Profile Page 51
A Three-Generation Hold
on the Job
BY MARIAN KISCH
It’s exceedingly rare for multiple generations of one family to fill the same high-level job in public service. The Carter family in south-central Kentucky has been able to make that distinctive claim now through three generations, ever since Lewis D. Carter Jr. was named superintendent of the Monroe County Schools in 2009.
His late grandfather, William Washington, held the post for four years, retiring in 1910. His late father, Darrell, served as superintendent for 28 years, through 1980. In addition, his great aunt Ella Carter Braswell and his great uncle James C. Carter Sr. also served as superintendents there, retiring in 1921 and 1902 respectively. It’s a Carter family tradition.
But the latest link almost didn’t occur. Lewis Carter Jr. had to come out of retirement twice to make it happen for No. 5 in the family chain.
An educator since 1975, most of it in Monroe County, he first retired in 2004 as the district’s director of buildings and grounds and adult education. He took a detour when Kentucky’s governor recruited him to run the state’s Office of Career and Technical Education.
After three-plus years with the state, Lewis retired for the second time. He didn’t plan on returning to school administration, but applied for the county superintendency because he had some unfinished things he wanted to tackle — boosting test scores, upgrading facilities and bringing together the administrative staff.
Now he’s the enthusiastic leader of a 2,000-student, high-poverty district where 91 percent of the students are nonwhite. He oversees a budget of $18 million.
Board member Eddie Proffitt says Carter’s family connections did not factor in his appointment, saying, “He was just the best person for the job because of his philosophy, experience and stint with the state.
“People jump right in and work hard for him,” Proffit adds. “I’m sure his father and grandfather would be proud. And I personally would hate to be without him.”
Being the superintendent’s kid in a rural community had its pluses and minuses, Carter admits. His three sisters, he says, were model students, something he often heard about from his teachers, who suggested he behave more like them. But Carter was engaged in active and sometimes mischievous boyish actions. “I felt like everyone was looking at me, while I was trying to be normal,” he says.
On the plus side, he held a special job from the time he turned 8. When it snowed, he was the one to call principals, on behalf of his father, to tell them whether school was open. He also answered calls from parents, who started their inquiries at 4 a.m.
Carter says that one of the important things his father instilled in him was a love for children. His father helped those in need by arranging with civic groups to provide clothes, eyeglasses and even college scholarships. Carter has continued this practice and brought several hundred children to local merchants in December for holiday clothing.
“My father talked about the superintendency as being the most rewarding job, but also very demanding, as he was on call 24/7. He was right on both points.”
So will the family tradition continue? Carter says maybe. His son, Dallas, has nixed education and is working in pharmaceutical sales. His daughter, Kela Inell, is a 1st-grade teacher in the district and aspires to be a curriculum director. Perhaps even higher. Time will tell.
Marian Kisch is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
BIO STATS: LEWIS CARTER
Currently: superintendent, Monroe County School District, Tompkinsville, Ky.
Previously: deputy executive director, Kentucky Office of Career and Technical Education
Greatest influence on career: My father, who served as superintendent of Monroe County Schools for 28 years. He taught me many things throughout life, including how to be a superintendent.
Best professional day: When I can spend time in classrooms to observe students getting the “educational glow of anticipation” in their eyes.
Books at bedside: My Bible; The Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne; The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews.
Biggest blooper: We have a weekly focus meeting called Monday Mission, which allows administrators to share their plans for the upcoming week. I often tell stories with examples that use my wife. Believe me, she knows what story I told before I even get back to my desk — and I hear about it until the next week when I usually do it again.
Why I’m an AASA member: The professional development provided by the group and the articles shared by other administrators.