June 12, 2021

HSB Minutes 10-14-2020

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

October 14, 2020 @ 6:00 pm

Online Meeting 


Members Present                                                Administrators Present

Kevin Christie                                                        Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill                                                          Roy Hathorn

Nancy Russell

Russell North

Michelle Boleski


          1.  Call to Order

-        Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:05 PM.

Agenda changes: add voting for convention representative/alternate section 4

Moved by Mr. Merrill, second by Mrs. Russell, to approve the agenda with said changes, motion carried.

          2. Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

-        Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events
     Mr. DeBalsi noted that the Global End of focusing on the intellectual advancement of students is the top priority. Mrs. Russell asked about how the students are coping. Mr. DeBalsi reported that from his perspective students are doing well and happy to be in school. Students have been very respectful regarding distancing and mask wearing. There will be an assessment in a few weeks, developed by the psychologist and counselors, for students  This will be used as baseline data to ensure that everything is being done for students.

     Mr. Merrill read the Mission Statement of the district. He further asked how the district was caring for the community since the middle and high school are divided into two groups. Mr. DeBalsi reported that the high school students actually change groups four times a day and there are extra curricular activities. The elementary students remain in their cohorts for the day.

     Mr. DeBalsi reported that as of yesterday, the district will be tightening up. Ms. Boleski is concerned about what’s happening in the community, as it seems that people are becoming lax. Grafton County has been placed in orange status. This impacts travel, however students can attend an essential activity, i.e. school. Mr. Heavidsides notified the tech students about the changes. Staff are impacted as well. Coaches follow the same guideline, travel for essential purposes. Student athletes are expected to follow distancing and mask wearing guidelines. The athletic director is at the events ensuring the rules are followed.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Boleski, that the school board supports the administrative team with the district direction in following strict COVID guidelines. Motion carried unanimous.

Mr. Merrill asked about the position of the district in setting rules/guidelines for necessary closure. Mr. DeBalsi reported that he is working with the nurses and will need to complete the guidelines. He will share the proposal for the next meeting.

Mr. Christie commended Mr. DeBalsi and his staff for setting up the flu clinic schedule. Thank you Linda Nash. These will be held outside.

          3. Board Professional Development (Section 4 Policy GP 9)

Mr. Merrill reported receiving the board materials for future discussions, the follow up from the summer training. Mr. North has started the readings, very enlightening. Mr. DeBalsi has thumb drives that include activities for supporting the materials.


          4. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-        Legislative Advocacy
Mr. Christie reported that the state is rolling out a new finance system, this is a difficult shift for business managers. He and Mr. North will meet with the auditor to see how this will impact the district.

Ms Boleski asked about property taxes around the state and how the boom in real estate sales will impact that. Mr. Christie said that report will be out in early December. At last report Vermont is not in great shape but not as bad as other states. Mr. Merrill noted a VTDIGGER report that Vermont is getting a disproportionate amount of funding from the government. Mr. DeBalsi reported that he has been told that the district will be reimbursed for all COVID expenditures. 
-        Community Linkage Ideas (GP 3)
     Mr. North asked the board to think broadly about the community linkage and what a committee’s responsibility would be. Ms Boleski echoed that, and invited the board to email them with ideas. Mr. DeBalsi shared that the new student representative would be interested in this and would offer the student’s perspective. He would like to be on the agenda for the next meeting.
-        Food Service Contract Renewal
     Mr. DeBalsi noted that there have been issues with the offerings and presentation of food. Jim Vezina and he have been researching other districts’ food service. They will continue to explore options. In districts that offer a better quality program they often have to support it financially.

     Mr. DeBalsi is recommending renewing the contract for one year while he continues to research other options. He is proposing a pilot program at the White River School. He also noted that in order to get federal funding you must follow the guidelines.

     Ms Boleski asked about the possibility of using local chefs/farms to design a program that would offer a better quality. Mrs. Russell asked that board members visit a school and view what is offered at lunch.

     The Fresh Fruits and Vegetable program will start at the White River School and will be managed by the principal.

     Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to authorize the superintendent to enter into a one year contract with Cafe Services Incorporated to continue food service in the Hartford School District for the school year 2020-21. Motion carried.
-        New EL 10 - Race and Equity - Discussion (North)
Mr. North shared an example of another school district’s policy. He noted that there may be minimal changes if this was to be adopted in Hartford.

Mr. Merrill said that the policy committee has reviewed the district policies. He agreed that the sample would need only minor changes. He supports using the sample as the model policy.

Mr. Christie agreed stating that it gives clarity of the work around equity and inclusion. He asked that the policy committee review this and bring it back to the board for discussion and possible adoption. (EL10)

Ms Boleski asked about the strategic plan and is this the way to know if the strategic plan is being worked on in the district. Mr. North noted that the new policy makes the superintendent responsible for making sure the strategic plan goals are followed.              
-        Combined Meeting with Select Board – tentative dates, agenda ideas
Mr. DeBalsi, suggested Wednesday, October 21 or November 4th. The Select Board should have discussed the dates. This is an additional meeting for the board. There may be another  joint conflict (HCOREI). Mr. Christe offered the alternate Tuesday.

Ms Boleski asked Mr. DeBalsi about the Select Board’s position about the pool renovations. He answered that he’s heard only rumors of that.

