By Dedra Cordle
Lee Schreiner was ready to retire.
After more than 37 years teaching gifted and talented students in the South-Western City Schools District, he wanted to spend more time with family, whittle down the items on his bucket list, and maybe throw his hat into the political ring by seeking a term on the board of education.
All of those plans changed, however, when he learned of the illness of a colleague.
“I came back for another year to teach so that I could be of service to this individual, the school, our students, and this district,” he said.
Fast forward to 2021 and Schreiner was ready to retire again – this time after serving as a member of the board of education for almost a decade.
Much like his plans upon his retirement from teaching, he wanted to spend time with family, whittle down the items on his bucket list, but mainly stay away from the political side of things this time.
Those plans changed too, however, upon learning of the death of a “great friend and colleague.”
Last month, the family of board of education member Robert Ragland Sr. announced he had passed away on Dec. 23, 2021. The current vice-president had a little over two years left on his term.
Wanting to honor his friend, Schreiner sought the blessing of Ragland’s family to submit an application to fulfill the remainder of his term. He said though he was not sure the current board would appoint him as there were many qualified candidates, he wanted to try to “be of service” to his late colleague, his former colleagues on the board, and to the students and staff in the district.
At a special meeting held on Jan. 12, the board announced the appointment of Schreiner to fill the vacant seat. It was a unanimous decision. They said while the qualifications of the nine candidates who submitted applications made this a “difficult choice,” they ultimately selected Schreiner because of his “wealth of experience.”
“From the beginning of our search, the board set out to find a highly qualified candidate well positioned to help students, staff, and the district,” said board president Cathy Johnson in a press release. “While this decision was not easy due to an impressive applicant pool, Mr. Schreiner separated himself based on his wealth of experience and leadership as both a teacher and as a board member.”
Schreiner said he was honored to be selected by the board.
“I am truly honored to be chosen, especially knowing the talent of the other candidates,” he said. “Our community, the South-Western community, has some fantastic folks and I hope they will continue to be involved and I will work to make sure they come back.”
He said he is looking forward to working with the new board which includes the long-serving Johnson, a two-year veteran in Anthony Caldwell, and newly-elected members Chris Boso and Kelli Martindale.
“There is a lot happening right now in education, especially around the pandemic and the constant changes it is bringing both locally and nationally,” he said. “There are things we need to work on together, especially regarding the social and emotional health and well-being of our students, our teachers and our staff (as they navigate these changes).”
He added he was looking forward to finishing up a number of projects the board had been working on and watching the completion of the middle school build project.
“It never dawned on me that I wouldn’t be at the dedications but now I get to fulfill that as a member of the board. I am so looking forward to that because we all worked so hard on that project.”
He said he was glad to be back on the board even though the circumstances that led to his appointment will leave a hole in his heart and in the hearts of so many.
“Robert was a tremendous voice in our community, and he was also a tremendous person,” said Schreiner. “I hope to make his family proud by finishing his term.”