Mohawk Trail superintendent admits affair with employee

  • BUONICONTI

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2020 12:33:54 PM

BUCKLAND — An email sent by Superintendent Michael Buoniconti to all staff members at the Hawlemont and Mohawk Trail regional school districts explaining his recent relationship with a member of that staff, as well as his impending divorce, is being widely shared.

Within hours of sending the email, the Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee called a special meeting at which it plans to go into executive session to discuss “… a complaint or charge brought against a public officer, employee, staff member or individual.” The meeting will be held in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Mohawk Trail Regional School on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The notice posted by the committee states it will not reconvene in open session.

There is also a petition with roughly 150 signatures as of noon on Tuesday started on Change.org that demands Buoniconti and School Committee Chair Martha Thurber to resign immediately.

“The MTRSD School Committee recently received information regarding the personal conduct of our superintendent in regards to a relationship with another member of the MTRSD staff,” Thurber wrote in a press statement on Tuesday. “This matter is being aggressively investigated and the committee will be considering appropriate action and next steps.”

Buoniconti started his email to colleagues with, “I am sad to share that I am going through a divorce after a long marriage.” He told them that he entered the personal relationship in December with a staff member who does not report to him.

“The relationship resulted in no disparate treatment, nor did it impact my work performance,” he said in his email. “Additionally, this employee resigned their position with the MTRSD.”

Buoniconti said in the email that he is currently seeking an opinion from the Massachusetts Ethics Commission. He also assured colleagues that his personal affairs will have no adverse impact on his work performance or on the workplace.

Several people who forwarded the email to the newspaper said they are concerned about the message being sent to all of the children in the district — that the employee, who is a subordinate, is the one who left the district.

The Change.org petition states that signers are disgusted by Buoniconti’s lack of integrity and recent “moral indiscretion.” It states that his behavior and subsequent attempt to minimize the nature of his wrong-doing are “inexcusable.”

“You are a poor example for our students, an unacceptable leader for district employees and a disgrace to our entire school community,” the petition reads. “We will not allow you to cause further damage to our district and, therefore, demand your immediate resignation.”

The online petition also sends a message to Thurber: “Your passivity with regards to this matter, as well as the dismissive treatment you’ve shown when other concerns that have been brought to your attention, is unacceptable. Your apparent willingness to overlook Superintendent Buoniconti’s recent indiscretions indicates that you are not concerned with providing a safe and respectful school climate for all students and staff. We will not allow you to cause further damage to our district.” The petition then calls for Thurber’s resignation.

Finally, the online petition asks the School Committee to take the lead if the two do not resign willingly, and demands that the committee exercise its authority and remove both from their positions.

“Your inaction would be telling every female employee and student in the district that it is acceptable for a male supervisor to engage in an inappropriate relationship with them, and if the said relationship is discovered, that they as the female subordinate should be the one to resign,” the petition continues. “It would be telling the male employees and students that that type of behavior is acceptable.”

Buoniconti, who started his tenure as superintendent of the school district in 2005, has 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 and heads up 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 to help struggling schools.

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’s superintendent.

Buoniconti did not respond to requests for comments by press time. Messages were left with the state Ethics Commission, but were not returned at press time.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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