Lee-Tyringham school officials suspend search for shared superintendent

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LEE — The search for a shared superintendent has been put on hold.

The Lee-Tyringham Union 29 committee charged with hiring the Lee's top educator voted Monday to spend the next year further vetting the impact of one person splitting his/her time between two K-12 school districts.

"We want to be 100 percent sure about this — we can't be wishy-washy," said committee Chairwoman Andrea Wadsworth of Lee on Wednesday. "We're glad we stepped outside the box."

Wadsworth noted Lee's interim superintendent, Alfred Skrocki, has agreed to remain at the helm for a fourth consecutive year through June 30, 2017, until a permanent superintendent is found.

Last week, the six-member Union 29 panel — three school board members from each town — interviewed the only two candidates who applied for the shared superintendent's post: Peter Dillon, superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, and his Lenox counterpart, Timothy Lee.

The two, 90-minute public interviews was to determine if either or both veteran educators should return for a second round of questioning. The Union 29 committee feels the process — not the candidates themselves — raised more issues regarding a shared superintendent.

"Both are strong candidates but they come from vastly different districts," she said. "Do we want to be one of four communities or share with a district our own size."

Dillon for the past seven years has been at the helm of Berkshire Hills representing Stockbridge, West Stockbridge and Great Barrington; Superintendent Lee, formerly principal of Morris Elementary School in Lenox, has led the district since last February.

"I agree with their decision to be deliberate and thoughtful and gather community feedback," Dillon said in an email to The Eagle.

Lee concurred.

"That makes a lot of sense to me as well," he said in an email to The Eagle, "and I commend the committee for their level of thoughtfulness on these important issues."

Skrocki came out of retirement in July 2013 to serve on an interim basis after Jason "Jake" McCandless left to take the reins of the Pitts field Public Schools.

Union 29 held off searching for a permanent superintendent in order to do a self-assessment regarding the future administrative, financial and educational direction of the district. Last fall, the union committee decided to advertise for a shared superintendent, prompting Dillon and Lee to apply for the position with the blessing and cautious optimism of their respective school boards.

While a shared superintendent is temporarily on the back burner, Wadsworth believes the search could open up other possibilities for shared personnel, programs and services between Lee and its two neighboring school systems.

"If say we shared a curriculum director with Berkshire Hills and test that out, maybe it will be easier to transition into a joint superintendent," she said.

Last month, Berkshire Hills and Lee school boards approved a legal memorandum — similar to the one Lee and Lenox adopted last fall — laying the foundation to explore specific shared services. Dillon is ready to test that agreement.

"I think there's plenty we can do together around curriculum, assessment, professional development and technology to name a few," he said. "There's an openness to exploring possibilities that will support young people and learning."

Lee and Lenox already are testing the shared-services waters; both towns' school committees on Monday began sharing a food service director on a trial basis through June 30. If the arrangement proves efficient for both districts, it could be extended for at least another year.

Superintendent Lee hopes the two districts can collaborate further to improve education in their communities.

"I think Lee and Lenox do face common challenges, yet we differ some on how and when to meet those challenges," he said. "I look forward to being a part of future discussions about our shared needs and how we might address them."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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