March 27, 2023

HSB Minutes 1-25-2023

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

January 25, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting 


Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Douglas H. Heavisides

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Jacob Vezina


1.  Call to Order 

-       Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 

Mr. North called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM. He introduced Mr. Doug H. Heavisides who is filling out the open board seat.

Mr. Merrill asked for an Executive Session at the beginning of the meeting to discuss the teachers’ negotiations as it has an impact on the budget.

Mr. DeBalsi asked for the draft 2023-24 calendar to be added in #3.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, pursuant to VSA 313:(a)(1)(B)  to have an executive session for the purpose of discussing a labor relations agreement with employees and to enter into said Executive Session.

Motion carried.

The board entered the Executive Session at 6:03 PM.

The board exited the Executive Session at 6:13 PM.

No action was taken.


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

-       Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported: 2 professional development days, Mon/Tue, remote work day on Monday due to weather; HHS rollover of semester work; other schools had professional development; winter activities happening; looking forward to kicking off second semester

            3.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-       Middle School Restorative Practice 
Mr. DeBalsi reminded the board of the parent concerns shared at the last meeting. He introduced Tristan Upson, principal and Justin Bouvier, vice principal,  who spoke on the middle school’s restorative practices. The basis of the practice is to make kids feel welcome at all times.

Then vs Now: punitive discipline versus restorative discipline mindsets, swearing example with both practices shared

What are restorative practices: includes interventions as well as practices that help prevent harm and conflict; some restorative “consequences” might be away from classes or a Saturday community service with an administrator; uses advisory circles, assemblies, re-entry meetings, and classroom units 

So what: shared data from this year; major referrals: Sept, 34, Oct, 45, Nov, 24, Dec, 20, Jan, 14; Panorama data for belonging; suspensions out of school data

What’s Next: want to achieve 100% panorama students feeling a sense of belonging; continue to build systemic approaches, pre-teaching Social Emotional Skills; goals for next year shared - continue to develop restorative practices

Mr. Merrill shared a concern, with all types of discipline and across many places, help for the victim is important and may be needed.

Mrs. Russell asked what is being done with the school avoidance issues. Mr. Bouvier responded that the area principals are meeting and will be reviewing the current practices and will develop a plan. There are many options for addressing this including online course work, adjusted days.

Mr. Heavisides asked how this was presented to the parents/public? Mr. Bouvier responded that the handbook was rewritten, Mrs. Upson writes a weekly newsletter with any changes, held parent meetings, and they have made home visits.

Mr. Christie reminded the board he’s worked with this at the state level and thinks the team at the middle school is working hard with this new plan. He reminded the board that this could be a good Community Engagement topic.

Mr. North addressed Mr. DeBalsi, stating his frustration about just hearing about this new process, a meeting at the beginning of the year would have been good. This would be a way to support the work in the school. The data shared would be important in the Ends report. This presentation would be useful out in the community as well. He further commented about the drop-out rate and how this impacts that.

Mr. North thanked Mrs. Upson and Mr. Bouvier for the presentation.

Mr. DeBalsi asked Mrs. Upson to introduce the four middle school teachers and he thanked them for attending.
-       FY24 Budget - 5th Draft
Mr. DeBalsi reminded the board of how he figures out the proportional reductions in each of the schools. Since the board specifically mentioned athletics, he’s proposing some cuts in that department. He will work with the administrators on the reduced budgets to have the least impact on students. He’s confident that these cuts can be made and some reserve funds will be used.

Mr. Merrill reminded the board that there are building needs that can’t be put off. The charge of the board is to be good stewards of the community. 

Mr. DeBalsi reminded the board that we have many facilities that need repairs and maintenance. There is $300,000 in that line item.

Mr. Vezina shared there’s $170,000 with reductions with use of reserve;

$160,000 additional reductions; presently using $500,000 to buy down taxes; represents 7.7% increase; CLA hit hard; the equalized pupil number doesn’t show the actual student population.

Mr. North reminded the public if they are concerned they should contact their representatives since this is being discussed at the state level.

Mr. Vezina asked what the board was feeling, the current budget is at 7.7% increase, and could use more of the surplus (2.8M) if they want.

Mr. North said this wouldn’t be able to sustain spending the surplus year after year. Last year $1M was used from the surplus.

