a world where they wouldn’t fight over money for that? We’re now in a situation where everybody is able to have the conversation. I mean, it is our new alphabet, right? We’re very excited to be able to continue to move in those directions, to expand what we can, and to be able to create a much greater version of what we are today, based on the tech integration we have.
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