When Lucas Patenaude announced recently that he will not be running for another term on the School Committee, he described having served in that role for the past three years as “an incredible experience.”
His decision not to run for re-election was not an easy one, he told The Hull Times. “Because of these [personal and professional] changes, I don’t feel I can continue to serve in my fullest capacity,” he said. “Although I will no longer be a member of the School Committee, I am looking forward to continuing to serve my community in any way I am called to do so.”
When Patenaude ran for office in 2018 at the age of 22, he was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, Hull School Committee candidate, at least in recent history.
Patenaude shared what he considers to be the biggest challenge that he and the other School Committee members have faced during his term: being caught off guard by the coronavirus in March 2020.
“We had to make a decision about how to best educate our students,” Patenaude said. That process required transitioning the school system to remote and then hybrid learning and attempting to get as many students back to in-person learning as possible.
“This has been such a long process and one that has required such dedication and commitment,” Patenaude said. “I am proud of the work our teachers, administrators, my fellow School Committee members, parents, and, most importantly, our students have done to ensure the best possible continuation of the learning experience. This has required all of us to make enormous personal sacrifices.”
He cited other successes achieved by the School Committee, the school district, and the entire community – from a new turf field to a new superintendent, Judith Kuehn.
A graduate of the Dudley-Charlton regional school district’s high school and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Patenaude moved to Hull several years ago.
As a relatively recent high school graduate, he understands how it feels to be a student in different situations while at the same time acknowledging the “wealth of institutional knowledge” among more seasoned School Committee members.
One of his favorite responsibilities has been hearing about students’ accomplishments, from educational trips and public service projects to athletic achievements and theater arts awards. “I like being part of that feel-good stuff,” he said.
The fact that Hull is a small community with small school class sizes makes it possible to get to know many of the students and teachers. “You often see School Committee members at sports events and plays,” Patenaude said. “They are really involved in what goes on in the school district.”
He also likes having a voice and a seat at the table when important decisions are being made. “It’s an honor to be trusted with that responsibility and authority and humbling to be one of five voices on the School Committee that are involved with the decision-making process,” he said.
Still, Patenaude, who currently works in the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, said his role on the School Com has seemed at times like a second full-time job. But, he noted, “I’m not jumping ship to run for another office and plan to stay involved in the community in some way.”
Some of the specific life lessons Patenaude said he learned while serving on the committee are: the importance of compromise, as a member of the negotiating team with the Hull Teachers Association, how contract negotiations work, and, as a member of the budget subcommittee, how to craft a budget.
“I have also learned how to write RFPs (Request for Proposals) and how to deal with the media in communicating clearly what we want to get out there,” he said.
In Patenaude’s opinion, teamwork is essential. It is important, he explained, to “learn how to work on a team with individuals who have differing perspectives by leaving personal issues at the door before you go into a meeting, remaining professional (whatever the end decision), and then moving on to the next item on the agenda. Our school district does that very well.”
Patenaude encourages anyone interested in running for his seat to reach out to him to talk about School Committee service through Facebook private messaging or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I hope the next School Committee member steps into the role with an open mind and in the spirit of collaboration. It’s important to realize that one person doesn’t have all the answers,” he said. “As a committee member, you hear from different constituents – teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community members who don’t have children in the Hull Public Schools – all with valid points of view. And it’s good to be able to sit back and listen to them all.”
Reflecting on his term in office, Patenaude said: “I will miss being in the middle of everything and having a seat at the table. It has been a humble honor to help lead the school district.”