January 29, 2022

HSB Minutes 12-8-2021


Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Hartford Town Hall and Online (Zoom) Meeting  

 
Members Present                                Administrators Present

Kevin Christie                                        Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill                                          Cathy Newton

Nancy Russell                                       Roy Hathorn

Russell North

Havah Armstrong Walther

Olivia Merrill

 

          1.  Call to Order

-        Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda  
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:02 PM.
Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to table the Reserve Funds and Budget Balance items until the next meeting. After discussion, it was decided to keep it as an informational item. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the agenda as presented. Motion carried.
 

          2. Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

-        Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events

Mrs. Newton presented an update on the elementary Panorama survey. The focus was on Student Supports & Environment and Competency & Well-being. They compared last year’s data (3 sets) and this fall’s data. Overall students maintained at an even level. When comparing last spring and this fall there were no big dips. Building administrators further studied the results with staff. They reflected on the results and identified next steps. At the elementary level the surveys revealed that there was a wide range of what students are experiencing. She noted that this is grade three to five. The preschool to two data is from the SWIS, behavioral data.

Mr. Hathorn shared information from the middle school. The data showed that student engagement was low. There was a dip in the student teacher relationships. Students continue to struggle with emotional self regulation. They will focus on student engagement in the instructional practices, build emotional and self regulation work into daily practice, will focus on skill building, and engage in project based learning opportunities. 

Mr. Hathorn shared the high school information which shows results similar to the middle school responses with engagement and self regulation. They will focus on having the counselors check in with students, meet with department chairs, and put together a team of students to address the needs. Families and staff will complete the survey as well students in January.

Mr. North asked if there were budgetary items to consider that will help to address these needs. Mrs. Newton replied that the grant funds are often “seed money” and it’s nice that the board is discussing how to continue the focus.

Mr. Merrill noted that it is hard to interpret the data, in the future could there be some sort of context with an interpretation of how the district is doing?

Mr. DeBalsi thought that given returning to the full length normal day that the data would show an increase instead of remaining level.

Mr. DeBalsi asked if the board would entertain public comments now, given the number of people on the Zoom call. Mr. Christie asked the public to hold their questions to the public comment period or post them in the chat.

Ms Walther asked about whether there is any survey data collected about graduation preparedness. Mr. Hathorn said there was a survey given to seniors, but he doesn’t have any idea of what’s on the survey. Mrs. Newton noted that Panorama is more about emotional well-being, but it could be tailored to meet other district needs. 

Mr. DeBalsi further noted that the board and he have had discussions about how Hartford graduates continue. Were they prepared? How do they feel about their next steps? Did they accomplish what they thought they would?

Olivia asked if the Noviance System survey is still given to freshmen, the administrators will find out.
 

          3. Communication and Support to the Board (Section 1 Policy EL 9)

-        Student Representative Report         
Olivia reported about the past week’s events: bomb threat found on Friday, Dec. 3, this has impacted all on the campus, feeling of safety at issue, Monday Dec 6: significant attendance decrease, strict no backpack policy, VT Bomb Squad presence, there will be random bag searches, clubs and extra curricular activities are meeting

Topics of Interest: student concerns/questions, is campus safe, will we have to make-up the day, how do you balance school safety with student privacy, how long will police be on campus, do they have guns, administrators are focusing on how to address staff needs, mask fatigue has impacted mask wearing compliance, how can we get the compliance back up, how do we make the school safe

Appreciation: How much the administration was communicating with students and families, many emails by administrators helped put an end to rumors, HHS school administrators shared resources to address emotional needs, students have been resilient, come together as a community and can move forward
-        Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported on the bomb threat, need to strike a balance between safety of all with the freedoms we enjoy, doesn’t enjoy having police presence, always errs on side of caution, will check on the attendance rate (must have 50% in attendance/school by school), need all to get back to wearing masks properly given the variants, form letter sent to families that it is sent when there is a case in a school, transportation- will try to share any delays due to driver shortage

Mr. Merrill shared his appreciation for the administrators balancing the safety of all and personal privacy.
 

