My name is Gerry Matthews, and I’ve lived in Haddam for thirty-six years. I am proud of my two grown children and four talented, good-looking grandchildren, all of whom accompanied me in running the Haddam Neck 5K road race this Labor Day weekend where I came in first in my age division. I have served on the Haddam Historical Society Board of Directors, was a founding member of the Farmers’ Market and Higganum Vision Group and currently serve as President of St. Peter Church Parish Council and hold the office of Lecturer with the Knights of Columbus. I’m the oldest of five kids. My father was a noted stained glass artist; Princeton’s chapel, West Point Academy, the UN Building and Bewley’s in Dublin, Ireland are a few of the windows he created. Before raising our family, my mother was executive secretary with a law firm. She concluded her career as secretary to the President of St. Joseph’s University in PA.
I am thankful for having received an excellent education. I worked my way through college, completing my undergraduate degree at a liberal arts university with a major in physics and a minor in math. I hold nine electronics/computer-related patents, started three companies and in 1980, received the “Instrument of the Year” award from Science magazine for a product I developed. In 1995 I became an apprentice for a master woodworker in New London and currently enjoy making special furniture and woodwork pieces for friends, family and special installations. In 2013 I created six Flying Monkey whirligigs for the Florence Griswold Museum’s “Wizard of OZ” Faerie Village exhibit.
I am interested in representing the interests of the people of Haddam as a member of the Board of Education. I highly value the benefits of a good education for the individual, the family and the community. Everyone in today’s fast-moving society needs to understand how life works in order to survive and thrive. In addition to the benefits for the individual, education advances the interests of the community by developing citizens who will enhance the greater good for everyone. My extensive educational experience has confirmed for me the paramount importance of gifted teachers. I intend to be a strong advocate for teachers and their empowerment.
Haddam spends over seventy-five percent of its tax revenues on its school system; a huge amount. Just a walk through any of our school buildings and grounds demonstrates how our kids are treated to the best education facility and resources that money can buy.
I believe it’s important to measure this very sizable ongoing community investment by the benefit it provides our town. Our taxes are meant to insure that our town has the resources to provide a safe and satisfactory life and future for its citizens.
However, most of the kids we generously nurture leave town. Why? Often it’s because the lack of jobs and the high taxes makes living here very expensive. Then their parents, empty nesters, leave too, to follow the kids and/or to reduce their living expenses. Our lavish investment in these kids’ futures becomes some other community’s asset and, at the same time, presents a deterrent to Haddam’s economic growth. This has become a vicious cycle in our town.
This dangerous spiral we face is intensified by the failure of the state to treat Haddam fairly through an equitable allocation of the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) support. The state has its own financial burdens which it is attempting to lessen by reducing expenses. We need to adopt a similar approach by making sure that our funds are spent wisely and eliminate expenses that do not benefit the education of our kids. Despite a declining student population, the administrative layers in our education system have increased. We were spoiled by the nuclear power plant largess and need to carefully examine the advisability of adding to the spiraling administrative layers we have built up in our education budget. We need to restore the frugal New England habits of our heritage and concentrate our spending on assuring teaching excellence for our kids.
Although SAT Math score is weaker than I’d like to see, Haddam does enjoy a good reputation for a quality school system. This reputation must be maintained.
Haddam is confronted by an imbalance that must be addressed and fixed. We need to focus on essentials, emphasize a return to the basic needs of students and avoid ever spiraling levels of administration. I intend to work hard as a member of the Board of Education to thoroughly examine the cost structure of our education system while enhancing the education benefits provided by our schools. I urge every Haddam voter to turn out and show by your vote for me that you want your Board of Education to concentrate on rewarding teacher excellence while reducing administration expenses so that our town can thrive into the future.