BEAUFORT — After announcing plans to retire during a Thursday meeting with principals and administrators, county school system Superintendent Mat Bottoms sent an email statement to school employees citing concerns over the political climate locally and at the state level as factors in his decision.
“With the current climate, I feel I am no longer in a position to be an effective leader for the students and educators of Carteret County,” Mr. Bottoms stated in the email. “Despite being as enthusiastic as ever about teaching and learning, the relentless headwinds are counterproductive and are poised to stall our pursuits…”
Mr. Bottoms announced his plans to retire effective Tuesday, Dec. 31 after 39 years with the county school system. He has been superintendent since July 2017.
In an email statement Friday morning, County Board of Education Chairman Travis Day said, “We truly appreciate the 39 years Mat has dedicated to our school system. We are evaluating our options for an interim superintendent, and the search for his replacement.”
As far as Mr. Bottoms’ letter to employees, Mr. Day declined to comment further.
Mr. Bottoms said in the letter to employees he is concerned about the move from a nonpartisan to partisan County Board of Education as part of his reason, as well as the lack of support for public educators by state legislators.
“Prior to 1992, our Board of Education was a partisan board. Many felt the children of Carteret County suffered as a result of politics,” Mr. Bottoms stated. “In 1992, the county voters were allowed a voice and voted overwhelmingly (83% to 17%) to elect a nonpartisan Board of Education. The following years saw truly cohesive Boards working in concert with the educators of the county to bring the students of Carteret County to new heights.”
He continued that educators should be proud of the school system’s accomplishments. However, “as you are well aware, our Commissioners decided in 2017, without the knowledge or consent of the voters (not to mention the Board of Education), to revert to a partisan Board of Education. This past year has seen a rapid return to the political machinations of pre-1992.”
As for politics at the state level, Mr. Bottoms complained about the demands placed on educators, especially low pay and extremely long hours.
“In my opinion, I think it comes down to us (educators) — to our own detriment, we are not a force that creates urgency with the state’s leadership, we are a compliant profession that sees the best in everyone. We truly love people.”
With elections coming up in 2020 and filing for offices beginning in December, Mr. Bottoms encouraged county school employees to vote wisely.
“Please carefully vet each candidate who truly has in his or her heart the best interests of the teaching profession and the children of Carteret County,” he said. “Our teachers and staff deserve respect for the tireless work so skillfully performed every day and our students deserve the very best education possible.”
Mr. Bottoms further stated, “Please call upon me if I can be of service and know that while I may not be in the office, I will be making my thoughts known for the betterment of our schools.”
In a follow-up email by the News-Times to Mr. Bottoms about his future plans, he said, “I don’t have anything to add. As for the future, I have not gotten beyond December 31.”
A drop-in reception to honor Mr. Bottoms will be held from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the school system’s central office in Beaufort. The reception is open to the public. A short program and presentation will take place at 5 p.m.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.