First lay principal to lead Greenwood St. Francis

By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – St. Francis School welcomed its first lay principal this year, graduate Jackie Lewis. “I am a graduate, my mom was a graduate, I have two adult children who graduated and my 14-year-old twins are graduates,” she said of her connection to the school. She is also a life-long parishioner.
Lewis retired from the public school system several years ago. “I think I stayed home for two months,” she joked. She had experience in administration and counseling so, after a short stint at a bank, Lewis returned to education as a teacher at St. Francis. When Sister Mary Ann Tupy, OSF, announced her retirement, Lewis saw an opportunity. “I have come full circle,” she said.
“I love the small classes and the small enrollment. It allows us to have a closeness with the faculty and staff. I think we stand out in this community because of the children we produce,” added Lewis.
The school was founded in 1951 to minister to the African-American community in Greenwood. Franciscans have been at the helm since that first day. There is still a community of Franciscan brothers and sisters there and Father Greg Plata, OFM, is still the pastor.
Several members of the Franciscan community that founded and is still involved in the school have told Lewis they are thrilled to see her take the job. “This is what they have prayed for all along. They came and got this community started, but knew they could not be here forever, so they wanted to find someone to mold into this position to continue the work,” she said.
Lewis has already established a school choir and is hoping to strengthen extracurricular activities this year.