By Laura A. Caffry
I think The Valley Reporter is a good local paper and I enjoy reading it. However, I think the editorial staff of the paper made a mistake last week with “Who works for whom?” It was inaccurate, inflammatory and out of proportion.
I am a member of the Harwood Union High School Board of Directors. However, I am not writing this on behalf of that board but because of my time on that board, and because I have had a child or children in what is now the Harwood Union Unified School District (HUUSD) for 15 years, I do feel as though my viewpoint comes from a place of knowledge and experience.
There are a lot of times when it just plain makes sense that the superintendent is the point person for media inquiries for the entire supervisory union. A superintendent of schools is typically the most well-versed person in a school district regarding the intersection of schools and state or federal policy (e.g., Act 46, early college and universal preschool, etc.) and a superintendent is also the correct person to address press inquiries if there is a crisis and regarding human resources, supervisory or district structure, discipline and other such topics. Also, although Vermont school superintendents work an incredible number of hours, they don’t typically have a student, teacher or parent waiting to meet with them, so it may even be possible that a superintendent could respond more quickly than a principal could.
I have attended a significant number of HUUSD Board meetings and I have read the minutes from all of them. I can state unequivocally that there has been no “unknown codification of (superintendent) Nease as the only spokesperson for our schools.” I can also report with confidence that the answer to “Have the new members of the HUUSD Board disempowered Harwood’s co-principals, school board chairs and teachers?” is no.
I am confident that school principals will still “address questions about Waitsfield’s school garden or Moretown’s afterschool program,” etc. I agree with The Valley Reporter that our elementary principals “are educational professionals fully capable of answering press inquiries.” However, I also agree with Superintendent Nease that certain matters of official business should go through the superintendent’s office. This will give the press the information they are seeking and give our “educational professionals” more time to be educators.
I have no doubt whatsoever that “parents and taxpayers in our district” will continue to have “real and sincere relationships with the administrators, teachers and staff at our elementary, middle and high schools.” If in fact when certain press inquiries are directed to the superintendent’s office, as they should be, principals, teachers and staff will have more time to do their primary jobs – educate, lead and nurture our students in the ways that parents and taxpayers expect. We are fortunate to have a good local paper and good local schools. Let’s not look for problems where there are none.
Caffry lives in Waitsfield.