Even though he’s retiring after 33 years of service to the Union County School District, Lewis Jeter says he’s not through with education or with sharing the lessons he’s learned about the importance of parental and community involvement in the raising of children.
Jeter, who has served the district in a variety of teaching and administrative positions during the course of his career, is retiring today, Aug. 31.
As he looked back on his career Wednesday afternoon, Jeter said the most important lesson he’s learned during his years of service is the importance of parental authority and involvement in their children’s lives. Now that he’s retired, Jeter said he hopes to set up some speaking engagements with parents to talk to them about this insight and the impact it could have on the community and its children.
“Parenting should begin at conception, not after a child has reached their teen years,” Jeter said. “Too many parents say, ‘Not my child,’ but we find so many parents with broken hearts after their child has committed some crime or heinous act.”
To avoid this, Jeter said parents must not only take charge of their children’s lives, they must do so in cooperation with the educational system and the community.
“Parents must reassert their authority over their children and become more cooperative with their children’s teachers, principals and school administrators,” Jeter said. “It does sound corny to say it takes a village to raise a child, but in actuality, along with my parents, the village raised me.”
The investment the “village” made in Jeter has reaped dividends throughout his career as an educator and administrator with the school district.
Jeter, a 1967 graduate of Sims High School, began his career at Sims Junior High School as teacher of the EMD (Educable Mentally Disabled) class. Two years later, he was transferred to Union High School where he also taught the EMD class.
After 11 years at Union High, Jeter was again transferred, this time to Jonesville High School as assistant principal. It was during this time at Jonesville High that Jeter would undertake an assignment that resulted in the creation of what is now known as the Achievement Academy.
“While I was at Jonesville High School I was asked to write a curriculum for an alternative school,” Jeter said. “I was given release time by then-Superintendent Dr. Dan Powell to attend seminars and training sessions on alternative school programs.”
Jeter presented the curriculum he developed to Powell and to the Union County Board of School Trustees.
“It was accepted in total and the board decided to begin the alternative school with that curriculum,” Jeter said. “The district advertised for a principal/director of the alternative school program. I indicated that I was interested. After being interviewed I was selected as the first principal of what is now known as the Achievement Academy.”
For the next two years, Jeter was principal of the Achievement Academy. In this third and final year as principal, however, Jeter was named the district’s assistant superintendent for personnel and pupil services.
“I was assistant superintendent for personnel and pupil services from May 2002 until November 2011,” Jeter said. “At that point, the superintendent chose to move me from personnel but I did remain over pupil services.”
Today (Friday) is Jeter’s last day with the district and marks the end of a 33-year career. Jeter, however, pointed out that his involvement with the district predates him joining it in a professional capacity. He said his years as a student helped prepare him for the success he enjoyed, both before and during his tenure with the school district.
“This district has been good to me in a lot of ways,” Jeter said. “I attended elementary, middle and high school. I graduated from Sims High School in 1967. Upon graduation I felt prepared to compete with anyone.”
For the first year after graduation, Jeter attended college, then left for a year “to make money.” At the end of that second year, he was drafted into the army, serving from 1969-1971.
When he returned to civilian life, Jeter returned to college.
“After being discharged I went back to school and I attended USC Union,” Jeter said. “I played basketball and while there the basketball team finished third in the nation in what was then the National Little College Athletic Association.
“While there I was president and founder of the Black Students Union,” he said. “I graduated in 1973 with an Associates in Art.”
Jeter then transferred to Winthrop College where he would not only graduate, but make history.
“At Winthrop I majored in political science,” Jeter said. “At that time males could only attend during the day. Even so, I became the first male president of the Association of Ebonites which was the equivalent of a black student union. They’ve had a number of male presidents since, but I was the first.
“While there I earned a bachelor’s and then master’s of arts in teaching,” he said.
After Winthrop, Jeter attended Converse College and then USC.
“I got my Educational Specialist degree from Converse College,” he said. “At one time I was in the doctoral program at USC. It was during that time it was discovered I had cancer.”
Jeter declined further comment on this period of his life, choosing instead to voice his confidence in the future of the Union County School District.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the ACT college entrance exam scores of Union County High School seniors had declined between 2011 and 2012. The decline was not only in the composite score but in all four subjects tested.
“Those scores are going to rebound,” Jeter said. “We changed from a bloc schedule to a traditional schedule with a seven-period day. Everyone was going through growing pains, teachers, students and administrators alike.
“The staff at Union County High School is an excellent staff and everyone will see those scores turn around in a positive direction,” he said. “If the district supports their teachers, students and administrators the sky is the limit. I’ve typically said that Union County Schools will soon be one of the best districts in the state and I believe that will happen.”
When it does, at least part of it will be due to Jeter’s work with the district over the years, work that might continue even though he’s retired.
“I’m not finished with education,” Jeter said. “If the right opportunity comes up I would go back into education.”
One possible opportunity is the district’s mentoring program which Jeter said he hopes he’ll be permitted to take part in.
“If allowed, I do plan to work with the student mentoring program,” Jeter said. “If the school district will allow me, I will work with the mentoring program, either with the students or as a trainer.”
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall thanked Jeter for his service to the district.
“We would like to thank Lewis Jeter for his many years of service to Union County Schools,” Woodall said. “He has been a positive influence and served as a mentor for many students.”