March 1, 2024

HSB Minutes 11-8-2023

       Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Meeting Minutes

November 8, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Hartford Town Hall and Online (Zoom) Meeting  

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

Administrators Present:Tom DeBalsi, Jacob Vezina, Nelson Fogg

 1.  Call to Order 

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

Mr. Merrill asked to add an Executive Session to discuss real estate. There will be an update on the Gender Equity Policy and not a first read.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to approve the amended agenda. Motion carried.

 2.  Recognition of Outstanding Student Achievement

Mr. DeBalsi announced that this would be presented at the next meeting.

Mr. Christie shared that the Supreme Court visit was great. He will discuss with Mrs. Russell about recognizing the students and staff who participated.

 3.  Communication and Support to the Board

Mr. DeBalsi reported: last week was parent teacher conference days, this Friday is Veterans Day, Jacob Vezina is training the Finance members with the new software, testing has been happening at all levels, students are busy with many activities and events


 4.  Governance Process (Section 4 Policy GP 2)

Finance Department Report
Mr. Vezina reported that they have been out straight with the software change over, intense set-up, less data to transfer, in phase three of the rollout. He thinks it will streamline many financial pieces.

He shared the 40,000 foot view of the budget, it includes the staffing increases and the 16% projected BC/BS rate increase. The building expenses and repairs are $750,000 district wide. The Butler bus increase of $16,369 (2%) is included. The overall increase is $1.9M.

Mr. Christie clarified that the staffing increase is due to contracts that were negotiated. Is the busing increase because of the structure of the routes? Keeping the public informed is important. People will understand the increase. 

Mr. Merrill noted that we all have had increases. 

Mr. Vezina noted that a contract (under state ruling) can only increase by 3%, the food service contract is up because of staffing and increased costs.

Mr. Merrill asked about the audit review. 

Mr. Vezina replied that it will be available soon.

Mr. Heavisides asked about the sixteen percent increase in health insurance and about employee contributions.

Mr. Vezina responded, the teachers/admins pay 20% and the 

support staff pays 14%. The state negotiates the rates. The family health insurance annual premium costs $35,000. The employees' share is substantial. Cyber safety insurance will increase nine percent.

Mr. Christie asked that board to think about what data points need to be included in the budget presentations. 

Facilities Committee Report
Ms Campbell reported that the committee met on Monday, November 8th and reviewed the list that was presented to the board at the last meeting. Most of the items are in the three to five year repair range. The majority of the discussion was how are we going to pay for this? It seems that two bonds would be needed. One this year would cover the immediate life safety items and a study of what should be done. The second bond in five years would be for campus expansion and updates.

Mr. Christie referenced the past district plan which had a more extensive expensive list. Time to collect the data is important.

Ms Campbell shared that this is a good model, it allows for time to gather input from the community and address the immediate life safety issues. 

Mr. DeBalsi stated that the district has done a good job maintaining the buildings but they’re old and need updating. They will be proactive with the repairs.

Mr. Merrill noted that given the budget increases and the state of the economy we will need to figure out how to educate the public. 

Discussion about the buildings’ sizes and student populations in each was held. The district is growing.

The Facility Committee will be meeting regularly now to prepare for the bond.

-    Gender Equity Policy Update

Mr. Merrill updated the board on the policy. This is the third time this policy has been reviewed. It’s a well-written document but not in policy format. He is suggesting that it has a “why?”document. 

-    Elementary Catchment Area and Enrollment Report and        Recommendation

Mr. DeBalsi reported: the administrators met last week; SOAR activity identifying strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results; explained the elementary catchment areas- based on the population of the villages and the student population; updated the board with the building developments; all new developments are in the WRS catchment area; new Pre-K legislation states all four year olds will have a full day program next year; identified weaknesses in the current model; certain age levels have hit the wall with class size; combined with growth we need to examine the delivery model to make it equitable; RFP for study of enrollment, school space, and equitable programs; 1850 students this year; 

Mr. Merrill asked about the costs of the study. He commented on the additional developments. The state has put a lot of effort into encouraging developments in downtown areas since there are resources there already. 

Mr. DeBalsi said about $15,000, there are some additional questions to be addressed. What’s the most equitable way to deliver the elementary program?

Mr. Christie supported the study, it’s important to get the data. This will also allow the district to attract more students which in turn gets increased revenue.

Ms Campbell asked about the different configurations. She asked the board to consider the parents drive to White River Jct from Quechee for 10 of the 13 years of schooling. 

Mr. DeBalsi shared several models. Given the catchment area concerns there could be a different model for Hartford. The equity work in the district is supporting the model of leveling the playing field. There is a waste of resources when staff have to travel to each school.

Mr. Merrill noted the community spirit and often families live where they want their child(ren) to go to school. The data will be important to share.

Mr. Christie shared there will be many more units built in Hartford, but they haven’t come to the table yet.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell,  to authorize the staff to put forth a request for proposal to examine the catchment areas and elementary delivery model. Motion carried. 

Superintendent Search Firm Proposals and Selection
Mr. Christie shared that a number of firms responded with a range of costs. All firms met the RFP requirements.

Mr. DeBalsi shared: Human Resource Enterprises, $28,700; New England School Development, $11, 260; Vt School Boards Assoc, $9,800; McPherson and Jacobsen, $16,375. He shared the districts in Vermont that currently have searches and who is doing them.

