January 26, 2010 9:43:00 AM
Regarding your "Local Voices: Surviving the Next Three Months" editorial of Jan. 24, I sent the below e-mail to each/every Mississippi State Senator/Representative who serve on their respective chamber Education committee.
I am writing to you today concerning the potential move/merger of the Mississippi School for the Arts [MSA] and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science [MSMS]. I am writing as (1) a Mississippi resident and constituent, (2) a parent, and (3) a graduate of the Mississippi public school system.
I am fully aware of the fiscal challenges our great state faces during this period of economic downturn; however, I am genuinely concerned we may "throw the baby out with the bath water" if we are not careful and deliberate with this far-reaching decision. As you are undoubtedly are aware, Mississippi is one of a handful of states who have public, residential schools for students who are high achievers in Math/Science/Arts, and we were one of the first group to establish such entities back in the 1980s.
My daughter is fortunate to have been selected to attend MSMS as a part of the Class of 2011; and wow... what a difference four months has made. The level of maturity and the scope, subject and depth of the discussions she has with her peers and with us is phenomenal. It is a joy to observe the diversity of races, cultures and religions studying and living together.
She is genuinely challenged and is focused on the future - as are all of her classmates. This is a driven, goal-oriented group of young people and they possess the drive and determination to make a profound change in our state and our nation.
This group of young men and women are our future. They will, as a group, go on to excel in college and the world and as such they will make great contributions, both within the private and the public sectors; just take a look at the track record of their alumni. This group will undoubtedly secure substantial incomes [if desired] and will more than pay their fair share of taxes in the future; the point being, the State of Mississippi will more than recoup the "paltry" expenditure required to maintain MSA and MSMS. In the grand scheme of things, the expense is truly insignificant---if one looks at the long term impact.
I am concerned the melding of artistic and scholastic curriculums is fraught with many challenges and may perhaps set these high-achieving young folks up for unrealistic challenges and perhaps failure. While I am confident the staff and faculty at the "hybrid MSA & MSMS" would do their utmost to ensure success of any such merger, this will prove to be an impediment to the success of these young high achievers.
I firmly believe if there is to be consolidation of these two entities, the campus of MSMS is the best location. MSMS draws on the local area for much of their support, e.g., the Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi State University, Columbus Air Force Base, the City of Columbus, etc. The research opportunities so crucial to the success of these young folks cannot be easily duplicated at MSA.
At MSMS, it may very well be possible to maintain a closed campus, with the support of the Mississippi University of Women. And keep in mind, whichever location is chosen, there will be untold expense associated with staffing, residential halls, infrastructure which will be costly to implement - perhaps even more than the savings attempted to be realized.
In conclusion, if we as a State are looking to make any changes with regard to the future of MSA and MSMS, there should be open forums held in both locations to allow for parents, local leaders and the like, to provide their viewpoints; and, an in-depth study should be conducted to determine the best location, not a decision made in haste. It goes without saying, we should do what is best for our children and our state and that is a delicate balance to maintain.
The writer is a resident of Columbus.