Some comments are brief; others go into great detail either in favor of or opposed to plans for redesigning the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD).
Last December, school district Superintendent Brigid Nease released a proposal that calls for closing two of The Valley’s four elementary schools, sending all fifth- and sixth-graders in the district to Crossett Brook and relocate Thatcher Brook fourth-graders to that school as well.
The unified school board has begun its community outreach and is accepting comments at board meetings, in forums and by email and has also recently closed a survey. Maureen McCracken, a member of the Harwood Unified Union School District community engagement committee, said she expects the survey responses to be made public, without being identified by name. The online survey allowed participants to identify themselves if they wanted to.
The school district central office also just released the first batch of email comments on the issue of redesign and is creating a tab on its website for community members to read the comments of their fellow community members.
The emailed comments are as simple as, “I strongly opposed the school district redesign proposed by Superintendent Nease,” from a Waitsfield resident. Some are more detailed such as this one from a Warren resident:
“ . . .there has got to be a better way than what was proposed by the superintendent. I find her proposal uncreative, unresponsive and unimaginable. It feels like it comes out of some formula that an inexperienced MBA might propose as a financial solution, but totally misses the mark on the real values of improved education and the child’s experience. I think it’s time to be listening to the community more, their shouting can be heard clearly.”
A Duxbury resident praised parts of the proposal as making sense and being well thought out. She raised concerns, however, about “splitting the third- and fourth-grade teams at Thatcher Brook Primary School and sending the fourth-graders to Crossett Brook Middle School a year before their Valley school counterparts.”
A board member from Waterbury asked Nease, via email, to consider a slightly different configuration of students at the various schools including Waterbury and Duxbury third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Crossett Brook, all Valley pre-K to fifth grade at two Valley schools, Waterbury and Duxbury pre-K to second grade at Thatcher Brook and all students together for sixth through 12th grade at Harwood.
A Warren father wrote a lengthy and impassioned plea arguing that the redesign as proposed would weaken The Valley and its schools as well as worsen children’s quality of education and life.
“Under the superintendent’s proposal, the quality of life of our town’s (Warren’s) children will almost certainly decrease as they will have two additional years where they will need to spend nearly two hours of their day being bussed and driven several towns away,” he wrote.
“Bravo! The quicker you can pull these recommendations off, the better. Using Warren and Fayston buildings for income-producing usage is a great idea. With an open mind, the options are many,” another Warren resident wrote.
A Waitsfield resident praised the plan and asked that it go further. Specifically, he suggested encouraging experienced teachers to retire early, to look at a countywide superintendent model vs districtwide and create a fixed 2.5 percent budget.
A Waitsfield woman offered an extensive comment in praise of the redesign proposal.
“I love it. I love that it is bold and I love that you put it out there. I am sure it won’t all happen at once, but these are the dreams that will start the conversation and perhaps more importantly the realities that will start it and hopefully move us forward to some big change,” she wrote.
“As a parent, I can see enormous benefits from having slightly larger class sizes, not huge as in some states, but definitely larger than our current class sizes. . . . I also feel that a few more kids in each room would give more kids a better chance to find social and academic peers,” she wrote.