March 27, 2023

HSB Minutes 11-9-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

November 9, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting 

Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Russell North

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Julie Robinson

    1.  Call to Order 

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:06 PM.

Mr. Christie asked to move the Policy Adoption 1st read up to first.

Mr. DeBalsi said there would be no student report.

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

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

Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported that negotiations with the teachers and support staff have begun. There was a shortened student schedule last week for parent conferences. There have been many absences, non covid related, within the staff and sub availability is tight. Many administrators are subbing in the buildings. He is meeting with the 29 new teachers. The meetings are going well with many positive comments and the new staff are happy with the support.

    3.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-    Policy Adoption – 1st Read – Transgender and Other Gender-Diverse Students

Mr. Merrill reported that the policy was updated with many significant changes. He urged the members of the board to read the policy, provide feedback, and adopt it at a future meeting.

Mr. DeBalsi reported that the public can view the policy under the board section on the district website.

Mr. Merrill highlighted the changes in the policy. Respecting all students is a focus. The district will follow the state law on the restroom availability. 

Mr. Christie added that this review is a proactive step on the district’s part.

Mr. North shared the information from the Facilities Committee. The need to address the bathroom facilities is a priority, equal access is very important. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared the process with the community. Once the policy is adopted by the board he will develop a procedural document for the administrators to follow. Name changes will impact permanent records, class lists, and even standardized testing. The policy is the law of the land and he is the policeman making sure the policy is being implemented correctly. 

Rem Parker, a transgender student at Hartford, addressed the board. His first concern with the new policy is the definition, he gave a sample definition. His second thought was with “reasonable accommodations…” and asked that adding on request of the student would be appropriate. He suggested that replacing trans students with all students isn’t appropriate.

Mr. Christie thanked Rem for sharing his thoughts. He further explained the policy update procedure, all thoughts would be reviewed by the Policy Committee. 

Mr. Merrill asked about other feedback from the community.

Mr. DeBalsi shared the email comments. Most were about staff not having a choice of using the student’s preferred pronoun and having training for staff with the policy language and requirements. 

The board shared thoughts on the training, annual for all staff or just new?

Mr. North commented on the “personnel” references, it should be all personnel. The purpose and policy statement language should show support for all students and staff. 

FY24 Budget - 2nd Draft
Jacob Vezina highlighted the budget packet. He has the salary numbers for steps included but noted that negotiations have just started. VEHI’s initial rate is 12% increase, $463,835. Potential budget included $156,000 for building expenses, heating increases. New software package is included. SpEd tuition should be increased to $50,000. Some ESSER support staff may get rolled into the district local funds. $400,000 is included as a placeholder for repairs. $144,000 for contracted services, snowplowing. Butler Bus contract increase of $16,000 is included. This represents a little over $3M increase. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that this is the first draft, the 20,000 foot look, a wish list budget. He suggested to the principals to not hold back with new staff requests but understand that all will be considered but may not make a future draft. 

Mr. Hathorn talked about the ESSER funds. These funds go out to 2025.The district has used up the amount for positions. The remaining 20% is set aside for supplemental activities, summer programs, Montesori. 

The original focus on the ESSER allotment was for behavior and mental health and well being. 

Mr. Christie noted that the budget requests are aligned to the student population. There has been an increase in the student count.

Mr. Merrill pointed out that the budget includes the expenditures and not the total package. There are many factors that contribute to the bottom line. 

Mr. North clarified that the ESSER funds will add to the budget bottom line. The budget also may not reflect on what the tax bills will be. 

Mr. DeBalsi added that as the revenue numbers come in in December the budget gets sifted and sorted until the January deadline. 

December 14th will be the first ENDS new formatted reporting. This will also be the 2nd draft of the budget presentation.

Jacob shared the function and object pages. The top increases are for the staffing increase and the health costs. The debt service represents the payment of the bonds.

Mr. North asked what the FY22 Actual Budget column represents. Jacob responded it’s what the district actually spent. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that any staffing change could impact the budget either way. It’s hard to predict what the insurance plan needs will be also. He cautioned about getting too concerned with the amount of the increases, there’s a long way to go until the final draft.

Jacob noted that hopefully by the next meeting some of the numbers from the state will be available. 

The first draft of the audit was just received, Jacob will send this out to the board soon.

Mr. Christie shared that the two state economists will be sharing their “State of the State” address within the next couple weeks. He will share the link when it’s available. 

Student Representative to the School Board Update
Mr. DeBalsi shared that previously some board members had concerns about the student rep position. He is actively working on a second or third representative. The volunteers often are very busy with their extra curricular activities. The goal is to have a rep at every meeting. The idea of having a course dedicated to the board work would be helpful. There may be a sophomore interested, which could mean that would be a three year seat. Finding time for meeting preparation is difficult, having a course would allow for the time. 

Mr. Christie suggested thinking outside the box which would help get the best model.

Mr. Merrill agreed with the course model, which would give credit for the work on the board. He also noted that training on the function of the board and sharing their responsibilities would be helpful.

