Lee Public Schools: Four vie for three committee seats


LEE -- The candidates in the upcoming Lee School Com mittee race anticipate changes in the Lee Public Schools once the district's nearly year-long, self-evaluation is completed in June.

Incumbents Kathleen Hall, Chair woman Susan Harding, Alexandra Heddinger and challenger Andrea Wadsworth are vying for the three seats up for grabs in the annual town election May 12.

The four women say it's important the committee follow through on the consensus the study raises on the future leadership, educational and financial structure of the local school system.

"It is very introspective to step back and analyze one's self," said Wads worth. "The results will be interesting and hopefully well utilized."

Based on last fall's districtwide, online survey and three public input sessions earlier this year, many parents, teachers and taxpayers say status quo isn't an option, given decade-long enrollment decline coupled with annual budget increases.

Some advocated for regionalizing with another district, others shared services and administrators, which could include the superintendent.

"Lee is very fortunate to have a part-time interim superintendent because it gives us an opportunity to see how a shared superintendent would work if he or she were [in our district] only part of the week," Hall said. Last June, the school board hired Alfred Skrocki as a temporary superintendent until either a new, permanent one was found, or some other leadership structure was put into place.

Any significant change in the Lee Public Schools must be "thoughtful and realistic," ac cording Harding.

"The implementation of shar ed services of any kind will only be cost effective if it serves students as well," she said.

However, Heddinger says taxpayers shouldn't anticipate huge school budget savings from the changes needed to increase course offerings, provide viable sports, extracurricular activities and diversity within the district.

"We will just be able to better keep expenses in check without having to make drastic cuts in programs and we'll have options for budget growth at a slower pace," she said.

Heddinger, first elected in 2008, currently works for Darrow School in New Lebanon, N.Y. She was active in the district when her two sons attended Lee Public Schools. She says the challenge is to continue improving the quality of education without being a burden to taxpayers.

"We need to keep this mo mentum going, which means clever and strategic use of resources," she said.

Harding agrees for the need to "protect all the great gains" faculty and staff have made in re cent years. A committee mem ber since 2007 and one-time active volunteer in the Wor cester public schools and Lee Elementary School, the committee chairwoman wants to help foster future district im provements. "My experience working with teachers, administrators and parents helped me appreciate how important it is for all the players in a school committee to work together effectively," she said.

Hall is seeking her third, three-year term and currently serves on the school board's negotiating team, strategic planning panel and Lee Youth Commission. The lifelong Lee resident who taught for 33 years in the Lee school system wants take part in the district's future direction.

"I am thoroughly invested in the work the Lee School Committee has done and I feel continuity is very important in the pursuit of moving forward," said Hall.

While a political newcomer, Wadsworth says if elected, she will bring a wealth of experience in public and private education. The owner of A.W. Confections also serves as the district accountant for Berk shire Hills Regional School District and previously held the job of national business manager for the Lee-based College Intern ship Program.

In addition to educational finances, Wadsworth understands the importance of all who work in public schools.

"I value each person who de dicates their time and effort working with our youth: the much-needed smile from the cafeteria worker, the helping hand from the paraprofessional and the dedicated knowledge from our teachers," she said.


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