A Sunny Celebration: Matoaca Elementary celebrates 76 years

By Roger Walk

Future, present and past came to life at Matoaca Elementary School recently when the school, its students, and the community celebrated the 75-plus-one Anniversary of the elementary school in South Chesterfield.

After a number of reorganizations of the school it was able to adequately celebrate its 76 years of community service on March 22, 2014.

The bright and sunny spring weather was indicative of a bright and successful future for this public elementary school and its students, and it made the event a fun party for the crowd of parents, relatives, friends, and officials finding their way to 6627 River Road, Matoaca that Saturday morning.

The dedicated school administration under the leadership of principal Mrs. Mary Thrift and Assistant Principal Grace Bowers, the enthusiastic teachers, the happy and excited students, and the PTA  made the 75-plus-one Anniversary celebration a fun event fondly remembering the past, embracing the present, and enthusiastically looking forward to a bright future. As an outlook into their bright future most MES students were dressed in costumes and wore badges highlighting their dreams for the future once they have completed their educational journey.

The well organized celebration program included a history of the Matoaca community presented with unique historical photo and film footage by Keith McCray, former MES student and Matoaca community leader; a presentation of Matoaca mural, an artistic collaboration from the MES students, by Katie Bailey, MES Art Teacher, Corey Bullock, resident Artist, and Lori Grizzard; and a “walk” to reminisce and visit the past, present, and future while viewing the MES student projects displayed along the grade level hallways.

Other highlights of the event were the presentation of Native American artifacts and a dance of the students on the stage of the multipurpose room instructed by the Mattaponi Lois Custalow, daughter of an Assistant Reservation Chief. With this program element, the school reminded the community of the Native American origin of the name of the area and school.

An emotional demonstration of the accomplishment of the school holding a special place in so many hearts in its community, was the performance of the “Matoaca Song” by the MES students led by Mrs Leah Kovack, their music teacher, which pulled the audience, including the visiting Superintendent Dr. Newsome, from their seats for a standing ovation.

The popularity and recognition of Matoaca Elementary, which has currently almost 500 students enrolled, is demonstrated by the longevity of its teacher-staff which often serves at the school for decades. Kindergarten teacher Ginny Ban Keuren, herself being on the school’s staff for many years, points to the example of Lynn Nugent, who retired after 32 years of service at MES, but recently returned to support the Kindergarten teacher to prepare their students for a bright academic future.

In 2012, the year for which the latest data had been published, the SOL scores of the sixth-grade students were 95 percent, and thereby above the Chesterfield County and Virginia score averages.

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