District finds best fits for Lawrence superintendent close to home, school board president says

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

After the conclusion of Monday’s board meeting, Lawrence school board president Shannon Kimball commented on the two finalists for the superintendent position with the observation that “sometimes you find what you’re looking for close to home.”

It was announced earlier in the day the two finalists were Anthony Lewis, an assistant superintendent with the Kansas City, Mo., school district, and Jayson Strickland, a deputy superintendent with the Kansas City, Kan., school district. Kimball said the board intends to announce the new superintendent on Jan. 29.

Kimball said it just happened that the two candidates of the five interviewed last week were from the Kansas City metropolitan area. Lewis and Strickland were invited back for a second round of interviews and meet-and-greet opportunities with the community because they best fit the superintendent profile the board developed with community input, she said. The candidates’ resumes were strong enough that she had no concerns that neither had previous experience as a superintendent, she said.

“They are both assistant superintendents in much larger districts,” she said. “They have both been in their positions for some time, so I think that assistant superintendent criteria fits the profile.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved assuming control of Tiny-k Early Intervention Services, starting with the 2018-2019 school year. Tiny-k provides in-home programming for children in the county with disabilities from birth to 3 years of age.

Kevin Harrell, district executive director of student support and special education, said absorbing the program at its current level of eight full-time employees and one quarter-time employee would require no additional district taxpayer support.

Board member Rick Ingram earned board agreement to further explore the later high school morning start times he has long advocated. To build his case, Ingram presented data indicating that later start times improved student performance in academics, behavior and attendance, and they even reduced sports injuries.

He also shared results from a survey of district residents, which the board reviewed at its Jan. 8 meeting. According to the survey, 43 percent of the 1,268 people responding to a phone survey said the district should make a priority of later high school start times, and 35 percent said the change should continue to be evaluated. Ingram pointed out only 10 percent said the current start times were “fine” and 9 percent agreed with a “not perfect but don’t change” statement on the survey.

Kimball said board leadership and staff agreed to present a report on later high school start times at the board’s Feb. 26 meeting.