Public, private schools build the future

Whether parents choose to send their children to public or private schools, local leaders pledge the young learners will receive a high quality education. Two public school districts, Brookhaven and Lincoln County, and one private school, Brookhaven Academy, serve more than 6,800 students in the area.

Brookhaven School District

The Brookhaven School District includes six campuses, and the district’s approximately 3,300 students attend each during their primary and secondary educational journeys.

During a summer work session, Superintendent Lea Barrett and the district’s board of trustees identified several goals for the coming years. Barrett commended the board for its commitment to students’ academic success. “I think it’s something we can achieve,” Barrett said. “I don’t think there’s anything out of reach.”

Among identified goals are:

  • Each school attaining a Level Four performance rating by the end of the 2007-08 school year. Barrett said some schools are at that level now while others just missed the mark during the most recent evaluations.
  • All third grade students scoring at the proficient or advanced level by the end of the 2007-08 year.
  • The graduation rate increasing by 5% by the end of the 2008-09 school year. Barrett said the current graduation rate is around 83%.
  • The district’s ACT composite score increasing by a point by the end of next year.
  • Having 50% of all certified teachers with advanced degrees by the end of the 2008-09 year.
  • Continuing to improve and enhance curriculum offerings at schools in the district. Barrett touted the Mississippi Scholars Program that encourages students to take challenging courses on the path to college.

“They’re really all centered around improved student achievement,” Barrett said of the goals.

Barrett said the Brookhaven School District is “the heart of the community.” She said the district has an obligation to provide the best education possible for its students.

“I think we’re well on our way toward meeting those goals,” Barrett said. Barrett said she is excited about the district’s summer reading program, in which students read a book from a list of classic literature. She said reading helps students be better prepared for college and life by making them more well rounded.

Summer is also a busy time for physical facility improvements.

Following upgrades at other sites, Barrett said a new roof and windows will be installed at Brookhaven Elementary School this year and will be ready for the fall semester. She also mentioned a new softball complex that was completed in time for the 2005-06 season.

Barrett said school officials are cognizant of the expectations the community has placed on the district. “We have a board, administration and faculty that are living up to those expectations,” Barrett said.

Lincoln County School District

While state and national accountability standards continue to rise at a time of tighter budget restrictions, the Lincoln County School District is meeting the challenge, said Superintendent Terry Brister. “Great things are happening in the Lincoln County School District,” he said.

The school district includes four campuses around the county, with grades K-12 at each location. Brister said students and parents appreciate the small, community-school environment.

The district’s facilities are in “good shape” following a bond issue and the construction of new classroom facilities at each campus a few years ago. Since then, the district has continued to improve upon the campus facilities. The district is concentrating on athletic facilities in 2005 and 2006. Several campuses have received new weight rooms, concession stands and team buildings. In addition, wooden bleachers on some campuses have been replaced with the stronger and more manageable aluminum bleachers.

The district has long recognized a need for more paved parking and can finally now address that need, Brister said. New parking lots are being built at each school. Hurricane Katrina devastated most of the coastal schools and caused considerable damage to schools as far north as Jackson, Mississippi. Fortunately, Lincoln County Schools escaped with only minor damage to some roofs and baseball dugouts.

Inside the classrooms, teachers are striving to help the district meet accreditation levels and students to meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals. All county schools have received either Level Four or Five designations from the state. Level Five is the highest level a school can attain.

With AYP, Brister said the bar will be set a little higher each year as student achievement is measured against past year developments and against students across the state. Given these circumstances, Brister said he is proud of the high morale and good attitudes displayed by district teachers. Learning doesn’t go on in just the classroom. “I feel the need to educate our students to be well-rounded, not just in academics,” Brister said. The district’s schools offer many sports programs and various clubs and organizations.

Brookhaven Academy

For parents who opt for a private school path, the community is served by Brookhaven Academy. Brookhaven Academyis accredited by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  The school is also a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS).

Current enrollment is 518 students in grades K3-12.  “Our mission at Brookhaven Academy is to provide a Christian-based, college preparatory curriculum in which each student is challenged to achieve excellence and mature spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically. The ultimate goal of this institution is to provide a quality education in a safe, Christian environment,” Head of School Julie Wright said, citing a student-oriented curriculum. “Students are the most important people on our campus.”

Wright also praised a strong faculty and staff and refers to the group as “one big family”. Brookhaven Academy uses the A Beka curriculum for grades K3-6.  In addition to curriculum instruction, elementary students also attend Art, Computer, Library, Music,, and Physical Education classes.  For secondary students, BA maintains compliance with State Institutions of Higher Learning and Mississippi Scholar’s graduation guidelines. Also, a dual enrollment agreement withCopiah-LincolnCommunity Collegeallows BA students to take College Algebra, English Composition I and II, and Public Speaking while still in high school.

In addition to academics, BA has strong extracurricular activities.  Clubs and organizations include the Service Club, Science Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Honor Societies include the National Honor Society, Junior National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Mississippi Scholars, and Junior Mississippi Scholars.   In addition to the clubs and organizations, sports offered include football, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, and cheerleading programs.

Funds for school operation come primarily from tuition and patron, alumni, and community support through the office of Resource and Development.  Wright said the Parent Teacher League also plays a vital role in fundraising for the school.

Projects currently targeted for funding include a gymnasium addition to accommodate increased fine arts facilities, such as a stage and improved sound system; upgrades of elementary playground facilities; continued technology improvements, and the addition of classrooms in the preschool building.  Click here to find out more about Brookhaven Academy .

