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Parent Council preps for school opening

The Mississippi School of the Arts’ Student Life Center gotglowing reviews Tuesday from members of the school’s ParentCommunity Council.

“This is a beautiful view up here,” said Willie “Doc” Harrisonas he looked over Brookway Boulevard from an eighth-floorwindow.

During its quarterly meeting Tuesday, the council became thefirst Brookhaven community organization to tour the Student LifeCenter. Prospective students and parents got a glimpse of thebuilding’s interior in April.

Jennifer Jackson, MSA director of marketing, led council memberson the tour of student and counselor rooms, the library area, themedia center, a state of the art kitchen, and other spaces.

“This is impressive,” said Jimminette Phillips, council member.”It’s really innovative.”

Others agreed.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said fellow member DannyForrest.

According to MSA totals, 63 students will live in the centerwhen the arts school opens in August. Five other students will beallowed to commute to campus.

Of the residential students, 40 are female and 23 are male.Jackson explained to council members that female and male studentswill be housed on alternate floors.

“We’re really in high gear to get the school open,” Jacksonsaid.

Jackson said MSA staff is in the process of filling 31 positionsfor the school. Those include teachers, a school nurse, dormresident advisors and other positions.

“That’s keeping us very busy, too,” Jackson said.

Security is being handled through a contract with the BrookhavenPolice Department. Off-duty police officers will serve as securityfor the campus.

“There’s not going to be anybody here who does not have lawenforcement experience,” said council member Roger Wilson, who isalso an investigator with the police department.

During the meeting, Jackson said a number of privatefund-raising efforts are taking shape for the school.

Noted artist Wyatt Waters has been commissioned to do a paintingof Lampton Auditorium, Jackson said. Prints and note cards will besold to raise funds.

Also, Lampton Auditorium will be the first historic Brookhavenbuilding replica made as part of the Ole Brook Village seriesdebuting later this year, Jackson said. The Ole Brook Villageseries will be similar to the popular Christmas Village set.

“Every year, they’re going to do a different historic buildingin Brookhaven,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the building replicas, which will sell for $50,should make excellent Christmas gifts. She expected the first to beavailable around October.

Jackson also mentioned a commemorative brick program that isbeing developed. The program, in which bricks are bought in honorof loved ones, has been used successfully in several areaprojects.

Billy Crozier, with the Host Family Network, informed councilmembers that about half as many host families as needed have turnedin applications. He encouraged anyone interested in being a hostfamily to submit an application.

“We’ve got to get these applications out and back by July 10,”said Crozier, citing review guidelines as part of the process.

Dr. Diane Watson, fellow network member, said basic host familyguidelines include living within 20 miles of the campus, being atleast 25 years old and having a smoke-free home. Other aspectsinclude consenting to a home site visit if requested, submittingreferences and being interviewed by a selection committee.

Host family duties include weekly contact with the student andmonthly contact with the student’s family. Host families areencouraged to invite students to their homes or do otherfamily-oriented activities.

“It’s basically a home away from home,” Watson said.

In a technical matter, Crozier requested formation of the ParentCommunity Council for the Mississippi School of the Arts as anon-profit organization. Also approved was motion for the neworganization to seek tax-exempt status.

Crozier cited legal reasons for the forming of the separateorganization. He indicated that other arts school communitiesstudied did not have organizations like the parent communitycouncil.

“The communities haven’t been this involved,” Crozier said.

Patti Perkins said the network has received a good response frombusinesses that have been approached to provide items for “goodiebags” for students when they arrive. In addition, the arts schoolfoundation is providing canvas tote bags for students.

“Everybody has been so generous,” Perkins said.