By John Kerrigan

I taught high school science at Harwood for 38 years. I would love it if the present students and my former colleagues had brand-new state-of-the-art science labs. I started the Harwood track and field team, built the cross-country trails and coached three varsity sports for four decades. I am currently coaching my third generation of Harwood students as head cross-country coach. It would be nice to see a brand-new modern track facility at Harwood.



Yes, Harwood needs renovations. Our students would greatly benefit. But now is not the time. New construction costs are at their highest rates ever. Schools built before 1979 (Harwood in1965) are subject for investigation of cancer-causing PCBs. This analysis will not take place for another year or two. What happens if we spend $50 million on renovations and PCBs are discovered in the soil? This is what happened at Burlington High School.

The timing for the vote on this bond is poor. Our service-oriented community has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Businesses have closed, employments have been terminated. For many in our community, especially those on fixed incomes, paying the fuel bills this winter and buying groceries are the top priority. Renovations can wait until families are healthier financially.

Harwood is dysfunctional. A decade or more of ignoring the voters has changed a school that was once one of the finest in Vermont.

A good measure of the spirit and productivity of a workforce is its stability. My first 25 years at Harwood only a handful of teachers left to take positions in nearby schools. Thirty-six faculty and staff have left their positions at Harwood last year. Many left to take positions in nearby districts. Sure, there was COVID and some early retirements but 36!


Years ago, members of the community pleaded with the HU administration not to eliminate honors classes. The vast majority was also opposed to proficiency-based grading rather than the traditional letter grades. The scores that Harwood students received on standardized tests were always above average when compared to our neighboring schools. Not so anymore. Harwood students that have met the math proficiency are 27%. Neighboring U-32 and CVU are 35% and 52%, respectively. Harwood students did not test well in reading at 52% meeting the proficiency. U-32 students were 60% and CVU students 72%. There have been no national merit scholars at Harwood for a number of years. When I spoke at the 2015 graduation, one-fourth of the Vermont national merit scholars were Harwood students! Parents know it. It is easy to find this information on the internet. Is the director of curriculum sending these results to the school board? Why isn’t the school board holding the Harwood administration accountable for these results?

The elimination of honors classes, industrial arts classes, numerical or letter grade evaluation and failing test scores have motivated parents to remove their children from the district.

Many members of our community were also opposed to the superintendent-driven request for school consolidation.

How is that going for you HUUSD? It has seriously divided our community. At least one town (Moretown) in our district is considering leaving all together and another has been threatened with losing its elementary school (Fayston) when it was promised that this could not occur for several years. 

Some parents have chosen home schooling for their children. Families are moving out of the district to attend quality Vermont or New Hampshire public schools or enrolling their children in Vermont private schools - we don’t know the exact numbers of students that have sought alternatives. Our board and superintendent are in denial.

School governance should be much like our federal government where checks and balances exist. Our faculty, administration, community members and superintendent should all be equal in their influence. Not true at Harwood where the superintendent (and board members that are drinking the Kool-Aid) are governing the school.

If a home had a cracked foundation, a builder would not install new doors and windows. If a patient were suffering from a malfunctioning heart, a surgeon would not surgically implant a prosthetic hip. If a car had a blown head gasket, one would not spend money for body work.

Harwood has the equivalent of a cracked foundation, malfunctioning heart and a blown head gasket and more. Let’s fix these problems first.

Does one really think that letting in more light into the building or construction of a new gym will solve these problems? This is like performing cosmetic surgery on a patient with a cancerous brain tumor.

Harwood’s top priority should be the hiring of a new superintendent. This should be an intelligent, dynamic, creative individual. This person should be willing to listen to and act upon the needs of the community. They should be someone that tries to unite this community.

The Harwood board has not even done their homework on the bond. In a television news article, as the camera man panned the surface of the Harwood track. The voice in the background stated, “The Harwood track was built in 1965, the year Harwood was built.”

The area where the Harwood track is presently located was a swamp in 1965. The swamp was drained and the Harwood track and field hockey field were built in 1982. I know because I helped build it. Looks like we have another swamp to drain before we approve a $50 million bond.

When I was teaching, students that did not do their homework usually failed. Harwood you have not done your homework. Do you really expect the voters to make financial sacrifices when you have not done thorough research? When you haven’t been honest about failing test scores. When you have ignored the needs of the community. You have failed us.

Come on Harwood board you can do better. Hire a new progressive superintendent and come back to the voters in March with a new plan for renovation that reflects the needs of the students as well as the community.

For this bond – it is time to die.

Kerrigan lives in Duxbury.