June 5, 2023

HSB Minutes 6-8-2022

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

June 8, 2022 @ 5:00 PM at the WILDER School, 160 Norwich Avenue, Wilder


Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Havah Armstrong Walther


Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Doug Heavisides, Kim Moreno


          1.  Call to Order  

Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 5:10 PM. He turned the meeting over to Mr. Merrill, Chair of the Wilder Building Committee.


          2. The Wilder School Open House and Celebration

-        Recognize the Wilder Building Committee

Peter Merrill, Chair; Rhett Darak, David Harris, Kristin Haney, Roisin Viens, Jessica Poluidin, Doug Heavisides (the father), Tom DeBalsi

Mr. Merrill thanked the committee members for coming together with their knowledge, experience, and interest in the project. He asked the members to stand and be recognized. He further thanked Jim Vezina for his budgeting expertise on the project. 

Mr. DeBalsi thanked Brittany Bradley, NBF Architects; Ed Clark; and Mike McLaughlin from Breadloaf Construction. He also thanked Byron Baribeau, former Facilities Director, who was a student at the Wilder School and worked tirelessly with the contractor.

-        The Process

Mr. DeBalis reviewed the process. Over two years was spent in studying the existing building and program and what the future needs were. The committee used a rubric and selected the architect and the building contractor.  

-        Special Dedication

Mrs. Moreno, Director of Special Education, thanked the Building Committee for the tremendous hours they put in to support the students of  the two programs in the building. She further thanked Joann Unruh and Ken Kramberg for their vision and work with special students. They recognized the needs of challenging students and collaborated with other districts to develop the collaborative program. Both Ms Unruh and Mr. Kramberg worked in the Hartford School District for many years as well as in many roles throughout the state. There is a plaque recognizing their contribution placed in the library.

Ms Unruh expressed her gratitude to the Town of Hartford who have always supported students of need. She further thanked the board for supporting children and families with emotional and behavioral needs. 

Mr. Merrill thanked the neighbors who were very accepting of the school throughout the years. He also thanked the taxpayers who continue to support students and the district.

-        The History of the Building

Mrs. Viens gave a brief history, she has been an employee and worked in the Wilder School since 1996. She interviewed with Ms Unruh, who described a phenomenal idea of “one-stop shopping” with the newly developed program. The building did look like a dungeon, now it’s a showcase. The program is a gem and the building is now a gem. She thanked the board and the town for their support. 

-        Tour of the Renovated Building

Mr. DeBalsi invited the group to tour the building. Mrs. Viens led the tour. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill to recess the meeting and begin the tour. 


          3.  Regular School Board Meeting

-      Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda 

Mr. Christie resumed the board meeting back to order at 6:30 PM.

Mr. DeBalsi asked to add food service renewal, the fund balance at HACTC, and follow up on the OQS patio.

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


4.  Global Ends Reporting (Section 1 Policy EP)

-        Review of District Ends Policies in Relation to Current Events
Mr. Hathorn presented varying experiences at HHS this spring:

AP and Honors Program presentations, choral opportunities, advanced class options give more avenues to be successful, HHS exhibition night celebration of work internships and class experiences, and athletics. All of these opportunities provide for dynamic learning. 

Mr. North thanked Mr. Hathorn. He further reminded the group that there need to be indicators to show the success of the Ends. This would show what a great value the citizens are getting for their tax dollar. 

Mr. Christie acknowledged the district staff’s work on the indicators. He would like to share these with the board and the community. 

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

-        Student Representative Report 
It was noted that Olivia spoke at the 8th grade graduation last night. Mr. Hathorn reminded the board of her presentation at the last meeting. He has worked with her throughout the year and stated she did a wonderful job as the senior student representative.
-        Superintendent’s Report
Mr. DeBalsi reported: last student day was today, HMS outside all day/field day, overall despite COVID it was a successful year, safer than some, schools were open with a few exceptions, nice retirement celebration last week- co hosted with the HEA, awards night this past Sunday- many people came out to support the kids- a lot of money given out in scholarships, last night was HMS graduation, teacher work day tomorrow
-        Food Service Contract Renewal
Jacob Vezina presented the food service contract information for next year: 6.6% increase, $443,346.80 total contract price for FY 23. The budgeted amount was $750,000 which includes the WRS program.

Mr. Merrill asked about the free lunch program from the state. Does this have any effect on us, funding, increased expectations, impact on the local level? Jacob will have more information after his meeting on Friday. 

     Mr. Christie asked for an update at the next meeting.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to accept the new food service contract renewal. Motion carried.
-        HACTC Fund Balance
HACTC fund balance, $350,000 to the good with some outstanding encumbrances. He recommends the board authorize up to $900,000 to be set aside for the BEST room renovation. 

Mr. North stated using the fund balance will help reduce future costs to other districts for the renovation. The updated total figure for the project is $1.8M.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to authorize the superintendent to set aside any surplus funds up to $900,000 for the BEST room renovation. Motion carried.
-    OQS Patio
Mr. DeBalsi updated the board. There is no permitting required for the project. Ms Donahey has contacted the fire chief about fire safety. The wood burning fire pit has been approved. 

This will be used for all age groups. Mrs. Russell asked them to check with licensing if the preschoolers would be out there. 

          6.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

-        2022-23 School Year Calendar Amended 
Mr. DeBalsi shared with the board that a mistake was made on the approved calendar, not enough staff days were included, short one day. He corrected it and added a teacher work day in October and adjusted the end of the year days. 

Mrs. VIelleux asked about the November voting day.

Mr. Merrill moved, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the amended amended 22-23 school calendar. Motion carried.
-        Draft 2022 -23 School Board Work Plan
Mr. DeBalsi shared the work plan with the board. He simply carried over all the activities to next year’s meeting rotation. 

