Note: These proposed minutes should be considered preliminary until they are approved by the
board at a future meeting.
WINDHAM SOUTHEAST SCHOOL DISTRICT (WSESD) BOARD
TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2023
REGULAR BOARD MEETING – 6PM
HYBRID MEETING: WRCC CUSICK CONFERENCE ROOM, BRATTLEBORO,
AND REMOTELY VIA ZOOM
SUMMARY: The board heard a presentation from the Office of Diversity Equity and Social Justice about the teacher leader structure and diversity, equity and social justice programming in the district. There was a discussion about how to address and facilitate input from leadership councils. The board approved an updated capital plan, focused on increasing sustainability. The board heard from students that they would appreciate more transparency around the sexual abuse investigation and disclosed that they are in meetings with their attorney in order to gather some data that can be released to the public.
There was a discussion about the need for increasing athletic field capacity which could include resurfacing Natowich Field and improvements to Tenney Field. The superintendent provided an update about the process to select a new name and mascot for BUHS. The board voted to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for a reorganization of leadership roles at BUHS.
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), Kaiya Colby (KC)
WSESU/SD Staff and Administrators Present: Mark Speno, Mikaela Simms, Paul Smith, Frank
Rucker, Cassie Damkoehler, Hannah Parker, Chris Brewer, Keith Lyman, Nancy Wiese, Kate
Margaitis, Julianne Eagan, Kelly Dias, John Gagnon, Jon Sessions, Mary Kaufmann, Chris Sawyer,
Ricky Davidson, Melissa Cavanaugh, Michael Szostak, Brin Tucker, Rebecca Speisman, Alexandra
Keep, Whitney Lynde, Gorty Baldwin, Deb Schiller, Jordan Del Bianco, Robin Macy, Deb Heller,
Media Present: Chris Mays, Kevin O’Connor, WCAX, Virginia Ray
Others Present: BUHS students Lucy Corbin, Z’Aira Pacheco, and Django Grace, Mindy Haskins
Rogers of Northampton, Massachusetts, Jamie Contois of Putney, David Schoales of Brattleboro, Liz
Adams of Putney, Maggie Foley, Jody Normandeau, Kerry Amidon, Craig Miskovich, Izzy Snyder,
Crista Yagjian, Kate O’Connor, Sherri Keefe, Matt Dricker
Please note: attendance may be incomplete.
I. CALL TO ORDER
KY called the meeting to order at 6:15pm.
KY announced there would be three executive sessions at the end of the meeting. One of them, under 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(F) for confidential attorney-client communications, was warned. The other two are as follows:
● One under both 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(D) for grievances or other tax grievances, and, under 1 VSA
§313(a)(1) for labor relations agreements with employees, because both may be necessary.
● One under 1 VSA §313(a)(3) for appointment of a public officer or employee.
II. STUDENT MATTERS
BUHS student Z’Aira Pacheco, on behalf of the BUHS Student Council, shared concerns about the lack of transparency from the Board on the sex abuse investigation, and the results of a survey the Council sent to students. She read a statement into the record, and agreed to email it to the Board Clerk, Robin Morgan (RM), for inclusion in its entirety in these minutes. The statement is as follows:
We are here as members of the BUHS student council representing our school. We are here to express concerns about the lack of transparency around the sexual abuse allegation investigation that has been occurring over the past year. We feel it is very important to communicate with the student body and faculty in order to build trust and ensure school safety. Without it, rumors and speculation can happen which can lead to the spread of false information. We understand there are legal obligations and restrictions with any kind of investigation, however, we believe that any communication that can happen should happen.
Last week, we sent out a survey to BUHS students to see how the confusion and lack of communication about the investigations affected school safety. Many students expressed concerns about how they felt like they had received little to no information about the sexual abuse investigation.
One student said they feel they are lacking communication about “Awareness and how to prevent it”.
Other students would simply like to know the next steps that are being taken regarding the investigationand termination of Steve Perrin. One student mentioned how many of the messages we receive arevague and another said messages should be as specific as possible.
Overall, we are here at this meeting tonight in hopes of showing you that transparency is veryimportant for our community. We hope that the newly elected board members will take this intoconsideration going forward.”
KY responded: The Board will address this subject under “New Business.” The Board is working withits attorney to gather information to share, and it is an ongoing process. Students can speak toadministrators they trust about safety concerns and questions.
DS asked the student if the survey was sent by the Student Council and sent to all students, and howmany responded. Ms. Pacheco said that it was sent by the Student Council to all students and she wasunsure about the number of responses. DS asked about the rate of return so the Board could put theresults into perspective. She requested the student email her the information.
