Opening Day of School!

September 8, 2022

My apologies for the three-week span between posts. I should have expected it. My new job takes a lot of my time. First things first: I love it. I love the people I have met, and I’m inspired by all that my new district does so well. It’s a spectacular place.

I’m lucky for many reasons, but one of them is that I have taken jobs, from teaching to being a superintendent, in six different districts in my career, and I have always been surrounded by wonderful students and caring, talented people who love what they do. My new district is not one bit different.

From time to time, I will take what I have shared with my community and make that the focus of my blog post. I wrote the email below to all employees after the first three days of school. During those days, I visited all 34 schools in the Placentia – Yorba Linda Unified School District. That’s a lot of schools! After digesting those visits over the Labor Day weekend, I sent this email to all employees.


The first day of school.  It’s an annual tradition that stands alone.  Opening Day in Major League Baseball comes close, but I can’t think of much else that does.  It’s a day when we look forward to renewing friendships, meeting new people, learning something new, doing as well or better than the previous year, improving our habits, and taking one more step to whatever is next.  For students, there are thirteen first days of school between kindergarten and high school graduation – and all of them should be special.

And for all of us who work in PYLUSD, we get to experience a whole lot more.  Last Wednesday was my 55th first day of school!  And though it feels far different to experience the first day as a student and as an employee, it still brings that same excitement.  In baseball, the fans, players, managers, groundskeepers, and all of the other employees have vastly different experiences, but they all look forward to that special first day and all that the season might bring.  Fifty-five years in, I still get excited, and I know that here in PYLUSD, I am surrounded by good people feeling that same sense of positive anticipation.

I was lucky enough to visit all 34 of our schools during the first three days of our school year. Thanks to the efforts of all of us, our campuses and our employees were ready for our students as they walked into our quads, hallways, cafeterias, and, of course, our classrooms.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Our campuses are clean, well-manicured, and welcoming places for our students and our community.  I have worked all over this state, and I have never seen anyone do this better than we do.
  • We were ready as we served more breakfasts to more students than ever before.
  • In a time when staffing challenges are everywhere, we had highly talented employees transporting, greeting, teaching, and supporting our students on every campus.
  • In talking to many of our employees, my favorite comment was, “I was born to do this work.”  That sense of pride and passion was evident on every campus in our district.
  • Teaching and learning were in full swing on day one.
  • Like almost every first day, the temperature outside was way too high!  We used the shade well, and all of us appreciated our air conditioning.  And when a few classroom AC systems glitched, our Maintenance and Facilities staff rushed to address it as quickly as possible.  It was very impressive.
  • All of our new students, including our K and TK students, were seamlessly integrated into our schools, and as we enter this week, they are now fully included in the PYLUSD family.
  • The schedules at our secondary schools worked extremely well.  Most people do not sufficiently appreciate the challenge of scheduling nearly 8,000 high school students and over 4,000 middle school students into 6 or 7 periods during the day.  We did a spectacular job, and for the small number of students who sought changes, we jumped on it immediately.

And in all of this, there were smiles, there was warmth, there was hope, there was pride, and there was a strong sense of positivity in every student and employee I encountered.

For all of this, I say, “THANK YOU!”  Thanks for everything it took to be ready for the first day of school.  Thanks for loving and welcoming each and every student with such positivity and warmth.  Thanks for inspiring our students to new heights and for supporting them whenever they need it.  And thanks to each of you for being the heart and soul of PYLUSD.


I am so proud to work alongside every employee here, as we remember the excitement, the hope, and all of the possibility that comes with the first day of school.  Let’s all have a great week two!

Then yesterday, we sent out a my welcome back video to all families and all employees. I’m lucky to have a team of leaders, teachers, staff, and students who all contributed to the creation of this video. You can see that video here.

To all of you who are working in schools or have kids attending them, I hope the start of your year has been outstanding! Thanks to all of you who have made our schools better and better over the years, and I’m looking forward to another great year

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  1. Marla says:

    Congratulations Mike! They are very, very, lucky to have you.
    Also, best wishes to Ryan and Yesenia!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Nice to hear from you, Marla, and thank you!

  2. Bill Sampson says:

    Congrats on Opening Day Mike. I remember “opening days” in South Pasadena in the 50s and 60s. They were always a week or so after Labor Day but still unbelievably hot (and in those days REALLY smoggy) with no A/C. As a result I always preferred Opening Day at the stadium. I still truly enjoy Opening Day at Santa Monica College – a GREAT opportunity to intereact with teachers, staff and most importantly the young people (and some not so young like Rosemary and me) striving to improve and educate themselves.

    Enjoy your year of non-retirement. I hope I am not alone in hoping that someday we in Malibu will be able to offer you, whether or not you’re in a position to accept is a question for another day, the superintendency of our own Malibu School District.

    Have a great year.


    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Bill. I’m glad I missed the smoggy days here. I traveled here in the 80s and experienced it. I’m grateful that leaders took hard actions to get that to go away. It’s a better world. But the heat remains. I had similar experiences to you in my non-AC’d Little Rock Arkansas classrooms. Pretty brutal. And yet we learned…

  3. Mark says:

    A lot of superintendents out there and I sure they are all great but you are one of the extra mile guys and they are lucky to have someone so caring. Mark

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Nice to hear from you Mark, and thank you.

  4. Kevin J McCarthy says:

    What a nice way to start a school year Mike. The digital arts work produced a really nice product. Student led production?

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Kevin. Yes – the students were amazing! Led by a strong teacher who has created a highly professional environment. And they were supported by a former student is already immersed in professional videography activities. All very impressive.

  5. We miss you. We miss your insight, your devotion to your staff and students, and your ability to bring everyone together to accomplish their goals and give their best.
    Jady Vonderlieth

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Jady. Have a great year.

  6. Ali Rabiei says:

    What a great post, Mike. Thank you!

    I never thought of it that way… I just now experienced my thirty-first first day of school. I have a ways to go to catch up to your #55, but now further appreciate each first day of school I will experience as an educator. Thank you for this.

    PYLUSD is so lucky to have you, Mike. We miss you!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      The good thing about you not yet being at #55 is that you’re a lot younger and your body doesn’t creak as much in the morning! Thanks for reading, and thanks for your kind words, Ali. I hope your school year is going well.

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