Lawrence school district to move Kennedy Elementary principal to open position at Prairie Park Elementary

photo by: Contributed and file photos

Chalita Middleton will become the principal of Prairie Park Elementary School, pictured, on July 1.

With Kennedy Elementary School scheduled to close down, its principal has been chosen to take over the same position at a school nearby.

The Lawrence school district announced Thursday that Chalita Middleton, who has led Kennedy since 2017, has been selected as the next principal at Prairie Park Elementary School, starting July 1. If approved by the Lawrence school board, Middleton will replace Shannon Harrelson, who recently announced her plans to resign to take a position out of the district.

The announcement comes less than a week after the school board approved a plan to close the K-5 programming at Kennedy and send its 185 students to three nearby schools next fall, including Prairie Park. The district plans to use the Kennedy building for an early-childhood education community center.

In taking the new position, Middleton said in a news release she knows a learning curve will begin, but she is focused on student success.

“As I continue to support my Kennedy Crew, I have a full bucket as I accept the position at Prairie Park,” Middleton said. “I will continue to create a culture of high expectations, strong relationships, and trust to fail and succeed with students and staff.”

Before joining the Lawrence school district, Middleton served as a principal in Kansas City, Kan., for four years. She also previously served 18 years as a school administrator, reading specialist and classroom teacher at school districts in Overland Park, Detroit and Canton, Mich., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Columbus, Ohio.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said Middleton was a good selection for the Prairie Park position because she has a good track record of helping students improve.

“Mrs. Middleton is a strong instructional and turnaround leader who believes all children can achieve,” Lewis said in the news release. “She has a proven record of success as an administrator of high-poverty, diverse schools.”

When discussing the closure of Kennedy’s K-5 programming, Lewis recently said about 11 positions would be eliminated, including the principal position. The closure is estimated to save the district about $722,000 as it faces a $1.2 million shortfall, which was spurred on by a significant decrease in enrollment last fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the positions will be eliminated, Lewis said he hoped the staff currently in those positions would be able to follow the students by taking open positions at the three nearby schools the students would be moving to.

As the Journal-World previously reported, when Harrelson announced her plans to resign from the position last month, the district did not say it would begin a search for a replacement, which it normally does. That appeared to leave the door open for Middleton to move to Prairie Park with her current position set to be eliminated.

The district estimates about 70 of the Kennedy students will be moving to Prairie Park next fall, according to the release.

“I am pleased that (Middleton) will continue to support Kennedy families through this transition and get to know the Prairie Park school community so they can all partner to help their students become their best selves,” Lewis said in the news release.

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