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Lawrence school district can be national model of excellence, superintendent candidate tells meet-and-greet gathering

Anthony Lewis, a current assistant superintendent in the Kansas City, Mo. school district, and one of two finalists for the Lawrence school district's superintendent position, participates in a meet-and-greet in the Lawrence High School cafeteria Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.

From a table Tuesday in the Lawrence High School cafeteria, West Middle School eighth-grade math teacher Holden Kraus said superintendent candidate Anthony Lewis said the right thing to impress him.

“Anybody who recognizes teachers are the reason we are where we’re at and will get us where we need to go is the kind of leader I want to follow,” he said.

Kraus was among the about 100 teachers, students, parents and community members who attended the meet-and-greet opportunity with the 48-year-old Lewis, an assistant superintendent in the Kansas City, Mo., school district. The public will have the opportunity to meet the other finalist for the position, Kansas City, Kan., school district Deputy Superintendent Jayson Strickland, from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Lawrence High School library.

In his comments to open the meet-and-greet, Lewis spoke of the central role of teachers in the improvement of one of the schools where he worked — E.D. Nixon Elementary School in Montgomery, Ala., where he spent six years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in special education and master’s degree in educational leadership from Alabama State University, intending to become a special education coordinator with the Alabama Department of Education, he said. His career path changed, however, when an assistant principal position opened up at E.D. Nixon.

A month into that job, his principal told him the state had sent notice it was taking over the administration of the school because of its poor performance, Lewis said. The school had been on the state’s improvement list for eight years, he said. The principal also told him she was grooming him to become principal when she took a job at the district’s central office at the end of the year, he said.

The school showed improvement during his year as assistant principal, he said, and that trend continued when he took the helm.

“Long story short, we hired some additional teachers and we had some retirement parties,” he said. “Seems like we were having retirement parties just about every month, but that was part of the process of making sure we had quality teachers for our students.”



Anthony Lewis, a current assistant superintendent in the Kansas City, Mo. school district, and one ...

In the 2010-2011 school year, three years after he became principal, the school was recognized as one of the top 18 elementary schools in Alabama, Lewis said. He gave credit to teachers for the turnaround.

“It was the teachers,” he said. “It was dedicated teachers who understood our students, dedicated teachers who had different modalities about how to reach students, but most all it was teachers who wanted to be there.”

Lewis said he was recruited to his current job, which pays $143,000 a year, because of the publicity E.D. Nixon received for the turnaround. Once again, he walked into a challenging situation. The Kansas City, Mo., school district had performed so poorly on the state’s annual progress report that it had lost its state accreditation.

“Remember, I came to Kansas City public schools in 2012,” he said. “That year, the district scored 22.5 points out of 140 possible, so it was unaccredited. Last year, Kansas City public schools scored 98 points. We went from being unaccredited to provisionally accredited to 98 points and fully accredited.”

Lewis told the gathering he was impressed with the school district and city after recent visits and from his research. He said his hope was to help the district become a national model of excellence by improving on the many good things it was already doing.

“How can we take it even further?” he asked. “How can we get to the point we have people around the country come in and say, ‘Wow, you have amazing things here?' That’s the point I want to get to.”

After listening to Lewis, LHS junior Sanders Barbee said she was excited about what he could do at the Lawrence school district given his track record.

“I like what he said about becoming a national model,” Barbee said.

District parent Charlie Dominguez said Lewis' comments convinced him Lewis had an interest in being a longtime member of the community. That was needed in a district that has had so much turnover in its top job in recent years, he said.

“A lot of people want to make sure the next superintendent is a stable choice,” he said. “I think he showed he wants to be a part of the community for a long time.”

Lewis' final interview with the Lawrence school board took place after the meet-and-greet. Strickland's interview will be Wednesday after his meet-and-greet. The board plans to announce its choice for the position Monday. David Cunningham, the district's chief legal counsel and executive director of human resources, said the position was advertised with a salary of $205,000 to $215,000.


Richard Heckler

"Lawrence school district can be national model of excellence ....."

In 1987 USD 497 was listed among the top 10 in the USA.

Then the Party of ALEC came along and began character assassinating public education and removing public education dollars from the public education budget. Perhaps to fund voter suppression.

Exposing the ALEC Agenda to DEFUND,DISABLE, DISMANTLE and DESTROY public education .

Taxpayer should want more tax dollars spent on public education because it brings our tax dollars home that stay in our respective communities which are spent in many many many local economies.

Each day this administration expands the depth and size of big government into our private lives.

Yet this administration asserts itself as a party of less government yet demonstrate exactly the opposite..

Absolutely it is time to put several issues before the voters as a constitutional convention. This would reveal even how fiscally responsible the voters of Kansas can be.

Shall the voters repeal the tax cuts in an effort to maintain the revenue necessary to meet demand? YES!

Much of what is happening regarding the destruction of public education has never discussed on the campaign trail. Can we say the Party of ALEC is dishonest. Yes we can.

4 months ago


Bob Smith

You've got a burr under your saddle this morning, Richard.

4 months ago


Richard Heckler

So that's what it is ....... or perhaps I have disdain for back door ALEC politics
under my saddle. Give it a try you might like it.

4 months ago


Bob Summers


*Exposing the ALEC Agenda to DEFUND,DISABLE, DISMANTLE and DESTROY public education* .

What is there left to destroy?

Profound, complex critical thinkers have already done that.

4 months ago


Scott Burkhart

To say this administration is expanding the scope and size of government is an outright lie. This administration has reduced the scope of government by rolling back a "RECORD" number of regulations written by the previous administration. Staffing across a departments has been reduced. The only thing that would give the impression of "expanding the scope and size" of government is in the enforcement of immigration laws which is way overdue, I might add. Richard, you give us one of the most liberal websites as proof of your assertions. If I were to provide links to you would be no more interested in linking to it than I can fly to the moon.

4 months ago


Bob Summers

National model of excellence?

"National" "excellence" cannot even get students to break the world wide top twenty in math, science and reading proficiencies.

What is this dude taking about?

Installing metal detectors like they have in urban KC schools?

4 months ago


Sam Crow

USD 497 will never be the model of anything because it refuses to do anything innovative. I see nothing in these two candidates background that demonstrates anything part of such innovations.

For example, 497 didn’t even bother to be one of the 29 districts in the state to submit an application to participate in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project, through the State BOE. Seven were chosen. The innovative programs are driven bottom up, and must include the local NEA support.

The projects goals are “defining a successful Kansas high school graduate, and what Kansans said they want their schools to look like in the future” by “ Re-designing the curriculum—around individualized goals, planning, instruction, and experience, around incorporating real-life problems and projects into the curriculum, and experiential learning”

Just down the road, Olathe was one of the seven districts chosen.

That district is15 years into its 21st Century Academies in its high schools. Each high school has three different specialty curriculum programs, including Bioengineering, Animal Health, Future Educators, Computer Science, and Sports Medicine. Because students can choose a program to apply for, it eliminated the issue of boundaries.

Those are the kinds of innovation that establishes a district as a model of excellence.

Not merely shuffling teachers around while continuing to do the same things over and over.

The question to ask these two candidates is what are you going to different than before?

4 months ago


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