March 27, 2023

HSB Minutes 12-14-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

December 14, 2022 @ 5:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting    

Members Present                Administrators Present

Kevin Christie                Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill                    Roy Hathorn

Nancy Russell                Julie Robinson

Russell North

1.  Call to Order 

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 5:00 PM.

Mr. DeBalsi asked to add first read of the Non Discriminatory Mascot Policy;  Ends Reports B/SR3 and GP7 added to Consent agenda, and to reorder agenda #4 items.

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

2.  Executive Session for the purpose of discussing a student record (1VSA 313(a)(7)

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to enter Executive Session pursuant to  1 VSA 313 (a) (1)(D) for purposes of hearing a grievance. Motion carried.

The board entered Executive Session at 5:10.

The board came out of Executive session at 6:25 PM.

Mr. Christie reconvened the board meeting at 6:41 PM.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the request by Dr. Tucker on behalf of her son, Mustapha, to pay for the tuition at the Compass School until Mustapha either graduates or moves from this district. All in favor and the motion carries.  

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

Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported that he and Mr. Hathorn presented to the sixth grade for their Social Courage unit. The district was recognized this past week for the equity work at the Superintendent Leadership Group, he spoke on a panel. 

    4.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

Monitoring Report - EL 10 Race and Equity
Mr. Hathorn reported on the equity work. Maggi has done 90% of the work to move the plan forward. The Strategic Plan includes three focus points: Community Engagement; Leadership Capacity; and Policy and Engagement.  There are several opportunities for the community, staff, students, and administrators to engage in the work. Maggi has grown the student equity groups and resources to support them will be important. Mary Gannon is still providing PD. Katie Novak is working on the multi-tiered system of supports. Reviewing current policies and writing new policies with this lens will be important. The School Board Equity Grant was awarded. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to establish a committee of the board to work with the administration to look at ways in which we can further improve the work. Motion carried. 

Mr. North suggested looking at EL 10 for enforcement. 

Mr. Christie noted that this may be the most difficult board work because it affects all of us. This is the next step in creating the committee.

Facilities Update
Mr. North said the committee met last week. The committee is looking at the state of the facilities as good as they are and making them even better, recognizing the costs. They are looking at the HHS bathrooms, gender neutral, making judgements on some of the buildings to maintain and protect what makes sense to do right now.

Mr. DeBalsi asked Jonathan Garthwaite to address the board with some facility highlights.

Mr. Garthwaite: renovation of the BEST room at  HACTC, contract in place for the architect, pending on the structural engineering report. Bid will go out at the end of January, moving ahead. The Fire Marshall has been helpful with the review. The roof work at OQS and DBS has settled into a more conservative model, it’s safe, a simple modification and no rebuilding will be done to the roofs. These will go out to bid but may not be completed in one season. The Highland Ave properties have been looked at, all will stay the same until there’s a big picture use for the properties. Research on HS bathrooms: have looked at other schools, there will be a plan to include the basis of design, looking into the construction nuance and the operational function. There is a list of deferred maintenance projects that should be done to maintain and not let anything slide into disrepair. The committee is looking at a comprehensive list and prioritizing that list. The state is pushing some mandates down quickly. All projects will need to keep those mandates in mind. 

Mr. Christie reminded the group that a baseline was completed 12 years ago and the twenty-five year plan was developed. 

Mr. DeBalsi urged the board to add to the reserve funds when possible as the need will be great. There is money in the reserve fund for the roofs but not the total needed. 

Mr. North also shared that the auditorium will need replacing, there’s some significant deferred work there. 

ESSER Update and Positions
    Mr. Hathorn reported on the use of ESSER I, II, and III. In ESSER III $478,620 was set aside for extended learning opportunities. To date, $1,576,000 has been spent. Staffing positions: mental health clinician, student assistance professional, 5 behavior interventionists, 2.5 preschool teachers, 2 interventionists, 1 instructional coach, summer school tuition for students, teacher stipends for afterschool programs, OT for early childhood, ELA curriculum materials and professional development, co-teaching PD, ELL teacher. Some of the extended learning has included outside the school day tutoring, translation services, and flexible furniture.

Mr. Christie asked about the budget impact after ESSER goes away. Administrative support and data will guide what the board direction might be. 

