This week the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board shared emails to and from its board members with the public. There are several threads in the emails, none of which are alarming but all of which reveal a volunteer citizen board working its way through a complicated labyrinth of policy, protocol and politics.

The emails talk about the lack of participation by members of the Harwood Union student council, noting that students “were very taken back by the behaviors of the board members and audience at the meetings around the budget. They have not been back since.”

That’s unfortunate. Students need a seat at the table and they need a voice and they also very much need to realize that school governance and democracy itself are messy, and often contentious, particularly during a transition like this.

Whose kids get which slice of the education pie is an important and emotional issue and it is bound to get messy as times. That doesn’t mean student voice isn’t needed. It is.

Another topic discussed in the emails is the issue of public comment at board meetings. The new board is correctly trying to determine the right place and time for public comment at its meetings.

Public participation is critical as our new unified union school district tackles making policies appropriate for six towns and takes on the difficult task of determining what educational equity looks like for each town and each school and each child.

We suggest that the HUUSD adopt the policy that all local select boards and planning commissions follow, which is to put public comment at the beginning of every agenda, right after the item which calls for changes or deletions to the agenda.

That’s clean, clear and understandable and creates a framework within which public comment is both prioritized and recognized.

No one said it would be easy to merge our school boards, and it is not. This is difficult but imporant work and thanks are due to the board members from all our towns for their efforts on our behalf.