MDAH makes bid for historic Jefferson College site

Published 10:27 am Thursday, December 16, 2021

NATCHEZ — Just a few weeks after a church pastor asked for the donation of a Natchez Adams School District-owned building near Historic Jefferson College, another group has thrown its hat in the ring.

On Wednesday, a request to donate a vacant school building near the historic college on U.S. 61 South came from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History representative Katie Blount.

Just last month, the school board heard a request from the Rev. Antione Eakins, Ph.D., of Thankful Missionary Baptist Church currently located at 306 Oak St. in Natchez, for either a lease or donation of the building to move the church and community programs there.

Eakins said the church plans to headquarter a community action agency in the building and provide services to the community such as a cosmetology school, truck driving school, after-school tutoring and mental health services.

School board members asked Eakins to submit a written proposal for the building, which Blount said she was not aware of during her presentation to the board Wednesday. She added that the board had been asked to hold the site for Archives and History years prior.

“It seems coincidental that you come here today when we’ve been considering a proposal over the last couple of weeks,” said the board vice president, Philip West.

Blount said MDAH is in the process of working on eight historic buildings at the Jefferson College site and providing a museum space and preservation school there.

Blount said her reason for making a presentation Wednesday is because MDAH is submitting an application for a “substantial grant” for the project in January. Blount said Natchez holds a lot of sites with historic significance but no centralized site to tie all of those stories together, which is their vision for Jefferson College.

“Our intention is to make a bigger impact at that site, educationally and economically,” she said. “This is something we’ve been working on for years.”

The board took no action on the matter during Wednesday’s meeting, taking the MDAH request under advisement.

In other matters during Wednesday’s school board meeting, the board:

  • Heard presentations from the Susie B. West Elementary School choir and Robert Lewis Magnet School art teacher Tiffany Wright of her students’ artwork.

The board also heard presentations from district teachers regarding the impact of a new English Language Arts curriculum and how it has helped their students.

  • Jarielle Gibson presented board members with an overview of a new Drama program and how it would help students with memorization, teamwork, quick-thinking and other skills.

Teacher Andre Dinelli was recognized for going “above and beyond” to teach a dual fifth-grade math class across multiple schools because the district was short a math teacher. She did this using half virtual instruction and rotating between schools so that students in both classes would see her for both in-person and virtual instruction.

  • Faye Culpepper with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS) presented the board with a proposal for partnering with Project SERCH, which aims to help graduating students with disabilities live independently and go to work.

Culpepper said Merit Health Natchez has agreed to join Project SEARCH as a host business for unpaid internships for students in the program and asked the district to help by supplying one instructor and an optional lunch to the students.

  • The teacher’s salary and all other expenses for the program would be covered by MDRS, she said. The board took a Memorandum of Understanding presented by Culpepper under advisement to review it without further action during Wednesday’s meeting.