Mohawk reverts to traditional leadership


Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2019 7:13:52 AM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional High School will abandon its ‘co-principal’ model and reinstate the roles of principal and vice principal on July 1.

Co-Principal Marisa Mendonsa will become principal on July 1, while Co-Principal Lynn Dole will leave Mohawk, Superintendent Michael Buoniconti said.

“Having observed her for three years now, I feel she’s got the right blend of leadership skills that we really need as we move forward,” Buoniconti said of Mendonsa.

Dole’s five-year contract is up in the middle of the year and will not be renewed, Buoniconti said. Dole said Wednesday she views the situation as “an opportunity to pursue other interests.”

“During the nine years that I was the school leader our educators have innovated and expanded opportunities for our students, our work together provided the foundation for this next chapter in Mohawk’s evolution, and I’ll look forward to seeing the exciting changes we’ve prepared for together,” Dole said.

Mendonsa and Dole have both held the title of co-principal since 2016, Buoniconti said. Dole served as Mohawk’s principal between 2010 and 2016.

Mohawk Regional School was inspired to introduce a co-principal model, after Mahar Regional School did so with some success, Buoniconti said.

“The research at the time, frankly, was preliminary, but encouraging,” Buoniconti said.

However, Mahar differed from Mohawk as its two co-principals had clear roles: one was assigned to oversee the middle school, the other oversaw the high school, Buoniconti said. Conversely, Mohawk’s co-principals ran the entire school together, dividing responsibilities between them — soup to nuts — Buoniconti said. But many times, both principals needed to be involved in decision-making.

“When we make decisions that we need to implement, I’ve discovered that it’s a much more clear format to work with one person,” Buoniconti said.

Mohawk’s co-principal model also intended to improve “work-life balance” for principals, Buoniconti said.

“We originally looked at the co-principal model, because work-life balance was a concern — and remains a concern — for administrators,” Buoniconti said. “Demands on principals are excessive.”

Buoniconti said the co-principal model was more costly than having a principal and a vice principal.

“I knew ahead of time that it may be more expensive, and that would be unpopular,” Buoniconti said.

The two co-principals are paid annual salaries of about $113,000 each, Buoniconti said.

When Mohawk reverts back to a principal and vice-principal model, it will pay its principal $120,000 per year and its vice principal $80,000 to $90,000 per year, Buoniconti said.

Dole has worked at Mohawk for 22 years, Buoniconti said. She became interim principal in 2010 and permanent principal the following year.

Mendonsa was a principal in Amherst and Springfield for two years each before coming to Mohawk. Mendonsa was principal of Amherst Regional Middle School between 2014 and 2016, and principal of John J. Duggan Middle School in Springfield from 2012 to 2014.

Buoniconti sent an email to Mohawk families announcing the changes. In the email, Buoniconti wrote that Mohawk would revert to its original principal model, partially to support changes coming as a result of a $150,000 Mass IDEAS grant recently given to the school.

“Looking ahead to next year and beyond, particularly in light of the Mass IDEAS opportunity we now have to re-imagine the Mohawk experience, it is essential our building leadership structure positions our school for success,” Buoniconti wrote.

Mendonsa will become principal under a five-year contract on July 1, Buoniconti said. She is currently looking for a vice principal.

You can reach Grace Bird at:

413 772 0261 ext. 280

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