April 14, 2024

HSB Minutes 10-12-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

October 12, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting  

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

Administrators present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Dr. Julie Robinson

 1.  Call to Order 

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.

Mr. North asked to make the HCOREI Charge Change time flexible.

Mr. DeBalsi asked to add the AREA Consortium for Technology Centers and resignations to the Consent Agenda. Mr. DeBalsi noted that the chair wants an Executive Session. The EL4 report will be given at a future meeting.

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the amended agenda. Motion carried. 

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

Student Representative Report
Sydney was not in attendance. There is a prospect for a second student. 

Superintendent’s Report
 Mr. DeBalsi reported: transportation: yesterday all HMS and HHS buses were on the normal schedule, one WRS bus is 20 minutes late arriving home; vacancies; public can track COVID cases on the website under “Our District”; He and Ms Ibrahim presented in Lebanon this morning, noting the equity work and how supportive the community is.

 3.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

Transgender Policy Review, Update and Recommendations
Mr. DeBalsi thanked Mrs. Russell who highlighted the activities in Randolph. The current policy was adopted in 2018, even though it’s not that old it still needs revising. The board and the community are welcome to comment tonight and it will be sent back to the Policy Committee. Olivia Merrill had many recommendations last year as part of her thesis report. What can be changed: name, log-ins, clarity on anything related to name; school activities and AOE/VPA Guidance; update definition sections; gender neutral bathrooms; annual professional training for staff, could be electronic; Mr. North stated this should apply to all personnel as well as students, and make sure all subcontractors follow the district policies. On page 4, all students have the right to … Mrs. Russell agreed, just because the board knows doesn’t mean the public knows. Since this is an important policy it should be looked at annually. The School Board has the option of naming the policy, most follow the state recommendations. Mr. Christie asked to look at all the updated guidance provided. Ms Walther echoed Mr. North’s comments and all language should be accessible. The VSBA policy was drafted in 2020.

Preliminary Budget Discussion including impact of grant funding
Mr. DeBalsi reported that the bathroom facilities at HHS and HMS will be looked at; looking at the budget at the 20K foot level, the first draft will be available in November. 

Mr. Hathorn and Dr. Robinson reported on ESSER III; All title, ESSER, and local funds have been brought together. 2.5 Pre K teachers, added 5 behavioral interventionists; 1.5 interventionalists; mental health clinician; OT screening; Student Assisted Coordinator; FT instructional coach at DBS; FT ESL position; Consultants for EL across the district, Mary Gannon, and Co-teaching trainer.

Mr. Hathorn reported that at least 20% of the ESSER Funds need to be earmarked. The Montessori Immersion program continues and two separate programs were held last summer for students. Similar success was shown with student learning, avoiding the loss of learning. An environmental camp was held at HMS. 

Dr. Robinson continued on the ESSER funds for EL education. Additional materials were provided both in-hand and online. Panorama Social Emotional Screenings are continuing. Two schools are exploring flexible seating for their classrooms to allow more movement. This would be similar to what’s at the Wilder School. 

Ms Walther asked about the metrics for success in the Montessori programs. Mr. Hathorn replied that the participation rate and attendance in the summer program was used to monitor success rate.

Mr. DeBalsil noted that the money is useful now, but is aware of the “cliff” when the money dries up. The new programs would need to be absorbed into the local funds. ESSER dries up in 2025, but is phased out over the time. Items that are a one time “purchase” are much easier than the positions that need to be continued. 

Mr. Vezina reported and shared brief updates with general increases, going into negotiations for all three contracts: administrator incr $83,385; Track for teachers: $240,000; Retirement for teachers: $13,000; Salary schedule to teachers $578,939; Support staff $222,863; anticipated 12 % increase in health insurance- $417,000, will know numbers in November or December; new accounting software; $16,000 increase on the bus contract.

Mr. North asked how much it would be if we did everything. The public may ask what are we getting for our tax dollar?

Mr. Christie asked about the percentage number, what is the projected % of the first draft, does this represent 2% or 2.5% or what percent over last year’s budget. 

Mr. DeBalsi added that a big part of the ESSER funds is his review of what is being asked for, is it valued, worthwhile? He has to be comfortable with the activity before he goes to the board and community with the request. There is a clear process that he follows for new requests. He recognizes that the community is hurting with inflation in their homes. There are a lot of moving pieces with a new special ed funding system. This year we benefited but in the future it’s unclear how the student number will impact the funding. The block grant takes a few years to play out. 

Mr. Vezina commented on the audit: finalizing the single audit for any federal funds spent over $750,000; draft review should be ready in October; “big numbers” from the state- Equalized Pupil number should come within the next two weeks, draft 1; have a meeting Friday with Business Administrators; student count as of Oct 1st is increased. 

Mr. North asked about the preliminary fund balance from the year. Mr. Vezina replied that it would be available from the audit. 

5th Charter Committee Recommended Changes ie. Treasurer Position
Mrs. Russell reported that she presented the board’s action from the last meeting minutes, to not have the same treasurer as the town, to the committee. She recalled the discussion from the meeting. That sentence has been struck from the document. It was recommended that the board have their attorney review and make language recommendations. 

Mr. Christie said if the language isn’t changed then the state statutes prevail, the school and town are separate entities. The total budgets are $67-80,000,000. This requires a lot of cooperation with the town treasurer. 