Ms Campbell asked about a rubric to use to assess each firm/quote. She would like someone to have the equity focus, Hartford is not a traditional New England town. 

Mr. Merrill asked about who we are trying to attract. Being an outsider might be a good thing, are we trying to recruit a wide range of candidates? The cost should not be a factor. 

Mr. Christie noted the successful searches, where to post for maximum benefit, does the firm have the national capability to reach many.

Mr. Heavisides agreed that there are extremes in the firms.

Mr. DeBalsi shared that he attended a workshop yesterday about having a wide variety of candidates and supporting employees from far away.

The board reviewed the firms and their proposals. 

Mr. Merrill suggested that the board create a rubric: staff size, geographic spread, one to four rating, what issues we care about, etc.

Mr. Christie reviewed the work from the firms and the timeframe. If necessary the board could have a special meeting to review the rubric and select a firm. 

Ms Campbell shared that the process of hiring Doug and Amelia was great. As a parent she felt informed and heard. 

Mr. DeBalsi said the board could interview the firms. 

Mr. Heavisides shared concerns from the public that the board would not entertain any minorities. 

Mr. Merrill stated we won’t exclude anyone that will benefit us. 

Rubric Questions:

compare offerings, included not included, meeting/online surveys

regional/national reach

share logistics, come here once or zoom meetings?

community wellness review included

Who would do the actual work? from where?

Mr. DeBalsi suggested the board put their ideas into a Google Doc, he would further refine the list, Alisha would be able to work on this as well. He has a rubric the board could adapt. The board could talk to the firms and ask the questions.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell,  to direct the superintendent  to gather questions that we come up with and to include in the document questions from his rubric model for us to use as a reference.

Motion carried.

Raising a Concern Website Link
Mr. DeBalsi shared with the board that there is a feedback link on the website on how to raise an issue, voice a concern, and make change. There is also an email link for people to use. 

School Board Student Representation Update
Mr. DeBalsi shared with the board what he and Mr. Fogg have done to find a student to serve on the board. They have attended Student Council meetings. The next step would be to attend history classes, explaining what the board is looking for, and hopefully a student would come forth. Students are very busy. 

Mr. Christie reminded the board that Dylan Morse’s Capstone Project addressed this exactly. He also suggested that this could be course work through the ILC. It would be done for credit.

Ms Campbell reminded the board that it’s part of the Strategic Plan. HCOREI has a student representative.

Mr. DeBalsi stated that he feels that it may be the “space” between the student and the superintendent. Students are comfortable talking to him.

Mr. Fogg stated that the board has had some strong representatives. He could see it running through the ILC example, or it could be run through a regular course. 

Mr. Merrill offered Olivia Merrill’s availability over the holiday break to meet to share her experiences. 

Mr. Fogg stated interest in meeting with her to help design/develop a different model for students to get their views to the board. It would be different than having a student show up at the board meetings. 

Holiday Messaging
Mr. DeBalsi shared a draft document offering guidance about holiday celebrations. The impetus was around the staff or a school promoting a certain holiday/event.

Mr. Merrill suggested we figure out how we can celebrate our students and not take away from all. This is a good attempt to be equitable but this isn’t the way.

Ms Campbell asked to remove the religious reference in the holiday/festival sentence. She doesn’t want to over due or under due.

Mr. Heavisides shared information about his nursing staff and holiday recognitions.

Board Committee Assignments, Reports and Updates
Mr. DeBalsi asked the board to review the list, are there any gaps or underserved committees?

VSBA Annual Mtg, Christie, meeting went well, speaker was powerful

Manifests, Christie, all moving well, first run with new software

Equity, Christie, work is great, will have district wide meeting with champions 

Audit, Christie, waiting for Jacob

HCOREI, Campbell, chair/vice chair elections, Chief Sheldon attended the last meeting to share his vision, will meet with new Town Manager

HACTC Regional Mtg, Heavisides, next meeting Tuesday

 5.  Public Comments  

The public was invited in-person and online using the link, meeting ID 974 3075 5984.

No one was in attendance or on Zoom.

 6. Consent Agenda (Section 4 Policy GP 4)

Monitoring Reports
GP 3 Board job Outcomes
B/SR 5 Monitoring Superintendent Performance
EL 5 Financial Planning and Budgeting
Meeting Minutes 
Regular Meeting 10-11-2023
Engagement Meeting-10-25-2023

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to approve the Consent Agenda. 

Motion carried with Mr. Merrill abstaining on the 10/25/23 meeting minutes.

 7. Next Board Meeting is 12/13/2023

The board agreed to a special meeting dedicated to the superintendent’s search firm interview and selection if necessary.

 8. Meeting Evaluation

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

9. Executive Session

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, the board finds it appropriate to enter into Executive Session pursuant to 1 VSA 313 (a)(2)  the negotiating or securing of real estate purchase or lease options with Mr. DeBalsi and Mr. Fogg attending.

The board entered Executive Session at 8:48 PM.

The board came out of Executive Session at 9:21 PM.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell to authorize the superintendent to enter into non-binding negotiations with a property owner in town. Motion carried.

10. Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Ms Campbell, to adjourn at 9:23 PM. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey 



Next Board Meeting December 13, 2023