Three offer best hope for Mathews school district

It is true we, as an editorial board, have strongly urged the Mathews Board of Education to find a “Plan B” after five failed attempts to pass a bond issue that would have built a new K-12 school building.

Considering that Mathews Local School District voters have said “no” so many times, we have stood by that position.

In recent weeks, we have had the opportunity to meet with several candidates seeking to fill three available seats on Mathews Board of Education, hearing most of them discuss why they maintain their belief it is imperative the district pass a bond issue to replace the aging buildings.

Three candidates in particular — incumbent board President Tarin Brown and political newcomers James Pegg and Thomas Gifford — impressed us with their knowledge of district issues, including budgets, enrollment, curriculum, state report cards, transparency and community involvement. These three also maintained their stated desire to fight for new building construction at least one more time.

The two newcomers, who each have young children in the district, specifically said they believe the voters lacked accurate information in past attempts to pass the bond issue. They believe with complete and accurate facts, voters might change their minds.

We appreciate their eagerness, but still encourage the new board of education — regardless of who wins — to go back to the drawing board with an open mind about considering all options regarding district facilities and structures. We are hopeful that new membership may bring creative new ideas.

We were pleased to hear Brown acknowledge his district is pursuing talks regarding collaborative efforts with neighboring districts, including Liberty and Brookfield Local School districts.

The three candidates said they would be open to considering other options. That could include repairs to the existing structures or new construction of a building to hold fewer grades.

On other important topics, Gifford spoke about district enrollment and called for an analysis to see why students are leaving the district. He produced charts and data exhibiting details about the effects of open enrollment and community schools on Mathews enrollment.

Pegg called for improved transparency and adopting better communication tactics, including more online and social media efforts.

Brown discussed his hope to continue the existing purchasing cycle for textbooks and student Chromebooks. He also stressed the need to maintain a good relationship with safety forces in the schools along with a curriculum that educates students on the dangers of opioids and other illegal drug use.

In deciding endorsements, we always view the totality of the candidate and issues. We avoid deciding an endorsement based solely on one issue. Overall, we believe these three candidates — Brown, Gifford and Pegg — put forth the strongest hope to guide Mathews Local School District into the future, with or without new building construction.