FY24 Budget - 3rd Draft
Jacob Vezina presented draft 3, not much has changed. Some of the changes: staff moving over/up on the schedule, SAP at HHS, interventionist at DBS, mental health clinician, ELL staff, and facility repairs. Draft 1 of the equalized pupil was available from the state, with a decrease of 36.7 students using their weighted formula even though there are 40 more students in the district over last year. This is preliminary, given the incomplete numbers from the state, this represents a 12.1% increase on property taxes and 5.8% on income base. The actual CLA number will be available at the end of the month. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that probably at each meeting the equalized pupil number will become more accurate. 

Lannie Collins asked about the use of government funds and why the increase is still that much. 

Mr. DeBalsi said ESSER is drying up, and trying to figure out what to keep and shift over to the local budget is important.

Mr. North said even though ESSER funds are drying up the needs are not, there are a lot of social and emotional needs.

Jacob noted that in the past the board has “bought down” the tax rate using some fund balance. 


Policy Adoption – 2nd Read – Transgender and Other Gender-Diverse Students
Mr. Merrill shared that all feedback had been looked at with some language changes made to tighten and clean up the policy. 

Mr. North commented that “all schools” should read as all personnel. 

Mr. Christie suggested changing it to include all individuals, possibly all in the Hartford community.

Mr. DeBalsi suggested taking schools out.

Mr. Merrill suggested all elements.

Mr. Merrill thanked Wren for her contributions.

Mr. DeBalsi thanked Wendy Teller for her work with the first draft. 

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs.Russell, to accept the Transgender and Other Gender-Diverse Students Policy as amended. Motion carried.

Policy Adoption - 1st Read - Non-Discriminatory School Mascot
Mr. Merrill shared that the committee looked at the VSBA policy language and tweaked it minimally. Minor suggestions were made.

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the first reading of the Mascot Policy as amended. Motion carried. 

1st Draft New Ends Reporting
Mr. DeBalsi said this is a draft and is looking for the board’s feedback. 

Dr. Robinson said the focus this year will be on two Ends this year.  She shared information on Academic Excellence: math targets and indicators. She shared PNOA data for Grades 1 and 2, and STAR data for 3rd through 5th grade. She shared a video of a kindergartener solving a math problem. The data is used to inform instruction. There is a group of WRS pre K-grade 3 teachers who are engaged in a networked improvement community. They meet monthly to review student work and develop a plan. They are able to work with Doug Clements and Julie Sarama, experts in the field. In January groups from DBS and HMS will start the process. Some elementary principals are using this community for teacher evaluation and self-reflection practice. 

Mr. Christie said that the goal of “What does a picture of a graduate look like?” is being met with this new model. More teachers will want to get involved. 

Mr. North said this was a good start and asked about stating a growth goal annually, this could be shared at the February public presentation. This would show what the tax dollar is doing. Referencing how you can transfer the skills to other areas will be important. Using this in progression with the middle and high schools is also important. 

Dr. Robinson said the ultimate goal is one hundred percent but what goals do we have along the way? You can follow a cohort with the STAR data. 

Mrs. Russell asked about planning ahead, how do we continue to get the good results and get better results? 

Dr. Robinson responded, yes we could look at that, we know where we are now, where will we be in June and next year. Using multiple forms of data allows you to look for patterns using an inquiry mindset. The coaches in the buildings are supporting this model with the monthly team meetings.

Mr. Merrill thanked Dr. Robinson, this is what we’ve been looking for.

Charter Review and Update
Lynn Bohi, co-chair of the Charter Committee, addressed the group. She outlined the process the committee has followed. The Select Board did not make a decision last night on the revisions. The Charter has language on eviction notices, the town may adopt an ordinance with language. The changes the district might be interested in are the Town School District Committee and the petition language. Ryan and Adam, committee members, were not in agreement on the language suggestions. 

Mr. Merrill asked about the suggested changes, which were not red-lined in the new document. Mrs. Bohi asked FX Flynn to send that version to the board members and the timeline.

Mr. Christie noted that the concern from the Legislature is the timing of town action and then the adoption at the state level.

Mrs. Bohi noted that the two boards could pull items from the Charter and put them separately on the warrant for the voters to decide.

