July 18, 2019

HSB Meeting Minutes February 24, 2016

DATE: 02-28-2016

Hartford Board of School Directors
School Board Meeting Agenda
February 24, 2016 @ 6:30 pm
 HACTC/HHS Getaway Dining Room

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

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Noel Bryant

Student Representatives: Madelyn Koff

1.  Call to Order: Lori Dickerson calls the meeting to order at 6:30 pm.

Peter Merrill moves to hold an executive session to negotiate or secure a real estate purchase or lease option. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

Peter Merrill moves to enter into executive session. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

2. Executive Session will be needed to negotiate or secure a real estate purchase or lease option

7:10 pm Peter Merrill moves to exit the executive session. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

No action was taken during executive session.

3.  Consent Agenda

  • Minutes - Regular Meeting 1-27-2016

  • Special School Board/Select Board Budget Hearing 2-8-2016

  • Accept Resignations and Appointments

    • Tom DeBalsi informs the board that Neal Cronce, a special educator at HMMS, has resigned. The board expresses their thanks to Neal Cronce for his work.  Cathleen Herrick has been hired to fill that position. Miranda Miller has been hired to replace Heather Baker-Morris, who is on maternity leave, at HMMS.

    • Peter Merrill moves to accept the consent agenda with the 1/27/2016 meeting minutes adjusted. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

4.   Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda

  • Tom DeBalsi suggests that the principal search process item is moved from incidental information to the start of the agenda. It is suggested that all of the incidental items be advanced to the front of the agenda

  • Peter Merrill moves to accept the agenda with the changes. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

5.   Public Comments relative to items not on the Agenda

  • Nicole Vielleux, a DBS teacher for 9 years and the current HEA president, urges taxpayers to approve the budget. Students will be the ones who suffer if further cuts are made and the district’s students deserve great programs with dynamic teachers. She also urges the board to reach a fair settlement with teaching staff. Even though the teachers have had no contract since July, they have remained dedicated to the students and district. She recognizes the need to keep Hartford vibrant, acknowledging that other close districts steal teachers away, robbing students of great teachers and the district of institutional knowledge. She views the passing of this budget as a mutual commitment of the board and teachers. Lori Dickerson thanks the teachers for their attendance and the sentiment expressed; she agrees that all of the parties need to work together to pass the budget, which cannot be cut further.

6.  Incidental Information

  • Community Forums for Middle (2/29/2016) and High School (3/2/2016) Principal Selection Process

    • Tom DeBalsi is thankful to the search committee. He outlines the search process, which began with faculty at HMMS and HHS determining the traits each respective faculty was looking for in their next leader. Those traits, as well as the six administrator standards, were utilized  by the search committee to develop questions for each standard. After reviewing over 25 applicants, the committee narrowed down the pool to four candidates for each position, who were interviewed. After the first round, there were two finalists selected for each position by the committee. The next step the committee decided on was the community forum format where the finalists will present to each of the stakeholder groups (students, faculty/staff, parents/community members). After each forum, there will be grading sheets for the audience members to provide the committee with more information.

    • While there were two finalists for the high school position, one candidate has recently dropped out, accepting another position. Tom DeBalsi acknowledges that people like having choice; however, there is a commitment to the remaining finalist, Nelson Fogg. He feels that the next proper step is holding the forum with Mr. Fogg. With positive feedback, the process would continue forward. If the feedback is negative, then there are a few options the district has: appoint an interim principal, reopen the search, or put the finalist through additional scrutiny. Tom DeBalsi looks for feedback from the board about this idea and the process.

    • Evan Ellerson, a HHS teacher and parent of HHS students, was on the search committee. He explains that all of the candidates were put through an identical process and feels very strongly that to reopen the search just for a choice would be irrational. Although the committee carefully went through the candidates’ materials, coming up came up with two best candidates, he feels that the better of the two candidates is Nelson Fogg. The school needs someone who is knowledgeable, devoted to the school system, and not just motivated to be a principal but to move the high school forward.

      • Peter Merrill asks why the third ranked candidate will not become the second finalist. Evan Ellerson responds that the most viable candidates were selected as finalists and the other individuals were clearly not at the same level as the top two choices.

