board at a future meeting.
WINDHAM SOUTHEAST SCHOOL DISTRICT (WSESD) BOARD
TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2023
REGULAR BOARD MEETING – 6PM
HYBRID MEETING: WRCC CUSICK CONFERENCE ROOM, BRATTLEBORO,
AND REMOTELY VIA ZOOM
SUMMARY: The board heard a presentation by the Superintendent on administrative goals, and a presentation by three principals on the teacher peer observation program that was piloted this year. BUHS administration gave an update on the school branding process: a screening committee composed of students and staff has narrowed down 132 submissions for a new team name to three finalists, which students will be voting on this week. The Finance Director provided an update on the grant application process for funding the Oak Grove School capital improvement projects, which include installing a heat pump, insulation, PCB remediation and window replacements. The board shared news that the sexual abuse investigation will soon be closing the information gathering phase and encouraged anyone who has been considering reporting to do so as soon as possible. The Superintendent provided information on possible improvements to Natowich and Tenney Fields, and the Board voted to direct the administration to resuscitate Natowich as a natural field.
WSESD Board Members Present: Chair Kelly Young (KY), Anne Beekman (AB), Lana Dever (LD), Tim Maciel (TM), Ruby McAdoo (RMA), Robin Morgan (RM), Shaun Murphy (SM), Eva Nolan (EN), Kimberley Price (KP), Deborah Stanford (DS).
WSESU/SD Staff and Administrators Present: Mark Speno, Cassie Damkoehler, Frank Rucker, Keith Lyman, Julianne Eagan, Kate Margaitis, Kelly Dias, Hannah Parker, Mary Kaufmann, Nancy Wiese, Henry Zacchini, Jon Sessions, John Gagnon, Mary Kaufmann, Amy Skolnick, Deb Schiller, Jodi Nutting, Ellen Strong, Chris Nesbitt.
Media Present: Chris Mays (Brattleboro Reformer), Kevin O’Connor (VT Digger), Virginia Ray (The Commons).
Others Present: Mindy Haskins Rogers of Northampton, Massachusetts, Jody Normandeau of
Dummerston, Michelle Green of Dummerston, Sarah Cassidy, Sherri Keefe, Liz Adams, Kate O’Connor, Kerry Amidon, Raquel Moreno, Mary Speno.
Please note: attendance may be incomplete.
I. CALL TO ORDER
KY called the meeting to order at 6:02
KY announced changes to the agenda:
● One executive session under “contracts.”
● To read a letter that was presented at the last meeting for Teacher Appreciation Week. This is added to “Unfinished Business.”
● Code of Ethics: KY emailed Board members a document about “meeting norms” that was
developed and used by the PCS Leadership Council. A discussion will ensue tonight under
“Board Matters / Training.”
She noted an action taken at the last Board meeting. She hadn’t expected to take action after rising
from executive session, but in fact there was an action: the Board voted to approve the recommendation
of the Superintendent for a reorganization of the BUHS leadership team.
II. STUDENT MATTERS
There were none.
III. ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT
Superintendent Mark Speno gave his report on goals. These goals included
1. Bringing the leadership team of district principals together with a system of communication and collaboration. This was supported with monthly administrative meetings focused on collaborating to meet Improvement Plan goals, with an emphasis on MLSS and EST, with additional meetings for K-6 administrators and BUHS/BAMS/WRCC administrators.
2. Continuous work on MLSS and EST development. In June there will be a presentation to the Board on this.
3. Systematizing a way for the Curriculum office and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office to collaborate throughout the school year. A weekly meeting was instituted with the purpose of incorporating a DEI lens into all topics throughout the school year, across all curriculum and professional development.
Dummerston School Principal Julianne Eagan, Green Street School Principal Kate Margaitis, and Academy School Principal Kelly Dias presented on the Peer Observation Program, a structure that allows teachers to observe their colleagues teaching and then reflect on the experience together.
● A slideshow, “Peer Observation Models in WSESU.”
