As the supervisory union’s business manager for the last 13 years, Lackey has been the “go-to person” for six schools, six towns, and seven school boards for information on everything from budgeting to the legal complexities and tax implications of state education financing laws. If there are numbers involved, Lackey was the one who could explain it – even to reporters.
Lackey says she gained her wealth of knowledge by working almost every job that the supervisory union has to offer, except superintendent. She started at WSSU a little more than 24 years ago, on October 4, 1988. Her first job was “assistant to the payroll clerk.” After eight months on the job, however, the payroll clerk left and Lackey stepped in as interim clerk until another was hired. Then she served as administrative assistant. Later she worked in special education. Later still, she handled the Medicaid program. When Act 60 was instituted, Lackey was selected to learn about the new law along with the business manager at the time, so that there would be a “backup” person that could fill in on Act 60 issues. When the business manager left, Lackey was passed over in favor of another hire. But when local voters needed information about Act 60 at Town Meeting, it soon became clear who had the knowledge they needed. “That year I wasn’t at Town Meeting,” Lackey recalls. “When questions about Act 60 came up, everyone started asking ‘where’s Ronda Lackey.’”
When that business manager left in 1999, Lackey stepped into the job, which she has held ever since. “I never intended to stay that long,” Lackey laughs. “I just kept coming into work every day.”
Since then, Lackey has been at board meetings and regular and special Town Meetings in all six towns, and she has demonstrated a special knack for making complex and confusing concepts understandable. Board members and voters have turned to her to help make sense of the state and federal regulations, and the financial and legal issues the towns face.
Lackey says she has no particular plans for retirement, although she may take up some old hobbies she hasn’t had time to enjoy, thanks to the workload and night meetings that came along with the job. She also plans to spend time at her second home in Florida with family.
And Lackey will be bringing an old friend with her as she heads out the door for the last time. The office staff has officially retired her office desk chair of 24 years, sending it off with a new upholstery cover for many more years of service. In some respects, the chair is a symbol of Lackey’s frugality. “When I was first hired, they told me I could go to Greenfield and pick out any chair I wanted,” she says. “I’ve had it ever since. Whenever someone says they need a new chair, I say ‘What do you mean you need a new chair, I’ve had the same chair for 24 years!’”
Of course, there may be another reason the chair’s going home with Lackey. “Nobody else wants it,” she laughs.