September 24, 2023

HSB Minutes 5-24-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Community Engagement Meeting Minutes

May 24, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

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

Members Present 

Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Olivia Merrill, Sydney Stillman

Administrators Present

Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn

 1.  Call to Order 

- Changes, Additions and Approval of the Agenda  

Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:07 PM. He welcomed all attendees, including the student who will be presenting her Capstone Project from the Honors Program at HHS.

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

 2. Special Presentation - Student Capstone Project

- Increasing Transgender Inclusion at Hartford High School

Mr. DeBalsi introduced Olivia Merrill who presented her project. She is an honor student as well as a student representative to the school board. She provided background information as well as data. The project included three targets: Practice in Use, Comparing Policy to Policy, and Comparing Policy to Perspective. She surveyed all individuals in Hartford High School about the current practice, ex: name preference, knowledge of HHS policies. In her policy analysis she found many instances of vague policies and outdated language. Supporting diverse needs of students could be provided with 504 style transition support plans. In October 2021 she provided the faculty and staff with a training session. This increased the awareness of student needs with a plan for change that students can use their preferred names. 

Olivia thanked the board for the opportunity to share her Capstone. She further noted that there are lots of reminders of where HHS used to be. 

Mr. North asked that the next report on EL 10 address some of the issues Olivia raise in her presentation.

Dr. Gannon asked about the assessment, it sounds like there is some work to be done on that at the state level.

Mrs. Russell commended Olivia for her work, what a great Capstone, Mr. Christie concurred. He stated he’s interested in sharing some of the data at the state level.

Mr. DeBalsi also thanked Olivia for her presentation. He’s proud of what has been done but recognizes that there is a lot of work to be done, both with facilities and administration. The policy committee will be reviewing the language. “Good luck and congratulations on your upcoming graduation.”

Mr. Merrill noted that Paul Keene played an important role in the drafting of the current policy.

 3.  Community Engagement Topic

- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training with Dr. Mary Gannon

Mr. North introduced Dr. Mary Gannon who is continuing the training from a previous meeting, “Continuing the Work of Equity & Anti-Racism in Hartford: Having the Courageous Conversations”. 

She shared news of the amazing work that’s been done in the district with Maggi Ibrahim. The Multicultural event on Sunday was great, there are other ongoing student and parent activities. She asked Olivia to read the Indigenous Peoples Land Acknowledgement. She asked all attendees to participate with a community pledge to be kind and respectful to each other. The goals for the night were for individuals to identify their impact of who they are given their role in the community and to consider the challenges of difficult conversations. A sense of belonging is one indicator of equity. She presented a SELF social identity wheel which included several larger social contexts that impact all of us and the spokes identified how we label ourselves. She asked participants to identify 2 spokes, what/why, feelings about that, where does privilege show up in that? How do these identities impact you in the community? How does privilege impact the drafting of policy in the district? Many board members, as well as Selectboard members,  shared their thoughts of their identities and the background stories to support those thoughts. 

A plan for  future work: review Anti-Racism Policy, think about whose voice is at the table or just on the menu, and how can leaders continue to build capacity to address the impact of dominant culture?

Dr. Gannon thanked the board for their work and engaging in the conversation tonight.

Mr. Christie thanked Dr. Gannon for her work, he’s proud of the district’s work and recognizes that there is much left to do.

 4.  Public Engagement 

The public was invited to join the meeting in-person or online using, meeting ID 974 3075 5984.

  5. Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

- Naming Policy Submission - OQS Patio

Mr. DeBalsi gave a summary of the Naming Policy and convened the committee who oversees the naming of district facilities. 

Ms Donahey, OQS Principal, gave an introduction to Leo, a fourth grade student who passed away last year. The OQS community is requesting a patio outside near the garden with a plaque noting that this is in Leo’s memory. Yellow plants would be put on the outside of the patio, a tribute to Leo’s favorite color. 

Mr. North asked about the family’s thoughts. Ms. Donahey replied, yes they are in support. He further asked about reviewing this with the insurance carrier for liability purposes.

Mr. DeBalsi will have to work with the Fire Chief for thoughts on the fire pit. Ms Donahey will review that with him.

Mr. Merrill asked what the board is being asked to do. Funding? Naming? He supports naming something on behalf of Leo, he wouldn’t want to approve the structure, etc until there are more details. 

Olivia asked if there was a running list of what has been named after people in the district. Mr. DeBalsi replied no, but should be a future project. (Lori Dickerson bench, Luna door, trees and rocks named after people)

Mr. Christie suggested amending the policy and approving the activity tonight.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North to approve, in concept, the naming of a structure after Leo and that the details of the structure, financing, and maintenance will be resolved before final approval is given. Mr. DeBalsi and his team will work on completing this plan. Motion carried.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, that Naming of School District Facilities Policy be  amended so that item #3 will be revised to read, “the make up of this committee will be three individuals selected by the superintendent”. Motion carried.

 - Vermont Continuous Improvement Plan Approval

Mr. DeBalsi gave a reminder of the district’s three goals: Safe and Healthy Schools, Academic Achievement, and Equity Support. He would welcome approval tonight or at the next meeting.

Mr. Christie noted that the Finance Committee will be bringing a recommendation to the next meeting. A review of EL10 will be helpful showing any progress. 

Mr. North asked about the transparency, what are we getting for our money (formerly asked by a citizen)? Data gathering and quantitative study would be helpful. He suggested that the process be reviewed and not just approving the plan. He has confidence in the plan.

Mrs. Russell agreed.

Mr. Merrill agreed with the plan and with updating the procedure. He asked for a discussion and review of this on the strategic plan.

Mr. DeBalsi will ask Dr. Gannon to think about where we’re at with regard to the Strategic Plan. What do we need to do?

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Vermont Continuous Improvement Plan that was presented to us in the document packet for tonight’s meeting. Motion carried.

 6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 GP4)

- Appointments: Sarah Morlock, OQS; Leah Lauritzen, HMS; Liat Assaf, DBS

- Meeting Minutes - May 11, 2022

Correction: Committee Reports: Policy- The district librarians have reviewed the draft.

- Monitoring Reports EL 7, BS/R 2, GP 2

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Consent Agenda, welcoming the new staff, motion carried.

 7. Meeting Evaluation 

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

8.  Executive Session may be Needed for a Labor Negotiations Consideration

Mr. DeBalsi asked the board about the need for negotiating regarding the vaccine mandate. Would the board like to negotiate a MOU or have a stand-alone policy about the mandate?

Mr. Merrill asked for clarification since there will be negotiations next year.

Mr. Merrill stated that the discussion does need to be in Executive Session but asked for it to be at another time. 

Mr. Christie asked Mr. DeBalsi to work with him to prepare for the Executive Session for the next meeting and have collected any documents to support the discussion. 

9. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to adjourn at 9:11 PM.

Respectfully submitted, 

Cherrie Torrey


Next Regular School Board Meeting is June 8, 2022 @ 6:00 PM at the Wilder School

(tour and presentations before the meeting)