Donna Lewis had a great year in 2014. She completed her EdD that May and became director of the LAUREL Regional Program for students with severe disabilities during the fall. Described as “an amazing administrator who is an inspiration,” Donna has already been recognized by Lynchburg City Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand. “I have told folks in this school division, on their hardest day, they need to leave their job site and go and watch the work the faculty and staff do at LAUREL,” he said. “It’s some of the most inspiring work you’ll see in education.”
The instructional program at LAUREL concentrates on functional academics: basic skills like self-help, life skills, communication, recreation and leisure. High-school aged students focus when possible on community-based instruction, with goals of interacting effectively in public.
“LAUREL is the perfect place,” Donna said. “It’s really not at all about me, it’s just us all working together — the staff and the parents and students. It’s a really wonderful, rewarding place.”
Donna was part of LC’s first EdD cohort, which she says is a wonderful way to complete such a rigorous but rewarding program. “The interdisciplinary approach to leadership was definitely a plus,” she said, “and our excellent professors were passionate about their field of study and eager to share the most important aspects with us.
“The EdD program opened my eyes to a world beyond just K-12 education,” she said. “I had the opportunity to understand the role of leadership from many perspectives as well as the importance of community partners, which is now essential to my new position. I also learned the importance of transparency as a leader, and this drives my decisions on a daily basis.”
Donna also earned her MEd in educational leadership from LC and she says the combination of coursework and experiences in both programs paved the way for her position as director for LAUREL.
Donna came to LAUREL with more than 20 years of experience in education, which included teaching special education and serving as assistant principal and principal of an elementary school. “My MEd prepared me well for these responsibilities,” she said.
In her new position, Donna enjoys the opportunity to work with a broader range of people including students, parents, special education directors and superintendents, her staff and LAUREL board members. “Since LAUREL serves students in five school divisions, interacting with a variety of people and looking at issues from a regional perspective are crucial,” she explained.
Donna says one of her favorite quotes is from Marian Anderson who said, “…if you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.” “The EdD program helped me understand my role and purpose in education and provided me with the knowledge base needed to accomplish my future goals.”