District News


Brent Elementary Principal John Mattingly: "I feel such a good feeling about the work we're doing."

Posted on: September 28, 2015

There are many ways to measure the quality of a school district, but chief among them is the quality and character of its people. We think it’s time you met more of them. Below is the first in a periodic series of question-and-answer pieces featuring the Finneytown staff.

Meet new Brent Elementary principal, John Mattingly. 

What do you want Brent families to know about you?

JM: I’m married, and my wife Sherry is a teacher. My daughter Emma is a preschooler and my son Sam is 20 months. I’m originally from Indiana and went to Indiana University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I later earned a master’s in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati and wanted to start my career in Cincinnati. I used to come to Cincinnati for baseball games. I love the hills, the water, the people.

I was a first-grade teacher in Lebanon City Schools and then a first- and third-grade teacher in Lakota and later an assistant principal. I’ve coached junior high football and high schoolgirls basketball and baseball.

What did you love about school when you were a kid?

My mother was a kindergarten teacher for 32 years and when I was little, instead of a backpack, I carried a teacher bag – a Crayola bag emulating my mother. I wanted to take school seriously. And I always loved to read.

But your life wasn’t always easy, was it?

Everybody goes through hardship in life, and everybody needs support. Growing up, I lived in a shelter for a while with my mother and my sisters. We were on food stamps. I knew what it was like to be in an aisle at the grocery store with two carts of food and see my mom cry because she didn’t enough money to pay for it.

How did you decide to go into education?

I had a teacher in fifth grade – Tom Scribner – who changed my life. I was somebody who didn’t have a lot of confidence. I was reserved, and kids picked on me. Mr. Scribner got me out of my comfort zone. He got me to raise my hand, to enter into conversations. He was entertaining, constantly flying around, doing small-group things. He instilled confidence and risk-taking.

Tell us about what you see when you look at the students at Brent.

I see happy kids. We have great kids here, great families and a great community. I see families coming here for a better life – that’s so respectable. And I see families who have been here for such a long time and are still so engaged.

What does it take to be principal of a K-2 building?

I’m an eternal optimist, and to be in my role, you need to be very patient and very empathetic. You have to realize that these are 5, 6 and 7-year-olds and everything doesn’t have to be perfect. The point isn’t to be punitive, but to use things as a teachable moment. I want our students to be, not just good readers or good mathematicians, but good citizens.

Do you already have favorite places or moments in Finneytown?

When I’m driving down Winton Road and I come to the business district and I see all the light-posts and the flowers, and I see the baseball diamond with my school right there – and it’s all safe and so connected, that’s a great moment. When I’m driving home on Friday, I feel so good. I don’t care if it’s 5 o’clock or 8 o’clock. I feel such a good feeling about the work we’re doing as a staff, as a community, as a district. I think we can be a beacon for other places.

Are there rules you live by?

Every day I make sure I tell my wife I love her and I’m thankful for her. I make sure I never leave the house without kissing her and kissing my kids, even if they’re sleeping – because if I did, it would bug me all day. And faith is very important to me.