March 1, 2024

HSB Minutes 6-14-2023

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

June 14, 2023  6:00 pm

In-Person at Town Hall and Online Meeting 

Members Present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North, Douglas Heavisides

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Roy Hathorn, Julie Robinson, Jacob Vezina

 1.  Call to Order 

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:02PM.

Mr. DeBalsi asked to add time for Mr. Vezina to review new office procedures and a grievance be added in the Executive Session.

Mr. Merrill noted the clerk recognized the students last night and that will be omitted. 

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

 2.  Recognition of Outstanding Student Achievement 

 Students were recognized at the June 13, 2023 joint meeting.

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

Mr. DeBalsi reported: many end of year activities and trips, Juneteenth activities tomorrow with a note to families about the holiday.

Dr. Robinson shared that  HACTC had a speaker yesterday for Juneteenth and OQS has activities scheduled for tomorrow. 

 4.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

HACTC Fund Balance/BEST Room

Mr. Vezina reported the BEST room projected cost is $1.3 M, there is $978,000 to go toward the BEST room, he recommends using up to $450,000 from this year’s fund balance.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to reserve up to $450,000 of this year’s fund balance to be used for the BEST room. Motion carried.

Internal Controls Checklist

Mr. Vezina reviewed the checklist. Mr. North asked why “yes” was the answer to have you experienced embezzlement…,  Mr. Vezina replied, one of the custodians got into the gate receipts, so there was a financial loss. Appropriate actions were taken. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell to accept the report and checklist, motion carried.

FY24 Food Service Contract

Mr. Vezina reported that the school board is required to approve the food service contract, representing a 4% increase, $632,738.33 total costs. Mr. Christie asked what the impact would be from the universal meal law signed by Gov Scott. Mr. Vezina replied it will not have much of an impact.

Moved  by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North to accept the new food service contract, motion carried.

Policy and Procedures

Mr. Vezina reported on four in-office procedural pieces: Capitalization of Assets, Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Procurement, Travel Procedures, and Federal Procurement Procedures. VASBO drafted these four documents, representing what is needed. The Policy Committee has reviewed these.  Mr. DeBalsi will provide documents to the board for review and approval at the next meeting. 

ENDS Report

Mr. Hathorn reported on Health and Well-being. Panorama data was shared for grades 3-5. The overarching view shows that students are scoring themselves in a positive light on the higher end. The one area of weakness was school climate. For grades 6-12, scores were extremely high. Supportive relationships should be celebrated. Focus on school climate, sense of belonging and engagement is needed. Mr. Hathorn met with the principals to discuss these areas. 

Mr. Merrill asked for clarification on the school climate response, what does it represent? 

Mr. Hathorn responded that in discussion with Mr. Fogg it’s hard to figure out, if you have a positive relationship with a caring adult why would school climate be low. They concluded that students’ reading of the questions and how they interpreted them impacts the response.

Mr. North and Mrs. Russell both noted the perception of the question and what the questions mean to the students impacts the results. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted an example at the middle school: a student didn’t identify as belonging to the school community but belonged to their family at home. 

Mr. Hathorn noted that HHS feels that they have exhausted Pathways for engagement and will focus on school climate to focus on student engagement.

Dr. Robinson noted that when digging down deep into the questions, the way they’re written and answered impacts the data. 

The Panorama survey started at the beginning of COVID. 

Mr. Hathorn continued with specific data from the high school, questions and responses. In a previous screening the high school did not score well on students having supporting relationships, NEASC report. The high school focused on actions to ensure that students have one supportive staff member. 

The engagement excitement grows as students age, they have more class choices. Engagement/interest was consistent through the grades with 41% interested in their classes. The next steps are to continue flexible offerings, target school climate, and hold all school celebrations. 

Mr. Christie noted that being clear about the definition of community would be helpful, some intersect. How you ask the question impacts the answer.

Mr. North noted that there’s a problem with students being there to learn. Students are using their computers for non-classroom work, teachers can’t do anything about it. There doesn’t seem to be any consequences, COVID has changed this.

Mrs. Russell shared information from the VSBA meeting today. Many reps noted that students call their teachers by the first names and may have some unhealthy relationships. Is this a lack of respect or acceptable in today’s time? 

Mr. Hathorn prefers students to call him Roy. Respect is built, it’s evident in the classroom. 

Mr. Christie shared his thoughts on engagement and respect in the classroom, all vary, consistency is the practice. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared this is a good discussion, we have data to discuss, and can move the bar up. We did have some digression in learning and behavior during the pandemic. There are more behavior issues in schools. There is a tool to help improve this. We will continue to monitor this. In the regular superintendents’ meetings behavior is always a discussion point, how we’re addressing it, and how we can measure it. With any data there are celebrations and things to work on. 

Mr. North noted that a one year snapshot isn’t always good, looking at trends is important.

Mr. Hathorn noted that sample size impacts the data, small cohorts or whole grade impacts. Time of year also impacts the data.

Dr. Robinson shared that some schools are having students look at the data, asking what students think.

Mr. Hathorn shared the middle school data, all staff will be looking at the data. Staff worked with the instructional coach to set goals for the spring semester. 

There are coaches in K through 8, Dr. Robinson shared the coaches are phenomenal and she’s grateful for the work they do. She has been asked three times at the state level to share the coaching work. Mr. DeBalsi added that this would be a great engagement topic for next year. 

Mr. North stressed communicating this information to the public is important. There’s a lot of good in Hartford, but there’s some things to improve on.

Mr. Hathorn added that Maggi started some important work, any of this adds to the positive school climate. 

