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Rowe goes with new school superintendent

Jonathan Lev of the North Berkshire District School Union, will become superintendent of the Rowe Elementary School on July 1. Recorder photo/Diane Broncaccio

Jonathan Lev of the North Berkshire District School Union, will become superintendent of the Rowe Elementary School on July 1. Recorder photo/Diane Broncaccio Purchase photo reprints »

ROWE — It’s been a contentious three years for the School Committee — ever since Mohawk Superintendent Michael Buoniconti essentially dismissed the town’s popular, long-time school principal in 2011, and the school burned down in a freak lightning strike in 2012.

But by summer’s end, Rowe will have two things: a new school superintendent and a new school.

Thursday afternoon, after a walk-through of the building under construction, the School Committee voted 2-1 to hire Superintendent Jonathan Lev of the North Berkshire School Union, also called School Union 43.

The dissenting vote came from the school board’s longest serving member, Lisa Danek Burke. She said the committee had only received emailed copies of the proposed contract the night before, and she didn’t want to vote on joining the Berkshire union until she’d seen Rowe’s administrative costs spelled out on the contract.

“I don’t want to commit the town to something without knowing how much it will cost,” she said.

Lev, who toured the school building, said he will put together a new five-town administrative budget, run it by the joint school committee, and provide the costs to Rowe within the next week.

Although these costs are expected to be less than the costs were for shared Superintendent Buoniconti’s office, the school committee decided not to change its budget for the May 12 annual town meeting, to have money for unanticipated costs, either for the administrative transition or for the school building construction.

One concern is who should provide IT (information technology) services for the Rowe School while it’s under construction and before the July fiscal year begins.

School building Project Manager Daniel Pallotta said he has no doubt that the building will be ready in time for students this fall, but remarked that, if anything remains unfinished by the time school opens, it could be wireless Internet and broadband.

School Building Committee Chairwoman and School Committee candidate Susan Zavotka said she would like to have an IT person “sooner rather than later,” who could set up the new school’s communications system. The North Berkshire School Union has an IT staff member, but Rowe isn’t officially part of that district until July.

Burke suggested the school board use the IT services that it pays for under the shared agreement with Mohawk and Hawlemont, but school Chairwoman Lisa Miller said she wanted an IT person who could design the system and stay with Rowe through the July 1 transition.

Under the new contract, Rowe will become part of the Union Committee, which will have three members from each town: Rowe, Clarksburg, Florida, Savoy and Monroe. The committee has at least two regular meetings annually, plus special meetings that may be called by the chairman. A quorum requires at least one member from each town.

During budget season, Rowe and other local school committees will be given a list of shared costs for “purely union matters,” including personnel and/or programs shared by the union. When a final budget figure is known, the towns will be assessed as follows: Clarksburg, 34 percent; Florida, 26 percent; Rowe, 15 percent; Savoy, 14 percent and Monroe, 11 percent.

Special education costs are apportioned out, and Rowe’s share will also be 15 percent.

The creation of any new union staff positions, new proposals or resolutions must come before the union school committee.

If Rowe or any other member town wants to leave the union, it can do so according to state law (Chapter 71, Section 61), which says: A town may leave a union by a majority vote of the town’s school committee, provided that the termination is only for the purpose of forming an innovation school meeting state law requirements or establishing different school governance structures.

Although the superintendent will change, Rowe plans to continue sending its middle and high school students to Mohawk.

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

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