School district board names former Malibu High principal interim superintendent

Mike Matthews was principal for Malibu High School for 11 years and is credited with developing that school.

By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times

Former Malibu High School principal Mike Matthews has been named interim superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District while it undertakes a yearlong public process to recruit and hire a replacement for John Deasy.

Deasy starts as superintendent at Prince George’s County Public Schools in suburban Maryland on April 1 and will be splitting his time between California and there until then.

Matthews, a Trancas resident, has been assistant superintendent for one and a half years and will oversee day-to-day operations of the 14,000-student district while the public search is undertaken.

“We have a lot of work on the table,” Matthews said. “We have to hire three principals, a couple of assistant principals and a district math coordinator. And we have to pass the budget.”

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Simmering tensions at Santa Monica High School remain the biggest issue in the district, Matthews said. This week’s board meeting has been moved from Malibu to district headquarters in Santa Monica because of the large number of Santa Monica High parents who want to speak.

“Samohi has had a lot of press because of the issues of tensions between groups,” Matthews said. “We want to give the parents there a chance to address that.”

As a result, the March 23 board meeting has been moved from Santa Monica to Malibu High School.

Matthews was principal at Malibu High two years ago when the board approved a controversial equity fund that levied a 15 percent tax on unrestricted donations to SMMUSD, with the proceeds distributed on a weighted scale throughout the district.

“I came out in support of the gift policy,” Matthews said. “The negatives that it caused at Malibu High were far outweighed by the positives it raised at poor schools.”

Matthews became Malibu High Principal in 1993, just as the school, which had formerly been only a junior high, was adding tenth grade. He is credited with developing the high school over the years.

Of all his accomplishments over the 11 years, Matthews said in an August 2004 interview, “I think that one of the most exciting was just building the high school.”

He worked on hiring teachers and creating curriculums, and he watched as the first 96 graduates received diplomas in 1996.

Years earlier, in his first teaching position, Matthews had started the first Advanced Placement class at San Lorenzo High near East Bay, so he had experience fostering superior education programs. He made sure AP courses were a priority at Malibu High. Matthews taught Malibu High’s AP history course himself. Parents said they were impressed by his decision to remain teaching a class at Malibu High while serving as its principal.

Matthews also oversaw implementation of Malibu High’s sports program, including constructing the track and pool, and was involved in forming the relationship with the Malibu Boys and Girls Club, which is now on Malibu High’s campus.

He grew up outside Little Rock, Ark. where he was student body president of his high school. After graduation, he attended Stanford University, planning to become a lawyer like his father until he “just fell in love with” teaching while volunteering for a tutoring program.

He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in international education from Stanford, then taught for five years at San Lorenzo High near East Bay. During his last year at San Lorenzo he earned an administration credential from U.C. Berkley.

In 1990, Matthews took his first administrative position as assistant principal of Lodi High near Sacramento, then after a year and a half became assistant principal of Delta Sierra Middle School, also near Sacramento. In 1993 he took the job as Malibu High principal.

Matthews has two children, Ryan, a ninth-grader at Malibu High, and Dawson, 3.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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