With a class of 54, Lee eyes in-person graduation ceremony

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LEE — The pomp and circumstance will go on for Lee Middle and High School graduation — with a new date and location.

School and town health officials are working together to stage an in-person commencement ceremony on the football field of the Greylock Street campus.

For nearly 40 years, Lee has held graduation exercises in the Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. With Tanglewood and Lee High both closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials are brainstorming ways to create an alternate sendoff for the Class of 2020.

"The general idea is we take advantage of our small size. We have 54 students in the senior class this year," Lee High Principal Gregg Brighenti told the Lee School Committee during a virtual meeting last week. "We can spread [the graduates] and some guests across the football field and still have everyone 6 feet apart."

Brighenti said the date, time and other details are still being worked out, but the commencement will be after the originally scheduled date of June 8. The new day and rain date would coincide with the state's phase two of reopening, which is expected to allow for in-person graduations.

Since the field has lights, a weeknight ceremony may be better to accommodate all the seniors, Brighenti wrote in an email sent to the seniors on Wednesday.

"We fully intend to celebrate the Class of 2020, and by waiting a bit past our originally planned date, we hope to be able to do that as "normally" as possible in these extraordinary times," he told the future alums.

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Brighenti said each senior will be allowed a limited number of guests and all must abide by social distancing rules and wear a mask.

However, gone is the usual protocol of seniors being on stage, receiving their diploma and a handshake from the school principal.

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"We will try and keep the ceremony as traditional as possible, but with fewer people on stage. No handshakes or hugs and probably no cap toss at the end," Brighenti said.

The program will include the traditional speeches from the class valedictorian, salutatorian and a third senior picked by his/her peers.

The Lee High seniors already getting accolades from the business community ahead of Graduation Day. Banners, each with several names of the seniors congratulating them on making through a highly unusual final year, are hanging from the front of several storefronts on Main Street.

Brighenti thanked Studley Press in Dalton for producing the banners.

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Search continues

The district's search for a new business administrator is back to square one — again. The Lee-Tyringham School Union 29 Committee, charged with hiring the central office staff, including the superintendent, has posted the administrator position for the third time in a year.

Superintendent Michael Richard said of the five people who applied for the job, only two were certified/licensed to do the job, which carries an annual salary of up to $90,000.

"It is a difficult time to attract qualified people because the salaries are not comparable to other parts of the state," Richard told The Eagle. "Currently, The Management Solution group remains contracted to do our business administrator functions."

Andrea Wadsworth, the current Lee School Committee chairwoman, vacated the position last June to become the deputy superintendent for the Mount Greylock Regional School District.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.


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