Education

Mixed feelings as Inglewood schools leader leaves for San Francisco

State Assemblyman Mike Gipson, left, and State Senator Isadore Hall, center, talk to Inglewood Unified state administrator Vince Matthews. Matthews is leaving the district to become superintendent in San Francisco.
State Assemblyman Mike Gipson, left, and State Senator Isadore Hall, center, talk to Inglewood Unified state administrator Vince Matthews. Matthews is leaving the district to become superintendent in San Francisco.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Listen to story

00:50
Download this story 0MB

Vince Matthews, the trustee appointed in 2015 to run the Inglewood Unified School District, told staff on Wednesday that he’s stepping down to become superintendent of San Francisco's public schools.

Matthews was the fourth state appointed trustee since 2012 when the school board and superintendent lost decision-making authority after requesting a state bailout loan to avoid bankruptcy.

“This was an extremely difficult decision, but I needed to take this opportunity to be closer to my family while returning to the district where I began both my student and teaching career,” Matthews said in a written statement released by the California Department of Education.

Matthews, who’s African American, appeared to have the support of many black elected and civic leaders in Inglewood.

“He’s strengthened our financial systems, he’s strengthened our academic programs,” said Inglewood Unified School Board member D’Artagnan Scorza.

Scorza said Matthews took into account the elected school board’s proposals.

“We now have a trauma initiative that’s addressing adverse childhood experiences throughout the district," Scorza said. "We’ve launched My Brother’s Keeper throughout the district; we’ve launched a new school and district newsletter." 

Matthews’ departure comes as Inglewood Unified faces several fiscal challenges on its way by back to repaying the state’s loan, securing its finances and learning. State officials will consider returning local control to a school board once some or all of those have been met.

“Two years was not enough,” said Miriam Morris, whose first grade son attends an Inglewood elementary school.

“I feel like we’ve made some really great strides, but there’s still a ton of work left to do and some big decisions that’ll need to be made in the next couple of years and I just want to know that we’re going to have a leader who’s going to take us there.”

She and others said one of those big decisions is how to spend construction bond funds to renovate dilapidated schools.

The other big decision involves how to stop students and their families from leaving the school district. The school district has lost 13 percent of its student enrollment in the last five years, a figure three times as high as that for L.A. County.

Morris helped start a Spanish language dual immersion program that she and Matthews said attracted some families who would have opted for charter schools or schools outside Inglewood.

“If you have a good product, people will come to it,” said Chris Graeber, a field representative for California Professional Employees, the union that represents Inglewood Unified’s non-teaching staff.

“The public now has the power to shop [for schools]. We have members who get their hair done and there are people passing out flyers for charter schools. Inglewood is doing none of that.”

A charter high school is set to open in the fall, which at full capacity will enroll 650 students. Matthews had said the school district stands to lose $6.5 million in student funding if all those students come from existing Inglewood schools’ enrollment.

California’s State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson said he’d appoint an interim trustee during the selection process to pick Matthews’ replacement.