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, AUGUST 22, 2023
REGULAR BOARD MEETING – 6PM
HYBRID MEETING: WRCC CUSICK CONFERENCE ROOM, BRATTLEBORO,
AND REMOTELY VIA ZOOM
● The superintendent updated the board on the Administrative Retreat and beginning of school year plans.
● The board asked administration for more details on the results of the previous school year’s Panorama surveys.
● The board announced that it expects to have information soon about the results of the sexual abuse investigation, and heard from community members about what they hope to see from
● The board voted to include two questions regarding candidates’ experiences and framework around diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice on all applications for certified staff and administrator positions.
● The board appointed Laura Chapman of Putney to the Independent Budget Review Committee.
● The board approved an outreach statement for attracting candidates from Brattleboro to serve in the vacant seat on the board, and will move forward with plans to hold a meet-and-greet event.
● The board voted to begin rotating their meeting location to each school in the district.
WSESD Board Members Present: Chair Kelly Young (KY), Anne Beekman (AB), Tim Maciel (TM),
Ruby McAdoo (RMC), Robin Morgan (RMO), Shaun Murphy (SM), Eva Nolan (EN), Kimberley
WSESD Board Members Absent: Deborah Stanford
WSESU/SD Staff and Administrators Present: Mark Speno, Paul Smith, Hannah Parker, Nancy Wiese,
Keith Lyman, Julianne Eagan, Kelly Dias, Deb Schiller
Media Present: BCTV, Virginia Ray (The Commons), Chris Mays (Brattleboro Reformer)
Others Present: Liz Adams of Putney, Kerry Amidon of Vernon and the WSESU Board, Mindy
Haskins Rogers BUHS alumna, Diana Whitney of Brattleboro, Sherri Keefe of Brattleboro, Laura
Chapman, Jennifer Jacobs
Please note: attendance may be incomplete.
I. CALL TO ORDER
KY called the meeting to order at 6pm.
KY read the hybrid meeting statement.
KY read the meeting norms.
● Review of Agenda
KY announced that the third Executive Session on the agenda did not indicate its purpose: it is for 1
VSA §313(a)(1)(F), confidential attorney-client communications.
KY noted this agenda has times listed with each agenda item. It is in response to requests to have
shorter meetings. She asked Board members to adhere to the time limits, and someone will be calling
II. STUDENT MATTERS
There were none.
III. ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT
● Administrators’ Retreat and Opening Day Schedule
Superintendent Mark Speno gave his report. Highlights included:
● The school year opens soon.
● The staff professional-development in-service begins August 25.
● The new-staff welcome meeting is August 23.
● School begins on August 30.
● As per the union contract, the professional-development in-service will be divided in half: one part for training, the other part for setting up classrooms.
Mr. Speno, Curriculum Coordinator Paul Smith, and BUHS Interim Principal Hannak Parker reviewed some of the professional-development details.
Mr. Speno gave a report on the recent administrative retreat and the activities and discussions that occurred in it. Highlights included:
● Action steps.
● A review of the June Board/Administrative retreat.
● Development of a draft schedule for this year’s presentations.
● A discussion on this being the last year of ESSER funding and how it will affect budget season.
● Human Resources Director Michael Kelleher presented on retention and diversity.
● The Continuous Improvement Plan – connection from the WSESU plan to individual schools
● How to support teachers in implementing new curriculums
● Layers of assessment and data systems that need to be in place
● Educational Support Team development and Multilevel Systems of Support planning
● Plans for a book study group with Diversity Director Mikaela Simms
● A visit from Attorney Pietro Lynn on professional development for contract management.
Mr. Speno shared a document: the draft schedule for this year’s administrative/staff presentations to the WSESD Board.
● CLERK’S REPORT – Approval of Minutes – August 8, 2023
KY noted two versions of the draft minutes were issued; the first version was incomplete because BCTV’s recording on the meeting was incomplete. The meeting’s recording and the draft minutes were subsequently corrected to reflect the entire meeting.
MOTION BY AB TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF AUGUST 8, 2023. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
There was none.
● Panorama — Follow-up questions and concerns
A discussion ensued, which was a continuation of the Panorama discussion from the July 25 WSESD Board meeting.
