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Monday, March 13, 2017

Former Teacher of the Year Surrenders Educator's Licenses

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 7:11 PM

  • Courtesy Vermont Agency of Education
  • Jay Hoffman
A former teacher of the year who was fired from a South Burlington middle school after a misconduct allegation has given up his teacher's license.

Jay Hoffman voluntarily surrendered the certificate, along with a principal's license, on March 2.

Hoffman "is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student," according to the Vermont Education Agency's list of "educator disciplinary actions."

The South Burlington School Board fired Hoffman in 2015 after a former student alleged he touched her inappropriately at school in 2005. The former student came forward after learning that the district was investigating a similar allegation involving Hoffman and a young girl who was not a student.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Walters: Students Channel Shumlin With Pete’s Tweets

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Former Gov. Peter Shumlin - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Former Gov. Peter Shumlin
Peter Shumlin’s final tweet as Vermont governor was sent on January 5. It was an expression of gratitude “for the opportunity to serve as Governor these past 6 yrs.”

After that, radio silence from @GovPeterShumlin.

Until March 2.

With that, Shumlin announced his return to the fray in increments of 140 characters or less. Which is kind of an unusual opening gambit for a post-gubernatorial career.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Act 46 Voting Leads to the Creation of Six New Unified School Districts

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 5:34 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
Thirty-eight towns voted Tuesday to create six new unified school districts across Vermont in the latest round of Act 46 mergers, according to unofficial results provided by the Agency of Education.

A record total of 57 towns voted on mergers on Town Meeting Day, with 62 percent of residents voting in favor of the proposals, according to statistics the Agency of Education compiled. Bloomfield had yet to report its results, while a revote was needed in Plymouth.

In Wells, a one-vote difference stalled mergers involving schools in the Rutland Central and Rutland Southwest supervisory unions. Town residents can petition for a revote within 30 days of Town Meeting Day.

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Scott Votes Against Berlin School Budget, One of 18 Defeated in State

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 11:44 AM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE
  • file
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 1:10 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott took his hardline approach on school budgets with him to the polls Tuesday when he voted against the school budget in his hometown of Berlin.

So, too, did the majority of town voters. The $3.5 million elementary school budget failed by a tally of 208-173, school board chair Carl Parton said Tuesday night.

Students in middle and high school attend the U-32 school in East Montpelier.

Scott predicated his 2018 state budget proposal on level-funding school budgets across the state and urged voters to “do the math” as they voted at town meetings.

But the math on school budgets is never simple. Depending on how you measure an increase, the budget Scott voted against arguably fits the definition of level-funding.

Scott said in a phone interview Tuesday night that after questioning the school board at the meeting, he concluded that the budget represented a per-pupil increase.

“Carl (Parton) couldn’t tell us exactly what the per-pupil amount was but it was at least 5 percent,” the governor said.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Burlington School Board Incumbent Wins Lone Race

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 10:38 PM

Mark Barlow - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Mark Barlow
Residents of Burlington's New North End voted Tuesday to return incumbent Mark Barlow to the city school board.

Barlow won 64 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Helen Hossley by a margin of 1,314-732 for a seat representing the North District, which covers Wards 4 and 7.

Neither Hossley nor Barlow could immediately be reached for comment.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved public school spending. The $85.5 million budget for next school year passed 3,905 to 2,717. The increase means property taxes will rise an estimated 5.25 percent. Additionally, a $19 million school bond for repairs passed by an even larger margin: 5,047 to 1,552.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Middlebury, Police to Investigate Violent Protest of Murray Lecture

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 7:49 PM

Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
  • Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
Updated March 7, 2017, with comments from Middlebury police.

Middlebury College has begun an independent investigation into what happened during — and after — an attempted lecture by controversial author Charles Murray, the school president said Monday.

The Middlebury Police Department will also begin an investigation into a confrontation that happened after the lecture, as Murray left the campus hall, Laurie Patton said in a statement. However, the department’s chief said that it has yet to receive a criminal complaint.

A school official previously said Professor Allison Stanger was injured while protecting Murray from a “mob” that descended on them as they tried to leave Thursday evening.

“This was an incredibly violent confrontation,” Bill Burger, the Middlebury College vice president for communications, told Seven Days on Friday.

School officials aborted an attempted lecture by Murray, who has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist, after protesters shouted him down from inside Wilson Hall. He later gave an abbreviated talk, live streamed online and mediated by Stanger, from a different room inside the McCullough Student Center.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

'Mob' Attacks Middlebury Prof and Controversial Speaker Charles Murray

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 11:57 AM

Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
  • Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
Updated at 3:30 p.m.

A violent "mob" attacked controversial author Charles Murray and a Middlebury College professor as they left a campus building Thursday night following a chaotic attempt at a lecture, a college spokesman said.

Professor Allison Stanger was assaulted and her neck was injured when someone pulled her hair as she tried to shield Murray from the 20 or 30 people who attacked the duo outside the McCullough Student Center, said Bill Burger, a vice president for communications at Middlebury College.

Burger said people in the crowd, made up of students and "outside agitators," wore masks as they screamed at Murray.

Murray wrote the controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve. A New York Times bestseller, the book sought to link social inequality to genetics. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Murray a white nationalist.

"The demonstrators were trying to block Mr. Murray and Professor Stanger's way out of the building and to the car," Burger said. "It became a pushing and shoving match, with the officers trying to protect those two people from demonstrators — and it became violent."

