By John Kerrigan
The news that Co-Principal Amy Rex is leaving Harwood for a similar position in Massachusetts prompted me to reflect on her tenure.
During the Rex/Atwood/Nease administration the following have been removed from the Harwood curriculum: all honors classes, the industrial arts program, the family consumer science programs. In addition the eight-block schedule has been reduced to seven, further limiting student choices.
Letter grades have been dropped. Some might say that this is due to the state mandates for Proficiency-Based Learning. However, many Vermont schools allow for a more incremental proficiency-based grading system. Some Vermont schools are giving letter grades and proficiency-based evaluations!
Has anything been added? The administrative disciplinary staff has increased from one to three or possibly four members. There is also now a position for regulation of the teacher adviser program. Many of the changes above took place below the radar of most members of the community.
In addition, many of Harwood’s excellent teachers (one was teacher of the year) have moved to other school districts or decided to take early retirement. Student and teacher morale is very low.
Heidi Spear indirectly addressed some of these concerns in her June 22 My View article “Addressing Inaccuracies” in The Valley Reporter. “We were net inflow at all the schools with the exception of Harwood. There we have statistically significant outflow most notably in the middle school.”
It is no secret that many parents of sixth- to ninth-graders are seeking other opportunities for their children. Next school year some will be homeschooled or attend private schools. Some families have put their homes on the market in hopes of moving to other Vermont school districts that have a more flexible grading system with an enriched curriculum.
The famous line from Apollo 13, “Houston we have a problem,” comes to mind. NASA scientists, astronauts on the ground, engineers, rocket scientists and even the custodial staff all worked together to bring the astronauts back to Earth. After all we are now a “unified district.” Let’s push for greater transparency and greater communication within the community. Together we can do what is best for our students. And restore our high school curriculum so it can meet the needs of all students. Let’s all work together to bring Harwood back to Earth.
Kerrigan lives in Duxbury and is retired as a Harwood science teacher. He taught at Harwood Union for 38 years.