July 16, 2019

HSB Meeting Minutes December 16, 2015

DATE: 12-20-2015

Hartford Board of School Directors
Special School Board Meeting Agenda
December 16, 2015 @ 7:00 pm
The Getaway Dining Room at the HACTC/HHS

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

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi

Student Representatives: Luke LaFountaine, Madelyn Koff

1.  Call to Order: Lori Dickerson calls the meeting to order at 7:00  pm.

2.  Consent Agenda;

  • Minutes - Regular Meeting 12-9-2015

    • Peter Merrill moves to accept the consent agenda with two revisions as amended. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  

3.  Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda:

  • Lori Dickerson would like to interview the candidates and then deliberate in an executive session in order to be able to invite the new board member to join the board for the rest of the meeting.

  • Peter Merrill moves to approve the agenda as amended. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  

4.   Public Comments relative to items not on the Agenda

  • Jeff Arnold, a Hartford resident, brings attention to the step increases in salary and is curious why negotiated staff increases are not calculated into those step increases. He sees that with that increase the step increase would then be above the rates of other areas. Peter Merrill points out that the district likes to reward more experienced and better educated teachers. Tom DeBalsi explains that a pay raise doesn’t get applied across the board to every step increase and Peter Merrill adds that the money can be allocated differently within the step increase amounts. Lori Dickerson states that after negotiations are complete there can be further explanation about the step increases and how the money was distributed.

  • Jeff Arnold expresses that he is waiting for a coach evaluation. Tom DeBalsi explains that Joe James is in charge of the coach evaluation, creating a survey for additional input from parents and students, and a code of conduct, which will be looked at during the first school board meeting in January.  

5.   Items Requiring Board Discussion and Possible Action

  • Approval of Final Draft and Signing of 2015 - 2017 Support Staff Agreement

    • Peter Merrill moves to approve the support staff agreement for the 2015-2017 term. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  

    • Cheryl French signs on behalf of the support staff.

  • School Board Vacancy - Candidate Interviews and Appointment

    • Russell North, a certified public accountant, owns a local tax practice. He has lived in White River Junction for  2 ½ years and has children in the school  district. He has been a chair in Ira and on the supervisory union school board, has past experience with school funding, presenting budgets, and dealing with complaints about tax rates. He believes that his familiarity with the accounting systems will make him an effective board member.  

      • Peter Merrills asks why Russell North is interested in the position and what he believes his role on the board will be. Russell North states that he wants to ensure his children’s educational experience prepares them for life after school. The experience of having educators as parents has given him a different perspective than most, knowing that teachers and administrators work hard. He wants to give back and views his role as an advocate for the students in the school to make sure that their needs are being met.

      • Paula Nulty asks if there is anything that he sees as exceptional and problematic within the district.  Russell North explains that he sees the various educational opportunities available as a plus and a marketing tool. An area for improvement that he sees is increased coordination between the schools.  Parents shouldn’t have to choose between which child’s event to watch. Paula Nulty expresses her appreciation for his presence at previous meetings.

      • Russell North explains that since he is the accountant for many individuals and businesses in the area, he chose to disclose this potential conflict of interest to Tom DeBalsi earlier. He is aware that there may be some situations where he must excuse himself from a vote due to that.

      • Kevin Christie addresses the time commitments for committees Russell North would be asked to serve on and Russell North explains that he  recognizes the responsibilities that are a part of the school board. He wanted to be up to date for the coming March election, had already been attending school board meetings, and is aware of what the position entails.

    • Linda James applied for the position out of a sense of service to the HSD and community. Having lived in Hartford for 19 years with children, godchildren, and now grandchildren attending Hartford schools, she has a clear sense of how the community and schools operate. She is a proud member of the Hartford community and has been a social worker for 35 years, working with families and children. A large part of her job is active listening in order to develop solutions with the outcome of positive social growth. As a manager of the DCF offices for 9 years, she  manages 22 staff and a budget of over $2 million, and has lots of human resource experience.

    • Peter Merrill asks what Linda James sees as her role on the board. Linda James points out that while she has not attended the meetings on a regular basis, she is a  quick learner and good listener. With her strong connections in the community, she has avenues to obtain information in order to be able to contribute effectively and quickly.

    • Paula Nulty asks if there were any programs that were in place when Linda James’ children were in school that could be restarted or should be continued.  Linda James expresses concern about the dropping enrollment, which impacts sports and the ability for schools to offer various clubs. She is excited about consolidation because of opportunities. Through her position, she meets with teachers continuously, seeing first hand that the district does a good job of supporting the needs of students and she would like to see this continue.

    • Kevin Christie asks about the ability to commit to extra duties that come with the positions and Linda James expresses that she is fully aware of and capable of meeting those time commitments.

