March 27, 2023

HSB Minutes 9-28-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Community Engagement Meeting Minutes

September 28, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

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

Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Havah Armstrong Walther


Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Julie Robinson
            1.  Call to Order

-       Changes, Additions and Approval of the Agenda  
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:01 PM. He welcomed all. He turned the meeting over to Mr. North.

Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to move the bus conversation up because Mr. Landon was in attendance.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the agenda as amended. Motion carried.

            2.  Community Engagement Topics


Charter Committee


Lynn Bohi, co-chair of the committee, introduced the other members. FX Flinn presented “The Report of the 5th Charter Committee”. He asked the board for any comments or questions after the presentation as it is ready to go to the attorney for review. Public comments have been taken and a “final” draft is ready. The final recommendations will be presented to the boards in December and with the 1st hearing on Jan 9, 2023, Information Night. If passed at Town Meeting the language will be sent to the Legislature, who review in April/May. The governor potentially signs into law in June. 

Key changes: recognizes Info Night, moderator appoints town/school meeting members, budget requirement, paid committee positions, committee will have flexibility, defeated budget would require a traditional Town Meeting, tie vote process, citizen rights, number of signatures necessary for petitions, provides assistance for petition language, allows non-town matters to be petitioned, distinguishes between town and school governments, cleaned up Selectboard language about voting, best-practices implemented for remote meetings, committees have a posted “charge”, committee candidates will apply, committee chairs have to be eligible for election, language for removal of appointees, Town Manager Duty section language, rental housing ordinance including language definitions, local sales tax to include cannabis sales, adds 1% local option tax for cannabis to the general sales tax in town


Mr. Christie asked about language for a School District Treasurer. Currently the school and town have the same treasurer, but in the future they may not share the person. 

FX Flinn asked for the board to forward the language for that position. He will ask Eli to draft some language when he’s reviewing. 

Ms Walther asked where the documents were posted. FX FLynn replied, on the Town of Hartford website, agendas and minutes, postings of drafts, new one will be there Friday. Posted links to the Google drive are also shared on the listserv. 

Mr. Merrill thanked those who worked on this document, Mr. Christie concurred. 

Mr. North asked about legal expenses for petitioning. He suggested that a person be reimbursed for legal fees if it passes. He thanked the committee members. 


Personnel Update

Mr.Hathorn and Dr. Robinson presented personnel data and showed the total staff and how many openings there are. There were 34 new teachers this year and 9 general ed paraprofessionals. There are 25 provisional licenses, approved/pending for new teachers. An average year would have about 5. The State of Vermont has seen a drastic increase.  


Hiring environment

- Teachers

- Paraprofessionals/Special Educators

There are 4.25 special educator positions and 4 special ed paraprofessional positions open. 

- Plans to provide service

- Planning to fill existing openings

- Administration is continuing to advertise and search for additional staff. Thinking out of the box about ways to utiilze existing staff that might want to earn extra money.



- Responsibilities

Jonathan Garthwaite spoke about custodial staffing. The current staff have stepped up with overtime or going to other schools. There isn’t a lot of interest in any openings and few applications come in. 

- Planning for remainder of the school year

They are looking at schedules, and may change some shift times to accommodate the shortage. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that there may be some current staff members who may want to add a few hours or cover some after school/weekend needs. 

Mr. Christie asked for the community’s help.

Mr. Merrill asked about students working for community service credit, but warned about the negative impact on the students. 

Mrs. Russell shared an early childhood experience with Japan where students have cleaning jobs. 

Mr. North thanked those who have stepped up to helping out but recognized that this won’t be sustainable.


Bus Services

- History

Mr. DeBalsi shared the history of staff shortages due to COVID. The labor market is down, affecting bus drivers. 

He introduced Steve Landon, location manager of Butler Bus Service. They have 104 bus contracts in the area.

Butler has served the district for 8 years. They were fully staffed until COVID. Changing of the routes, delegating assigned schools,  a few years ago has helped. 

- Shortages

There have been a few interruptions this year with a canceled week at the White River School. 

Currently they are completing all the routes in town, but some are running late. Two drivers will return on Monday so the WRS and OQS routes will be filled. 

- Existing situation

There are no spare drivers, there are 160 drivers and could use 200+. All drivers are dedicated and come to work every day.