          4. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-        State of the District - Response to Community Engagement Meeting Concerns and Letters
Mr. Christie reviewed 37 pages of notes from the Engagement Meeting and the letters submitted, he shared a graph that he put together with the board.

Mr. DeBalsi referenced a narrative in the board packet highlighting what has been done or is proposed given the concerns shared at that meeting: vaccination mandate, new EL curriculum- implementation after this year for the next two years, add more vaccine clinics for students/community (after school hours), volunteers- hire a coordinator/ hybrid model?, open hours with superintendent, teachers/paraprofessionals as bus drivers, eliminate any administrator/school based work on January 13 and 14- teachers will be able to do their own professional development.

Mr. Merrill asked about volunteers paying for their own background checks. Mr. DeBalsi reported that the district pays for the checks. They must be fully vaccinated.

Mrs. Russell is concerned about parent volunteers, background checks, CPR certified, what do parents know about working with a variety of students since the teacher can not share personal student information, and consistency in the classroom with volunteers. Mr. DeBalsi shared the concerns from the building administrators, parents can not deal with the student behaviors, but can supplement a staffing need. Currently there are many volunteers in the schools to address needs already identified. Linda Nash does the district follow-up with the volunteer paperwork.

Mr. North suggested coming up with a plan, identify the procedure that will be followed, and then develop a budget item that will meet these steps. 

Mrs. Newton and Mr. Hathorn further reported on categorizing the comments from the engagement meeting, what’s in place, what’s planned,  and how is it funded: covid supports, mental health supports, EL curriculum, volunteers, providing more ways for staff to be heard, January Panorama staff survey, class size, substitutes, student behavior challenges, parent concerns:covid requirements, day care issues, bus routes

They will send out information about “town halls” and will be inviting the community to join in the discussion about future planning for the district. 

Mr. Merrill asked about the ESSER funds, emergency relief funds. Mrs. Newton replied, you apply for the grant, easier process, you are granted the money, there are no limits to amending your grant, ESSER 2 ends in 2022. There will be three years for ESSER 3, 2025. Along the way the district should be thinking about how and if they should continue with the programs implemented with the grant funds. 

 
-        2022-23 Budget – Draft 2
Jacob Vezina reviewed the Internal Financial Control Checklist. He asked for a board member to sign off on this, he will send a virtual signing sheet. Mr. North volunteered to sign on behalf of the board. 

Mr. Merrill asked Jacob to highlight any budgetary funds related to COVID.

Jacob reviewed draft #2 of the budget major changes: 5% health insurance increase, adding assistant principal at HMS, transportation contract under negotiation so $200,000 placeholder, $439,000 specific repairs, $1.9 M increase, assuming a 5% decrease in CLA, .8% decrease on the tax rate, 9.5% decrease on the income, assumes using $1M to offset taxes

Mr. North cautioned that the CLA might go down further which would impact the financial picture. He asked when the equalized pupil number comes out. Jim Vezina responded mid December. 

Jim Vezina commented that the budget looks pretty good related to the tax rate.

Mr. DeBalsi reminded the board that at this point they should be monitoring it and then will decide which direction they will go at future meetings. 
 
-        Facilities – Reserve Funds, Budget Balance and Maintenance and Improvements Committee
Mr. North discussed the reserve funds, using $1M to offset the tax rate, and using some of the funds to address the roof needs.

Mr. DeBalsi shared information about the new maintenance committee. This committee would address the needs of the district buildings and land. There are several people interested in serving. He proposed forming a committee of seven: 1 board member, 3 community members with professional experience in building design, 1 staff member, 1 facility director, and 1 superintendent or designee. He shared draft goals for the committee with a completion date (report out date) TBD. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to authorize the creation of the District Maintenance and Improvements Committee, the charter of which was just discussed. Motion carried unanimously. 

Jim Vezina, surplus $3.8M at the end of June, FY 21, $460,000 surplus. The board has decided to use $1M to offset taxes this year. That leaves $800,000 in surplus that could be used on some maintenance needs. 

