A new Seward Public School board member is excited to take on the new role and represent the voices of Seward citizens.
Matt Hastings, originally from Pender, Nebraska, said he’s excited to do the best he can for the kids and citizens of Seward.
Hastings went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he met his wife, Lindsay.
“After we got married, as many young couples do, we started looking around to see where we wanted to live and start a family,” he said. “We had some friends that lived in Seward and so we moved out here.”
Other than the school board, Hastings is the executive director for the Nebraska Statewide Workforce and Education Reporting System. He said NSWERS researches how well the education system in Nebraska is producing the workforce needed in the state.
“That’s really what I’ve spent my career doing is education and workforce development research,” he said. “I’ve done it in a nonprofit space, state government, university and for-profit businesses, but it’s all concentrated really on the area of education and workforce development research.”
Hastings said his position is partly what has motivated him to be involved with the school board.
With his background in the NSWERS, Hastings believes it helps him with his position on the school board because it helps to keep a focus on the outcomes of the education system.
“For me in particular, I’m very interested in how well we are preparing young people for the workforce,” he said. “As a school board member, my work in the education and workforce research space helps me constantly come back to ‘for what purpose are we doing these things?’ For me, it’s a lot about helping students achieve their preferred futures.”
Hastings said whether a student’s preferred future is college, military, entrepreneurship or something else, he wants to help them achieve that goal.
Hastings also said he feels that local school boards are essential for people to have a voice.
“It’s essential that local, public schools have buy-in and feedback from their constituents,” he said. “Local school boards are a way for communities to do that. We all have a shared ownership and responsibility to ensure that our children are receiving the best education possible.”
Throughout his campaign, Hastings said he talked to residents and has three main goals based on what they said and his background. He said the first one is ensuring that Seward Public Schools is able to recruit and retain the best teachers.
“What we know from about 50 years of education research is that the single most important factor that a school can actually control in affecting student academic outcomes is the teacher,” he said. “The teacher matters more than the curriculum, the books, bell schedules and technology. We have to keep a focus on what we can do to retain them here but also attract the very best teachers possible.”
The second thing Hastings wants to focus on is the importance of college and career readiness for all students.
“The operative word in that phrase is the ‘and’ in college and career readiness,” he said. “It’s not just about preparing young people for the next round of education, it’s about helping students get to whatever their preferred future is. We have massive workforce challenges in the state right now, so providing students with the very best opportunities for work-based learning, I think, is absolutely essential.”
The final thing Hastings stressed is developing meaningful partnerships with parents, businesses and the community.
“School districts don’t operate effectively in isolation,” he said. “We are all stakeholders in our local school districts and it’s so important for us to continue to look at ways to engage parents in the process of the school district.”
Hastings said it’s important to engage with local businesses for learning opportunities for students and engage with the community to ensure the school district works well with organizations and institutions in Seward.
Overall, Hastings said he believes Seward Public Schools is a great place for students.
“We have great teachers and great administrators,” he said. “Seward is an education-focused community.”
Hastings said Seward has many great options for education, including Concordia University, St. John Luthern School, St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School, Our Redeemer Lutheran School and more.
“There’s just a lot of focus on education in a lot of different places,” he said. “That helps make the education experience really good for kids.”