Note: This statement was made during the public comments portion of the Red Clay School Board meeting on May 18.
Hello. My name is Mike Matthews and I’m a fifth-grade teacher at Richardson Park Elementary.
I’d like to congratulate Faith Newton on her recent election to the School Board. I and many others look forward to working with Faith to keep our District going down the positive path that has been forged over the past few years thanks to new leadership both at the District and on the Board.
Before I began teaching, I followed the financial situation within Red Clay closely. Even before that, I was and remain a lifelong member of the Red Clay community, having first graduated from Cab Calloway High School with its first class in 2000 and now as a homeowner and teacher in the District.
As a roving wannabe Bob Woodward, I found myself at several school board meetings between senior year of high school and right around 2005 when I graduated college. I was unimpressed with the cavalier attitude displayed by some of the individuals who served on the Board at the time. The make-up of that Board seemed more interested in ending meetings quickly and rubber-stamping anything the Administration wished rather than acting as an appropriate oversight authority for the District’s financial and operational needs.
Of course, this story hit its climax in the middle of the last decade when it was discovered the District’s finances were nearly beyond repair and that we were bankrupt. Like many other teachers, parents, students, and taxpayer stakeholders, I was wondering the same thing: “How did we get to this point?” Well, it’s clear. The Board had ceded many of its oversight authorities in an effort to portray a “go-along-to-get-along” rapport with then-District leadership.
In 2006, those same teachers, parents, students and taxpayer stakeholders were given an opportunity to elect a man who has spent much of his life to the causes of good, open, and accountable government. Jack Buckley may have been accused by some as being “too much of an activist,” but he was just the activist Red Clay needed to not only get us back on track, but to figure out where we went OFF track. I’d like to thank him for helping initiate and execute the work that should have been done under the previous Administration – both District leadership AND Board leadership.
It wasn’t easy to get through the District’s financial collapse, but we did it. Even though the old make-up of the Board didn’t seem as interested in such “hot topics” as accountability and transparency, Jack Buckley led that charge and played a big part in changing the course of the District’s accounting policies. He likely made a few enemies along the way. A few enemies who attempted to tarnish the work he did by engaging in specious whisper campaigns distorting his positions and his work while on the Board. These individuals’ actions were and are regrettable and wholly unproductive to the work being done for the students we serve every day. Their actions have no place in this process.
Again, I thank Jack for his years of service to Red Clay. I look forward to working with Faith, as I know she’ll be a positive and productive member of the Board. As this is a truly collaborative system, I’m hoping we’ll be able to balance the wants of those in power with the needs of those whose voices are often ignored in the process. Thank you.