Adapting to change is one of the greatest challenges facing schools today, Tracy Lee notes.
USD 257 is no different.
“We have great leaders and great teachers at USD 257,” she said, “We’re going to need them because in the next five or 10 years, you may be looking at a different culture, a different world for our students and our community.”
Lee, a long-time English instructor at Allen Community College, hopes to have a say in the matter.
She is one of two candidates seeking to replace Darrel Catron on the USD 257 Board of education. Voters in the Gas and LaHarpe areas will choose between Lee and Jennifer Coltrane in Tuesday’s election. Catron is not seeking re-election.
In addition to her teaching duties at Allen — she’s been there full time since 1993 — Lee is well acquainted with USD 257 schools.
“I went to school here, my children went to school at 257, and my grandkids will probably go there, too,” she laughed. “I’m definitely invested in the community.”
LEE moved with her family to the Iola area about the time she entered middle school. She graduated from Iola High School, then attended Allen and later Pittsburg State University, where she earned a degree in education, with a focus on secondary education in English.
“I figured I’d be teaching at a high school,” she said. “That’s what i wanted.”
Fresh out of college, Lee married LaHarpe’s David Lee. She started as a substitute teacher, and taught night classes at Allen.
(Full disclosure: This reporter took an English 101 class from Lee as a high school senior.)
“I think it means I’m old,” she laughed.
The college administrators offered her a full-time job in 1993.
“Since then, I’ve slowly moved up the graduation line,” she joked. “About the only ones in front of me are Terry Powelson and Roger Campbell.”
Lee notes she took classes under Campbell when she was a collegian. “So maybe I’m not that old.”
THERE are many challenges — and opportunities — for 257, Lee noted.
The Regional Rural Tech Center, for example, offers technical skills to students, giving them the potential to enter the workforce immediately after high school graduation.
“But with those technical skills, students still need to learn their reading, writing and arithmetic in order to think analytically,” she said.
Allen County’s high percentage of low-income families remains an ongoing challenge, she said.
Meanwhile, a facilities committee has been meeting regularly over the past several months to discuss the aging school buildings. Might there be a movement afoot to propose new or renovated structures in the near future?
“As a community, we’ll need to look hard at doing something,” she said. “We’re going to have to start making tough decisions for our children.”
Ideally, she said, such decisions will include ample opportunity for community input and consensus before taking the matter to the voters.
And of course there’s the ongoing anxiety related to state funding, and how it will affect local decisions
“We need to be on board with whatever is decided,” she said, “as long as it’s the best thing for students. We know what’s at stake for our community, for our schools.”