Friday March 29, 2013

Berkshire Eagle Staff

LEE -- Lee Public Schools are mourning the death of a member of its overnight custodial staff at Lee Middle and High School.

Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said Timothy "Shep" Shepardson Sr., 58, of Lee, joined the school staff as a substitute custodian in February of 2012, and was hired as a full-time staff member in April 2012.

"Mr. Shepardson immediately became a valued and respected part of our school community," McCandless said.

The school district notified parents and staff via an automated phone message and an email Friday morning.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this community member," McCandless stated.

Schools also canceled after-school activities. Classes are to resume on Monday, and grief counselors will be at both at the Lee Middle and High School building, as well as at the elementary school to support students as well as staff.

"We're all just stunned right now," he said.

While the cause of death is still under investigation between the Lee Police Department and state medical examiner's office, early indications don't suggest anything suspicious.

Shepardson was known to often work late cleaning up after a variety of school events.

The superintendent said he received a phone call at 6:15 a.m. from another custodial member reporting the discovery of the deceased staff member in a custodial break room. The facility is typically opened between 5:30 and 6 a.m. during the school week.

McCandless said an automated message went out at 6:26 a.m., notifying families that classes were canceled at both Lee Middle and High School and Lee Elementary School, which share a campus on Greylock Street.

At 7:48 a.m., a second message explained classes were canceled because a staff member had passed away.

"Shep made it comfortable for the groups and clubs hosting after school events," said Lee Middle and High School Principal Joseph Turmel. "He was a friendly face to the kids and adults and loved the activities and games at night."