A first in nearly a century: 2 women lead Hamilton City Schools board of education

For the nearly century-long existence of the Hamilton City Schools there has never been two women who have held the top two positions of power on the board of education.

That is until earlier this month when long-time business and civic leader Margaret “Mag” Baker and former Hamilton Citizen of the Year The Rev. Shaquila “Pastor Shaq” Mathews were unanimously elected as president and vice president of the Hamilton Board of Education.

According to Superintendent Mike Holbrook, research of the districts’ records revealed the historic first for the 9,000-student school system.

“When referencing records from 1930 to the present, there has yet to be a case in Hamilton City Schools where both the president and vice president of the board of education were women,” said Holbrook.

“On several occasions, the board of education president or vice president was female — but this is the first time, according to the available information, that both are women dating back to 1930.”

It’s more than symbolic, said Baker, who now takes over as president from member Laurin Sprague who held the position for two years.

“It recognizes that diversity is important,” said Baker, a former bank executive and Butler County United Way President and CEO.

From 2007 to 2020, no women were elected or appointed to serve on the five-member city school board.

Baker was appointed to fill a seat vacancy caused by the unexpected death of member Tom Alf in 2019.

The board oversees one of the largest school systems in southwest Ohio with an annual operating budget of more than $100 million and more than 1,200 employees.

“It’s a milestone and we both have great leadership skills. We understand Hamilton … and have seen all the changes that have taken place in the city over time. And I can’t be prouder of where our city is at this time and where are schools are at this time,” said Baker.

Baker noted both women bring a deep, personal history with Hamilton to their new roles leading the board.

“And both Pastor Shaq and I are women of faith and that is important with how we look at our decisions as well.”

Mathews is a graduate of the city schools and her high-profile civic efforts have brought her wide acclaim since moving back to Hamilton in 2014.

She said Baker and herself are eager to put their familiarity with Hamilton to good use as they lead their colleagues in overseeing the district.

“Mag is amazing in her leadership in terms of her leading different boards in her career and a very savvy, caring and nurturing person. We both serve on a lot of different boards and committees … and we spend a lot of our time being servant leaders,” said Mathews.

“And we both share the same sort of goals of seeing our city be a better place.”

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