The appointment of Keith E. Lewis as superintendent of the Lackawanna City School District leaves the City Council without a president.
Lewis, council president and a former city councilman, will start as school superintendent on Friday. He had been serving as assistant school superintendent for almost a year while holding down the council president post.
The dueling jobs concerned at least one former councilman and more than a few residents.
Former Third Ward Councilman Joseph Jerge repeatedly questioned Lewis at council meetings on the potential conflict presented on issues involving the city and its school system. Lewis, in turn, recused himself from voting on those issues.
News of Lewis' appointment drew a positive reaction from Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski.
"Since he's been working with the school district, we've had a strong relationship," said Szymanski, who acknowledged the challenging road ahead for Lewis as superintendent. "Trying to change the direction of a school district is like turning around an aircraft carrier. Keith's attention to detail will serve the district well."
Lewis, a lifelong Lackawanna resident, was a longtime physical-education instructor and athletic director for the Cleveland-Hill School District. He started at Cleveland-Hill in 2001 as a physical education instructor and part-time athletic director, said Superintendent Jon MacSwan. In 2012, Lewis left his part-time position as athletic director but continued to teach physical education until 2017.
Lewis started in 2012 on the Lackawanna City Council, where he represented the Fourth Ward. Lewis was voted council president in 2016.
The City Charter requires City Council vacancies to be filled by a council vote. Candidates must have the same party affiliation as the council member who vacated it. Lewis is a Democrat.
Anne Spadone's retirement as Lackawanna school superintendent also takes effect on Friday. She was appointed to the position in June 2013.
Spadone, in a farewell message on the district website, pointed to the ongoing $27 million capital improvement project that will see major changes at the middle school-high school campus on Martin Road, including an independent secure entrance for each school.
Lackwanna School Board member Anthony Catuzza looked forward to a "nice smooth transition" in the top job for a district that faces continued challenges of poverty, language barriers and outdated facilities. He said Lewis had been working closely with Spadone as he prepared to move to the new job.