Lawrence school board begins search for interim superintendent for 2024-25; position to be filled for following year

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Some board members criticize community response to Lewis’ resignation

An interim superintendent will serve the Lawrence school district for a full year while the school board searches for a permanent appointment.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis was selected Saturday to lead the Durham, North Carolina school district. His last day in Lawrence Public Schools will be Aug. 9. That gives the board a little more than one month to find an interim replacement.

Board members met for a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the search process they plan on following. A tentative timeline includes first selecting an interim superintendent by Lewis’ last day to serve through the 2024-25 year.

By October, the board hopes to have selected a consulting firm to help with the search, and board President Kelly Jones said there are four or five firms on her radar right now. They’ll go through an interview process before one is hired.

Between November and March, the search firm and the board, along with community engagement, will seek a permanent superintendent starting in the 2025-26 year.

Tuesday’s meeting agenda originally included a consideration to approve a $6,500 expenditure to the Kansas Association of School Boards Leadership Services for additional support in the interim superintendent search. But Jones said during the meeting that she learned those services would be at no extra cost because they’re covered in the district’s KASB membership costs.

KASB actively seeks out external candidates, but that does not exclude internal candidates, Jones said. Eligible candidates must have a superintendent’s license to apply, among other requirements.

“We have an extraordinary school district, and how we show up and talk about our community, how we welcome candidates, how we encourage them to be a part of our district, and what we want to see from them is really not just the board, but it is the entire community, and that includes our educators and the people that are staff in this district, but our broader community,” she said. “And in particular, how you show up online matters.”

Board member Anne Costello later echoed Jones’ remark, saying she was “extremely disheartened” by negative social media comments responding to Lewis’ resignation.

“I just want, as a community, for us to think about what we’re putting out there,” Costello said. “How’s that going to reflect on us to any candidates that are potentially interested in coming here? It’s just something to think of. Those things live on, and it’s surely something that someone’s gonna take a look at before they make a decision to uproot their lives and potentially move here, should that person not be here already.”

Board members did not take any action following the discussion.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Jones extended appreciation to Lewis and shared a list of accomplishments under his leadership. Some included achieving the highest graduation rates in years, building strong partnerships with city and county entities, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, opening the first public Montessori school in Kansas, and others.

“I could go on,” Jones said. “It has been an absolute honor to get to serve next to you and to watch and learn from you and your leadership.”

All board members shared kind words with Lewis, pointing to his dedication, work ethic and personability with students and community members. Some, including Lewis, became emotional at times.

“I had the satisfaction of being in a classroom with a group full of littles, and the discussion came up of, ‘Who is your caring adult?’ And somebody named you as their caring adult,” Carole Cadue-Blackwood said. “It’s that kind of connection that you have with our students and myself, and I’m gonna miss you.”

Lewis is scheduled to do his exit interview with the board during an executive session, or closed-door meeting, at the July 8 school board meeting. View the board’s tentative timeline and plan on presentation slides on BoardDocs. A questionnaire for the search firm is also included.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Lawrence school board begins search for interim superintendent for 2024-25; position to be filled for following year

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An interim superintendent will serve the Lawrence school district for a full year while the school board searches for a permanent appointment.

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