Education: MSA

While Brookhaven can be proud of high quality local schools, the city has also is home to artistically gifted students from around the state at the Mississippi School of the Arts. The residential high school, located on the historic Whitworth College campus, opened in 2003. Now in its tenth year with a combined enrollment of 145 juniors and seniors that participate in advanced programs of study in vocal music, theatre, visual arts, dance, and literary art. The long term plans include adding instrumental music and media arts.

Students receive high school academic classes required for graduation and arts classes in selected disciplines of study.  All teachers are highly qualified and 93% of teachers hold a Master’s degree or higher in their area of expertise. To date, MSA has enrolled students from 92% of MS counties in ten years of operation.

MSA has a high success rate with student recognition and college readiness. Scholarship offers have exceeded annual budget allocation every year since 2009. In addition, MSA’s average ACT score is a 23, higher than the state and national average. The 2011 national profile stated that MSA students were in the 95th percentile for college readiness. MSA student work consistently tops the state and receives national recognition through the Scholastic Visual Art & Writing Awards, National Young Arts, National English-Speaking Union’s Shakespeare Competition, 3rd District Congressional Art Awards, National Association of Teachers of Singing competitions. In 2009, Jasmine Murray (MSA Alumnus 2010) was a top 13 contestant on American Idol.

MSA partners with Brookhaven School District to take academic courses needed in foreign language, science and math by many of the students. In addition, MSA partners with Copiah-Lincoln Community College to offer dual enrollment courses in English Composition.

Community service is a large part of the students’ experience at MSA through local festivals, nursing homes, community projects and civic organizations. In the heart of Brookhaven, MSA has a lot to offer not only the students that attend, but also a multitude of arts experiences for the region to enjoy. Most of the performances, exhibits, and showcases are free to the public and will present contemporary and classic works by students, staff, alumni, and guest artists.

To find out how to become a part of MSA, visit or contact (601) 823-1300.

Education: Co-Lin & Southwest Mississippi Community Colleges

After graduation, students can stay near home.

With Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson and Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, area students have two nearby high quality schools at which to pursue a post secondary education.

Co-Lin, which marked its 75th anniversary in 2003, is located 10 miles north of Brookhaven. The college enrolls approximately 3,100 students in academic, vocational and technical courses on campuses in Wesson, Natchez and Simpson County. “We’re up 7.5 percent over last year,” President Dr. Howell Garner said.

Counties in Co-Lin’s academic district are Simpson, Franklin, Lawrence, Jefferson, Adams, Copiah and Lincoln. The educational center in Simpson County, which opened last summer in time for the fall semester, is Co-Lin’s newest facility.

“We’re excited about opening that facility this year,” Garner said. “It’s going to grow considerably over the next few years.” Garner touted Co-Lin’s recent renewal of its Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools accreditation. The status provides a guarantee that Co-Lin’s students’ credits will be accepted at other accredited institutions.

“In the education business, that is extremely important,” Garner said of accreditation. “It’s a must.”

Tuition at Co-Lin is $850 per semester plus a $50 technology fee. Garner said the fees are comparable to other similar institutions in the state. “We’re pretty much in line with other community colleges,” Garner said. Across the state, it doesn’t vary a whole lot.” Garner said Co-Lin is above average in its efforts to meet student needs.

“We have a good reputation among our peers in terms of what we do,” he said. Garner said he is especially proud of advances in Co-Lin’s technology opportunities for students and instruction.

With 60 computers available for student use, the John Dow/L. G. Young Instructional Technology Building offers students access to the world. Garner said students can access course study assignments, the Internet and educational materials.

“All they’ve got to do is log on,” Garner said. He added the center also offers assurances that screening programs block access to inappropriate sites. Garner said Co-Lin is ahead of the curve in instructional use of technology. He mentioned “smart podiums” in the Dow-Young Building that instructors use a variety of multi-media techniques when teaching class.

“We’re in the process of continuing to upgrade other classroom buildings for technology,” Garner said.

For nontraditional students and those seeking to gain work skills, Garner said Co-Lin offers a variety of courses through its Workforce Development division. He said more than 175,000 people have taken advantage of Adult Basic Education, General Equivalency Degree and various other courses and programs offered.

Garner offered special praise for Co-Lin’s Community Arts Series.

In the series, renowned musicians, performers and other artisans are brought to the school at various times throughout the year. Garner said the series is comparable to what would be found at major universities. “You won’t find this at any other community college,” Garner said.

The series is marking its 25th year in 2005-06. That’s a special year for us,” Garner said. “We are absolutely pleased beyond imagination in terms of the interest we’ve had in the performances.”

Also in 2005, Garner said, college officials began developing a strategic plan for the next five years. Through forums and other meetings with faculty and staff, the plan assesses college needs and identifies goals for the next five years.

Southwest Community College is located approximately 20 miles south of Brookhaven near Summit, Mississippi. Southwest receives tax support from Pike, Walthall, Amite and Wilkinson counties. A good number of its students come from other areas, such as Lincoln County.

“We have students from all over the state,” said President Dr. Oliver Young, who mentioned programs offered, family connections and other reasons for the students’ attending Southwest.

The school has an enrollment of 2,000 students. “It has been fairly steady,” Young said. Young highlighted a variety of improvements to campus facilities. Brumfield Hall was renovated to be used for math and science classes while the math and science complex on the west side of Bryan Hall is remodeled. The project was expected to be completed in January 2007. The building is receiving a new roof, new entrance and new labs.

Regarding goals for the future, Young hopes to maintain and improve the school’s academic standards, which he said are important in helping students prepare for senior college. Young also said he wants to expand Southwest’s career and technical programs to provide more services to citizens in the district.

For information on other Lincoln County Schools please visit the Lincoln County Schools website.