Mr. North agreed with Mr. Merrill, supporting the course work. He also said that it’s not the grade but person specific and their maturity. He’s interested in someone who could do research on behalf of the board. 

Mr. Hathorn noted that the course work would align with the high school personal learning model. 

Listen-Up Film Viewing Discussion
Mr. DeBalsi asked Mr. Hathorn and Dr. Robinson to view the film and consider the district roll out.

Dr. Robinson shared that this is an important opportunity for the staff and to get some student perspective on how best to share this with students is important. This will be shared with the Equity Student Committee for input. 

Mr. Hathorn noted that working with the Equity team would help get the plan developed.

Mr. Christie asked about the slide show, they will review. Other communities are looking into sharing it. This is a community engagement topic. 

Mr. Merrill shared that it seemed that it was more for the community and not just an educational tool. One way to look at the film is how to expose the community to it.

Mr. North suggested getting HCOREI or HCC involved to help with any roll out. The Juneteenth day might be a good venue. This does show student mental health concerns. 

NEASC Review and Visit
Mr. DeBalsi reported that the high school is up for the visit this year. On Dec 1st and 2nd the team will meet with Mr. DeBalsi and board members as well. The high school team has worked hard on the preparation for the visit. 

Mr. Christie suggested warning a meeting for that specific purpose since a quorum would be present. 

Mr. North expressed interest in working with the team.

Mr. DeBalsi will work with the team to schedule a meeting time. 

Town/School Meeting Committee – Town Meeting Cycle and Information Night Topic/s
Mr. DeBalsi reported that January 9th is Information Night. Does the school district have anything they’d like to present that night? If both the school and town have nothing to present then the meeting wouldn’t be held.

Mr. Christie suggested the Facility Committee sharing an update or a report on the ENDS would be appropriate. This would be an opportunity to share the backstory with the community. 

Board Committee Reports and Updates
Mr. North, Facility, continuing to discuss the list of projects, bathroom facilities, hope to be recommending to the board soon, no bond proposal this year, would need to get support from pubic

Mr. North, Negotiations, met, discussed ground rules, some good discussion

Mr. Merrill, Policy, see above policy work

Mr. Merrill, RAB, meeting held, Mr. DeBalsi reported, HACTC “Workkeys” discussion of level of skills needed to be successful in the programs, committee took a math test, enrollment up, budget discussion, proposing no new positions but have open positions, looked at draft calendar for next year

Mr. Merrill, Negotiations-teachers, first organizational meeting, shared initial issues, set up ground rules and meeting dates, good start

    4.  Public Comments  

The public was invited to the meeting in person or online using the link

Heidi Duda, WRJ, has attended Select Board, Planning and Zoning meetings, and is concerned about the sex offenders parked at the park-in-ride. She is concerned for the children walking to school. She hasn’t seen any board members at the meetings. She asked the board to do something. She holds the town accountable for safety.

Mr. Christie responded, based on the discussion with the attorney, Mr. North is the board rep at the meetings. It allows the board to interact as they can along the way. They have no police chief to interact with. 

Mr. North reported that he has attended two meetings. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared about the Safety Committee which includes a Haven staff member and the Police Chief. He will alert the administrators about the RVs.

Sue Ellen Parmenter, Wilder, thanked all who have participated in the work with the Haven additions. Please pay close attention to the Charter changes in regard to RVs parked in public spaces. There have been instances of RVers photographing children. She feels this will be a big issue in elections and is important to not change for the safety of children. She further thanked the board for their work.

Mr. Christie shared the board’s work and the participation with the Charter Committee. Any Charter changes have to be brought forth to the community. The safety concerns will need to be addressed. 

Mr. Merrill announced that Havah Armstrong Walther has resigned from the board due to scheduling conflicts. He very much appreciated working with her and wished her the best.

Mr. DeBalsi shared the process of filling the open position. Any Hartford resident who is interested in the position should send a letter of interest to him. He would share the application letter with the board. Her term ends in March 2023.

Mr. Christie suggested any interested person go to the VSBA webpage and research board duties. He also suggested looking at the district website board section. Both contain good information for board work. 

    5. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 10-12-2022
Engagement Meeting 10-26-2022

    Monitoring Reports

    - GP 3 Board Job Outcomes (Mr. Merrill)

    - B/SR 5 Monitoring Superintendent Performance (Mr. Merrill)

    - EL 5 Financial Planning and Budgeting (Mr. DeBalsi)


Aubre Cox, HMS

Havah Armstrong Walther, Hartford School Board

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to accept the Consent Agenda. Motion carried. 

    6. Next Meeting Agenda

NEASC- Dec 1 or 2

ESSER fund positions

Updated ENDS reporting with prioritization of academic achievement and mental health

January 9, 2023 Town Information Meeting topics

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to cancel the second meeting in November. Motion carried. 

    7. Meeting Evaluation

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

    8. Adjournment

Mr. Merrill apologized to the audience for the Zoom connection issues.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to adjourn the meeting at 8:09 PM. Motion carried. 

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


Next Regular School Board Meeting is December 14, 2022