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Rowe principal gets contract renewal

ROWE — The school principal that has steered the Rowe Elementary School through the past three turbulent years has been given a three-year contract renewal, extending his position in Rowe to June 2017.

“My decision to renew Principal Bill Knittle was based on my evaluation of his performance over the past three years, which have been extraordinarily tumultuous,” said School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti, whose contract with Rowe expires in June. “During this unusually demanding time, Mr. Knittle performed admirably, supporting students, staff and the entire Rowe School community.”

Knittle was hired by Buoniconti in 2010, following Buoniconti’s controversial decision not to renew the contract of then Principal Robert Clancy, for reasons that have never been explained.

And then, during Knittle’s second year as principal, the elementary school burned down during a lightning storm, about three weeks before school was to begin. Since the fire, the Rowe Elementary School has been functioning as “a school within a school,” inside the Hawlemont Regional School building in Charlemont, with two separate groups of school children, teaching staff and principals.

Currently, construction of a new Rowe Elementary School is in progress, and Rowe school officials are hoping that it will be ready for classes this fall.

Buoniconti said he met with the Rowe School staff and with school parents before deciding to renew Knittle’s contract.

“The overwhelming sentiment of the school community supported continuing Mr. Knittle as the Rowe School principal,” he said. “In particular, the teachers emphasized Principal Knittle’s understanding of the classroom and support of their instructional practice. The parents lauded Bill’s interpersonal skills with the children. I am delighted that Principal Knittle will be able to continue supporting the Rowe School community as it prepares to transition back to the new (school) during the 2014-2015 school year,” Buoniconti said.

Former Principal Robert Clancy is now principal of the Bernardston Elementary School, but the fallout over Buoniconti’s decision not to renew Clancy’s contract has created a frosty relationship between the Rowe School Committee and the superintendent. After Rowe didn’t join with Mohawk and Hawlemont to negotiate a contract renewal for the superintendent and business manager, they both notified the school board that they would not continue serving the district after June this year.

Buoniconti said he would reconsider staying on with Rowe, but hasn’t been contacted to do so by the school board.

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

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