MOTION BY TM THAT THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE LAST TWO PANORAMA SURVEYS BE FORWARDED TO ALL BOARD MEMBERS.
● A clarification on what “full results” means: it means all questions and answers asked of the participants, including the “custom” items.
● Details on the format and contents of the survey results the administration receives.
● Details on how other schools use Panorama.
● The administration does not conduct a teacher climate survey; it conducts a survey on teachers’ perception of students.
● The types of information the surveys collect, from whom it is collected, what of it is available, and how to gather further information.
● Concerns about the low response rate and how to improve it.
● The CDC has recently sent the administration the results of the student risk-assessment survey from 2021, which will help assess the Panorama data.
● A request for the administration to also survey teachers.
● Concerns with the statements about “asking the questions is more important than the data,” and how it does not correspond with the public’s requests to make the school climates more student- centered. Data is important for fulfilling that goal.
VOTE ON THE PANORAMA SURVEY MOTION: MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
● Sexual Abuse Investigation Update
KY reported the investigation has been going on for one year. The Board has received the suggestion that it remind the public of its commitment to the investigation. The last Executive Session of this meeting is to meet with the attorney, and KY hopes to share something with the public soon. Mindy Haskins Rogers, BUHS alumna, noted it has been 18 months, not one year, since Attorney Goddard opened her investigation. Ms. Haskins Rogers expressed her concern that Attorney Goddard has held reports of child abuse for 18 months, and some accused abusers are still in the community, with access to children. She asked which attorney is meeting with the Board during Executive Session.
Diana Whitney of Brattleboro read a quote from Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery. “What seems of paramount importance to most survivors is social validation – that is, public acknowledgement of both the facts and harms of the crime. Beyond this, what survivors desire most is vindication; they want their communities to take a clear stand in denouncing the crime so that the burdens of shame are lifted from their shoulders and places on the offenders, where they rightfully belong.”
She asked that the board make a statement in support of the people to whom harm was done and against the people who did it.
Windham Regional Career Center Director Nancy Wiese asked how it can be determined whether or not Attorney Goddard reported suspected abuses to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), since those reports can be anonymous.
Tim Maciel expressed appreciation for Ms. Whitney’s comments and for the article she had sent the board about institutional courage.
Dummerston School Principal Julianne Eagan noted many other organizations have dealt with this same issue, and she has seen many of them provide regular updates, which are helpful. She expressed concern at the harm done by the relative silence about this investigation. AB noted that if the attorney learns of any accusations against current staff, she forwards that
information to Mr. Speno.
RMC reminded attendees that the Board has no contact with the investigating attorney, and that is by design and a result of the public’s request that the Board’s attorney not handle this case. But, she acknowledged, this leads to a perception of silence. She noted that she, as a sitting Board member, has received no information or reports.
KY added that the public request about who handles the investigations was a result of the distrust of previous authority figures who did not report abuses. She noted that if a union member is fired, they have the right to grieve the firing to the Board.
Sherri Keefe of Brattleboro asked if the investigation is complete. KY responded: she did not know, but she will ask the attorney during Executive Session.
● G-8 Local Action Plan
MOTION BY TM THAT THE SCHOOL BOARD WILL FOLLOW POLICY G-8 AND DESIGNATE PARTICIPANTS TO SERVE ON THE ACTION PLANNING TEAM FROM RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY THE SUPERINTENDENT, PRINCIPALS, AND OTHER BOARD MEMBERS, WITH FEEDBACK FROM EDUCATORS AND COMMUNITY
TM noted his motion was drafted from wording coming directly from Policy G-8. A discussion ensued. Highlights included:
● This policy is under discussion by the Policy and Amendment Committee
● The policy was removed from the VSBA’s list of model policies.
● Local Action Plan was a terminology used prior to consolidation, when each school or district had its own plan approved by that town’s school board.
● The current model is that each supervisory union has a Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP), and any schools in that SU receiving Title I funding must also have their own school-based CIP.
● Policy G8 was a holdover from the previous structure and needs editing to be relevant to WSESD. Possibly it is a policy more appropriate to adopt at the WSESU level.
