What does a public school and a Methodist church have in common? A golf course, according to Palestine Independent School District's Board of Trustees.
The board unanimously approved a decision at its December meeting to officialize a unique agreement with Grace United Methodist Church that will allow the district to utilize features of the church's property in exchange for maintaining it. Students will be able to use facilities such as the 75-acre golf course, tennis courts and golf support buildings.
Officials said the partnership began falling in place in November, when the church was considering purchasing the former Meadowbrook Country Club to relocate from its current campus on East Murchison Street. But it wasn't until PISD Superintendent Jason Marshall got wind of it that the church scored a practical hole-in-one.
“We purchased it for the express purpose of using it as a worship facility and as a church, but we happen to have a backyard that's a golf course — so it makes sense that we would utilize that for something other than just a prayer trail,” Rev. Phil Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin said he was looking to form a public or private partnership of sorts.
“About that time, as we were chatting about that, we got word from Palestine ISD that they would be interested in pursuing that as a possibility,” he said.
Marshall discovered the possibility from coworker Suzanne Eiben, assistant superintendent of human resources. A board member at GUMC, Eiben had learned two important pieces of information: the church was considering purchasing the old country club, and PISD was hunting for a golf course.
“The district has been looking for places for our golf kids to practice on a daily basis for some time now,” Marshall said. “And literally Ms. Eiben's walking down the hall one day, and I'm walking down the hall, and I said, 'Hey, does y'alls church have some vacant property that we might could use?'”