University breaks ground on Partnership School to enhance education across the state

Mississippi State, Starkville Oktibbeha School District and statewide officials broke ground in May on the new SOSD Partnership School at MSU. Pictured, from left to right, are Armstrong Middle School Principal Julie Kennedy, future Partnership School student Kayleigh Edelblute, Overstreet Elementary Principal Tim Bourne, SOSD Board of Trustees Member Lee Brand, Jr., SOSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, former Mississippi House of Representatives District 38 Rep. Tyrone Ellis, Mississippi House of Representatives District 43 Rep. Rob Roberson, MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw, Partnership School benefactors Bobby and Judy Shackouls, Partnership School benefactors Terri and Tommy Nusz and former SOSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway. Photo by Russ Houston

Mississippi State University, Starkville Oktibbeha School District and statewide officials gathered to break ground in May 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 the spring of 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 Mississippi State University’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 Mississippi State and SOSD teachers collaborate to test state-of-the-art practices and problem-solving. Professional development opportunities for educators across the state will 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.

“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 continued.

Eddie Peasant, SOSD superintendent, said, “This partnership promises to impact the future of education in our state as we reimagine middle school and maximize hands-on learning opportunities to create dynamic learning experiences across all disciplines for sixth and seventh grade students–all supported by MSU academic and cultural resources.”

The 43-acre, university-donated school site is located on the Mississippi State 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,” said David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development. “The school is the result of outstanding collaboration and the hard work and support of many.”

In addition to public funding sources, private support from Bulldog alumni and friends will help make the Partnership School possible. To date, significant support for the school comes from:

—J.W. “Jim” 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” 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. She oversees the family’s various interests in equine sport including TnT Equine Partners, Amalaya Investments and Oasis Stables;

—Bobby S. 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 is seeking 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 nears $760 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.

By James Carskadon