By Heidi Spear
I submitted my resignation to the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board on Monday, September 18. I believe the public has a right to know this and to understand why. The simple answer is that I now have a conflict of interest that prevents me from continuing to serve. The deeper answer is that sometimes a board demonstrates that it is not the venue for accountability and another route must be taken. Sadly, that is what has transpired here.
The recent actions of the HUUSD Board that turn a blind eye to a pattern of hostile and retaliatory behavior, dishonesty and violations of Open Meeting Law by our superintendent and some board members are grossly negligent and clearly contrary to the interests of our communities. In conducting itself in this manner the board is not fulfilling its responsibilities to maintain independence, provide any actual oversight or ensure accountability of district leadership. It is sending a signal to community members, employees and students that bullying is tolerated here and they must turn elsewhere if they want to be treated fairly and respectfully.
Further, in demonstrating a commitment to simply ignore community concerns and priorities, as well as troubling performance data, the board is actually driving further enrollment decline, effectively undermining educational resources for our students and increasing our property tax burdens in one fell swoop. This is the very opposite of what we were elected to do.
As the book Slow Democracy highlights, there is a sad history in public education and housing of bad outcomes stemming from ignoring community voice in deference to “the experts” in centralized bureaucracies. I ask you, why pay for public elections if the board’s duty is just to trust and back the superintendent no matter the behavior and performance? It is absurd to assert, as our board chair and some members of this board have done, that it is not the board’s job to question the superintendent and to engage the public in any dialogue. As clearly written in statute, school boards exist to ensure that a district is guided by and accountable to the public.
While some of us understood that the dramatic disruption and contraction of school governance that Act 46 imposed introduced significant risks to community voice, educational return on investment and spending containment, I did not imagine that our new board could so easily and fully abdicate its core responsibilities to work for and protect the public’s interests. For the sake of our students, taxpayers and employees, here is hoping early mistakes do not become lasting ones.
It is my belief that an able Fayston citizen will come forward to represent our community and the interests of all students and taxpayers for the remainder of my term. It is my hope that with mounting pressure the board will reorganize, as it absolutely must to put an end to the toxic climate and dysfunction, and begin to fulfill its legal responsibilities to the public it was elected to serve.
Spear lives in Fayston and until September 18 represented that town on the Harwood Unified Union School District Board.