Mrs. Russell also noted that the town treasurer will be hiring an assistant treasurer to be available in emergency times. She asked for action from the board, to be forwarded to FX tomorrow for attorney review.

Mr. DeBalsi stated that one treasurer is ideal, both positions are interconnected. If there were two then they would have to work together. 

Mr. Merrill stated that the board would like to have the same person as the municipality but would like some input into the decision of who that person is. 

Mr. Christie noted the election action is to have the treasurer elected on both ballots. 

Mr. North asked for language where the School Board would have to approve any interim treasurer.

Mrs. Russell asked that someone forward the thoughts to FX.

Mr. Christie summarized the boards’ thoughts: treasurer would be on both ballots and the school board has the option to approve the new person. Ater the language is reviewed by the attorney, it’s sent to the Legislature, then sent to the public.

Mr. Christie took a straw poll, board members agreed. 


HCOREI Charge Change
 Student Rep Molly, from the committee, presented her thoughts on the changes. The concern is about student voting and being able to express student perspectives on issues. 

 Mr. North thanked Molly for her representation on the committee, she is helpful, she has a small part in any recommendation made. It’s a great civics lesson. Anyone who volunteers to the committee has a passion for the committee.

 Ms Walther concurred and commented on being able to follow up with any inappropriate matters to our young people.

 Mr. DeBalsi thanked Molly for presenting tonight. Board members thanked her as well. 

Mr. North moved, Ms Walther and Mrs. Russell seconded, to approve the HCOREI Charge changes, which includes the ability of the student members to vote. Motion carried unanimously. 

Policy Adoption – 2nd Read – Selection of Library Materials 
 Mr. DeBalsi made the changes to the policy draft; page 4 critical changed; item 7, Superintendent has three business days to make a decision; item 8, citizens requests for consideration; 

 Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adopt the policy as written, Motion carried unanimously. 

Board Sanctioned Committees and Stipends
Mr. DeBalsi asked for clarification about the board sanctioned committees and when a stipend would be paid. He gave a sample list of committees that board members participate in. This could be reviewed annually as members are assigned annually. 

Mr. Merrill noted that if a committee was reporting out to the board then they are a recognized committee of the board. 

Other board committees are the Select Board Rep, Charter, Negotiations, VSBA, Sister City, Planning Commission, and Community Engagement. 

Mr. North suggested that if there was an added interest in a new committee then the member could submit a request. Not all members submit their meeting attendance receipts. He further noted that some board members might not get their meeting expenses covered given the $75 meeting stipend. 

Mrs. Russell noted that some committees take a lot of time and energy outside of board time. 

Mr. DeBalsi will prepare a list of committees and who the representatives are. The auditor does scrutinize all the board activities. He asked that board members submit expenses in a timely manner. 

Mrs. Russell asked if board members will speak at meetings or forward reports. Some reports would take a lot of meeting time. 

 4.  Public Comments  

The public was invited to join the meeting using the Link https://zoom.us/j/97430755984.

Mr. Christie thanked the attendees, who left before public comments. They reported that they didn’t wish to speak.

Ms Walther shared a comment from a person who emailed in during the meeting, she asked how one could get any comments about the Transgender Policy. 

Mr. Christie responded that any public comments should be forwarded to Mr. DeBalsi,  who would then bring any comments to the Policy Committee. 

Mr. DeBalsi further noted that any comments could also be shared at the two policy readings. Any comments would be considered and are open for discussion.

 5. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 9-14-2022
Engagement Meeting 9-28-2022
Ms Walther referenced the bus service section, “Ms Walther asked about fully staffed…” She asked the minutes reflect that she asked for clarification on the number of rural students in the town who live outside the one mile bus stop rule.

Resignations- Katey Wachsman, Performing Arts OQS/WRS

AREA Consortium for Technology Centers: Board authorized Mr. DeBalsi to take action on behalf of the board.

 Monitoring Reports 

 EL 4 - Financial Conditions and Activities (moved to next meeting)

 GP 4 - Agenda Planning

 GP 9 - Governance Investment

Mr. DeBalsi noted that he will get follow-up on the demographics of the bus routes and will inquire about the number of students outside the one mile bus stop rule.

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the Consent Agenda as amended. Motion carried. 

 6. Next Meeting Agenda

EL 4 - Financial Conditions and Activities- moved to next meeting

Community Engagement Oct 26, 2022, Mr. North and Ms Walther will discuss topics later. 

Mr. Christie suggested that the board equity work might be a topic, but in a group setting it would be difficult. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that the work plan includes budget and facility maintenance. 

 7. Meeting Evaluation

The meeting evaluation was completed by Mr. North. The meeting was satisfactory.

8. Executive Session

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell,  to enter Executive Session, VSA 313:(a)1 to discuss a legal matter which if disclosed would have an adverse effect on the district. Motion carried.

The board entered Executive Session at 8:07 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 8:25PM.

Moved by Mrs. Russell, seconded by Ms Walther, to accept the attorney’s recommendation. Motion carried, 3-0-1. Mr. North recused himself and Mr. Merrill had left the meeting due to poor connectivity. 

9. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 8:30 PM. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


Next School Board Meeting is an Engagement Meeting on 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 6:00 PM