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Lakeview Academy has big shoes to fill with John Kennedy's departure
Lakeview Academy head of school John Kennedy personally welcomes students to the first day of classes Tuesday Aug. 21, 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers

Lakeview Academy, a private college preparatory school in Gainesville, is in the midst of a leadership change as Head of School John P. Kennedy prepares to depart at the end of this academic year.

John Simpson will serve as interim head of school for the 2019-2020 school year. Simpson is Lakeview’s co-assistant head of school, but he has indicated he will not be a candidate for the permanent position. 

Lakeview has engaged search firm Carney Sandoe and Associates to guide its pursuit of the next head of school. The school hopes to select a permanent head by the end of 2019, with the aim of installing the candidate by the start of the 2020 school year.

It’s been a productive nine-year tenure for Kennedy, who has overseen significant growth in enrollment and facilities expansion.

“Under his watch, Lakeview has strengthened its reputation as a first-class private school serving youth and families throughout the Northeast Georgia region,” Clay Eubanks, chair of the board of trustees, said in a news release in January.

Kennedy’s contributions have included doubling the fine arts program, a particular passion of his, and strengthening the Spanish program.

He’s also worked with school officials and the board to add more robust mathematics curriculum and talented faculty. Under his guidance, Kennedy has expanded the focus on technology, such as engineering and robotics courses, while also growing virtual learning opportunities.

“I’m feeling pride,” Kennedy said. “What I’m most proud of here is how we’ve added so many new programs, especially robotics and technology.”

Kennedy also oversaw the school’s recent $3 million capital fundraising campaign, which helped develop a new middle school building in 2017. The school also cut its debt in half and tripled its endowment.

The results showed as enrollment and graduation numbers grew, with more than 60 annually heading off to colleges and universities.

This year, the school will graduate more than 60 seniors, about 20 of whom received earlier admissions acceptance to the University of Georgia.

But this graduating class will be heading to great colleges and universities “all over the country,” Kennedy said.

And they have a lot to live up to after Dhruv Gaur, a Brown University student who attended Lakeview Academy, was the “Jeopardy!” college champion in 2018, winning a cool $100,000.

This spring, Kennedy’s youngest son will graduate from Lakeview, as his oldest son previously did, and attend DePaul University in Chicago.

So, it made sense for he and his wife to move on and explore other professional opportunities, Kennedy said.

“It’s time to step back,” he added.

Kennedy said he has confidence in a strong board of trustees, “people with real vision,” as well as donors and community partners who will help define Lakeview’s vision for the next five or 10 years.

“Instead of top-down, this one is going to come from the community,” he said of future plans for expansion or new curriculum at the school.

Kennedy said the demands of modern education are changing and “a new set of eyes” will serve Lakeview well going forward.  

It’s been a banner year for Lakeview in many regards, with the girls’ basketball team placing fifth in the state, a robotics team competing at the state level again, and regional winners in literary competitions.

“It’s been a really good, diverse group of students,” Kennedy said.

The school has also added mentors at the elementary, middle and high school grades over the past few years.

“We now have learning support for the students,” Kennedy said, adding that these supports exist for students with dyslexia and other learning challenges.

The 2019 graduation is scheduled for May 18, which Kennedy describes as “one of the great traditions” and one of the things he’ll miss the most.

Kennedy said he’ll also miss his colleagues, including the school’s longest tenured educator, Michael McCann, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

“He’s one of those irreplaceable guys,” Kennedy said.

Looking forward, Lakeview’s growth will be influenced by its new leader.

But old dreams like an access road off Limestone Parkway and upgrades to football and other athletics facilities might still hold sway.

At the end of the day, the sky’s the limit.

“It’s the strength we have in being a smaller school,” Kennedy said.