Amid questions about the whereabouts of an LHS assistant principal, district now says he has been reassigned
photo by: Journal-World File Photo
Story updated 7:56 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2019:
When an assistant principal at Lawrence High School was replaced in November, some in the school community were left with questions.
Superintendent Anthony Lewis notified LHS parents, students and staff on Nov. 19 that Mike Norris would no longer be working at the school, but the email did not elaborate further.
After that, though, Norris’ name never appeared in any school board personnel reports. Those documents provide the names, dates and assignments for all district hires, resignations, terminations and changes of buildings or positions. The reports are a regular part of most school board meeting agendas.
Upon receiving questions from readers, the Journal-World asked district spokeswoman Julie Boyle in an email on Feb. 26 about Norris’ status. She responded on Feb. 28 that Norris had been assigned to a project team charged with fixing PowerSchool, the district’s new software package.
PowerSchool is intended to be an all-in-one replacement for several other programs. One feature, for instance, allows parents to see their kids’ grades and attendance. It also allows teachers to stay in communication with administrators about students.
However, the software got off to a “bumpy start” with its rollout in August, as a staff member put it when she addressed the school board on Feb. 11. The bumpy start prompted the district in November to designate several administrators to work full-time on a dedicated PowerSchool Project Team.
The other members of the PowerSchool Project Team are Susan Fowler, Kirsten Wondra, Lannie Lederer, Paul Dawson and Jeffrey Krieger, Boyle said via email.
Those five, according to the district’s online directories, are all administrators whose work is based in the district offices at 110 McDonald Drive. Norris is the only team member who was based within a school prior to his move to the PowerSchool Project Team. He started the assignment Dec. 14, Boyle said.
Also, those five were listed in the presentation that a few team members gave the school board on Feb. 11, but Norris’ name did not appear on that list. The district did not answer why on Thursday.
Boyle said the district “infrequently” shifts school administrators out of their positions midsemester. In a response to further follow-up questions the Journal-World sent late Wednesday, including what the district’s reasoning was for making the midsemester shift for Norris, Boyle said Thursday afternoon: “We assign employees to work in areas based on our needs.”
She did not immediately respond Thursday afternoon to a follow-up email asking what Norris’ role was from Nov. 19 — when Lewis announced he was no longer at LHS — through Dec. 14, which is the date Boyle said he started serving on the PowerSchool team.
However, Norris reached out to the Journal-World by phone Thursday evening and explained that for much of that month and for some time prior to Nov. 19, he had been out of town dealing with a family illness. He said his role on the PowerSchool Project Team is a better fit for the amount of time he’s able to commit right now as he’s handling family obligations.
Norris’ LHS bio page at usd497.org now leads to an error message, but according to an archived version from November he has worked in the district since 2006. He started as an English teacher at West Junior High — now middle school — and moved to the assistant principal job at LHS in 2009.
Norris’ title is still assistant principal, Boyle said.
“It is helpful to have a school administrator’s perspective on the team, so it can anticipate and meet the needs of our schools as we continue to implement PowerSchool,” Boyle wrote of what specific experience Norris brings to the team.
According to records on kansasopengov.org, Norris’ salary for 2018 was $93,915. The district said Norris does not have a new contract for his PowerSchool team position, but his salary was reduced to $80,000 to reflect the change in responsibilities, Boyle said Thursday.
In the message to the LHS community on Nov. 19, Lewis introduced Norris’ interim replacement, Quentin Rials, who had previously worked as a learning coach at West Middle School. Asked on Thursday whether the district plans to keep Rials in the assistant principal position beyond the end of the school year, Boyle said “We do not speculate about future personnel actions.”
Norris is not expected to return to LHS, though.
“It is our understanding that Mr. Norris is exploring other professional options, so it is not anticipated he would return to LHS,” Boyle wrote in an email Wednesday.
The PowerSchool Project Team is expected to be temporary, but Boyle said it is unknown how long it will be in place.
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