● Mr. Speno noted he supports this program because he believes in collaboration and sharing tools in schools across the district. This year teachers observed peers in their own school. Next year the goal will be to do peer observation at other schools.
● Ms. Dias presented on the Academy School peer observation program, which focused on expanding teachers’ vision through non-evaluative feedback focused on growth for the observing teacher. It was regarded as a valuable activity and they will continue it next year with a focus on literacy.
● Ms. Eagan presented on the Dummerston School peer observation program, which included discussion on what a culture of collective efficacy looks like, details on their peer observation model, training resources used to develop the program, and plans for next year.
● Ms. Margaitis presented on the Green Street School peer observation program, which included discussion on why they participated in the program, steps they took, feedback and data from staff, and goals for next year.
A discussion ensued on the peer observation program. Highlights included:
● How and why this program was developed.
● How this process can help support play-based and outdoor learning.
● How methods transfer from school to school.
● This promotes ongoing learning for teachers.
● This promotes building trust among staff.
● That this is part of MLSS.
● This process is not evaluative, and whether it is ever appropriate for it to be evaluative and what to do then.
B. School Branding
BUHS adminstrative leaders Cassie Damkoehler and Hannah Parker presented on the process at BUHS for choosing a new mascot. Highlights included:
● A survey was conducted seeking team name suggestions and applicants for a screening committee to select the name.
● 132 responses have been received and a screening committee was formed consisting of six students and four staff.
● The committee has a very positive outlook on this process, even from students who initially were resistant to changing the name.
● The committee reviewed all submissions and narrowed the name choices down to three finalists. All three are positive associations and have a connection to the community.
● On Wednesday, the survey will go to all BUHS staff and students inviting them to vote on one of the three finalists. On the survey for staff there is an additional choice to vote for “whatever the students decide.” Voting will close on Friday.
● If the top two mascots are within 10% of another, there will be an additional round of voting for those two.
● The purple and white colors will remain.
● Once a final choice is selected, Ms. Damkoehler hopes to have students present the choice and some logo artwork at a Board meeting for a Board vote.
Mr. Speno spoke to a local graphic designer who will draft some mock-ups. He noted this rebranding can include students in creating murals and other projects around campus.
IV. CONSENT AGENDA
● CLERK’S REPORT – Approval of Minutes – May 9, 2023, and Executive Session on April 25, 2023
MOTION BY KP TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE APRIL 25, 2023 EXECUTIVE
SESSION. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
MOTION BY TM TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF MAY 9, 2023.
MOTION BY DS TO AMEND THE MINUTES ON PAGE 4 TO REMOVE “FOR 28 YEARS”
IN DS’S STATEMENT. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
MOTION BY RMA TO AMEND THE MINUTES ON PAGE 8, ITEM A, TO ADD THE
SENTENCE: “RMA ACKNOWLEDGED SHE WILL CONNECT WITH DEB GASS ON THIS
ISSUE.” MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
MOTION BY TM TO AMEND THE MINUTES ON PAGE 6, UNDER “WARRANTS,” TO
READ: “TM SAID THAT WAS A VALID CONCERN AND WOULD WANT INFORMATION
ON PROFESSIONAL CONFERENCES ONLY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF.” MOTION
VOTE ON THE MOTION TO APPROVE THE MINUTES WITH THE AMENDMENTS:
MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
V. FISCAL REPORT
Finance Director Frank Rucker gave his report. Highlights included:
● The Finance Committee met before the May 9 Board meeting. The minutes are on the website.
● An update on the $3 million federal grant for the Oak Grove School capital improvement projects, which include installing a heat pump, insulation, PCB remediation and window replacements.
◦ This is a collaborative project between Mr. Rucker, Oak Grove Principal Mary Kaufmann, and WRCC Director Nancy Wiese.
◦ The federal agency requested more information, which is a good sign, as it indicates we are still in the running. Mr. Rucker submitted the requested information. They wanted to know how this is scalable. This is an opportunity to work with community partners and STEM students about how we depend on heating systems and how that relates to climate change.
