Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Burlington Schools Employees’ Racism Complaints Prompt Action

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 4:08 PM

Burlington School Board chair Mark Porter - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Burlington School Board chair Mark Porter
Three Burlington School District administrators made a formal complaint about discrimination and harassment on the job, prompting the school board to take steps to respond Tuesday night.

The board voted unanimously to adopt a one-year plan to improve the racial climate for district employees.

In June 2015, three African American employees complained about “outright discrimination and harassment.” They were Nikki Fuller, director of the diversity, equity and community partnership office; Henri Sparks, director of equity; and Da Verne Bell, who left the city school system earlier this year after working as diversity education director.

The three filed the complaint to the school board Diversity & Equity Committee. The full school board then agreed to hire an independent investigator to examine the claims. The report, completed this spring, found no specific instances of racially motivated conduct or retaliation, according to the school board, but it did find a culture of “pervasive racism” that needs to be addressed. 

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Merger Proposed for Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding
Vermont could soon have a Lyndon Johnson State College.

Two schools in the beleaguered Vermont State College system could become one under a proposal that would merge Lyndon State College and Johnson State College. Johnson president Elaine Collins would take the helm of the unified college when it opens on July 1, 2017, the chancellor’s office said in a statement Thursday. 

Chancellor Jeb Spaulding recommended the merger, which has since been approved by the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees. The board will vote on a final plan for the change on September 29.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Winooski City Manager, Who Helped the Onion City Bloom, to Resign

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 11:46 AM

Winooski City Manager Katherine “Deac” Decarreau - ANDY DUBACK
  • Andy Duback
  • Winooski City Manager Katherine “Deac” Decarreau
Updated June 20, 2016 at 6:35 p.m. after interviews with Katherine Decarreau and Mayor Seth Leonard.

Winooski City Manager Katherine Decarreau, who has overseen a revival of the Onion City during her seven years on the job, is resigning to take a position with the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, the city announced Monday.

Decarreau, a city native and a Winooski High School graduate known as “Deac,” will depart August 1 to become the executive director of finance and operations for the union, which includes seven schools and 3,200 students in Essex and Westford.

“The opportunities in front of us are exciting and will require a very different skill set than the ones I brought to the position when I arrived,” Decarreau said in a prepared statement. “It is a really good time for me to return to more nuts-and-bolts work that I love. It is an equally good time for the city to evaluate our needs moving forward and to hire a new manager with the skills that will take us forward for the next part of our development.”

During Decarreau’s time in office, Winooski, which had long struggled to recover from the closure of its mills, welcomed an influx of young residents and workers and saw its downtown become a trendy destination.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Memo Says Burlington High School Principal Mismanaged Funds

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 6:01 PM

Amy Mellencamp, in green sweater, at a school board meeting this spring - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • Amy Mellencamp, in green sweater, at a school board meeting this spring
Updated June 17, 2016 at 4:20 p.m. with information about the June 23 Red Sox game.

The principal of Burlington High School authorized "thousands of dollars" in payments from student account funds without proper documentation, according to Burlington School District director of finance Nathan Lavery.

Revenue from student parking permits was improperly used to buy professional baseball tickets for employees, he wrote in a June 13 memo to the Burlington School Board. And other payments to high school staff appear to meet the definition of wages rather than reimbursements, and should have been made via payroll — not student activity accounts, Lavery wrote.

The memo never mentions longtime BHS principal Amy Mellencamp by name, but singles her out by title and says she failed to properly manage student account funds. Details on the dollar amounts are not specified. Seven Days has filed a public records request seeking the full report on student accounts.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Burlington College Students Hold Mock Funeral for Their School

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 7:28 PM

Protesters marching on Friday. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Protesters marching on Friday.
Former Burlington College students wearing black gathered at their soon-to-be-shuttered alma mater Friday afternoon.

The group of about 30 took part in a mock funeral for their school, which is closing at the end of the month because of severe financial problems.

Two "pallbearers" carrying a "coffin" — a violin case painted turquoise with the words "Burlington College 1972-2016" on it — led the procession on foot from the North Avenue school to the offices of Pomerleau Real Estate, where the chair of Burlington College's board, Yves Bradley, is employed. 

Their not-so-subtle message? The school's leaders, and in particular its board of trustees, are responsible for its downfall.

