Planting seeds in Braden? Yes, it really happened

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

An office inside Braden School isn’t usually the best place to plant a seed, but that’s exactly where one was planted Friday morning.

Several key players in our community sat down, looked each other in the eye and began talking about a serious issue – our public education system and how it relates to the future of our community.

This wasn’t necessarily some highbrow academic discussion about curriculum. It was simply the first fact-to-face meeting between Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis and the community’s new economic development leader.

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Michael Ferdinand, executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Economic and Community Development Authority, talked with Davis, Natchez-Adams public relations director Millicent Mayo and Kaye Harris with Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Public education, from kindergarten through college, is critical to economic development.

“How are your schools?” is one of the first questions someone asks when considering moving to a new area.

And, in recent years, too often people in Natchez have overlooked the public school district as a place of last resort – a place where one sends their children if they can’t afford somewhere else.

Well, take a closer look – beyond the half-truths and misconceptions – and you’ll see a pretty amazing school district.

People point to test scores as not improving. And while Davis says they are important, he had a different take on the issue.

Given the myriad of problems facing the district through the last few years, from the court order to administrative problems the district’s ability to hold its own deserves some merit, Davis says.

While some districts in surrounding counties have dropped, Natchez-Adams has held its ground.

“It says we have all the ingredients, if we just start facing the issues,” Davis said. “The perception has to change. We’ve got to pull the cover off the taboos.”

The district has some incredible programs including the successful vo-tech programs as the high school and the new strings musical programs.

Coming up with a list of some of the school district’s strong points and weak points is something in which Ferdinand and the district will work closely.

“Perception, for the most part, is reality. And if all you have is limited information, the reality is limited,” Ferdinand said. “We have all the elements to build growth.”

He’s right. Natchez and Adams County can do great things, but togetherness is the key.

Natchez has a great deal going for it already, national recognition is one of many things.

“People everywhere I go know Natchez,” Davis said. “And that, to me, means hope.”

“It’s not a case of we should work together. We have to work together,” Ferdinand said. “If you look at the communities that are successful, it’s the ones that work together.”

The school district is only one piece of the puzzle, but a vital one. It is – or should be – critical for everyone who lives in the area and for potential new residents and developers.

The purpose was to begin a dialog, or plant a seed, if you will. We need many seeds planted, but Braden School is as good a place to start as any.

Kevin Cooper is editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail to &160;