July 19, 2019

HSB Meeting Minutes January 13, 2016

DATE: 01-15-2016

Hartford Board of School Directors
Special School Board Meeting Agenda
January 13, 2016 @ 7:00 pm
The Getaway Dining Room at the HACTC/HHS

Board Members Present: Lori Dickerson, Paula Nulty, Russell North, Kevin Christie (on speaker phone), Peter Merrill (arrived late)

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Noel Bryant, Jim Vezina

Student Representatives: Madelyn Koff, Luke LaFountaine

1.  Call to Order: Lori Dickerson calls the meeting to order at 7:01  pm.

2.  Consent Agenda:

  • Minutes - Regular Meeting 12-16-2015: No changes made

  • Minutes - Special Meeting 12-28-2015: No changes made
  • Accept Resignations and Appointments: None

  • Paula Nulty moves to accept the agenda as presented. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion ( 4 yes,  0 no).

3. Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda:

  • Tom DeBalsi explains that the financial audit report will be tabled for the next meeting.

  • Paula Nulty moves to accept the agenda with the tabling of financial audit report. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (4 yes,  0 no).

4.   Public Comments relative to items not on the Agenda:

  • Joyce Leamey has been an HSD employee for 30 years, lived in Wilder for 32 years, and has 3 children who are Hartford graduates. She has a strong connection to town and district. Lately, she has seen the pride that she feels for the district and the respect from the district eroding on all fronts, which causes concern. She is concerned the teachers are viewed as the scapegoats in the negotiation process. She would like there to be a fact finder selected soon so the two parties can come back to the table to negotiate.

  • Thatcher Hinman, a HHS teacher, expresses confusion over the fact that if the negotiation issue is monetary, why there has been an approved 5% increase for salaries this year. Tom DeBalsi clarifies that the board hasn’t settled on the percentage increase in salaries yet.

  • Carol Lane, a resident of Hartford and retired Hartford teacher, is disturbed that the school board hasn’t come back to negotiate with the teachers when she thinks about the hard work of the teachers in the district. She encourages the board to get back to the table as soon as possible.

  • Jeff Arnold, a Hartford resident, is concerned about the lack of a contract and would like to see it resolved. He shares math around teachers’ benefits, comparing it to benefits of the other individuals in the workforce. He was curious if the survey has been completed for the coaches. In response to a question about the hiring of the principals, Tom DeBalsi clarifies that the superintendent nominates the candidate that has been selected by the search committee, and the board can choose to meet the finalists, especially during the site visit by the finalists. Jeff Arnold expresses that he would like to see the objectives used in the superintendent’s evaluation be more public.

  • Lori Dickerson responds to the teachers’ comments that the board is holding up the fact finding, feeling that the facts are being inaccurately portrayed. When the negotiations went to impasse in February, the school board attorney sent multiple emails to the negotiation team without movement forward from teachers. For the meeting in August, the teachers asked the board to consider changing the date and the board agreed. The two parties met in mediation, which was unfruitful, and the school board’s attorney is part of the process to choose a fact finder agreeable to both the teachers and the board.

5.   Items Requiring Board Discussion and Possible Action:

  • FY 17 Budget

    • Jim Vezina explains some of the main drivers in the budget. The district is in the second year of the administrator contract and the cost of that second year is $37,000. The support staff just settled a two year contract last month, which will cost $87,000 next year.

    • There is an $595,000 expense for teachers’ salaries, but one has to be careful how that value is interpreted. That value is a placeholder and is not the exact number since step changes occur and new teachers may be hired.

      • Lori Dickerson clarifies that even though teacher don’t currently have a contract, those that were due to receive a step increase still received it. Tom DeBalsi adds that the increase occurred if a teacher moved columns, but there wasn’t an  increase in a cost of living value.

    • Other expenses are athletics (including the custodial expenses), special education assistive computer technology, summer maintenance,  computer equipment, which is down $10,000, and contracted services. There has been a $55,000 reduction for Clara Martin based on the needs of the students. The heating and air for the school buildings can be controlled digitally and the systems can be fine- tuned each year.

    • The new fitness center has expenses of $10,000, which represents equipment adjustments and custodial services. Paula Nulty questions why those custodial services were not lumped into the athletic/custodial costs. Jim Vezina explains that he differentiates those custodians for the fitness center from those who are at the games.

    • Facility repairs have been reduced  by $100,000. Tom DeBalsi explains that the district has done a lot of catchup work and therefores sees this as a place to reduce expenses since the budget is tight. Lori Dickerson is concerned that putting off repairs will lead to the need for bigger renovations and repairs in the future.

    • Jim Vezina explains that there is typically a 3-4% increase in insurance expenses; however, this year there was almost an 8% increase.

    • In terms of reductions, interest is down 20% and the bond bank renegotiated one of the bonds, which brought down the cost. There has been a $20,000 reduction in “Other” expenses. Paula Nulty requests a list of what the “Other” category is comprised of.

    • Retirement teacher payout has increased $41,000 and it appears that both expenses for payout and health insurance will increase in the future.

    • In terms of revenue, there is $823,019 in the cash fund balance.

    • For assessment expenses, Noel Bryant explains that the district is working on implementing a consistent district-wide assessment called STAR to gather data on the students from kindergarten to 11th grade. The MAP test had been used as a local assessment, but the data wasn’t approachable or aligned to standards. The assessments, which begin next year, are online, brief, for grades 3rd-11th, and will generate more useable data.This data would be used for action planning in regards to shaping curriculum and determining professional development needs.  The upfront costs are substantial but drop to $10,000  next year after the setup fees. The STAR assessment is less expensive than the MAP assessment and can be administered more frequently to monitor progress. Also, the state is embarking on a new assessment system that leans heavily on local assessments and the district is preparing for that change.

