January 29, 2022

Draft HSB Minutes 1-12-2022


Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 @ 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

Russell North                                                  Roy Hathorn

Nancy Russell

Havah Armstrong Walther                                

Olivia Merrill

Sydney Stillman
 

          1.  Call to Order

-        Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda  

Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:03 PM.

Mr. Christie asked to reorder the agenda. Mr. DeBalsi asked to add a nomination under the Consent Agenda. Mr. North asked to add an audit discussion to #4 and to move the Town Meeting Committee applicant to first in #4.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve the agenda as amended, motion carried. 
 

          2. Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

-        Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events

Mr. Hathorn shared a slideshow from last week’s Exhibition Event. The focus was on Life Skills, many showcased planning and setting goals for today, tomorrow, and future. One presentation was Hope Happens Here presented by Caroline Hamilton. Mr. DeBalsi commented on how amazing the presentations were. He observed a student who had built a guitar, another who built a drone. Sydney Stillman, a student board member, was one of the presenters.

Mr. Christie shared with the board some recent run-ins with Hartford grads out working in the community. It’s a proud moment for Hartford.
 

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

-        Student Representative Report         

Sydney and Olivia presented the report. Some HHS happenings: Exhibition Night presentations, final exams, students are ready to move forward to the new semester, COVID 19 a big issue-sports/music dept, games/events postponed, many teacher absences, how to best support students, some side effects from boosters, changes to final exam policy- what’s the relevance of the exam vs a culminating project, thank you to Mr. Fogg and Mrs. Hayes for their work with communicating COVID information, increased substitute availability, many teachers have stepped up to cover for absent staff members

Mr. DeBalsi thanked the students.

He further thanked the district nurses who have worked extremely hard in keeping on top of the COVID requirements.
 
          4. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-        Town School Meeting Committee Applicant

Mr. DeBalsi introduced Adam Ricker who applied to be the school district representative to the Town School Meeting Committee. Adam was a 2007 HHS graduate. Adam shared highlights from his application regarding his professional career. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve Adam Ricker to be appointed to the Town School Meeting Committee, motion carried. 

-        Facilities – Reserve Funds, Budget Balance and Maintenance and Improvements Committee

Mr. Doug Heavisides, the father, has volunteered for the committee. Mr.  DeBalsi reviewed the committee make-up. He asked the board if they wanted to move forward with just one community member or wait for two other volunteers to come forward. Mr. North suggested changing the requirements. Mr. Christie suggested some outside groups to consider.

Mr. Merrill shared his enjoyment of his work with the Wilder School Committee and would volunteer if no one else is interested. He advised sticking with seven members.

Mr. North expressed interest. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to move forward with the Improvements Committee, accept the changes to the committee draft, and accept Russell North to the committee.
-              Audit
Mr. DeBalsi noted that the draft article language needs to be reviewed by the district’s attorney. He asked the board about allocating some of the surplus funds to a current or new reserve fund.

Jake Vezina shared the financial picture: $3.8M fund balance, $1M to offset taxes, $2M for cash flow, $800,000 for current or new capital reserve fund. Current balances: Capital Projects Reserve Fund $415,139 as of 12/31/21, Repair Reserve Fund $17,000. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to  allocate $800,000 of the existing surplus to augment a current reserve or establish a new reserve fund, pending review from the attorney, motion carried. 

-        2022-23 Budget – Final

Jake Vezina reviewed the latest draft of the budget, some numbers are forthcoming from the state (any day now). The Equalized Pupil number may not change for us, a place holder of 1351 was used for the draft budget, this number comes from the AOE. ACT 173, funding of special education, will this impact the budget, go into effect this year? Jake said this budget assumes that ACT 173 will take effect in next year’s budget. Mr. DeBalsi noted that it was anticipated that the district would get an additional $500,000 for special educational funding. This draft budget includes $400,000 for this additional funding.

Mr. DeBalsi explained to the public that each group has a representative group or association, superintendents, school boards, business managers, who aid in sharing information with the districts. 

Mr. Christie asked about the impact of the final decision of the state weighting study. He added that the House Education Committee is taking this up this week. Mr. DeBalsi noted that it’s anticipated that Hartford will do better with the new system. He further explained how student categories are weighted differently: for example, ELL, homeless, high school students. 

Mrs. Russell asked about language translators for the new students in the district. Mr. DeBalsi said yes we are working on finding translators. 

Jake  announced $43,940,588 Revenue/Expense. Summary of changes: increased $100,000 food service, Abby Group in all schools except WRS (who are preparing their own food). Number of lunches is down because more students are bringing their own food; Additional coaching staff (educational) currently funded by Title 2, some of these expenses will move over to the general fund; out of district special education placements; specific facility repairs; decrease for Covel house bond; transportation contract, almost signed, 2% increase; added Assistant Principal at HMS.

Tax sheet: CLA 86.76%; Yields assuming option B conservative; 1.8% increase on tax rate with using $1M from surplus to offset taxes; based on the income 8.7% decrease; all tentative based on setting of figures from the state.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Walther, to approve an expenditure of $43,940,588 as the FY23 budget for the school district. Motion carried, 4-1.

Mr. North explained that his no vote was due to the conservative nature in some of the assumptions in the budget. 

Jim Vezina shared that food service will run a $200,000 deficit this year. The current budget has $0 in specific building projects, as of 12/31/21 there was  - $250,000. 