- Plans for the remainder of the school year

There is a recruiting campaign in Hartford in October with a sign-on bonus for new hires and also for anyone who refers someone. The company is concerned, they feel they are doing all they can. The hiring process is 45 to 90 days for bus driver positions. 

Mr. Merrill asked about training. Mr. Landon replied there are certified trainers in their office. 

Mr. DeBalsi asked about sharing the shortage by shifting drivers. He also discussed the start/end times at different schools, would this help with the routes?

Mr. Landon replied that drivers are territorial so they know the students and the stops. This is a safety issue. He noted that adjusting the start times would help. Springfield, VT uses that model. 

Mr. Landon thinks there will be a couple extra drivers by mid October assigned to Hartford. COVID impacted many drivers, they didn’t return. The wages have increased so the driver profile has changed, no longer retired folks. 

Ms Walther asked about “fully staffed”. Mr. Landon said as on Monday all elementary buses will run on time. There is a HHS bus that leaves late but students get home at normal time. She further asked about being “cut out” of a bus route. She asked about the number of students that were impacted. He replied that no one would be left off the route but they may not have door-to-door service. If a family has to get to a bus stop it would be less than a mile. He shared that Andy Thorborn does a phenomenal job with the bus routes in town. 

Mr. DeBalsi asked for families to call him with concerns. 

A WRS/HHS parent asked about the number of students on the buses and the lack of communication with route closures. It was scary when her son didn’t get off the bus today. One son is late every day. 

Mr. DeBalsi suggested the routes be recalculated for timing. 

Gabrielle Lucke asked about a certification program through HACTC. 

Mr. North suggested a future meeting topic: changing schedules to accommodate missed class time. 


Fiscal planning and forecasting


Capital improvement/maintenance plans

- Overview of considerations

Mr. Garthwaite presented a spreadsheet  with each buildings’ needs for maintenance. This document is a work-in-progress. He noted that all costs have increased, this impacts what we can do and how we plan for it. 

Mr. North asked the board to think about multiple year projects and what could be worked into a normal year budget.

Mr. Merrill asked the committee to make a presentation with further discussion on the projects and to share their process with the board.

- Planning for a recommendation

Mr. Christie referenced that past 25 year facility plan and asked if this list was looking forward. 

Mr. Garthwaite spoke about the “long game” and standardizing the materials, getting supplies and labor is difficult. 


Future tax rates

- Considerations

- Factors affecting rates in the future

Mr. North shared an example of a tax calculation tool that can be used for future budgeting. There are four factors that impact your taxes: ED spending, Equalized Pupils, Yield, and CLA. The tax calculator worksheet will be available for the budgeting process. The district really only controls the education spending. The yield is set by the legislature. It is not released until June. The town will have a whole reappraisal in a few years. 

Property tax credit and income sensitivity also impact what your tax bill will be. 

Mr. Merrill noted the district does have an impact on the equalized pupil number. 

Mr. Christie noted that the change in enrollment impacts the costs. 


            3.  Public Engagement 

The public was invited to the meeting in-person at the town hall or online using, meeting ID 974 3075 5984.

A parent asked about the free lunch form. She asked about a way to phrase it so families will fill it out, rename the form!

Mr. DeBalsi discussed the “Fill out the Form” initiative. The free/reduced lunch counts impact the Title 1 money, what money comes in and how the money is spent. It’s just a way to get the family data. Since there has been free food provided with the COVID money the data hasn’t been completely gathered. 

Mr. Merrill noted that the “free lunch” form identifies the poverty level in the district and the data is used.

Mrs. Russell shared that the Rotary has a foreign exchange student.  

Mrs. Russell shared that the regional School Board Association meeting will be on Thursday night. The VSBA fall conference will be Oct 21 and 22, please sign up. 

Mrs. Russell nominated Mr. Christie to be the VSBA voting member on behalf of the Hartford School Board, seconded by Mr. Merrill, motion carried.

Mr. Christie asked Mr. DeBalsi to thank Alishia St George for the staff spreadsheet. She assisted over 50 new staff members with paperwork!

Mrs. Russell asked about parking at the old Dancers Corner lot. Mr. DeBalsi has not been able to reach the new owner. 


4.  Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn at 8:10 PM. Motion carried.


Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey



Next Regular School Board Meeting is October 12, 2022 at 6:00 PM 

at Hartford Town Hall.