Busy time for MSA officials

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Mississippi School of the Arts officials say they are”cautiously optimistic” now that funding to allow the school toopen as scheduled is in sight.

A $2 million appropriations for operations and $1 million in abond bill for equipment purchases were included in budget billspassed this week by the Mississippi Legislature. The bills nowawait Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s signature.

“If the governor signs the two bills, we’re full speed ahead,”said Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, MSA’s executive director.

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Bodenhamer said school officials are happy and encouraged by thefunding news. However, it could be up to two weeks before the billsare signed.

“We’re preparing to go full speed ahead,” Bodenhamer said.

That means getting ready to post job notices and fill positionsfor 31 new employees who will come onboard in July. Those rangefrom residential advisors, janitorial staff, security, supportstaff, teaching positions, a librarian, counselor and schoolnurse.

The student selection process is also under way.

“We are looking forward to Phase 2 auditions, which are nextweekend,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer said the heavy duty admissions activity will runparallel with prospective employee interviews and preparations topurchase needed equipment, supplies and textbooks. A bill with aprovision to allow the school to purchase textbooks before the endof the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is pending.

Finalizing the student handbooks with the Department ofEducation is another aspect of preparing to open the school.

“At the same time, we’ll have to prepare the fiscal year 2005budget,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer said all the work needs to be done by the end of May.Also, three construction projects on the Whitworth campus arenearing completion and a fourth, restoration work on ElizabethCottage, is about to begin.

If funding is approved, MSA will have approximately $3.8 millionfor next year. Bodenhamer said the $3 million allocated during thisyear’s legislation session is over and above the current year’s$800,000 operating budget, which was renewed for next year.

Bodenhamer said the school had asked for $4.5 million. The lowerfunding level will mean fewer position hirings during the firstyear, she said..

“We postponed them to the second year of operation,” Bodenhamersaid.

Bodenhamer said school officials were also able to reduce someduplication of fixture, furnishings and equipment purchases. Shesaid the duplication was a result of early budget preparation thathad to be completed by May 2002.

With the state funding support, Bodenhamer said it will beeasier to recruit students and approach major private donors.

Though busy time are ahead, Bodenhamer was looking forward toMSA’s first class of students in August.

“We will be able to open the school and the kids of the state ofMississippi will benefit because of it,” she said.