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After months of tension, Douglas school board to consider firing superintendent

The proposed termination is part of an agreement by the board and Keith Lewis, who was named superintendent in 2020, has been at the district for 28 years.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education
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After months of tension between some Douglas County School Board trustees and Superintendent Keith Lewis, the board will consider a proposal to terminate Lewis’ contract on Friday

News of Lewis’ termination, which comes as an agreement between Lewis and the board, was first reported Monday by The Record-Courier. If Lewis’ termination is approved, it’s not clear when his last day would be. 

The agenda for the special meeting on Friday at 3 p.m. also includes a discussion, and possible appointment, for an acting superintendent if the board moves forward with Lewis’ termination. 

Board President Susan Jansen did not respond immediately to a request for comment, but said in a statement to Nevada Globe that Lewis and the district came to this agreement in a mutual understanding. 

“Both parties found themselves at an impasse, and felt that the best way forward was to separate,” Jansen said in the statement. 

Lewis referred questions to his lawyer, who did not immediately respond Tuesday. 

Lewis has served as the superintendent for the Douglas County School District (DCSD), located in a deep-red county 50 miles south of Reno, since 2020. The district serves about 5,300 students. According to his LinkedIn profile, he started his career with the district in 1995 as a physical education teacher at Gardnerville and Pinon Hills Elementary schools. Before becoming the superintendent, he worked as the district's human resources executive director and also oversaw its transportation, school nutrition and facilities departments. 

The fallout between the board and Lewis has been months in the making. 

In a September interview with The Nevada Independent, Lewis voiced concerns about the nearly $36,000 in legal fees charged to the district by Reno lawyer and former Republican politician Joey Gilbert in his first month after being hired as the school district’s legal counsel. 

During a Sept. 12 meeting, the board had also considered policy changes that would limit the superintendent’s power and public involvement.

In May, Lewis sent out a statement distancing the district staff from a proposed policy by the board that would block transgender girls from bathroom, locker rooms and sports teams that align with their preferred gender. Lewis said the proposed policy had not been recommended by the district, but staff was prepared to implement it should the board approve it. 

The board ultimately decided to postpone its vote on the proposed policy. 

According to board documents, Lewis’ initial contract began in March 2020 and was set to end in June 2023 until it was extended in May 2021 for two additional years, and later in June 2022 for another year establishing a new contract end date of June 30, 2026. His base annual salary is $175,000. His contract allows for annual increases of 3 percent tied to his performance and whether district employees are also set to receive a step increase that same year. 

The contract states Lewis’s employment is at-will and can be terminated at any time “for any lawful reason or no reason, without cause.” If Lewis’ employment is terminated without cause, the contract states the district shall pay Lewis his earned salary through the last day of his employment as well as a gross lump sum consisting of one year’s salary. 

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