The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board has finally voted on each budget item for next year and any parent worried about losing teachers can breathe easy.
At their January 11 meeting, the HUUSD Board members voted in favor of keeping teachers in Fayston and Warren. The vote was 34 percent in favor of cutting teachers, 66 percent against.
Superintendent Brigid Nease reiterated why she made the recommendations she did. Nease reminded the board that her job is to provide information and give recommendations based on state statute and their policies.
The prevailing sentiment at the end of the meeting was that the board should not make cuts during the first year for a few reasons. Some board members do not believe that it is the right time; some believe that the 10 cent tax incentive has bought them some time to figure things out and some members simply do not believe cutting the teachers makes the class sizes across the schools more equitable.
Maureen McCracken, from Waterbury, had three reasons for keeping the teachers. She noted how hard it is to replace teachers and how personal a child’s education really is. She would rather let things play out before making any major changes and she is hoping that in the next year or so, reducing teachers wouldn’t be on the budget proposal because student enrollment rebounded or school choice worked.
“If we lost a good teacher because we didn’t give that time to develop, that would be unfortunate,” McCracken said.
There were members in favor of the staff reductions.
“In thinking about Vermont Education Secretary Holcombe’s testimony that we read, one of the big things was affordability and declining enrollment and that’s a reality. And I do think that this gets emotional for people. We’re talking about teachers’ lives and we’re talking about students and our community. But I do think we owe it to our taxpayers to try to save them some money,” said Garett MacCurtain, a representative from Duxbury.
He was followed by another proponent, Jim Casey of Waterbury. He also noted how hard it is to make these types of cuts, but he said that he cannot justify a class of eight students to the taxpayer. Casey also believes that the board should not be voting as an act of goodwill. The tax incentive diminishes each year and when The Valley communities voted to unify they voted for a lower tax bill.
Nease reminded the board that these are their decisions.
“A superintendent can decide absolutely nothing by themselves,” Nease said, making sure that all of the HUUSD Board members knew that they will be the decision makers moving forward. Nease said that every single school in The Valley has had to make cuts in the past few years and she sat in each individual board meeting while they deliberated. The process that she used for making her recommendations, for one teacher to be cut at both Fayston Elementary and Warren Elementary, is no different than the process of each board in previous years.
The recommendation was tied to the local class-size policy, which was discussed and supported by each local board, and the education quality standards that they are required to follow. Lastly it was tied to her knowledge of the individual schools. “My data is not made at just blanket class size,” she said.