LEE -- As Lee school officials begin to consider the future of the district, they want to ensure the community's voices are heard.
The School Committee currently is drafting a survey seeking input about the district. Once completed, it will be unveiled at a yet-to-be-scheduled public forum. It will be available on the district's website, and hard copies will be distributed throughout the town.
"The survey is coming soon," said committee Chairwoman Susan Harding. "We hope to get good views on the concerns people have and how the district will move forward."
Gathering input from taxpayers, parents, and other current as well as former Lee residents is the first step in officials' evaluation of the district, including whether to consider some level of collaboration with other districts.
In addition, focus groups and public meetings will be held to discuss the current state of local public education and how it can be educationally and financially improved.
Last month, the seven-member school board unanimously agreed to explore the options and benefits of shared services with an area school system. The collaboration could range from a mutual agreement over a shared administrator or program to regionalization, according to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. The MASC is assisting with Lee's self-assessment.
While school officials haven't established a timetable for the self-examination process, they hope to complete the entire study before the school year ends in June.
"We want to make sure not to set deadlines we can't keep," said interim Lee schools Superintendent Alfred Skrocki.
Lee's internal study coincides with the Lenox School Committee's examination of options for the Lenox school district, including a possible collaboration with Lee. Lenox has already begun a similar survey of public opinion regarding its school system. The survey period ends Oct. 31.
While Lee and Lenox are conducting separate studies, town and school officials from both communities this spring met informally to discuss how the two school systems could work together, given their current status. Each kindergarten through Grade 12 school district has seen its respective student population drop in the past decade to below 800, while their school budgets kept increasing. As of Oct. 1, Lee's enrollment was 722 students, Lenox 753.
"Lee and Lenox are no different than any other community in Berkshire County with declining enrollment." said Skrocki, former longtime superintendent of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
Municipal officials in Lee and Lenox say it's hard to justify spending more on education with fewer students without looking at possible cost-saving measures -- the most radical being regionalization.
Lee School Committee members say they are approaching the process with an open mind and have no preconceived notions of the district's future.
Local educators also view the study as a way to examine the future role of the school superintendent in Lee.
In late June, the committee hired Skrocki as its part-time school leader until a permanent replacement is found for Jason "Jake" McCandless, who resigned effective June 30. McCandless left Lee to become the superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools.
The school board believes having an interim superintendent will give it time to consider whether to search for a new school boss for the short or long term, or develop some other leadership structure.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233