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School superintendent to quit Rowe

ROWE — Superintendent Michael Buoniconti, who has run West County’s public schools for eight years, apparently doesn’t want to work for Rowe anymore. And the Hawlemont and Mohawk school districts may officially put an end to the three-district cost-sharing agreement for all the superintendent/administrative services in Fiscal Year 2014.

With a four-year contract renewal in hand from the Mohawk and Hawlemont school districts, Buoniconti has given the Rowe School Committee a year’s notice that he will not renew his contract for the Rowe elementary school. That contract expires July 1, 2014.

Besides Buoniconti, school Business Administrator Joanne Blier has also given notice that she will not renew her Rowe contract, which also expires next July. Since Rowe pays about 7 percent of the administrators’ salaries, under the three-district cost sharing plan, this means both adminstrators will be taking a 7 percent pay cut when they discontinue their services to Rowe.

Meanwhile, the Hawlemont and Mohawk Trail regional school committees have signed a two-district cost sharing agreement and may give Rowe a 10-month notice that they will not have a three-way cost-sharing agreement for the budget year that begins next July.

Mohawk School Committee Chairman Robert Aeschback said he will discuss the three-district agreement at next Wednesday’s School Committee meeting and ask the committee to vote in August on giving Rowe notice that the cost-sharing agreement will be dissolved next year.

When asked if Mohawk and Hawlemont towns will see administrative cost increases when Rowe is no longer part of the cost-sharing, Aeschback said the budget subcommittee will be asked to look for administrative budget cuts, so that Mohawk and Hawlemont will not incur additional costs in the shift from a three-district to a two-district cost-sharing.

Ever since Rowe left the Mohawk Trail Regional School District in the early 1980s, the Rowe, Hawlemont and Mohawk districts have shared one superintendent, along with a business manager, special education director and additional administrative services. The shared costs also include transportation services.

But the relationship between some in Rowe and Buoniconti have been very strained for the last two years, ever since Buoniconti announced he was not renewing the long-time Rowe School principal’s contract.

In 2011, many residents who wanted to keep 13-year principal Robert Clancy on board at the Rowe Elementary School seemed astonished that the contract-renewal decision did not require input from townspeople. A study committee was formed, headed by Noel Abbott, to consider other options for running the 69-student school that would give Rowe more control. In the end, the study group found that staying with the current superintedency — at least until 2014 — was the wisest choice.

Last Thursday, in a written “Superintendent’s Report” to the Rowe committee, Buoniconti submitted a “notice of intent” as the first order of business.

“While it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Rowe students since July 2005, please receive this written communication as my official one-year notice that I do not intend to enter into contract renewal negotiations with the Rowe School Committee beyond June 30, 2014,” he said.

Beyond what he wrote to the committee, Buoniconti declined to say anything about why he isn’t seeking a contract renewal.

Rowe School Committee Chairwoman Lisa Miller couldn’t be reached for comment, to discuss what’s next for Rowe, which has recently voted to build a new elementary school that is expected to open before the fall of 2014.

Also, selectmen’s Chairwoman Marilyn Wilson could not be reached for comment.

Abbott, who has since become a selectman, said the superintendent’s notice was very unexpected. “I did not expect it, and I don’t believe the School Committee chair expected to receive a letter from him,” he said.

When asked what’s next for Rowe, Abbott said it’s the School Committee that will have to make decisions about the future superintendency.

The Mohawk and Hawlemont school districts began renegotiating Buoniconti’s and Blier’s contract renewals this spring, but the Rowe School Committee did not join those negotiations.

A week before Buoniconti and Blier gave their year’s notice to Rowe, Mohawk Chairman Aeschback had said the new Mohawk-Hawlemont contracts with the school administrators would be regarded as a two-district cost-sharing agreement.

Aeschback said the districts couldn’t wait another year to complete negotiations because they could lose both administrators. He said superintendents traditionally look for new jobs during the summer, when more jobs become available because other superintendents have retired or changed jobs.

“We thought we couldn’t wait,” he said. “We’re happy with them.”

In an earlier conversation, Miller said the Rowe School Committee hadn’t joined the spring contract negotiations, because the committee was busy with plans for the school building proposal. Rowe’s elementary school burned down in August, and the town ultimately voted to replace the school. Meanwhile, Rowe School is housed in the Hawlemont Regional School building, with contingency plans that extend into 2014.

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

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