Keith Lankford says his decision to join Mobile County Public Schools was a simple one.
“What attracted me to the system is the superintendent,” said Lankford, who has known MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill since both were students at Troy University 20 years ago. “With his integrity, his vision and what he wants to do, I feel like I could be an asset to him in that direction.”
Lankford resigned from his position as Superintendent of Sheffield City Schools to come to Mobile as MCPSS’ new Deputy Superintendent of Operations. He will oversee all departments in the system that don’t deal directly with academics, including human resources, communication, technology, security, facilities and maintenance, student support services and child nutrition.
A U.S. Army veteran, Lankford and his wife Cathy have two grown children – one a doctoral student at the University of Iowa and the other a dental student at UAB. He served as Sheffield’s Superintendent for three years and was an administrator in Jefferson County schools for 10 years before that. He said his experience in a small system like Sheffield gave him insight into how all departments in a school system work, while his time in Jefferson County gave him experience in a larger system.
“Being in a small system, I’ve had to somewhat delve into all of those (departments), just not on the scale of Mobile,” he said. “I want to outwork everybody, to do the best for these kids and for the teachers and support personnel. I’ll ask 100 questions, because I want to always continue to grow and learn. I want to make sure we’re making the right decisions for our students.”
Lankford said he believes every student has the potential for success. It’s the job of teachers to help them realize that potential. It’s the job of principals to support the teachers, and it’s the job of the rest of the departments in the system to support those administrators and teachers.
In providing that support, Lankford said his immediate goals are to help the system become more efficient and effective in all aspects, from finances to academics.
“I love to create change. I love to raise expectations,” he said. “I believe in the power of E3: Let’s be Efficient. With the resources we’re given, let’s make sure we’re maximizing those. And if we’re maximizing those, are we getting the Effects that it should? Are we being Effective? And then last but not least is the Environment. Our culture and our climate will dictate who we really are. That’s not what we think it is; it’s what other people perceive it as.
“I love staying busy,” he added. “A desk is not my place. I’m going to be in each division. I want to be in schools. I’ll ride bus routes. I want to see exactly what we’re dealing with here, and then I want to solve problems as they come up.”