Mindy Haskins Rogers of Northampton, Massachusetts, commended the students for their self-advocacy and acknowledged their anxiety. She questioned how the Board is meeting with theirattorney, because these meetings have not been warned.
KY responded: At the last Board meeting, the Board met with its attorney in executive session. It will happen again at this meeting.
Ms. Haskins Rogers asked if these meetings were with Attorney Goddard, or with another attorney.KY declined to answer.
Ms. Haskins Rogers asked if the attorney will be invited into executive session publicly.
David Schoales thanked the board for continuing to commit resources to Ms. Simms’s department which has contributed to her ability to create these structures.
Ms. Simms noted the importance not just of increasing the diversity of the staff, but also of having white staff who are really dedicated to social justice. DS added a request for white people to educate themselves ahead of time, and to engage in the many resources available instead only of relying on people of color to educate them. LD noted that diversity comes in many forms, and this work liberates us all, quoting Murri activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
EN recognized Mikaela for her 15 years of service to the district and her courage in speaking up for these issues. She acknowledged the impact that microagressions can have on BIPOC staff and noted that doing this work is very important for all staff members to be able to create a welcoming and supportive school culture.
RMA asked if discussion about the communications from Leadership Councils, which were conveyed along with the monthly reports from administrators, would be part of the administrative report. She wanted to know if the Board had a process for addressing communications from the Councils, noticing that this was a common concern expressed by several of the LCs.
KY suggested that this discussion could take place in the section of the meeting on Board Matters. She suggested that if LCs have questions related to the work of a particular committee that they reach out to that committee.
TM shared that the BUHS LC had concerns that different LCs are hearing different info from their board representatives depending on what committee their board rep serves on.
RM asked if it would be appropriate for the clerk to create a brief summary of the minutes that could be conveyed to LCs. RMa agreed that this would help with accessibility and engagement with the board’s work and suggested that the Communications Council could create a proposal around this.
Ricky Davidson, who serves as co-chair of the BUHS LC, stated that if there are upcoming topics that the board wants input on, those topics need to be communicated to the LCs. KP shared that the BAMS LC shared this desire. They want to feel included and like their viewpoint matters.
LD suggested a directive for what types of information board representatives should share with LCs – perhaps any votes taken and things that the board wants the LC’s input on. The minutes are available but parents have a lot on their hands. This structure is new and the board is still learning how to utilize it.
TM noted a request from the BUHS LC related to the high school dropout rate.
IV. CONSENT AGENDA
● CLERK’S REPORT – Approval of Minutes – April 25, 2023
MOTION BY RM TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF APRIL 25, 2023.
A discussion ensued.
RM requested an amendment to the minutes as follows: On page five the wording of TM’s motion
should be as follows: “to direct the Administration to change the current Colonels mascot and brand to
a new one that is without harmful and racist implications.”
MOTION BY RM TO AMEND THE MINUTES AS INDICATED. MOTION CARRIED
VOTE ON THE MOTION TO APPROVE THE MINUTES WITH THE AMENDMENT:
MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
● FINANCES: Warrants and Payrolls
Warrant of April 10, 2023
Warrant No. 1313 in the amount of $3,317.93
Warrant No. 1315 in the amount of 17,218.30
Warrant No. 1319 in the amount of 463.68
Warrant No. 1320 in the amount of 1,071,497.97
April 7, 2023 $1,425,219.57
Warrant of April 17, 2023
Warrant No. 1321 in the amount of $3,363.75
Warrant No. 1323 in the amount of 23,417.49
Warrant No. 1324 in the amount of 3,813.97
Warrant No. 1325 in the amount of 100,096.93
April 21, 2023 $1,447,847.51
Warrant of May 1, 2023
Warrant No. 1326 in the amount of 982.70
Warrant No. 1327 in the amount of 7,747.21
Warrant No. 1333 in the amount of 381.00
Warrant No. 1334 in the amount of 553.05
Warrant No. 1335 in the amount of 56,670.22
Warrant No. 1337 in the amount of 6,175.33
Warrant No. 1339 in the amount of 300.00
Warrant No. 1340 in the amount of 6,344.60
Warrant No. 1341 in the amount of 2,354.67
Warrant No. 1342 in the amount of 277,054.89
MOTION BY KP TO APPROVE THE WARRANTS OF APRIL 10, 2023 IN THE AMOUNT
OF $1,092,497.88; THE PAYROLL OF APRIL 7, 2023 IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,425,219.57;
THE WARRANTS OF APRIL 17, 2023 IN THE AMOUNT OF $130,692.14; THE PAYROLLS
OF APRIL 21, 2023 IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,447,847.51; AND THE WARRANTS OF MAY 1,
2023 IN THE AMOUNT OF $358,563.67.
A discussion ensued.
