By Louie Graves
In a 45-minute ceremony Friday morning, an assembled crowd of about 250 heard about a school district which came back from the brink of closure to build a $19-million K-12 facility.
The official groundbreaking of the new school at Mineral Springs took place under mostly overcast skies with gusts whipping dusty clouds from the adjacent newly leveled lot where the building will rise.
Administrative assistant Tim Erwin was master of ceremonies, and introduced local ministers to begin and end the meeting with prayer; called members of the school choir forward to sing the National Anthem; and the Hornet band to close the event with the playing of the school alma mater.
The principal speaker was Supt. Curtis Turner Jr., who is retiring. He will stay for another year to assist the new superintendent, Thelma Forte, who was present Friday. Turner said that, frankly, “I never thought I’d see this day,” remembering dark days when he thought the school would be forced to close. He said that in the beginning he was prepared to borrow money to meet payroll and pay bills. “It’s a miracle we’re here today.”
He dedicated the school, and charged students to excel. He said he was convinced that students could get the best education in Arkansas at Mineral Springs.
John Walker, a noted Arkansas civil rights attorney who also represents the school, said that the community was a model of bi-racial cooperation. He described how Turner labored to fight off the State Department of Education’s intention to close the school.
Speakers also included veteran school board members Mike Erwin and William Dixon. Erwin noted that two of his grandparents had served on the MS School Board.
Mineral Springs Mayor Bobby Tullis, himself a MS alumnus, also made brief remarks.
Members of the school board, administration, and representatives of the builders used gold-painted shovels to turn soil in a symbolic groundbreaking.