Local school administrators are to be commended for their outreach to the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board on the issue of community engagement.

As the board wades through the complicated process of overhauling the school district and creating a design that optimizes learning and best utilizes district resources, an enormous amount of outreach to the community is necessary – especially when one outcome could be to close local elementary schools.

The board recognized how important it will be to have the community not just heard but fully engaged in the discussion and the process and ultimately the decision, and put out a request for a professional to help with the outreach. One proposal was received which will be considered by the board next month.

Concurrently, administrators asked the board to allow them to play a significant role in reaching out to the community. They pointed out that their daily, direct contact with families, students, staff, businesses and others in the community puts them in a unique position to do so. The board will hear a proposal from the administrators at the end of next month.

Administrators also voiced a concern for building not just a one-time structure to engage with the community on redesign but to build a structure for community engagement that works for other issues as well.

And that makes sense. Redesign – albeit currently the subject of a lot energy and work – is one issue and it will happen and other issues will take place. Building a structure for ongoing community engagement is critical especially when the concerns of parents, taxpayers and students from six towns are at stake.

The board might be wise to consider a hybrid approach. Accept help from the administrators and consider using an outside, objective profession to assess the situation, the community and redesign goals. That’s a smart move and one that can fill in the gaps where administrators are not fully engaged with the community such as retirees or those without children in the schools.

A hybrid approach would allow administrators with their boots on the ground to engage with the facets of the community they know while allowing a contractor to make sure all other elements of the community are brought into the process.