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Greenfield rejects Mohawk’s shared superintendency proposal

GREENFIELD — After seven minutes of discussion, the Greenfield School Committee unanimously rejected the notion of sharing a superintendent with two West County districts.

The Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee, which currently shares a superintendent with the Hawlemont and Rowe school boards, sent a draft proposal to Greenfield last month about hiring the same top administrator. In the proposal, which Mohawk sent as a way to start a cost-saving conversation, Greenfield would pay 60.5 percent of the superintendent’s salary, Mohawk would pay 34.4 percent and Hawelmont would pay 5.1 percent.

But Greenfield School Committee members felt that a shared superintendent would not be able to serve their town’s best interests.

“Staff are more than just lines on a spreadsheet,” said member John Lunt. “They’re the agents of policy of the district. They implement what we think, as a local district, education should be in Greenfield.”

The three school boards may all be on the hunt for a new chief administrator this year. Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins is retiring at the end of the year and Mohawk/Hawlemont superintendent Michael Buoniconti is a finalist for a central Massachusetts school position.

The agreement would have allowed the school boards to share additional administrative positions in the years to come. Member Margaret Betts was concerned that this could cause conflicts of interest — a grant writer might have to choose between school districts when submitting a grant application, for example.

She also wondered how a shared administrative staff would respond to Greenfield-centric issues, like the surge of over 100 homeless students who entered the town’s schools unexpectedly this fall.

“The Town Council knew that it was an issue for Greenfield. The School Committee knew it was an issue for Greenfield. The superintendent knew it was an issue for Greenfield,” said Betts.

“People who live in Shelburne Falls choose to live in Shelburne Falls partly because it avoids some of the issues of Greenfield,” she said, “and so what worries me is that people would say, ‘Well, that’s Greenfield’s problem.’”

School board members did say that there is room for more collaboration between Franklin County school districts. They’ll begin exploring ways to save money or information without sharing administrative staff.

Superintendent search moving forward

Also on Wednesday, the School Committee approved the 11-member superintendent search committee who will look for Hollins’ successor. School board members Daryl Essensa and Francia Wisnewski will co-chair the committee.

The full committee met Wednesday with a field director from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the organization Greenfield has contracted to coordinate the search effort.

Patricia Correira plans to meet with the school board again next Wednesday, before the committee’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Some key decisions need to be made soon — such as defining the required qualifications for candidates and the expected salary range for the post.

A community forum to gauge what the town wants in its next superintendent has been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8, at 5:30 p.m., prior to the school board’s meeting that night. Correira also plans to talk in early January to Greenfield administrators and teachers about their hopes for the position.

The search committee consists of faculty, town officials and other residents.

Lunt, who helped find Hollins back in 2008, is on the committee. Two Greenfield teachers — Lukas Martin and Ann Valentine, a leader in the local teacher’s union — are also members.

Rounding out the committee are: Kevin Courtney, former Pioneer Valley Regional School District superintendent; Hillary Hoffman, town councilor; Kriste Joy, parent and branch officer at Freedom Credit Union; Russ Kaubris, business manager at Franklin County Technical School; Robert Pura, Greenfield Community College president; and Roxann Wedegartner, chairwoman of the town’s Planning Board.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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