June 12, 2021

HSB Minutes 2-10-2021

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

February 10, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

Online Meeting  

Members Present    Administrators Present

Kevin Christie    Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill     Cathy Newton

Nancy Russell    Roy Hathorn

Russell North    Doug Kussius

Michelle Boleski

Dylan Morse

 1.  Call to Order

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda  
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:03 PM. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve the agenda as presented, motion carried.

 2. Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events
Mr. DeBalsi reported that the Ends continue to be very relevant given the world and national events and their impact on our everyday life. A review of The Ends is necessary, to include at a minimum, Equity and Inclusion. 

 3. Board Professional Development (Section 4 Policy GP 9)

Mr. DeBalsi asked for a volunteer(s) from the board to work on a new board member packet with him. Ms Boleski asked for Policy Governance training for the HCOREI members, facilitated by the board. Mr. Christie asked Mr. North and Ms Boleski to schedule a discussion with them during a Community Engagement Meeting. Mr. Merrill suggested the board give a short presentation for the HCOREI members.

 4. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

Legislative Advocacy
Mrs. Russell said she will update the board with information from the VSBA via email asap.

Mr. DeBalsi reported on legislation around statewide negotiations for health care. The district responded with how health care costs have been impacted due to COVID, Jake Vezina prepared the documents.

Mr. Christie reported on statehouse activity.

FY22 Budget Revenue Changes, February 22 Presentation to the Public
Mr. DeBalsi updated the board about the changes from the state and how it impacts the budget that is proposed. Jake Vezina presented numbers from the state on equalized pupil, yields, and income. These changes would reflect a decrease in the tax rate and income. The board had previously proposed applying $675,000 to offset the property tax increase. If they don’t apply that amount the tax rate and income rate would still decrease. Jim Vezina cautioned the board about using the $675K this year if there was a decrease without it and possibly use those funds to cover roof replacement expenses. The overall goal of using reserve funds is to level out the tax impact over the years to avoid roller coaster impacts. The budget amount for next year will not change, as it is already warned. Ms Boleski reminded the board that they had discussed being cautious during the pandemic. Mr. North reminded that group that using the $675K still leaves additional reserves. He believes that some should go back to the taxpayers: new roof or to offset taxes. Mr. Merrill stated he would like to keep the budget as prepared. The board decided to go forward with the financial package they approved in January and warned.

The presentation on Feb 22 will be done by Mr. North. 

Town/School Annual Meeting – Resolutions, Annual Report and Other Responsibilities 
Mr. DeBalsi asked for one board member to take responsibility for presenting any resolutions for the Annual Meeting, Feb 27th. Mrs. Russell volunteered to prepare a speech for Ms Boleski, the outgoing board member.

Mr. Christie said the Annual Report would be reviewed on Feb 22nd. He further asked that Mr. Hathorn discuss the Equity and Inclusion work.

Each budget (town and school) presentation is up to thirty minutes and candidates will have time to speak to the body. Ms Boleski reminded the board that they may need to sign in early to ensure getting in the room. CATV will be running the Zoom meeting. Chuck Wooster will moderate the meeting.  

Wilder School Principal Proposal
Mr. Christie asked to put this on hold until after the elections and budget action. Mr. DeBalsi noted that waiting for the board’s support  may impact the timing of hiring and the pool of potential candidates. The new position would be a principal in charge of the two programs in the building and was planned as cost neutral. Ms Boleski asked if the board has to approve adding administrators or if that is in the superintendent’s parameter. Other board members agreed that Mr. DeBalsi has the prerogative to add the position given the budget constraint. The board supported adding the new position. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to support the superintendent’s decision to hire a principal for the Wilder School, motion carried.

WRS Food Program Proposal
Mr. DeBalsi introduced the White River School principal, Doug Kussius, who spoke about a proposed White RIver School food program(sent in board packet) for next year. He is interested in bringing good local foods in and increasing the quality of the meals. This year the school meal participation is up due to the federal funding. Wholesome nutritious food would be used as an educational tool as well. He anticipates that the district would incur some costs, staffing. At this point fifty-three percent of the population is free/reduced. The staff is supporting this program. It ties in with many school traditions: Thanksgiving feast, Farm Day. He has worked with Mrs. Newton who secured grants to help fund this, at this time $30,000 from the Byrne Foundation. Mr. DeBalsi and the board members are excited about this new program. Ms Boleski and Dylan spoke about similar food programs in former schools.

