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Seeking viewpoints

Last week The Valley Reporter wrote an article titled “Encouraging Dialogue,” detailing a community engagement committee meeting of the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) on March 26. Unfortunately, a simple fact-based article cannot convey just how impressive the meeting was.

The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board has incredibly strict public comment policies. Residents who wish to speak at the full HUUSD Board meetings best come prepared. Each speaker is given two minutes and they will be asked to reel it in if they go over. At other local meetings, like the select board meetings in each town, residents chime in at any point during the meeting and more often than not a dialogue ensues. You will not see that at the HUUSD Board meetings.

These policies are not without cause though. Consider this: Even with a tight public comment period and very frequent meetings, most of the time three Wednesday’s per month, the HUUSD Board meetings routinely run from 6 to 9 p.m. This is not an endorsement of the work that they do throughout those meetings, though much of it is great work, but an example of the amount of work.

Some may view the policies as a way to silence the public. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Which brings us back to the March 26 meeting. Throughout the night community members were able to openly discuss their thoughts regarding the district redesign, and the committee members answered, when they could, or told the community member that they would find out. It was an incredibly productive two-hour meeting.

Additionally, these are not the only committee meetings. There is a committee on communications, facilities and policy. Pretty much anything you have a question about you can go learn about or find the right people to ask; the only thing residents need to do is show up.

On top of these individual meetings, the community engagement committee has held two public forums on the same topic. The last one was well attended and a large portion of the group spoke up. One resident asked that the panel be composed of board members rather than the administrators and it probably should be a mix of both.

The HUUSD Board is certainly not trying to move ahead without the voices of community members. On the contrary, board members are pretty happy when they hear from them.

The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971