When Brandon Quinn became principal at Alcorn Central High School in 2014, it did not take him long to realize that he wanted to make some changes in the school culture.
One of those changes involved rewarding teachers for their hard work by offering classroom grants and other incentives to let his faculty know he appreciated their hard work.
“I thought it was important to be able to show teachers who were going above and beyond that their hard work was not going unnoticed. Unfortunately, there are limitations on what we can spend money on when it is deposited into school accounts, so I needed to find some alternatives to help me achieve this goal,” said the former ACHS leader.
Within months he had collected information about opening a 501-C3 foundation that would allow funds to be used for students and teachers. Setting up student scholarships, offering financial aid to assist in apprenticeship and internship costs, and funding teacher grants were just some of the ideas he wanted to pursue. However, he also realized that the foundation would better serve its purposes if it were established at a district level, but that would need to be handled by the superintendent.
He did not realize it then, but his dream would be realized only when he took the helm as the new superintendent of the Alcorn School District.
In January of 2021, Quinn was appointed as the interim superintendent, a position that was made permanent in March. Even before his permanent placement, he met with a small group to discuss establishing a district foundation that would benefit all the schools in the district. He leaned heavily on his support staff in the district office as his sounding board but also included former teacher and current career coach, Rebecca Lewis, to be present as the community liaison.
All were in agreement that there should be a push to open a 501-C3 with the CREATE Foundation, so plans were set in motion to hold a meeting where the new superintendent could cast his vision to a larger audience. The Foundation Vision meeting led by Quinn and PK Thomas, representing the CREATE Foundation, was held at the district office on June 15.
Desiring to be transparent, the district leader shared his vision for the foundation, citing examples of how it would benefit the district. He also asked for feedback. “I wanted to know if those in attendance thought a foundation would be beneficial and if they would be willing to help serve in any capacity if one were established? The response was overwhelmingly positive, so a request was submitted to CREATE, asking to open an account for the Alcorn School District Foundation of Excellence.”
The ambitious new leader did not realize what opportunity lay ahead that would make the formation of the foundation even more impactful, but within weeks an unexpected blessing presented itself.
The superintendent had long dreamed of building a new vocational center filled with the latest innovations that would help train the students to better meet the needs of the local workforce. He had his eye on a tract of land, but the owners were unwilling to sell it. His discouragement did not last long because he learned that the land beside the NEMCC Extension Center might be a viable option. He wasted no time talking with Dr. Ricky Ford, president of Northeast Mississippi Community College, and the board of supervisors about purchasing the land. In short order, the deal was done.
“Being located beside Northeast is a win from many angles. One, our cohorts can work together, and we can be a direct pipeline into technical programs offered at NEMCC. Another is that the location puts us inside the industrial park, so the students will be positioned to intern, job shadow, etc. In addition, we can offer dual enrollment and AP classes at the new site,” revealed Quinn.
The foundation founder shared the good news at the organizational meeting held on Sept. 20. At that meeting, the community members in attendance voted to adopt the by-laws and to elect the executive committee. Bill Yoder, who has vast experience serving on academic foundations, agreed to serve as chairman of the board. Jonathan Marsh will serve as vice-chairman, Wendy Tally as secretary, Casey Palmer as treasurer, and Rebecca Lewis as community liaison.
By establishing the foundation at a district level, the Alcorn Central graduate hopes to create unity within the community. That is why it was important for him to have a neutral chairman and executive committee members who represented each campus.
At the first meeting, the superintendent was advised to set a financial goal and was encouraged to “think big.” That night, he shared his goal is $2 million in 18 months, which would make a huge impact on building the ASD Center of Innovation.
PK Thomas from CREATE was in attendance and accepted the first donation from Quinn. Additional community leaders added their checks that night.
The CREATE Director of Development was impressed by how quickly the community banded together not only to establish but also to support the Alcorn School District.
Superintendent Quinn believes the enthusiasm is because the people in Alcorn County want to make a difference.
“Supporting this foundation is a way for the community to come alongside us to help create opportunities for students that will ultimately impact our students, schools and community,” he said.
Vitor Belfort once said, “Legacy is not what I did for myself; it is what I am doing for the next generation.” That is the desire of the members of the Alcorn School District Foundation of Excellence, and they hope others will join them as they move forward.
To make donations mail a check made payable to the ASD Foundation of Excellence to CREATE, 213 Main St. #100, Tupelo, Miss. 38804.