By Ben Smith
As a Harwood parent, former school board member and partner of a current school board member, I would like to respond to John Kerrigan’s October 28 My View column. The Harwood he describes is a cruel caricature and in no way reflects my family's experience. My kids have had dynamic, engaged, passionate teachers and are thriving. We also have a kid doing great in college, as a sophomore, despite the pandemic, building on the skills she learned at Harwood. Our kids have embraced proficiency-based learning (a state law, by the way, not a decision by Harwood,) and in no way has it damaged their prospects. In fact, it has enhanced their ability to engage and be proactive in their learning.
In addition, Harwood has handled the incredible difficulties of the pandemic with skill and grace, while keeping our kids in school. The overwhelming stress and challenge of this success – which is nowhere near universal across the country -- deserves all the respect, thanks and honor due all of our frontline workers. This includes teachers, staff, leadership and, most of all, the students whose spirit is most definitely not "broken."
The long-range picture for the schools is something like this: There is a solid cohort in our community which will often, unfortunately, vote against school funding – somewhere in the neighborhood of 40%. That means it only takes a swing of about 10% of voters to reject something. There is an additional cohort who is generally supportive but would like to see more efficiencies in the system, which can only meaningfully come from consolidation of our small schools. There is a third cohort who is solidly and vocally against any consolidation and have demonstrated their willingness to vote against school funding based on this issue alone. Both those cohorts can choose to vote no and, whether they mean to or not, can block any meaningful progress.
Caught in the middle is a great high school – the flagship of our system -- in desperate need of upgrades (check out the video on the huusd.org website or dig into the data available there if you want more information). The board, with great difficulty, has crafted a common ground among these competing points of view. No one is getting everything they want. It was difficult, emotional work -- the work of local democracy. They have done that on behalf of our community and our kids. They are keeping the next generation squarely in view. This is a generational, hopeful, long overdue and deeply important investment in our community’s future. It’s an investment that benefits all our kids, regardless of income or background. Is it a big number? Yes. Is it the right number? Yes.
Sure, we could limit it and only repair Harwood. Then there would be no increased efficiencies, and we would have a circa 1965 high school with a solid roof and good HVAC and still spend around $36 million. Or we can spend the right amount and have the school we need for the next 40 years.
Harwood is a great school with great people in dire need of the support of its community. Please vote on November 2 and support the bond!
Ben Smith lives in South Duxbury.