Alexandria mother pens 'open letter' to RPSB superintendent

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The following letter was submitted to KALB from Heather Matlock:

Dear Superintendent Authement & Mrs. Basco,

My kids are my world. I feel like my sophomore is doing very well at life and Bolton High School is a big part of the reason. The same thing is true with my other two boys (5th grader at Rosenthal Montessori and a 3 year old in our church dayschool). All this talk of change is very disturbing. I am trying very carefully to see both sides of the proposal, but I think its unintended consequences would be very harmful to our city.

I do not believe it would serve the population of the Garden District and the area across Bolton Avenue to close the neighborhood schools and consolidate them at the AMMS campus. I know that education is the only ticket out of poverty and I am 100% behind innovation to help our children and society, but I firmly believe in the neighborhood schools because of the proximity to the students’ homes. Many of the children are fed year-round at the schools, even in the summer, because of lack of nutrition at home. Their neighborhood schools are a safe zone and should be a hub of activity for the neighborhoods. If there are empty campuses in these already impoverished areas, it would cause blight and danger.

I am familiar with these children and the campuses through my work over the years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), my work as president of the Garden District Neighborhood Foundation, my church mission work, the activities of my company Matlock Supply, and lastly as the steward of a Little Free Library in my front yard which gives free reading material to children in my neighborhood. No matter the location of the school or poverty rate, I believe number of dollars spent on a student should be equitable.

I would love to help connect non-governmental organizations with the schools for after-school programs and finding other ways to give these young children a better chance at life. I believe amazing things are happening in our city and that hopefully our median household income will rise with the education level. This will benefit us all! This suggestion (and my hope) is that by providing these programs we might make a difference so that by the time the children who are in pre-k today go to middle school they are well-disciplined, have age appropriate reading skills, and the social skills to succeed. With these basic skills, when they get to high school the likelihood of them dropping out of school would decrease exponentially. I am simply saying, I believe we should start young.

I also would appreciate the careful consideration that the Open Enrollment program for high schools has blown out of proportion. When a high school meets its capacity, the students should be turned back to their zoned schools. Currently ASH and Pineville are busting at the seams because of the intense pressure children feel to “pick the school where their friends are”. This happens now especially because parents such as myself used School Choice to send our children to another school such as Pineville Junior High School, instead of the F school AMMS for which we are zoned. My son faced intense pressure to follow his friends to Pineville, but is now very happy to be at our neighborhood school Bolton and is getting a wonderful education. I understand that this vicious circle is quite the predicament.

If Pineville High School is a magnet high school aimed at the arts, drama, and music, perhaps it should have some sort of application to enter the magnet program. Children zoned for the school should be given priority and then the open spots could be filled by those who show the most aptitude for the magnet program’s aims. I would also like very much to see the same high-quality program for math and science at Peabody Magnet High School with the same requirements for entrance to the program. At Bolton High School a magnet program could be created for an academic magnet just as Phoenix Magnet Elementary does for their elementary and now their middle school program Rapides Academy.

Overall, I do not believe that lumping the schools together would save enough money or help the students in a way that would make a difference. I am worried that the unintended consequences would make things worse. I am praying for you, our school board members, and all leaders.

Sincerely yours,

Heather Matlock
(Mother of 10th Grader at Bolton High School, 5th Grader at Rosenthal Montessori, and a next year Pre-K Student at Rosenthal Montessori)