June 9, 2023

HSB Minutes 4-6-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting MInutes

April 6, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

Online Meeting and In-person at the Hartford Town Hall

Members Present      Administrators Present

Kevin Christie      Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill       Cathy Newton

Nancy Russell      Roy Hathorn

Russell North

Havah Armstrong Walther

Olivia Merrill

Sydney Stillman

 1.  Call to Order  

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda  
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM. The meeting is being held one week early due to the school vacation next week.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept 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. Hathorn shared the Citizenship and LIfe Skills Ends as they relate to the mask policy that has been in place this year. Several students have been able to express their opinions on the matter with peers, staff, and administration. This has a direct impact on students’ daily lives.

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

Student Representative Report 
Olivia reported about excitement at HHS. Spring sports are in full swing. There is a service trip in Puerto Rico right now. Students are there doing many important tasks. Students are becoming more engaged with the recent COVID steps. They are resilient in the transition out and back in with mask mandates. 

Sydney reported a drastic change with the emotional state of many students showing excitement. She believes that the school is a more positive place and students are happy to be mask free. The service trip was changed from Ecuador to Puerto Rico because of COVID. Students were happy that it was changed and the trip was not canceled.

Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported:

The service trips are important to the students and administration because it matches the mission. The original trip was changed to keep students in a United States territory.

Shawn Cassidy, Auto Body, HACTC; Felicia Hayes, HHS Nurse; and Lindsay Wadleigh, OQS/WRS Music were honored as VT Outstanding Teachers.

STAR and SBAC testing happening, students are receiving acceptance letters, administrators busy with hiring, contracts due Friday April 8th, seems to be a lot of moving, vacation next week, staff members traveling

Facility Committee meeting topics, Dancers Corner building is for sale, 

$575, 000 and the property next to Superintendent's Office on Highland Avenue $258,000

Ms Walther asked about the Dancers’ Corner building and how it would be used for the district. Mr. DeBalsi responded the biggest issue is parking at the WRS and the next need would be the district preschool. Having students in one location would have the specialists together and eliminate travel time.

Mr. Christie said the timing of having the Facility Committee look at the potential use of the properties would be important.

Mr. DeBalsi said the property on Highland Ave might be useful in the future. He cited many examples of possible uses.

 4.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

COVID Protocols
Mr. DeBalsi said he would like to keep the protocol the same as now, and continue to use the community level of transmission as an indicator for masking. The protocols and steps have allowed the schools to stay open. Two programs were closed for one day each due to staff shortage. These programs require highly trained staff.

Emails and communications: many to the board and Mr. DeBalsi, both even, can’t say more support of one vs the other with regard to masking.

Mr. North asked Mr. DeBalsi to explain what his executive policy is. Mr. DeBalsi responded that based on the board action from the last meeting he has the authority to modify or change the protocol. He immediately reinstated the mandatory masking based on the Windsor Co transmission rate last week. Masks became optional last Friday when the transmission level was out of the red. Students who refused to wear a mask remained in the office, isolated, or went home.

Mr. North said this allows for in-person instruction. He did hear of some intimidation at the high school. Mr. DeBalsi shared information about the protest at HHS. Protesters yelled at students as they entered the school. He allowed the protest but this behavior will not be tolerated in the future.

Ms Walther stated her appreciation for the delicate treatment of the situation. The school board made a policy at the last meeting and asked Mr. DeBalsi to implement that policy. The board did not hold a meeting behind closed doors, all meetings are public. She urged community members to reach out to board members to ask questions. She asked about when letters are sent to the whole board.

Mr. Christie stated that the board would not respond to letters because it constitutes a meeting and is against the Open Meeting Law. Any executive session action is stated in the public portion of the meeting.

Olivia commented about emails. Students may not be able to respond back because they are student reps and have no voting power or the information to respond.

Mrs. Russell noted that the board can share information but does not ask for anything. She shares her Vermont SBA information online but no business is conducted online. 

Mr. Merrill reminded the public that the District Clerk is able to respond to any letter.

Board Member Conflict of Interest
Mr. DeBalsi consulted with the district’s attorney, the response was shared in the packet for tonight’s meeting and available to the public. The attorney does not feel it’s a conflict for a parent of an employee to serve but should not serve on any negotiations for the said group that the family member works in. 

Mr. North, as one of the people in question, is confident that in the past there has been no conflict of interest. In his profession there is a Code of Conflict or a conflict of interest. If he were to violate this section of the statute he would face a fine. As an accountant he feels that his constituents expect his financial expertise. Although he’s made no formal decision, but if he does resign, he asked the board to consider allowing him to remain on the board until June when he could see his senior daughter graduate as a board member. Further, if anyone feels there is a conflict on an issue, please talk to him.

