Although 11 Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) employees received reduction in force (RIF) notices last Friday, these RIFs are not final, according to a February 20 media response from Superintendent Brigid Nease. As soon as the initial RIF notices came out, changes were made. For example, yesterday a teacher announced plans to retire. This retirement will change the RIF and reassignment schedule referenced below. Now there are seven teacher RIFs instead of eight. “I encourage everyone to remember that until annual employment letters go out on April 1, these changes are at the proposal stage,” said Superintendent Brigid Nease. Likewise, RIFs and reassignments cannot be finalized until the school budget is passed. If the budget is defeated, the standard process for that is that all staff will receive a pink slip and no one will be guaranteed a job until the voters finally approve a budget,” said Nease. Thus, the article below outlines the initial RIF and reassignment decisions made by the administration, decisions which are subject to change.
Eleven Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) employees have received reduction in force (RIF) notices from the school administration. These employees include one administrator, one school secretary, one technology coordinator and eight teachers. While there are 13 people on the RIF list, two of these teachers will drop their current position and keep working in the school, making a total of 11 full-time equivalent employees (FTE) subject to the RIFs.
In addition to the RIFs, 34 school district employees are being reassigned from their current schools to another school. Most of the reassignments are for current Moretown Elementary School and Harwood Union teachers.
On February 18, Superintendent Brigid Nease released a document to the HUUSD Board and staff outlining and explaining several RIFs and reassignments.
First, a Harwood Union Middle School math teacher will be reduced. Second, a Warren/Waitsfield Elementary French teacher will be reduced “due to more sharing in The Valley schools without the 5/6 at Moretown Elementary School,” said Nease in her statement. Third, a Thatcher Brook Primary School first- and second-grade teacher will be reduced as a Fayston first- and second-grade teacher transitions to Thatcher Brook, while the Fayston Elementary School consolidated its two first- and second-grade classes into one due to declining enrollment.
The administration is reducing one special education teacher from Crossett Brook Middle School. According to Nease, special educators and speech language pathologists are hired according to “the number of students receiving IEP services, not enrollment numbers,” implying that right now the middle school does not have enough students who need IEP services. “At no time would the district not provide legally mandated services,” said Nease, suggesting that if the administration needed to hire another special educator to accommodate a new student, they would.
The administration is also reducing a secretary from Thatcher Brook.
One art teacher from HUHS will be reduced as another art teacher from Fayston and Waitsfield Elementary Schools transitions to teach Harwood’s digital media program. According to Nease, in terms of art classes, the four Valley schools were “overstaffed” in years past, but the administration “could not make the reduction given the schedules.” With the fifth-and sixth-grade students no longer at Moretown Elementary School, “we can share differently,” said Nease.
CLASSES WERE FULL
She went on to explain how this art teacher reduction would add art programming in the high school. “We do not intend to change the programming for students. With the middle school moving to CBMS, and no reduction in FTE coming from the high school, we have increased the FTE in the high school art department to be able to offer additional sections for students who otherwise were denied when classes were full.”
The 0.4 FTE reduction of the Latin teacher is not a reduction of staff. According to Nease, “There is no change to the Latin program because our only Latin teacher requested the drop in the 0.4 FTE of his position, which is a study hall and leadership team block.” In other words, the Latin teacher will continue teaching Latin without a study hall or leadership team that made up nearly half his position.
A 0.1 FTE physical education position will be reduced from Warren and Fayston with no replacement.
A full-time Crossett Brook science teacher and a Harwood Union High School English teacher will be reduced according to seniority-based RIF guidelines. Previously, high school teachers expressed concern that the reduction of a science teacher would come from the HCLC special education program. In her document, Nease pointed out that “the reductions in 1.0 Science and 1.0 English do not both come from HCLC.” The current science teacher for HCLC “remains in the program which has two instructors serving 16-18 students. The English teacher on HCLC program however, is a RIF.
The administration is reducing one nonunion position: a tech support position serving The Valley.
In the physical education department, one 0.5 FTE gym teacher at the high school will be reduced. Nease explained how this reduction wouldn’t overwhelm the PE department. “Brian Moody and Katie Pike remain at HUHS, without the middle school, where both taught health and PE, but now will teach more PE in the HS,” she said, suggesting that without the Harwood Union Middle School students to teach, the current high school PE teachers will do fine without the extra 0.5 FTE position.
The reduction of the Orton Gillingham tutor position does not remove the teacher, only the position. The tutor will go on to teach high school social studies after the current social studies teacher retires. As for the position, “The reading intervention teacher at HUHS will no longer have middle school students to work with in her building, her position has not been reduced, and she can serve the 9-12 which typically will not have any or as many OG services,” said Nease.
Finally, a principal position will be reduced as Harwood accepts two new co-principals this year instead of three. None of the three current principals will be cut. Lisa Atwood is retiring, Sam Krotinger will be principal of Warren Elementary School, and Duane Pearson will be principal at Crossett Brook along with Tom Drake.
The RIF notices were given on Friday, February 14, two days after the board voted to work with teachers on the plan to transition all middle-schoolers to Crossett Brook and while school board chair Caitlin Hollister and board vice chair Torrey Smith were fielding questions from local reporters.