COVINGTON -- Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the school year.
In a letter to school system employees and the public on Wednesday morning, Mathews said his last day as superintendent will be June 30, 2013. He said he looks forward to spending more time with his family.
"As my twin grandsons, Luke and Ethan, consume much of my attention these days, and as my 83-year-old father and 87-year-old mother-in-law continue to age, it is time for me to reprioritize," Mathews wrote. "Simply put, at age 60 in May, and after 38 years in public education inclusive of 21 years in the superintendency, I want to spend much more time with loved ones including my five grown children."
Mathews began as superintendent in July 2010, after the Newton County Board of Education tapped him through a nationwide search by the Georgia School Boards Association after former Superintendent Steven Whatley retired. At the time, he was given a three-year contract with NCSS that included the salary of $159,400 per year, plus being eligible for insurance and other employee benefits that other 12-month employees receive.
At the time, the school board also reimbursed Mathews $7,500 for expenses incurred in his move to Newton County from Virginia, where he was superintendent of the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools.
Prior to coming to Newton County, Mathews was superintendent in Virginia for five years and at the time 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 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, La., and also has experience as a high school principal.
In May 2011, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered Mathews as the state's superintendent of education.
After retirement, Mathews and his wife Pat plan to return to Louisiana, where most of his family resides, he said later Wednesday in a response to questions from the Citizen.
"As of now, I have no full-time employment in mind," he said. "However, though I am not certain at present, I may work part-time in some capacity be it in education or in some adjacent field."
Mathews said he will assist in the transition brought on by his retirement, but in the meantime, he will continue to work on assisting in the education of more than 19,000 students.
"Academically, we have our public schools positioned to continue the upward achievement of our students as seen over the past three years," Mathews wrote. "Our emphasis on high probability instructional strategies, building student background knowledge, integrating technology in classrooms and the establishment of professional learning communities is the right course which will, I believe, long outlive my time here. Each is right for our children and will be relevant as long as we have students to teach. This emphasis is research-based best practice and transcends any person in any position."
The Newton County Board of Education plans to meet with a representative from the Georgia School Boards Association on Dec. 18 to discuss its next steps to find a replacement, according to school board Vice Chair Jeff Meadors.
Meadors said that he understands that Mathews can make a recommendation for his successor, which the board may or may not accept, and also that the Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency can provide a superintendent search free of charge. GSBA also offers a superintendent search, but it could cost nearly $9,000, plus providing travel for candidates and other expenses, Meadors said.
For the next superintendent, Meadors said, "Particularly given the concerns about student achievement, I would like to see someone with a proven track record and longitudinal data where they have turned around student achievement ... linked directly to their leadership. I want someone who isn't focused on minimum competencies ... (and) focused on all students."
He also wishes for someone to help teach students self-reliance and introduce more critical thinking skills in the primary and early grades, as well as someone to boost the morale of teachers, he said.
"(Teachers) do not feel like they have a voice," Meadors said. "We have some outstanding school leaders, but we don't have enough of them."
He added that he is just one person with one vote and can't speak for the board, but at this time, he isn't interested in spending taxpayer money for a superintendent search just three years after another one was completed, hoping instead to get a recommendation or use the free Griffin RESA search.