Monday, January 6, 2020

January 2020

Dear Friends and Families of the Lee Public Schools,

I hope that you enjoyed the December holidays and were able to catch up with family and friends during this wonderful time of year in the Berkshires.  Everyone should be refreshed in time to return to school on January 2nd.

I started as your Interim Superintendent on December 2nd.  I thank all of you who have welcomed me to the Lee Public School family.  I immediately saw that Lee Middle and High School has received several Silver Medals from US News and World Report.  Principal Gregg Brighenti has developed a plan, working with his teachers, to make the academic achievement in the Middle and High School even higher.

Dr. Jake Eberwein, our former Superintendent, worked with Berkshire Community College in applying for Early College Designation.  We were just notified that we were selected to move to Part B of the application process.   If selected, this would make it possible for our students to graduate with up to a year’s worth of college credit at no cost to families.

We want all our young people to succeed.  Recognizing that college is not the only path to success, Principal Brighenti is working to rebuild our vocational programs. He has also implemented programs to support students who may have lost the confidence needed to complete high school and graduate.

I am impressed with the work that Principal Kate Retzel and her staff are doing to implement the Heart Centered Learning program in the Lee Elementary School.  This program, combined with the wonderful culture that already exists in the school, has helped many of our struggling students in the early grades to develop coping strategies for difficult situations stemming from life traumas.  In December, Principal Retzel was a featured speaker on Heart Centered Learning at a national conference in St. Louis entitled “Gateway to Success: Our Learning. Their Future”.  She is one of our district’s treasures.

I have had the chance to visit many classrooms, observe the kids in the hallways, and have watched our basketball teams practice.  After four weeks in the district, I have yet to hear a cross word anywhere and can clearly see that the students enjoy being here with friends and staff. It is very evident the staff and administrators love what they are doing as well.  Relationships make a difference.

I can tell that the district has a strong, very positive, and supportive culture.   I watched as our football team stuck together and supported each other, even in loss in the Massachusetts Class IV State Football Semi-Finals game at Westfield State University in November.  The team never gave up, and the fans and families showed their pride in our team.

Just so you know a little about me, I live with my wife and granddaughter in New Marlborough in a house that I built in 1978 with a Lee friend, Gary Norton.  I currently serve as Treasurer of both the New Marlborough Central School PTA and the little 225-year-old Southfield Church.  In New Marlborough and Lenox Special Education residential schools, I served a Math Teacher, Special Education Teacher, and Administrator.  I retired as the Southern Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent in 2017 after serving as a Mount Everett Regional School Math Teacher, Curriculum/Professional Development Coordinator, and finally as the Superintendent.   I am also a retired Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Five, working in the Human Intelligence field for over 30 years (20 active years and 14 drilling Reservist years).

Even as the Interim Superintendent, it is important for me to have an Entry Plan to guide us in moving the district forward in the next few months.  In the weeks to come, for example, I will be surveying staff, students, alumni, and families regarding the parts of the academic program and school culture that really make a difference for our young adults, especially after graduation.  This is important and will help us to add emphasis to the aspects of the Lee School District experience that make the most difference to our children.

When I spoke with people about coming to Lee, one of the first things I heard was how well-maintained and pristine our schools are.  Setting the tone by providing such a great environment for learning and growing makes a big difference for everyone.  Jordan Meyer and his crew do a fantastic job!

For our seniors, the next months will pass all too quickly.  Most of our seniors will soon have their post-graduation plans finalized.  One more semester, Exams, Prom, Senior Trip, Spring Concerts, and finally Graduation at Tanglewood will all be here in no time.   The Lee culture drives our seniors forward together so that everyone crosses the finish line.