July 17, 2019

Minutes 10-10-2018

DATE: 10-15-2018

 Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

October 10, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Hartford Town Hall


Board members present:  Michelle Boleski, Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, and Russell North

Administrators present: Tom DeBalsi, Noel Bryant


1.  Call to Order:  Kevin Christie called the meeting to order at 7:00pm.


2.  Public Comments

  • Kevin Christie informed all of his meeting with the new secretary of education. He discussed concerns about finance issues he had discussed with the business manager.  The Secretary acknowledged positive changes being effectuated by the superintendent and his team and that he will be meeting with Tom DeBalsi and Noel Bryant in the near future to garner a better understanding.


3.  Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda

  • Peter Merrill moved to accept the agenda as presented.  The motion was seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passed the motion (4 yes, 0 no).


4.  Consent Agenda

  • Minutes –  Regular Meeting 9/26/2018
    • No changes made
    • No nominations/resignations
    • Peter Merrill moves to approve the consent agenda as amended.  The motion is seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).


5.   Items Requiring Board Discussion and Possible Action

  • Policy EL 9.4 Communication and Support to the Board – Incidental Information
    • Tom DeBalsi provided update on most recent Professional Development day during which elementary school teachers had a presentation given by Noel Bryant on proficiency-based learning and the middle and high school teachers met with Dr. Ketterer for further education on child trauma.  Case studies were conducted and work in relation to developing an action plan to tackle bullying will continue all year.
    • Tom DeBalsi informed that the State Board Meeting will be held at the High School on 10/17/18.
    • Noel Bryant reported on exciting projects taking place in the Middle School STEM class as well as progress being made by middle school teachers implementing proficiency-based learning and personalization principles.  Adoption of such principles as well as electronic feedback system has resulted in students taking greater ownership over and interest in their work.  Positive changes in behavior have been reported.
    • Policy EL 5 Financial Planning and Budgeting for 2019-20
      • 2019-20 Budget – First Draft of Expense Budget
        • Jim Vezina shared report on current fiscal year as starting point for FY20 preliminary budget proposal, reviewing major changes in expenses and revenue in the budget as well as changes to the student population in regard to tuition students.  He also explained the challenge Vermont state educational tax system presents.  Among other unknown variables, Vezina predicted that the Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) will increase, based on sales.
        • Discussion ensued about the State historically inflating numbers to place pressure on schools to cut and control spending and the board reviewed the principles that should reign in the creation of the FY20 budget.
        • Peter Merrill requested that expenditures specifically pertaining to the school board (e.g. training, auditing, and communications) be outlined within the budget to comply with Board’s obligation to report to the public.  Russell North and Kevin Christie suggested a possible modification to the budget format to segregate these expenses. Jim Vezina will follow up with a new draft to facilitate fiscal reporting for Board.
        • Peter Merrill and Russell North commented on the need for urgency in completing the final budget and suggested that a special meeting be held as close to the deadline to review final draft.   Board agreed to discuss a date at the conclusion of the current meeting.
        • Kevin Christie asked Tom DeBalsi and Jim Vezina to follow up with their best recommendations at the next meeting to meet deadline.
        • Kevin Christie expressed concern with transparency and conveying information to the public in an intelligible way.
        • Michelle Boleski suggested that details pertaining to classroom capacity be included in the budget report to assure voters that classrooms are being leveraged properly.


  • Monitoring Reports – Board Requested
    • Homework
      • Kevin Christie raised questions about whether homework should reflect an update, formal clarification, or something else.
      • Tom DeBalsi presented his proposal for a new set of homework guidelines to be implemented within the middle and high schools.  He identified one of the greatest areas of concern as a significant disparity in work being assigned to students and, consequently, time required to complete homework.  DeBalsi proposed that homework should be solely be assigned to enrich and enhance classroom lessons and added that students should be permitted ample time to complete their assignments lest students be penalized for circumstances and limitations out of their control. DeBalsi reported that his findings do not show a direct correlation between homework completion and ability.
      • Russell North commented on the importance of timely feedback to keep students incentivized and engaged.  He admonished the importance of setting a target for the homework roll-out.
      • Board approved adoption of guiding principles presented and DeBalsi to follow up at next meeting with a written schedule for a proposed roll-out and plan of action.


