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State board rejects Matthews school proposal
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After minimal discussion, the Missouri State School Board on Thursday rejected a proposal to create a new public school district at Matthews.
The board's unanimous action marks the second time it has thwarted efforts to carve a new school system out of the New Madrid County School District.
In December, the board rejected the initial plan to essentially re-establish the Matthews School District, which in 1969 joined with several other then-independent school systems to form the New Madrid County district. The board cited insufficient details as to the proposed district's finances and enrollment.
The board, however, remanded the matter to the New Madrid County Commission for further study. Under state law, county commissions are charged with submitting school reorganization proposals to the state.
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. The New Madrid County district currently has a 37-percent minority population.
Following the board's action, New Madrid County School District superintendent Bill Nance had little to say.
"I have a lot of respect for the State Board of Education and support its decision," Nance said.
The New Madrid County Board of Education had taken no formal position on the attempted Matthews secession, Nance said. No proponents of the proposal attended the board's meeting.
The proposed district would have served approximately 230 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students from the Matthews area would have continued to attend New Madrid County Central High School.
Michael Pyles, a leader of Concerned Citizens of Matthews, said in a telephone interview that the group's effort to establish a separate district was prompted in part by the existing district's failed attempt three years ago to consolidate its three elementary schools, including one at Matthews, into one facility.
Pyles said breaking away is the only way to ensure the continued existence of a public school in northern New Madrid County.
"We feel they have every intention of shutting the school down," Pyles said. "We want to make sure that doesn't happen."
Pyles said that with the outright rejection of the proposal, state law requires supporters to wait at least a year before they can try again.
"In another year, we'll have another plan ready to submit," Pyles said.
Missouri currently has 524 public school districts. The last new one was established in Portageville in 1986, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.