Transgender and Non-conforming Students Policy Review and Discussion
Mr. DeBalsi noted that the Biden administration has made note of this and has promised changes. Mr. Merrrill asked him to look into the district policy language for any necessary changes. Mr Hathorn reported on what is done in the schools with the transgender and non-conforming students. At the middle school students reported that the school is the most welcoming place they are in. They have a PRIDE alliance group. HACTC is working on equity and inclusion and understanding definitions. He reported that all schools are working with gender neutral restrooms and changing facilities. Pronouns and names are being honored at all schools. All buildings are making progress. Mr. Merrill noted that he has heard that some students are not getting their names recognized and bathroom access has been a challenge. Mrs. Russell echoed those concerns, stated that students are positive about Hartford, and asked about the possibility of allowing a club group. Some students shared that they have caring staff members who get it and support them. She thanked all staff members who support these students. Mr. Hathorn replied that absolutely club groups are encouraged. There is a problem with Infinite Campus and frequent student changes. Mr. DeBalsi suggested a student survey to help identify needs. Mr. North noted that EL10 deals with this. Ms Boleski asked about the need for a procedure protocol to go with the policy. 

Wilder School Update and Plaque
Students have moved in, all are comfortable, all is working well. Last walk through will be in two weeks. The public celebration will be held when it’s safe. The board reviewed the draft wording for the plaque. Ms Boleski asked about thanking the supporting neighbors. Mr. DeBalsi’s name needs to be added. 

 5.  Public Comments  

The public was invited to join using the link https://zoom.us/j/97430755984, meeting ID 974 3075 5984

Mrs. Russell noted that the VSBA will come in and do a review of district policies. 

No members of the public spoke. 

 6. Communication and Support to the Board (Section 1 Policy EL 9)

Student Representative Report 
Dylan reported using an interactive approach, he asked the board for their thoughts about how they could always have a student representative. He is using this for his Honors Capstone project and will research different aspects from the board and the student perspectives.  Mr. Merrill shared his concern of the amount of time the students put in for meeting attendance and that the student must be willing to participate in the meeting. Mr. Hathorn asked about the possibility of having this position be for credit, in that students spend a lot of time preparing and attending. The meeting time could be equivalent to evening course work. Mr. DeBalsi shared that he has a  high school Social Studies endorsement and could be the teacher. Dylan asked about the possibility of having the applicants write a letter to the board and have a committee review them. Mr. North suggested the applicants make a presentation to the board and ask what would make it more attractive for students. Mr. DeBalsi offered to meet with Dylan to continue the discussion. Mrs. Newton asked about the board evaluating the applicants using the transferable skills rubric. 

- Superintendent’s Report

Mr. DeBalsi reported that the district continues to respond to COVID and refresh everyone about the rules. He will be doing a refresher for staff and families before the February vacation. There have been some remote students who want to come back into school. Class size at the elementary schools play a part in whether or not the students can return to a specific class/school, some may have to go to a different school. 

 7. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes – 1/13/2021, 1/27/2021
Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve the Consent Agenda, motion carried. 

 8. Next Meeting Agenda

Future meeting: review of the Ends, Review of EL10 (on work program?),

Transgender policy (Outright VT?)

Community Engagement Meeting: Mr. Christie/Mr. Merrill letter regarding what is going on in the state and town.

 9. Meeting Evaluation

The meeting evaluation was completed by Mr. Merrill, the meeting was satisfactory

 10.  Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 9:01 PM, motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


Meet the Candidates Night is Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 at 7:00 PM

School Board Engagement Meeting is Tuesday, Feb.  24, 2021 at 6:00 PM

Town Meeting Day is Saturday, Feb.  27, 2021 at 10:00 AM

Town Meeting Australian Ballot Voting is Tuesday, Mar. 2,  7:00 AM 

to 7:00 PM

Next Regular School Board Meeting is Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2021 at 6:00 PM