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New school a recruiting tool for Viking Range in Greenwood

Viking Range Corp. has found that in recruiting employees to work for the company in Greenwood, a number of potential employees declined to take the job because of the lack of accelerated learning opportunities for their children in K-12.

“We have a public school system, of course, and a private school system,” said Bill Crump, director of governmental affairs and executive assistant to the president, Viking Range Corp. “But those were not meeting the needs of some people. They were looking for something different. Several times we lost potential employees because of the school situation here. We were also losing existing employees to other areas where the educational opportunities are better.”

It was also an issue with other businesses and industries in the area, and with recruiting new industry to the area, said Crump, who serves on Greenwood-LeFlore Industrial Board and on the board of the Greenwood-LeFlore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation.

“There was a need for another alternative for education in Greenwood,” Crump said. “We looked at this for several years, and in January of last year decided it was time to do something about that. We put in motion a plan to start the New Delta Preparatory School. “

The non-public special purpose school, as classified by the Mississippi Department of Education, started classes in August 2007. Crump said there has been positive feedback from students, parents and other school systems in the area.

“We have been pleased with the support of the public school system and the private school system,” Crump said. “One of those reasons is both systems realize we are not competing with them. The New Delta School is just providing another alternative for them in the education process.”

The school is grades seven through 12, and is a college preparatory program. It is focusing on a small class size, and a small teacher-student ratio that allows a lot of individualized and accelerated learning.

“The whole vision is academic excellence, morale responsibility and community citizenship,” Crump said. “It is trying to develop an overall student.

“We’re also not focusing so much on athletics. It is more individualized sports rather than the team sports settings available in the public and private schools. We have extracurricular activities in the arts. We have a culinary program for the students who want to participate in that.”

A number of engineers and other professionals work for Viking Range. But the school is not just designed for their children. A lot of Viking’s other employees have students who want to have more of an individualized and small learning environment. And there has been interest from employees of other companies.

“The response in the industrial community has been good,” Crump said. “We have just gotten started, and are in our second semester. We picked up some additional students at mid-term. We intentionally got off to a slow start because we were building this as we went.”

There has been high interest in the new school from other communities in the state. The goal is to turn New Delta Prep into a model school. Crump said Mississippi has weak charter school legislation. It is hoping that can be improved by showing that a school like New Delta can be done in an environment with public and private schools without detracting from either.

“It basically enhances the other two schools,” Crump said. “We are looking down the road at doing some joint programs with both. We hope to be a model so we can go to the Legislature and the Department of Education to write more legislation for charter schools so more schools can be formed across the state.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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