March 1, 2024

HSB Minutes 9-13-2023


Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

September 13, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

Hartford Town Hall


Members present: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Douglas Heavisides, Sara Campbell

Administrators present: Tom DeBalsi, Caty Sutton, Jacob Vezina


 1.  Call to Order 

Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda
The meeting was called to order at 6:00 PM by Mr. Christie. 

There were no changes to the agenda. Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the agenda as presented. Motion carried.


2.  Recognition of Outstanding Student Achievement 

Mrs. Russell shared the history of the student achievement recognition. The board started recognizing students last year for their achievements. 

She introduced Mr. and Mrs. Brown who are hosting a junior student from Spain. They have hosted for three years. Inez is an amazing student, she has signed up for many high school activities and experiences. 

Mr. and Mrs. Brown both work for exchange programs. They would love to see a larger exchange program. 

Mrs. Russell thanked the Browns for hosting their student.

She then shared information about her Peruvian senior exchange student through Rotary International. She speaks very little English and understands little. She plays HHS JV football.


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

Mr. DeBalsi noted that his report would be during the school opening.

There are no student representatives at this time.


 4.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

School Opening
Mr. DeBalsi shared information about the ALL staff inservice day, staff were at the high school for the day, guest speaker, Dr. Brown shared a keynote address about equity and inclusion, breakout sessions were held, sixteen different workshops were offered, staff from all buildings stepped up to host/facilitate workshops over a variety of topics, the keynote speaker received a standing ovation, longevity recognition was held, it was recorded and will be posted on the website as it’s too large to send.

Mrs. Russell shared that she attended the opening day and one of the workshop sessions. She agreed that there was a lot of positive energy in the room. She added that she brought her exchange student to HHS on the first day. Staff were all around welcoming students. 

Mr. Christie shared that he attended as well and agreed that it was a great day. 

Ms Sutton shared the staff feedback of the day was well received, noting it was a good day.

Mr. DeBalsi, enrollment- 534 students HHS, 332 HACTC, HMS 313, DBS 222, OQS 203, WRS 194; Pre K programs are full, will discuss this during the budgeting season, need more space for new programs; enrollment issues are positive; he and Ms Sutton have been subbing a lot, administrators have been out, they have been covering; clean schools, transitioning to own custodial service.

Ms Sutton reported she’s spent a lot of time in the middle and high schools, all have been welcoming, the buildings all have positive energy.

Finance Department Report - Software Implementation, School Meetings, Website Updates
Jacob Vezina shared updates from the finance dept. Mascoma Bank shared that the district accounts may have been compromised. He met with the branch manager, a plan of action is in place, being proactive is key. 

Audit: things look good, expect a statement draft on Oct 6th, waiting on state numbers

Cash flow: 8.8 M, healthy spot

Website: updating policies and procedures

Mr. Merrill noted that policies will be reviewed by the board but the procedures are reviewed by the superintendent.

Mr. Vezina met with the administrative assistants over the summer with the procedures, to get everyone up to date.

The new software, Infinite Visions, will be a nice addition,  beginning January 1st. 

Student Activities will be brought in house.

Second Read of Finance Policies 
- Capitalization of Assets, Conflict of Interest, Federal Procurement, Travel Procedure

Mr. Vezina reviewed the Capitalization of Assets, Conflict of Interest, Federal Procurement policies. 

This is the second read of the policies, the first one was in June. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Merrill, to approve the policies and procedures presented. Motion carried, Ms Campbell abstained since she wasn’t present in June. 

First Read of School Policies
- Fire and Emergency Preparedness Drills, Access Control and Visitor Management

Mr. Merrill shared the policies up for first review. Some are to comply with state law/mandates. The Policy Committee reviewed the standard language provided to draft the district language.

Mrs. Russell spoke on the preparedness policy. She and several school nurses attended a workshop sponsored by the HPD. They noticed that there are not enough AEDs and emergency kits available in the district. 

Mr. Christie suggested that the board instruct the superintendent to review the protocols with the Safety Committee. The committee would then come back with a request to address these needs. 

Mr. DeBalsi noted that there are some portable AEDs in the buildings. The Safety Committee has reviewed the number available. He added that the emergency/tourniquet kits are in each building as well. 

The policies will be brought back to the next regular meeting.

HCOREI Application
Susan Mullens introduced herself: lived in Hartford 6 years, interested in diversity issues for a long time, believes any group that has a variety of voices in it makes the group stronger, there are people in the town that don’t feel that their voices are heard, interesting that only committee that needs support from the School Board and Select Board, hoping that she can join the committee.

Mr. Merrill clarified that the committee is a joint committee with a charge from both boards.

Ms Campbell added that Susan has attended many HCOREI meetings and the committee acted in August on her appointment.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to approve Susan Mullens’ appointment to HCOREI. 

