Interim school superintendent says major change unlikely

Posted at 12:00 AM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 06:56:24-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -- Richmond is seeing a population boom of sorts, with many people calling the River City home, like Richmond Public Schools’ new interim superintendent, Dr. Jonathan Lewis.

“I’m pleased that the board provided me with the opportunity to come back for a short period of time,” Lewis told CBS 6 news reporter Lorenzo Hall

The school board allowed Lewis, a former principal in Richmond, to come back after forcing Dr. Yvonne Brandon out of the picture. She was frequently blamed for the school system's mismanagement of funds and low test scores.

“How confident are you that there can be some major change within these next six months?” Hall asked Lewis in a sit-down interview that aired Tuesday on the CBS 6 News at 11.

“I don't think that you can bring major change to an organization the size of Richmond in just six months,” Lewis answered.

Lewis is already being greeted with a mountain of pressing problems, like protesting parents, who claim a rezoning plan passed by board members, will instead segregate schools and also make them more crowded.

“I think the concern parents have are, were the decisions made the right decision? That is a separate issue. My concern is taking the decisions that were made so we can open school in a seamless way,” Lewis said.

He added the first day of school, along with finding ways to make the school system more efficient, were his top priorities.

However, the school board had its own list of priorities for Lewis.

In addition to rezoning, he must find replacements for two high-level school leaders leaving the district, improve student performance and address the issues of year-round school and school uniforms.

“It’s going to be difficult to implement some of those things as quickly as they'd like, but, I believe they are certainly up for discussion,” Lewis said.  The interim superintendent said not to expect much of a shakeup. He said he wanted to keep the school system stable until a permanent replacement arrives.

“I'm sure people are wondering, would you take this job permanently? Is this something you'd want after those six months?” Hall asked.

“I haven't applied for the position. I came in to help board open school and remain focused on our mission,” Lewis replied.