This is a very policy-driven funding source; they want to see labor unions, clean energy, and disadvantaged communities engaged.
◦ If the District does not get this grant, the project will proceed, but may need to adjust the scale or scope of this work without additional funding.
◦ Ms Kaufmann expressed thanks to Mr. Rucker for his work and noted that the district science coach and science faculty at BAMS and BUHS have been working on collaboration opportunities around this project focused on climate and energy, expanding into math and literacy as well.
VI. PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS
BUHS teacher Henry Zacchini spoke about his concerns with using artificial turf for the Natowich Field restoration project, noting the safety issues with chemical off-gassing, elimination of the biosphere of the field, and the loss of the grass field’s ability to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
KY responded that the decision on this field was made by a previous board and anticipated that a committee may be formed to address this, encouraging Mr. Zacchini to reach out to that committee, and noting that it will be discussed later in the meeting under the agenda item for Natowich Field.
Jody Normandeau of Dummerston suggested that instead of installing artificial turf, more workers could be hired to properly maintain a grass field.
VII. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
A. Sexual Abuse Investigation Update
KY gave an update. “The fact-gathering portion of the investigation being conducted by Aimee Goddard will be drawing to a close shortly. Anyone who has been considering making a report to Attorney Goddard but has not yet done so is invited to as soon as possible. Although this particular channel of reporting will no longer be available after fact-gathering has ended, all members of the community should be aware that the Board continues to take the issues under investigation seriously and encourages reporting concerns and incidents through all the other available channels that will remain in place. We continue to ask for your patience and understanding as the investigation moves into the next phase.”
Mindy Haskins Rogers of Northampton, Massachusetts asked questions about the process. They included:
● What is the function of the executive session meetings with Attorney Hoechst?
● What will her role be when the investigation concludes?
● Why meet with a different attorney if the Board has yet to receive information?
● Will Attorney Hoechst represent the District in lawsuits?
● The community asked the Board to not be involved in the investigation.
● Attorney Goddard is doing the investigation.
● The Board hired Attorney Hoechst to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
● The Board communicates with her, and she communicates with Attorney Goddard.
● The fact-finding from Attorney Goddard will come soon.
● Attorney Hoechst is not the Board’s defense attorney.
RMA requested KY’s statement to go to Mr. Speno for distribution to all administrators, and theCommunications Council will share it on social media.
B. Natowich Field Resurfacing / Campus Improvements
Mr. Speno reminded the Board that the purpose of this item on the agenda is to make the Board aware of the programs that need the field and the challenges in continuing the programs in an equitable way.
Aside from what happens on Natowich, administrators are taking proactive steps to provide more flexibility, and that includes addressing Tenney Field. They are working with field experts to clarify options, looking toward moving home plate 15-30 feet closer to the backstop, which would create a larger outfield that could be used for soccer and field hockey. That will open opportunities for other varsity sports to play under lights on a field that supports their requirements. The grandstand has been neglected and the goal now is to rehabilitate it to include space for outdoor classrooms, visiting locker rooms, and upgraded bathrooms.
Natowich Field also needs attention. Work will be done this spring and summer to get it ready for fall sports. In the near future a significant amount of resources will need to be devoted to upgrading the field.
A discussion ensued. Highlights included:
● Ms. Damkoehler explained that they repair the field with sod each year but every so many years
the whole field must be laid with fresh loam. Facilities manager Ricky Aithier is expecting a
proposal from consultants tomorrow on recommended maintenance for the field. He has been in
touch with the community group Friends of Tenney Field, and they are in favor of the proposed
plans for the grandstand and field.
● Discussion of the advantages of organically managed natural grass for playing fields.
● A debate on whether or not to form a committee to address this, rather than have the whole Board decide, and why.
● Whether the discussion takes place at the board or committee level, administration recommends a goal of having a plan in place by November.
● There is pending legislation at the state level on the use of PFAS, which may affect the decision on whether to use artificial turf.
● Whether or not to reinstate the Climate Crisis Task Force to consider this issue. That the Task Force included non-Board community members.