2023-24 Board Work Plan
Mr. DeBalsi shared the work plan with the board. With a new board member the schedule needs to be adjusted. He also questioned the previous engagement model, it didn’t seem to draw many people out to the meetings. 

Mr. Merrill noted that Mr. North’s monitoring reports were done in January and later, so Ms Campbell would have time to acclimate to her board work. 

Mrs. Russell volunteered to do the  GP4 monitoring report on September 27th.

Mr. DeBalsi will present EL9 at the next meeting as well. He also asked if a board member wanted to meet with the administrators to discuss the topics for the engagement meetings. He will work with Ms Sutton and Dr. Robinson to identify some topics. 

Mr. Christie suggested that the first engagement meeting be about student well being. Student activities and opportunities could be shared with the community.

Mr. Heavisides asked about meeting with the administrators about open houses at the buildings open to all community members. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared that all open houses are scheduled this week and next. Special topic meetings could be held in the buildings. He also shared that he could make a calendar of events to share with the board, they could then attend when available. He would announce to the community what the topic is when the board is meeting in the buildings. 

Ms Campbell shared that the ILC Exhibition Nights are great. Students are presenting their work. She also shared that scheduling fall and spring events where everyone wants to attend, with the “administrative piece” out of it would be engaging. 

Ms Sutton noted that when you can double dip and add on to another school activity the attendance is increased. Offering other events, ie community dinner, at an engagement meeting also improves the attendance.

Mr. DeBalsi also noted that a Policy Governance review might be needed for the board. He will contact a trainer for a meeting this fall. 

Mr. Christie suggested that the board host a joint welcome meeting with the Select Board and the new town administration. All agreed.

Ms Campbell asked about inviting the Town Manager into one of the school buildings. 

VACTED Consortium Agreement
Mr. DeBalsi reported that this is a federal mandate for the Perkins Grant funding regarding the sharing of monies with the other tech centers. 

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded Mrs. Russell, to authorize the superintendent to enter into the FY24 VACTED Consortium Agreement. Motion carried.

Board Committee Assignments, Reports and Updates
Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to consider the committee assignments:

District Facility and Planning Committee - Ms Campbell, Mr. Heavisides
Charter Commission- Mrs. Russell
VSBIT/VEHI Annual Meeting- Mr. Christie
HCOREI- Ms Campbell, second member shared
Select Board - Shared revolving attendance
HACTC Advisory Board - Mr. Heavisides
Policy- Mr. Merrill
Finance- Mr. Christie, Mr. Merrill
Negotiations- Mr. Christie, Mr. Merrill
Hartford Community Coalition- Mrs. Russell
VSBA- Mrs. Russell, please sign up for the annual meeting
Community Outreach- Mrs. Russell, Mr. Heavisides
Manifest Approval- Mr. Christie
District Equity - Mr. Christie 
Mr. Heavisides asked if there was a community member on the Facility Committee yet. He has someone in mind and would be happy to approach the person. 


 5.  Public Comments

The public was invited to the meeting in-person or online via Zoom. 

There were no members of the public in Zoom.

Mr. Merrill shared a comment about Jim Kenyon’s last column about a student from Mid Vermont Christian School. Mr. Kenyon claimed that the district was making the student “pay” for her school’s position on transgender students. Mr. Merrill reviewed the VPA regulations, which the district must follow. In order to play a sport at a school you must attend the school or be a homeschool student. There is one exception, schools may enter into contracts with other schools to allow students to play a sport when the sending school doesn’t offer that sport. This student doesn’t fit any of the rules that would allow her to play on our soccer team. The VPA has a nice website where you can find all of the rules. 

Mr. Christie thanked Mr. Merrill for clarifying the situation.

Mrs. Russell shared that the AOE website, sections 200+, has some interesting reading, very informative. 


 6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

    Meeting Minutes 

Regular Meeting 6-28-2023
Summer Retreat Meeting 8-23-2023
Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to approve the Consent Agenda. Motion carried, Ms Campbell abstained.


 7. Next Meeting (9/27/2023) is an Engagement Meeting – Topic TBD

Mr. Christie shared that the information from the board retreat would be important, meeting at one of the schools. 

The Educational Quality Standards would be important for the board to review.


 8. Meeting Evaluation

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


9. Executive Session

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to enter Executive Session at 8:03 PM pursuant to  1 VSA 313 (a)(3) the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee, provided that the public shall make a final decision to hire or appoint a public officer or employee in an open meeting and shall explain the reasons for its final decision during the open meeting; moved that the Board enter into Executive Session to discuss the evaluation of a public employee under the provisions of Title 1, Section 313(a) (1) of the Vermont Statutes. Motion carried.

The board went into Executive Session at 8:03.

The board came out of Executive Session at 8:26. No action was taken.


10. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to adjourn the meeting at 8:27.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey

Recorder