      • Paula Nulty wonders with the dearth of qualified applicants if the committee considered extending the searches. Tom DeBalsi replies that the search lasted two months, with some extension, with the district accepting  applicants until the beginning of February. Lori Dickerson adds that extending the search doesn’t necessarily mean more applicants due to the time period most individuals interested in administrative positions are looking.  

    • Ganga Hematillake, who has children in all levels of HSD schools, shares that this was one of the best conducted searches that he has seen. The committee spent hours screening candidates and applications to select four individuals for each position to interview. Since the interviews were conducted on the same day, drawing comparisons was easier. The two candidates picked for the HHS position were the best and Nelson Fogg is clearly the top choice. As a physician and chief of staff at the White River VA Hospital, Mr. Hematillake shares that the hospital has hired 500 employees, most of whom have children; it is important to attract qualified workers and good schools are a contributing factor.  

    • Tom DeBalsi names and thanks those on the search committee. Lori Dickerson thanks the committee for their hard work.

    • Paula Nulty is curious why it was hard to find many qualified applicants. Kevin Christie shares that the Vermont Principals’ Association and the Vermont Superintendents’ Association have been working together to develop new recruiting strategies. Many principals are retiring and it is not a field younger individuals are entering.

    • Tom DeBalsi wants to ensure that the board is comfortable with the process used for the selection of the finalists, sharing that the process was thorough and transparent.  He invites the board members to the forums on next Monday and Wednesday. Peter Merrill finds the process exemplary and Russell North appreciates the hard work involved in the exhaustive process. Kevin Christie supports the process used, which has been fine-tuned throughout the years to  garner what the district is looking for.  Paula Nulty appreciates the work from the committee and while Lori Dickerson shares that having the two committee members share their opinion has made her feel comfortable with the decision and the process.  Noel Bryant shares that she was impressed with the process and doesn’t see any benefit from postponement.

  • Discussion of Future Items for Board Consideration

    • Paula Nulty would like to share about her visit to the Wilder School.

7.   Items Requiring Board Discussion and Possible Action

  • Facilities Planning

    • Tom DeBalsi reminds the board that a $100,000 reduction has been made to the facility repair budget. With $200,000 left and some projects that the district is committed to doing,  David Laurin, the architect for renovations in the district, shares the options for how to spend that money.

    • Regional Resource Center Renovation

      • Tom DeBalsi explains that there is still $150,000 in repairs left for the RRC. David Laurin displays the blueprint of the RCC, pointing out that transforming the storage area into a classroom space is something that could be done during the school year.  

      • Tom DeBalsi adds that the  kitchen still needs to be repaired and that there are many prospective students who would like to attend but the RCC simply doesn’t have the space. The students in attendance are special education students, but the district is not able to spend special education funds on facilities. Peter Merrill wonders is there is any chance of arguing with AOE by illustrating how spreading the cost of collaborative improvements would benefit the students.

      • Mary Bouchard, a teacher at the RCC, shares that the conditions her students are learning in are substandard; the rooms are small with no windows, which is unlike the spaces other high school students are taught in. There is a sense of urgency since the RCC held off accepting two students with wheelchairs because of the lack of space and has since had two more students in wheelchairs apply, for a total of six students with wheelchairs next year. The RCC needs the OT/PT space. The RCC can’t deny students who need the space and their expertise as they are the only facility for their students in the Upper Valley; however, if the storage room is not up and ready as a useable space, the RCC will have to turn away those students.

      • Peter Merrill expresses that these renovations are the obligation of the community in order to take care of those who need those services.  

    • Middle School Rear Railing Repair

      • Tom DeBalsi shares that the railing is hazardous and that if parking lot needs to be fixed, the railing reparation would have to happen prior to the paving.  David Laurin explains that this repair would fit into the budget with the RRC renovations.

