Small Town Arkansas Residents Worried Consolidation Will Mean Loss of Athletics and Identity - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Poinsett County
Kathy Morris Reports

Small Town Arkansas Residents Worried Consolidation Will Mean Loss of Athletics and Identity

September 12, 2003 - Posted at: 10:45pm

MARKED TREE/LEPANTO, AR -- Some opponents of a plan to consolidate smaller school districts say losing their schools and their athletics would mean their communities would lose their identity. One Lepanto resident says it's already happened there once.

"We were the Lepanto Panthers, and we were real proud of that, so we went from being the Lepanto Panthers to the EPC Warriors," said Lepanto High School graduate Marsha Adams.

Lepanto consolidated with Tyronza in the early 1980's to become East Poinsett County School District.

Cotton Burrow added, "Well it didn't really bother us, because we kept our school."

Micky Pierce, EPC Superintendent, explained that while some residents are concerned about athletics, most parents have told him they're more worried that their children will be bused so far away from home, and will be taught by teachers who don't already know them.

"Where they didn't have any control in hiring the teachers, hiring the administrators, the condition of the facilities," added Pierce.

Down the road in Marked Tree, Superintendent Gary Masters acknowledged that athletics is definitely a visible part of a school system, but not the most important part.

Masters said, "The concern is that the school remain here to preserve the identity of the community, not that the athletic team remain here to preserve the identity of the school."

The Marked Tree superintendent hopes legislators take the economic status of students' families and the percentage of enrolled minority students into consideration. Both administrators believe Governor Mike Huckabee's standards should be based on guidelines, not on the number of students in a district.

Micky Pierce added, "I have a hard time with the argument that kids who graduate from bigger schools have the opportunity to do better solely because they're offered more."

"I think actually that statistics prove that children do better when there's smaller classes," echoed Marsha Adams.

Legislators have until January 1, 2004 to find solutions to meet the court's order.

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