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Principal touts MSA students’ success

Mississippi School of the Arts is putting Brookhaven on the map,not only with recent “American Idol” contestant Jasmine Murray, butalso with many other important achievements.

MSA Principal Jana Perry spoke to the Brookhaven Noon Lions ClubTuesday and told them of the progress the school has seen in itssix years in Brookhaven. Perry said having the students in anenvironment where they can spend extra time on their talents reallypays off.

“They’re able to spend that three hours a day in theirdiscipline, really honing their art,” she said. “And it shows.”

She pointed out that senior Kelli Ferris had won the stateShakespeare competition. Perry also mentioned other students whohave had their art shown or who have gotten to participate incompetitions.

Recently, several television crews have been on the campus tofeature MSA because of Murray. But it was just a matter of timebefore the school brought Brookhaven into the spotlight.

“I think it’s about time Brookhaven went national,” Perrysaid.

And there are bigger plans in the works for the school, withdance becoming an emphasis next year, just as visual, literary,theater and musical arts have been so far.

“We’ve had a dance teacher up until now,” Perry said. “But nextyear we’ll also teach ballet and modern composition and Jazz.”

The school also focuses on the academic, Perry assured the groupby pointing out that 80 percent of MSA graduates every year areMississippi Scholars. She said school officials are encouragingpeople to know if they can use MSA students for service hours,since those are a part of graduating in the scholars program.

“We want them to spread out into the community,” she said.

In response to a question about who will take Executive DirectorDr. Vicki Lambert’s place, Perry said there’s no indicationyet.

“Dr. Lambert has worked tirelessly to make the school a reallypositive thing for the state,” she said. “I guess it depends on whoapplies. This is an exciting time for change at MSA.”

Another question posed dealt with the new $500 per semester roomand board set up at the school, and whether or not it has affectedrecruiting.

“This is our first year with the room and board policy in place,so we’ll find out this year if that’s hurting us of not,” Perrysaid. “But the application deadline hasn’t been met yet, so wedon’t know.”

And as to moving the arts school to Columbus and combining itwith Mississippi School for Math and Science, Perry said she wasglad that didn’t happen.

When the move was suggested earlier this legislative session,Perry indicated there may have been some Columbus campus buildingupgrade needs that lawmakers may not have been aware of. She agreedwith a club member’s suggestion of moving MSMS to Brookhaven.

“We could see MSMS here, or we can keep it the same way, whichis fine too,” Perry said.