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Rowe may know by March if it can join school union

ROWE — Now that the Rowe school board has voted 2-1 to join the Northern Berkshire School Union, town officials could know by the end of March whether that union’s member school committees have approved the addition of a new school.

“I’ll probably call a (school) union meeting in the middle of March and invite the Rowe School Committee to have a discussion,” said Superintendent Jonathan Lev, who heads a union of three elementary schools, with an enrollment totalling 337 children from pre-K to Grade 8. “I’m hoping we’ll have a decision by the end of that meeting.”

Lev said that knowing early whether Rowe will become part of the union will help all the schools in their budget planning for the coming school year. He said he has already told the Northern Berkshire school committees about Rowe’s interest in joining.

All three schools in the union — the Emma L. Miller Memorial School in Savoy (36 students), the Clarksburg Elementary School (186 students) and the Abbott Memorial School in Florida (115 students) — share a superintendent but are completely independent of each other. Students from Monroe go to the Florida school.

Potential for savings

The total cost to provide administration for all four schools would be about $352,244, according to figures that Lev presented in Rowe. Rowe’s share of this cost, based on student enrollment and by administrative services used, would come to about $52,836 — a $50,000 savings in what Rowe currently pays for shared administrative costs. In the new, smaller administrative union, Rowe will be paying about 15 percent of total costs, compared to 7 percent of the Mohawk-Hawlemont-Rowe central office costs.

But the Northern Berkshire union has fewer full-time staff members. Lev said more staff could be added as the union grows, but, besides serving as superintendent, he also serves as the facilities manager and curriculum coordinator. He said all the staff help with grant-writing, as there is not a specific grant-writer there. “We’re a much smaller set-up, which allows for different uses of our administrative team,” he said.

The two school board members who voted to join the union — and leave the superintendent services they have shared with Hawlemont and Mohawk for 40 years — said they believe joining a smaller administrative team will give more control over the Rowe School to the school committee; it would also save money on shared services that the central office has provided, that they don’t feel they need, such as a food services director.

Chairwoman Lisa Miller said she would like to use that $50,000 savings to pay for a science teacher.

Board member Lisa Danek-Burke, who voted against changing superintendents, said that $50,000 could easily be used up on services that Rowe now gets from central office, such as technology help. As is the case with Mohawk’s elementary schools, all the Northern Berkshire schools have been ranked as Level 1 or Level 2 schools by the state, based on MCAS scores. Northern Berkshire has one Level 1 elementary school and two Level 2 schools; for Mohawk, Heath is a Level 1 school, while all other elementary schools, including Rowe, are Level 2 schools.

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

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