Lawmakers get look at MSA results

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 16, 2004

Community and Mississippi School of the Arts officials hope tohave a few more believers after lawmakers saw evidence of studentwork Thursday during Brookhaven Day at the Capitol activities.

MSA choral students received two standing ovations in both theSenate and House during morning and afternoon performances. Severalpieces of visual arts students’ work was also on display in theCapitol rotunda.

During a luncheon at the University Club, MSA Executive DirectorDr. Vicki Bodenhamer encouraged lawmakers to visit the campus andsee school progress in person. Grand opening activities are beingplanned for the spring.

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“Seeing is believing,” Bodenhamer said. “Watching students excelwill convince you you’ve made a wise investment. They areinspiring.”

Bodenhamer updated lawmakers on school development since itopened with 68 students in August of last year. The director saidofficials are exploring several options to increase capacity to themaximum 300 students as soon as possible.

“We appreciate everything the legislature has done for us,” saidBodenhamer, while also touting support from the Brookhavencommunity, state Board of Education and Department ofEducation.

Bodenhamer said over 1,200 potential students have indicated aninterest in the school. She said applications are due Jan. 30, andthen the admissions process will begin.

“We know it’s going to be really tough this year,” Bodenhamersaid about selecting students.

Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith echoed Bodenhamer in thankinglawmakers for their support of MSA.

“It’s not just Brookhaven’s school, it’s the entire state’sschool,” Hyde-Smith said.

Following the luncheon, Rep. Charlie Capps, who until Thursdayhad been chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committeefor the last 16 years, said arts school officials made a verypositive presentation.

“I’m glad to see it moving ahead as fast as it is,” Cappssaid.

In the face of tough budget times, Capps was cautious whenquestioned about funding for the school.

“We’ve just got to set priorities,” Capps said.

Capps mentioned seven mental health facilities that are beingbuilt but had not opened.

“It’s going to be a real tough fiscal year, but we’re going toget through it,” Capps said, citing improving revenue collections.”It looks positive.”

Rep. Jessica Upshaw, of Diamondhead, said the presentation wasvery nice.

“I was glad to hear about what Brookhaven has to offer,” saidUpshaw, serving her first term in the House. “I want to encouragethe people in my area to attend the Mississippi School of theArts.”

Also Thursday, Third Dist. U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering spoke tolawmakers about moving the state forward.

“We are at a point in state history where we have unlimitedpromise and potential,” Pickering said.

Unity at all levels of government — local, state and federal –can help take the state’s people to the “promised land of peace andprosperity,” Pickering said.

“We can become the fastest-growing state in the fastest-growingregion of the country,” Pickering said.

Approximately 180 people, including lawmakers and a strongcontingent of Brookhaven and Lincoln County citizens, attended theBrookhaven Day activities. Chamber of commerce President Kenny Gozawas pleased with the turnout.

“I thought it was the most successful one we’ve had in terms ofattendance,” said Goza. “Everyone who spoke to me was veryappreciative.”