In 1983, acting on the initiative of Mississippi state representative Charlie Capps from Cleveland, the legislature began the process that would result in the creation of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS). Capps and other legislators believed that gifted students were not appropriately challenged by Mississippi’s public schools, citing the small number of teachers certified to teach higher-level mathematics and science courses and correspondingly low numbers of school districts that offered such courses and of Advanced Placement math and science exams taken by high school students.
Appointed by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, a nine-member committee devised a plan for a residential high school for academically able juniors and seniors. Committee members visited residential schools for gifted students in other states and were particularly influenced by the North Carolina School for Mathematics and Science and the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. The committee found available classroom and dormitory space on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, just twenty-six miles from Mississippi State University, a major research institution.
In 1984 the legislature received the committee’s 157-page plan for a state-funded magnet school that would recognize the unique value, needs, and talents of academically advanced students and challenge each student through a multidimensional teaching program. Its students would come from across Mississippi without regard for racial, social, or economic background and would receive a qualitatively different, tuition-free educational program. The committee argued that the school would be an economic engine for the state by attracting more educated families and helping to produce better-educated and more highly skilled workers.
After some disagreement between the legislature and Gov. Bill Allain, legislation to establish MSMS was enacted in 1987, and in January 1988 the State Board of Education hired Johnny Franklin, principal of Warren Central High School, to serve as the new school’s first director. MSMS opened on 6 September 1988.
Since 2008, the legislature has required MSMS students to pay five hundred dollars per semester in tuition. The school graduates between 100 and 125 students each year, with about two-thirds going on to attend college in the state of Mississippi. Other alumni have enrolled at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, the US military academies, and numerous other highly selective colleges around the world. Members of the Class of 2015 accepted nearly eight million dollars in college scholarships, and MSMS consistently ranks among the nation’s top high schools. Twelve members of the Class of 2018 were named National Merit Semifinalists.
- Columbus Commercial Dispatch (5 September 1988, 11 February 1989, 25 May 1990)
- Debbie Francher, Alumni Survey Data Analysis, Classes of 1990–99, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science
- Jackson Clarion-Ledger (3 July 1988, 25 September 1988)
- Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science website, www.themsms.org