School board announces new superintendent pick

Anthony Lewis was named the new superintendent in USD 497.

Submitted Photo

Anthony Lewis was named the new superintendent in USD 497.

By Anahita Hurt, Online Co-Editor

Anthony Lewis, a Kansas City, Mo., school official, will be the next superintendent of Lawrence USD 497.

Today, the USD 497 school board announced it intends to hire Lewis during the board’s meeting tonight.

Lewis is the assistant superintendent in Kansas City, Mo. Lewis and the other finalist, Jayson Strickland, were introduced to the community during forums last week. Strickland is a Kansas City, Kan., deputy superintendent.

“Dr. Lewis’ passion for education and his commitment to putting students first was abundantly clear to the board,” school board president Shannon Kimball said in a press release. “He has a proven record of improving student achievement while building strong relationships with students, families, teachers and the community. We are excited for the future of Lawrence Public Schools under Dr. Lewis’ leadership and look forward to working with him.”

Lewis holds four degrees, including two in special education, one in educational leadership, and one in educational leadership and policy analysis. He has worked as a special education teacher, science teacher, vice principal, principal and assistant superintendent.

I’m always an advocate for the underdog. That’s really why I became an educator.”

— Anthony Lewis

“I chose to become an educator because I spent time during the summer working at a school for the deaf and blind,” Lewis said during an interview last week. “I would listen to some of the comments that people would say about students with disabilities and that kind of ignited a fire in me to become a special education teacher, to advocate. I’m always an advocate for the underdog. That’s really why I became an educator.”

Lewis has a strong track record with school improvement. Within three years of being principal of E.D. Nixon Elementary School, the school went from being on the verge of a state takeover to ranked 18th out of 706 schools in Alabama.

“I’ll tell you that a plan that I do have is to just get out into the community, into different schools, listening to parents, listening to students, listening to community members, to see what you guys would want to improve,” Lewis said. “Of course, I’ve looked at the data, and there are somethings that sort of stand out, but I want this to be a collaborative effort, to ensure that we are improving on the areas that we need to improve on.”

Lewis comes most recently from Kansas City, Mo., which is a more diverse school district. This background could be beneficial as USD 497 continues to pursue open conversation about race and the LGBTQ community.

“To ensure we are all educating ourselves, to ensure we are creating those spaces where students or anybody feels comfortable about talking about these issues because this is Lawrence, these are our students, these are our families,” Lewis said. “We have to create those spaces to ensure that one, we’re able to talk without it being hostile, and then we’re able to address the issue and together develop a plan to ensure that everyone feels included here in Lawrence.”

Lewis will start on July 1. Lawrence school board will meet tonight to approve a three-year contract with a $215,000 salary for next year.

“I think I can bring my ability to build relationships with people, my knowledge of what it takes to improve student outcomes,” Lewis said, “my ability to forge relationships with students as well, to ensure students like coming to school, to ensure that teachers are highly effective teachers as well.”

Lewis has six children — four of whom are still at home — and said his favorite things to do with them are fish and wrestle. His favorite TV show is the Andy Griffith Show. Even before being officially named to the post, he was envisioning himself in Lawrence last week.

“I spent about three hours today riding around with a realtor, just kind of showing me the different areas,” Lewis said during the interview last week. “So definitely, inserting myself, inserting my wife, inserting my four kids [into the community] as well.”

Lewis will become the fourth superintendent in USD 497 in four years. Following the retirement of Rick Doll, Kyle Hayden served just one year as superintendent before stepping down to the role of chief operations officer. Anna Stubblefield has served as an interim superintendent this year. Stubblefield will be the deputy superintendent next year, according to the district press release.

“I have heard from many trusted colleagues that Dr. Lewis is a collaborative leader,” Stubblefield in a district press release. “I look forward to working with him and making this transition as smooth as possible, so our learning community may continue to build upon the current momentum surrounding our work toward board goals and on school improvement efforts.”