Meeting to address concerns over Wellspring Center

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – As the development of the Wellspring Center for Professional Futures continues, questions about its logistics remain unresolved.
The committee that planned the school hopes to address those in an upcoming meeting. The gathering of the six-member Toyota Education Endowment Fund Advisory Committee with school superintendents and legislators from Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties should occur soon, said CREATE Foundation President Mike Clayborne.
“We want to get everything out on the table,” he said. “There are some very legitimate questions that the superintendents have, particularly in terms of scheduling and transportation.”
The center would offer career-focused courses for students for the eight school districts in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties as a benefit for the three counties that joined together to attract Toyota.
Students would come to the center from their home schools for classes a few hours each week. Superintendents have wondered, however, how students who are located 40 minutes or more away from the school will be able to make that trip without missing too much class time on their home campus.
Baldwyn Superintendent Ronnie Hill agreed that transportation and scheduling are the key issues to discuss.
“The concept of the school is a great idea, and I’m not opposed to the school,” he said. “I think most of the superintendents, before they just jump on board, want to get some answers to questions of how are we going to do some things. Once that is done, I don’t think any superintendent will have a problem with the school.”
Added Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks: “It is not that any superintendent is against it, they just have questions they would like to have answered before it moves forward. A lot of legislators have the same questions.”
The meeting comes after legislators spoke of superintendent concerns during a debate about whether to provide seed money for the center’s construction.
“There is some question about the support of the PUL superintendents,” Rep. Mac Huddleston, R-Pontotoc, said at the time. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said many of the superintendents support the center in concept but question how it would work practically.
Union County Superintendent Ken Basil he doesn’t know if the center will benefit as many of his students as he’d like to see, but the district will support it however it can.
Clayborne said the goal is for the center to provide something that none of the individual schools would be able to provide on their own.
“I think that when this thing begins to materialize and people see what the potential is and what the reality will be, any objections or fears anyone may have had will begin to diminish,” said New Albany’s Charles Garrett.