Could Mohawk, Greenfield share a supt.?

BUCKLAND — In 2002 and in 2009, Greenfield’s School Committee Chairman Dalton Athey proposed that the Mohawk Trail and Greenfield school districts share one superintendent’s services and administrative costs for a year trial period, to see if both would save money. That suggestion never went anywhere.

Now, Mohawk Chairman Robert Aeschback has made a similar suggestion, and got the go-ahead from fellow school board members to start discussions with Greenfield.

Because Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins is retiring and Mohawk Superintendent Michael Buoniconti is a finalist for another superintendent’s position, “we both could be looking for a new superintendent,” Aeschback told fellow board members. “With your blessing, I would like to call the Mayor (Martin) and see what he says.”

On Thursday, Greenfield Mayor and School Committee Chairman William Martin told The Recorder he heard from Aeschback and will bring up the idea to Greenfield school board members at a full School Committee meeting. He said the school board had just voted to hire the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents to assist in Greenfield’s superintendent search the night before.

One reason Aeschback suggested sharing administrative costs is because the Mohawk district enrollment is declining, while its fixed costs are going up.

Aeschback said the recently renegotiated school bus costs are up another $200,000 and the school district is trying to break the habit of spending more of its accumulated revolving accounts revenue than it is currently taking in.

A few Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee members were concerned that having one superintendent serve such a wide-ranging region would be too much. Also, some wondered how sharing a superintendent would affect School Choice issues between the districts, since Greenfield sends many choice students to Mohawk schools.

“It seems like Michael (Buoniconti) already works 50-hour weeks on this district,” said school board member Martha Thurber of Buckland. “It doesn’t seem to me that it’s a one-person job.”

“I don’t know the answer,” Buoniconti replied. “I looked at it from Mohawk’s financial perspective.” He said it could save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in shared expenses. “I would go into it thinking: Can it work, and how would it need to be structured?”

Board member Joseph Kurland of Colrain said one reason the idea was dropped in 2009 was that each district wanted to keep its own superintendent. Now that Hollins is retiring and Buoniconti may be leaving, Kurland thought this is a good time to revisit the issue.

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