As usual, March 23’s Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board meeting began with public comment. Michele Ritzinger spoke about the assault against her son that allegedly took place at Harwood Union on February 1. (The Valley Reporter reported on this alleged assault on March 10.) “My concern is the safety of the school and other students,” she said. “I feel like the principals didn’t handle it properly. I do not believe my son had a voice. I feel there wasn’t enough punishment.”
She did note that she and her son had received “great support” from teachers and friends. Following the alleged assault, she said her son has been harassed, including having food thrown at him. She obtained stalking orders on the three boys that reportedly assaulted her son (all involved were minors). “The judge feels there’s a need for that,” she said. “[The principals] need to stand up more and do what’s right and guide our school and our students.”
STUDENT REP REPORTS
Student representatives to the board Maisie Franke and Maddie Thibault gave a school report (representative Jeswin Antony was not present). They said spring sports have started, a band concert would be happening later in the week, and the school musical, “Freaky Friday,” is coming up.
They also held their first school assembly since 2019 and are now able to eat lunch with their friends again due to the relaxation of state COVID recommendations for schools. “It’s a lot of good changes,” Thibault said. They talked about the effect of the mask mandate being lifted in schools. “Some think it’s very nice; others are stressed out,” they said.
Franke talked about student dialogues that recently occurred throughout the entire school during ELO (extended learning opportunity) time. All students participated in these conversations about school safety in small groups facilitated by students while teachers took notes.
“Overall, for some Harwood feels like a safe place, but we recognize steps we can take as a school moving forward” to improve student safety and the school climate, she said. She talked about the need for safe student spaces for mental breaks and to get adult support.
“Teachers and administrators need to enforce the rules and follow through,” she said.
The next steps are to review the feedback and share it with community members as well as students, their families and the administration. “We hope to have another [dialogue] in April,” she said.
BUS ROUTE CHANGES
Superintendent Brigid Nease gave an update on COVID in schools and bus route changes due to mud season. “We are not seeing an increase in COVID cases,” she said. “We’re very hopeful for a great spring and end of school year.” She went on to say, “The topic the last 10 days has been mud.”
A difficult mud season has meant significant changes in school bus routes due to impassable roads. She said the school has been issuing regular route changes each day. She said attendance has not waned as a result and staff have been able to get to work.
“It has required yeoman’s work for the bus barn,” she said. “Hats off to them.” HUUSD has begun interviews for the position of HR director. No eligible candidates have applied as of yet for the CFO position. “We may come to talk to you about the pros and cons of a search firm” for the position, she said. She added that she and incoming Superintendent Mike Leichliter have been meeting regularly to facilitate the transition. Leichliter will begin work on July 1, 2022.
The board voted to table the finance subcommittee and bring finance work into full sessions. It also voted to create a new professional development subcommittee to identify trainings, webinars and other resources for the board, particularly to help new board members.
Bobbi Rood, Waitsfield; Cindy Senning, Duxbury; Kristen Rodgers, Moretown; and Victoria Taravella, Waterbury, will sit on the subcommittee. The board voted to table voting on HUUSD’s representative to the new Central Vermont Career Center School District until April 13.
The board approved policy F11, related to American Disabilities Act (ADA) grievance protocol for students and staff. The policy states: “It is the policy of Harwood Unified Union School District not to discriminate on the basis of disability. The District has adopted this internal protocol for prompt handling and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).” It outlines the protocols to file a complaint regarding discrimination against those with disabilities.