Matthews rallies to save local program
MATTHEWS - It was a standing-room-only crowd Sunday afternoon as Matthews area residents gathered to discuss the future of their local elementary school.
Meeting in response to a proposal by the New Madrid County R-1 School District to consolidate the district's three elementary schools into a central location, the more than 70 persons gathered agreed their school was an essential part of the community and they would oppose the consolidation.
Mayor Gene Curtis admitted he was surprised, yet pleased by the overwhelming turnout as he presented what he considered were the four options for the community. Residents could work to persuade the school board to leave the Matthews Elementary School, which now serves kindergarten through fifth grade students; partition to become part of the Scott County R-6 School District in Sikeston; form its own school district; or "do nothing and have our school moved to New Madrid forever," he stated. "If we decide to any of the other three there will be a fight. We will have to set our goals and that has to be our focus.
Starting with the last suggestion, Curtis asked for a show of hands from those who would support this action. When no hands went up, Curtis then asked who wanted to take action, prompting hands to rise around the room.
Curtis suggested organizing a group to attend the next New Madrid County R-1 meeting. At the suggestion of an audience member a petition was also developed indicating the community's opposition to consolidation.
Continuing, the mayor noted the option to create their own school district, returning to the boundaries which comprised the original Matthews District of Big Prairie and West townships, is feasible. Curtis stated the assessment value in the original Matthews District is now $43 million, which is greater than the $40 million with which the Portageville School District successfully operates.
In response to questions about taxes, he explained the Portageville district's current tax is $3 per $100 valuation compared to the R-1 tax of $2.37 per $100. Curtis said he believed it would be possible to operate the Matthews School District on less than $3 per $100 valuation.
Should the district take this route, the Mayor said it could consider adding a high school or do like the Kelso School District which pays tuition for the older students to attend high schools in other districts.
The option to join the Sikeston School District was opposed by most in the audience.
Several local citizens spoke about the support the Matthews school receives from the community. One mother noted the Parent-Teacher Organization has provided money for everything from playground equipment to computers, donating over $11,000 this year alone. Also, she said their support of the book fair provided over $1,300 in new books this school year for the school library.
A Matthews resident, who was a student at the time of the consolidation of the high school, noted he initially opposed consolidation but later found that the consolidated school was able to offer a greater variety of courses for the students. "If we do get our school back will we be able to offer a quality education?" he asked. "We all want a top, quality education for our children."
Also he offered a suggestion that drew applause and approval from the audience: "If they are going to consolidate, why don't they build the building here."
Another parent spoke up adding support for the current school, praising the concern of the teachers and the small size of the classes enabled faculty and staff to know students and their families.
As the meeting closed, volunteering to attend the upcoming school board meeting with Curtis were Kay Wescoat, Danny Parker, Dottie Gardner, R.D. Mills, Kenny Johnson and Sandy Hall.
Petitions will be available for signatures at the Matthews City Hall and Johnson's Food Mart.
Another citizen volunteered to develop a Website to keep citizens updated on actions; the website is: http://www.geocities.com/jsteve11/matthe....
Curtis said the committee will report back to the public at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at the Matthews Community Building.