Mohawk Trail’s ex-super Buoniconti to be paid until Dec. 31

  • BUONICONTI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2020 5:54:55 PM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts and former Superintendent Michael Buoniconti came to an agreement earlier this year that will allow him to receive his salary of $159,761 and health insurance through Dec. 31.

As required by state law, Buoniconti is also being paid for 39.75 accrued vacation days, the agreement states. Vacation days will not continue to accrue after July 1.

Mohawk Trail School Committee Chair Martha Thurber said that under the terms of the separation agreement with Buoniconti, she is unable to discuss the specifics of how much it will cost the district to provide health insurance and pay out the vacation days.

“The document itself is a matter of public record, and it will have to speak for itself,” Thurber said. “All Mohawk Trail Regional School District expenses related to the agreement are being covered by an extremely generous $150,000 donation made anonymously to the district back in February, specifically for this purpose. No district or district-town funds are being used.”

Buoniconti and the school districts reached the agreement after he admitted in January that he had an affair with a member of his staff. Shortly after, and amid a lot of protesting by parents, the district and its superintendent parted ways. Buoniconti had sent out an email to the entire district explaining his relationship with the staff member and his pending divorce from his wife.

At the time, the Mohawk Trail School Committee called a special meeting and went into executive session to discuss the matter. Within hours, the committee announced Buoniconti had agreed to leave, with the Hawlemont school district also parting ways with him soon after.

In early February, Buoniconti signed the agreements and submitted his resignation. The districts agreed not to contest any claims he had for unemployment.

Buoniconti agreed he would not seek re-employment with or serve as a consultant or independent contractor for the districts. The school committees agreed to provide a positive employment reference for any prospective employers and his records will show that he resigned. He and the district also agreed not to disparage the other verbally, in writing or on social media.

Thurber said both districts will pay an amount equal to their prorated share of an annual salary of $159,761 based on a formula established between Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont.

The agreement between the Mohawk Trail school district and Buoniconti was signed by him and Thurber, who said if and when Buoniconti finds new employment, the amount the districts will pay to the end of the year will decrease or end, depending on his new salary.

Additionally, the agreement states he will continue to receive health insurance coverage through Dec. 31. As of Jan. 1, Buoniconti will be eligible, at his sole expense, for COBRA coverage through the school districts.

Buoniconti, who started his tenure as superintendent of the school district in 2005, had been a major proponent for changing the state’s rural school aid formula so that rural districts receive more financial help from the state. He started the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition, which consists of rural school superintendents from across the state working together to advocate for changes in Chapter 70 funding.

In 2016, Buoniconti was among three finalists for the superintendent position in North Attleboro Public Schools, but North Attleboro Assistant Superintendent Scott Holcomb was the candidate selected. It was the fifth time Buoniconti had been a superintendent finalist for another school district since he became Mohawk Trail’s superintendent.

It is not clear where Buoniconti is at this time or whether he is seeking or has obtained employment elsewhere.

“I have had the privilege to know and work with Michael Buoniconti for 13 years,” Hawlemont School Committee Chair Hussain Hamdan said. “Regardless of any short-term controversies, I think the two districts owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his decade and a half of dedicated, competent and largely thankless service to our school system, and particularly for his recent strong advocacy for rural districts and his leadership in establishing the Rural Schools Coalition. I like and respect Michael tremendously, and wish him all the best in his future pursuits.”

New superintendent to start July 1

On June 2, Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts voted unanimously to hire Sheryl Stanton as their new superintendent. Stanton will take over the reins from Pat Bell, who is currently interim superintendent. The vote was taken during a virtual joint meeting of the two school committees. Stanton has since signed contracts with both districts.

Stanton, who was serving as superintendent of Granby Public Schools, had served as an administrator since 2009, according to her resume. She previously served as principal of two Ludlow schools, and assistant and acting superintendent of Southbridge Public Schools. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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