The new car smell is fading and some people in the Muscogee County School District are beginning to treat David Lewis like a beat-up used car.
Lewis has been superintendent for eight months, but over the past few weeks he has been the subject of gossip that suggested he was planning wholesale changes, including targeted layoffs. Behind the complaints is his plan to retool Muscogee County's chain of command. Lewis intends to divide the district into three regions, putting someone in charge of day-to-day operations of schools in each part of town.
This is his way of dealing with a subject other top administrators avoided. His regional approach will eliminate ageless complaints about the Macon Road dividing line and will take away layers of bureaucracy between principals and the superintendent.
As long as this was a concept, it was nothing more than educational jargon. But when old-line members of the leadership team realized this was going to happen, they went into what one person called a "tizzy."
Weeks ago, Lewis posted job descriptions. He said the new positions would be revenue neutral, calling for what he described as a repurposing of personnel. Without a dissenting vote, the school board gave him a green light and he is advertising for three regional officers with salaries of $120,000 a year.
The ad spells out the departments those chiefs will supervise and indicates they will report to the superintendent -- not his cabinet. To offer such power, the influence of some existing leaders will be diluted.
The jobs require a master's degree or higher, at least 10 years in public education with three years of building level administration, including experience as a principal. Candidates must have a track record of student achievement and curriculum. It is clear that Lewis wants educators, not managers. If he reaches into schoolhouses to find his three chiefs, then administrators on Macon Road may find themselves back in the classrooms. If that occurs, the plan reportedly calls for a three-year reduction instead of a one-year cut in pay.
People who listened to what Lewis has been saying since he took over aren't surprised. But insiders who assumed it would be business as usual are fighting back.
The deadline to apply for the regional positions is April 7, so the gnashing of teeth isn't over and neither is the gossip.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.