Richard Hyatt: Lewis is a schools chief who keeps his word

November 19, 2013 

When David Lewis tied on a kitchen apron and piled food on the trays of children at Downtown Elementary last month, the new superintendent was doing more than feeding hungry school kids.

Lewis took over as superintendent on July 24, immediately announcing that he intended to visit every schoolhouse in Muscogee County as soon as he could. It was an ambitious promise but he has done what he said he would.

Starting his campus tours Sept. 5 with a trip to Georgetown Elementary, he fulfilled his promise Nov. 5 when he made his final stop at St. Marys Road Magnet Academy.

There wasn't time to pull a shift in every cafeteria line, but there were plenty of chances to serve a healthy plate of humility to a system hungry for attention from their top administrator.

Photographs of Lewis dipping food at Downtown Elementary on Oct. 9 quickly circulated through the school district letting people know that, unlike some of their past leaders, their new boss isn't chained to a desk on Macon Road.

Every leader's style is different, and Lewis arrived with a reputation in Florida as an administrator who enjoys being in the trenches. He has lived up to advance billing, showing up at events all over town.

Foremost was his plan to visit all 58 campuses. Armed with a GPS, he has done just that, meeting principals, teachers and staff on their turf -- not his. He didn't go to schools to see the gymnasium or the library. He went there to meet people.

Not stopping there, he has watched high school football games and tapped his feet to the beat of marching bands. He has read to kids at Cusseta Road Elementary, enjoyed a cookout with the faculty at Clubview Elementary, watched Columbus High win the state volleyball title and was at the state capitol when Midland Middle School gifted teacher Sue Funk was honored by the governor.

If those events weren't enough, he held his first media roundtable, had one-on-one sessions with all nine school board members, participated in new principal orientation and welcomed NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Shaw High.

Soon he will go before the public to share what he has seen and heard on his whirlwind tour. From the beginning, Lewis talked about a 120-day report in which he would vocalize his impressions and spell out what he intends to do to meet what he identifies as the district's needs.

That report should go to the printer after Thanksgiving, and it will be enlightening to see our schools through his trained eyes. We may not like everything he says and everything he proposes, but we didn't wait 16 months to have someone serve us a plate full of warmed-over opinions.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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