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Rowe to pursue new superintendent

ROWE — Despite several unresolved questions and a plea from one School Committee member not to throw away a 40-year relationship with Mohawk without more discussion, the Rowe School Committee voted 2-1 to “go into negotiations” with the Northern Berkshire School Union to share a superintendent and administrative structure with schools serving Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe and Savoy.

The dissenting voter, School Committee member Lisa Danek-Burke, quizzed fellow board members on their reasons for wanting to leave the Rowe-Mohawk-Hawlemont Central Office, then urged them to discuss their qualms about the current administrative structure with the superintendent and the other school committees.

Current Superintendent Michael Buoniconti and Business Administrator Joanne Blier sat in the audience throughout the Rowe board’s meeting with Northern Berkshire Superintendent Jonathan Lev.

Danek-Burke also asked Lev several tough questions, including how would joining his district benefit Rowe Elementary School educationally. She also asked if he had visited the Rowe Elementary School, since discussions began last fall about changing superintendents.

Lev said he hadn’t visited the school and would probably do so after Rowe voted to join the district. “I was approached by Rowe to join the (Berkshire) Union,” he reminded her. “I did not seek out Rowe.”

School Committee member Cynthia Laffond, who participated in the meeting via Skype on her computer because she is out of state, said she asked Lev about joining the union because “I would like us to have more control over our school.”

At one point, Danek-Burke asked Chairwoman Lisa Miller if she “was unhappy because Buoniconti fired someone,” and both Laffond and Miller became angry. Miller is married to the former Rowe School principal, whose contract Buoniconti declined to renew in 2010.

“That was dirty,” said Laffond.

Rowe Principal Bill Knittle asked if the School Committee would consider a one-year extension with Buoniconti’s central office, which would give them more time to research options for Rowe’s future superintendent.

Lev said the next step, if Rowe wants to join the Berkshire district, would be for Rowe to ask to join the union. He said the member towns would have to vote in favor of Rowe’s joining the district.

After the vote, a resident proposed the School Committee pursue at least two options at the same time, such as negotiating with the present superintendent or researching the costs of getting its own superintendent. “There are no guarantees these people are going to accept us,” she said.

Lev was interviewed by the school board this fall, along with Alan Genovese, retired school superintendent for Rowe, Mohawk and Hawlemont. Rowe’s 50-year-old school building burned down in August 2012, and its school children are now being schooled within the Hawlemont Regional School. A new school building is to go up on the same site and school officials hope it will be ready for students by August.

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