Burlington College has a history of encouraging activism, and in recent years discord between the leadership and students and staff has intensified. A student protest in August 2014, led by some of the same people who attended Friday's mock funeral, prompted then-president Christine Plunkett to resign. Afterward, Bradley criticized the protest, suggesting that it nearly destroyed the school, which angered students even more.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Burlington College Will Close Its Doors This Month

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2016 at 12:25 PM

Burlington College - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Burlington College
This post was updated at 6:50 p.m. on May 16.

Burlington College, which has been under extreme financial distress, is closing its doors permanently on May 27.

The board of trustees made the decision Friday, according to a press release issued Monday morning.

The release began by noting: “In recent years, Burlington College has struggled under the crushing weight of the debt incurred by the purchase of the archdiocese property on North Avenue.”

That $10 million purchase was made in 2010 at the direction of the college’s then-president, Jane O’Meara Sanders, wife of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Current interim president Carol Moore declined to comment at a press conference Monday afternoon when reporters asked whether Jane Sanders was responsible for the school’s downfall.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Burlington High School Students Protest Cuts With ‘For Sale’ Signs

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 6:19 PM

Irma Cicak, Burlington High School senior, speaks during the protest. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Irma Cicak, Burlington High School senior, speaks during the protest.
Burlington High School students jumped into the heated city debate about course cuts and teacher layoffs with a unique demonstration Wednesday. They planted hundreds of “FOR SALE” signs on school grounds, each bearing hand-lettered messages that expressed their frustration. 

Signs announced the sale of “My Education,” “Advanced Placement French,” “My School Pride” and “Academic Rigor.” One sign made a sly reference to the immigrant investor funding scandal, proclaiming: “We take EB-5.” 

Joking aside, students are worried.

“They think their education is pretty much being thrown out the window,” said Riann Gianni, 14, a ninth-grader who participated in the early morning demonstration before school. 

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Burlington School Superintendent Shuffles the District’s Principals

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 6:09 PM

Superintendent Yaw Obeng and Burlington Technical Center director Tracy Racicot at a press conference Wednesday - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Superintendent Yaw Obeng and Burlington Technical Center director Tracy Racicot at a press conference Wednesday
Burlington school superintendent Yaw Obeng announced Wednesday that he is reassigning the leaders of many of Burlington’s nine schools.
Budget pressures mandate prompt action to seek efficiencies and collaborations that will better serve students, according to the superintendent, who is in his first year on the job. He said he expected the shakeup could generate pushback from some parents, as well as calls to move more slowly. Parents initially seemed to react cautiously.

“When I look at the needs of our students I don’t want to wait,” Obeng said at a press conference announcing the changes. “I want to do it now.” 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Painful Cuts Draw Crowd to Burlington School Board Session

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 6:53 AM

The crowd at Tuesday’s Burlington school board meeting - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • The crowd at Tuesday’s Burlington school board meeting
Updated, 1 p.m. on April 13, 2016, with additional information on Principal Amy Mellencamp.

Burlington parents and students lobbed complaints about teacher cuts and lack of transparency at the school board Tuesday night during a packed meeting .

Budget cuts will hit Burlington High School the hardest. It will lose approximately 7.5 teacher positions next year, and its library might be open only 2.5 days a week.

Students said they are already stuck with abundant “dead time” in their schedules because classes they want to take are full. Parents said that their children are sitting in study halls in the auditorium with 45 kids. 

“This is unacceptable,” said Clare Wool, a Burlington parent with three children in the city schools, including a son in the high school. 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Former Burlington College Students Seek to Intervene in Scholarship Lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Burlington College interim president Carol Moore - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Burlington College interim president Carol Moore
Updated 3/2/2016  at 4:47 p.m. to include a statement from Burlington College

Five former Burlington College students are trying to intervene in a lawsuit against the school that alleges school officials spent an endowed scholarship fund on other expenses.

G. Jason Conway left Burlington College a $70,000 scholarship fund, but a lawsuit filed by his estate in early February accuses the financially struggling college of spending much of that money on other expenses. Current Burlington College interim president Dr. Carol Moore contests that the funds were misspent under previous administrations. Both parties are attempting to reach a settlement agreement. 

But on Wednesday, attorney Jared Carter filed a motion on behalf of the former students, requesting intervenor status in the case in Chittenden Superior Court. Carter is managing attorney of the nonprofit Vermont Community Law Center and a Vermont Law School professor.  Previously, he was a professor at Burlington College, where he taught several of the students he's now representing. 

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