Move the arts school? They’ve got to be kidding!

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 10, 2003

We are not sure of the real purpose of an editorial written by aColumbus, Miss., newspaper, but its suggestion that the legislatureabandon the Mississippi School of the Arts here in Brookhaven andmove it to the campus of Mississippi University for Women atColumbus is the worst kind of self-serving sour grapes we’ve seenin a long time.

Appearing in the Commercial Dispatch and other newspapersearlier last week, the editorial does a pretty good job of slammingthe “town” of Brookhaven, suggests our public school system isinferior and all but says we sold the state a bill of goods bybilking the legislature into creating the school in 1999.

The editorial goes on to say that had the Legislature done whatthey in Columbus suggested back then and placed the school on thecampus of MUW as part of the Mississippi School for Math andScience, the state would have saved 23 million dollars in buildingand renovation expenses and an estimated $2 million in annualoperating expenses.

It concludes that it is not too late, urges the Legislature tomake a change and move the school to Columbus. “Surely,” theeditorial says, “another use can be found for those (WhitworthCampus) facilities.”

Let this one sink in for a few minutes … Yeah, we have beensteaming, too!

Why, and where in the world — four years and $23 million later– did this idea come from?

Serving a community that houses the renowned but beleaguered MUW– a campus that has long been on the short list for closure due toit’s proximity to Mississippi State University — one would thinkthe newspaper would be careful of casting stones. If one appliesthe editorial’s logic, there is a strong case to justify theclosing of MUW! Not that we are suggesting that idea. We’re justsaying closure can cut both ways.

With that said, it might be appropriate to point out that one ofthe key issues in the debate to create the school was to select asite that was not part of a college campus. Legislators wereuncomfortable with high school boarding students being mixed witholder college students, mainly because of problems at MUW and theMath and Science School. In fact, the director of the School ofMath and Science commented back in 1999 that it best to keep theArts School off a university or college site!

Brookhaven happened to provide the perfect mix. A quiet city,conveniently located to urban areas; a place where parents couldfeel secure that their children would safely walk the streets. Itwas also pointed out that our lack of nightclubs and liquor salesdid not hurt the image either — something Columbus and otherscould not match. Remember we are talking about 16- and17-year-olds, not college students.

We are only a few months away from the opening of the artsschool. With a tight budget and a slowing economy, support in thelegislature has cooled as some wonder how we are going the pay thestate’s bills. There are concerns at the school regarding funding,but assurances have been made that necessary funds will be providedto allow the doors to open as planned.

The Mississippi School of the Arts is a school for all ofMississippi, not just Brookhaven. The school will bring opportunityto high school students that they might never have had. With thisstate’s rich history in the arts — the opportunities areendless.

This school is an investment that will pay dividends for thisstate forever. It is a shame that some in another community feelthis is a good time to start whining and complaining. Their effortsat this late date do nothing but damage the school and give fuel tothe naysayers. We all need to be working together for Mississippi’skids, not trying to start a turf war.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602.