Outgoing Lenox superintendent gets praising sendoff at last School Committee meeting

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LENOX — "Go, Millionaires!"

That familiar salutation concluded a citation to the school district from state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, honoring Lenox Memorial Middle and High School for its third straight gold medal award for academic excellence from U.S. News & World Report.

"That's really why I brought it!" said School Committee member Francie Sorrentino, a stalwart advocate of keeping the informal mascot and nickname. In February, a majority of students voted to retain it, ending the latest flare-up in a long-standing controversy.

Presentation of the citation addressed to Principal Michael Knybel, who's out on medical leave, accompanied appreciative farewells to outgoing Superintendent Timothy Lee, who was attending his final committee meeting Monday. Lee, who becomes principal of Muddy Brook Elementary in Great Barrington as of July 1, will work with incoming Lenox Superintendent Kimberly Merrick this month.

Merrick signed and returned her one-year contract Monday, School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan announced. Her salary is $130,000, and her term is expected to be extended if all goes well.

It was a bittersweet moment as Lee was congratulated for his leadership during the past four years as top district administrator and six previous years as principal of Morris Elementary.

Committee member Molly Elliot cited the superintendent "for your contributions over the 10 years to help make these achievements possible."

"We're very proud of what you've accomplished during this decade with us, and wish the decade lasted another five or 10 years," Vaughan added.

When Lee announced his resignation in early April, with two years remaining on his current contract, he said it was primarily for personal reasons and that he wished to return to a position as a principal in order to interact more closely with students and teachers.

The Muddy Brook slot opened up when that school's principal, Mary Berle, resigned to become chief educator at the Norman Rockwell Museum, a newly created position.

The official state Senate citation sent by Hinds described the middle and high school as "a remarkable school, consistently in top 2 percent of all schools nationwide for college readiness, with an 82 percent participation rate in Advanced Placement courses and a 97 percent graduation rate."

"It is clear that your faculty is composed of truly dedicated individuals who should be commended on their work," Hinds wrote. "I look forward to seeing continued greatness from LMMHS."

In the U.S. News survey released last month, the school was ranked No. 4 in the state — behind public exam school Boston Latin and two charter schools — and No. 202 nationwide out of 20,548 evaluated by the magazine.

Recalling last Sunday's graduation ceremony at Tanglewood, Lee described it as "a beautiful event and an important day for the community."

He also wished Knybel a speedy recovery. The LMMHS principal returned home last weekend after several days of treatment at Berkshire Medical Center.

"He put a lot of effort into the graduation, even though he wasn't there," said Lee, who also commended Assistant Principal Brian Cogswell and members of the guidance and administrative team.

Lee offered "a special shoutout" to Cogswell, "who assumed a number of responsibilities and really stepped up and delivered in a very dignified way. We're all indebted to him for his actions of the past week."

During the committee meeting, Lee also presented "a verbal check-in" on several superintendent's goals he had outlined last November.

He reported progress on tracking personalized learning for "at risk" English Language Arts and math students in middle school who need extra help. Lee also noted a faculty focus on professional development built around "growth mindset and high expectations" teaching. "I'm really pleased with how that rolled out," Lee said.

In addition, he said, work continued on "inclusive practices," based on positive social and emotional learning "to make sure that students understand the behavioral and social expectations of the classroom and what will happen if they step outside those norms."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

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