July 19, 2019

HSB Meeting Minutes December 9, 2015

DATE: 12-12-2015

Hartford Board of School Directors
School Board Meeting Agenda
December 9, 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Superintendent of Schools Office

Board Members Present: Lori Dickerson, Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill   

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Noel Bryant, Jim Vezina

Student Representative: Luke LaFountaine, Madelyn Koff

1.  Call to Order: Lori Dickerson calls the meeting to order at 7:03 pm.

2.  Consent Agenda

  • Minutes - Regular Meeting 11-18-2015: No amendments made

  • Accept Resignations and Appointments

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that Rob Hemmings, who was a high school Social Studies teacher, has decided not to return.

    • Peter Merrill moves to accept the consent agenda as presented and the resignation. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (3 yes, 0 no).

3.  Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda

  • The ratification of the support staff contract is moved to the next meeting as the staff are voting this Friday.  

  • Peter Merrill explains the policy and procedures around hazing and bullying can be presented simultaneously and requests to move that agenda item to the January meeting.

  • Peter Merrill moves to accept the changes to the agenda.  Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (3 yes, 0  no).

4.   Public Comments relative to items not on the Agenda

  • Cherrie Torrey, a 5th grade teacher at DBS, thanks the board for inviting support staff back to the table to negotiate and explains that the staff will be voting on Friday. She expresses that it is unnerving for teachers to work without a contract and that they are eager to get back to the table.

  • Madeline Carlock, a 4th grade teacher at OQS, is back teaching in the district after a year leave of absence when she was teaching at an IB school in Vietnam.  She expresses that she feels lucky to work in a district with such welcoming and talented staff here, but is concerned about the turnover and the hiring of new teachers. She feels that with no contract and a less competitive salary that the district is not as able to attract passionate, highly qualified teachers to replace those leaving or retiring.

  • Jeff Arnold, a former school board member, is curious about the benchmarks used to rate the superintendent regarding the bonus received and concerned about the cost the architect was paid for the WRS work. He is also curious about the hiring process for the two new principals. Tom DeBalsi and Kevin Christie speak to the rigorous hiring process, which will include the public.

  • Jodi Tierney , a 1st grade teacher at OQS, shares that as a teacher, taxpayer, and parent of children in the district, she is concerned with retaining great teachers and attracting new teachers as retirements happen.

    • Lori Dickerson points out that the board is responsible for balancing the needs of the public, taxpayers, students, teachers, and support staff, and also for working within the budget. She appreciates all the work that the teachers and staff accomplish.

  • An OQS teacher invites the board to visit the elementary school, and expresses that she doesn’t feel respected during the current negotiations.  

    • Peter Merrill, who had a daughter attend OQS,  speaks to the responsiveness, professionalism, and quality of teaching at OQS. He explains that the salaries are not a measure of respect for the teachers, and opens the way for communication if any teacher feels disrespected in any way that is not around the amount of money given to salaries.

  • Al Flory, the guidance director and guidance counselor for HATC, mentions that no school board member, except Tom DeBalsi, was present at the teachers’ retirement ceremony last year. He feels the  relationship with the board has changed dramatically in the past couple of years and that it no longer feels collaborative.

    • Kevin Christie points out that there are many demands on individuals, and since a problem has been identified, that steps should be taken to fix it. It is suggested that the ceremony is moved to a time after the work day has ended. Al Flory is looking forward to the opportunity to talk with school board members to become a community again.

5.   Items Requiring Board Discussion and Possible Action

  • Elementary Foreign Language Presentation

    • Cathy Newton, now the OQS principal, looked into the feasibility of elementary foreign language when she was the Interim Director of Curriculum and Instruction. On the committee were two elementary teachers, three parents, and three foreign language teachers.

    • Chris Putnam-Pouliot, a parent of a 4th grader at DBS, reports on the research around the positive effects of students learning a foreign language in elementary school: increased skills in their native language, ability to express more complex thoughts, improvement in grammar, engagement in higher order thinking skills and synthesizing, the correlation between learning a language and higher standardized test scores, increased knowledge of other cultures, connections to Social Studies content areas, and the support of the Ends policies. She explains that the goal of the program would be to increase the level of proficiency in speaking/listening, created a deeper understanding/awareness of other cultures, create enthusiasm for a second language, and increase opportunities to become more proficient.

    • Thatcher Hinman, the foreign language department head for the district, shares that the foreign language department is already accomplishing great things and this program would only bring benefits. There is research that proves foreign language instruction in elementary schools is effective. He recognizes there are logistical obstacles, but asks for the go ahead from the board to start figuring out what the logistics could look like.

    • Ruth Fleischman, the HMMS French teacher,  reiterates that there are many benefits to this program since students are receptive at that age and can increase their proficiency when they begin learning earlier.

    • Tom DeBalsi supports the program but also recognizes the roadblocks (lack of time, schedule, funds, concerns about basic skill acquisition).

Plagiarism Procedure - Update

  • Joe Collea, HHS principal, addresses the concern about students being properly informed about what constitutes plagiarism or cheating. He has developed a statement with the staff’s input which will go into the student handbook and on the website when it is complete. He is open to revisions from the board and plans to bring it to the board in January to finalize the procedure.

  • The board thanks Joe Collea.


  • Budget Draft – HACTC

    • Jim Vezina explains that the tech center budget is $3.5 million, including the special education cost, which is $235,000.

