Mayor James Butts, Inglewood Council members and residents rolled out the red carpet for incoming school administrator Dr. Vincent Matthews on Tuesday. The welcome reception was held at La Tijera School, 1415 N. La Tijera. Matthews will replace Dr. Don Brann, who held the position from July 2013 until recently.
Calling Matthews “the greatest addition to our Inglewood Unified School District,” Mayor Butts pledged his confidence in the new trustee. Matthews will have his hands full re-establishing local control of the district which is currently under state receivership. In 2012, the state took over and lent Inglewood $55 million dollars to stay afloat. A little less than half of the money has been used, and Brann has presented a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.
Introducing Matthews to the crowd, Butts said, “When I heard he lasted 5 and a half years in the San Jose School District and survived the Oakland School District, I said, ‘This is the guy for Inglewood.’ I said, ‘I’m all in and I ain’t even heard his voice.’”
An educator for 30 years, Matthews was born and raised in San Francisco. Living in the predominately white neighborhood of the city’s Haight-Ashbury District and attending an all-black church in Hunter’s Point, he “got to see both worlds.” This experience would prove quite valuable as Matthews began his career.
He began tutoring his friends and decided to become a teacher. “I saw the spark of kids learning, and wanted to see that spark over and over again,” he said. Matthews taught in Hunter’s Point, later became a principal and then school administrator in Oakland.
Matthews noted that, “Oakland was in a similar place as Inglewood is in now. I was the fourth administrator in 3 years, but working with my team we were able to turn it around and able to return authority to the governing board in three years.”
He also commented on how low expectations of students in minority communities hinders academic progress. In a reverse example, he spoke about the positive outcomes of students in Hunter’s Point:
“It was100 percent African American in Hunter’s Point, but we had the highest rate of achievement in the entire city,” Matthews said. Some did not want to accept that black kids in a low-income area could do so well academically. Adults at the school were falsely accused of taking standardized tests for the students, he said, but the principal’s faith in the kids is what made the difference. “She said we’re not going to blame it on poverty or where these kids come from!”
That comment drew a big round of applause.
“Your zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of education you should receive, but so often in this country it so often does,” Matthews said.
“Everyone knows you can have safe streets but if you don’t have quality schools you can only go so high,” Butts commented.