Mr. Christie shared his personal preference of Mr. North’s valuable board member status and to the entire district. He hopes that there is a path that can be found to allow Mr. North to continue. He gave an example of how representatives respond at the State House for potential conflicts.

Mr. Merrill stated that the attorney’s opinion only limits Mr. North’s participation in negotiations and not all financial parts. He strongly urged Mr. North to continue with the board and just step down from the Negotiation Committee. There is no conflict of interest in serving on the board.

Mrs. Russell agreed with the former comments that Mr. North’s financial expertise is valuable. She urged Mr. North to stay on the board.

Ms Walther agreed with all, and that each board member has an important part and tie to the community.

Mr. North stated he would make a formal announcement at the next board meeting. This discussion is an example of the End that was shared at the beginning of the meeting. 

Training and Summer Retreat
Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to think about the May 25th DEI Community Engagement meeting and summer retreat topics. He will contact speakers/training as needed. On May 25th, Mary Gannon? joint meeting with the Selectboard? Summer retreat timing and topics?

Mr. Christie asked Mr. DeBalsi to see if he could schedule Dr. Gannon for a meeting before the training. 

Mr. North asked for a multi year training plan. It would prevent a scattered training schedule. He also added the possibility of including students. 

Mrs. Russell reminded the board that the VSBA has a trainer and is available to local boards for any training. He would also be able to come in and do an assessment.

 5.  Public Comments  

The public was invited to the meeting at the Hartford Town Hall or online via Zoom, meeting ID 974 3075 5984. 

There were no public members who wished to speak.

Mr. Merrill shared an email with the board from Jeff Arnold, who originally asked at Candidates’ Night about student outcomes, what data is being used?

Mr. Merrill responded that for the last two years COVID has taken the first place and that he is focusing on the work of the board and making sure the facilities are the best they can be, attracting new staff, supporting student needs, if all that is taking place then the outcomes will improve.

Mr. North suggested at the summer retreat to come up with measurement tools for each of the Ends policies. This would allow evidence to show the work of the Ends. He asked that the Ends be reviewed. He suggested finding some outside person who has not been part of this discussion and able to give honest feedback.

Mrs. Newton replied that the indicators are done. When the Ends are reviewed it’s possible that the indicators will need to be changed.

Mr. Christie reminded the board that this discussion was held three years ago. Over a five year period these had been emerging, this is complete. No report was given due to the pandemic timing.

Cristina Tardie, WRJ, urged Mr. North to stay on the board with the exception of any salary decision. She spoke of the legislative bills, students “weights” and education finance restructuring. These changes will happen within the next two years and the board will need someone who understands finance. 

Mr. Christie thanked Cristina for her comments. 

Mr. DeBalsi stated that he is informed on the student weighting system and there are many trainings available. At this time it looks favorable to Hartford. 

6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Monitoring Reports

GP - 8 Board Committee Structures
EL - 2 Relationship with Students, Parents and Community
Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 3-16-2022
Engagement Meeting 3-23-2022

Appointments: Patrick Kelly, HHS; Hannah Cerasoli, WRS; Sarah McKinney, RRC;  Arthur Rafus, HHS; Chance Lindsley, RAP; Alexander Keelly, HHS; Stephanie Cross, OQS; Morgan Fisk, OQS; Cassandra Lockwood, OQS; Julianna Miller, WRS; Olivia DeFelice, DBS

Resignations: Anisha Bettwieser, DBS; Emma Collins, OQS; Laura Berman, Tenney; Jeff Thomas, HHS; Logan Bent, OQS; Katherine Fritschie, DBS; Kimberly Dumont, HMMS; David Jopp, HMMS;

Retirements: Candice Culver, HMMS

Ms Walther and Mrs. Russell congratulated Hannah Cerosoli, as they know her personally.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Walther, to approve the Consent Agenda, and to welcome the new members and thank you to those leaving the district. 

Roll Call: North-recuse, Merrill-approve, Walther-approve, Russell-approve, Christie-approve. Motion carried.

 7. Meeting Evaluation

The meeting evaluation was completed by Ms Walther. The meeting was satisfactory.

8. Executive Session 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Walther, to enter Executive Session pursuant to  (1 VSA 313): c. (3) the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee, provided that the public shall make a final decision to hire or appoint a public officer or employee in an open meeting and shall explain the reasons for its final decision during the open meeting; I move that the Board enter into Executive Session to discuss the evaluation of a public employee under the provisions of Title 1, Section 313(a) (1) of the Vermont Statutes. Motion carried.

The board went into Executive Session at 7:45 PM. 

The board came out of Executive Session at 8:12 PM.

No action was taken.

9. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to adjourn at 8:12 PM. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


School Board Engagement Meeting is Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 6:00 PM