March 27, 2023

HSB Minutes 1-11-2023

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting MInutes

January 11, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting 


Board Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Julie Robinson


            1.  Call to Order 

-       Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 

Mr. North called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM. He announced that Mr. Christie would arrive soon as he was tied up in Montpelier. 

Mr. Christie took over the meeting at 6:15 PM.

Mr. DeBalsi asked to add appointments of new staff and to reorder the Governance Process items. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, 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 the HHS Exhibition Night, 4-6PM in the gym tomorrow night, great vacation, finishing budget items, changes in the Cosmetology Program at  HACTC with licensing requirements from the state.

Mr. North asked Mr. DeBalsi if some video clips of Exhibition Night and highlights from the elementary programs would be available from Mr. Hathorn and Dr. Robinson. Mr. DeBalsi replied yes.

            3.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-       Public Reading of Board's EL 10 Response Letter (12/14/2023)
Mr. Christie read the board’s response to Executive Limitations 10, a result of action taken at the December 14, 2022 meeting. 

This letter, to the Hartford Community, was shared with the community in December 2022.

Mr. DeBalsi responded that recently he became aware of some incidents that show the district needs to do more. He will review the policy statements and identify weaknesses and successes.

Mr. Merrill thanked Mr. DeBalsi, on behalf of the board, for his commitment to this action.
-       Consideration of Applications for Open Board Seat
Mr. DeBalsi said that the district has advertised in the Valley News and posted on the listserv for the remaining time of the open seat. He shared the application from Doug Heaviside Sr, the only applicant. 

Mr. Merrill shared with the board that he would be overjoyed to welcome Mr. Heavisides to the board. Other board members agreed.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to nominate Douglas Heavisides Sr. to the position of board member to fill out the open term until the next election. Motion carried.

Mr. North asked that someone notify Mr. Heavisides that if he is interested in the seat after Town Meeting, he would need to submit his petition by the end of January.
-       FY24 Budget - 4th Draft
Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to think about what the final budget number to present to the town should be.

Jacob Vezina updated the board on Draft #4 which represents some changes. Presently this represents a $3.1M increase.

Mr. North asked about health insurance, still covered under HSA, what percentage is anticipated. Food service and transportation contracts?

Mr. Vezina responded 70%, which is what was budgeted last year. The district is in year 1 of an 8 year contract with Butlers. The food service contract is negotiated every year.

The CLA is 77.15% and the equalized pupil number is 1,311.85. This represents a 10.5 % increase on property taxes and 3.3% on income base.

Mr. Vezina gave a brief explanation of the CLA. The state has determined that 77.15% of the grand list is what the actual market is. This will trigger a townwide reappraisal. 

Mr. Merrill noted that the CLA has trended down since the last reappraisal was completed. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared that the student population has increased even though the state equalized pupil number is a decrease of 30 students. 

Mr. Merrill shared this is a big number. Some ways to smooth this out are to provide less services to students or to spend down some reserve funds. If it was a one time occurrence, then using reserve would be appropriate, but it’s not a one time problem. 

Mr. North shared his thoughts, could we be more aggressive and less conservative given this potential recession. He suggested a compromise procedure, could we set aside some money in the worst case scenario? Could we scale back some numbers and take a risk? 

Mr. Vezina asked the board if there was a number or place they were comfortable with. He would then go back through the budget and figure out how to get to that number. 

Mr. Christie reminded that board that he’s not sure how the legislature will address the surplus which could impact the district. The goal of the Ed Fund is to have the least amount of impact to the towns. 

Mrs. Russell asked Mr. Vezina to review what current staff were removed. He answered that two positions were from ESSER funds and one was a new potential staff member at HHS. 

Mr. Merrill summarized, adjusting to inflation we’re asking for a 2-3% increase, to address our changing student needs. This reduces the ability to be as generous as we could be. He suggested that the superintendent come back with an 8.5% increase. 

Mr. North reminded that community that a number of new positions have been paid through ESSER funds and need to be continued. This makes this budget even more difficult.

Mrs. Russell agreed, we need to support students and staff with their mental health needs. She would rather hold off on facility projects. 

Mr. Merriill replied that would be what would happen if we spend down the reserve, we would be putting off some projects. He doesn’t want to put off those projects too long, kicking the can down the road. 

Mr. Christie shared testimony information from Montpelier and the number of needs are increasing greatly. 

Mr. North pointed out that the athletic department budget is up and what level of spending are we supporting for the music/drama programs? This needs to be addressed with a potential change in athletic funding. Would families pay for students to participate? In the past for the budget number we’ve weighed what would pass, we may need to take a different approach this year and go out and get support for a higher budget. It supports the quality of schools. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared that the district has been supportive of activities of what kids want to participate in. When there’s a need, we’ve added, this helps keep students engaged and helps with their mental health. There have been increases in other departments, we can look at that. This is an unfortunate time, we’ve become more attractive to sending schools. The extra activities are what’s attractive to the students. There are more students at HHS this year, so this is helping but isn’t reflected in the equalized pupil number. 

Mr. Christie asked Mr. Vezina how the NH tuition students impact the equalized number.

Mr. Vezina responded that it’s only Hartford numbers. The HACTC student count isn’t part of that.

Mrs. Russell agreed that these activities are important for mental health. Students learn differently, giving many options is important. There are many learning opportunities in the athletic programs that couldn’t be taught in a classroom. 

Mr. Merrill reminded that board that given the form of governance we can’t tell the superintendent what to cut given the budget number. 

Mr. North suggested asking the superintendent to run a few scenarios, 7.95% and 8.5% budget increases with notes on what the differences would be.

