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School district grants leases for part of unused schools – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

School district grants leases for part of unused schools

Published 12:07 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

NATCHEZ — Parts of two previously vacant Natchez Adams School District buildings will now be put to use.

The NASD Board of Trustees agreed unanimously on Tuesday to a no-cost lease of portions of the former Robert Lewis Middle School and Joseph Frazier Elementary to organizations that seek to house programming there to benefit the community.

Pretty Girls With Brains and the Southwest Mississippi Wellness Association want to lease the former Frazier school for various workforce development programs for both youth and adults.

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Likewise, the Zeta Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. wants to utilize Robert Lewis for youth initiatives, training young ladies to develop good character and etiquette skills and career readiness.

The organizations presented their proposals to the school district at previous board meetings. Bettye Bell on behalf of Pretty Girls With Brains and Jarita Frazier-King on behalf of Southwest Mississippi Wellness Association addressed the board in December looking to use the building in partnership with other organizations.

“I’ve always said, if you train up a child in the way they should go then they won’t forget and won’t depart from it,” King said. “There are endless possibilities and programming that we could provide right here in Natchez if we are provided the space.”

Bell said some of the proposed uses include GED programs, a CDL program, a hair braiding school and tutoring.

“There are so many people who want to help and the space would allow them to do so,” she said. “With a partnership you can do many things but if you isolate yourself there is only so much you can do.”

They could also use it for hospitality workforce training to fill critical workforce needs in the Natchez area, King added.

School Board Attorney Bruce Kuehnle Jr. said the lease specifies that it does not exclude others from using the facilities and that any partnering organizations must be approved by the school board.

In other matters, the school board unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rev. Stanley Searcy’s TMR Auto Sales shop to hire student interns.

TMR Auto Sales, which stands for “That’s My Ride,” would use students to help file financing paperwork and work in the servicing department changing tires and installing after-market rims and lifts, Searcy said.

“I’m semi-retired from pastoring and through a radio show started looking at some solutions for our community,” Searcy said. “All I heard was, ‘lock them up, take the guns away and a curfew.’ I felt my time as a pastor had been fulfilled, and so now I’m looking toward the youth.”

Searcy said a couple years ago, he’d “been blessed” to acquire the old John Deere store and there built the auto financing shop, paint and body shop and detail shop. Searcy said all of the insurances are taken care of.

“We have already talked to the career coaches and we have everything in place,” he said.

Fallin Career and Technology Center Director Cleveland Moore applauded Searcy’s work.

“It really is a great operation that you guys have out there,” he said. “They really put together something special. So, I think that we can create a pipeline for students. As you know we have local car dealers at the various dealerships making six figures. So those who are … he has a holistic approach to the car business.”