Mr. North further asked about the health insurance spending accounts, HRA. Jim Vezina answered that based on current expenses the board could take more of a risk. Jim Vezina asked what percentage of the HRA they should use. Currently the HRA is $ 1.1M (100%). Mr. North suggested a scenario of 75% projection. The adjusted budget number would be $43,665,588, or a .7% increased tax impact. 

The budget will be reviewed again and could be adjusted when the Equalized Pupil number is finalized. Mr. DeBalsi asked if the board wanted another scenario of the budget. 

Mr. North further explained that reducing the budget still leaves a substantial fund balance should there be an increased expenditure. 

Mr. Merrill, thanked Jim Vezina for his many years of explanation and asked his thoughts on a lower budget.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to reopen the discussion on the final budget number. Motion carried. 

Based on the persuasive arguments, moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve FY23 $43,390,588, motion carried, 5-0.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to correct the amount in the budget that is approved for next year FY 23 to $43,665,588. Motion carried, 5-0.

The board opened the meeting up to questions from the Zoom forum. Participation in the WRS lunch program has  increased 10%. Where does money from the American Recovery Act come in? Jake replied the state just approved the ESSER 3 money, the district’s allotment is 2.3M but some is reserved for summer programing. Mr. Hathorn stated that there will be community input collected for how we will spend the money. The last question was in reference to being allowed to speak at the Select Board Meetings vs having your question read by a school representative. Mr. DeBalsi noted that the public is invited to speak during public comment. Mr. North said the School Board should follow the Select Board Meeting model.

Mr. Christie announced that the House passed the bill referencing the town meeting cycle, allowing for fully online meetings. The Senate should act on this this week. 

-        2022 Town Meeting Cycle Planning

Budget and Candidates’ night, Feb 21, 7:00 PM, HHS Auditorium

Poll of the board about meeting preference: in person/virtual. Mr. Merrill answered remotely, not in person, other board members agreed.

Town Meeting, Saturday, February 26, 2022, 10 AM 

Australian Ballot Voting, Tuesday, March 1, 2022 

Mr. Merrill and Mrs. Russell are up for reelection. 

-        2022/23 Calendar Update 

Mr. DeBalsi noted the changes: addition of blue numbering for recognized days (not all holidays that school is closed), start one week later, April break is moved up a week

Moved by Mrs. Russell, seconded by Mr. North, to accept the 22-23 calendar as a final calendar, motion carried. 

-        Monitoring Reports
o   GP 5 School Board Chairs Role
Mr. Christie will forward his report to the board.
 
-      Superintendent Report - COVID Update

Mr. DeBalsi shared: Christmas break was a nice break as the cases were increasing; started slow in Jan, increasing now; RAP closed for a day last week because of staffing shortages; new cases today at WRS, DBS, HHS; contact tracing changed per state recommendations; very difficult at high school due to students changing classes; state has proposed more regular testing of students and staff; this will be implemented when the supplies are ready from the state

Mr. Merrill stated given the limited resources of tracing and given the number of new cases, it’s better to say we can’t trace enough to protect you. The state has said that a general notice will be sent when you have been exposed, i.e. your class. 

Olivia asked for students to be added to the emails sent from the district. Mr. DeBalsi will check about the Infinite Campus emails. Mrs. Russell asked that board members be added. 

Mr. Merrill asked Mr. DeBalsi about the plan for when the district can’t safely remain open. He suggested making sure the families are aware of this so they can make necessary plans. Mr. DeBalsi stated thirty percent staff outage would be the closure limit.

Mr. DeBalsi said he sends summaries to avoid multiple daily emails. He’s worried about not sending out the formal notice lets the public think they are ok. 

Mr. North suggested that a blanket public statement may be needed. It’s a difficult time for all given the state directives.

Olivia cautioned about the “breaking point” and worried about students looking for the person/teacher to blame.
 
          5.  Public Comments** 

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

Mr. Hathorn read questions from the forum earlier.

Michelle Boleski shared her frustration at the two community forums she’s attended about asking questions. She asked about data from the WRS food program, is the quality better or how it’s served causing the increase? It seems that the model is successful. Will this be considered for another year since it’s a pilot program? She spoke about the Mad RIver Valley schools she had experience with. She asked about posing questions and whether or not the agenda can be posted on the Zoom meeting format. 

Mr. DeBalsi replied that it’s often fresh local food, cooked inhouse, and served. 

Ms Walther noted that the earlier vote should record her as in attendance and voting in support of the motions. 

 

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

 

          7. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

-        Meeting Minutes – 12/8/2021
Dec 8, 2021 Draft Minutes, 2 corrections: $1M to be used to offset taxes and reserve funds to be used by June 30, 2022.
-        Nominations
Jeremy Ouelett, HACTC Information Instructor

 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Consent Agenda, motion carried by roll call. 

 
 

          8. Meeting Evaluation

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

 

          9. Adjournment

The next meeting will be Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 6PM for the Audit Report and to finalize the budget. 

The Community Engagement Meeting on January 26, 2022, 6 PM will include a presentation from the Haven to explain their expansion project. The Select Board has been invited.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn at 9:28 PM. Motion carried.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey

Recorder

 

Next School Board Meeting is Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 6:00 PM.

A community engagement meeting will be held on Wednesday, 

January  26, 2022 at 6:00 PM.

Budget Presentation and Candidates’ Night, February 21, 2022, 7PM

Town Meeting, February 26, 2022, 10 AM

Australian Ballot 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.