Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews returned. But not unconditionally. | #Education

At 9:05 a.m. on Monday, April 5, San Francisco’s beleaguered public school parents received an email from Dr. Vincent Matthews. 

The district superintendent’s note did not begin “Some personal news…” as so many communiques do these days. But some personal news did follow: While Matthews had in March abruptly announced his retirement and escape by golden parachute from the distressed craft that is the San Francisco Unified School District, he was now hopping back into the district’s cockpit. 

“Given current events — including the large and complex task of returning some students to in-person learning starting April 12 and all of our students by fall 2021 — the Board [of Education] has asked me to delay my retirement for a year,” Matthews wrote. “I strive to maintain the humility and wisdom to change direction with new information and have agreed to remain with SFUSD for another year, until June 30, 2022.”

And there was much rejoicing. 

For among district employees who think Matthews is a great leader and those who dislike him viscerally — and those in-between — there is agreement here: Nobody wants an overwhelmed Board of Education in the midst of suing itself to add a national search for a new superintendent to its overflowing to-do list. Re-opening schools and, basically, just keeping the lights on is burdensome enough.

Not only would searching for Matthews’ successor suck up crucial time and bandwidth, it’s also difficult to predict success in this endeavor. If the recent pool for MTA director was shallow because of Mayor London Breed’s brusque treatment of erstwhile Muni boss Ed Reiskin, Board of Education members’ treatment of Matthews makes a child’s experiment of that. So it’s hard to conceive of just who would be raring to come and work for this school board at this point in time. 

In a year, with schools open, and the city and school district out of crisis mode, things may be different. And the board intuited this, which was one of the reasons it reached out to Matthews. 

So the superintendent ended up doing the Board of Education that had driven him to the brink of early retirement a favor. The board, so much maligned for its inactivity, was active here. This was a much-needed win: Albeit, in reality, more not-a-loss.

And maybe Matthews can come out a winner, too. 

The superintendent did not return our messages as of press time, but multiple sources have confirmed that he did not merely return out of altruism or because he was asked. That’s not to say that Matthews doesn’t care about children and want the best for the district. But he had conditions. 

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