The top priority is to fill vacancies on the Board of Directors
March 11, 2022 | By Lisa Scagliotti
In a short meeting Wednesday night, the Harwood Unified Union School District School Board reorganized to add new members elected on the day of the town meeting and chose new officers to lead the group for next year. .
The board selected Kristen Rodgers of Moretown as chair and Waterbury member Kelley Hackett as vice-chair.
In nominating Rodgers for president, Fayston member Theresa Membrino explained why she considered Rodgers “a great candidate.” She noted that Rodgers before joining the board four years ago served on a community engagement committee; as a board member, Rodgers served on the vision and finance committees; she worked on contract negotiations and was involved in the recent search for the superintendent, Membrino noted.
After selecting the chair and vice-chair, the board elected newly elected Warren member Ashley Woods as finance officer and Moretown member Lisa Mason as deputy finance officer. Board members in these roles review records of payments the school district makes as part of its business.
Membrino, who was previously in charge of finance, encouraged board members to volunteer for the position. “It was a fascinating and fascinating journey of where we spend our money in the district. I really recommend it,” she said.
Roberta “Bobbi” Rood, newly elected member of Waitsfield, was chosen as recording secretary.
In each case, there was only one candidate per position and the decisions were almost unanimous. Waitsfield member Christine Sullivan did not support the nominations of the two Moretown members. She cast the only “no” vote to Rodgers as president, and she abstained from voting for Mason.
The board also designated the principals of each school as district truant officers and appointed the Valley Reporter and the Waterbury Reader as the official newspapers to publish the district’s legal notices and announcements for the coming year.
Seats still open in Duxbury, Fayston
Although the board easily reached a quorum of members, it was not a full group present Wednesday as only 11 of the current 12 members were present. Ten members were present in person in the Harwood Union High School library; Warren member Jonathan Young participated via Zoom, and Waterbury board member Marlena Fishman was absent.
The council has 14 seats – two from Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren, and four from Waterbury. The seats representing Duxbury and Fayston did not attract any candidates in the recent Town Meeting Day election after previous chairman and vice-chairman Torrey Smith and Tim Jones decided not to stand again. Council may appoint members to fill vacancies with appointees up to the day of the 2023 town meeting.
Anyone interested in these positions should send a letter by April 6 to Rodgers and Superintendent Brigid Nease (email to [email protected] and [email protected]). Rodgers and Hackett said the board could appoint new members as early as its April 13 meeting if there are candidates.
Rodgers and Hackett said Friday they briefly discussed priorities for the rest of the school year. In an email to Waterbury Roundabout, they said the topics they plan to spend time on in the coming weeks, in addition to filling the two open council seats, will include – in no particular order – the review of board expectations, consideration of an early flag request, and possible board retirement, as suggested by outgoing board leaders last month.
Last month, the school board adopted a district flag policy with guidelines for responding to requests to fly flags other than the United States and Vermont flags in schools. Students and staff working on anti-racism efforts across the district have expressed interest in flying the Black Lives Matter flag at schools across the district. The council asked that any request wait until the policy is in place.
And while the board has typically held a retreat at the start of the school year in September, outgoing board chair Smith suggested a spring retreat after new board members have arrived could be productive. Hackett and Rodgers said a retreat could anticipate the district’s leadership transition. It could also cover continuing anti-racism efforts in the future so that new leaders and new board members are informed and included, Hackett said.
The relaunch of the discussions concerning the facilities is likely to await the arrival of the new superintendent. The school board has delayed planning next steps for renovations at Harwood Union High School. In November, voters overwhelmingly rejected a nearly $60 million bond request to upgrade the school built in the mid-1960s. That package included funding to expand Crossett Brook Middle School to house all seventh and eighth grade classes and ending the middle school program at Harwood. Changes for the college depended on building expansion and are now pending.
Superintendent contract signed, new team in sight
The former board shelved construction talks after the November bond vote as it then focused on finding a new superintendent to succeed Nease, who is stepping down at the end of June after 13 years as as the chief administrator of the district. The selection process took place between November and February and the board hired Mike Leichliter, currently Superintendent of the Penn Manor School District in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Leichliter, who attended Wednesday’s meeting via Zoom, will begin on July 1. The school board approved Leichliter’s contract which covers three years, through June 30, 2025. His salary for the first year will be $165,000, with annual increases thereafter in line with the requested rates. in district teacher contracts.
The last contract signed by the school board with Nease was for two years, starting July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2022. It provided for a salary of $148,567 for the first year with an increase corresponding to what the teachers have received for this school year.
In addition to welcoming a new superintendent, another important administrative transition coming up will be the position of finance manager, as longtime director of finance and operations, Michelle Baker, will also be leaving this summer. Next year’s budget also calls for the hiring of a director of human resources, a new position for the district.
The school board asked Nease to begin recruiting for these positions with the goal of having candidates to hire by Leichliter’s arrival. At the Feb. 9 meeting, Nease said Leichliter would be heavily involved in those choices.
“Mike and I have spoken before. It won’t be difficult. That’s what superintendents do,” Nease said, explaining that interviews could take place via Zoom with Leichliter involved. She would provide hiring recommendations. to the board if he chose candidates by June 30 while she is still in office, and the choices, she said, would reflect Leichliter’s preferences.
“At the end of the day, it’s his decision. A superintendent should hire his team,” Nease said.