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2010 Most Influential Women Honoree: Debby Lawson

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The accomplishments of the students, faculty and staff of seven Nixa elementary schools and its Early Learning Center are victories for Debby Lawson, who was named assistant superintendent of Elementary Education with Nixa Public Schools in August.

She’s had several causes for celebration in recent years.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has accredited Nixa schools with its Distinction in Performance designation for eight years in a row. The schools rank first in the Central Ozark Conference in the academic areas of state-mandated assessments, and Nixa’s Century and Espy elementary schools were two of only 15 schools in the state to earn DESE’s Gold Star School award in 2009. Espy also has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, in recognition of high academic achievement, excellence in programs and student services.

“The elementary schools rank among the top in the state and nation,” Lawson says. “One person could never achieve this status alone, but through participatory leadership and teamwork, huge endeavors are possible.”

Lawson spent seven years as an elementary school principal in Nixa, and nine years as executive director of elementary education before being named assistant superintendent.
Her leadership style, she says, is participatory.

“It is demonstrated by deep discussion, listening for understanding, analysis, planned action and assessment as a team,” she adds.

Lawson’s own experience in education shines a light on her understanding of the many aspects of teaching. She started as an elementary school teacher for Cassville Public Schools in 1975 and became an elementary school principal at Exeter Public Schools in 1992, prior to joining the Nixa district.

Her commitment to education also extends to making sure students’ needs are met.
Last year, she worked with Doug Pitt to establish a Nixa component of his Care to Learn program, which provides medical care, clothing, shoes and hygiene items. And a backpack program that started in December with two children now sends home food with more than 200 children who wouldn’t otherwise have enough to eat on weekends.

“As the economy struggles, some of our families have also experienced economic struggles. … Children must have food, clothing, health and emotional well-being to be successful in school,” she says.

For 10 years, Lawson has been on the board of directors of the Nixa Community Foundation, which has awarded more than $400,000 in grants to schools and community organizations. She was a founding member of the board of Nixa’s Education Foundation, which recognizes educators with grants and awards.

To measure the success of her efforts, Lawson says she only needs to look at her surroundings.

“When I look at the overall elementary program, faculty and staff, whether I see an excellent lesson being taught, a child reading for the first time, or a child who is very proud of his new clothes, I see success,” she says.[[In-content Ad]]

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