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First-term Rowe selectman won’t seek re-election

ROWE ­ — Selectman Noel Abbott, who first came to voters’ attention during a controversy over the former school principal, will be moving out of town in April.

Because he is leaving the area to pursue other opportunities, Abbott said he will not be running for a second term during the annual election in May.

“My clear intention is to serve through the end of April,” said Abbott. “There’s a tremendous amount on my plate right now that has nothing to do with the town.”

When asked if he liked being a selectman, Abbott replied, “I’ve enjoyed it enormously. There are interesting problems to solve. I think the core of it is that I really care. People don’t get how much (policy-making) impacts their lives.”

Abbott moved from Rensselaerville, N.Y., to Rowe in December 2010 — about a month before the school superintendent’s decision not to renew the Rowe Elementary School principal’s contract created a furor in town. After attending a series of meetings in which residents tried to change the superintendent’s mind, Abbott chaired a school study committee, to look at alternative ways to administrate the Rowe Elementary School independent of its sharing a superintendent with the larger Hawlemont and Mohawk Trail Regional school districts.

Abbott was selectmen’s chairman when the August 2012 fire destroyed the Rowe Elementary School, and Abbott has been a strong advocate for rebuilding a new school, despite the low number of elementary-school-age children currently living in town. This issue has also been a source of controversy between residents who don’t think the town should spend its insurance proceeds for a $6.9 million school and those who see the elementary school, with its reputation for academic excellence, in this town of almost 400 people as “the heart of the town.”

“The loss of the school has occupied an enormous amount of time,” said Abbott, “as has the legal work used to challenge the three-district agreement (between Rowe, Hawlemont and Mohawk.)”

At this point, Rowe has no agreement to continue working with current Superintendent Michael Buoniconti, or to continue a shared services agreement with Mohawk or Hawlemont. Also, construction for the new Rowe Elementary School has begun. School officials hope the new building will be ready for classes by August.

Besides his work on school issues, Abbott says he has worked on emergency management issues for residents during Tropical Storm Irene and advocating for the WiredWest initiative to bring high-speed Internet to the hilltowns.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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