● Whether there should be a committee devoted to facilities and buildings that could consider this, or whether that might already be included in the work of the Finance Committee
● There may already be a consensus among Board members to use natural grass and not artificial turf.
● The impact on students on delaying or drawing out this decision.
MOTION BY EN TO REINSTATE THE CLIMATE CRISIS TASK FORCE.
AB noted the agenda does not include an item about reinstating this committee.
DS noted Policy E14 [Environmental Awareness and Responsibility] addresses these concerns. It pre-
exists the Climate Crisis Task Force, and it is currently being reviewed by the Policy and Amendment
MOTION BY TM THAT THE DISTRICT NOT CONSIDER SYNTHETIC FIELDS AS A
POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM WITH THE ATHLETIC FIELD.
A discussion ensued.
SM SUGGESTED A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT THAT TM WORD THE MOTION MORE
POSITIVELY, USING THE LANGUAGE “THAT THE BOARD DIRECT THE
ADMINISTRATION AND THE FINANCE DIRECTOR TO RESUSCITATE NATOWICH
FIELD AS A SOD FIELD.”
A discussion ensued.
TM said he wants to keep specific mention of removing “artificial turf” as an option for all of the fields. TM agreed to SM’s motion with the addition of “and all other fields.”
RM objected to this language, questioning the scope of this motion.
Mr. Speno requested the Board leave SM’s language intact because Natowich Field is on the agenda, and it leaves a strong message for future field discussions.
Michelle Green of Dummerston reminded the Board that the Leadership Councils want to be included in making decisions on actions that affect their students. Ms. Damkoehler noted that TM has made sure that BUHS Leadership Council is aware of this discussion.
KP expressed concern that community members may not have realized the Board is making a decision on options for the playing surface this at this meeting. DS noted that topic is on the agenda, it was also on the agenda for the last meeting with extensive supporting documents, and included in the executive summary in the May 9 minutes.
A discussion ensued on the language used to describe the materials and what that means.
LD SUGGESTED A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT TO USE SM’S LANGUAGE BUT REPLACE
THE WORD “SOD” WITH “NATURAL FIELD” IN ORDER TO PROVIDE MORE CLARITY
AND FLEXIBILITY. TM ACCEPTED THIS AMENDMENT.
Administrators spoke favorably of this wording for the motion.
DS CALLED THE QUESTION. THE BOARD VOTED UNANIMOUSLY IN FAVOR OF
VOTE ON THE MOTION BY TM TO DIRECT THE ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE
DIRECTOR TO FIND A WAY TO RESUSCITATE NATOWICH AS A NATURAL FIELD.
WAS BY ROLL-CALL:
MOTION CARRIED 8-1.
C. BUHS School Branding
This was completed during the “Administrative Report.”
VIII. BOARD MATTERS / TRAINING
A. Ethics and Meeting Norms & Committees & Leadership Council Updates
RMA reported she emailed the Board with a document containing the Putney Leadership Council’s
meeting norms. A discussion ensued about the part addressing ending meetings on time and whether
that is a realistic goal for this board. RM volunteered to write up a draft of WSESD Board Meeting
Norms based on this resource for the board to consider and discuss at a future meeting.
RMA updated the Board on recent meetings of the Communications Council and the Performance
Equity Committee. The Communications Council reviewed their mission and is moving forward with
no changes to that mission and periodic meetings as needed. The Performance Equity Committee
discussed a change to their mission. That will be on the next meeting’s agenda so it can be reviewed for
B. National Teacher Appreciation Week Statement
RM reread the statement of Teacher Appreciation that was approved very late in the last meeting. This
was sent to all district staff by the superintendent during Teacher Appreciation Week. [Full text is
available in the minutes from the May 9 meeting.]
IX. NEW BUSINESS
A. Hires / Resignations
Mr. Speno announced two resignations, Kathryn Mason, OGS School Counselor and Sara Perez-
Battles GSS Art Teacher, and a one-year leave-of-absence, Sue Vincent at PCS.