Jacob reported that the Capital Reserve Fund has a $413,000 balance that needs to be used by June 30, 2022.

Mr. North suggested that the board consider what improvements they want to complete with the surplus. He noted that the board should hold $2M to be used as fund balance. This ensures that the district doesn’t have to borrow money to meet the financial needs in the fall. 

Mr. Merrill shared that the BEST room at HACTC and the roofs at OQS and DBS have both been discussed previously and should be addressed without sending it to the newly formed committee.

Jacob announced that the tech center has about $1.2 M in their reserve, so the BEST room should move forward.

Mrs. Russell asked how ACT 173 will affect the district, regarding the special education reimbursement. Jim Vezina said early information suggests that the district will get additional money.

 
-        Draft 2022/23 Calendar Update 
Changes from last draft, no action needed yet, possibly first meeting in January

starts a week later- August 24th, teachers start on Wednesday for 4 days of inservice, students have two 4 day weeks to start, Indigenous People day off, extra day at December break, adjusted teacher work days in Nov/Mar- conferences at the end of the week, February week later, April week same, religious holidays are noted but not off (Equity committee surveying families)

 
-        Monitoring Reports 
o   EL 10 Race and Equity – note, reported status on 9/22/2021

o   B/SR 3 Accountability of the Superintendent

o   GP 7 Board Committee Principles
Mr. Christie asked if there were questions about any of the reports. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the Monitoring Reports for EL10, B/SR 3, and GP7. Motion carried. 
 
          5.  Public Comments **

The public was invited to the meeting in person or online using the link: https://zoom.us/j/97430755984, meeting ID 974 3075 5984.

Mr. Merrill noted there were 11 questions in the tab, no new questions from the beginning of the meeting.

Mr. Christie invited the public to comment and then the questions will be reviewed. Some questions will be answered at a future meeting.

population of full attendance- addressed

Michelle Boleski- what is the policy about how the surrounding neighborhood is notified when there is a threat at the school building?

Doug Kussius- volunteers for cleaning

Kristina Tardy- CLA will be available by January 1, 2022

Mrs. Russell asked about the procedure if community members are in a meeting in a town building during an act of violence. She was referring to the board meetings at the Town Hall.

 

          6. Board Professional Development (Section 4 Policy GP 9)

Meeting with Dr. Gannon late spring

Mrs. Russell, VSBA representative

 

          7. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

-        Meeting Minutes – 11/10/2021, 11/23/2021

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to  accept the Consent Agenda, motion carried.
 

          8. Meeting Evaluation

The meeting evaluation was completed by Mr. North. The meeting was satisfactory. 

 

          9. Adjournment

Mr. Christie asked about moving the second December meeting to the 15th. If the board canceled the meeting then the agenda will be adjusted in January to accommodate the budget community engagement portion. It was decided that there will not be a second meeting in December, the board business will resume in January 2022.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to vote in support of the response to the community engagement meeting, given the powerpoint presentation information and  the comments made by the superintendent,  we urge the administration to move forward on that plan. A monthly update will be provided at board meetings. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Christie offered  Happy Holidays to the district staff and a job well done in keeping our students safe. 

Moved by Mrs. Russell, seconded by Mr. Merrill to adjourn the meeting at 9:11 PM, motion carried.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey

Recorder

 

Next School Board Meeting is January 12, 2022

Bond Informational Meeting  (if needed) January 10, 2022

Budget and Candidates Night February 21, 2022, 7PM

Town Meeting, Saturday, Feb 26, 2022

Voting March 1, 2022

 

**Public Comments

          Anyone making a comment can expect a response that falls into

 one of the following categories:

a.     Thank the person with no further action planned.

b.    Respond immediately by the board chair or administration.

c.     Direct the administration to contact and respond to the person.

d.    Seek clarification from the administration at a specified meeting.

e.     Add the topic to a specified future board agenda.

f.      Refer the matter to an executive session.

g.    Hold a public hearing on the matter.