Arts school pace picks up

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2001

While construction on campus is evident, Mississippi School ofthe Arts officials say they are also pursuing other activities asthe school prepares to open in the fall of 2003.

“There’s a ton for us to do in order to open in 2003,” said MSAExecutive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer.

Efforts regarding new personnel, policy development and newfunding avenues are all demanding attention.

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“The pace is rapidly accelerating,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer said school efforts have involved juggling fiscal,school and calender years while also dealing with legislative, bondissue and construction schedules.

“It’s like six three-ring circuses going on at the same timetoward the same end,” Bodenhamer said.

In August, the school saw its first new personnel additions inthe form of Jennifer Jackson as director of development and publicrelations and Melissa May as administrative assistant. Bodenhamerjoked that the school staff was no longer “a one-woman show.”

Bodenhamer said the next personnel positions to be filled willbe director of academics and director of students affairs. Theschool will eventually have over 100 employees, she added.

As personnel is added, officials’ focus is on developing variouspolicies, programs of studies and other school-related activities.Concerning admissions requirements and courses of study, Bodenhamermentioned how far in advance those have to be developed.

“The programs have to be in place a year before kids enterschool, and some others have to be in place even before that,”Bodenhamer said.

Funding remains a primary focus for school officials. Part ofJackson’s duties involve serving as the school’s fund-raiser.

“We’re seeking federal and state grant possibilities, as well asprivate donations,” Bodenhamer said.

In the area of private donations, Bodenhamer said theMississippi School of the Arts Foundation is up and running and hasreceived its 501-C3 tax-exempt status.

“What it means is future donations to the school should be madethrough the foundation,” Bodenhamer said.

Previously, contributions to the school were made through thestate. Bodenhamer said that can still be done, but donationsthrough the foundation would be a greater benefit because ofinterest that will be earned on those funds.

Bodenhamer and Jackson said the contributions can be even morehelp as the school seeks grants.

“We need funds to leverage other funds,” Bodenhamer said.

She said grant requirements involve matching funds more so thanin-kind assistance. That is where citizens’ contributions can behelpful.

“Their gift would allow us to receive another gift,” Jacksonsaid.

In the area of public funding, Bodenhamer recently participatedin the school appropriations process before the Joint LegislativeBudget Committee.

“The questions were interesting,” Bodenhamer said, adding thatlawmakers had specific questions about the application process,grading and programs of study.

The school will need about $1.5 million in operating funds toopen in 2003. Bodenhamer said Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett andDist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith have been very supportive inpromoting the school.

“As we approach the legislative session, it will be criticalthat citizens promote the school with the legislative leadership,”Bodenhamer said.

In other areas, Bodenhamer said school officials are in theprocess of planning a membership drive for the arts schoolfoundation. Also, the school will have an official logo soon.

School activity, mainly ongoing construction on the Student LifeCenter, is generating community interest, Jackson said.

“I think it’s really now becoming a reality that that buildingis going to be there and how large it’s going to be,” Jacksonsaid.

The next phase of construction will involve renovation of theY-Hut and the interior of Johnson Institute. The Y-Hut will serveas interim administrative offices while Johnson will be the primaryclassroom building, Bodenhamer said.

More memorabilia and other items from the early days ofWhitworth College are being received. Bodenhamer said they welcomethe contributions, such as two commencement programs from 1888 and1889, and hope to have a scrapbook or some other way of recognizingWhitworth’s history after the arts school opens.

“There’s all kinds of things coming in the door because thecampus is coming back to life,” Jackson added.

School interest is also translating into more requests forpresentations to civic clubs and other groups.

Bodenhamer said those have increased greatly as officials lookto promote the school statewide and nationally. Therefore,presentation requests should be made as soon as possible.

“They need to be done several months in advance,” Bodenhamersaid.

Also, with the addition of personnel housed at LamptonAuditorium, Bodenhamer said the facility has been closed and is nolonger available for public gatherings and other events. She saidschool field trips and visitors are still welcome, but theauditorium cannot be rented for a specific function.

In student-related matters, Bodenhamer said the MississippiSchool of the Arts Parent-Community Council will be formedsoon.

“The mission of this group will be to make students feel at homein Brookhaven,” Bodenhamer said.

The council, funded with help from the United Way, is expectedto be formed in November and will include parents of Brookhavenstudents who attended the math and science school in Columbus.Bodenhamer indicated those parents are familiar with what isinvolved with residential school functions and how to make studentsfeel comfortable in their new surroundings.