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Newton County School Superintendent Gary Mathews was recently awarded the Outstanding Leadership in School/Community Relations Award from the Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA). Jim Weidhaas, president of GSPRA, presented Mathews the award at the organization’s annual conference in Macon on Monday, October 22.

The Outstanding Leadership in School/Community Relations Award recognizes individuals, other than those directly responsible for a public relations program, who have proven themselves to be leaders in using effective school/community relations to build support for public education in their community.

Shortly after Mathews’ arrival in Newton County, he began meeting with community groups, civic organizations, PTO’s, school faculties, newspaper editorial boards, etc. and has done so ever since. To keep Newton County School System stakeholders informed, Mathews writes a monthly End-of-Month Notes publication that is distributed to all NCSS employees and Newton County community leaders/stakeholders via email. He also writes a bi-monthly column, “Supe’s Corner” for the county’s legal organ, The Covington News. These columns often include the latest in educational research and how those ideas are being implemented in Newton County Schools.

In addition to his End-of-Month Notes, Supe’s Corner, and stakeholder emails, Dr. Mathews also holds bi-monthly Teacher Forum meetings and twice each year he holds a public Community Forum to discuss the latest issues facing Newton County Schools. He also participates in numerous public speaking engagements at the various civic organizations in our county—Covington Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club of Covington, Covington Lions Club, Newton County Chamber of Commerce, etc. He also makes time to speak at various PTO events in the district.

As soon as he arrived in the district, Dr. Mathews authorized the PR Department to launch the school system into social media with the creation of a Facebook and Twitter page. When it became apparent that deep budget cuts would need to be made to keep the district financially secure, Dr. Mathews made certain to include the community and all stakeholders in the decision-making process by surveying teachers, employees, and the community at large before making any decisions on which cuts to make. His transparency in the budget process was praised in the local media and in public.

“The Georgia School Public Relations Association is ‘the Voice for Public Education,’ so it’s a pleasure to recognize and honor someone from outside our organization who understands the importance of effective communication and actively practices it every day,” said Weidhaas. “Dr. Gary Mathews is a shining example of how sound public engagement strategies can build understanding and trust in public education and support student achievement at all levels.”

The GSPRA award is not the first time Mathews has been publicly recognized for his outstanding communication practices. In 1996, he was named “Louisiana Communicator of the Year” by the Public Relations Association of Louisiana.

For more information, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools, at