● Board members would like the Policy and Amendment Committee to review it further before taking any action.
TM WITHDREW HIS MOTION.
TM noted the Policy & Amendment Committee will continue to discuss the matter. Ms. Wiese noted that there was a framework put out by the Agency of Education in May of 2020 for
Education Quality and Continuous Improvement that included guidance that took the place of the previous model policy that G8 was based on. RMO found this framework online and forwarded it to all Board members.
KY reminded the public that all communications coming from the public are a public record—with some exceptions, like if a student is named. Any member of the public sending a communication should assume it will be forwarded to all Board members unless there is a request not to do so. This ensures the Board can do its work.
VII. NEW BUSINESS
● Board member payment for previous Month of the Child event
VIII. BOARD MATTERS / TRAINING
● Leadership Council Updates
● Board Sub-Committees
◦ Policy & Amendment/Social Justice Committees
1. Explain your experience(s) working with historically marginalized groups. What have you learned from this (these) experiences? Include times when you have made mistakes.
2. Describe your framework for equity and social justice in the classroom (or workplace) and its origin.
The third question, “Where did you hear about this job?” will be incorporated into the interview process.
A discussion ensued on Schoolspring’s character limit for applicants’ responses. The need to alter the response setting for these questions was identified. Administrators or other staff members posting jobs will need to select “long essay” rather than the default setting which only allows a 100 word response.
MOTION BY EN TO INCORPORATE THE TWO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION QUESTIONS INTO ALL APPLICATIONS, AND THE THIRD QUESTION, “WHERE DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS JOB?” WILL BE INCORPORATED INTO THE INTERVIEW PROCESS.
RMO OFFERED A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT: TO ADD “ ALL CERTIFIED STAFF AND ADMINISTRATOR APPLICATIONS.” EN AGREED. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
TM reported the Policy & Amendment Committee also discussed Policy D1, which included the Board appointing representatives to serve on screening committees for all senior-level administration positions, and this is an ongoing discussion.
◦ Independent Budget Review Committee – Putney Representative
RMC reported Putney has no representation on the IBRC. At a recent meeting of the Putney Selectboard, they discussed a candidate, Laura Chapman, who served on the former Putney Central School Board, and as a member of the Putney Selectboard. The Selectboard recommends her to the WSESD for appointment to the IBRC.
MOTION BY RMO TO APPOINT LAURA CHAPMAN TO THE INDEPENDENT BUDGET REVIEW COMMITTEE. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
A brief discussion ensued on ways to help towns identify candidates ahead of the WSESD annual meeting, which is when IBRC members are normally appointed.
◦ Communications Council
The Communications Council met to discuss ways to encourage community members to apply for appointment to the open Brattleboro seat on the board. One idea under consideration was a meet and greet event, proposed at the previous WSESD meeting. KY noted that since that time three candidates have expressed interest, and the deadline to apply has been extended to September 22.
RMO read a statement the Council wrote to solicit new Board members. EN requested she add a statement about hybrid meetings. The statement was amended to read:
“The Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) Board is seeking to appoint a representative from Brattleboro to complete a vacated term. The appointment will last until March 2024 with a prorated compensation calculated from the $7,000 annual stipend for School Board Members (approx. $3,500, based on six months.)
The role of a school board member is to be part of a team focused on ensuring a high quality education for all students and fiscally responsible operation of the district. The board meets at 6pm on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month in a hybrid format, in person and on zoom, with a goal of meetings no longer than three hours (but they sometimes are longer). Sometimes additional meetings or trainings are necessary.
All board members are invited to serve on subcommittees of their choosing, with the approval of the full board. Each board member serves as a board representative to one of the Leadership Councils, which normally meet once a month for two hours or less. Between board meetings, board members must review warrants for expenditures by the district and are invited to contribute to board meeting and committee meeting agendas. Board members must maintain confidentiality about privileged information.
Please feel free to reach out to any board member via email if you would like to know more about board service.”
