LENOX — A major shake-up of the town’s seven-member School Committee will be on the town ballot, as three current members have chosen not to seek reelection.
As a result, six candidates are scrambling for the slots to be filled by the top three vote-getters. The town election is scheduled for May 10.
School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan, a 38-year veteran of the public school district, said the contest is comparable only to a six-person race he recalls in the 1990s.
Current committee members not seeking another three-year term are Molly Elliot, first elected in 2016; Anne-Marie O’Brien, elected in 2018, and Francie Sorrentino, who served for 10 years.
Following are brief profiles, in alphabetical order, of the candidates seeking a School Committee slot:
Cass, a native of Acton, moved to Lenox in 2015 with his wife, Kristine, a member of the Finance Committee. They have three children, including two attending Morris Elementary School. Cass, who first sought election to the School Committee in 2018, is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School and has been a management consultant and a public policy researcher.
He leads an organization, American Compass, that develops policy proposals to strengthen families, communities and the economy.
“My work as a member of the Lenox School Committee’s Strategic Planning Committee and a co-chair of the Lower Grades Reopening Task Force has shown me the importance of the committee’s work and the need for our schools to have strong and experienced leadership,” he stated.
“I would like to contribute my experience in both management and education policy to that effort, and would focus on ensuring that we remain an independent district in which our community takes great pride, that we manage our finances responsibly, and that our programs meet the diverse needs of our students.”
Veronica “Roni” FentonFenton, a School Committee member from 2010 until 2016, said she is seeking to rejoin the school board “to be a voice for equality and justice for all students enrolled in the Lenox Public Schools and throughout Berkshire County.” She has been a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and served on the most recent Superintendent Search Committee.
Fenton left her law practice in 2013 to pursue her interest in education and to work with Bridge, where she is vice president of the board at the grassroots organization “dedicated to advancing equity and justice by promoting cultural competence, positive psychology and mutual understanding and acceptance.”
Fenton, a graduate of Suffolk University Law School, Wheaton College and Mount Holyoke College, grew up in Pembroke. She and her husband, Christopher, are 27-year residents of Lenox; their three grown children attended the town’s public schools. She stated that her 30-year career as an attorney and education advocate gives her “a breadth of experience and knowledge to help lead the Lenox Public Schools.”
“In recent years it has become more evident than ever that we as a community have not been doing enough to ensure that the rights to and the promise of equal education opportunities for all students are realized,” she said. “Students in Lenox need to be supported in their pursuit of a variety of educational interests and career paths.”
Fenton added that she wants to help support incoming Superintendent Marc Gosselin, “who has demonstrated his ability to engage communities to ensure inclusion and equity for all.”
Kirby, a Longmeadow native who moved to Lenox in 2010, after graduating from Salem State University, has three children at Morris Elementary School. Her husband, Eric, is a Lenox Police officer.
Kirby is an occupational health and safety consultant for area businesses to ensure compliance and safety for their employees. She also stated that she is certified in infection prevention through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kirby said that she looks forward “to bringing common sense, a better-than-average understanding of budgets, innovative thinking and vision to the table. With a background in leadership and high level management, along with strong roots here in Lenox, I am multitasked, believe in honest communication across all disciplines and will be an advocate for children of all abilities and aspirations.”
Messana, a Berkshires native, moved from Lanesborough to Lenox at the start of second grade and graduated from Lenox Memorial Middle and High School in 2011. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Smith College and a master’s degree in exercise and health sciences from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Messana has worked as a camp counselor and youth services coordinator at the Lenox Community Center and as a substitute teacher in the Lenox Public Schools.
“I have witnessed firsthand the efforts of teachers and staff to provide the best education for our students every day,” she said. “Moreover, I have seen the talent and drive of our students blossoming into exceptional future leaders.”
Messana’s stated goal is “to serve as a voice of reason with an experienced youthful perspective, and to make Lenox a school community in which every student, teacher and staff member is proud to belong, learn and work.”
Sheehan, a native of Tucson, Ariz., holds a master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. She moved to Pittsfield in 2008 and recently to Lenox, where she has three young children in the town’s public schools.
She has taught at Egremont Elementary School, Reid Middle School, Conte Community Elementary School, Herberg Middle School and Taconic High School, all in Pittsfield, and now at Du Bois Middle School in Great Barrington, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL).
Sheehan said that, in moving to different schools based on the population of multilingual students who needed English education, “I was able to meet so many of the incredible teachers in Pittsfield. I proudly served on the United Educators of Pittsfield executive board for two years.”
She explained that she started teaching ESL “because I grew up in a multilingual, bicultural home and loved the opportunity it gave me to be a strong advocate for immigrant families. My late father, Ramiro Guerrero, was a powerhouse in the Latino Community in the Berkshires.”
Her husband, Mike Sheehan, is a teacher at Pittsfield High School.
“I am running for Lenox School Committee because of my unique ability to view issues as a parent and a teacher,” she said. “I look forward to serving the Lenox community and representing working families.”
Winger, a native of Elmira, N.Y., and later a resident of Syracuse, N.Y., said she moved to Lenox 12 years ago with her husband based on the educational reputation of the town’s public schools. They have four children attending the schools.
“I have been fortunate enough to stay at home for many years to raise my children,” she stated. “I began to volunteer as a way to stay ‘in the know’ with education and local community.”
She has been a board member at the Lenox Children’s Center, the Lenox Library and the Lenox Education Enrichment Foundation and serves on the Morris Elementary School PTO.
“I am looking to serve on the Lenox School Committee because I have a vested interest in the education system that affects my children and their peers,” Winger said. “I look forward to bringing fresh ideas and a new perspective.”