    • Peter Merrill motions to approve the superintendent’s suggestion that the FY 2017 budget for facility improvement be used on those two projects. Russell North seconds.  A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

    • White River School Phase 2

      • Tom DeBalsi explains that there was not enough time last summer to complete all of the renovations at WRS. With the remainder of the bond proceeds, there is enough money to complete the renovation. David Laurin details the remaining projects:  adding insulation and new shingles on the original section of the building, reinforcing the roof, fixing the ramp down into the cafeteria, fixing peeling/rotten trim work, fixing the ceiling at the old entryway, fixing rotten pillars, and changing the rest of the flooring from carpet to tile.

      • The board thanks David Laurinn for his work and time.

  • Board Member Code of Conduct/Oath of Office

    • Tom DeBalsi found out that members should be sworn in and there is no stipulation on who can do so. The board agrees that taking the oath of office and signing the code of conduct will be done annually during the reorganization process. The board also agrees to title the code of conduct document the “Hartford Code for School Board Members.”

    • The entire board takes the oath of office.

  • Use of Town Hall for School Board Meetings

    • Tom DeBalsi shares that the school board has been offered to host their meetings at the Town Hall. Lori Dickerson explains that since CATV is hardwired in there, the sound and video quality are better; also, the space is larger. Peter Merrill likes the symbolism of meeting in the school and wonders if it will be harder for student members to attend. Tom DeBalsi is also concerned about the perceived lack of accessibility to the staff. Paula Nulty and Russell North acknowledge that if the new location doesn’t work for the board, the meetings can always be switched back to the school.

    • Paula Nulty moves that Tom DeBalsi look into scheduling future meetings school board meeting at the Hartford Town Hall. Russell North seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

  • Subcommittee/Liaison Reports

    • Student Representatives

      • Madelyn Koff shares that the winter sport seasons are wrapping up with the hockey playoff that night. Also, the debate team won the state debate finals this year.

      • Tom DeBalsi reports that the students will have their own principal search forum during H block. Luke LaFountaine helped prepare a survey for the students and the students developed their own questions for the forum. At the middle school, HMMS student council forum will be held at 1:30 pm.  

    • Policy

      • Peter Merrill reports that the committee last met in late January and they continue to work on the harassment, bullying, and hazing policy. With the large gap between meetings, one member agreed to take it home and edit the policy, which should be complete at the next meeting.

    • Negotiations

      • Lori Dickerson is happy to announce that fact finding will start on 3/29 at 1 pm. The fact finder has been agreed upon by both parties and will be give data by both parties. He will report back to the committee within 30 days; within 10 days, there must be a meeting set up to discuss the findings.

    • Consolidation

      • Peter Merrill shares that there had been no action since the various members from surrounding school districts met. Tom DeBalsi reports that the superintendents will be meeting after the next regional advisory meeting for the tech center to discuss ways to partner together.

    • HCC

      • Lori Dickerson reports that the “turning the curve” meeting will be on Friday from 6-8 pm at the Vermont state offices.

      • Paula Nulty shared that the HCC had two open gyms during break with a good turnout each night.

    • Select Board

      • Rebecca White reports that they are close to hiring a new town manager, and she thanks the board for attending the joint meeting and candidates night.  

      • She is also going to be the liaison to the Energy Committee for the school board, adding a topic that she will report on. The town has recently hired an energy consultant, who will create an overview energy plan to improve how energy is used in the community. The selectboard is curious if the school is interested in  being a part of that consultant’s work. Tom DeBalsi replies that he is open to new ideas and has been in discussion with different companies about solar energy on rooftops.

    • HACTC – RAB

      • Paula Nulty shares that there is an upcoming meeting on 3/15.


9:05 Peter Merrill moves to hold an executive session to discuss the employment or evaluation of public officer or employee. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

9:05 Peter Merrill moves to enter into executive session. Paula Nulty seconds. A unanimous verbal voice passes the motion (5 yes, 0 no).

8. Executive Session will be needed for discussion of the employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee

9.  Adjournment

10:00 pm The board came out of the executive session. No action was taken.

10:00 pm Peter Merrill motioned to adjourn. Russell North seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passed the motion ( 5 yes,  0  no).

Draft Respectfully Submitted 2/28/16

Hannah Prescott