Office-seekers see value in arts school promotion

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Editor’s note: Today The DAILY LEADER concludes its questionand answer session with candidates for the District 92 House ofRepresentatives seat. All four candidates participated.

The Mississippi School of the Arts is proving to be asuccess story for the state in general and Southwest Mississippi inparticular. What do see for the future of the school and what couldyou do as a legislator to further its development?

Paul Barnett:

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Each year The Mississippi School of the Arts educates studentswho excel in the arts from across our state. These graduates arethe true testimony of the good MSA contributes to our citizens. TheLegislators each year are more aware of the good work MSA is doingand I plan to remind them of “needs” for continued success.

I will propose 100 percent utilization throughout the calendaryear. When school is not in session, the MSA campus will bepositioned to host conferences for educators and state agencies;thereby lowering the burden placed on taxpayers previously payingfor the use of non-state owned facilities for such state sanctionedconference activities. For MSA, this will result in even morevisibility throughout the state as people enjoy the MSA campus; forBrookhaven and surrounding areas, this will result in increasedtourism dollars for our community.

Everett Gene Buckles:

The Mississippi School of the Arts needs to be fully funded tobe able to reach its full potential. I would like to see thishappen and the school grow to the point of needed expansion. Toknow and be able to see students attend, complete their studieshere and continue and become an asset to the great state ofMississippi would be a great accomplishment.

Becky Currie:

The School of Arts is truly a wonderful success story forDistrict 92 and the State of Mississippi. When the Governor came toBrookhaven and held a town hall meeting, he said that our drop outrate in high school for the state was 40 percent. I almost fell outof my chair. I spent some time at the School of Arts recently inBrookhaven and asked a lot of questions and the one thing that wasthe greatest news was they reported a zero drop out rate. They havehad a couple of students get homesick and go home, but no drop outrate. Most go to college with wonderful scholarships. I would loveto have a long-term track record to see what happens with ourgraduates. It would give us good statistics and information for thefuture. The staff reported that this next year they would have 151students, which is their highest enrollment so far and also excitedto be adding literary arts.

I go to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and many of thestudents cross the street for church. Some sing in our choir andthey become apart of our church family. They are focused, talentedyoung people and a joy to be around. It is hard to let them go whenthey graduate.

For the future, I would love to see the buildings on the campusfinished. There should be no reason why we have this wonderfulschool, with such great success for our children, who are thefuture of Mississippi and we have buildings that sit empty notbeing worked on. With a drop out rate of 40 percent, we are losingour children at some point. We should learn from the success ofthis school and expand on it. We need to look at the School of theArts in Brookhaven as a state success because there are childrenfrom all over the state in attendance. We should always fully fundeducation for all of our children and we should never stop fullyfunding the School of Arts.

D.W. Maxwell:

Even though my recent research has been limited and my access tothe proper school official at the Mississippi School of the Artshas been limited this week, I have discovered some great positivethings about the success of the school and its students. I havepersonally been to the school and this last year I was at theCapitol when the students performed. They represented their school,themselves and Brookhaven very well. I was thoroughly impressedwith their performances. Also, a number of the students haveperformed in plays at the Little Theater and have excelled.Forty-one students graduated this past year. It is my understandingthese students received approximately $2,200,000 in scholarships.Students who graduated are located from all over the state. Nowdays a Fine Arts Degree is one of the most sought after degrees inthe employment market. The students should be very proud andBrookhaven should be proud of them.

The school definitely has current needs for additional funding.Some of those are teaching units, capitol improvements, andadditional class units. The Fine Arts School just received a$792,00 grant for renovation of Enoch Hall. However, additionalmoney is needed to complete the entire building.

I am told that one-hundred fifty-six (156) students are expectedthis fall. The present one dormitory can house one-hundred seventy(170) students.

Even where there is so much positive news from the MississippiFine Arts School, it is being monitored closely by those from otherparts of the state who are in very prominent positions of power instate government who either are jealous of the school andBrookhaven’s efforts to support and make it a great school for theState of Mississippi or for some other reason. Whatever the reasonmay be, they have a misgiving and narrow vision about the amount ofgood that is being produced from the dollars spent. What must thestudents, the school leadership, your Senator and StateRepresentatives do to make this misgiving and narrow visiondisappear and become a common vision of support for all the Stateof Mississippi?

I have a VISION, several ideas to consider in solving thisissue. I will discuss a few with you. First, as your StateRepresentative, I will support the Mississippi Fine Arts Schoolwith all the effort and influence that I may have. My VISION andgoal would be for the school to continually grow in all areasincluding more students and new additional buildings. But, we mustmake an all out effort to retain more students through graduation;we must continue earnestly to seek other sources of funding(private and government); request more citizens to get involved;ask current citizens if they would continue to increase theirefforts and support; better utilization of the school’sinfrastructure on a fee basis such as more use of LamptonAuditorium, allowing adult educational classes, allowing educationspace for large companies and businesses, consider allowingextension classes from junior college and/or college university.Some of these things can happen by scheduling around current artclasses. It is very unfortunate that original funding didn’tinclude finishing the inside of at least one additional building. Irealize that more of the buildings will need finishing inside toallow some of these things to happen, but with a well defined plan,desire and a VISION by the staff and community to make this greatschool and facility more usable and accessible, we can make ithappen. A well-defined plan of utilization will help changeattitudes at the state level and make funding for the facility mucheasier.

Editor’s note: Due to an editorial oversight, part of PaulBarnett’s answer to Sunday’s question regarding economicdevelopment in Southwest Mississippi was omitted. Below is thequestion and Barnett’s answer in its entirety.

While other areas of the state have enjoyed economicdevelopment success such as the Nissan plant in Canton and theplanned Toyota plant near Tupelo, Southwest Mississippi has trailedin efforts to land a major project. What do you propose to do toaddress this situation and bring jobs to this area?

Paul Barnett:

Rather than waiting for “jobs” to come to Southwest Mississippi,I will work closely with the Governor’s office, the MississippiDevelopment Authority and YOU to immediately create a marketingplan whereby Copiah, Franklin and Lincoln counties will bepresented in a positive professional manner to global industryleaders, a true representation of the fact that District 92 is “TheDestination For The Dedicated.”

Additionally, I will personally emphasize developing businessand industry from within Copiah, Franklin and Lincoln counties. Aswe Educate, Train and Retain our children; we will build thefoundation for tomorrow’s Fortune 500 companies to be based righthere at home.

Working together … continued progress for District 92.