Education

Monday, February 13, 2017

Scott Keeps Rebecca Holcombe as Education Secretary

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 8:27 PM

Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe talking to the Senate Education Committee as Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) looks on. - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe talking to the Senate Education Committee as Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) looks on.
Gov. Phil Scott has chosen Rebecca Holcombe to stay on as his education secretary.

Holcombe, who was appointed by former governor Peter Shumlin, has led the agency since January 2014. She has company as a Shumlin holdover; Republicans have been critical of Scott for keeping a number of his Democratic predecessor’s appointees.

Holcombe’s appointment completes Scott’s cabinet. The governor selects an education secretary from three candidates submitted to him by the State Board of Education, which makes for a slower process. The state doesn’t disclose the unsuccessful applicants’ names.

So far during her tenure, Holcombe has overseen the ongoing school district mergers prompted by Act 46. Her new boss is proposing drastic and controversial changes to the state’s education funding system. His proposal — much of which has already been rejected by the legislature — would require school districts to level-fund their budgets and reallocate money from K-12 education to prekindergarten and higher education.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

SoBu Decision to Drop Rebels Nickname Sparks Backlash

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 6:03 PM

The Rebel Alliance and We Are S.B. Rebels Facebook pages - SEVEN DAYS
  • Seven Days
  • The Rebel Alliance and We Are S.B. Rebels Facebook pages
Supporters of the South Burlington "Rebels" moniker are petitioning to keep the name and stirring debate that some say has taken an ugly turn on social media.

Last week, the South Burlington School Board voted unanimously to drop the nickname, citing its association with racism and the Confederacy.

The February 1 vote came after more than a year of discussion and pleas from some student leaders to shed the offensive moniker. But the conversation is not yet over.

At least two pro-Rebel Facebook pages — We Are S.B. Rebels and Rebel Alliance — are fighting the name change.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

UVM Proposes $80 Million Athletic Facility on Campus

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 6:27 PM

Renderings of the proposed event center - COURTESY OF UVM
  • Courtesy of UVM
  • Renderings of the proposed event center
The University of Vermont will move forward with plans for an $80 million overhaul of campus athletic facilities — including a new basketball stadium, events center and renovated hockey arena.

At a board of trustees meeting on Friday, UVM representatives unveiled the proposed multipurpose center, which would be five times larger than the existing facilities. The plan includes a complete reconstruction of Patrick Gymnasium, as well as additions and renovations to the Gutterson Fieldhouse hockey arena. The completed 86,000-square-foot complex would include a fitness center, social space for students, academic classrooms, and practice and game facilities.

The plan comes after the university for at least a year entertained siting proposals from local municipalities. UVM considered using the Memorial Auditorium lot for an arena in downtown Burlington and also investigated the space where University Mall currently stands in South Burlington.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rebels No More: SBHS Student Isaiah Hines on the End of the Rebels Nickname

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 8:47 PM

Isaiah Hines - DAN BOLLES
  • Dan Bolles
  • Isaiah Hines
On Wednesday, the South Burlington School Board voted to abandon the high school's contentious nickname, the Rebels. The decision came after more than a year of heated community debate centered on the racially insensitive implications of the nickname due to its roots in the Confederate South. While school officials have long acknowledged those origins, fully addressing them has been a decades-long process.

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Norwich Students Win National Contest for Counterterror Tool

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 12:36 PM

Team “Norwich EMIT” includes (L to R): Professor William “Travis” Morris, Emran Babak, Naomi Rinaldo, Jacob Freeman, Akshay Awasthi and Yushan Xireli. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Team “Norwich EMIT” includes (L to R): Professor William “Travis” Morris, Emran Babak, Naomi Rinaldo, Jacob Freeman, Akshay Awasthi and Yushan Xireli.
Students from Norwich University have once again proven their mettle in taking the fight to America’s adversaries. On Wednesday, a team of Norwich students were awarded the nation’s top prize in “P2P (Peer-to-Peer): Challenging Extremism,” a nationwide collegiate competition aimed at countering foreign and domestic extremism through social media campaigns.

The five-member team, whose members hail from four countries and collectively speak 14 different languages, were among four final teams — from an original pool of 44 — chosen to present their projects in Washington, D.C. this week. Seven Days profiled the team in a January 25 story, “Extremist Measures: Norwich Students Work to Intercept Would-Be Terrorists.”

