ELECTION 2016: Archer brings legacy of educational ideas; Mathews leans on building relationships
* Editor’s note: A profile on Arnold Mathews, the Republican candidate for Cherokee County Board of Education, District 2, was published in the Cherokee Scout on March 2. It can be read online in tandem with this article.
As a third-generation educator, Kerry Archer is hoping to follow in his family’s footsteps to a seat on the school board.
Archer is a Democratic candidate in District 2 for a seat on the Cherokee County Board of Education. After briefly considering life in the seminary, Archer quickly switched back to education.
“God spoke to me in a forceful voice that it was not what He had in mind for me,” said Archer, whose father and grandfather were both school board members in Illinois. He taught second and third grade for many years in Illinois, plus was a curriculum supervisor in his district, which gave him experience with many elements of a greater education plan.
“Once you spend time outside of the classroom and see the bigger picture, it changes,” Archer said. “You start to understand why some decisions are made that you didn’t before. You see that one piece moves, and it causes these two or three pieces to move as well.”
Archer stresses the sacrosanctness of the teacher-student relationship as one of his core educational values.
“Teachers need to be protected in their classrooms,” he said. “We need to make sure as school board members and administration that the very special connection between teacher and student is protected at all costs. Things like clerical responsibilities and other things that can be handled by volunteers or someone else need to be taken off the teachers’ plates.”
The first-time candidate also touts the importance of giving teachers the resources they need to educate our youth.
“Teachers have to have the materials, the training and the chance to learn new ideas,” he said. “If you are never exposed to what someone else is doing, even if it’s in your own building, there will be great practices in teaching that you will never know about.”
As for financial plans, Archer said he supports the community school model and reiterated that he wants to see the classroom protected as much as possible.
“The classroom is the gem. Anything that has to be cut – if something needs to be cut – it has to be outside the classroom,” he said.
Archer also supports art and music programs being sustained, as well as getting parents involved with their children’s education.
“We have to educate parents as well as children,” he said. “Things like literacy nights, and other ways to engage parents and get them involved. The benefits of just reading to your child can make a huge difference.”
From a curriculum standpoint, Archer wants to see students make gains on what is being stressed in modern education plans.
“We are less and less on rote kinds of things,” he said. “The days of kids memorizing multiplication facts or spelling words are waning, as we literally have those things in the palm of our hand.
“It doesn’t matter whether we like Common Core or not, it’s here now, so we might as well get the parts out of it that help Cherokee County and go from there.”
Archer, owner of the Curiosity Shop bookstore in downtown Murphy, has visited nearly every school in the county and likes the positive environments he has seen.
“When you go into a school and see things on the wall, friendly people willing to help, things like that, it makes a difference,” he said. “The children have to feel at home there, and the principal sets the tone for the school.”
Archer added that Superintendent Jeana Conley’s leadership has been a “gold mine” for the school system since she took over the top job.
Mathews leans on 17 years of building relationships
Murphy – Retirement has been quiet these past six months for longtime school administrator Arnold Mathews, and he’s ready to get involved again.
Mathews is running for the Republican nomination for the open school board seat in District 2. The primary is Tuesday, March 15.
Mathews, 52, of Peachtree has been an assistant principal at Hiwassee Dam and Murphy Elementary, and has been principal at Martins Creek and Murphy Elementary for a combined service of around 17 years in the school system as an administrator before retiring in August.
Mathews has never held public office. He is the choir director at Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church, and his wife is a Spanish teacher at Tri-County Early College. All three of their children graduated from the Murphy school system.
“I had a lot of people encourage me to run,” Mathews said. “I do fell like having been in the system for more than 17 years that I have a lot of knowledge of the inner workings of the schools, and I think that will help me make good decisions for the students.”
Mathews said being a parent and an administrator for many years offers him a lot of ways to look at school issues.
“A lot of people know me because I’ve been in a lot of different communities, and they know my work ethic and that I have a heart for kids,” Mathews said. “I have a lot of different perspectives I can look at as a school leader, having been a parent and seeing it from both sides.”
The first-time candidate stressed parental involvement as a key for successful schools.
“Our schools do a good job with that, especially in the elementary schools, but by the time the student gets to that middle school age, that parent involvement starts to decline,” he said. “I think that’s a great time for parents to be involved in their children’s education. The more inviting and welcoming we can make our schools to parents, the better.”
Mathews said he would like to see more unsung teachers get due honors from the community.
“I think we have a lot of talented and competent educators in our district,” he said. “Some of the people who are very talented like to stay on the fringes and not seek that attention, but we need to encourage those who are working hard and offer a lot to the students.”
Like most of the other school board candidates this year, Mathews likes the community school model and wants to take steps to keep it financially viable.
“I think the community school concept is very important for students,” he said. “I think when it comes to saving money for the schools, there are some tough decisions that have to be made at a certain time, but we need to look at other ways that we can save money if possible.”
While he was at Murphy Elementary, Mathews stressed leadership training with the students and said the school was on course to become a “Leader In Me” school, which is a national distinction, but the process was not completed.
“Through decisions in the district, that did not continue, and that was a disappointment to me,” Mathews said. “That was a lost opportunity for our school system. We need to encourage leadership skills in our students as much as possible.”
Mathews said he believes his record and the relationships he has built will carry him to the November election.
“I have gotten to know a lot of students, parents and grandparents over the years. People know me, know what I stand for, know the man that I am,” Mathews said. “I would hope when they cast their ballot is that they know Arnold Mathews and he’s someone I can trust.”