Shawnee Mission School District chooses Leigh Anne Neal to lead early childhood education program

Dr. Leigh Anne Neal
Dr. Leigh Anne Neal

Leigh Anne Neal has been named assistant superintendent for the growing Early Childhood Education program at the Shawnee Mission School District.

Neal is currently the assistant superintendent for communications at the district, but has extensive previous experience in early childhood and special education.

“I’m excited and honored to have the opportunity to work on such an important initiative,” she said.

“Research shows and child development specialists recognize the early childhood years are the most critical time for child development. Children develop cognitive skills, and academic and behavioral skills needed for success in school.”

Neal will be assuming her new position at a time when the Shawnee Mission School District has set a goal of providing all families in the district the opportunity to enroll in early childhood development.

Currently, about 290 children are enrolled in the “smart start” pre-K program and 160 participate in early childhood special education programs. Schools offering programs are Merriam Park, Rising Star, Rosehill, Shawanoe and the District Instructional Support Center.

“Right now, we’re in transition,” Neal said. “The goal is to develop a quality, comprehensive program for all students who would want to take advantage of an early childhood program.”

While communications has been her field in recent years, Neal began her career at the Shawnee Mission schools as a special education teacher. She also taught kindergarten and third grade.

She has a dual bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education, a master’s degree in education administration and education doctoral degree, EdD. Neal also has a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Neal described her new position as a lateral shift in title and duties. The school district will be filling her communication position, but the new title will be director of communications.

Her start date in her new position depends on how quickly her communications job is filled, Neal said.