“We’re still in a little bit of shock that it’s all over,” said Jacob Freeman, a senior in war and peace studies from Wake Forest, N.C., who was reached by phone Thursday while the team was still in the nation’s capital. Freeman said that the judges, who included officials from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, asked “very pointed questions” about their project.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On 20th Anniversary, Brigham Court Decision is Back in the Debate

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 8:12 AM

Peter Griffin describes potential legal problems with Gov. Phil Scott’s education proposal at a House Appropriations meeting Tuesday. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Peter Griffin describes potential legal problems with Gov. Phil Scott’s education proposal at a House Appropriations meeting Tuesday.
Carol Brigham, whose 5th grade daughter was a plaintiff in a landmark Vermont Supreme Court case that reshaped education funding law, is traveling to the Statehouse next Tuesday to mark the 20th anniversary of her legal victory.

But the mood at the event, billed as “a celebration of Vermont’s constitutional commitment to equity,” may be somewhat tempered by what’s happening elsewhere in the building. Lawmakers are discussing whether Gov. Phil Scott’s education funding proposal runs afoul of the Brigham decision.

Minutes after Scott finished unveiling his plan last week to require districts to level-fund their budgets, lawmakers began expressing concern. This Tuesday, one of the legislature’s lawyers, Peter Griffin, confirmed that they have reason to worry.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Senate Panel Votes 6-0 Against Moving School Budget Votes

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 6:44 PM

Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe talks to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday as Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) looks on. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe talks to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday as Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) looks on.
A Vermont Senate panel on Tuesday dealt Gov. Phil Scott’s budget plan its first semiofficial blow when it voted 6-0 against moving school spending votes from March to May this year.

The lopsided loss in the Senate Education Committee straw poll was made even worse for Scott because an ally, a Senate sponsor of the proposal, voted against the move.

Four Democrats on the committee readily said no. The two Republicans who joined were more reticent.

“Regrettably, no,” Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) said as he voted.

Then it was down to Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), one of three sponsors of the Senate bill that supports Scott’s budget proposal.

“With even more regret, no,” he said.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

After Trump Order, UVM Warns Some Students Not to Leave the U.S.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 5:20 PM

University of Vermont campus in Burlington - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • University of Vermont campus in Burlington
Don’t travel outside the U.S. for the next 90 days.

That’s the advice University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan is giving to members of the campus community who have visas from Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iran or Iraq.

President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration bars citizens of those seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

Sullivan is apparently worried the order could make it hard for UVM students and staff to get back into the U.S. should they leave. Sullivan emailed the campus community on Sunday.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Opinion
Walters: Black Flags for the Scott Budget

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Gov. Phil Scott gives his budget address Tuesday. - STEFAN HARD
  • Stefan Hard
  • Gov. Phil Scott gives his budget address Tuesday.
When Republican Gov. Phil Scott released his budget on Tuesday, the immediate response was skepticism, particularly concerning his education plan.

His calls for boosting early education, child care and higher education drew positive reviews. But his funding plan, which would raid the education fund to pay for those improvements, force local school boards to level-fund their budgets, and make public school employees pay more for health insurance, was seen as politically untenable. It didn’t help that Administration Secretary Susanne Young framed the plan as a non-negotiable “package” requiring urgent action by the legislature.

By Thursday, the objections were multiplying. And they went beyond policy choices, to areas like accuracy, feasibility, legality and even constitutionality. At day’s end, the plan’s supporters were furiously retrenching. Instead of advocating for passage, they pleaded for a modicum of consideration by the majority Democrat legislature.

“It’s incumbent on the majority to take the time to look at it. That’s all I’m hoping for at this point,” said Senate Minority Leader Dustin Degree (R-Franklin). “That’s the conversation we need to have, and I think the governor started that conversation pretty effectively.”

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Amid Criticism, Scott Defends His Education Budget Proposal

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 8:42 PM

Gov. Phil Scott defends his education budget proposal Thursday. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Phil Scott defends his education budget proposal Thursday.
Around the Statehouse on Thursday, legislators of all political stripes picked apart Gov. Phil Scott’s proposal to change the way Vermont pays for its schools. Among the complaints: it’s logistically impossible and fiscally flawed.

Scott, in his first public appearance since unveiling the plan two days earlier, deflected all of the criticism and defended the plan as an audacious rethinking of Vermont’s education system.

“What I put on the table admittedly was bold, but I think that that’s what Vermonters want,” Scott said at a press conference where he touted a non-degree higher education program that would benefit from his proposal. “We find ourselves in fairly dire straits.”

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