MIDDLEBURY — The longtime chairman of the board that oversees Middlebury Union middle and high schools resigned from the panel on Wednesday, Aug. 20, after accepting a job within the district’s athletic department.
“It was a tough decision for me to step down,” said Leonard Barrett, a Bridport resident who has served on the UD-3 school board for 11 years, five of them as chairman.
But it came down to Barrett’s interest in a part-time job assisting UD-3 Athletic Director Sean Farrell. Barrett retired from farming two years ago and has been an avid supporter of MUHS sports — particularly the football program. The new job will allow Barrett, 60, to have a direct association with the school’s various sports programs. His duties will include running the game clock at home contests, making sure school facilities are ready before game time, and tending to the needs of coaches and referees.
“It keeps me involved with the community, the kids, and that school,” he said of MUHS, from which he graduated in 1973.
At the same time, Barrett felt the need to resign from the UD-3 board to avoid any potential appearance of conflict of interest. The board, of course, sets the budget for MUMS and MUHS, including their respective athletics spending plans.
Barrett leaves a UD-3 board that has dealt with a lot of weighty issues during his tenure, such as several tight budgets and a proposal to lease district-owned land off Creek Road to the town for construction of a new recreation facility. The UD-3 board (and district voters) endorsed that plan, along with a district team rooms addition that will be built onto the new facility.
“That was probably the biggest highlight,” Barrett said of the recreation facility and team rooms project. “I have never seen so many people at our annual meeting as I did last February (when the matter was discussed and voted).”
Serving on the board was a pleasure for Barrett, in part because of what he said is widespread community support for the high school and middle school. He has not closed the door on seeking election to the UD-3 board in the future, if his employment situation were to change.
He will continue to serve on the Bridport selectboard and as vice president of the Friends of Middlebury Football boosters club.
The Bridport Central School board is expected to appoint Rick Scott to serve in Barrett’s place on the UD-3 board until Town Meeting Day next March, at which time he and others will have an opportunity to run for the remaining one year left on the three-year term.
After accepting Barrett’s decision to resign, the UD-3 board confirmed Cornwall’s Peter Conlon to serve as the new chairman. Conlon is a veteran member of the UD-3 board and had been serving as its vice chairman.
“Leonard has been a tireless advocate for all of the district’s kids, ensuring that their middle school and high school years are filled with opportunities to learn and participate,” Conlon said. “We will miss his vision and leadership, but the students he will work with now will be the beneficiaries of his love for the UD-3 schools.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]