Mrs. Russell asked about the same work by each board member and at the same time. 

It was suggested that the work be shuffled. Mr. Christie noted the executive limitation directs Mr. DeBalsi to do the daily work. However, there may be some activities that are more timely.

Mr. North asked the board members to let Mr. DeBalsi know if they wish to change their report assignment or timing of it. 
-        Permission for Superintendent to Hire over Summer
Mr. DeBalsi asked for permission to hire over the summer for any late openings. 

Moved by Mr. North, seconded by Mr. Merrill, to authorize Mr. DeBalsi to hire over the summer. Motion carried.
-        Board Summer Retreat Agenda and Schedule
Mr. DeBalsi informed the board that the retreat has been set for August 17, 2022 at 5 PM at the Superintendent’s Office. He asked the board if there were any potential calendar conflicts. The focus will be on The Ends.
-        Board Committee Reports and Updates
Building Facilities- Mr. North, meeting tomorrow, finalizing prioritizing, will report to full board

HCOREI- Ms Walther- Juneteenth coming up, asked the board to distribute posters, many events for families, any feedback about the International Day at school? Mr. DeBalsi reported that there was a great turnout. Maggi was thrilled with the day. Mr. Christie commented on the music, guests, food, attendance, activities, all amazing. 

Policy- Mr. DeBalsi- a couple of policies will be reviewed

Finance- Mr. North- will present some projections to the full board, budgets, tax rates, etc. 

Community Coalition- Mrs. Russell- Block party, June 15th, summer program will start June 20th, volunteers are welcome for lunch preparation or to make deliveries to the libraries, grant money just came through, Mr. North will become the treasurer, will continue providing lunches to Ventures Camp and the pool attendees

The Haven project- Mr. DeBalsi met with Michael Redman, to share concerns about student safety. The Haven’s new staff member, Sherry Sullivan, will join the district safety team, who meet regularly. Mr. Christie reminded the community that this is a direct response to some of the questions that came up at the January 26th meeting. The district is following up on these concerns. Mr. North asked about a quarterly report back on any issues or updates.
          7.  Public Comments  Online Meeting  

The public was invited to the meeting in-person or online using the link https://zoom.us/j/97430755984.

Mrs. Vielleux, HEA President, shared some items that have come to her attention. Many staff members come to talk to her, even though Mr. DeBalsi welcomes any staff member to share concerns with him. She thanked the board for listening to the staff at the beginning of the school year. There is a mass exodus right of staff now, many staff members are leaving. Staff members are leaving for other districts due to salary, working conditions, and lack of housing. We will start the next school year under staffed. She urged the board to take action and allow Mr. DeBalsi to take action as well. 

She asked the board to make a plan, what will happen when positions aren’t filled; increase the hourly rate for support staff (group 1 or 2); get rid of the group 1 rate and make all group 2 rate or at least increase group 1; compensate those who are covering for other staff members; create a policy about workplace safety (violence and aggression toward staff) identifying a set of rules; planning time for EL program; planning time for other professional meetings; come to visit the buildings; invite her back for updates. The most important part of the conversation is the support staff, the schools could not function without them. Their regular negotiations start in the fall, can’t wait that long.

She shared some ways other districts are trying to retain staff: giving additional days, additional money (hiring and retention bonuses), and extra paycheck to each support staff person. 

Mrs. Russell stated that she agrees with Mrs. Vielleux. She asked about the Safety Policy. She is concerned that some students haven’t had a normal school experience. Should we be trying to get more support for these students? Mrs. Vielleux stated that there isn’t the personnel for the followup with students, there aren’t enough meetings with the parents, they may not even know about the incidents. A reentry plan is important, just not enough staff to manage. 

Ms Walther asked about policies. Which aspect around student violence, what would the policy cover? Mrs. Vielleux replied that students should be supported. There are so many students coming in with dysregulated behaviors. The principals are trying to process all of these incidents. 

Mr. Christie reminded of the procedure of how to process any public comments. No action will be taken but they can direct the superintendent to develop a plan. He thanked Mrs. Viellleux for her comments, all points are well taken. 

Mrs. Vielleux thanked Mr. DeBalsi for listening to the concerns over the year. They will be meeting together to develop a Memorandum of Agreement for next year. The staff is eager to see what action is taken in regard to the vaccine mandate. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that he’s been aware of all of the concerns. It’s not just a Hartford problem but a national one. Staff is more stressed. Many people are working hard, many staff members have been added. 

Mr. Christie told the board that the Hartford School District was invited to present the equity work at the state level. It will be a virtual meeting. Mr. DeBalsi will share the details with the board when they are released. The plan is to share the timeline and process of the work, including EL10. 


          8. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

-        Meeting Minutes 

-        Engagement Meeting 5-24-2022

-        Appointments:
Amy Fowler, DBS; Amy DeMatteo, ELL; Sarah Moodie, HMS; Sarah Hardy, HMS; Nickolas Lauritzen, DBS; Jennifer Gubbins, OQS 
Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Walther, to approve the Consent Agenda. Motion carried.
          9. Meeting Evaluation

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


10. Executive Session will be necessary for the discussion of labor negotiations.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, pursuant to VSA 313:1(b)  to have an executive session for the purpose of discussing a labor relation agreement with employees and to enter into said Executive Session. Motion carried. 

The board entered Executive Session at 8:05 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 9:40 PM.

No action was taken.


11. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to adjourn at 9:4PM. Motion carried. 


Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey



School Board Summer Retreat is August 17, 2022 at 5:00 PM

 at the Superintendent of Schools Office