MOTION BY KP TO APPROVE THE RESIGNATIONS WITH REGRET. MOTION
MOTION BY RM TO APPROVE THE ONE-YEAR LEAVE-OF-ABSENCE. MOTION
Mr. Speno announced seven new hires:
● Angie Dodd – PCS Foreign Language Teacher
● Laura Casey – PCS Academic Support Teacher
● Christina Deal – BAMS Academic Support Teacher
● John Ward – BUHS Social Worker
● Rachel Loomis Foster – OGS Behavior Interventionist
● Kathryn Mason – OGS .5 Social Worker
● Jaclyn Bristol – OGS 6th Grade Teacher
MOTION BY AB TO ACCEPT THE NEW HIRES AS LISTED BY MARK. MOTION
B. Student Representative Applications
TM and DS reported on the progress of seeking student representatives to the Board. A notice was sent
to BUHS announcing that the board is seeking two student representatives, which included a
description of the role, estimation of time commitment, and the fact that there is a stipend. So far only
one application has been received and there is only one day until the deadline. If needed the deadline
can be extended. Hannah Parker shared that she has heard students talking about this opportunity and
they were aware of the deadline. Next steps in this process will include interviewing the applicants.
C. Policy & Amendment Committee Recorder
DS announced there is no person recording these meetings now, they are desperate for help, and Board
Recorder Wendy M. Levy is unable to record this Committee’s meetings. DS would like the Board’s
permission to hire someone to draft minutes for these meetings.
MOTION BY RM TO EMPOWER THE POLICY & AMENDMENT COMMITTEE TO HIRE
A RECORDER FOR THEIR MEETINGS.
A discussion ensued. Highlights included:
● KP asked about the position’s compensation.
● DS responded: The pay would be comparable to Ms. Levy’s pay.
● RMA indicated this Board needs more support without putting more pressure on the Central
Office. It is worth discussing the possibility of hiring an administrative assistant.
● KY asked RMA to send that idea to the entire board in writing.
VOTE ON THE RM MOTION: MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
KY called for a five-minute break at 9:01.
KY called the meeting back into order at 9:07.
X. EXECUTIVE SESSION
KY announced that she, DS, AB, Kerry Amidon of the WSESU Board, and Mr. Speno attended a training presented by the VSBA. In it, they discussed when the Board needs to include a finding when it goes into executive session. Some types of executive sessions require a finding to justify the session, others do not. KY will send the slides to the other Board members. Until this matter is clarified for the full Board, there will continue to be findings made for each executive session.
MOTION BY DS TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN
SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE, WHILE ANTICIPATING THE BOARD WILL MAKE A
SEPARATE MOTION UNDER 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(A), CONTRACTS. MOTION CARRIED
MOTION BY DS TO ENTER INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(A),
CONTRACTS. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
KY noted the Board will take no action upon rising from Executive Session.
The Board entered into Executive Session at 9:10pm.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 9:24.
KP MOTION TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WOULD
CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN SUBSTANTIAL
DISADVANTAGE, WHILE ANTICIPATING THE BOARD WILL MAKE A SEPARATE
MOTION UNDER BOTH 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(1)(B) LABOR RELATIONS AGREEMENTS
WITH EMPLOYEES AND 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(1)(D) GRIEVANCES, OTHER THAN TAX
GRIEVANCES. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
SM MOTION TO ENTER EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER BOTH 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(1)(B)
LABOR RELATIONS AGREEMENTS WITH EMPLOYEES AND 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(1)(D)
GRIEVANCES, OTHER THAN TAX GRIEVANCES. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
The Board entered Executive Session at 9:26.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 10:12.
AB MOTION TO ADJOURN. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
Meeting was adjourned at 10:13.
● A slideshow, “Peer Observation Models in WSESU.”
Submitted by WSESD Board Clerk Robin Morgan from minutes taken by Board Recorder Wendy M. Levy
This represents my understanding of the above dated meeting. If you have any changes, please submit
them at the next board meeting.