STAFF VACATION DAYS
Harwood employees will enjoy five days of paid vacation this school year after the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board voted to convert five work days to paid vacation days at a meeting on December 9.
Superintendent Brigid Nease suggested that the HUUSD Board convert five paid work days to five paid vacation days for all HUUSD employees as a one-time bonus to recognize their incredible handling of the COVID pandemic.
The reason Nease proposed converting as opposed to awarding five paid vacation days is because Harwood teaching staff normally work 10 in-service days outside of typical school days. However, this year, the Legislature passed a bill at the end of the session in June moving the required minimum student days from 175 to 170. With students in school five fewer days than normal, Nease and the HUUSD Board decided it would be fair to also give staff those five days off, rather than making them work 15 in-service days.
The motion to approve the conversion of five paid work days to five paid vacation days for all HUUSD employees passed unanimously, with 12 board members voting in favor of the conversion and one abstaining.
HIGH SCHOOL RENOVATIONS
After moving to convert five work days to vacation days, the board moved to authorize a high school facilities committee, a group of five board members, to meet with architect/interior design consultant TruexCullins to review high school renovations. This work includes modernizing classrooms as well as renovating the indoor gym and outdoor track at the high school.
The board voted unanimously to invite a representative from TruexCullins to give a presentation on logistics and cost estimates for a future meeting.
NEW DISTRICT CLERKS
The board was also in sync in its district clerk discussion. The board has been looking for a new school district clerk ever since its latest district clerk moved out of the district. That night, the board voted unanimously to designate four board members, Caitlin Hollister, Rosemarie White, Christine Sullivan,and Torrey Smith, to interview district clerk candidates and bring recommendations to the board in January.
The school district clerk must be a resident of one of the district’s six towns. People have already applied for the position.
“The duties of that job are usually exclusive to the annual meeting, but as we saw last year, they can also be a significant time investment if there are petitions that come before the board that have to be counted and approved and reviewed in a timely manner. It’s an interesting position, and we have to do right by it,” explained board chair Caitlin Hollister.
NEW HR DIRECTOR
While the three motions mentioned above were the only official decisions made at the meeting that night, the board also spent some time flirting with new budget ideas.
Specifically, the board brought up the possibility of hiring a human resources director to work with the HUUSD administration, specifically to relieve Superintendent Nease of her HR-related responsibilities.
“If I’m boldly truthful with you, and I have no reason not to be, I’m the superintendent that’s leading, you will have a hard time attracting a superintendent if you don’t address this HR piece. I’m the only superintendent that I know in the state that does negotiations and does not use attorneys” she said, referring to her HR-like responsibilities. “Frankly, I’ve saved you $65,000 to $70,000 every time I’ve done it. Another superintendent is not going to do that.”
“HR is an incredibly intense, stressful area of the job. It requires a lot of training, a keen understanding of the law and incredibly personal circumstances with staff,” she continued. “It is a full-time job by itself. Quite frankly, it’s why I work very long hours and weekends in order to get the job done. If you want to accomplish a best practice approach, you’ll hire yourselves an HR director. If you want to be able to attract a high-quality superintendent, you’ll hire yourselves an HR director,” said Nease. “If I’ve ever made an error in this district, it’s by taking on too much.”
Nease said that she’s become a workaholic since starting work in the HUUSD and doing HR work has only fueled her workaholic fire. “The more I did, the more I was expected to do, and then the more I did. That turned into a workaholic kind of status. I’m telling you, fix it before you go out and try to hire yourself a high-quality superintendent,” said Nease.
While that night the board did not vote on whether to pursue hiring an HR, several board members spoke up in favor of the idea.
“My vote would be to put that in the budget,” said Alex Thomsen, Waterbury. Along the same vein, Rosemary White, Warren, said, “As far as an HR director, I would like to see that happen”