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Leaders cite schools’ role in community

Area school leaders touted education’s impact on the communitythis morning during the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce’s quarterly breakfast meeting.

Administrators from Brookhaven Academy, the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict and Copiah-Lincoln Community College met at the WesternSizzlin to give area business leaders a back to school update.Representatives from the Lincoln County School District and theMississippi School of the Arts were unable to attend.

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrett said thereis no successful community in this state that doesn’t have asuccessful school district, she explained. When the communitysupports the school, the school system thrives.

“Brookhaven Public School District is the very heart of ourcommunity,” Barrett said.

BSD is the fourth-largest employer in Lincoln County, Barrettsaid. It employs 440 people, of which 250 are certified teachers.Out of its $25 million budget, $18.25 million is spent on salaries,which goes into the local economy.

Enrollment in the school district stands at 3,198 this year,Barrett said.

Barrett bragged on Brookhaven High School’s graduation rate of91 percent, while the state average is only 60 percent. She saidlast year’s graduating class of 155 received over $1 million inscholarships.

She also commended the school’s ACT average. The state averageis 18.8, while the average at BHS is 20.2, she said.

“In the last four years we have raised the composite score forour students on the ACT by two full points,” Barrett said. “We’reproud we are keeping children in school and still making hugeacademic gains.”

Barrett said preliminary findings by the Mississippi Departmentof Education show Martin Elementary, Brookhaven Elementary andLipsey Middle School will be classified as level 4 schools, whileAlexander Junior High and Brookhaven High School will each beclassified as level 3. The official findings by MDE will bereleased on Aug. 31.

“Brookhaven Elementary missed being a level 5 school by three-one-hundreths of a point,” Barrett said.

Dr. Miller Hammill, headmaster at Brookhaven Academy, commendedthe community on its support of education in Brookhaven in LincolnCounty.

“I’m excited we have a chamber and citizens in our county that’ssupportive of education,” Hammill said.

Hammill, who is in his third year as headmaster, said theacademy currently boasts an enrollment of 510 students. He said theschool is almost at its capacity due to building and facultysize.

The facility operates entirely on private funds, of which 80percent is received from tuition and the rest is from donations.Hammill commended active PTL and booster clubs with a lot of thesuccess of the school.

“The involvement of our community in our school is phenomenal,”Hammill said.

Brookhaven Academy was ranked among the top 10 private schoolsin the state last year, he said.

The library program, technology program, teacher materials,textbooks, playground and athletic facilities, and air conditioningin a few classrooms are all improvements the school is currentlypursuing.

The school participates in the Mississippi Scholars program andProject Fit America and Duel Enrollment.

Last year the academy graduated 33 students, all of whom went onto college somewhere this year, Hammill said. The average ACT scoreat the academy is 22.7.

“Our future is very bright,” Hammill said. “The most importantpersons on our campus are our students.”

Executive Vice President of Copiah-Lincoln Community College Dr.Ronnie Nettles updated the gathering on the local communitycollege.

“Our enrollment is really strong with over 2,000 registered atthe Wesson campus this year,” Nettles said.

The Natchez campus has over 850 enrolled while the SimpsonCounty campus has over 350 in its second year of operation.

Nettles explained the past two years the college has gonethrough a process of self study to prepare it foraccreditation.

“Last December, we were fully accredited by the SouthernAssociation of Schools,” Nettles said.

Co-Lin was first community college to go through theaccreditation process.

Co-Lin’s mission is very broad, Nettles explained – from GEDclasses to Duel Enrollment – to Workforce Training andAthletics.

Nettles touted the school’s Community Arts Series, saying itgives the community an opportunity to view the arts, where othercommunities don’t have the same opportunities. Scheduled to performare a string orchestra from New York City in September, Joyce Yangin October and the Georgia Guitar Quartet in January.

Co-Lin is also proud of its athletics and proud of what manyhave done in the classrooms, as well.

“Many of our athletes have placed nationally academically,”Nettles said.

The Co-Lin’s men’s tennis team is academically ranked No. 2nationally.

“We’re grateful for our partners that we have in the community,especially in Brookhaven and Lincoln County,” Nettles said.