Next superintendent talks goal of quality education for all after Lawrence school board approves his hiring

Anthony Lewis, the newly approved district superintendent, speaks at the Lawrence school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at the USD 497 district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. Behind him are board members Melissa Johnson, left, and Kelly Jones.

The Lawrence school board needed less than 10 minutes to unanimously approve the hiring of Anthony Lewis as the district’s next superintendent.

The hiring of Lewis as superintendent with a three-year contract and a base salary of $215,000 was the only item on the board’s agenda for the special meeting. Lewis, an assistant superintendent in the Kansas City, Mo., school district, will begin his duties with the Lawrence school district July 1.

Board President Shannon Kimball said the board’s action at the special meeting reflected the consensus the board developed last week after interviewing Lewis and Jayson Strickland, a deputy superintendent in the Kansas City, Kan., school district. Both finalists attended community meet-and-greets last week at Lawrence High School.

“Dr. Lewis’s passion for education and his commitment to putting students first was abundantly clear to the board,” Kimball said in the district news release issued earlier Monday announcing the decision to hire Lewis. “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’s leadership and look forward to working with him.”

In remarks after the board’s vote, Lewis said he was humbled and excited to work with the board to improve what he said was an already impressive school system.

Anthony Lewis, second from left, and his wife Tiffany Lewis, far left, listen to a speaker at the Lawrence school board meeting on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at the USD 497 district headquarters. Anthony Lewis was approved as the district's next superintendent at the meeting.

“Thank you to the board for entrusting the superintendency in my hands,” he said. “I say my hands, but it will be in all our hands. I do believe in order to see improvement in the outcomes of every single student, it’s going to take a collaborative effort.”

Lewis returned to the theme of providing a quality education for all Lawrence students by sharing a story of two conversations he had last week. He said he met mothers as their children’s schools released for the afternoon. One mother told him there was a lot of bullying and issues in the schools; another told him she loved the district.

“So, two different outcomes,” he said. “How can we go further and reach higher for all students? That’s what I’m excited about.”

Although he won’t start his duties in Lawrence for more than five months, he will be frequent visitor to the community, Lewis said. His current boss, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell, advised him to make time for trips to Lawrence in the coming months to meet with community groups, civic organizations and district staff and, perhaps, tour schools and visit classrooms, he said. Lewis said he also would stay apprised of any important decisions that come before the district over the next five months.

He and his wife, Tiffany Lewis, and four of their six children still at home plan to move to Lawrence before July, he said.

Austin Turney, a former Lawrence school board member, shakes hands with Anthony Lewis, the newly approved district superintendent, at the board meeting Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

David Cunningham, the district’s chief legal counsel and human resource director, said Lewis has signed a contract with the district. In addition to the base salary, it include a compensation package with such things as a moving allowance, insurance, retirement and other expenses, he said. He hadn’t yet calculated the package’s total value but will have that number later in the week, he said.

According to the school board’s news release, Lewis, 42, holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in special education, in addition to a degree in educational leadership, from Alabama State University. He also holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

— Journal-World reporter Joanna Hlavacek contributed to this story.