Played key role to help school district climb out of debt
A veteran administrator described as a low-key individual, Dr. David Lewis has been named the new superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools.
The Wayne County Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint Lewis, who has worked diligently to erase the school district’s embarrassing financial debt that occurred more than 18 months ago. He had served as interim superintendent since January of this year.
Lewis succeeds Dr. James Merrill, who was hired on an interim basis last summer after Dr. Michael Dunsmore resigned when the 2019-20 fiscal budget revealed a $5 million shortfall due to inappropriate movement of funds.
The county repaid the debt in full earlier this month.
“Our district has made significant strides over the past year, paying off debt while also laying the ground for innovative initiatives such as the Wayne School of Technical Arts located on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base,” Lewis said.
“I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to continue working with the Board of Education and the district’s leadership to build upon this forward momentum to best serve our students, staff and communities. Wayne County is my home and I do not take this selection, or the responsibility that comes with it, lightly.”
Among his immediate duties, Lewis must find a replacement for his previous position of assistant superintendent for accountability/information technology services. He has two vacancies to fill on the leadership team — assistant superintendent of teaching and learning and assistant superintendent of student services and innovative programs.
The county is short 54 teachers.
Board members have discussed the importance of supplement increases, particularly in athletics, with Lewis. Supplements were cut 40% during the early months of the pandemic, but $625,000 has been appropriated this year to bring the pay back to 100% in athletics.
However, no raises were given.
“We need to get our coaching supplements up,” said at-large board member Tommy Sanders. “A lot of people might not think that’s important, but it is. [Lewis] was the right choice [and] my choice from the beginning. He’s familiar with the district, knows what he has on the leadership team and is a good guy … will hear everybody out.
“If you get somebody that’s out of state, they’re obviously ambitious and will use [the position] as a stepping stone, which is OK, but we don’t need that right now.”
Lewis has 30 years of public education experience that spans teaching, school administration and district leadership. He served as an assistant superintendent for more than seven years before assuming the interim role.
His contract hasn’t been finalized, but is expected to pay out nearly $200,000 annually with built-in incentives.
“I’m looking forward to working with you to strengthen and enrich our schools and communities,” said Tiffany Kilgore, president of the Wayne County Association of Educators, in an email to Lewis. “You’re going to do wonderful things as you continue to push for advocacy for our students and staff.”