March 20, 2023

HSB Annual Meeting Minutes 3-4-2023

Town of Hartford Annual School District Meeting Minutes

Saturday March 4, 2023   10:00 AM 

Hartford High School Gymnasium

The citizens of Hartford who are legal voters in Town Meeting are hereby warned to meet on Saturday March 4, 2023 at 10:00 AM at the Hartford High School Gymnasium for the purpose of transacting Town of Hartford School District business not involving voting by Australian ballot.

The legal voters of the Town of Hartford School District are further notified that voter qualification, registration, and absentee voting relative to said Annual Town School DIstrict Meeting shall be as provided in the Town Charter and chapters 43, 51, and 55 of title 17, Vermont Statutes Annotated. 

Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Russell North, 

Douglas H. Heavisides Sr

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Jacob Vezina

Moderator Chuck Wooster opened the meeting at 10:05 AM. He gave guidelines for the meeting. The town portion began at 10:11 AM and ended at 10:49 AM. The school portion began at 10:56 AM.

The purpose of the School DIstrict business meeting being to discuss the following:

To receive the reports of the Board of School Directors
Moved by Mr. Christie, seconded by Mr. North, to accept the reports of the School Board of Directors. 

Mr. Hathorn highlighted the School District portion of the Annual Report: letters from the principals of each building, The Ends, enrollment numbers, general fund/budget information, access to how to find the school snapshot from the AOE website, school board meeting info, and next year’s school district calendar. He then shared his email for those who have additional questions.

Mr. Christie shared that Mr. Hathorn is a lifelong Hartford resident and returned to be a hurricane. He announced that some questions came up during the Candidate and Budget Night and will be addressed. How do we reconcile enrollment and value for education in Hartford? The HHS principal provided feedback. There are several educational opportunities at the high school and in the community: Dartmouth courses, honors classes, specialized learning programs for all students, and customized curriculum around career pathways. He invited all to the School Board Community Engagement Meetings which are held the second meeting of each month.

Mr. DeBalsi addressed the body. We are proud of catering to the needs of the individuals particularly at HHS, supporting them to go on to college or the world of work. There are several students enrolled in the Individual Learning Center. The exhibition night highlights the students’ work. We look at test data regularly, we want the students to achieve to the best of their ability and continue to work on this. Our scores are higher that the state scores. We have had a steady enrollment with increases in the last few years, 35 new students this year, 15 last year. Some of this is due to individualizing programs for the students. THe Panorama data shows that students are happy in school. ESSER funding, the COVID relief funding, came in for the school district to respond to and provide relief from the impact of COVID. The schools remained open and we kept our students and staff safe. The district spent $ 3.5M to respond to those needs: clinicians, counselors, SAP, tutors to remediate the deficits, academic interventionists in each school, PreK programs, instructional coaches, and EL curriculum training.

Jeff Arnold, WIlder, numbers of student plans after graduation, numbers add up to what, percentages? He shared examples from previous years. Mr. Hathorn replied that it’s the actual number of students. He will check with HHS and note this in the future, and will be clarified at a school board meeting. Mr. Arnold further shared that the number of students not going onto further education is growing. He noted that the SAT scores are below the state average, and gave many examples. He hopes that we will have better results in the future. He commented that Mr. DeBalsi gets a bonus every year. He asked what his bonus was last year? Mr. Christie replied that his bonus is a performance bonus based on The Ends. Mr. Merrill replied that for the last 4 years we have been below the state average and near the national average for SAT scores. There is a slight difference in our population and of the state and the nation. We have made SATs available to all students to take them unlike other places. Tests like this are tools, one measure of student achievement. Mr. North replied that he has three daughters who graduated from HHS. We have a baseline for improvement by having all students take the SATS.

Lannie Collins, Hartford, asked about the total ESSER fund grants and how much we’ve spent. Can any of the remaining funds be put toward the budget? He shared his own educational background in Hartford schools. Mr. North replied, there was a specific purpose for the ESSER fund use. We did incur significant costs due to COVID. The remaining money is being spent this year. Mr. DeBalsi answered, $ 3,7011,750 granted, spent $ 1,876,389, with $1,829,297 remaining

Mr. Merrilal replied that Mr. DeBalsi’s bonus has been between  three and five thousand depending on the goals the board has given him.

Gabrielle Lucke, Hartford, shared that she went on to college at 21. She is excited that we have students who are deciding where to go. She moved here because Hartford supports all students. She appreciates the report. She cheered for the class of 2023 and the classes below who spent their high school years locked down. She shared that there are track athletes competing today in Boston for Hartford. She asked for someone to share about the resilience of the students. Mr. Hathorn thanked Ms Lucke for that, that is what we do. The Panorama data shows that students are resilient. Mr. DeBalsi continued that the pandemic has done things to students that they may not see. The last few years have been challenging for all. This will serve as a foundation for greater things in life. He stated his pride in the students and schools. He invited anyone to visit, he will gladly take anyone into the buildings. Mr. Hathorn shared that the hallways are inviting with student activities. The students are engaged in their own pathway. He welcomed anyone to ask questions. Mr. Christie spoke about the importance of Hartford students, we have a lot to be proud of in what the students have done. He called attention to Esme Cole, Hartford grad, now serving the town as a Representative in Montpelier. He shared more examples of Hartford grads. We have so much to be proud of. 

Mr. Wooster called the question, motion carried.

To see what compensation and the School District will vote to pay the Board of School Directors from the School District funds pursuant to 16 V.S.A. 562 

Moved by Mr Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to pay the School Board of Directors $75.00 per meeting for the school year commencing July 1, 2023, to pay a stipend of $300.00 to the Chair for the school year commencing July 1, 2023, and to pay a stipend of $150.00 to the Clerk for the school year commencing July 1, 2023.

Mr. Merrill spoke about the payment for the meeting attendance, this pay may make it unreasonable for some to run for office. This does not affect him, but the ability to be on the board is in question. 

He amended the per meeting amount to $100, seconded by Mr. North. 

Mr. North clarified that he was speaking for himself. The board seeks reimbursement for their attendance. He commented on the low public attendance at board meetings. It isn’t about the money, it’s a sign that you recognize that board members are performing a civic duty. 

Jeff Arnold asked what the current pay was. Mr. Merrill replied $75 per meeting. Jeff Arnold further commented on the last board member who stepped down and that it wasn’t for financial reasons. He thinks the reason there are no new candidates is because of the long term members. They should step aside and let others run.

Jeanette Potter, parent and employee, spoke in favor of the increase. She said child care coverage might be helpful. 

Mr. North replied to the recent open seat, only one person stepped forth to fill the remaining term. If someone doesn't like what I'm doing they can run against me.

Kim Souza suggested that this would be better served during the budgeting process. She will not vote in favor. 

Mr. Collins called the question. 

Mr. Wooster called for a vote on the amendment. The amendment passed.

The main motion carried.

To do any other necessary and proper non-binding business
No other business was brought forth.

Moved by Jeff Arnold, seconded, to adjourn the meeting.

Mr. Wooster announced the closing of the meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 11:58 AM.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey