Dear HUUSD Board:
I'm writing you this message because I am unable to make it to your rescheduled meeting tomorrow night for public comment.
As a former board member, as one of Moretown's representatives to your body at the forming of this district, I've been part of this process from the beginning. There are many layers, many interpretations of data and many opinions, but there is one thing I am certain of at this time:
The community has spoken through its voting power with a resounding rejection of your plan to close Harwood Union Middle School, move those students and Moretown's fifth- and sixth-graders to a school that doesn't have enough space to house them, and your continued efforts to dismantle Fayton's school and community center.
Board chair Caitlin Hollister seems confused in the media. For example, in the most recent Valley Reporter, it said, "Regarding whether the no vote represented voter dissatisfaction with rezoning, Hollister said it's too hard to interpret a yes/no vote that way. … 'I imagine there are many reasons for people voting no,' she said."
This is odd when, in a recent federal court filing to stop language changes to the HUUSD Articles of Agreement from appearing on the Town Meeting Day ballot, the district argued that, "If voters disapprove of the HUUSD Board's grade configuration plan, they can indicate their disapproval by voting against the fiscal year 2021 budget that moves forward that plan."
Chair Hollister also took the stand at the subsequent hearing in Burlington and reiterated that same sentiment, under oath and in front of several members of our community. We voted no like you told us to, so why are you trying to make it seem like we don't know what we're doing?
Chair Hollister and vice chair Torrey Smith muddied the waters even further in their latest Board Leadership Report: "We’ve included our district’s recent budget vote tallies in the board packet, showing that the percent of voters approving our budgets has decreased in recent years, even during years without major changes to our school configurations. We are hopeful that in this next round, our board can come to a stronger agreement to provide our voters with more clarity about our board’s decisions and what a 'yes' or 'no' vote means."
This is not true. In fact, the last three years before this one featured the three lowest no vote totals. Here are the vote totals for and against the HUUSD and, before that, the HUHS, budgets since FY14:
FY14: 1,343-911 for; FY15: 1,694-1,243 for; FY16: 1,196-1,030 for; FY17: 2,694-1,763 for; FY18: 1,381-772 for; FY19: 1,135-812 for; FY20: 1,062-852 for; FY21: 3,048-2,254 against.
Again, the community voted no because we disagree with your plans, and you told us that if we disagreed with your plans, then we should vote no. It's that simple. There is no other way to spin this. The numbers are unprecedented. The highest no vote prior to this year was the FY17 vote, which coincided with the 2016 presidential primary, at 1,763. This year's total of 3,048 means that 1,285 more people voted no than that year, and 2,196 more people voted no than they did last year.
The community has spoken. Please stop trying to ignore our voice.
Peter Langella lives in Moretown.