By Steve Pickett

PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – There is a new look — and a new leader — for public schools in the Plano Independent School District. Superintendent Richard Matkin thinks that it is time for change. “Education is changing,” he told CBS 11 News. “I think kids learn a different way.” Matkin oversees 3,800 teachers assigned to educate the 56,000 students in his school system.

The plan, Matkin said, is to shift away from the old ‘teacher lectures, student listens’ routine. Classrooms, for example, have been replaced with new learning lounges. “They can feel more relaxed. It’s not as confining,” Matkin said. Think of it like Plano ISD 2.0. “We want to retain the core values, but we want to be progressive. We want to be stimulating, on the edge in moving forward in education.”

Matkin has spent 38 years in education, starting as a teacher. He has been with Plano ISD for 12 years, most recently as the district’s Chief Financial Officer. Matkin has watched state funding for the district drop $1,000 per student, he said — $55 million over a two-year period. And he doesn’t like it at all. “As we try to meet the needs of a population in Texas that is changing, you need resources,” Matkin explained. “And right when you ratchet up the standards, you’re lowering the funding.”

But funding and learning lounges aside, Matkin believes that people are what’s most important. “The most important asset we have is the classroom teacher,” he said. “There’s no replacement for that.” Those teachers now have a new look in their classrooms, and a familiar face leading the way.

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