Lewis takes over as director at Moab Charter School as Weiss accepts new job

When students of Moab Charter School arrive for their first day on Monday, Aug. 15, they’ll be met with a new face. Beginning in June, James Lewis took over the reins of the school, stepping in as the new principal after Emma Weiss took a new job in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lewis brings a background in charter schools, public schools, and the unique difficulties faced by schools in southeastern Utah.

Lewis was born and raised in a small town in Oregon. After finishing high school, he attended Brigham Young University in Provo, where he received his undergraduate degree in history. He later went back to school and received his master’s degree in secondary education and his Utah teaching license.

At that time, Lewis accepted a job at Navajo Mountain High School in the San Juan County School District, where he taught history for two years before going on to teach at White Horse High School in Montezuma Creek.

“For the last nine years, I’ve been down there,” he said. “While teaching down there I earned a second master’s degree in school administration and supervision and pursued my administrator’s license.”

Last month, Lewis was offered the job at Moab Charter School. Even though he’s been in the public school system for a number of years, Lewis said he’s always enjoyed working with charter schools.

“When my wife and I were newly married and had younger kids, we helped start a charter school in the Provo area,” he said. “We like the idea of charter schools. The opportunity to give students and their parents a choice. “

Lewis said it’s not easy to build a school that fits the educational needs of all students and charter schools can help fill certain niches.

“Sometimes it’s hard to build a school that’s one size fits all,” he said. “So the idea is that you can create this charter school that might fit some students’ needs a little bit better.”

Lewis said that even under the new leadership, MCS will continue to focus on maintaining small class sizes.

“We cap it at 20 students per class,” he said.

He added that MCS is the only accredited elementary school in Moab. The Utah State Office of Education requires all high schools to be accredited, however, the process is optional for elementary and middle schools.

Lewis said he expects his educational background and work experience will be a significant help to him in the new position.

“I’ve been in public schools for eleven years,” he said. “I really want to help teachers be the best they can be. And to help them reach every student.”

While he has a lot of ideas about additions and changes he’d like to implement at MCS, Lewis said it’s impossible to know what will and won’t work until the school year has started.

“I have all sorts of ideas running around in my head,” he said.

Lewis said there are still a limited number of openings at MCS. Anyone interested in enrolling a child at the school should contact Lewis or Moab Charter School Administrative Assistant Shauna Vink for more information. They can be reached at 435-259-2277.

MCS will hold its annual Back to School Night — which also features a barbecue — on Friday, Aug. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the school, located at 348 East 300 South.

ByBy Laura Haley

The Times-Independent