TM said it would be helpful to know who has gone to which PD conferences listed in the warrants. Paul Smith asked which information TM wanted: the locations or the names of the conferences. TM responded: the names of the conferences.
SM noted this information already appears in the warrants under “airfare.”
DS said it would be helpful to not have to go through the warrants to see this information, noting that she appreciates seeing the commitment of the district to professional development topics. BAMS Principal Keith Lyman explained that the administrative team would have to discuss how to meet that request because his school sends hundreds of staff to PD conferences each year, some are short courses for as little as $50. TM recognized that as a valid concern.
VOTE ON APPROVING THE WARRANTS AND PAYROLLS: MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
RMA made a point-of-order: The board did not vote on approving minutes for the executive session meeting on April 25 that was held directly before the regular board meeting. KY apologized for not including those explicitly on this agenda and said the board will have to vote on those at the next meeting.
V. FISCAL REPORT
A. Capital Plan Review
Mr. Rucker reported the Finance Committee met earlier that day. They reviewed the Capital Plan and approved it. Mr. Rucker noted he sent a copy of it to all Board members, and it appears on the website.
MOTION BY DS THAT THE WSESD BOARD APPROVE THE CAPITAL PLAN IN THE
AMOUNT OF $4,106,743.
A discussion ensued. Highlights included:
● SM pointed out this Capital Plan represents a tremendous amount of work by Mr. Rucker on sustainability. The warrants demonstrate this. All schools except one have been switched from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the final school is in the process of this transformation.
● Mr. Rucker noted that generally, all projects costing more than $1 million are funded through bonds, but this plan shows an ESSER grant-funded $2 million project. There is also a grant from the Department of Energy in-progress. No debt is needed for this plan. And, there is still $2.8 million in Capital Reserves.
● Capital improvement work that has been done, expenses, and previous votes taken by the Board.
A discussion ensued on the Natowich Field improvements. KY reminded everyone that Natowich Field is on the agenda later in the meeting.
The discussion on the Capital Plan continued. Highlights included:
● Mr. Rucker noted that of the 42 projects in the Capital Plan, nine are grant-funded. Part of the process for receiving these grants is having these discussions at Board meetings.
● Mr. Schoales asked if any of the ESSER projects will not be complete by the end of the year when the ESSER funding ends. Mr. Rucker responded: supply-chain uncertainties have stabilized, and while there are statutory requirements for some projects, he is confident they will be completed in time.
● Jaime Contois of Putney asked for confirmation that the vote to approve this Capital Plan will not bind the Board to resurfacing Natowich Field with a specific material. KY responded: it will not.
VOTE ON APPROVING THE CAPITAL PLAN: MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
B. Financial Statements
Mr. Rucker discussed the financial statements. Highlights included:
● He has already sent these statements to the Board.
● A review of the Balance Sheet, which is the most important piece of information on financial solvency.
● Third Quarter has just ended.
● The bottom line: the District is in good financial shape.
● The District has:
◦ $7.5 million in assets.
◦ $2.5 million in liabilities.
◦ $5 million fund balance.
● The difference between revenues and expenses as of April 30, 2023 is, as expected, $112,000.
● Six weeks remain in the Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2023.
● Mr. Rucker will have more updates soon.
KY called for a break at 7:35pm.
KY called the meeting back into order at 7:41.
VI. PUBLIC COMMENT ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS
There was none.
VII. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
A. Sexual Abuse Investigation Update
KY gave an update. The board has spoken with their attorney and we are working on what data to gather to be released to the public. They will be speaking with the attorney again this evening, actively working on getting that information to release.
DS noted that the board’s initial commitment was to transparency.
Ms. Haskins Rogers expressed her concern that some of the sex abuse information the Board is withholding is acceptable because of very clear statutory requirements; but, the Board appears to be withholding some information to protect the District’s liability, as per the legal advice it has been receiving. This action does not always support protecting students or mitigating harm to survivors.
KY responded: The board has not been doing the investigation itself in order to allow an unbiased process, as desired by the community. At the last board meeting the board met [in executive session] with their attorney to work on gathering information to convey to the public. She noted that this process takes time especially because of working with multiple parties. She expressed appreciation for Ms. Haskins Rogers coming to every meeting and keeping this in the forefront of everyone’s mind.
B. Natowich Field Resurfacing / Campus Improvements
KY reminded the Board they are making no decisions at this meeting about Natowich Field. The board has received documents prepared by SM and Mr. Rucker regarding the previous considerations of resurfacing the field, and will need time to consider that information.