    • Lori Dickerson wonders if Linda James is considering the position as a stepping stone or is testing the waters. Linda James explains that she wanted to see how her skills fit with the position and  is not making plans past the interim position.

    • Madelyn Koff asks what impact Linda James can have on student life.  Linda James explains that many students in the district are in foster care, struggling with unique challenges. They  need real special supports and she has a perspective on what those needs are, where they are being met well, and where more support might be needed.

  • Nancy Russell, who owns a local childcare center that serves 32 children, has a daughter teaching in the district and 3 grandchildren attending school here.  She has experience serving on boards as she is on the board of directors that prevents child abuse as the secretary and developmental chair. She does the audit for Prevent Child Abuse America that is due every year, which explains how their programs are working and how they can be improved. She was an instrumental part of getting Hartford's restorative justice center organized and is active with the Rotary Club. As  46% of the children at her childcare center are in the DCF care and many parents are on subsidy, she is well aware of what is happening in the community and the schools. With the open position on the board, she sees the chance to carry on her community service.

    • Peter Merrill asks what Nancy Russell sees as her role on the board. Since she would be new to the board, Nancy Russell knows that she would be able to bring a fresh look and issues.   

    • Kevin Christie asks about Nancy Russell’s ability to meet the time commitments, and she expresses that she has a clear understanding of the time and energy commitments since she has been on a number of boards in the past.  

    • Madelyn Koff asks what Nancy Russell brings to the board that would benefit students. Nancy Russell explains that through the Rotary Club there are several fundraisers and the profits all go back to the local high schools through scholarships. She believes that she could have a positive influence to raise more funds and increase student involvement. For the Polar Express, she was in charge of organizing volunteers, many of whom were from local high schools. Paula Nulty praises that Rotary Club for the positive involvement with Hartford students.

    • Lori Dickerson asks if Nancy Russell has long term plans to be a part of the board. Although she hasn’t served in this capacity before, Nancy Russell expresses that she would consider sticking with the position if she is able to be a benefit to students and the school system.


7:59 pm Peter Merrill moves to have an executive session to discuss the nominees for the school board position. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  

7:59 pm Peter Merrill  moves to enter executive session. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no). Peter Merrill, Lori Dickerson, Kevin Christie, Paula Nulty, and Tom DeBalsi enter executive session.

8:19 pm  Peter Merrill  moves to come out of executive session. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).

Peter Merrill thanks Nancy Russell, Russell North, and Linda James for their civic involvement and that they volunteered to take on such a task. All three are highly qualified and the board would have been quite happy with any one of them. Although it was a difficult decision, Peter Merrill moves to vote Russell North in as the new board member. Kevin Christie seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  

  • Charter Discussion Amendment and Approval

    • Lori Dickerson and Paula Nulty explain that there will be a town meeting style gathering for comments and questions around the budgets and then an Australian ballot vote. If the school or town budget fails, there will another public forum for concerns from community, followed later by a second Australian ballot. If the school or town budget fails again, then there is an automatic default to the same budget that was approved the prior year.

    • Lori Dickerson points out that the meetings provide a forum for community members to express what they dislike about the budget. She mentions that due to contractual obligations and healthcare increases that the board has no control over, severe cuts would have to occur if the budget does not pass.

    • Paula Nulty and Lori Dickerson present that the old verbiage in the town charter gave the appearance that the board had to present the rejected budget again and the committee wants to strike that language since it is already in the state statute. (It is up to the board which budget is shown.) Lori Dickerson needs to know if the board supports this change.  

    • Peter Merrill recognizes that this situation is the result of compromise since the town has grown in population, making it increasingly difficult to hold onto the tradition of town meeting. Although it is will a sense of loss that the community is moving away from one of the last remaining pieces of direct participatory democracy, he believes this change is the appropriate choice as all community members now have a chance to vote.

    • Kevin Christie points out that the timing for absentee ballots needs to be looked at so that there is adequate time for the mail to get back from overseas.

    • Paula Nulty moves that the board supports the amendment to the charter for a community meeting, an Australian ballot, another community meeting if the budget fails, followed by a second Australian ballot. Lori Dickerson seconds.  A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).  

  • Subcommittee/Liaison Report

    • Student Board Representatives

      • Luke LaFountaine shares that the high school music department concert had one of the best attendance rates in recent years. Seniors are starting to hear if they have been accepted into colleges.  There is a lot of activity in school advisories  with student council collecting gifts for the Christmas Project to support less fortunate children in the area and Mitchel Moore’s advisory held a sock drive for the Haven.

