Cody Lewis

Cody Lewis

By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Cody Lewis knows it takes more than a principal to help a school be successful.
As the new Effingham Junior High School principal, he was reminded of that fact over the summer months. It involved a whirlwind of meetings and discussions with teachers and other school personnel to develop different ways to help students feel welcomed and promote success.
The projects and ideas ranged from the Eclipse activities on August 21, to activities for welcoming new students at the junior high.
“It’s been all about what things we can help out with to make the students succeed. The teachers have been very active on this. They have been working on the whole child approach. The idea of Mustang Unity emphasizes there are no ‘I’s’ just “We” to promote collaboration,” said Lewis, who was assistant high school principal at Effingham High for seven years before a shuffle of administrators came about earlier this year. He replaces Bill Myers, who took an administrative position in another Illinois school district.
Lewis is excited to be working with such a dedicated group of “unsung heroes” at EJHS. They have been very welcoming to him and also to new assistant EJHS principal Charlie Schwerman, who also came from EHS where he was a longtime teacher.
“It’s kind of exciting to be involved with these changes organized by the teachers and supported by them,” Lewis said.
In addition to collaborating with the EJHS staff, Lewis also traveled west to a school district in Washington this summer to learn more about utilizing the whole child approach to education. This national effort, started more than a decade ago, works to guarantee that all students have a learning environment that is healthy, safe, engaged, supportive and challenging. The responsibility for achieving those goals rests with the school, community, students and their families through collaborative efforts.
“They had a similar enrollment to what we have here at EJHS and they have been using the whole child approach with success,” he said.
Lewis is new to the junior high level as an educator. He was at the high school as a teacher, coach and then assistant principal for 17 years. He has a daughter in the junior high so he was already aware of some differences in the junior high students, compared to senior high students.
“The biggest difference in the kids I have noticed is their ‘unfilteredness.’ Many are not encumbered by peer pressure. And they tell you whether they like you or not. But many of them are still trying to please adults. At the high school, the students were trying to find out how they would be as adults. Here they are trying to find out who they are as a teenager,” Lewis said with a smile.
Though a junior high filled with young people unfiltered can be a challenge, it also provides some entertaining moments, especially for a principal.
“Every day is fun. The kids are great,” he said.
He is also getting support from different people outside the school building. He noted some EJHS parents planted flowers on the campus. The junior high maintenance crew also spruced up the outdoor study area by power washing and cleaning the concrete benches. That area dates back more than 45 years ago when EJHS was the senior high school.
Lewis knows about how teamwork produces success. On a wall in his office is a photograph of the first Cumberland High School football team. His father is in the photograph. Lewis loved coaching football, but now as an administrator, he concentrates on winning in different ways. But don’t be surprised to see him cheering at some Mustang athletic events.
A dedicated father, Lewis, in addition to his daughter at his workplace, has twin boys in elementary school and a baby girl. His wife, Mandy, works for a bank.
The new principal has jumped into the education process in different ways. He is proud of the posters “School is For Me” that get the message across that everyone is welcomed to junior high.
And there was an arresting moment when he became “the villain” for an innovative class lesson. An Effingham Police detective went through a mock arrest on Lewis, all for fun, and more importantly, for learning through a crime investigation scenario.
“It was some light-hearted fun for the kids. I was more than happy to get arrested for that class,” Lewis said.