  • Employee Harassment
    • Tom DeBalsi reviewed and explained current policies and procedures.
    • Michelle Boleski expressed concern over limited scope of current policies and procedures.  Admonished need for preventative measures to be adopted, namely in the form of educational workshops and sessions.
    • Peter Merrill suggested that an additional policy be created that specifically holds all HSD employees accountable for education of policies in place.  He expressed that it is crucial the existing policies become part of the educational, training, onboarding, and compliance process.
    • Russell North indicated that from a liability standpoint, each employee needs to sign off on understanding the policies.
    • Tom DeBalsi explained that he is currently working on improving teacher training modules There is some pushback because the amount of time to complete all the modules is so time consuming.  Currently he is working on improving modules for harassment education to foster understanding and engagement.


  • Transportation
    • Tom DeBalsi reported that current contract with Butler Bus is good, but there are significant challenges that he is working to address.  Positives: Butler Bus is responsive; routes are not overly long; provision made for select teachers to drive buses for special activities.  Challenges: routing and wait times for middle and high school students; procedures required to address poor behavior; and detrimental impact of elementary students being bussed along with older student; limited capacity of bus company to meet dynamic nature of athletic activities.
    • DeBalsi is waiting for feedback from Butler Bus for suggested start/stop times and ideal routes.
    • Peter Merrill attested to advantages of current contract and explained that it has been instrumental in avoiding huge spikes in purchasing equipment.


  • Policy EL 7 Asset Protection
    • Adjacent Property Purchase and Sale Agreement
      • Revision due to new voting law legislation
        • DeBalsi explained that a new P&S agreement is necessary because the timeline to get the question on the ballot was missed due to new earlier voting requirements.
        • Peter Merrill motions to enter into a new P&S agreement.  The motion is seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).


  • GP 9 Governance Investment
    • Board Monitoring Report (Merrill)
      • Peter Merrill explained that he believes that the Board is in general compliance, but is lacking in technical compliance with all requirements namely outreach mechanisms/surveys to ensure Board’s incorporation of owner viewpoints and values.
      • Russell North moves to accept monitoring report.  The motion is seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).


  • 2018 VSBA/VSA Conference Update
    • Tom DeBalsi thanked everyone who signed up.


  • Policy GP 3 Board Job Outcomes
    • Board Member Committee Reports
      • Hartford Community Coalition (Russell): Nancy Russell not present to report any updates.
      • Regional Advisory Board (Russell):  Nancy Russell not present to report any updates.
      • Manifest Approval (Christie): Kevin Christie had requested that auditors review portion of the disbursements and confirm that everything is satisfactory.
      • Racial Equality Committee (Boleski, Russell):  No comments/updates to report.
      • Policy Review (Merrill):  No additional comments/updates to report.
      • Sister City Update (Boleski): No comments/updates to report.
      • Wilder School Building Study Committee (Merrill):  Peter Merrill reported that committee is preparing to interview and qualify the three (3) responses to RFP. Lowest bid will win except if two bids are within 1% of each other.
      • Negotiations (Christie, North): DeBalsi provided introduction of new format called Interest-based Bargaining.  School board representative and union representatives have committed to two days of training with federal mediators in early November.
      • Select Board Liaison (North):  Russell North attended the meeting.  Pool committee made recommendation to rebuild existing facility with a target opening date in 2022 meaning that this proposed project could have an impact on FY20 budget.
      • Social Media (North): Several posts have been made regarding Wilder School Building project.  Volunteer participant biographies are up, as well as HARP and RAP programs.
      • Russell North moves to have a special meeting on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 5:00 PM in the Superintendent’s office to discuss the Wilder School Building project bids.  The motion is seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).


6.   Meeting Review/Evaluation and Agenda Planning

  • Next Meeting Agenda
    • Tom DeBalsi informed that the punch list of items to be addressed going forward is on last week’s minutes last meeting.
    • Homework: A target timeline to be provided.
    • HSD and Transportation issues needs to remain on punch list, although verbal updates will be provided as needed.
    • Policy Education for staff training
    • Meeting Evaluation
      • Michelle Boleski evaluates the meeting as satisfactory.


7.  Adjournment

  • Peter Merrill moves to adjourn the meeting.  The motion is seconded.  A unanimous verbal vote passes the motion (4 yes, 0 no).  The meeting is adjourned at 10:16pm.



Next Regular School Board Meeting is Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Hartford Town Hall.