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School chief leaving to take helm at Coconino Co.


The Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education will have a new superintendent in the coming days.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Tommy Lewis

Tommy Lewis, who has been the superintendent for the last six years, will be leaving on Nov. 15 to take the helm as Coconino County’s superintendent of schools.

Lewis oversaw the education of around 85,000 Navajo students in 260 schools on the Navajo Nation.

This means the acting superintendent will be Assistant Superintendent Tim Benally.

Benally has held this position before and even gave testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2014 to ensure the Bureau of Indian Education was given all the tools it needed to improve.

Lewis submitted his letter of resignation to the Navajo Board of Education on Oct. 24. According to a news release from the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, Lewis will start his new job Nov. 18.

Calls and an email to DoDE for comment were unanswered by press time Wednesday.

“It has been a great honor for me to serve as superintendent of schools and to work with Navajo Nation leadership in addressing education for our children and Diné people,” Lewis said in a news release. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with so many dedicated school officials and the Department of Diné Education staff over the last six years.”

The Coconino County news release quotes Lewis as saying, “I’m honored the board (of supervisors) selected me as the new Coconino County superintendent of schools. I’ve dedicated my career to furthering the education of children and look forward to continuing that work with Coconino County.”

Lewis will fill the unexpired term of Risha VanDerWay, who resigned in August to serve as superintendent of the Tuba City School District. The term runs until December of 2020.

“The board interviewed many talented and highly deserving candidates for the position,” said Lena Fowler, chairwoman of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. “We’re happy to welcome Dr. Lewis who brings a vast amount of experience and expertise to our county. Through his leadership in education, he will help nurture the county’s most valuable resource – our children.”

Lewis has spent the last four decades in the field of education where he held many positions. He worked in “schools, colleges, universities, and other education organizations at the local, state, and national levels,” according to the news release.

One of those positions was at Diné College where he was on the Board of Regents for years.

Lewis was dedicated to creating reform that would “improve the quality of education,” he stated in the release.

Lewis holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. He is a certified teacher, principal and superintendent in Arizona.

According to the release, Lewis had reached retirement age and wanted to move back to Flagstaff to focus on his family.

“I have always stressed to those I work with that family is of paramount importance,” he said in the news release.

Lewis is originally from Standing Horse, Arizona.

There will be a retirement celebration for Lewis Friday at the Navajo Education Center in Window Rock.

About The Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah


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