INGLEWOOD — A new state administrator is needed for the Inglewood Unified School District and people who keep an eye on the district hope that state Superintendent Tom Torlakson will involve the community in his selection process to replace Vince Matthews.
Matthews is expected to be officially approved this week as the next superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District by the San Francisco Board of Education.
He has served as an overseer of Inglewood schools since October 2015, the fourth administrator appointed to oversee the district since the state began running the district in 2012.
“Our hope is that [the state] will involve the community and the school board in the selection of the next state administrator,” said Joe Bowers of the Education Equity Coalition. “That’s been an issue for us. They’ve brought in inexperienced people and we’ve suffered the consequences. We need more collaboration with the community on who is brought in.”
Christopher Graeber, a field representative representing the district’s non-certified employees, said he is not happy to see Matthews go.
“[The state] appoints administrators and they disappear and we’re frustrated with that,” Graeber said. “We’re very concerned with who will be running Inglewood,” adding that charter schools are eating away at the student population in vulnerable districts like Inglewood, which will now have no one to “guard the gates.”
Kelly Iwamoto, president of the Inglewood Teacher’s Association, shares Graeber’s frustration.
During Matthews’ time with the district, there was no implemented plan to recruit new students and families, she said, nor was priority given to renovating many of the neglected school facilities.
Despite her frustrations, Iwamoto is focused on what’s most important.
“As teachers, we have to focus on the positive,” she said. “We may have these negative things that come and go, but these people aren’t with the kids everyday. Our focus is on how we’re going to make the district better for the kids.
“We need leadership, and it’s up to teachers and parents to provide it. We will continue on our path toward student achievement and make sure that they have everything they need and deserve.”
Bowers said that Matthews was a “tremendous upgrade” from those that came before him, and was the first to have the needed “resume, background and experience to manage a school district like Inglewood.”
Since Matthews was appointed state administrator, the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team scores have gone up, Bowers said. Those improvements have brought the district closer to regaining local governance.
Every year, the team evaluates a school district in five categories: community relations and governance; personnel management; pupil achievement; financial management; and facilities management.
According to the 2016 fiscal and management team’s progress report, the Inglewood Unified School District has seen their average scores in all categories grow since 2014.
For example, the average score for pupil achievement in 2016 earned a 3.32, an increase from 2014’s 2.03 to 2.9 the year after; the community relations and governance section saw its 2014 score of 0.45 rise to 1.35 the following year to 3.78 in 2106.
In looking at those steady evaluation improvements, Bowers believes Matthews will be a great loss to the school district.
Matthews had experience bringing a district out of state oversight, having pulled the Oakland School District out of state oversight. He was serving as the superintendent of the San Jose School District when Torlakson appointed him to the Inglewood post.
Both Bowers and Graeber said it could take several months for Matthews to be replaced; a decision that is made solely by Torlakson.
Five years ago, the Inglewood school district requested financial help from the state to avoid falling into bankruptcy. The request was approved with the passing of Senate Bill 533, which provided $55 million to make the district solvent, but required the school board give up control of the district.
Of the $55 million authorized, the district only borrowed $29 million, which will be paid off over 20 years.
Having the state take over a school district is a rare happening, Graeber said, and it is a great opportunity to turn Inglewood into a model school district.
“Where we have faults, we can change and transform them,” he said. “We need to bring back the public’s confidence in our school district. We hope this thing will develop and a good person will be brought in that can build the spirit of Inglewood.”
Torlakson will appoint an interim administrator while the search for a new superintendent begins.