Sheila Stogsdill

Special to the Grove Sun

SPAVINAW - A $60,000 donation to a rural Mayes County school district by Oklahoma singing superstar Reba McEntire has the community of Spavinaw singing a new tune.

“I am very pleased,” Superintendent Teresia Knott said. “The money is really going to help.”

Spavinaw school board President Guy Alloway said, “We were $60,000 in the hole.”

The school, which was built in the late 1920s, was close to closing, but with the donation, the school can continue, he said.

The school board will decide how the money will be spent, officials said.

Nikki Burns, a publicity assistant for Big Machine Records, would not discuss the specifics of McEntire’s donation. She said it was McEntire’s desire not to draw publicity to herself but rather to the school.

The prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade school has 130 students and an annual budget of about $1 million. State and federal cuts sliced the budget to $780,000 this year, Alloway said.

The school, which employs 18 teachers and staff members, had no carryover from the previous year.

“We were cutting everything,” Alloway said. “Every time we had a school board meeting, we were discussing cuts.”

Copy paper and water bottles were just some of the items the board reluctantly eliminated. But any benefit from those cuts was lost when the school had to buy a $5,500 air conditioner in August.

"If you close the school, you cut the heart out of this little town,” Alloway said.

After an all-night brainstorming session with his wife, Kathy Alloway, and brother-in-law, Rodney Howton, Alloway decided to solicit the funds from celebrities and financial leaders.

He called the Mickey Mantle Foundation, Wal-Mart Inc., JCPenney and Sears. He also called the offices for Warren Buffett, T. Boone Pickens, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and 20 other celebrities.

Trouble was, he could never get past their secretaries.

“I think they all would have helped; I just couldn’t reach anyone,” Alloway said.

Then he dialed a general number listed on Reba McEntire’s website.

He explained the school’s plight to the secretary and, after several calls confirming the school’s situation, two checks - one for $60,000 and an anonymous check for $1,000 - arrived Oct. 13.

The whole community was excited.

A thank-you card signed by the students and community leaders was sent to Nashville on Thursday, Alloway said.

“One man came up to me and said, ‘I never bought a Reba CD before, but I am going to buy one now.’ “