    • Tom DeBalsi asks the board what homestead tax percentage increase the board is comfortable presenting to the taxpayers, knowing that the capital debt can be excluded. The board discusses that a 3% tax increase would be agreeable and would also like to see what the numbers look like for a 2% tax increase in order to compare.

    • Kevin Christie proposes that the board moves the budget process forward  by asking the superintendent and business manager to bring back draft documents to model a 3% tax rate increase on line 28 and a 2% tax increase for comparison. Peter Merrill seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5 yes, 0  no).

    • The board thanks Jim Vezina for his hard work.

  • Charter Amendments

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that the school board is concerned with the town’s article 14 (article 3 for the board) and the draft warning, which focuses on the way that the school budget is presented. The new model is on the warning page and is phrased differently.

    • Peter Merrill moves to accept the draft warning for annual school district meeting. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion ( 5 yes, 0  no).

  • Town/School Report - Introductory Letter

    • Lori Dickerson explains that Tom DeBalsi has crafted the letter for the board for the past 3 years and it came to her attention that the letter should be from the board, not the superintendent. Peter Merrill volunteers to help craft the letter with Tom DeBalsi.

  • Board Code of Ethics

    • Peter Merrill explains that there was a period of time when the board would sign a document to show acceptance of the rules by which the board operates. Wanting to make people aware of the expectations of behavior and conduct, the policy sub- committee came up with a code of ethics, choosing to reference the policies rather than state them verbatim. He also explains that it is the obligation of board members to  support the board’s decision once a vote has been taken and final decision made.

    • Paula Nulty finds the wording of the code of ethics different from what she expected, and she would like to incorporate what the policy committee feels should be included for the next meeting.

    • Peter Merrill moves to extend this discussion until the next regularly scheduled meeting. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion ( 5 yes, 0 no).

  • Final Calendar 2016-17

    • Tom DeBalsi explains that January 2 is a federal legal holiday and that adding that day to the Winter Break was an easy fix that not only balanced the quarters but also didn’t push the year into another week.

    • Peter Merrill moves to accept the amended calendar. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5  yes,  0 no).

  • Subcommittee/Liaison Reports

    • Student Board Representative

      • Madelyn Koff shares that the application process for the service trip to Nicaragua has started and that German exchange students will be visiting from May 7-22. The boys’ 4x4 team also set a school record in indoor track.  Luke LaFountaine shares that the money raised during an advisory penny war will be donated to charities of advisories’ choosing. Also, rehearsals for the the North Country Community Theater began and there are 13 HHS students in the cast. The high school students are wrapping up finals week.

      • Lori Dickerson asks if the students have any concerns about the budget. Madelyn Koff states that she is concerned about money being taken away from opportunities for students.

      • Luke LaFountaine expresses his concern that students are already over tested in response to learning about the new STAR assessment. Noel Bryant and Tom DeBalsi explain that this assessment would be attached to standards and would show growth and highlight areas of improvement. Not having comparable data currently creates difficulty in making decisions and showing growth to stakeholders.  Peter Merrill adds that teachers and programs are being assessed, not students.

    • Policy

      • Peter Merrill reports that the committee met yesterday and worked on procedures for carrying out the hazing, harassment, and bullying policy.

    • Negotiations

      • Lori Dickerson reports that the committee is still waiting on a fact finder.

    • Consolidation

      • Kevin Christie reports that since the other groups didn’t hold additional meetings over break, he hopes that discussion will be continuing shortly. Tom DeBalsi shares that he has had 6 responses to the invitation to an informal partnership meeting on 1/28 at the high school to have a conversation about how the districts might work together on consolidation issues.

    • HCC

      • Peter Merrill reports that the committee has a goal statement around making sure that people are fully reaching their potential (emotionally, professionally, etc.) in the community. At the meeting, they spent time discussing ways to actually measure attempts to achieve those goals, looking at items such as whether or not high students thought they were important to the community, poverty rates for the town, town demographics, and substance abuse (binge drinking) for adults and teenagers. The committee will narrow their focus soon.

    • Charter

      • Lori Dickerson explains that the idea arose about having community members be a subcommittee because board members have so many meetings to attend. An idea is to have a community member join the charter committee as a regular.

6.  Incidental Information

  • Discussion of Future Items for Board Consideration

    • Paula Nulty visited the Wilder School and would like to give an update.

  • Proposed Meeting Schedule

    • Tom DeBalsi proposes an additional meeting next Wednesday (1/20) to focus on budget discussions, thinking that waiting until the regularly scheduled meeting on 1/27 would be cutting it close to the deadline. All of the board members are in agreement.

9:53 pm Peter Merrill moves to go into the executive session to discuss the superintendent’s contract and HAA agreement provision. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion (5 yes,  0 no).

9: 54 pm Peter Merrill moves that the board enter executive session. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal votes passes the motion ( 5 yes, 0  no).

7.  Executive Session to discuss the Superintendent’s Contract and HAA Agreement Provision

8.  Adjournment

10:25 pm The board came out of executive session at 10:25. Peter Merrill made a motion to extend the superintendent's contract for 4 years. Kevin Christie seconded. A verbal vote passed the motion (4 yes, 1 no).

10:30 pm Peter Merrill motioned to adjourn. Russell North  seconded.

Draft respectfully submitted 1/15/16

Hannah Prescott