Private and public schools set to compete

By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
June 23, 2001
Building better relationships.
That was the focus of the Mississippi Private School Associations' decision on Thursday to reconsider an earlier proposal by the Mississippi High School Athletic Association. The proposal offered an invitation to 31 MS private schools to compete with public schools in athletics.
The MPSA rejected the offer three months ago but was urged to reconsider by several MHSAA officials.
According to Ennis Proctor, executive director of the MHSAA, the plan will allow the 31 private schools accredited by the Southern Association to compete with the public schools. "The State department of education requires that we play schools accredited by the (Southern) Association," Proctor said in a phone interview on Friday. "That wouldn't really affect the Meridian area as of right now since Lamar isn't accreditated by the Association."
Mac Barnes, former Meridian High School athletic director and current Lamar football coach, feels confident that Lamar will be accredited by SACS by December.
If that happens, the opportunity would be there for Lamar to compete with area public schools. A scenario that could possibly be profitable for all involved according to Barnes.
The deal was originally set up to accommodate Jackson Prep according to Proctor. "Jackson Prep had a lot to do with it because they were really wanting to play some of the public shools."
Breaking the barriers …
Although this area may not see a change immediately, Meridian High School basketball coach Ernie Watson feels that this is a step in the right direction.
Barnes included the possibility of private schools having more minorities in the future. "I would love to see the day that race wasn't a determining factor on whether a person went to a public or private school," Barnes said. "I really think that is something that could happen down the road. This is a good start to that."
Proctor also echoed the words of building better relationships. "I think that breaking the barrier between the private and public schools is what it's all about. We (MHSAA) made the move and I'm glad that they decided to reconsider and except," Procter said. "All we can do now is sit back and wait to see if it all works out."
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star., call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228 or E-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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