As the son of an educator, Dr. Joshua Lutz grew up with an interest in working with kids, which later developed into a passion for helping children with special needs.
That background is part of what made him an obvious choice for the new assistant superintendent of Learning Support for Polk County Public Schools.
Dr. Lutz’s new job puts him in charge of PCPS’ Student Services (which handles school psychology, social work and wellness programs), Behavior and Mental Health, and Exceptional Student Education (ESE) departments. Years of personal and professional experience have readied him for the task.
“I have always known that I wanted to work with kids — even as a teen I enjoyed volunteering to coach sports and clubs at the school where my mother was a teacher,” said Dr. Lutz, 46. “When I was an undergraduate I worked part time on the children’s unit in a hospital, and this further affirmed that working with children was what I wanted to do. With a degree in psychology I decided to pursue graduate education that combined psychology and working with kids, so school psychology is where I landed and where I began my career.”
Dr. Lutz previously served as the director of special education for Dominion Youth Services in Richmond, Va. — a group of alternative, therapeutic public day school campuses for at-risk children and students with special needs.
He also has experience as a school principal for Dominion and served as the supervisor of school psychologists for Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia. Before that, he was a school psychologist in Florida (Osceola and then Escambia County).
“Early in my career I learned quickly that school psychologists worked both in regular education and special education. The more I worked, the more my passion for working with children with disabilities grew,” Dr. Lutz said. “I am a huge advocate for our students with disabilities, and want to continue to build services that allow all students to have equal opportunities for success.”
Dr. Lutz has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Towson University, a specialist degree in school psychology from the University of Central Florida, and certification in educational administration from Florida State University. He earned his doctorate in educational administration from Liberty University.
Dr. Lutz is just a few weeks into his new role with PCPS and said he is grateful for the opportunity to return to Florida.
“It’s busy, and Polk County is a very large county with a wide range of students, families, and programs,” he said. “For the first few months I intend to engage in a ‘listening tour,’ — meeting with folks in the schools and in the offices so I can fully understand and appreciate what is working well already, what needs to be improved, and what resources we can leverage to improve outcomes for our students.”
“I want to continue to work towards collaboration amongst our support division and schools,” Dr. Lutz added. “It is my vision that we will develop systems that allow the educational, mental, medical, and behavioral needs of our students to be met with the highest quality response, and the highest level of support possible.”
“Further, I am committed to ensuring that in Polk County, special education is viewed as a districtwide service, rather than a place.”