What was said and not said

  • Published in Editorials

Several weeks ago, The Valley Reporter printed a front-page story detailing the proposal to the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board to cut two teachers and a staff member at two Valley schools. The proposed budget would cut a teacher from Warren and a teacher from Fayston plus a full-time sub/aid.

Given the intense interest in this subject in the run up to the June vote on Act 46 wherein The Valley and Waterbury towns opted to merge their school boards early, this story was deemed front-page worthy. Its placement had to do with the fact that in the marketing of Act 46 and early merging there was no specific mention made of immediately cutting teachers.

Although the articles of agreement were left vague by design and did not mention retaining current staffing levels for any specific period of time, there was a sense and an understanding in the community – based on how the early merger was sold – that cutting staff would come slowly.

Whether this was the reality or people hearing what they wanted to here, the reaction to the proposed cuts supports The Valley Reporter’s December placement of the story about proposed teacher cuts.

The story placement resulted in members of the unified union district board excoriating The Valley Reporter for sensationalism, cherry-picking and irresponsible journalism.

We disagreed then and we disagree now. Given the fallout after the December meeting where teacher cuts were proposed and given what took place at the HUUSD Board’s January meeting people were, at a minimum, shocked to learn that teacher cuts would be proposed in the first year.

Given the public reaction to the proposed cuts, it’s fair to say that people feel both betrayed and as if they were subject to a bait and switch. This, despite the fact that the articles of agreement note that the HUUSD Board will work for efficiencies created when equalizing student-teacher ratios across the new district.

Driving the new super board and trying to fairly represent all students and all taxpayers is as unwieldy as trying to turn the Titanic. By definition, it’s a slow process. Given that the tax rate difference between keeping staff and cutting staff is a penny on the tax rate, it makes sense to go slow and get a better sense of what equity and parity look like and mean from the smallest to the largest school in the district.