By Heidi Spear
I am writing to address a number of inaccuracies in the opinion piece submitted by Christine Sullivan in last week's issue of The Valley Reporter. Board chair Christine Sullivan’s assertion that the central issue at the May 24 Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board meeting was that board policy wasn't followed is not accurate.
While there was much ado about Christine's and Superintendent Brigid Nease's assertions that a board member, me, supposedly directed the administration to do an analysis, this was entirely untrue. A member of the administrative team, Sheila Soule, requested that I reach out to business manager Michelle Baker about cohort analyses – not the other way around. (Policy C5.) Second, contrary to claims that I forced things on the agenda that others didn't want to cover, Christine put a presentation of cohort analysis on the agenda and the review of both reports resulted from a motion passed by the board – one I did not vote in favor of. I seconded a motion by Gabe Gilman to discuss the analyses at our next board meeting, but that motion failed. (Policy C1.)
After attempting to deflect attention from the data by attacking me, Christine goes on to further deflect attention and confuse the public by sharing enrollment data in place of either of the cohort analyses we actually reviewed at our meeting. Enrollment data and cohort analysis are not the same thing. Enrollment data captures population fluctuations and trends. We have been discussing and coping with those fluctuations and the state's overall decline for many years.
Cohort analysis is very different in that it only captures fluctuations within an existing cohort – students in the same grade level at each school – irrespective of cohort size and how, when and where it changes. When you look at that analysis you see that despite overall population decline, we have net inflow at all schools with the exception of Harwood. There we have statistically significant outflow, most notably at the middle school. Cohort analysis is one tool for evaluating if we are giving our community what its members want. Others include community surveys and exit interviews.
Cohort analysis is an imperfect but meaningful and distinct performance metric that our district's governing board should both understand and monitor as student outflow negatively impacts the student body, resources available to all our students and our property tax burden.
Focusing on how the information came before the board and fabricating a procedural issue could be an effective tactic to distract from the content of the analysis, transparency and accountability, but I hope it won't be. In the context of our newly unified district and serious concerns expressed recently by members of the public about Harwood's accelerated deployments of their proficiency-based learning model and new grading system, it is both timely and vital that the board familiarize itself with and monitor all performance indicators at its disposal.
Spear is one of Fayston’s two elected representatives to the Harwood Unified Union School Board.