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State board members find arts school ‘hidden treasure’

The State Board of Education commented favorably on theMississippi School of the Arts and Brookhaven while deciding stateeducational policy Thursday.

The meeting, held at Mary Jane Lampton Auditorium, was the firsttime the board had met on the campus of the school, and it was thefirst for many to see the three-year-old school.

“I’ve been well impressed,” said Biloxi’s Sondra ParkerCaillavet, teacher representative for the board.

Rebecca Harris, a representative-at-large from Booneville,agreed.

“I think the school in itself is a hidden treasure,” she said.”I think if others would come visit, you would get morebenefactors.”

The board met with community and business leaders Wednesdaynight and Thursday complimented the community for its unwaveringsupport. Local citizens involved with the school were singled outfor praise.

“They do tremendous work for the school of the arts,” said StateSuperintendent Dr. Hank Bounds. “It’s unfortunate we don’t havethat kind of support for all schools in the state. We couldaccomplish some great things.”

Following the board’s Thursday morning meeting, members took atour of the campus. Student volunteers, known as arts ambassadors,led tours of the campus and informed the members of its longhistory, present activities and future goals.

Cavaillet and Harris asked their ambassador, Duente Ford, avisual arts major from Mendenhall, a lot of questions about thecurriculum, student transition to living at the residential schooland the quality of the education received by the students. Theyalso examined classrooms and watched students work on artprojects.

“I’m amazed at what they’re able to accomplish here,” Harrissaid. “They’re very talented.”

Earlier in the day, the board approved an extension on thecontract of Tammy Stanford, a theatre and dance instructor, to keepher at the school for the rest of the year.

Stanford, a Hattiesburg native, said she is dedicated to MSA’sgoals and has moved to Brookhaven to better support the school.

Stanford’s contract was the only MSA-related item before theboard Thursday. In other floor action, the board discussed severalbills influencing education that are expected to be introducedduring the present legislative session and the troubled JeffersonDavis County School District.