March 1, 2024

HSB Minutes 9-27-2023

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Community Engagement Meeting Minutes

September 27, 2023 @ 6:00 pm


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

Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi

          1.  Call to Order 

-        Changes, Additions and Approval of the Agenda 
Mr. Christie called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.

Mr. Merrill asked that the Executive Session be moved to the beginning of the meeting. 


2. Executive Session

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell, to enter Executive Session for the purpose of discussing a student record, 1 VSA 313 (a)(7) and for the discussion of the evaluation of a public employee, 1 VSA 313 (a)(3). Motion carried.

The board entered Executive Session at 6:02 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 6:41 PM.

Mr. Merrill gave a summary of the session, whether or not the board would support the appeal of a student matter. No action was taken on the evaluation of the public employee.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to accept the appeal request. Motion carried.


          3.  Community Engagement Topics

-        Ways in Which the School Board Engages the Public

Mr. Heaviside shared the Sunday edition of the Valley News which included a full page of activities in the Lebanon School District. He also stated that a friend had shared with him a slide show of the Woodstock High School football team. He suggested a “button” on the district website where alumni could share their stories.He shared that he attended the OQS open house last week. It was an exciting night, with parents and students waiting at the door to get in. The HHS and Wilder Schools open houses are tomorrow night at 6PM. He encouraged all board members to attend.

Ms Campbell added that she will attend the HHS open house tomorrow night with her high school child. She attended WRS’ open house last week. The agency tables on the playground were a nice addition.

Mr. DeBalsi shared that he has worked with the WRS staff and agencies for the open house information. He asked what the board would like to do at the open house times, he suggested that they attend to gather evidence of the Ends successes. He also suggested holding forums to gather information. He shared the Hartford School District October calendar, each individual school calendar is synced to this. This will be a shared calendar with the board. 

Mr. Merrill added, publicity has been difficult in spite of a lot of effort. He sees two problems: there isn’t much engagement with the board and the community and there’s not a lot of knowledge about what’s going on in the schools and the accomplishments. We do need to get the word out that this is a community with schools that are thriving, and a supportive community. Focus should be put on the publicity of the schools and not the engagement with the board. The district should hire a professional to do this. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared that he put out an RFP for a professional PR person. He surveyed the state superintendents to see who has this position, some replied, many don’t have this position. Two marketing firms stated interests. One will be under contract by next week.

Ms Campbell announced that the Tuck School of Business did an analysis for the town around the Strategic Plan. She will share this information with Mr. DeBalsi. She shared that in order to be interested in the “boring” things you have to have an exciting thing for community members to attend.

Mr. Christie stated that the tech centers have funding to have full page ads in the newspaper, but other schools don’t have that funding. The board hasn’t committed to funding this. The HACTC does a full page ad once a month highlighting the Students of the Month.

Mr. DeBalsi shared that the marketing consulting firms were in the $35 to $50K range. He’s been dragging on this because of all the other needs in the district. 

Ms Campbell shared that when community members are proud of what’s happening in the buildings then they will support in times of need.

Mr. Merrill commented on the PR of the schools, if our schools are publicized as positive then families looking to relocate will be interested. If not they will move to another community.

Mr. DeBalsi shared that he heard many positive comments at the OQS open house. As of yesterday there were 1800 students, 61 new students this year. This is the most in the last ten years. The Facility Committee will meet next week and the information will be shared at the Oct 11 th meeting. The district calendar will help the board members engage in the community, maybe occasionally the board will attend a school activity instead of holding an engagement meeting. He advertised this meeting on the listserv, the Valley News, and an all staff email and no one is in attendance.

Mr. Christie commented that controversy brings people out as well as school activities. The community does support the schools, over the last ten years the budget has passed, because of the success of the students. He gave many examples of student successes.

Mr. DeBalsi announced that there are still openings, but not as many as other area districts. There are still absences, principals are subbing every week. A new staff member transferred from Texas. He gets requests every week about speaking on a panel or someone coming to do research. The word is out that the district is great.

Ms Campbell asked about sharing a firm or communication consultant with the town. HCOREI has been asking the town to consider a part time staff person.

Mr. Christie announced that there are 600 waivers for teachers and House Representatives are now allowed to sub in their home districts. 

The October calendar is filling up, VSBA conference, the VT Supreme Court will be in session at the high school. The board will decide on October 11th if they want to change their meeting calendar.


          4.  Public Engagement 

The public was invited to the meeting in-person at Hartford Town Hall and online,, ID  974 3075 5984.
Mrs. Russell shared that the girls volleyball team is 4th in the state and the JV and varsity football teams are winning. 


5.  Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to adjourn the meeting at 7:29 PM. Motion carried.


Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey




Next Regular School Board Meeting is October 11, 2023 

at 6:00 PM at Hartford Town Hall.