Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Picketing Burlington Teachers Call for Negotiations

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 7:46 PM

Burlington teachers picketing Tuesday - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • Burlington teachers picketing Tuesday
Several hundred Burlington teachers raised the volume of their labor dispute with the city school board Tuesday afternoon by staging a rush-hour picket complete with bongo drummers on U.S. 2 near the entrance to Interstate 89.

As drivers honked noisily in support, teachers on both sides of the busy road waved signs reading "Return to the Table." They chanted: "Hey ho, hey ho, imposition has got to go," referring to the employment policy the city school board imposed on them recently.

Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock thanked teachers for rallying together and chastised the imposition of employment terms. 

"Basically it's an evil sort of thing to do," she told the crowd of teachers as they wrapped up the picket shortly after 5 p.m.  "They are trying to bust the union and we're not going to let them do it!" Teachers cheered.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Lyndon College Groups Seek Delay, but Merger Vote Is On

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 7:39 PM

Lyndon State College - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Lyndon State College
Updated at 10 a.m. September 27, 2016 with information about the Lyndon State College Alumni Council.

Lyndon State College faculty and alumni groups are asking the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees to postpone this week’s scheduled vote on a plan to merge Johnson and Lyndon state colleges.

There will be no delay, however, said Tricia Coates, director of external and governmental affairs for Vermont State Colleges.

“We believe the report that the chancellor is submitting to the board will respond to their concerns,” Coates said.

The trustees are scheduled to vote Thursday on a plan to put the two state colleges under one president with one budget and a new name while retaining separate campuses. Faculty, staff and students have expressed concerns that the move is happening too quickly and with questions left unanswered.

Monday, the Lyndon Faculty Assembly sent chancellor Jeb Spaulding and the board a resolution asking for the vote to be delayed.

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UVM Students Rally Day After Black Lives Matter Flag Theft

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Student participants at the Black Lives Matter rally - KYME SARI
  • Kyme Sari
  • Student participants at the Black Lives Matter rally
Updated at 10:45 p.m. September 26, 2016, to add details from the rally.

A diverse sea of students, and even faculty, at the University of Vermont gathered Monday afternoon on campus to express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement — at the very spot where a flag with the group’s motto was stolen.

More than 200 people, most dressed all in black, turned out for the “UVM Blackout,” an event planned before the weekend theft of a Black Lives Matter flag from where it flew outside the university’s Davis Center.

Student organizers Haydee Guadalupe Miranda and Akilah Ho-young set the tone of the rally by urging a message of peace. The group held a moment of silence and offered condolences to the families of victims of gun violence such as Trayvon Martin and Keith Lamont Scott, who was killed by police last week in Charlotte, N.C. The crowd went on to take pictures with the Black Lives Matter flag fluttering in the wind beside the Vermont and American flags on campus.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

UVM Renames Medical College for Alumnus After $100 Million in Gifts

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 5:56 PM

Students beam as the new name is unveiled. - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Students beam as the new name is unveiled.

The University of Vermont renamed its medical college to honor an alumnus who has donated a total of $100 million to the school.

Dr. Robert Larner, a Burlington native who went on to have a successful medical career in Los Angeles, committed $66 million to his alma mater in his estate, school administrators said Friday at an event outside the Given Medical Building.

“Let me say that again — I want to be perfectly clear — $100 million in total contributions,” UVM President Tom Sullivan, flanked by medical students in white coats, announced to a standing ovation from a few hundred people who gathered to celebrate the gift.

The UVM board of trustees last week approved the name change to the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

Officials live-streamed Friday’s event so that Larner, his wife, Helen, and their family could watch from across the country.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Burlington Teachers Protest Contract Imposition

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 12:02 PM

A Burlington High School hallway - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • A Burlington High School hallway
The Burlington School Board’s decision last week to impose terms of pay and benefits on the teachers’ union has not ended a labor dispute that persists despite a year of negotiations. 

The union has assailed the move as unfair and said it would breed “chaos” — perhaps making a not-so-veiled reference to the union’s right to strike.

Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock urged the board this week to come back to the table. “There is only one way to come back from the brink, and that is for the board to rescind the imposition and reach an agreement with us,” Brock said in a prepared statement.

