‘As a community, we still have a a lot of work to do,’ Lewis says
Article updated at 12:04 p.m. Friday, April 8:
Montgomery, Alabama school board members passed up Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Lewis as they sought to replace their retiring leader.
The school board took a ballot vote during a livestreamed public meeting Friday morning, unanimously selecting Melvin Brown, superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools in Ohio. Current Montgomery Superintendent Ann Roy Moore is retiring at the end of May.
Lewis began his education career in Montgomery Public Schools, working as a special education teacher and in administration before he was recruited to work in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. He came to the Lawrence school district in 2018.
Lewis said Friday that he’s a little bit “bummed” for family members who were excited about the prospect of him moving home, but he’s still committed to Lawrence and he cares deeply about this community. He said he was honored just to make it to the top 5 candidates for the job. Many of his family member were in the audience for his interview with the Montgomery school board, and he said that will be a lifetime memory for him.
Last month, Lewis said various districts have been recruiting him since the National School Public Relations Association named him a 2020-2021 “Superintendent to Watch,” and he has not returned other districts’ calls because he’s happy here. When Montgomery reached out to him in the fall, he said he told them initially that he was “not ready to come back home.” Lewis said he and his family had discussed that “eventually,” they would need to get back closer to home, when parents needed them.
Lewis said he soon decided that “I think I owe it to my family just to put my name in the hat, just to see what happens,” but that was the only new opportunity he has sought. He told the Montgomery school board, too, that they wouldn’t find his name in any other superintendent searches, and that he was still happy in Lawrence.
Lewis said he was overwhelmed by the support he received from folks in Montgomery, including many who already knew him and some who didn’t, and from many folks in the Lawrence community.
“But if I’m being honest, I was also … troubled, I guess you can say. I don’t know if I was necessarily shocked, but troubled by some of the comments that were being made about my potential departure, from those in the community and some staff,” he said. “So that just lets me know that as a community, we still have a tremendous amount of work to do as it relates to just civility, accepting those decisions that you may not be in favor of, and how we respond to those.
“So as a community, we still have a a lot of work to do, and I’m committed to continuing that work in this community,” he said.
Finalists for the position included Lewis, Brown, Marla Sheppard, deputy chief of academics in Houston, Texas and former Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools superintendent, and Donald Warren, deputy superintendent of the Griffin-Spalding County School District in Georgia. Avis Williams, superintendent of Selma, Alabama, was in the running but withdrew after being selected as superintendent of the New Orleans school district.
Selma is about a 50-mile drive from Montgomery. Lewis said even if that district did reach out to him about the job, he would not pursue that opportunity.
The Lawrence school board voted in July to extend Lewis’ contract through the end of June 2024.
Here’s the video of Lewis’ interview with the Montgomery school board:
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.