Wasting no time putting to work their recent collaborative agreement, Lee and Lenox school officials have agreed to share a food service director.
Under a five-month deal approved unanimously this week by the towns' school committees, Lorrie Goodfellow will oversee the cafeteria programs in both communities' elementary and middle/high schools.
The agreement runs from Feb. 1 to June 30 — the remainder of fiscal 2016 — and could be renewed if both districts find the arrangement has initial success.
Goodfellow is currently the Lenox food service director and, effective Feb. 1, she will be replacing John Haughey who retired Jan. 8 from the same job he held in Lee for 15 years.
The shared administrative position comes just three months after the towns' two school committees adopted a legal memorandum outlining how the two neighboring districts would go about sharing costs of educating their students.
Lee and Lenox school officials believe a single food service director is good first step to test the waters of how to share programs, services and administrators.
"Lorrie has been very successful in our school system turning around our finances in a short period of time," said Lenox school Superintendent Timothy Lee.
"There could be some residual savings in the way [Goodfellow] operates both food service programs," added Lee interim school Superintendent Al Skrocki.
Superintendent Lee had said at Monday's Lenox School Committee meeting that, initially each district could save thousands of dollars by sharing a food service director. Goodfellow's annual salary of $62,000 and benefits will be split evenly between Lee and Lenox, with roughly $27,500 in wages left to share from February through June, Lee said.
However, school officials in both districts continue to emphasize improved efficiency and enhanced education — not cost reduction — are the long-term goals of early collaboration.
"I think this isn't about the dollars," Lenox School Committeeman Neal Maxymillian said on Monday. "I think it's about seeing how the [collaborative] process works for the two towns and what hurdles we might encounter and what lessons we might learn."
From a legal and logistical perspective, combining two positions into one is a good place to start and can lead to tackling more complicated areas such as sharing programs and possibly teachers, according to Robert Lohbauer, vice chairman of the Lee School Committee.
"Given the complexity of making this happen long term, especially with collective bargaining involved, [we] can get immediate benefit from the low hanging fruit," he said Tuesday after his committee signed off on the plan.
The shared food service director position was low hanging fruit in a concept vetted by the four-member team established by the Lee-Lenox collaborative blueprint approved last fall.
The panel consists of two representatives from each school district who make advisory recommendations to their respective committees on potential cost shared positions, including superintendent, business director, special education director, facilities director, technology director, administrative assistant to the superintendent, special education coordinator, curriculum coordinator, school psychologist and other shared positions or contracted services.