"This was an incredibly violent confrontation," added Burger, who described the crowd as a "mob."

On Friday afternoon, Middlebury College president Laurie Patton sent a statement to all students, faculty and staff describing how "deeply disappointed" she was by the incident.

"I know that many students, faculty, and staff who were in attendance or waiting outside to participate were upset by the events, and the lost opportunity for those in our community who wanted to listen to and engage with Mr. Murray," she wrote, later adding: "I extend my sincerest apologies to everyone who came in good faith to participate in a serious discussion, and particularly to Mr. Murray and Prof. Stanger for the way they were treated during the event and, especially, afterward."

Murray had been invited and scheduled to speak at Wilson Hall Thursday afternoon. But a jeering and booing crowd of students turned their backs on him and shouted down his attempts to speak. After about 25 minutes, administrators resorted to plan B: moving Murray to a private room and streaming the video of his speech online.

Students continued to make a ruckus as Murray spoke from the private room with occasional questions from Stanger, a professor of international politics and economics.
Charles Murray and his controversial book - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Charles Murray and his controversial book
About half an hour after the event ended, Burger said, the two, accompanied by a college administrator and two public safety officers, tried to leave the building via a back entrance and hurry to a car. But protesters had surrounded various entrances and swarmed to the fleeing Murray and Stanger as they exited, he said.

Once Murray and Stanger were inside the car — and after Stanger had been assaulted — the crowd began jumping on the hood and banging on the windows, according to Burger. The driver tried to inch out of the parking space but the angry crowd surrounded the vehicle and tried to keep it from leaving.

Burger said someone threw a stop sign attached to a heavy cement base in front of the car. It finally got free of the crowd and then left campus.

Members of the Middlebury Police Department eventually arrived on scene, said Burger, who did not know of any arrests. He said members of the campus public safety department, who are unarmed, "put themselves in harm's way to permit this car to leave."

"It was a very, very dangerous situation," Burger said.

Senior college administrators held an emergency two-hour conference call Thursday night and another meeting is scheduled for this afternoon, Burger said. The school will look into arrests and other discipline for "what were clearly violations of our policy," both during the disruption of the lecture and the violent, chaotic aftermath, he said. Administrators plan to review video and pictures to discover who was involved.

"It's fair to say this is consuming a lot of our time," he said.

Stanger visited the emergency room for treatment of her injury and is now wearing a neck brace, Burger said. Murray was not injured, according to Burger.

Stanger did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Murray, who alluded to the incident Friday morning on Twitter.
"We were prepared for the disruption of event, which is why we prepared the backup plan for the live stream," Burger said. "We were caught by surprise by the violent acts as Mr. Murray and Professor Stanger left the building."

The Middlebury incident comes approximately one month after the University of California, Berkeley, canceled a planned lecture by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos amid violence. Some 1,500 people protested peacefully, according to the university, but approximately 150 "masked agitators" who used "paramilitary tactics, including hurling Molotov cocktails, setting fires, throwing fireworks at police, pushing barricades into windows and damaging campus and city property." The protesters there caused approximately $100,000 in damage to the campus, the university said.

"While we have made clear our belief that the inflaming rhetoric and provocations of Mr. Yiannopoulos were in marked opposition to the basic values of the university, we respected his right to come to campus and speak once he was invited to do so by a legitimate student group," Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement. "The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation."
Patton, the school president, attended Murray's lecture. Some booed her as she received a large round of applause and took the stage.

Patton said she "profoundly disagree(s) with several of Mr. Murray's views," but attended in support of free speech on Middlebury's campus.

"I know, from our community conversations of the last week, that there are some here who might wish to exercise their right to non-disruptive protest at Middlebury, and I wish to state, if you'd like to do so, please do," Patton said.

Alex Prolman, who helped organize the protest against Murray's lecture, said he is not a student but a "concerned community member." He helped write news releases and described his role as connecting students with members of the press for coverage of the event.

"There was a plan from the students that had emerged to prevent Murray from speaking, and I think they were largely successful in that," said Prolman, who attended the lecture.

Reached by phone Friday morning, Prolman, a Burlington resident, said he was headed to the Middlebury campus for a student meeting about next steps. He declined to say much about what happened outside the building.

"I'm still a little hesitant to comment on this at this point," he told Seven Days.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Middlebury Students Shut Down Lecture by Charles Murray

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 6:16 PM

Charles Murray and his controversial book - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Charles Murray and his controversial book
Jeering and chanting Middlebury College students disrupted a planned talk Thursday afternoon by controversial author and lecturer Charles Murray.

Murray is the author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which sought to link social inequality to genetics.

As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison. Students broke into chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go," and "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!"

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Candidates Vie for Burlington School Board Seat

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 6:28 PM

Helen Hossley - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Helen Hossley
Expect two new faces on the Burlington School Board — and possibly three — after the March 7 election.

Two newcomers, Jeff Wick and Ryan McLaren, are stepping up without opposition to fill seats in the South and Central districts, respectively.

Incumbents Miriam Stoll and Brian Cina previously held those seats and are not running for reelection. 

In the only race for a slot on the 12-member board, incumbent Mark Barlow faces a challenge from Helen Hossley in the North District, which encompasses the area commonly known as Burlington's New North End. Her goal is to strengthen city schools.

"Burlington's such a wonderful city and I think we deserve the absolute best schools that we can afford," Hossley said in an interview with Seven Days. "And I don't think the board has done a particularly good job at that."

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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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