Lee Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless offered some words of wisdom Wednesday as he wraps up his career in Lee before becoming Pittsfield superintendent of schools this summer. The town, the superintendent advised, should explore forming a regional school district with Lenox, which Mr. McCandless described as a "dream come true." It could be a dream come true for both towns.
The superintendent took the opportunity at a budget meeting to suggest that regionalization could be eased into by first combining central administrations. Meanwhile in Lenox Wednesday, the School Department's exploration of full or partial consolidation with another town to address regular budget shortfalls was discussed. It is encouraging that there is an ongoing dialogue in both towns concerning solutions to knotty financial problems that both confront.
Rising school costs combined with uncertain levels of state aid make it increasingly difficult for towns to go it alone. Regional school districts, by pooling their resources, are also able to fund the desirable programs that draw students through school choice. The state will continue to push for regionalization, and while it has failed to meet its end of the bargain by only partially funding transportation costs, some transportation money is better than none for rural Berkshire towns.
With admirable frankness, Lenox School Committee Chairman Don W. Fitzgerald on Wednesday described the district's current setup as "an unsustainable model long-term." He wasn't referring to Lee but he could have been. He also could have been referring to Lee when he said that whatever is done in Lenox will make some people unhappy and the vast majority nervous. That is always the reaction to change.
Lee School Committee Chairwoman Susan Harding is correct that regionalization will be a long process, which is the reason the groundwork should be put down as soon as possible. This would be a change that makes some taxpayers unhappy and many taxpayers nervous but it has to happen. The sooner it does, the sooner that both communities, parents and students will enjoy the benefits.