It’s unusual for a Vermont school board to impose working conditions. It’s happened only about 20 times since 1969, according to the Vermont-NEA, which represents thousands of teachers in the state.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Racial Incidents Mar Burlington High Homecoming Football Game

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 5:17 PM

A picture of the Rice Memorial High School student’s sign at the Burlington homecoming game last Friday - COURTESY OF BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy of Burlington Police Department
  • A picture of the Rice Memorial High School student’s sign at the Burlington homecoming game last Friday
Two incidents with racial overtones marred the Burlington High School homecoming football game last Friday, according to police and school officials.

Fight participants hurled racial slurs along with punches during a brawl behind the bleachers. And in a separate incident, a Rice Memorial High School student brought a sign to the game that characterized Burlington players as convicts and gang members.

The incidents were not connected, according to Burlington police. No charges are expected in the sign incident and the fight remains under investigation, Deputy Chief Shawn Burke told Seven Days Thursday. 

Images of the sign have been shared widely on Snapchat and Facebook. Many parents and students saw it as a racist slap at the BHS team.
The Rice student carried the poster into the bleachers at Burlington’s Buck Hard Field. It started with the headline “BHS Football Record Book,” and then listed, roster-style: “-5 Convicts, -4 Fathers, -13 Super Seniors, -All Gang Members.” 

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Burlington School Superintendent Obeng Gets His Visa

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 5:31 PM

  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Yaw Obeng
Burlington’s superintendent of schools has been granted a three-year visa from the federal government effective October 1. Between now and then, he’ll spend at least two weeks back in Canada because his temporary visa is expiring. 

The visa process has been tricky for Yaw Obeng, a Canadian citizen. The Burlington School Board hired him away from a suburban Toronto school district last year. His start was delayed after the school board’s initial attempt to obtain a three-year visa for him failed in the spring of 2015.

District lawyers then tried another tack with assistance from the University of Vermont. The university was able to secure a visa for Obeng after hiring him to teach one course as an adjunct professor.

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South Burlington School Bans Homework, Urges Kids to Play

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 12:18 PM

  • Dreamstime
Students who hoped for an end to homework got their wish at Orchard Elementary School in South Burlington. 

“It’s true,” confirmed principal Mark Trifilio. “We just went to being a homework-free school this year.”

Trifilio announced the no-homework policy in a newsletter to parents last Friday. The school enrolls almost 400 children in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. South Burlington has three elementary schools, and so far Orchard is the only one to go homework-free. 

Teachers voted to ban homework for the year at a training shortly before school opened, with Trifilio’s approval. The superintendent of schools also OK’d the change.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Champlain College Signs Contract With Adjunct Professors

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 1:33 PM

  • File
Nearly two years after adjunct professors at Champlain College voted to unionize, they have signed their first contract with school. 

The three-year contract between the Service Employees International Union and Champlain College increases pay for part-time professors and gives them access to a professional-development fund.

Laurie Quinn, the provost and chief academic officer, said in a statement: "We appreciate the constructive and deliberate dialogue that has led to this win-win result. We take pride in the fact that all Champlain faculty members are deeply committed to teaching, and this significant investment in our adjunct faculty upholds those important values."

During the union organization effort, adjunct professors told stories of struggling to make ends meet. One Champlain professor said she relied on food stamps during the summer months. 

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Former Burlington College President Unloads on Board, Jane Sanders

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 11:46 AM

Updated September 6, 2016 at 5 p.m. with comments from Carol Moore.

Carol Moore, the most recent president of now-closed Burlington College, is publicly excoriating its board of trustees and People’s United Bank for backing previous president Jane O’Meara Sanders’ decision to buy a $10 million lakeside campus in 2010.

In a letter to the editor published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Thursday, Moore describes the land purchase, which plunged the college into debt, as an “appallingly inappropriate business deal.” She blames it for the school’s demise.

Moore, a former Lyndon State College president who was appointed interim president of Burlington College in December 2014, demurred from criticizing her predecessors during her time in that post. (O’Meara Sanders was forced to resign in 2011. Her chief financial officer, Christine Plunkett, took the helm until she resigned suddenly in July 2014.)

But in her explosive letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Moore doesn’t hold back. She writes:

BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion. Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking? Where was the Finance Committee when these decisions were being made?
Former Burlington College interim president Carol Moore - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Former Burlington College interim president Carol Moore

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