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By the Harwood Union School Board
Our community has a long commitment to investing in Harwood Union Middle/High School to support high-quality education. As your neighbors and elected members of the Harwood School Board, we have worked very hard to build a budget that is frugal, provides the kind of high-quality education we want for our youth and complies with new mandates for improving education. We ask for your vote to support this year's Harwood budget.
The Harwood community has been getting a very good return on its investment. We are proud to report that Harwood continues to rank among the top high schools in the state.
Harwood has been recognized for many of its programs and has a high level of student achievement. Consider these recent highlights:
Harwood had the highest average PSAT scores in the state in 2011 and ranked in the top three in the state for PSAT scores in 2012.
Harwood ranks among the top 20 Vermont public high schools in all standardized test results (SAT, ACT, AP) (2012).
Harwood Union Middle School had the highest reading scores in the state on the 2012 NECAP exams, with 99 percent of seventh-graders scoring "proficient" or above.
98 percent of Harwood students graduate high school (2012).
7 out of 10 Harwood graduates enroll in postsecondary education (2011).
Harwood offers diverse educational options to help students succeed and graduate: Harwood Community Learning Center offers self-directed learning opportunities, Next Step links students to internships and work experiences and technical education prepares students for skilled trades.
Harwood Union Middle/High School was accepted into the League of Innovative Schools this fall in recognition of its commitment to educational equity, student-centered learning and ongoing improvement.
Harwood is 1 of 11 schools to receive the Energy Star Award from Efficiency Vermont for leadership in environmental and financial stewardship.
Harwood's award-winning music program is widely recognized as one of the best in the state.
Harwood's teachers are the heart of the educational experience in our school. Some accolades just in the past year include:
Maureen Charron Shea, a grade 7-12 special education teacher at Harwood, was a finalist for the 2012–13 Life Changer of the Year award from the National Life Group. She has used money from this award to support the Best Buddies and Partner's Club.
Michael Coyle, a Harwood science teacher, received the UVM Outstanding Teacher of the Year award this fall.
Sarah Ibson (HUMS social studies) and Ellen Berrings (HUHS connected learning department) received prestigious fellowships from the Rowland Foundation for Innovative Education to implement the ninth-grade team model and the teacher advisory program.
Tami Munford (world languages), David Munford (social studies) and Chris Urban (world languages) were nominated as "Unsung Heroes" in the Saint Michael's College Teacher Recognition Program.
Beyond the classroom, Harwood Union has a rich extracurricular program that currently encompasses 53 sports teams and 25 clubs. Over 88 percent of six-year students at Harwood Middle School and High School will have participated in at least one co-curricular program over the course of their school career.
The school auditorium is as busy as the sports fields, as the drama club performs an annual fall play which along with the spring musical are sold-out attractions for the larger community.
Harwood's extracurricular programs provide learning opportunities that cannot be replicated in the classroom. Coaches and advisors help students learn life lessons and life skills: how to work cooperatively and push hard to achieve personal and group goals, learning tolerance, and celebrating the diversity in our community and the world.
Harwood has achieved success while keeping a close eye on costs. Over the past five years, the Harwood School Board and administration have continually adjusted the budget and staffing to be in line with enrollment, keeping our cost per pupil at or near the state average.
This year's budget request to the community of $13,547,626 reflects a 4.1 percent increase over last year's budget. The budget reflects a net reduction of 3.42 full-time equivalent jobs as a result of declining enrollment.
The biggest drivers of this year's budget increase are spending on technology to replace aging equipment and to provide wider access to computers for all students, as well as increasing the wireless capacity throughout the school; additional contributions to the maintenance reserve fund needed to maintain our aging building; professional development for staff to keep them current with innovative educational practices and training in new assessments mandated by the state and federal government; and 1.15 percent increase in overall faculty salaries and associated health care costs in accordance with the negotiated three-year contract.
Harwood is also looking to the future. This budget includes money for a comprehensive engineering study to update Harwood's aging and outdated facilities, especially in the science labs, which need to be brought into compliance with current safety regulations. The budget also reflects significant savings this year because the wood chip heating plant is finally paid for.
Harwood administrators are currently engaged in a meaningful dialogue with the community around redesigning the ninth-grade curriculum. This is a collaborative effort with students, parents and teachers to explore educational options for our freshman learners. Please join us as we explore ways to expand challenging learning opportunities for all HU ninth-graders.
Harwood voters are also asked to approve a $425,000 bond for a new well that will provide the school with a reliable water source, as mandated by the state. The current wells periodically run dry and the school has repeatedly had to have water trucked in over the last two years.
We have worked hard to balance the twin goals of providing a high-quality education for our children in the most cost-efficient way possible. We feel that the proposed Harwood budget achieves these goals in a challenging year.
We ask your support to ensure that Harwood continues to be an innovative and high-performing school that helps all children in our community succeed and prepare for opportunities ahead.
The 2014 Harwood Union annual report can be found at town offices and viewed online at harwood.org.
Residents are encouraged to attend the Harwood Union annual meeting on February 22, 2014, at 10 a.m. in the Harwood Union High School library. We look forward to addressing your questions.
Susan Daley, Fayston; David Goodman, Waterbury; Debra Hunter, Moretown (chair); Christopher Koliba, Duxbury; Daniel Raddock, Warren; Stephen Sands, Waitsfield; Dale Smeltzer, Waterbury