HUUSD wants equity between schools

  • Published in News
The Memory Tree in Waitsfield. Photo: Jeff Knight

The Memory Tree in Waitsfield. Photo: Jeff Knight

Although no final decisions have been made by the new unified union school board based on current class sizes, two less teachers in the school district would make schools more equitable.

The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) has a unified board and they have been meeting throughout the fall in preparation for July 1, 2017, when they will take over the responsibilities currently held by the individual school boards.

At their most recent meeting on December 14, they continued their discussion about proposed teacher cuts in Warren’s fifth and sixth grade and Fayston’s first and second grade. The proposed cuts are based on numbers of children in the school, a trend of declining enrollment and equity between the schools.

“I know that the equity piece is there, student-to-teacher ratio is there and it’s real, but I think it is also something to consider that we are realizing some savings in some places,” one board member said referring to the balance that Harwood currently has.

Another board member seconded her sentiment and also mentioned that with an extended bus service to Granville and Hancock they might see many more students come into The Valley.

In response to the balance, Christine Sullivan, chair of the HUUSD board, said that the proposed staffing cuts are not in response to a lack of funds as much as a call for equity among the seven elementary schools in the school district. She said that the district has a set of policies and it is the board’s duty to ensure that it is upheld in each school fairly.

Sullivan also said that they have made no final decision just yet and they are still waiting for a lot of information from the state and a survey that they have sent to the Granville and Hancock area. In the end what it will come down to is the per-pupil expenditure and the effect that it has on the tax rate.

“I don't think anyone wants to cut a teacher as a way to grind an axe,” Sullivan said. It was also mentioned that had the unified board not been created in the first place and these same members were on their respective towns’ individual boards, the same conversations would be taking place.

At the end of the conversation, Superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease said, for example, that her recommendation to reduce staffing in Warren from three grade five-six teachers to two was based on history in Warren School, their own class-size policy and similar class sizes throughout the district.

“I am hoping we will make decisions based on the data and not school specific,” Scheffert Nease said.

Historically Warren’s class sizes have been larger than 13, which is what the grade five-six classes are projected to be with three teachers, and at other schools within The Valley class sizes are much larger.

If more students were to come in they would be able to hire another teacher, a practice that has been done at Thatcher Brook Primary School. However, the board will not know if those students will be walking into the door on Day One until well after budgets need to be finalized.