Racine Unified superintendent finalist Lolli Haws manages staff in a way that’s hands-on but not heavy-handed, her colleagues say.
“She’s been a really good educational leader for my school and myself, and she’s worked really closely with us to make a real impact on students,” said her colleague John Burst. He is principal of the School Within a School at Logan Annex, one of 13 schools Haws oversees in her current job as an instructional superintendent with Washington, D.C., Public Schools. “I’ve never felt heavy-handedness. She’s a good listener. She looks at what you need and what you say you need and puts that together.”
Conversations with Burst and other professional colleagues of Haws — plus a fact-checking review of her résumé — painted a largely positive picture of the woman likely to be Unified’s next leader.
While Burst, who has worked under Haws for the past three school years, said she manages in a balanced way that provides needed support without overreaching, her current and past supervisors commended the way she focuses on students and parents.
John Davis, chief of schools for D.C. Public Schools and Haws’ supervisor for the past two years, said she puts students before all else, including adult problems such as contract and scheduling disputes that can disrupt children’s learning. Davis is sure of Haws’ dedication to students because of how she approaches her job, he said.
“She walks through the buildings and goes into the classrooms and takes a good look at the instruction that’s going on. It’s one thing to say you’re in a building four out of five days. It’s another to say, ‘I’m in the classroom and I’m seeing what the teaching looks like and I’m talking it over with the principal,’ ” Davis said, explaining Haws does those things.
She is good at such talks with principals and observations in classrooms because of the balanced leadership Burst mentioned, according to Davis.
“She does a good job of both sides of the support and evaluation part of it. It’s sometimes tough to juggle those things,” he said. “She can provide feedback and at the same time be very supportive.”
Haws also makes a concerted effort to engage parents and families, said Patrick Murphy, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools in Virginia. He supervised Haws during one year of her six-year tenure as principal of Arlington’s Oakridge Elementary School.
At Oakridge, which has a transient population made up of foreign families in the D.C. area for government work, Haws always made a point to acclimate the parents of new students through school events such as a spring fair, Murphy said.
“My philosophy is ... strong customer service delivery with the parents and the community, and Lolli reflected that,” he said.
The Journal Times contacted 20 of Haws’ current and former professional colleagues last week, including six references she specifically gave to Racine Unified. Of those 20 people, only three — Burst, Davis and Murphy — spoke to The Journal Times. Five declined to comment on Haws, 11 did not return phone calls and one could not be reached because the number provided by Haws was disconnected.
That person was Brent Underwood, one of Haws’ references and the superintendent of Missouri’s Webster Groves School District when she was principal of its Avery Elementary School.
When asked for an alternate number for Underwood, Haws could not provide one.
“I have not been in contact with him directly for 9 1/2 years,” she said, explaining that when she revised her references last year she updated Underwood’s information by working through someone else from Webster Groves.
A review of other information contained in Haws’ references list and her overall résumé revealed few other oversights. One that did emerge involved an award reportedly won by Avery Elementary.
Haws wrote on her résumé that Avery, where she was principal from 1994-2004, won a state Gold Star School Award in 2004. But, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Avery won the award in 2006-07 for high student performance on state tests in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years, after Haws left.
Haws said she recalled the school winning the award in fall 2004, just after she departed, “for the work we had done over my tenure there.” When presented with the Missouri education department’s record though, she said her résumé must include “an error. I apologize.”
Lolli Haws’ work experience
1976-84: Middle and high school teacher for South Dakota School for the Deaf in Sioux Falls, S.D.
1984-86: Director of disabled student services for Florissant Valley Community College in Ferguson, Mo.
1986-91: Teacher of elementary and middle school deaf children for St. Louis County Special School District in St. Louis, Mo.
1991-94: Assistant principal, supervising fifth and sixth grades at Fairmount Elementary School in St. Peters, Mo.
1994-2004: Principal of Avery Elementary School in Webster Groves, Mo.
2004-10: Principal of Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Va.
2010-present: Instructional superintendent overseeing 13 schools in Washington, D.C.
SOURCE: Lolli Haws and Lolli Haws’ résumé, as provided to Racine Unified School District.
UNIFIED'S SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
After a monthslong search, the Racine Unified School Board announced Lolli Haws as its sole superintendent finalist on Feb. 11. Search firm Ray & Associates narrowed a list of more than 60 applicants to seven, who were interviewed by the School Board.
Haws is in contract negotiations with the School Board.
The board is hiring a superintendent to replace Ann Laing, who took the position on an interim basis after former Superintendent Jim Shaw retired in August 2011.