East Mississippi Community College assumed administrative control of the Golden Triangle Early College High School on July 1.

August 12, 2021

Since its inception in 2015, the Golden Triangle Early College High School has been located on East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle campus.

GTECHS has not operated under EMCC’s umbrella, however. That changed July 1 when the college assumed administration of GTECHS, which was formerly a fiscal and administrative agency of the Lowndes County School District.

“The intent all along was for GTECHS to be part of EMCC and we are finally bringing that to fruition,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “The school has been enormously successful and changed a lot of students’ lives. We are excited about the possibilities for the school moving forward.”

Classes at GTECHS began Monday, Aug. 9. GTECHS Principal Jill Savely said having EMCC assume administrative control of the school is a natural fit.

“EMCC has always been our support system because we have been here on campus,” Savely said. “They have treated us like family and we are grateful for that.”

EMCC Vice President of Operations Dr. Paul Miller welcomed the GTECHS students to EMCC during an Aug. 10 orientation.Golden Triangle Early College High School students participate in an Aug. 10 orientation session in the student union on East Mississippi Community College’s Mayhew campus. EMCC assumed administrative control of GTECHS on July 1.

“We are very excited to have you with us,” Miller said. “We hope you are really going to plug in to EMCC and that you know coming to GTECHS was the best decision you and your family could have made.”

GTECHS was created through a partnership between EMCC, the Mississippi Department of Education and the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University, with agreements to accept students from the Columbus Municipal, Lowndes County, Noxubee County, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated and West Point Consolidated school districts.

Last year, the Columbus Municipal, Lowndes County and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated school districts opted out of GTECHS, although students from those districts already enrolled at GTECHS at that time were allowed to remain in the school.

Agreements are still in place between EMCC and the Noxubee County and West Point Consolidated school districts, which will continue to allow students to attend GTECHS. The students will remain enrolled in their home school districts, although they will attend GTECHS.

GTECHS employees who were Lowndes County School District employees will now work for EMCC.  

There was no incoming freshman class in 2020 after the three school districts opted out. There are 30 new students from West Point Consolidated School District this year.

Students from Noxubee County who are enrolled at the Golden Triangle Early College High School on East Mississippi Community College’s Mayhew campus arrive for the first day of class on Aug. 9.This summer, the Mississippi Department of Education appointed Dr. Washington Cole IV as the interim superintendent of the Noxubee County School District. He replaces Rodriquez Broadnax, who accepted another position elsewhere.

Savely said hopes are that applications for next year’s freshman class at GTECHS will be opened to Noxubee County School District students.

Miller, who was among those involved in early efforts to create GTECHS, said original plans were to pattern the early college high school after ones offered in North Carolina and Texas, the latter of which serves nearly 65,000 students at 182 designated early college high schools, according to the Texas Education Agency website.

“The idea was EMCC would be the administrator over GTECHS similar to the way some of the schools in North Carolina and Texas operated,” Miller said.

Funding for the GTECHS students is allocated to their home school districts through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state’s funding formula for public schools, with the school districts paying a portion of that to EMCC to defray the college’s cost of educating the students.

There are 55 juniors and 54 seniors who returned this year to GETCHS. Kevon Scales, who is a junior this year, is among those students.

Scales, a Noxubee County resident, enrolled in GTECHS during his freshman year. Kevon Scales is among 55 students who comprise the junior class this year at the Golden Triangle Early College High School, which is now under the administration of East Mississippi Community College.

“I wanted to try something different,” Scales said of his decision to attend GTECHS. “I tell my friends it is a great school if you want to learn something new and be on a different schedule than what you would normally have been on. One of the things I like the most is that the teachers communicate with you a lot.”

It isn’t just GTECHS students who can take classes at EMCC.

All five school districts who participated in the original agreement with GTECHS may still allow high school juniors and seniors to take dual enrollment classes at EMCC with an opportunity to pick up needed classes at GTECHS through the middle college model.

“That is really centered on career technical education and getting high school students dual enrolled in workforce programs that feed the local economy,” Alsobrooks said. “They would come to our Mayhew campus or the Communiversity and enroll in one of those high-demand, high-wage programs that lead to really good jobs.”

Savely said if the students have taken most of their core courses at their home school, they would have the option of picking some high school classes at GTECHS if they are available.

“Maybe they only need an English, math or science class to graduate from high school,” Savely said. “Rather than taking their college classes at EMCC and having to drive back to their high school for a class, we would be happy to provide them with a class or two if what they need is something we offer here.”

The middle college model provides students greater opportunities for training while they are still in high school, Miller said.

“All of the area school districts have a fair selection of career technical education options for the kids at their campuses, but there are definitely some programs we have here at EMCC that would be very difficult for them to replicate,” Miller said.

GTECHS was the first of six early college high schools created in Mississippi, one of which is now closed. The schools are designed to provide students who desire a non-traditional high school experience with the opportunity to also take college courses in career technical or academic programs.

Looking at total enrollment numbers since GTECHS started, about 67 percent of the students were minorities, with 48 percent considered low income. Of the 152 graduates so far, 73 percent also earned an associate’s degree or career technical certificate, Savely said.

The school’s graduation rate tops 95 percent and the average ACT score is 19.07. The state ACT average for 2020 was 17.7, according to the Mississippi Department of Education website.

The school’s success has led to some misconceptions, Savely believes.

“I think there are some people who think we want to take the high flyers out of their home districts and put them here to get an associate’s degree,” Savely said. “That is absolutely not true because they can do that in their home schools.

“We want those kids who feel like they need a new place to go to school. Maybe they need new friends or a place where they can find a connection. Maybe they have struggled with attendance, or grades or test scores. Maybe they have even struggled with discipline a little bit, but that’s OK. Those are the kids who have been the most successful here.”