WESTVILLE — Westville School District 2 is losing two longtime principals at the end of this school year.
Melinda Pollock-Tucker, the administrator of Judith Giacoma Elementary School, is retiring after 17 years in Westville, and 34 years as an educator.
Greg Lewis, administrator of Westville Junior High School, is retiring after nine years at Westville; first as a vice principal at Judith Giacoma, and then the principal of Westville Junior High School. He also has been an educator 34 years.
Larry Easton, an administrator in Knoxville, will take over as principal at Judith Giacoma. Jared Ellison, vice principal of Judith Giacoma, will take the principal position at Westville Junior High School. His spot will be taken by Pam Dalenburg, a social worker at the school.
In Pollock-Tucker’s 34 years, she has worked at three different schools in the central Illinois area. She was a special education teacher at Bismarck and Rossville. She was also an administrator at Rossville for four years before coming to Judith Giacoma.
“Westville is a much larger school,” Pollock-Tucker said. “We have approximately 700 children, as opposed to the 350 children I oversaw in Rossville. I think I was a good fit for this district, though.”
Lewis worked in the Bismarck school district for 25 years. He started out as a teacher and coach, and was eventually promoted to principal. He became friends with Pollock-Tucker when she worked at Bismarck, and he found the open position for a vice principal at Judith Giacoma through her.
“Kids are kids wherever you go,” Lewis said. “I thought this job would be a great opportunity to challenge myself.”
One of Pollock-Tucker’s biggest achievements during her 17 years was overseeing the construction of the new addition of Judith Giacoma in 2002. She helped write the grant, pass the referendum, and oversee the construction. This made the school much larger than before, and the school is now pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. This isn’t the only thing she has to be proud of, though.
“We’ve become a training ground of sorts, or a model school. We train a lot of student teachers, and have many university alliances that send us students to work with,” Pollock-Tucker said.
Both principals spoke about technology in the classroom, and how they hope to see it improve even more in the future. Westville is considered one of the leaders of technology in this area.
“My philosophy is that I want things to be better when I leave than when I came,” Lewis said. He held true to his philosophy in the area of academics. Westville Junior High School has been recognized as an Illinois Spotlight School three times in the last four years, which means it has had some of the highest test scores in the state.
When it comes to memories made, both principals admit that picking a single one is a tough job.
“I can’t put my finger on one memory,” Pollock-Tucker said, “but what I love (about Giacoma) is that I can barely walk down the hallway without a hug, or a high-five from a student. I’ll miss the students and staff because we’re like a school family, and we’ve connected on a personal level. We reward each other, and help each other through the hard times.”
“No two days are ever the same,” Lewis said. “I love that I get to work with a wide variety of people, and I enjoy the challenge of solving problems. I’ve put out a lot of fires in my time. I’m blessed to have such a great staff, and I’m proud to be associated with them.”
When asked what made them decide to retire this year, both principals said they were ready for a change, and had put in the right amount of years to be ready.
“I’m ready to try something different, and I thought it was a good time to get out while I’m still on top,” Lewis said. “I don’t have anything lined up yet, but I am planning on working. I’m one of those people who has to work or I’ll go bonkers.”
Pollock-Tucker plans to continue with her motivational speaking. She has been giving speeches locally, and plans to do so nationally, as well. She is scheduled to appear in Las Vegas in July.
Pollock-Tucker also is a part of a community outreach program, Angel Wings Ministry. The charity group helps people in need by providing food, clothing, and doing small home repairs. The group can be contacted at 442-0543 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I want everyone to continue to do the best that they can, and to keep improving,” Lewis said when asked what message he wanted to leave for his students and staff.
When Pollock-Tucker was asked what message she wanted to leave, she chose one of her favorite quotes from Mother Teresa: “You may be one person to the world, but the world to one person.”
“I want my students and staff in Westville to take that message, and remember that they really can make a difference,” she said.