      • Madelyn Koff shares that the music department went to see Mary Poppins at the Northern Stage. There are also basketball and hockey games this week.  Seniors presented their capstone project proposals. Paula Nulty adds that she learned any student can now complete a capstone project without being in the honors program.

      • The board thanks the student representatives.

    • Policy

      • Peter Merrill shares that the committee met, has finished the policy around hazing and bullying, and took a sidestep to discuss the code of conduct, which will be presented at the next meeting

    • Negotiations

      • Lori Dickerson shares that the attorney has been in contact with VT-NEA, there has been no fact finder located yet,  but that the board signed one contract tonight.

    • Consolidation

      • Kevin Christie met with the study group comprised of Norwich, Sharon, Thetford, and Stafford today. A former superintendent from Dresden is the consultant. The committee is discussing the  proposed set of articles of agreement that the consultant will be putting together. The district is in a unique situation since there are only two multistate districts.

      • Peter Merrill requests an update on status of the letter from the superintendent.  Tom DeBalsi explains that the board needs to select a date for other districts to join sometime in January.

    • HCC

      • Lori Dickerson shares that the committee is meeting tomorrow afternoon. The committee is working on figuring what the metric is that will allow them to to find reliable data that asks the same questions year after year. They will limit the metric to 10 and then there will be a quarterly meeting for the community to weigh in.

    • Select Board

      • Russell North accepts his position on the Select Board.

    • HACTC – RAB

      • Paula Nulty mentions that she is  thrilled to see Doug Heavisides as one of the administrators in the search committee for the new principals.


6.  Incidental Information

  • Hartford Middle School and High School Principal Search Committee - Overview

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that for principal searches the district does not hire consultants.There is a combined search committee being formed so that the same members will be part of the hiring process for both new principals.

    • Tom DeBalsi shares that he already met with both the middle school and high school staff to obtain information about the qualities desired in the new principal for the respective buildings. This information is used as the foundation for the advertisement, which will be posted on SchoolSpring. Search team members are now being recruited. There will be 2 professional staff from each building, 1 special educator with experience in both buildings, 2 support staff members, 2 parents, and 2 district administrators on the committee.

    • In the week of January 4-11, the formed committee will discuss the search process, refine expectations/characteristics for each position, design a screening tool, and discuss first round interview questions for each position based on those criteria established.

    • In the week of January 18-25,  the committee will review and rate applicants, later scheduling interviews with the selected applicants.

    • In the week of January 25 - February 1, the committee will conduct the first round of interviews and discuss which applicants to interview for a second round. There will be reference checks and the finalists will be notified.

    • During the week of February 8, the finalists’ interviews will be held, and there will be a community forum as well as a school visit.  The committee will review feedback sheets from the forums and site visits to an applicant’s current school may be arranged. The committee will select the new principals and contracts will be negotiated.  

    • During the week of February 15, the principals will be announced and nominated during the February school board meeting.

    • Paula Nulty understands that the search is organized in this manner to be more efficient and have all stakeholders represented, but wonders why there are fewer community members involved. Tom DeBalsi explains that those with the knowledge about expertise needed are the teachers and that many teachers are community members too.  Tom DeBalsi explains that the principals work for the superintendent and that any issues from the community go through him.

    • Madelyn Koff proposes using a Monday Meeting to introduce the finalists to the student body and wonders if there are other avenues for student involvement. Luke LaFountaine suggests that they create an optional survey for students to complete to obtain student feedback. Madelyn Koff and Luke LaFountaine plan to create this survey with support from Tom DeBalsi.

  • Discussion of Future Items for Board Consideration

    • Peter Merrill would like to discuss the code of conduct.

    • Tom DeBalsi shares that the board’s auditor will be at the next meeting to discuss findings.

    • Tom DeBalsi reminds the board that they need to determine what percent of increase they would like to see presented to taxpayers and the the board has to vote on the budget.

    • Madelyn Koff would like to have those involved in a student-led compost initiative about compost present at a future meeting.

  • Upcoming Meeting Schedule

    • Tom DeBalsi wonders if the board would consider meeting before the town meetings instead of the two regular meetings in February. The board will consider the changes, but Lori Dickerson expresses concern about not being able to  complete all of the necessary business.

7.  Executive Session to discuss a personnel record and a student safety concern

9:41 pm Peter Merrill moves that the board have an executive session to discuss a personnel record and a student safety concen. Paula Nulty seconds.  A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).  

9: 41 pm Peter Merrill moves to have the executive session. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).  

8.  Adjournment

There was no action taken during executive session.

10:10 Peter Merrill moved to adjourn executive session. Paula Nulty seconded. A unanimous verbal votes passed the motion (5 yes, 0 no).  

Draft respectfully submitted 12/20/15

Hannah Prescott