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For many years, and in many ways, Ocean Springs has been a model for growing communities in Mississippi. From our strong industry base to our flourishing local arts, vibrant culture and top-rated school district, our city continues to be a great home for both newcomers and lifelong residents.

As superintendent of the Ocean Springs School District (OSSD) since 2012, I have been fortunate to work closely with leaders to ensure that doesn’t change; that our community members are able to receive the education, care and support they deserve for years to come.

As one of the largest employers in Ocean Springs, OSSD has a vested interest in the overall health and well-being of the city. Working together with Singing River Health System, we have been able to turn that interest into reality and better care for our students, staff and their families in recent years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Singing River provided critical counsel when it came time to reopen schools, protecting the health of thousands of community members. More recently, we partnered with the system to create a clinic for all OSSD employees and their dependents, giving them access to comprehensive health care, including unlimited wellness services and acute care visits, vaccinations, x-rays, telehealth appointments and more.

More than helping OSSD in our commitment to our students and staff, the presence of a strong health care leader like Singing River in Ocean Springs is crucial for the future health of our city. Unfortunately, as a community hospital, Singing River is particularly susceptible to industry headwinds, such as the rising cost of equipment and staffing shortages. Compounded by the impact of the pandemic, as well as state-level issues — Mississippi has the second-lowest health ranking in the U.S. — these challenges mean the hospital must always be exploring ways to protect the standard of excellence in care it provides.

Recently, Singing River announced its decision to pursue a partnership with a like-minded health care organization. If that occurs, it will mean that members of our community can receive remarkable care close to home for generations to come. By expanding its capital, intellectual and technological resources, Singing River will be able to invest in the long-term health of Ocean Springs and the surrounding areas.

As an independent provider facing industry-wide challenges that are rattling even the largest health systems, Singing River is making the best decision to continue providing high-quality, equal access to care in our community.

They will gain resources to invest in infrastructure, equipment,technology, maintenance and staff and continue the growth they have forged over the past few years. It’s also important to note that any potential partner will be a good fit for our community.

Singing River has enough time to select a strategic alliance that’s right for us. Like OSSD, the hospital values its personal connections with the people it serves, and any partner will need to not only permit but enable that patient-focused culture to thrive.

Looking ahead, OSSD is thrilled for the potential opportunities to partner with Singing River and their prospective partner in this exciting new chapter of local health care. As we continue to work together to build the brightest future for Ocean Springs, our priority remains to provide exemplary services to our community members now and in the future.

Coleman is superintendent of the Ocean Springs School District.

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