As the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) restraint and seclusion subcommittee continues its work, the committee’s focus has turned to the semantics of the policy language.
At its most recent meeting on March 20, committee members considered draft language that reads: “It is the district’s intent to create and maintain a positive and safe learning environment and promote positive behavioral interventions and supports in district schools through the use of trauma-informed de-escalation techniques. This policy is further intended to assist in creating a common understanding within the school district of appropriate interventions by district staff.”
Note that this language is a draft only and has not yet been adopted. The draft policy as recommended by attorney Adrienne Shea in executive session at the committee’s March 15 meeting also includes, “The superintendent or designee shall ensure that district staff implement programming and training with the goal of reducing all restraints with a focus on the elimination of prone and supine restraints and seclusion in district schools.”
At the March 20 meeting, former HUUSD special educator Brian Dalla Mura, who has encouraged the review of the district’s policy on restraint and seclusion, spoke during public comment and said, “I think that banning seclusion completely is the way to go.”
The policy committee will now send the amended draft policy back to Shea for review and will then determine whether the proposed policy should be discussed publicly at a future school board meeting or whether another executive session with the attorney will be required before the policy is discussed at a public meeting.
The restraint and seclusion policy subcommittee was formed at the start of the 2022-2023 school year to review the board’s policy on the use of restraint and seclusion in the district following concerns raised by Dalla Mura last year. Recent years’ data show a high number of instances of the use of these interventions in HUUSD schools as compared to other school districts in the state. HUUSD superintendent Dr. Mike Leichliter, who joined the district in July 2022, has been a champion of the review and reduction of the use of restraint and seclusion in HUUSD schools. At the beginning of the current school year, he put a moratorium on these practices in HUUSD schools, effective immediately.
Following the subcommittee’s March 15 meeting, the full HUUSD Board met to elect new officers to the board following the elections on Town Meeting Day. Danielle Dukette, Fayston; J.B. Weir, Waitsfield; and Ben Clark, Moretown were newly elected to the board, while Jake Pitman, Waterbury, who was appointed in fall 2022 was elected for the first time, as was Mike Bishop, Fayston; and Life LeGeros, Duxbury, both of whom were also appointed in 2022. Mike Bishop was the only board member not present, either in-person or via Zoom at the March 15 meeting, as he was out of town.
The board reelected Kristen Rodgers, Moretown, as chair and Kelley Hackett, Waterbury, as vice chair. It also elected Jake Pitman, Waterbury, as finance officer and Bobbi Rood, Waitsfield, as assistant finance officer. Ashley Woods was elected as the HUUSD’s representative to the Central Vermont Career Center (CVCC) school district, as the HUUSD is a sending district for the CVCC in Barre.
The Valley Reporter and The Times Argus were designated as the newspapers of record for the HUUSD.
The HUUSD is meeting as The Valley Reporter goes to press and will be discussing plans to postpone an upgrade of the kitchen at the Waitsfield Elementary School after estimated costs grew from $554,000 last fall to $879,318 in February which grew to $1,045,849 after schematic designs, engineering, construction document and contingencies were added in.