May 28, 2022

HSB Minutes 11-10-2021

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Hartford Town Hall and Online (Zoom) Meeting  

Members Present     Administrators Present

Kevin Christie     Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill      Cathy Newton

Nancy Russell     Roy Hathorn

Havah Armstrong Walther

Sydney Stillman

 1.  Call to Order

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda  
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:02 PM. 

Mr. Merrill asked that #6 be removed because Mr. North is not able to attend tonight. 

Mr. DeBalsi asked that #7 include scheduling an appeal hearing.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Walther, to adopt the agenda with the two changes, motion carried. 

Mr. Christie will offer his monitoring reports orally and will send hard copies to the board.

 2. Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events
Mr. Hathorn spoke about The Academic Excellence End. HMS is focusing on different ways to meet the needs of students as they try to increase engagement and building relationships. They are using the Pathways Program and will focus on goal setting and building relationships. HHS is in the accreditation process, they are starting with the Portrait of a Graduate. Many of the board’s community engagement activities will be useful to the high school as they move into this process.

Mrs. Newton announced strengths and successes from the new EL program. Teachers are reporting that there are improvements in student writing samples. Staff is able to collaborate with the special education staff when looking at student work. They are better able to group students based on their needs. Overall teachers are seeing generalized successes in student growth. 

Mr. Christie asked about the student loss from the pandemic. 

Mr. Hathorn replied that the middle school staff is working on getting students engaged in their learning. He also noted that at the high school the use of online resources to practice skills being taught in class has been helpful. The first round of STAR data is just getting published. Mr. Hathorn noted they would study this and report at the next meeting. Panorama data might give a more complete picture. 

Mrs. Newton shared that the youngest students are learning how to be back in school, socially and emotionally. Staff is trying to address the specific students’ needs before the academic needs. 

Ms Walther noted that based on standards from five years ago many students wouldn’t be school ready. Are there resources you need to double down on the youngest learners?

Mr. Merrill asked about the need to change the spring reporting style, is SWAT still the appropriate rubric? For clarification, an awareness of what the schools are facing would be helpful. 

Mr. Christie noted that over the past couple of years the Monitoring Reports have included data that shows what is happening in the schools. 

Mrs. Russell stated that the more the board knows about what is happening in the schools they would be able to make better sound informed decisions.

Mr. DeBalsi noted that these reports will be more detailed in the future.

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

Student Representative Report 
 Sydney shared her slideshow. Fall sports just ended, good results, VPA has announced new rules and regulations- all HHS teams finished well, students are more used to the COVID protocol- less reminders needed, Spanish Dept working on a video to send to South American countries to share cultural experiences, musical is this weekend, winter sport season starts shortly, looking forward to the upcoming holiday breaks, Music Dept struggles with social distancing and  with double masks requirements during singing and instrumental time, mental health awareness- more training needed, student equity team working with Maggie, athletic leadership council working on student behavior expectations for events, Hope Happens Here-Caroline Hamilton chairs this- mental health blogs

Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported on the Equity dinner held with the administrators last week, Dr. Mary Gannon spoke over dinner. It was well received. A mass email will be sent out in a couple days announcing an anonymous tip line on the district website. Any email submitted will be reviewed by one of the three district administrators and will be followed up on. New payroll specialist, Nichole, will take over at the end of December. Hiring for Linda Nash’s replacement will begin soon, Linda retires in March. COVID- student clinic was filled with people from out of town, Hartford students will be given priority during the school day, three clinics for elem schools begin next week. The girls soccer team received a phone call in Mr. DeBalsi’s office from the Fair Haven Superintendent, apologizing for the student behavior, noting how things were going to change in Fair Haven. He’s heard about the COVID response from the different buildings, he is trying to use the guidance given and air on the side of caution with any directives. After school activities and during school activities may have different guidelines. Anytime you’re in the school you’re masked. He’s trying to be protective and keep everyone safe.

Mr. Merrill thanked Mr. DeBalsi for his guidance. He noted that transparency is important. It would be important to share with others how the decisions are made. 

Mr. Christie shared the process followed in 2012 on the eve of the Sandy Hook event. The Safety Team was developed then and continues to meet regularly and is constantly updating protocols. The COVID team operates in the same manner. He asked that Ms Walthr discuss with Mr. North about adding information on the board website about the soccer team actions and add the COVID decision making steps. 

The Infinite Campus announcements are shared with approximately 4000 individuals. 


 4. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

Recent Letters to the Board, Concerns, and Possible Resolutions
Mr. DeBalsi noted that the letters are public and on the school board website. Most complaints are from the elementary schools, their students aren’t vaccinated yet. There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the schools. This is the third year of inconsistent education. Attendance and behavior issues have been challenging. 

Mrs. Newton shared information about the EL program. After consulting with the program directors and the staff, it was suggested that this year would be an explorative year. Each building would be able to assess what they need. The transition period would be completed over three years, full implementation will be expected at the start of the 24-25 school year. The next two years will rely on the implementation teams in the building to tailor the needs.

Mrs. Russell asked if this program will be used as a teacher assessment. Mrs. Newton said the district doesn’t evaluate staff on the use of program material. 

Mr. DeBalsi continued that last years’ time for team planning was helpful to staff. The middle and high schools have this built into their schedules this year. The elementary schools do not have this in their schedules. He is proposing that the elementary schools, after the winter break, have an hour early release once a week for the remainder of the year. There will be a building base training focus for staff. Between the early release time and the phase in transition of the EL curriculum this should help the elementary staff. Starting in January would give families time to plan for this change. The vaccination clinics will also help. Vacancies during the school year are higher than in the past, staff are leaving and positions are remaining unfilled.