Mr. Merrill asked for budget models on 10.5% (draft #4), 8.5% (current inflation rate), and 7.95% with notes on differences. He thanked the staff for their work with the budget presentations.

Mr. Christie warned of looking closely at the timeline, a special meeting may need to be held. 
-       Ends Revisions Proposals
Dr. Robinson reviewed with the board the plan from October 2022 highlighting the proposed plans for the Ends revisions: streamline the 6 Ends into 3; revise the targets and indicators; removal of the rubrics in the framework. The new three Ends are Personal Excellence and Learner Agency, Well-Being, and Global Citizenship. She summarized each one and explained how the old 6 were consolidated into the new 3.

Mr. North asked for information on how these would be measured at the next meeting. He will share his thoughts with Mr. Hathorn and Dr. Robinson. He asked other board members to share thoughts as well.

Mr. Merrill thanked the staff who worked on these and looks forward to continuing the work.
-       Board Equity Grant
The board received a VSBA Equity grant of $2000. Mr. DeBalsi suggested that an attorney, or a “student” attorney, review the policies with that fine tooth comb. 

Mr. Hathorn added that many staff are reading Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education. One chapter, Work Toward Policy Change,  suggests reviewing policies with trauma in mind. 

Mr. Merrill asked about the amount of money, could this be done? Could this be done inhouse? Sometimes it’s not the language of the policy but how it’s interpreted. Would we be better off asking someone to review and make suggestions? We may find a speaker to address it and present it to that board. 

Mr. DeBalsi suggested asking the book’s author, Alex Shevrin Venet, for further information. This would be a starting conversation.

Mr. Christie agreed looking at the policies from the author’s perspective  is a great idea. In some cases it might be the procedures and not the policy language.

The board directed the Policy Committee to use the money to review the policies, however it is most helpful.
-       Policy Adoption – 2nd Read - Non-discriminatory Mascots
Mr. Merrill reviewed the policy, which is mandated by the state. The hurricane mascot currently presents no problems. 

Mr. North asked about the complaint section, why do the individuals come straight to the board and not follow the normal chain of command? He asked about follow up from the superintendent, this shouldn’t be periodically but a stated time frame, or when needed. He asked when the procedures would be completed.

Mr. Merrill suggested reviewing the policy annually. The procedures will be completed within the year.
-       Board Committee Reports and Updates
Support Staff negotiation- North, should be reaching a conclusion, will resolve outstanding issues soon

Finance- North, audit report has an inaccuracy on P 11, fund balance number is incorrect, still gives a clean bill of health though

VSBA- Russell, reports to you soon

HCC- Russell, new board members coming soon, evaluations of employees reviewed, Block Party June 14th tentative

Teacher negotiations- Merrill, good progress being made

Policy-Merrill, meeting information given tonight

Manifestations-Christie, going well, Jacob helpful

E and I-Christie, will be looking for Maggi’s replacement 

            4.  Public Comments  

The public was invited to the meeting in person at the Hartford Town Hall or online using

Danielle Lemay, mother of 2 children, moved back to Hartford, two very dangerous interactions at HMS, first incident was son was put in a choke hold, had to go into the school and make a huge scene, really no action was taken. Second incident, a girl was told she would have a her throat slit, a student brought a knife to school, her son saw it at the end of the day, reported it to mom, he told Justin, assistant principal. she went to school Thursday, Jan, 5th, met with Tristan and Justin, told the student’s bags would be checked for two weeks, not being checked, students are scared, the middle school is out of control, someone needs to go in and help before someone gets hurt, a resource officer walking the hall would help students feel safe, loves Justin but needs support of the principal, problems can’t be brushed away, understands problems with taxes and school safety, Tom has been a good sounding board, policy change needed, administrative work, people bought up houses in town, what happens when they want to move back and sell their houses, we need to do something now, 

Mr. Christie responded, the board will request that the superintendent come back with information on what the plan is and what has happened to the next meeting.

Kristen Connors, mother of 3 at Hartford, alumni and business owner, all 3 have gone through DBS which has been great, the transition to HMS has been bad, the line of relationship/respect is not clear- teachers want to be your friend and then something happens and they’re not your friend, has safety concerns for these kids, her daughter has had an incident, recognizes that putting three schools together from different rules and students in puberty is difficult, respect needs to be taught, kind students lead to kind humans going out into the workforce or future school, respect and the safety of the students is a main thing, HMS should be a focus for the board, keep your eyes on that school

Mr. Christie thanked both for their comments.

Mr. DeBalsi will come back to the next meeting with information from the principal and assistant principal.

Mr. Christie said the Vermont Supreme Court is getting back out into the communities. Hartford was on the list before the pandemic. He will forward the contact information to the administration.


            5. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes 

- Regular Meeting 12-14-2022

Monitoring Reports

- GP 5 Board Chair’s Role

Appointments: Michelle Carlson, MMS ELA teacher, Karli Swensenm MMS Art teacher

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the consent agenda and welcome the new staff members. Motion carried.
            6. Next Meeting Agenda

Budget approval

EL 10 approval

Mr. North asked the board to consider him doing some video clips (bite sized nuggets) for budgeting process/procedures, maybe a student who needs community service time could help??


            7. Meeting Evaluation

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


            8. Executive Session 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to enter Executive Session for three reasons: 1 VSA 313:(a) (1)(B) Labor relations agreements with employees; 1 VSA 313 (a) (1) (D), Grievances; and 1 VSA 313: (a)(3) the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee. 

Motion carried. 

The board entered Executive Session at 8:12 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 10:15.

No action was taken.


9. Adjournment

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


Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey



Next School Board Meeting is January 25, 2023