STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University, Starkville Oktibbeha School District and statewide officials gathered to break ground Wednesday [May 17] on a building that will enhance education in Oktibbeha County, the Golden Triangle area and Mississippi.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and education stakeholders were on hand for the ceremonial turning-of-the-sod for the Starkville Oktibbeha School District Partnership School at Mississippi State University. The 128,000-square-foot facility is slated for completion in January 2019.
The school will serve every sixth and seventh grade student in the local district and also will be a demonstration site for student teachers and faculty members in MSU’s College of Education. It will provide educational lessons for SOSD and MSU students as the two entities work jointly to identify collaborative efforts on curriculum, instruction, assessment and evaluation.
“This Partnership School is going to make a difference in the lives of not only the students in Oktibbeha County, but it’s going to make a difference in the lives of students all over the state because we’re going to produce even better teachers coming out of Mississippi State University, and that’s a good thing for everybody,” Reeves said.
An innovative research site on rural education, the school is expected to help Mississippi address challenges rural schools face as MSU and SOSD teachers collaborate to test state-of-the-art practices and solve challenging problems. Professional development opportunities for in-service educators across the state is another school goal to help Mississippi teachers stay at the forefront of best educational practices.
“The Partnership School is a win-win-win for Starkville, Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University. And it’s a win for the students who will come here at a critical time in their lives,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “This is an absolute testament to the power of working together in a partnership manner. That’s what this demonstrates today.”
“These students will be able to experience learning in a unique classroom setting that stretches beyond the walls of the school building and reaches into our campus. They will be part of a major research university and a world-class community of scholars,” he said.
Lewis Holloway, SOSD superintendent, said, “This partnership promises to reimagine middle school, maximizing hands-on learning through robotics, environmental sciences, mathematics, literacy and the arts – all supported by MSU academic and cultural resources.”
The 43-acre, university-donated school site is located on the MSU campus, near the university’s north entrance at the intersection of George Perry Street and Highway 182. Funding for the $27.5 million school is provided by MSU and bond issues from the Mississippi Legislature and SOSD.
“We fully expect the new Partnership School to revolutionize how children learn and teachers teach,” MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw said.
“The school is the result of outstanding collaboration and the hard work and support of many,” he said.
In addition to public funding sources, private support from MSU alumni and friends will help make the Partnership School possible. To date, significant support for the school comes from these benefactors:
--J.W. “Jim” Bagley and Jean Bagley of Coppell, Texas. The retired executive chairman of the board of Lam Research Corp., Jim Bagley earned electrical engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1961 and 1966, respectively, and received an honorary doctorate in 2005;
--Thomas B. “Tommy” Nusz and Terri Nusz of Houston, Texas. The current chairman and CEO of Oasis Petroleum Inc., Tommy Nusz earned a 1982 petroleum engineering degree. Likewise, Terri Nusz graduated in 1982 with an interior design degree, and she oversees the family’s various interests in equine sport including TnT Equine Partners, Amalaya Investments and Oasis Stables;
--Bobby S. Shackouls and Judy Shackouls of Houston, Texas. The retired chairman, president and CEO of Burlington Resources Inc., Bobby Shackouls earned a 1972 chemical engineering degree and received an honorary doctorate in 2010; and
--Starkville-Oktibbeha Achieving Results (SOAR), an affiliate of the CREATE Foundation of Tupelo.
Beyond committed support, Mississippi State currently seeks an additional $2 million in private gifts for the endeavor through the MSU Foundation. All Partnership School gifts will become part of the university’s successful ongoing Infinite Impact Campaign, which recently surpassed $730 million toward an overall $1 billion goal by 2020.
“With this facility having the connection to and backdrop of Mississippi State, we can change the outlook for these children just by demonstrating a belief in their future and resetting their expectations of what is possible,” Tommy Nusz said.
Flowood-based JH&H Architects is the design professional for the school, which will serve up to 1,000 students every year. The building will house seven MSU classrooms and several offices for MSU faculty. School plans, developed with extensive input from teachers, administrators and community stakeholders, include a gymnasium, media center, robotics classroom, science labs, music facilities and art classrooms, in addition to classrooms arranged in pods and equipped with the latest technology. The new building also will alleviate building capacity issues for SOSD, which was formed when the Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts officially consolidated in 2015.
Classroom arrangements will allow MSU education students to observe teaching techniques without interrupting instruction, and the school’s design features spaces for rotating displays from MSU museums and galleries.