New Deans On the Scene

By Roan Schnetzer / Reporter, Diego Branda / Reporter, Nico Lugo / Reporter

If you were a student here at Hickman last year or in years past you may have gotten sent to your assistant principal’s office for referrals- good or bad. Besides dealing with disciplinary issues, assistant principals worked with both parents and teachers.

This year, things are different for assistant principals. Instead of dealing directly with students, Hickman has added a new job in the office that can help keep everything in the school running smoothly. Many students have already met their dean or been familiarized with the new administrators, but if you haven’t, you’re not alone. Here to alleviate the workload of the other administrators and work with students individually are the new deans: Mrs. Suggs, Mr. Knighten, and Mrs. Lewis. 

Mr. Knighten deals with students whose last names start with A-K, while Mrs. Suggs works with students whose last name is L-Z. Mr. Knighten is located in the West Office while both Mrs. Suggs and Mrs. Lewis are located in the East Office-  where the counselors are. Most students might know Mr. Knighten, who has been working at hickman for 8 years now. However, Mrs. Suggs and Mrs. Lewis are both new to Hickman this year. 

Mrs. Suggs

Before working here at Hickman, Mrs. Suggs was an author, writing the book “Becoming Me” in her twenties. 

The first book Suggs had ever written was a book she wrote in crayon and mailed to Scholastic at only eight years old. Months later she was mailed back a rejection letter, to which she says, “I didn’t even know it was a rejection letter, I was too little to know,”

 Becoming Me got its start when Suggs was still an education reporter. She’d visit several different schools tell the students little stories and they would tell her “You should write that!” Suggs says that she wrote this book to help young people, “I started writing stories that were a big deal to me when I was younger so that when I got older I wouldn’t forget to take the time to help young people know, ‘it’s okay, you’ll get over it,” 

Suggs hit a stump while writing her book. She didn’t know where to go. And then she had a stroke of luck, 

“One day I was asked to interview a man and it happened to be Alex Haley,” 

Haley was the author of the famous mini-series, Roots. That’s where she got advice on her book project. He told her that she needed to research different publishing houses. Unfortunately, he passed away about three weeks after she interviewed him. 

“A year to the day he died, my first book came out, Becoming Myself,” 

Suggs says that she first got into education by attending conferences between teachers and students while she was doing research for her book. She was also working as a youth reporter for public schools in Minneapolis, so she visited schools a lot and was very familiar with the classroom environment. 

And while her background was primarily in Journalism and Broadcasting, she states that there was always an overlap with education to her. Besides being an author, Suggs has been a family columnist for the newspaper and she hosted a TV show for 12 years. 

In 2009, she started her first envoy in education by becoming an English Learner teacher assistant. At first, Suggs recalls thinking, “Now I’m not a teacher,”  But they reassured her, “No, no, you’re communication background will be great, you’ll assist the teacher.” and she decided, “Okay, I’ll do it for one year,”


 Only after a month she decided this was the job she wanted to do for the rest of her life, she loved the kids and being able to work with them. In four months she was back in school- later graduating with a Masters in Teaching and English Language Learning, a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication, a minor in Journalism, and ELL certification two years later. 

She thought that was going to be her job for the rest of her life, perfectly content. However, the school district she was working with at the time was interested in her taking on an administrative position and teaching new teachers. She was hesitant at first but then she felt what she describes as “the pull” and looked into leadership roles.  

In January 2019,  she attended a principal conference and she met an administrator from Hickman’s Assistant Office and learned about the Columbia Public School district. She then applied for a position at Hickman.

“I didn’t know if I would get it, but if I did, I knew I would give it my best.” Right now, Mrs. Suggs is working on her Doctorate in Education. She’s always had a passion for young people and that hasn’t changed. She was thrilled when she got the job and says that every day is different for her. 

“I know it’s [the new dean position at Hickman]  beneficial because it helps to spread out the responsibilities for all the administration.”  

Finally, Mrs. Suggs would love for everyone to know is that,“I am very approachable, and I am in your corner.” 

Mr. Knighten

Mr. Knighten, has been working at Hickman for eight years as a special education teacher.

Before working at Hickman, he worked within the Saint Louis school district for 9 years. Mr. Knight’s entire background is in education, with Master degrees in Special Education, Education, Educational Leadership, Education Specialist as well as having a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. 

He is working on obtaining his Doctorate in Education and will get his degree next spring. 

He decided to become a dean this year.

“My aspiration is to become a principal and run my own school.”

 By becoming an administrator, he hopes to be one step closer to achieving his goal.

“Assistant Principals are being able to be relieved of the disciplinary issues in order to give more support to our teachers.” 

Knighten is satisfied with the work he is able to accomplish.

“It gives me an opportunity to be in a relationship with students, parents, teachers, and become a problem solver.” 

The most important detail Mr. Knighten thinks students should know about him is that, “I appreciate honesty. I am a sports fanatic, and I’m here to help, no matter what the situation is.” 


Mrs. Lewis

Mrs. Lewis has been working with students for quite some time now. She began her career as a custodian at Hickman. She has been an ISS Coordinator at Battle for about two years now and was somewhat a dean at Battle as well.

Mrs. Lewis knows kids and students well, and that’s why she believes the addition of the dean positions at Hickman are beneficial.

Her decision to become a dean at Hickman is based around the success of Hickman’s students and their families. Mrs. Lewis desires to “get the opportunity to connect with families, not just by disciplining but by collaborating with families to make sure their students are successful.”

Mrs. Lewis’ care for the student doesn’t just reside inside the walls of her office.

“I loved doing home visits and think this is an opportunity to do something new.”

Mrs. Lewis truly loves to connect with students and families at Hickman and beyond. She wishes the students of Hickman can connect with her, feel comfortable and trust her.

“I’m quite down to earth,” Mrs. Lewis says.

“I really like to learn students, just for exactly who they are. I don’t just look at the situation, but I look at why people do what they do and look for core issues.”

Although being sent to the dean’s office has a negative vibe to it, Mrs. Lewis says to “come in with an open mind.”

“You may have a referral, or you may just be coming in for a conversation. There may be consequences, there might not, but the whole thing, when you come to the office we want you to feel welcomed and we’re here to build a relationship and build trust with someone you know will be there regardless.”

Mrs. Lewis’ main goal is to make students feel comfortable and always be open to help. Regardless of the negativity possibly associated with the deans, Mrs. Lewis is here for the students benefit. She will help in the best way she can and that applies to outside of the walls of the school.