Looking back: Eduardo Mata Elementary celebrates 20 years

Eduardo Mata Elementary opened in 1997, named after the late Dallas Symphony Orchestra conductor who had died in a plane crash two years prior. It was designed to relieve overcrowding at Lipscomb and Mount Auburn elementaries, welcoming those schools’ fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders after their kindergarten through third-grade years. However, as result of various policy and school changes, by spring 2013 Mata’s 650-capacity campus had only 226 students enrolled.

Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that two nearby elementary campuses in the Woodrow Wilson High School feeder pattern — Lakewood and Stonewall Jackson — were significantly overcrowded. Dallas ISD administrators and neighborhood parents came up with the idea to solve two problems at once, by giving Mata a new mission that would attract families from overcrowded schools while still serving its longtime Mount Auburn families. They decided to create a Montessori school that would be different from the DISD Montessori magnets because any student could attend, not just students who met certain admission criteria. The school also would offer two-way dual-language classrooms, with native English speakers and native Spanish speakers learning together. A DISD board vote in April 2014 paved the way for the District’s first “school of choice,” even before the Office of Transformation and Innovation opened and rolled out its public school choice effort.

Mata Montessori opened in fall 2014, with 3- and 4-year-old preschool students and kindergarteners in its Primary classrooms, and first- and second-graders in its Lower Elementary classrooms that initial year. Students from Mount Auburn were given first priority for these seats, and then students from across the Woodrow feeder pattern. The original plan was for Mata to add one grade a year until it reached eighth-grade, and this plan became a reality in fall 2016 when DISD administration gave the green light and DISD trustees voted to give Mata bond funding for a middle school.

Today, Mata Montessori is the most desirable choice school in DISD. For the 2017-18 school year, it received 556 applications for 85 seats. Currently educating students from Pre-K3 to fifth-grade, Mata will grow to eighth-grade in the next three years and introduce the very first Montessori middle school in the district.