From the pulpit to pupils: More pastors serving on area school boards

More Butler County school boards are featuring pastors as members. In Hamilton, Pastor Shaquila Mathews was elected in November 2019. Lakota's school board appointed Pastor Michael Pearl last month and long-time Middletown and Butler Tech member Gregoray Tyus has been active in local schools for decades. (File Photos\Journal-News)

For area pastors who serve on public school boards, their two work worlds are different but the goal is the same: Help kids and their community.

The recent appointment of a pastor to fill an open seat on the governing board of Lakota Schools is the latest example of a relatively rare occurrence of board’s including pastors among their members.

In September, Pastor Michael Pearl was chosen by Lakota board members to fill an open seat vacated by the resignation of former member Todd Parnell.

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Pearl’s appointment followed the November 2019 election of Pastor Shaquila Mathews to the Hamilton Board of Education.

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And former Middletown Board of Education member, Pastor Gregory Tyus – who in recent years has moved on to membership on the Butler Tech School Board – has long been involved in the city’s schools and the county’s career school system.

It’s not surprising when voters and school boards decide to vote pastors onto the boards that oversee public schools, said Pearl, because like other members from different backgrounds, they often bring with them a wide skill set.

“I believe that everyone’s gifts, talents and abilities are interchangeable,” said Pearl, who leads the New Day Baptist Church and is Director of The Saint Monica’s Recreational Center, both in the Hamilton County city of Lincoln Heights.

Pearl, who is a Liberty Twp. resident and former Lakota school parent of two graduates from the district was chosen by the board among 50 applicants.

“Just like a lay person or church member volunteering in the church sharing their gifts, pastors and clergy can just as well serve in the marketplace,” said the first-time office holder.

“I believe we (pastors) recognize the value of stepping out from behind the pulpit and outside the four walls of the church building to contribute to our communities in broader ways. ."

Mathews, pastor of the Truth & Life Church in Hamilton, is also in the initial year of her first-time in elected office.

“I believe the ability to cast vision as a pastor has helped me be able to move forward with the vision set for Hamilton City Schools. A visionary leader is important,” said Mathews, who is widely known as “Pastor Shaq” due to her years of youth volunteer efforts in the city.

“It has been great serving on the Hamilton school board and bringing my skill set to add to the board and the district. As a pastor being able to connect with people and also relate to them as a parent with children in the district being able to provide decisions on critical issues related to the district."

Tyus, who is both a former Middletown City Council and city schools' board member, leads the United Missionary Baptist Church in the city and has been honored with numerous awards for his volunteer and youth advocacy efforts.

He resigned from the city school board in 2016 but has held a seat on the Butler Tech school board since 2011, including a stint as president of that board, which has members from each of the county’s 10 school districts served by the career school system.

For church officials working in public governance, just as it is for new members from other backgrounds, the first months on a school board involve a steep learning curve of Ohio school laws, finance and procedures.

“While I personally have a lot to learn,” Pearl said. “I’m honored to serve and help however I can utilizing not just my ministerial abilities but my professional and life experiences as well to simply be a blessing and helping my district be the best in the state.”

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