Calendar Discussion and Changes, Recommendations

Mr. DeBalsi shared that some calendar discussions came from the teacher negotiations. Separating the K-8 and 9-12 inservice work was recommended, one size doesn’t fit all anymore. The elementary and middle schools would start one day later in August. The high school would have their two days on inservice at the semester break. The elementary and middle school needs more professional time during the year, the high school has it built into their day.

Mr. Merrill further shared information gathered from the negotiation sessions. Teachers have different needs depending on the level they work with. There was an earnest plea to attempt to address this. We agreed to look seriously at addressing the needs. Elementary teachers are “on” all day. 

Mrs. Russell asked who came up with the plan? 

Mr. DeBalsi replied that teachers did with representatives from all levels. It makes sense, it’s different. The separation of the buses makes this easier. Pre K-8 would have five early release times. Elementary teachers are not free at the same time to work with colleagues. 

Dr. Robinson agreed that because teachers are engaging more deeply in curriculum, they need time to change their instructional practices. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared that this would be shared with staff and families as soon as possible if the board is in agreement. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the 2023-24 calendar suggestions that were developed in response to issues raised during negotiations. Motion carried.

Student Representatives to the School Board Revised Approach

Mr. DeBalsi reported on the work trying to get a student representative on the board. He is proposing to run a course next year through the ILC, Local Government. The assignments will be around what work the board is doing. It doesn’t have to be an in-person presentation but may be a written document or a video. This will get the information the board needs from students. Students are busy with their school activities but they have a lot to say. 

The board agreed that the plan is a great idea. Mr. North suggested that the board give some background research projects. Mrs. Russell shared that some other districts have youth training  who share their thoughts. 

2023-24 Board Work Plan

 Mr. DeBalsi shared the updated work plan.

Summer Retreat Date and Topics - Multi-Tiered System of Supports

Mr. DeBalsi asked to set the retreat date for August 23, 2023. Moderator? Survey with a blank for other? 

Mrs. Russell asked to set a goal for the outcome of the retreat and getting a facilitator would be important. 

Mr. DeBalsi also added that a presentation of the basics of Restorative Practice would be helpful. An outline of key components for a new board member orientation would also be helpful and/or an informational packet for  citizens interested in running for a board seat. 

EL 7 Asset Protection Monitoring Report - Revision 

 Mr. DeBalsi modified the report, changes were shaded, he asked for input.

Mr. DeBalsi read the changes in 7.4. Staff are trained annually in how to deal with Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying situations between students. Despite this training and strict adherence to federal and state HHB (Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying) Policy and Procedures, the district did incur a claim that resulted in an unbudgeted liability claim being incurred by the district. In order to prevent this type of incident from occurring again, the district is revising its practices to ensure more is done for the student/s who have been harassed or bullied. In the past, focus has been on the perpetrator of the incident and not necessarily those perpetrated against. Through recent events the district administration realizes more must be done to alleviate the impact of harmful bullying and harassment. Remediation may include counseling, restorative work with all the parties involved, School Board involvement with repeat offenders, legal action if applicable, alternative placements for students, and other reasonable accommodations that students, parents, administrators or staff identify as beneficial.

Mr. North stated his comfort with this since he was the one who questioned it. One is too many but we’ve done the right thing to correct any future instances. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to approve the amended EL7 Asset Protection Monitoring Report. Motion carried.

Board Committee Assignments, Reports and Updates

HCOREI, North, Why isn’t the Equity Coordinator one of the board’s reps on the committee? Encourage the administration to figure out who the best person is to attend the meetings. Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday June 17th

VSBA, Russell, weekly report shared

HCC, Russell, 2022 Annual Report shared, Block party, Wednesday, June 21st, encouraging students who need community service time to volunteer, food program will start, always need volunteers for that

Manifestations, Christie, all teacher contracts signed

Policy, Merrill, review policies to check for equity issues, figured out a process to get that going, School Safety Law policies need to be reviewed for compliance

DEI, Christie, excited for new coordinator to come on board

 5.  Public Comments 

The public was invited to the meeting in-person or online using

Mr. Hathorn reported there were no members in attendance.

Mr. North announced that he has sold his house, a replacement board member will be needed. This would make a good engagement topic for the 28th. He will have to resign by July 16th,

Mr. Merrill shared, “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with you for many years. I’ve appreciated your enthusiasm, candor and sense of justice that you brought with your service. You’re “good folk”. Thank you.” 

Other board members concurred with Mr. Merrill’s comments.

Mrs. Russell congratulated the HHS Boys Lacrosse team for their Vermont Division II Championship.

Mr. Christie stated his pleasure with reconvening the joint meeting with the Select Board, more joint discussions can now happen. 

 6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 5-10-2023
Engagement Meeting 5-24-2023
 Appointments: Bailey Parker, HHS; Allison Litten HHS; Shannon Stacey, MMS; Kara Hemenway, OQS

Resignations: Jennifer Atwater, DBS

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Consent Agenda with a welcome to the new staff and a thank you to those leaving. Motion carried.

 7. Next Meeting (6/28/2023) is an Engagement Meeting – Topic TBD

Four office procedures, Mr. Vezina

Anticipated open board seat

 8. Meeting Evaluation

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

9. Executive Sessions 

Pursuant to (1) VSA 313(a)(3) and (1) VSA 313 (a) (1) (D) there is a need to hold an Executive Session for the purpose of discussing the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee and to discuss a grievance matter. Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to hold an Executive Session and to enter said session. Motion carried.

The board entered Executive Session at 8:15 PM.

The board exited the Executive Session at 8:45 PM.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, to deny the HEA grievance citing among other reasons a lack of evidence to support it. 

Motion carried, 4-0-1, Mrs. Russell abstained because she was not present at the original hearing. 

 10. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 8:47 PM. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,