Mr. North stated he did not like the language about petitions. He would be ok with pulling it out for a separate vote. He will go with the will of the board.

Mr. Merrill noted that he has some trouble with the treasurer language. 

FX Flinn addressed the board noting that the committee took a careful look at the petition language that the School Board was questioning. The current Charter mirrors state law that the treasurer is for the town and the school district. He suggested approving the no cause eviction language and the local option sales tax and that it be pulled out for their own vote. This would allow the Select Board to act next week and the warrant could be warned for the January meeting. The red-lined version is in Google Drive for all to see. The September draft is not that different from the newest one.

Mr. North asked about the need for language if the state law exists.

Mr. Flinn responded that restating the language in the Charter makes it clearer. 

Mrs. Bohi reminded the board that the Charter supersedes state law.

Mr. Merrill thanked all that worked on the document. However he would like the document as clear as possible. 

Mr. North also thanked the committee but does not agree with the petition language.

Mr. Flinn shared that this petition language works in Brattleboro and they haven’t had a problem with petitions. He reviewed the changes to Town Meeting since the Charter. There are many people that have a point they want to get across and supporting them with the petition writing is important. 

Mr. North stated his respect of Mr. Flinn’s opinion but he doesn’t agree.

Mr. Christie noted that a lot of good work went into the new document and pulling out the contested portions would be important. 

Mr. Merrill moved, Mrs. Russell seconded, to table this language and if another version comes from the Select Board, then the board would discuss it again. Motion carried. 

Mr. Christie thanked the committee. 

Board Committee Reports and Updates
Finance, Mr. North, audit review, end with surplus, one issue was student activity funds suggested to enhance controls over

Support Staff Negotiation, Mr. North, significant agreements have been accomplished

HCC, Mrs. Russell, working on important issues

HCOREI, Mr. North, will need to replace Ms Walther on committee

Policy, Mr. Merrill, two policies presented tonight

Teacher Negotiations, Mr. Merrill, things are going well, 

AP Manifests, Mr. Christie, moving smoothly under Jacob’s leadership with new personnel    

    5.  Public Comments  

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

Lannie Collins asked questions during the budget presentation. 

Mrs. Russell reported that the HHS Girls Hockey team won their game tonight. 

Dr. Robinson reported that the HHS Boys Hockey team was playing the D I champs and were currently down 1-0.

Mr. Hathorn reported 2 people in attendance, no hands were up.

Mr. North informed that he has recently listed his house for sale and will be moving out of town at some point. He will continue to work with the district on budget issues as he’s fully committed. 

Mrs. Russell, reported that the Rotary Club meets at HACTC Dining Hall, at the last meeting they went into lockdown- students and staff knew what was happening and what to do, rotarians didn’t know, explanation was needed, it lasted 20 minutes, if we are having outside people to use the facilities they need to be given a paper with the directions. 

Mr. Christie suggested bringing the issue to the Emergency Committee and that a direction sheet would be provided when an outside agency applies for use. 

Mr. North suggested also adding voting day activities to the committee review.  

Lannie Collins asked about a lockdown during a Town Meeting event, could you shut the gym off from the school? He suggested getting the directions to the Town Meeting Committee as well. 

    6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4

Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 11-9-2022
Monitoring Reports

EL 4 Financial Conditions and Activities
GP 7 Board Committee Principles
B/SR 3 Accountability of the Superintendent
Appointments: Stephanie Cross, OQS; Laura Brooks, OQS; Julia Waswo, OQS; Jaclyn Pageau, WRS  

Resignations: Maggi Ibrahim, District Equity Coordinator; David Ballou, HMS

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the Consent Agenda with thank you to those leaving and a welcome to the new staff. Motion carried.

    7. Next Meeting Agenda

Consideration of applications for open board seat

    8. Meeting Evaluation

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

9. Executive Session for the purpose of discussing Labor Relations with Employees 1 V.S.A. 313(a)(1)(B)

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, that there is need for an executive session, pursuant to 1 V.S.A. 313 (a) (1) (B) for the purpose of discussing labor relations with employees and to go into said Executive Session. Motion carried.

The board entered Executive Session at 9:35 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 10:15. No action was taken by the board after executive session.

    10. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr , to adjourn the meeting at 10:20. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey


Next Regular School Board Meeting is January 11, 2023