OTIS -- A longtime school committeewoman who helped the town form a regional school system more than 20 years ago won’t seek re-election during Tuesday’s annual town election.

After nearly 25 years as a school board member, Laurie Nikituk will forgo another three-year term on the Farmington River Regional School District School Committee. Arlene Tolopko is expected to succeed Nikituk, as Tolopko is among the 13 candidates listed on the ballot running unopposed. Write-in candidates are needed for a one-year term on the Cemetery Commission and a two-year stint on the Planning Board.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Otis Town Hall.

Nikituk’s commitment to public education began as a teacher in Keene, N.H., before moving to Otis, her father’s hometown, in the mid-1980s. By then, Nikituk had opted out of teaching, but felt compelled to get involved in the local schools.

"I always wanted to keep in education, that’s why I got involved in the School Committee," she said. "I’ve always said, ‘If you weren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’"

Nikituk was first elected to the Otis School Committee and later the Farmington River school board, after the district was formed in 1992. Until two years ago, she chaired the Farmington River panel for 10 years.

Otis’ regionalization occurred after it broke away from the three-town school system with Tyringham and Lee, known as Union 29. Otis and neighboring Sandisfield decided to merge both communities’ kindergarten through sixth grade schools into a new, single elementary school on Route 8 in Otis, just north of the town center. Prior to the merger, Otis and Sandisfield almost automatically tuitioned its middle and high school students to Lee Public Schools and Great Barrington-based Berkshire Hills Regional School District, respectively.

"With regionalization, it made both Lee and Berkshire Hills accountable for what they had to offer Otis and Sandisfield, as students in both towns could now go to either [school district]," Nikituk noted.

Nikituk has sat on numerous school committee-related committees, ran an after-school art club for Farmington River students and has had the honor of representing Otis at Lee and Berkshire Hills graduations in announcing which Otis students received the annual town scholarships.

The mother of two says her proudest moment as a school board member came three years ago when she handed her son Alex his diploma during Lee’s commencement. Nikituk gets to repeat the emotional scene in two weeks with daughter Angela, who graduates from Lee on June 7.

"It’s like going through high school three times, as I get to be there for both of them," she said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233