To the HUUSD communities:

As Town Meeting Day approaches, we would like to take the opportunity to shed light on the work happening around the transition to one middle school and speak to concerns that the middle school will not be fully ready for learning come this August. The idea of one middle school is not a new one, and a good amount of thinking and planning on this notion has been happening for a number of years. When the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board adopted the budget in late January, we began to create both short- and long-term plans to establish an exceptional HUUSD middle school for all of our students.

This past week the full HUUSD administrative team was able to identify the specific staff members who will be working at Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) next year. This proved no small feat, as seniority, licensure and the union contract made this a multi-layered task. In our schools, we lean heavily on shared leadership and decision making, and now that staff members have been identified, we can begin that shared decision-making work in more detail. Our next step is to form three new, balanced grade 7/8 core teams. We have sought input on this from teachers, and the decision as to who will staff each team will be made shortly.

To assist with the merger of the two schools, we have established three transition leadership groups. One is focused on the overall transition to one middle school, one is focused on finalizing a master schedule for the school, and one is focused on the student-centered view of the transition and getting student voice and leadership into the planning. Once the new 7/8 teams have been identified, those teachers will begin work on team names, team norms, team traditions and the general nuts and bolts of how the team will function. We strongly believe that by working together we will be ready to greet students for an excellent year of learning.

This past week we identified the location of the annex, which will house four classrooms and office space. One next step is to determine room assignments for all teaching staff, and this will be a task for the leadership team. In March, the two middle school principals and the two middle school counselors will be visiting the four Valley elementary schools and Harwood Union Middle School in order to begin the conversation with students who will be coming to CBMS for the first time in August, and a similar visit to Thatcher Brook Primary School will happen later in the spring. All students will participate in step up day on the CBMS campus at the end of May.

We understand that the upcoming changes and transitions may be challenging for some. We want to reassure our community that we will work tirelessly and in partnership with our staff to create an excellent middle school for our middle school students. While the work between now and August will be significant, please rest assured that we will be ready to welcome our students with a school that cares deeply about learning and each other.

Drake and Pierson are HUUSD middle school principals.