Henry Lee, a dentist who joined the Montgomery County school board in July, resigned yesterday, effective immediately.

Lee said that he regretted leaving before his term expires in 2006 but that he needed to spend more time with his family than the demands of the position would allow. "I felt I couldn't be a good father and a good member of the board at the same time," he said after announcing his decision.

The board will begin a process to select a new member to finish the term. Lee was appointed to the elected panel just months ago to fill the seat held for a decade by Reginald M. Felton. Felton had stepped down because he was moving out of District 5, which on the board represents an eastern swath of Montgomery County stretching from Silver Spring through Burtonsville, Olney and Brookeville.

Maryland counties use different methods for replacing school board members who depart mid-term. In Montgomery, they are appointed by sitting school board members, instead of by the county executive.

Lee was selected from among 17 applicants, including finalists Philip Kauffman and Leslie Karas Ridgway.

Board President Sharon W. Cox said yesterday that there will be a similar procedure to replace Lee, who had been active in community and school affairs before joining the school board. "I feel for him," Cox said. "But of course we understand he's made his children his priority. If a board member didn't do that, that would be a real issue."

During his brief tenure, Lee pushed for college credit courses for high school students and more community outreach specialists in schools. Previously, he sought election to an at-large seat on the board in 2002 but lost to Charles Haughey.

Cox said she did not expect the turnover to be disruptive to the board, as there will be at least one additional new member after the Nov. 2 general election. Three seats are being contested, and only two board members, Cox and Walter Lange, are running for reelection.

"When you run for office, you basically bring with you the hopes and aspirations of a community," Lee said, adding that the decision to resign was made more difficult by the "feeling I was going to let [board members] down if I didn't serve out my term."

Lee joined the board in July.