COVINGTON -- The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is reviewing the employment history of Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews as a possible candidate for the state's superintendent of education.
BESE member Linda Johnson said the board is not yet ready to fill the open position, which was recently left vacant by Paul Pastorek, and hasn't started interviewing candidates. She said the board received a packet of information from Mathews' aunt that included his resume, employment history and a recommendation.
Mathews said Friday that he has not officially applied for the job and that his aunt sent the information on her own and told him afterward.
"I am naturally flattered by the numerous parties back in my home state who have encouraged such an application on my part," Mathews said. "Having served six years as the Baton Rouge superintendent where we accomplished some significant things against formidable odds, I am certainly subject to the discussion now under way in Louisiana."
Unlike in Georgia, the state superintendent is an appointed position, instead of an elected one.
Mathews began working at NCSS as superintendent in July 2010, after the retirement of Steven Whatley. Prior to coming to Newton County, Mathews was the superintendent of the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools in Virginia and had more than 18 years of experience as a school district superintendent, previously working as superintendent of Carroll Independent School District in Texas, Rockwood School District in Missouri, East Baton Rouge School District in Louisiana and St. Johns County School District in Florida.
He's also worked as an assistant superintendent in Texas and Mississippi. He began his education career in 1976 as a high school teacher at JFK High School in New Orleans and he also has experience as a high school principal.
He's earned several awards and honors throughout his career in education -- The Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development named him Virginia Curriculum Leader of the Year in 2007, and the Education Technology Think Tank in Washington, D.C., awarded him the ET3 TEC Champion Leadership Award in 2006. He was the Louisiana Superintendent of the Year in 1998, and the Public Relations Association of Louisiana named him the Louisiana Communicator of the Year in 1996.
He earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Louisiana State University in 1975, a master's degree in Educational Administration from Loyola University in Louisiana in 1979 and an Education Specialist in Educational Administration and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1981 and 1982, respectively. He also holds education certificates from The College of William & Mary, the University of Virginia and Harvard University.
Mathews said Friday that he was contacted by reporters in Louisiana on Thursday about the superintendent of education position, and he expressed his satisfaction with his work in Newton.
"I am very pleased to be in Newton County, where I believe we are on the right track towards improving student learning," Mathews said. "Current preliminary results from Georgia assessments suggest we may be on that right track sooner than later. We're optimistic."