School of Arts is milestone for entire state

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

It is now official — the Mississippi School of the Arts will beopening its doors this August. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed thefinal, critical bill Tuesday, and the race is now on to get readyfor the inaugural class of students.

What an exciting ride this has been, and how exciting it isgoing to be from now on! The general public probably does notunderstood how close this moment came to not happening, as the’petals fell off the bloom’ and the statewide support the schoolenjoyed in the legislature floundered, putting it dangerously closeto the budget ax.

It was the extraordinary efforts of Rep. Jim Barnett, Sen. CindyHyde-Smith and several other local individuals who made it happen.They camped out in the hallways of the capitol for days on end totwist arms and coax votes. Due to those efforts, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuckand others came through and found the necessary funding. Gov.Musgrove’s signature finalizes this year’s financing and paves theway for the doors to open.

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It is almost a fairy tale, how this school came into being. Itwent from an off-the-cuff comment by former First Lady Pat Fordicein 1998 to a signature by the governor in less than 12 months.Legislation packages of this magnitude take years to put together– we did it in nine months.

From that first meeting on a hot August day with then-Lt. Gov.Musgrove, it seemed like ‘a pie in the sky’ idea. Musgrove gave hisinitial endorsement, but said it was too late for the upcomingsession. We all know the rest of the story — from the filing ofthe original bill number HB-706 to the signature by Gov. KirkFordice, it was a whirlwind event that few gave much of achance.

The Mississippi School of the Arts is a testament to whatcommunity unity and intestinal fortitude can accomplish.

This afternoon some parents and students of the inaugural classof 2005 will have their first look at the campus. Approximately 70families whose children have been accepted to the school have beenextended invitations to take a tour of the newly-built Student LifeCenter — the eight-story building that now marks the Brookhavenskyline — as well as the newly-renovated Brookhaven HighSchool.

Representation of Mississippi will come from Southaven to Biloxiand Meridian to Vicksburg. Every region of the state has a studentwho has been accepted to attend. This is truly a milestone day fornot only Brookhaven, but all of Mississippi.

The work is not over. Besides the herculean efforts that will beaccomplished over the next three and a half months to open thedoors, we still have additional funding that must be secured and asecond dormitory to build next year.

We have a ways to go, but, oh, how far we’ve come to get to thispoint.

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