Carthage Board of Education votes to accept Powers Museum building

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The Carthage R-9 Board of Education voted on Monday, Nov. 15, to accept an offer from the Powers Museum Board to donate the building and property located across Oak Street from Municipal Park to the school district. Photo courtesy Powers Museum

After 38 years, Carthage’s Powers Museum is no more, but the building that housed it will soon serve another purpose helping students in Carthage who are struggling in high school earn their diploma or some kind of certificate.

The Carthage R-9 Board of Education voted on Monday, Nov. 15, to accept an offer from the Powers Museum Board to donate the building and property located across Oak Street from Municipal Park to the school district.

Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker asked the board to accept the donation, valued by the district at $500,000, and told them of his plans to turn it into some kind of alternative learning center for high school students.

“With some kids, it’s not that they’re illiterate or ignorant or anything like that, they just don’t fit in quite at the high school level,” Baker said at the meeting. “So years ago we had U-Turn,an alternative school, and it developed into what we have now in virtual learning because most things in that program you can capture online. So we’ve been talking for a few years, what can we do to capture the kids who are failing and failing so much they’re going to drop out?”

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Helping troubled students

Baker told the Board of Education that administrators started brainstorming for programs to put in the building and soon had more ideas than the building could handle.

“Hopefully soon we’ll have a plan of attack,” Baker said. “One of my goals would be some kind of high school learning alternative center. I wouldn’t want to call it an alternative school because our whole goal is to get our kids trained in something to get them prepared for life.

“Even the kids who are struggling educationally can still be trained to be supportive once they get out of high school, that’s one of the ultimate goals of this alternative learning center is to provide education and also hopefully a certificate of some sort for them once they get out of high school. A flex-work program will be involved in it if it’s a high school program.”

Baker said the district would also consider programs for younger students having difficulty in school.

“We might even try to work in some kids who are struggling in the earlier grades, especially those with behavioral issues,” Baker said. “We’ll try to help them get focused again, focus not only on their behavior but their future goals, because sometimes those kids also start struggling and it’s hard to pull them back in.”

Baker said he hoped the building could serve between 20 and 40 students at a time, and planned to have the programs in it up and running by the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The board voted unanimously to accept the donation.

Baker said the district and the Powers board would get together in December at Abby Title in Carthage to complete the donation.

Powers closing

The board of directors that governs Powers Museum voted in May 2021 to shut the museum down after years of falling income forced them to dip into the shrinking endowment left by Marian Powers Winchester to start the museum in 1981 to pay operating and maintenance expenses.

Board members said income had been shrinking for years, then when the pandemic forced everything to shut down, the museum could not be opened in 2020, ending hopes of turning the financial picture around.

The building that housed Powers Museum was built in 1988, but the museum itself became a reality seven years earlier when Marian Powers Winchester left a bequest to the city for a museum about life in Carthage, named in honor of her parents, Dr. Everett Powers, who lived from 1869 to 1954, and Marian Wright Powers, who lived from 1880 to 1969.

When she died, Winchester left, in addition to money, her belongings, clothes and other items which became the initial collection of the Powers Museum. That collection expanded with donations from other residents.

The museum also maintained an extensive reference library and was typically open during the summer and closed in the winter to change out the exhibit and do maintenance work on the building.

When they decided to shut down the museum, the board started working to transfer as much of its collection and archives to places in Carthage where possible and other places when necessary that would put it to good use.

The museum held an auction in August to sell off some items in the collection, while many documents and other items have gone to places like the Carthage Public Library, Jasper County Records Center, Joplin Museum Complex, Missouri Southern State University, Missouri State Library in Jefferson City and other places.

The board said it planned to use any money left over after shutting down the museum for scholarships for local students.

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