At the school year’s end, Sallie Cone Elementary will be submitted to history as the Conway School District repurposes the building as a pre-kindergarten center.
In an effort to preserve the neighborhood school’s history, Sallie Cone administrators are attempting to compile stories and photos from the school’s former students and teachers.
Teacher Becky Brodt was tasked by the school’s principal, Dr. Tina Antley, to petition the school’s past patrons for any information that would add to a project to preserve and document the history of the school that opened on South Boulevard in 1956.
Brodt hopes that former students, teachers, principals, and any who were a part of the school in some way will come forward to be part of the collective.
School administrators will create a DVD of photos, stories, interviews and historical facts so that the school "won’t be lost in time."
"We’re trying to put this together for the benefit of this community, and so that Sallie Cone doesn’t vanish; so that it won’t be lost in time," Antley said. "We’re requesting that anyone who has a story to add, to contact the school."
Brodt will have the project completed by April 29, and she hopes to hear from contributors well before that date.
Sallie Cone Elementary, one of nine in the Conway School District, is attended by 360 kindergarten through fourth-graders and 120 pre-schoolers.
As the district moves to the next phase of its "2012 plan," Sallie Cone will close and another school, Carolyn Lewis Elementary, will open on the south side of Conway.
The district will be rezoned and the grade structure reconfigured in the plan to accommodate and prepare for growth.
Dr. Antley, principal at Sallie Cone, will move to the new elementary along with many who work at the school.
"We want to get the word out about this project so that people can start contacting us and we can start collecting stories. I’m afraid that once the school isn’t there, the stories may not get told," Antley said.
Once called Fairside Elementary, the school was renamed Sallie Cone around the year 1960, according to a past principal.
Robert Toney, now a school improvement advisor in the learning services division of the Arkansas Department of Education, served as the school’s principal in 1976, twenty years after it opened.
He spent six formative years in his early career in the position before moving on to subsequent administrative roles.
"It was a neat school," he said of Sallie Cone. "It was a great place to start my administrative career."
He described the school as a fairly typical elementary - serving grades kindergarten through fifth.
"The year I started was the first year that Conway schools moved their kindergarten program to the three campuses; Sallie Cone, Ellen Smith and Ida Burns. Before that year, there was a public school kindergarten housed at the old Pine Street school. That was the kindergarten center."
When Toney left his position at one of Conway’s middle schools to serve as Sallie Cone’s principal, he administered a building of 600 students. Kindergartners attended classes in portable buildings on the campus before the district added on to the school.
Toney and others said they know little about the woman who influenced the school’s name, but that she was a longtime teacher at the district.
"The school was originally named Fairside because the fairgrounds were right across the street. Ms. Sallie Cone taught in the district from the 20s until about 1960 - her retirement," said Toney. "She retired after being a longtime teacher and to honor her, they changed the name of the school. She taught at the building at the end of her career."
Beyond that, Toney said he "doesn’t really know anything about her."
"I think she had a son; I just really don’t know."
Those with information about Sallie Cone the school, or the teacher the school was named after, are urged to contact Brodt by calling the school at 450-4835.
"It’s sad; There are going to be a lot of tears for people who have been at Sallie Cone for a long time," said Brodt.
The district has said that it is logical that Sallie Cone be repurposed above others into a pre-k center based on the "economic conditions surrounding the building," according to the district’s website, "since economics is the first determining factor when enrolling a student in pre-k."
Toney said that the "neighborhood school concept gets diluted" due to the needs of a growing district.
"If you were in a town, and I don’t think Conway falls into this category, but one where all of your affluent kids lived in one area, you wouldn’t think you’d put them all in one school, and leave the other one to have an inordinate amount of kids in poverty. Obviously, some schools will have a higher percentage of a subpopulation than others, but that’s kind of what a neighborhood school is," he said. "If all things were equal, and they’re not, we’d want all of our kids to walk down the street a few blocks to go to school, but they’re not that’s not the world we live in today."
Toney said his time at Sallie Cone molded his professional life. He remembered the students as high-performing and his staff as having among them several master’s level degrees.
"It is where I learned my craft," he said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)