Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Lewis' success celebrated

Surprise reception honors school district superintendent

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis and his wife Joyce, who he credits as the "wind beneath my wings," enjoy student performances as part of a surprise celebration given for Lewis last week. Photo by David N. Seelig

Blaine County School District Superintendent Jim Lewis is rarely out of the loop. As a leader in education and the community, the Idaho Association of School Administrators recently selected Lewis as the "Superintendent of the Year." And, on a rare occasion last week, the Lewis found himself caught off guard as the community collaborated to honor the superintendent at a surprise reception.

"Jim, we are all here to celebrate your success, because your success is our success," said Mary Gervase, the district's assistant superintendent. "You have always been our superintendent of the year. It is only fitting, the rest of the state finally came around to our way of thinking."

To celebrate Lewis' statewide accomplishment, Cathy Zaccardi, clerk of the Blaine County School Board, organized a surprise party, inviting 500 school district employees and 200 members of the community to the Wood River High School Commons on Thursday, Dec. 2.

"I didn't think we would be able to pull it off with just about everyone in the community knowing," Zaccardi said.

Despite the large invitation list, the party remained a surprise. Wood River High School Principal Graham Hume met with the superintendent, as guests gathered at the school. After the meeting with Hume, an unassuming Lewis walked through the high school commons and met shouts of congratulations from a collection of friends, teachers, students, parents, school board members and community leaders.

During the reception students honored Lewis with performances. The Wood River High School Future Hispanic Leaders of America club began the celebration with a traditional Mexican dance. Later, the high school's Colla Voce Jazz Choir and Dixie Band performed.

Even state officials offered complements to Lewis.

"Dr. Lewis has done an outstanding job understanding and involving the people of Blaine County to help him get the job done. I speak on behalf of Idahoans when I say we are indeed, fortunate to have a person of his caliber representing Idaho," Gov. Dirk Kempthorne wrote in a letter Gervase read in her speech.

Gervase also read compliments from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard. "He represents the best in contemporary administration and instructional leadership skills," Howard said.

In her speech, Gervase shared the words from state leaders, along with excerpts of the nomination that garnered Lewis the award. She also added personal insights detailing Lewis' contributions to education.

"Jim, it is through your ability to craft a human centered school district, focused on the development and continual refinement of the best educational programs for children, that defines you as an educational leader and most deserving of the award," Gervase concluded.

Following Gervase's speech, Lewis received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"There is no way I could have been selected without the work you do," Lewis responded.

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