Grant Elementary principal to resign following sister-in-law's lottery win

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 8:05 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Grant Elementary School's principal notified parents that she will be resigning to spend time with her family after her sister-in-law won the lottery.

Kris Matthews sent an email to the parents of Grant students Tuesday morning informing them that she will be resigning at the end of the school year. 

"I have a 15-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter and they have three years left before they leave, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to spend some more time with them," Matthews said. 

The decision to resign came shortly after learning that her husband's sister, Cindy Hill, won more than $200 million in the Powerball lottery last month.

Matthews said she will not have a say in who will replace her but trusts that her successor will be be a good match for the school.

"Grant is a special school, not just to me but to the entire district, and they'll make sure it remains a gem of a school," Matthews said.

Michelle Townsend, a 32-year old stay-at-home mother with a first-grader at Grant, said she was somewhat surprised by the news, but not particularly shocked by Matthews' decision.

"That's just a lot of money," Townsend said. "Who would go back to work if someone's family made that much? There's just a lot you can do." 

This is Matthews' second year as principal at Grant. Prior to taking the position, Matthews taught fourth, fifth and sixth grade for 13 years in the St. Joseph area and was an assistant principal at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary and Gentry Middle schools. She also has a doctorate from MU in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Stephony Stelzer, a secretary at Grant, learned of the news yesterday during a staff meeting held by Matthews. 

"I think it's sad to see her go, because she just started and I was just getting to know her as a person," Stelzer said.  

Susan Schopflin, the president of the Grant Elementary Parent Teacher Association, said she had also learned about Matthews' resignation from the Tuesday email.

"I think it's excellent that she has the opportunity to spend this time with her family, and I can appreciate that this was a difficult choice to make," Schopflin said. "But as a parent and a PTA president, to lose your principal is hard on the school and hard on the PTA."

Schopflin explained that it can take some time for the PTA and the principal to find the proper footing to determine what needs to be done to serve the needs of the school.

Matthews said that one of the things she's most proud of accomplishing during her time at Grant Elementary was the improvement of technology integration in the classroom. Last year, she worked with the PTA to secure funds so every teacher in the school had an iPad to help with student instruction.

"Grant is very traditional and she was respectful of that as a principal, but she also recognized that we needed to adapt in terms of the technology that could be used in the classroom," Schopflin said. "She educated the PTA on what she felt the school needed and what we could do to help."

Matthews says that while she is resigning as principal, she will continue working in education in some capacity. 

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.

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