Mr. Speno noted the goal is to clarify the challenges the District is facing based on the campus, and the number and size of the fields, and some equity issues. Tonight is not the time to discuss grass versus turf.
Athletic Director Chris Sawyer discussed the findings of the Gale & Associates report, which showed that there is a five-field deficit. 250 hours per year is sthe recommended amount for a grass field and BUHS/BAMS are well past that. Some of the sports that are using these fields include varsity and JV teams for boys and girls soccer, football and field hockey in the fall, and baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse, ultimate, and track and field in the spring. The field hockey team was not able to host
playoff games because of lines for other sports that are painted on Natowich, so they were moved to Sawyer Field which has no lights, grandstand, press box or accessible bathrooms. It’s a Title IX consideration that they don’t have the same environment as other athletes.Some other teams don’t have anywhere to play that is not part of a baseball or softball field or track, which is a safety issue. Adding these teams to the use of Natowich Field creates even more wear on a field that is already overused.
Mr. Speno said the administration is exploring the idea of turning the Tenney Field grandstands into a multipurpose area with outdoor classrooms, locker space, and a meeting space for visiting teams. The grandstand is a historical structure but it’s not usable right now. He is in contact with Friends of Tenney, a local group that wants to preserve the grandstands.
Principal Cassie Damkoehler has been working with facilities manager Ricky Aithier and Mr. Sawyer to find solutions. They have a temporary solution to the problem of bathrooms for athletes using Sawyer Field (WRCC bathrooms). Mr. Aithier is meeting with Friends of Tenney and has forwarded some plans to an engineer and a field consultant to address the need for outdoor learning space with access to bathrooms, wifi and comfortable seating.
Mr. Speno asserted the administration’s goal is to improve conditions for the students as soon as possible.
A discussion ensued on the types of sports offered, and the student-participation rate. BUHS offers 16 sports, with 422 of 722 students participating in one or more sports.
A discussion ensued on supporting students through offering sports programs, which encourages student engagement for players as well as their peers, who come to games to cheer on the players.
LD asked if this process could include students at other schools in the District. Ms. Damkoehler shared that the administration did consider whether to involve current 8th graders in the selection process and were split on the issue. She has been through this process in her home district as a school board member, and noted that sometimes emotional ties within the community to an old mascot create a resistance to change. She said it is important that the process is clear and move quickly and that the BUHS student body is engaged to do this, and is excited to find opportunities to introduce it to the greater community. RMA encouraged the inclusion of the BUHS Leadership Council in the process. RM stated that she hopes other district schools are creating space for education about why this name change is occurring and what led to it, focusing on how the Colonels name violates the statute
regarding groups or individuals who have been associated with the repression of others.
DS reminded the Board that Policy D17 directs the Superintendent to conduct a periodic review of the mascot, and that the Superintendent assists the Board with changing the mascot. Although this is Mr. Speno’s project, the policy, as derived from statute, says the Board must be involved in the decision- making process.
Mr. Speno acknowledged DS’s statement, and said he will bring the mascot leadership team’s recommendation and its reasons to the Board for their review and approval. Ms. Damkoehler added that it will be a good opportunity for the students to present this to the Board.
DS reminded the Board of what BUHS student Habame Scholz-Karabakakis said at the last meeting, that as we look forward, we also need to acknowledge the harm that’s been done.
RMA noted that in the historical documents that were shared about the removal of the Colonel image from BUHS school branding, there was representation of what happened afterwards. One of the understandings outlined was that some people are still going to wear clothing with the old image, but the district would no longer purchase or sell it. Mr. Speno said that in their conversation with Mr. Burke he predicted that that will happen for a little while and then it will disappear as people get excited about the new name.
VIII. BOARD MATTERS / TRAINING
A. Committees & Leadership Council Updates
KY noted that this is a space on the agenda for updates from committees and leadership councils.
RMA announced she must resign from the Finance Committee because she cannot attend the meetings due to scheduling conflicts. She said AB agreed to become Putney’s representative to the Finance Committee.
MOTION BY DS THAT THE BOARD ACCEPT RMA’S RESIGNATION FROM THE
FINANCE COMMITTEE WITH REGRET, AND THAT AB ASSUMES THAT ROLE IN THE
FINANCE COMMITTEE WITH ENTHUSIASM. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
RMA shared that as the Board’s representative to Early Education Services’ Policy Council, which is analogous to other schools’ Leadership Councils, she received a request from Putney resident and former WSESD Board member, Liz Adams, to serve in an ex-officio capacity on the Council. A discussion ensued. Highlights included:
● The need for a current board member to serve on the Policy Council.
