Versatile Lewis retires after 18 years in Lovell schools

By David Peck

A multi-talented individual who has worked in various parts of the school system spent her last day on the job Monday after 18 years with School District No. 2.

Georgette Lewis retired as the secretary for the district special education department after working a number of different areas over the years including the Accelerated Math Program, library and Free And Reduced Lunch program. She also helped start the Grad Night Out post-graduation party.

The daughter of George and Maxine Wambeke, the 1972 Lovell High School graduate first worked in retail for Homer and Ella Keller at Keller’s Shoe Store and State Farm Insurance in high school and beyond. She married Nick Lewis in 1973 and after five years with the Kellers was a stay-at-home mom until 2001 or 2002, she said, when she took a part-time job with the Children’s Resource Center.

In the meantime Lewis took courses to become a para-professional and substitute teacher, then took a job with the Accelerated Math program at Lovell Elementary in 2003, working with Bob Korrell. A couple of years later a library para-professional position came open, and Lewis was hired.

“(Georgette) was asked if she wanted to transfer to the library. Who doesn’t love the library?” stated notes prepared by district administrative secretary Cheryl Bowers and read at the LHS commencement ceremony. “Of course, she said yes and enjoyed every minute, reading to the students, planning activities to excite (the students) and instill a love for reading. She even loved her early morning recess duty.

“Georgette loved seeing the students first thing in the morning, running to the playground for an early morning hug to start their day.”

“I loved that job,” Lewis agreed. “What kid doesn’t love coming to the library?”

She worked with Gwen Walker and Sherie Monk at LES and also worked at both the middle school and high school. Then the decision was made to assign one person to each school, and Lewis moved to the middle school.

“She enjoyed her time at the middle school library organizing book fairs, tutoring students and getting to know her library aides,” the graduation reading continued.

When Sylvia Gams retired as the special education secretary, Lewis applied for the position and was hired in 2010, and she also coordinated the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Over the years she has worked with special education directors Jeanette Ohman, Dr. Rick Woodford, Doug Hazen and William Hiser, the latter three doubling as superintendent or principal.

She has also worked closely with school psychologists Shane Roberts and Brandon Weiss.

Lewis said she has very much enjoyed the special education secretary position, working with parents, students and staff members. She said her biggest challenge has been keeping up with the latest technology that comes with special education work.

“I’m not very technology oriented,” she said, “but I’ve learned three different special ed programs. A lot of our work is on computer rather than paper. I’ve become way better with the programs than when I first started here.

“We do a lot of state audit reports. I’m proud that all of our audits have shown we’re in compliance and our state reports are in good order.”

Lewis said special education directors have a lot on their plates, overseeing seven special ed teachers, two speech pathologists, one occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a deaf education coordinator, contract counselor, school psychologist, compliance coordinator and herself as special education secretary, plus some 13 paraprofessionals and all of the students the department works with.

Asked what it takes to do her job, Lewis noted, “It takes organizational ability and people skills. There’s a lot of interaction with parents, and I have to work with busy educators to schedule meetings.

“It’s a great job. I love the school district. I’ve never been treated anything but well. It’s a great district and a great place to work. I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had. I’ve grown professionally and as a person with my skills.”

Lewis noted that she has also acted as an ad hoc event planner for the school, helping to plan and provide treats for staff meetings, special events and occasional dinners.

“I have missed interacting with students (in the library), but I cover the front desk from 11 to 12 each morning, so I still get some of that student interaction,” she said on her second to last day on the job Friday. “I also cover classrooms when a teacher is in an IEP meeting or something like that. I have subbed at all three buildings.”

The feeling is mutual when it comes to Lewis’ value to the district.

“Georgette is the type of person everyone wants to work with,” said former middle school principal and district special ed director Hazen, now the superintendent of schools. “She is positive, kind and hard working. This is especially important when working in the special education department where the topics and situations we often deal with can be heavy. She worked well with all stakeholders -- teachers, paras, administration, parents and especially students.

“Georgette made the special education office fun. She always had a snack handy, which I often needed when things were getting stressful. Georgette is great at taking care of the people around her, which certainly extended to me. I appreciated her thoughtfulness and caring, as she always went the extra mile to help everyone. She made my time as special education director a very positive experience.”

Not only has Lewis worked within the school system, she has supported the students by coordinating the Grad Night Out program after helping to start the program with husband Nick and others some 30 or more years ago.

“Our goal was to make it fun, a safe place where the graduates could all be together and have a good time, because they were never going to be all together again,” she said. The program was spawned by then sheriff’s deputy Nick Lewis’ DARE program, with Nick wanting to be proactive and not wait until a student was harmed in a post-graduation accident.

Georgette coordinated the program for many years, coming up with numerous fun games for students in both local school districts year after year, recruiting volunteer help from the community.

“She truly cared about the students as this was an all-night event, which took a lot of planning for games, activities, food and presents,” Bowers wrote for the graduation retirement presentation. “She came up with a different theme each and every year. The graduates looked forward to the event, a wonderful, safe alternative for our graduates to help them celebrate.”

And now? Lewis said she wants to spend plenty of time with her six children and eight grandchildren.