Mr. Merrill asked about the staffing levels, he appreciates the work with this, given what the workforce is in the Upper Valley. Are there specifics on how it is impacting class size? Mr. DeBalsi asked for class size protocol to be a community engagement topic. He shared data about employee absences, this September and October have seen higher than normal absences. Staff members are being asked to cover for absent staff members. 

Mrs. Russell asked about the early release time, would an hour be long enough or should it be extended? Mr. DeBalsi and Mrs. Newton replied yes staff would have an hour for planning purposes and the release wouldn’t probably be an hour.

Mr. DeBalsi shared his concern over staff resigning during the school year. 

Ms Walther supported the plan, but wondered about what the district could offer families to offset the release time. She suggested working with community partners: UVAC, Barwood Arena, Whaleback, VINS, Hartford Rec, etc, to see if any of their programs could fill the needs. 

Mr. DeBalsi replied that they have explored bringing in outside agencies to the schools during that staff time. Given the tight workforce this is not a choice this year. 

Mr. Merrill noted that many families need to have their children in school so they can work. He asked for the district to work with the community to dialogue with them to address concerns before it’s put in place. He asked that all options be explored. Mrs. Russell agrees, day cares are hurting for care too.

Mr. DeBalsi suggested an online Town Hall meeting to gather feedback. Mr. Christie suggested using a Community Engagement meeting for this topic. He also noted there is money available.

Mr. Merrill asked if the teachers could come forward with suggestions for their students. He welcomes their input. 

Mr. DeBalsi suggested using November 23, Tuesday, for this topic at the engagement meeting. Board members agreed, that gives time to process the information collected. 

Mrs. Russell noted that the day care that is closing has two buildings and a playground, maybe the district could rent the space for that time. 

2022-23 Budget - Part 2 Enrollment Data
Mr. DeBalsi shared the data from last year and the current year. Student enrollment is increasing. The collaboratives are down in enrollment this year, but given the new leadership at the Wilder School, this should not be a problem area in the future.

Mr. Merrill is gratified with the increase in tuition students. The increase says something about the product that we are offering. Mr. DeBalsi noted that some of the programs at HHS are drawing more students. Maintenance is important but “curb appeal” is also important. 

Facilities - Maintenance and Improvements Committee
Mr. DeBalsi reviewed the reports from the board packet, what the Wilder School Committee’s charge was and who was on the committee. Is this the process the board wants to use for future committees?

Mr. Merrill said it was a satisfactory process. It was important to have community input and knowledge. The end product was marvelous!

Mr. Christie suggested that the board ask Mr. DeBalsi to bring back a draft proposal for the upcoming work. He replied that he may ask the board for guidance about the financial pieces/reserve funds.

Draft 2022/23 Calendar 
Mr. DeBalsi shared a draft calendar with the board. He is gathering feedback from the sending towns, collaboratives, SE VT districts, teachers, staff, and community members. No action is needed tonight, may be ready in a month for approval. 

Monitoring Reports
EL 5 - Financial Planning and Budgeting
B/SR 5 Monitoring Superintendent Performance
GP 3 Board Job Outcomes
Mr. Christie will forward his written reports at the conclusion of this meeting, due to technical difficulties. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept EL5 Financial Planning and Budgeting, motion carried.

 5.  Public Comments** 

The public was invited to join the meeting in person at the Hartford Town Hall or online using, meeting ID 974 3075 5984.

Mr. Hathorn is monitoring, there are no comments posted in the chat.

Mrs. Russell shared a comment from a staff member, whom she doesn’t know. “I am at the point where I don’t want to teach anymore and I want to quit.” She has followed the protocol set out, and requests that these people contact the superintendent or Mr. Christie, Board Chair.

Mrs. Russell requested that Mr. DeBalsi provide the board with a Monitoring Report on the staff, what’s going on with the staff. She attended the VSBA meeting today and similar stressful comments were shared from around the state.

Mr. Christie commented that this is happening all around. It is important for us to listen to our staff members.

Mr. Merrill supported the need for the report, to include staffing levels, for the board to formally acknowledge this. 

Mr. DeBalsi cautioned the board about the fine line with these issues. He’s very cautious of asking staff to do something extra when given the conditions. Many staff members have complained about a variety of health issues, fatigue, and overall stress. The holiday tomorrow is welcome as well as the upcoming holiday periods.

Sydney reported on the stress on faculty members, it is noticeable. She feels it’s impacting her educational program.

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

 7. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes – 10/13/2021, 10/27/2021
Appointments, Resignations
Request for a Hazing, Harassment, Bullying Policy appeal, November 17, 2021, 6PM, only for elected board members, in Executive Session. 


Jacob Vezina, Director of Finance, to begin January 1, 2022. (Jim Vezina will retire in December 2021)

Mr. Merrill shared that Jim has been a delight to work with, always prepared with whatever numbers needed. Mr. Christie concurred, partly to do with the relationship Jim has with the superintendent. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the consent agenda with the appointment, motion carried. 

 8. Meeting Evaluation

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

9. Adjournment

Mr. Merrill thanked me for the accurate minutes.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 8:28 PM, motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


Next School Board Meeting Community Engagement Meeting 

Introduction to the ‘Ends’ Reporting Goals and Process

 Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 6:00 PM


**Public Comments

 Anyone making a comment can expect a response that falls into one of the following categories:

Thank the person with no further action planned.
Respond immediately by the board chair or administration.
Direct the administration to contact and respond to the person.
Seek clarification from the administration at a specified meeting.
Add the topic to a specified future board agenda.
Refer the matter to an executive session.
Hold a public hearing on the matter.