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Posted: June 22, 2013 7:18 p.m.

Goodbye, Dr. Mathews

"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow a weak trumpet."

-- Theodore Hesburgh,

President, Notre Dame University

In seven days, the Newton County community will lose a community leader, a champion of our children and a man of integrity.

Dr. Gary Mathews, superintendent of Newton County Schools, will be riding off into the sunset, returning to his native Louisiana to spend time with his father and his family, and to get ready to attend his beloved LSU Tigers’ football games.

Our editorial board met with Mathews three years ago upon his arrival. We expressed our concerns about the quality of education our students were receiving.

He laid out a five-year plan that he believed would ensure that this county’s failing education system would be turned around and be moving in a positive, progressive direction.

Quite frankly, we were a little skeptical of Mathews’ goals and timetable.

He also promised that his administration would be transparent and that everyone from students to the media would know what was going on. After dealing with administrations that circled the wagons every time there was an issue, we were, again, skeptical.

We’re no longer skeptical. Gary Mathews has proven to be a man of his word.

In three short years, our school system has been turned around to the point that we now look at the future of education in our community with hope and excitement.

The openness with which Mathews has dealt with every issue regarding the district or any issue we had questions about — be it on the record or off the record — has been more than refreshing.

It is bittersweet to see Mathews depart. We respect and admire the fact that he feels it is time to give his family their due. We are sad when we consider this: If in three years his programs produced such a turnaround, what could have been accomplished if he had stayed longer?

We wish Dr. Gary Mathews the very best. We have no doubt that after a period of time, he will be riding to the rescue of another school district that needs his kind of leadership.

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