Hampshire Regional superintendent to resign at end of school year, saying ‘half-truths, rumors and gossip’ led to her decision

DIANA BONNEVILLE

DIANA BONNEVILLE

Hampshire Regional High School.

Hampshire Regional High School. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 12-07-2023 6:28 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Citing “half-truths, rumors, and gossip” surrounding her superintendency and “personal attack as modus operandi,” Superintendent Diana Bonneville announced her resignation, effective June 30, 2024, in an email sent to Hampshire Regional School District school committees, employees and families on Thursday.

“Navigating five districts is challenging and there certainly have been missteps from which I have learned,” wrote Bonneville, who was hired in 2021 after serving for 18 months as interim superintendent in South Hadley. “This does not give anyone the right to be uncivil, disrespectful or malicious.”

On Nov. 17, with a School Committee vote upcoming on a three-year renewal of Bonneville’s contract, the Hampshire Regional Education Association — the 109-member union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and administrative assistants — sent an email to staff and families detailing nine reasons why the union felt Bonneville’s contract should not be renewed.

Among the reasons, the union claimed that over $600,000 was “lost to the district due to misallocation of funds … due to the superintendent’s poor oversight and lack of leadership.”

Hampshire Regional School Committee Chairman Thomas Cleary Jr. explained in an email that reports provided by Hampshire Regional High School to the state showed an amount of $617,734 above the allowable balances in the excess and deficiency fund.

Following state guidelines, the School Committee distributed the reported excess to member towns of the school district, Cleary said.

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“Our claim is, ‘your money has been mismanaged,’” said union Co-President Greg Reynolds in a phone interview on Tuesday, adding that teachers would have liked to see those funds stay in the district.

Though Bonneville did not directly address the union’s claims surrounding the $600,000 that was given back to the towns, nor did she address the union itself in her email, she did address assertions about the restructuring of the central office, which the union has criticized, saying it lacked transparency.

“To this point, I remind the public that central office restructuring has been discussed and proposed numerous times in past years by previous superintendents, administrators and school committee members,” Bonneville wrote, adding that restructuring was a strategic priority outlined in the District Improvement Plan, which has been discussed openly at numerous school committee meetings.

“My decisions have always been based on what is in the best interest of our students and School Committee policy decisions, despite the challenges this may have on staff,” Bonneville wrote.

“Our students and communities have a right to expect that the information their educators are providing is accurate, truthful, and verifiable. Half-truths, rumors, and gossip lead to disruption and deceit. Misdirection and assumptions then become the norm, which I cannot and will not support,” she wrote.

Another point of controversy cited by the union was her nomination of Erica Faginski-Stark for assistant superintendent despite a lack of community support due to a 2021 Facebook post Faginski-Stark made regarding transgender athletes.

In their email, the union also said that at least seven official complaints had been filed about Bonneville, two of which were the votes of no confidence from the Hampshire Regional and Anne T. Dunphy teachers’ unions.

Those votes of no confidence asserted that Bonneville has failed to provide transparency, collaboration, and clarity around the budget process; had provided inadequate communication in all aspects of her job; and had created and maintained what they described as a toxic work environment that has destroyed morale in the central office, among other criticisms.

In October, the Gazette submitted a records request to the School Committee for all formal complaints filed against Bonneville since August 2022.

The School Committee has asserted that it can’t make public seven out of nine records — the other two of which are the two votes of no confidence — because they involve personnel information.

The Gazette has appealed and is waiting for a response from the state.

In her resignation letter on Thursday, Bonneville wrote that, “While some question my leadership skills and core values, I continue to be steadfast and unwavering in my dedication to students and demonstrating the competency necessary to do this job.”

“Slandering my name, publicly and repeatedly, with unsupported claims is hurtful and mean-spirited,” Bonneville wrote. “It is a deliberate and disruptive tool that has prevented me from fulfilling my obligations to the students, staff and communities of this district and implementing School Committee decisions and policies.”

In their email, the union wrote that Bonneville’s superintendency has shown a “trend of poor decision making and significant errors in judgment.”

“The repercussions of her actions and decisions have consequences in our schools that both adults and students suffer on a daily basis,” the union wrote. “As leader of our district, she is ultimately responsible for what is happening in our schools.”

Responding to her resignation announcement, Reynolds said, “I think it’s a reasonable decision … I’m not gonna say I’m happy because it’s all been a big distraction from the work we do, but I would say I’m glad we can move forward with the work we do as educators.”

“We’re at the point where we’ve been having our contract fight; we’ve had ongoing issues with payroll and involvement with the attorney general’s office; and we’re trying to limit the fronts we’re kind of fighting on right now, so we’re just wanting to move on,” Reynolds said.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettnet.com.