MOTION BY SM TO AUTHORIZE THE COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL TO SEND OUT THE RECRUITMENT LETTER AS DICTATED BY RMO. MOTION CARRIED
A discussion ensued on the meet-and-greet. It was agreed that the event would be beneficial. The Works was discussed as a possible venue. Ideally at least two board members from Brattleboro and at least one other board member should attend. There will be provisions to accommodate people who come with young children. It will be warned as a meeting to avoid issues with quorum and open meeting law, though no board actions will be taken. There was a suggestion to make the event available via zoom as well.
MOTION BY RMC THAT THE BOARD DIRECT THE COMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL TO FACILITATE A MEET-AND-GREET TO PROMOTE INTEREST IN APPOINTING A BOARD CANDIDATE FROM BRATTLEBORO. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
◦ Programmatic & Performance Equity Committee
MOTION BY RMC THAT THE BOARD ADOPT THE SCHEDULE OF ROTATION FOR BOARD MEETINGS PRESENTED BY THE PROGRAMMATIC & PERFORMANCE EQUITY COMMITTEE THAT WILL HAVE BOARD MEETINGS ROTATE ON A MONTHLY BASIS TO EACH OF THE SCHOOLS IN THE DISTRICT.
A discussion on the motion ensued. Highlights included:
● The proposed schedule does not include having meetings at far-flung schools during the winter because of travel concerns.
● The schedule should be left open until school principals can review it.
● This should not place an undue burden on school principals.
RMO MADE A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT: REPLACE THE WORD “SCHEDULE” WITH “PROPOSAL”
The discussion continued:
● The schedule includes all schools, including BAMS, BUHS, and WRCC.
● EES can be included.
The amended motion was read:
MOTION BY RMC THAT THE BOARD ADOPT THE PROPOSAL BY THE PROGRAMMATIC & PERFORMANCE EQUITY COMMITTEE THAT WILL HAVE BOARD MEETINGS ROTATE ON A MONTHLY BASIS TO EACH OF THE SCHOOLS IN THE DISTRICT. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
● Board retreat
Ms. Amidon said she sent all Board members a summary of the retreat.
KY shared documents from the retreat, including documents from the Superintendent, the agendas, the leadership team notes, and the calendar. From these documents, the Board can develop their calendar. RMC will send a poll to the Board to continue that.
● VSBA/VSA annual conference
A discussion ensued on whether this conference is suitable for all Board members, or just the Chair. It was determined that any board member can attend. KY directed all Board members interested in attending tocontact her.
TM noted he has been in contact with the WNESD Board and invited other WSESD Board members to join him in attending their next meeting, which will be a “Listening In” session with remarks by a member of the education community.
IX. EXECUTIVE SESSION
KY called for a break at 8:02pm.
KY called the meeting back to order at 8:12pm.
MOTION BY AB TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE UNDER 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(3) 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. THIS IS IN REGARD TO STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY. MOTION BY KP TO ENTER INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(3) 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. INVITING IN MARK SPENO. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
The Board entered into Executive Session at 8:14pm.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 8:18pm.
MOTION BY AB THAT THIS BOARD APPROVE THE RECOMMENDATION FOR STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE MADE BY THE STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
X. EXECUTIVE SESSION
MOTION BY KP TO FIND THAT PREMATURE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WOULD CLEARLY PLACE THE PUBLIC BODY OR PERSON INVOLVED IN SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE UNDER 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(7) FOR THE ACADEMIC RECORDS OR SUSPENSION OR DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS, IN REGARDS TO
STUDENT TRANSFERS. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY. MOTION BY KP TO ENTER INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION UNDER 1 V.S.A. §313(A)(7) FOR
THE ACADEMIC RECORDS OR SUSPENSION OR DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS, IN REGARDS TO STUDENT TRANSFERS, AND INVITING IN MARK SPENO. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
The Board entered into Executive Session at 8:19pm.
The Board rose from Executive Session at 8:40pm.
MOTION BY RMO TO APPROVE THE STUDENT TRANSFERS RECOMMENDED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT.
ROLL CALL VOTE:
MOTION CARRIED 5-1-1.
The board rose from Executive Session at 9:59, taking no action.
● The draft schedule for this year’s administrative/staff presentations to the WSESD Board.
● Documents from the Board retreat.