Agenda topics:climate change, HCOREI, after school recreation/athletics- use of facilities, pool update, Ventures use of pool, strategic plan suggestions

Ann Raynolds, HCOREI member, noted that Oct 21 and Nov 4 are HCOREI meetings. She told the board that the committee is ready to go with any actions to help. She wonders where the Strategic Plan fits in. Mr. Christie answered that there is work being done, some statutorily required and some that the board has asked for. This is important work for the town and the district. Mr. DeBalsi reported that it was put on hold during the closure but has resurfaced and is being worked on regularly. There are many areas in motion. Mr. Debalsi, Cathy Newton, Roy Hathorn and Aileen (chair of HCOREI) met this week to review where the district is at. Ms Boleski shared what the committee is charged with and how the school board works with the administrative team to ensure that actions are carried out.

Mr. Christie said the district has a structure to carry out the work. He is proud of the work and feels that we are on the right path.

A community advisory group would be able to complete some of the tasks.
-        Annual Work Plan/Board Calendar
Mr. DeBalsi shared a refreshed work plan document. He will adjust some dates/times. He asked about the November meetings, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. The board agreed to shift the dates.
-        Monitoring Reports
o   GP 9 Governance Investment

o   B/SR 4 Delegation to the Superintendent
Mr. DeBalsi noted EL4 is postponed due to the need of the audit report.

Both reports showed that there are areas that are not at the standard we want to be. The board agreed and is trying to take steps to improve these.
-        Convention Representative/Alternate
Registration is open on the VSBA website for the conference, October 29th at 5:00.

The representative is to attend the conference as a spokesperson of the Hartford School Board. Voting and any other action will be based on the position of the board.

Mrs. Russell nominated Mr. North to be the representative and Mr. Christie to be the alternate for the VSBA conference, seconded by Ms Boleski, motion carried.


          5.  Public Comments 

The public was invited to join the meeting using the link  https://zoom.us/j/97430755984, meeting ID = 974 3075 5984.

Ann Raynolds spoke earlier.

Mrs. Russell thanked Senator Clarkson, Representative Christie,  Mr. Hathorn, Mr. DeBalsi, and Mr. Cooney for attending the mask give away. Ten thousand masks were given to the district. Mr. DeBalsi thanked Mrs. Russell for her work in the Rotary on this.


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

-        Superintendent’s Report
●      School/District Update
Mr. Hathorn reported:

 updated website- now there are student and staff groups, staff using BARWE- managed by Katie Jacobson, OQS staff member

Student organization up and running, book and film club, policy review and put into kid friendly language, interested in meeting with the board for the policy discussion. Melissa Wyman is working with this group.

Dylan Morse is interested in becoming a student representative on the board. He will draft an email introducing himself and what he sees his role as.

Katie Trombley is still interested in participating until she graduates.

Mr. DeBalsi reported:

Started labor management group with teachers, received training with mediator

Town Hall forum with the staff, last week elementary teachers to answer questions and discuss concerns. Next week high school teachers, then middle school teachers.

No major disciplinary actions around COVID guideline misuse.

Mr. DeBalsi reported that on the VSBA website there is a link for student representatives. He will share this with the board.
●      Facility Projects Update – Wilder, Covell House, BEST, Christian Street
Mr. DeBalsi noted that the Wilder School project is over budget because of the Covid shutdown and requirements after returning to work. Wilder looks fantastic, almost done, hold-up on elevator installation, new opening date mid December or January.  There will be a grand opening, date TBA.

Covell: collecting ideas from staff, potentially the renovation project could be done out of the operating budget, the plan could include what would become of the existing Superintendent’s Office. This could be completed in phases.

Ms Boleski noted the historical importance of the house and would hate to see the house redone and lose the historical value. Mr. Christie agreed and that Mr. DeBalsi has reached out to the Vermont HIstorical Preservation Committee.

Ms Boleski found the document of the Historic District, she will forward to Mr. DeBalsi and he will forward to the board.

BEST: plans have been through the bid process, HACTC room, since they are tuition bearing they could pay it back as they go, could be done out of the operating budget, Mr. DeBalsi is recommending that the district go forward with this project, there would need to be a budget review.

Christian Street: no discussion
●      Finance Update, Budget 21-22
Jake Vezina reported: audit will be completed soon, Covid impact, working on a plan to tighten up the student activity funds, HACTC funds, Covid relief fund $800,000- new guidelines regarding the HVAC expenses, HACTC covid money, not eligible for any FEMA money, all COVID expenses were reviewed- cleaning, tents, PPE, remote academy coordinator, etc

gearing up for the work on the 21-22 budget, financial forecasting is projected to be bleak

          7. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

-         Meeting Minutes – 9/8/2020, 9/9/2020, 9/23/2020

-         Personnel Changes- none

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the consent agenda, motion carried. 


          8. Next Meeting Agenda

                    Community Engagement Agenda:

                              TBD by Mr. North and Ms Boleski

                              survey questions???

                    Regular Meeting:

Student representative

District guidelines for closure (Mr. DeBalsi and nurses)

          BEST project update, review minutes from presentation

          Covell House preliminary estimates done over one or two phases


          9. Meeting Evaluation

The meeting evaluation was completed by Mr. Christie, the meeting was satisfactory.


          10.  Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 9:03 PM, motion carried.

Mr. Christie thanked the board and Mr. DeBalsi and his team for their great work.


School Board Engagement Meeting is Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 6:00 PM


Next Regular School Board Meeting is Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 6:00 PM*