Letter to the Editor

Your view: Keep the school

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dear Editor

It seems that interest has somewhat waned in the proposed Matthews School District. A grassroots movement of concerned citizens saved the Matthews Elementary School in the bond issue of 2002, then the committee moved ahead to form, or rebuild, the Matthews School District.

If the residents of north New Madrid County do not continue with the same drive to get a school district in the north part of our county, we will lose a great deal and deny a great proposed school district of our youth.

The most affected areas will be Big Prairie and West Townships. Big Prairie is the second largest township in the R-1 district and the only township showing population growth according to the U.S. 2000 census. We showed our political clout in the Nov. 5, 2002, school bond vote which would have resulted in the closure of the Matthews Elementary School and the subsequent busing of our smallest children an enormous time and distance. The issue was defeated by over 63 percent; Big Prairie Township was 93 percent against and West Township 87 percent against. The issue lost in all but a few precincts.

We need to bring these same numbers and turn-out with our elected representatives. We have had a public silence from our elected representatives which is deafening!

Did DESA (Missouri State Department of Secondary Education) reply to the Matthews School District plan in the legal time limits, and give their reasons for denial as detailed by Missouri state law?

The New Madrid County Central School Board gave assurances to the Concerned Citizens they would not oppose the Matthews School plan, then, promptly wrote a letter doing just that (the letter is on file with DESA). It's ironic that their verbose letter threw everything but the kitchen sink at a well developed plan, then, among other things, played the race card against the proposed district. The only public reason for DESA's decision given was: "The commission submitted a revised proposal in April. The board's rejection this time amounts to an outright defeat for proponents of a Matthews district. Board members stated no reason for their position, although Russell Thompson of Columbia expressed concern that the proposed district would have had a virtually all-white student population," (as reported in 08/05/05 (in SSD0 Marc Powers, SEMO News Service).

I was under the understanding that our constitution does not allow for this type of bigotry. The second irony was when the Matthews Elementary School was named one Missouri "Gold Star Schools" on April 21, 2005, one of only 12 schools in Missouri to receive such a distinction and that just happens to be the only school serving north New Madrid County.

The Concerned Citizens Committee deserves kudos for not getting down in the mud with the New Madrid County Central School Board, and for their honesty and tact in dealing with the Board.

I sincerely hope the rest of the R-1 district voters will support the need for a Matthews School District, if we can ever get this issue to the voters.

If we do not rise up and make our voices heard we are going to lose our last school in the north part of the county or be absorbed into the Sikeston School District as so much of north New Madrid County has already seen happen.

The plan for a Matthews school is sound, the tax base is sound and the proposed district would enhance our students' educational goals. Our children and grandchildren, who would benefit from this district, can not vote, however, we registered voters can ask the candidates questions and vote accordingly.

It is time to get this issue back on the front burner and support our Concerned Citizens Committee in their quest for educational and community schooling.

Sincerely, Steve Waters