    • Doug Heavisides speaks to the new STEM program that comes in the stead of the faded out engineering and architectural design program. Unlike the other program, the STEM program has a flexible schedule and different credits being offered; students have the option of taking courses for a half a year or a full year with the possibility of earning math and/or physical science credits.

    • The tech center has seen a 1.29% increase in budget for the new program. The center received a grant over $65,000 for the program and set aside 12% of the Perkins Funds in the attempt to not affect tuition rates. The grant will provide $10,000 next year and $5,000 the following year. Doug Heavisides points out that very little local funds were used in building this program.

    • Jim Vezina explains that the new robotics program will be a huge draw for the tech center.  Doug Heavisides tells the board that the Upper Valley Robotics Club has always worked out of the center but as part of the Lebanon district. He moved $10,000 to provide a budget for the program and provided a space. There are 25 students in the program and around 10 Hartford students interested in joining.

    • In regard to other costs, the tech center has it’s own meter to pay for electricity. The center is also looking at a different contract with Butler’s for transportation. Doug Heavisides expresses that he wants all of the students to have a co-operative education experience, but that means increased transportation.

    • Jim Vezina points out that the tech center is net zero, meaning that money not spent goes back to the sending districts. The tuition for each student is $17,500, which is a $400 increase, and there are 320 students who are halftime.  Vermont provides a state support grant  for 87% of the base educational cost, leaving the cost for one full-time student at  $5,960.

    • Doug Heavisides shares the maximum number of students the center can support is around 400 and next year’s enrollment is projected to be 362 students. Last year the center had the most applications in 7-8 years. Tom DeBalsi points out that the high enrollment is occurring even with a smaller population of students. Kevin Christie credits this to the great work the tech center is doing with the community and building relationships. Doug Heavisides thanks Kevin Christie for his comments, expressing how great the students, staff, and community are.

    • The board thanks Doug Heavisides for his work and his time.  

  • Food Service Contract Renewal

    • Jim Vezina explains that the school district has a 5 year contract with Cafe Services. The district is required to reauthorize the contract each year by the state.

    • Peter Merrill moves to meet state requirements by signing the authorization to continue the 5 year contract. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (3 yes, 0  no).

    • The board thanks Jim Vezina for his work.

  • 2016-17 Calendar – Final Draft

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that the draft calendar was sent to all staff, administrators, sending schools and collaborative schools for input, and asks for approval of the calendar.

    • Peter Merrill moves to adopt the school calendar for the 2016-2017 academic year. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (3 yes, 0  no).

  • Town/School Meeting Schedule

    • Tom DeBalsi shares future meeting dates with the board:

      • Regular Board Meeting (January 13)

      • First Public Hearing on Charter Amendments (January 19)

      • Regular Board Meeting (January 27)

      • Town and School Budget Discussion Night (February 8 at the Town Hall)

      • First Public Bond Hearing (February 16)

      • Budget Discussion/Candidates Night (February 22 in the auditorium)

      • Community Day/Roundtable Discussion, Discussion on Second Public Bond Hearing, Second Public Hearing on Charter Amendments (February 27)

      • Regular Board Meeting (March 9)

      • Australian Ballot/Election Day (March 1)

      • Regular Board Meeting (March 23)

      • Floor Meeting (March 26 in the gym)

  • Subcommittee/Liaison Reports

    • Policy

      • Peter Merrill reports that the committee has finished the policy around hazing. There was a short pause taken between procedure discussion to talk about code of ethics, reviewing the language. He would like to wait to discuss this until the new school board member is present.

    • Negotiations

      • Lori Dickerson reports that they successfully have a two-year contract with the support staff and are going through the ratification process.  A fact finder still needs to be found for the teacher negotiations.

    • Consolidation

      • Kevin Christie reports that as a result of Peter Merrill’s concept presented last meeting, Tom DeBalsi has written a draft letter, extending invitation to potential consolidation partners.

      • Peter Merrill mentions that only considering partners from Vermont districts is highly limiting and that the committee is looking at New Hampshire districts as partners, too. This idea goes beyond the scope of Act 46 to make partnerships for inclusion and for working together to reduce costs as well as increase offerings to students.

      • Kevin Christie explains that the committee met with the Hartland board on Monday, who extended the opportunity to be on their study committee. There is a Norwich group meeting next Wednesday, which the committee will join.



6.  Incidental Information

  • Tom DeBalsi shares that next Wednesday is a special meeting of the school board for the new board candidate interviews.

  • Luke LaFountaine speaks to events occurring at the high school: a group of students in Spanish will take a trip to Nicaragua next fall, there is a student-led petition to ban backpack speakers without headphones in the hallway, there is a music department concert next Monday at 7 pm, and the musical production Spam-a-lot was very successful with 3 sold out nights. Madelyn Koff adds that the winter sport season has started and track has their first meet on Saturday.

  • Lori Dickerson asks when Tom DeBalsi brings forth information about the principal searches to have the students provide feedback. She also asks that the student representatives are added to the committee report section on the agenda.

  • Discussion of Future Items for Board Consideration

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that the board will sign the support staff contract next meeting if the contract is approved this Friday night.

    • Lori Dickerson would like a future report to keep the board/public updated on the hiring process for the two principals.

    • Tom DeBalsi mentions that the board auditor has the preliminary report to be discussed during the January meeting.

7.  Adjournment

8:57 pm Peter Merrill moves to adjourn. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (3 yes, 0  no).

Draft Respectfully Submitted 12/12/15
Hannah Prescott