● A question of who appoints members to the council, the board or EES?
● A reminder that “ex-officio” does not refer to someone who was formerly in office; it refers to
someone who is in that role on the council by merit of their current position on the board.
● Community members who are not sitting Board members do serve on committees.
● With the consent of EES Policy Council, Ms. Adams could be appointed to that council as a
Ms. Adams provided background on the creation of the EES Policy Council and how it serves its families. She spoke about her involvement in this.
DS recommended the Board proceed with care regarding appointing non-Board community members.
IX. NEW BUSINESS
A. Hires / Resignations
Mr. Speno announced two resignations: William Lapinski (Oak Grove 6th grade) and Abby Maiello
(Academy School 3rd grade)
MOTION BY RM TO ACCEPT WITH REGRET THE RESIGNATIONS OF THE STAFF
MEMBERS FROM ACADEMY AND OAK GROVE. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
Mr. Speno announced six new hires:
John Tribuna – BUHS Driver’s Ed
Allison Taverna – BUHS English
Leah Rogstad – BUHS Spanish
Kristin Gottshalk – BUHS Health
Mickey Parker-Jennings – Guilford 6th grade
Hannah Lindner-Finlay – Academy Kindergarten 1 year
MOTION BY RM TO ACCEPT, WITH EXCITEMENT, THE HIRE OF THESE SIX
EMPLOYEES. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
B. WSESD Vermont Code of Ethics 2023-24
RMA said she raised this issue with KY as one that addresses meeting “norms,” because, as she reviewed the Code of Ethics, she noticed mention of the Board renewing, accepting, and operating by meeting norms. She noted that the PCS Leadership Council uses meeting norms and offered them as an example that the board could draw from in developing its own norms.
KY said she will email them to Board members and they can discuss developing or adopting them at the next meeting.
X. EXECUTIVE SESSION
MOTION BY AB TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE, REGARDING THE ACADEMIC RECORDS OR
SUSPENSION OR DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
KY noted the Board may take action upon rising from Executive Session.
The Board entered into Executive Session at 8:53pm.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 9:02pm.
MOTION BY AB THAT THIS BOARD UPHOLD THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE
ADMINISTRATION IN REGARD TO A STUDENT MATTER. MOTION CARRIED
MOTION BY KP TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN
SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE. THIS EXECUTIVE SESSION WAS REQUESTED BY
THE ADMINISTRATION. INVITING IN MARK SPENO. MOTION CARRIED
MOTION BY AB TO ENTER INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER 1 VSA §313(a)(3),
REGARDING THE APPOINTMENT OR EMPLOYMENT OR EVALUATION OF A PUBLIC
OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE, PROVIDED THAT THE PUBLIC BODY 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. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
KY announced there was no action expected.
The Board entered into Executive Session at 9:05pm.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 9:24pm.
KY corrected her earlier statement; the Board will take action.
Mr. Speno announced his recommendation for a reorganization of the current BUHS leadership team, and the recommendation’s reasoning and history. This recommendation is the result of a collaborative process of the BUHS leadership team, and each team member is committed to it. Otherwise, Mr. Speno would not give this recommendation. For the next school year, Hannah Parker will be the Interim Principal. Cassie Damkoehler will be the Assistant Principal. Traci Lane and Chris Brewer will maintain their roles of Interim Assistant Principal and Interim Dean of Students, respectively. This will continue to be a collaborative leadership team.
MOTION BY AB THAT THIS BOARD UPHOLD THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE
ADMINISTRATION IN REGARD TO THE BUHS ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM.
A discussion ensued.
RM said she appreciates the thoughtful work from Mr. Speno and the four BUHS administrators to
develop a positive plan.
VOTE ON THE BUHS ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM MOTION: MOTION CARRIED
RM acknowledged it is Teacher Appreciation Week. She apologized for not having added this to the agenda earlier and said she wanted to read a statement into the record and requested a motion to support it.
MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN
SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE, REGARDING 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(F) FOR CONFIDENTIAL
ATTORNEY-CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS. INVITING IN ATTORNEY KENDALL
HOECHST. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
MOTION BY TM TO ENTER EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER 1 VSA §313(a)(1)(F) FOR
CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEY-CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS. INVITING IN ATTORNEY
KENDALL HOECHST. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
KY announced the Board would take no action.
The board entered executive session at 9:33.
The board rose from executive session at 10:16.
● A slideshow, “Equity & Social Justice in Our Schools: School Board Update 5/9/23.”
Submitted by Robin Morgan, WSESD Board Clerk, from notes taken by Wendy M. Levy, Board