Mr. Merrill asked how much it would cost to buy it down to a 7.0% increase?

Mr. Vezina responded that a total $680,000 of surplus would get it down to 7.0%.

Mr. North said he’d prefer 6.95%. This year the yield increase helped. When the economy turns the other way it’s hard. 7.0% and 7.95% are both bad numbers.

Mr. DeBalsi cautioned about potential bumps in the road next year. This would impact the ability to buy down in future years. 

Mr. Merrill feels it’s important to have this discussion and there are benefits to the spending. It’s a balancing job, what’s the perfect number, the best of the bad numbers? He would be willing to buy down to 7.5%, which is down from the original draft of 10.5%.

Mrs. Russell shared her concern about next year, yes we’re helping this year by using some surplus.

Mr. Merrill commented on the economy and how other countries' actions impact our economy. Potentially the rate of inflation will be lower next year. 

Mr. Christie reminded the board of the last 3 years of CLA: 93.33%, 86.76%, and 77.15%. This isn’t just a Hartford problem. He’s suggesting a full statewide reappraisal, that would make all communities even. This is our best effort and this is the best number at this time within the local control. 

Mr. Heavisides said this is a no-win situation. We need to educate the citizens of this town about where we’re at, a 7 or 8% increase is a hit. We have a great district with great facilities. He’s aware of the concerns of many, trying to get the budget through this year won’t be easy, but we need to educate all that will listen. At some point you have to put it back. He thinks the public will listen if someone will tell them upfront. He’s hearing from some in senior housing who are having difficulties making it now. 

Mr. North agreed. He reminded the board that only about 1 in 4 Hartford tax payers will pay the increase that was presented. The income sensitivity program will help many. He’s offered to present at community meetings, and not wait for Information Night. It’s hard to know how many people are watching and are aware of the increase. 

Mr. Christie agreed, get the information out to people early. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve the budget with a buydown to a 7.5 % tax increase. Motion carried. 

Mr. Vezina made the changes on the tax document to show the approved budget; $ 47,607,131; 7.5% budget increase; 2.41% income sensitivity.
-       Annual Meeting Warnings
Mr. DeBalsi noted that both warnings have been reviewed by the attorney, including changes from the governor’s action from today. 

The board signed the warnings for Budget Discussion/Candidate Night Meeting, Monday, February 27, 2023; Annual School District Meeting, Saturday, March 4, 2023; March 7, 2023 Australian ballot voting.

Mr. Christie will get the additional signature and forward to the Town Clerk tomorrow.
-       Board Committee Reports and Updates
Teacher negotiations, Merrill, reached a successful agreement, both sides have committed to supporting the contract

HCC, Russell, added 5 new board members, exec director completed many trainings, working with SAP at the middle school, town picnic June 21

VSBA, Russell, lots of work going on there

Support staff, North, making progress, hopefully more progress at next meeting

Manifests, Christie, signings moving expeditiously

E and I, Christie, looking at interim and long term replacement for Maggi
-    Calendar 2023-24, for discussion only, draft #1
Mr. DeBalsi shared draft #1 of the calendar for next year. The association has commented on it. He will continue to work on it with the sending schools for HACTC. The list of recognized days is included again this year.

This is for discussion. If it’s finalized the board will vote on it in February.

            4.  Public Comments   

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

Joe Major, WRJct, commended the middle school administrators for their presentation on restorative practices. He is a rep on the Equity and Inclusion Committee. He works for both the town and school. He congratulated Maggi for her work and wished her well in the future. He’s glad the school is looking for a new staff member.

Mr. DeBalsi thanked Joe for his work on the committee.

Mrs. Russell shared that an alliance has been put together by five state organizations. They are addressing the action taken by the Supreme Court last June regarding funding for private schools. 


            5. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes 

-       Regular Meeting 1-11-2023
Resignations: Juliana Miller, WRS Spec Ed

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Consent Agenda, with thanks to Ms Minard for her time. Motion carried.
            6. Next Meeting Agenda

Budget presentation

Revisions to EL10 Ends


            7. Meeting Evaluation

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


            8. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs.Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 7:53 PM. Motion carried.


Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey



Next School Board Meeting is February 8, 2023