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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Burlington Officials Unveil $30 Million Fix for Wastewater Problems

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:07 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
After wastewater discharges plagued the City of Burlington all summer, officials on Thursday unveiled a plan intended to staunch the flow of dirty water into Lake Champlain.

It's not without a cost — $30 million. On Monday, the Burlington City Council will consider whether to put a related bond vote on the November ballot.

If Burlingtonians approve it, they can expect to pay $64 more annually for water by the time all the improvements are implemented within the next four or five years, Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a press conference in front of the city's main wastewater treatment plant.

“This is an opportunity for Burlington to take strong, decisive action to keep the lake the economic, cultural and recreational driver of our city and state that it has been since our founding,” said Weinberger, surrounded by city councilors, city workers and advocates for Lake Champlain.
Officials initially planned to come forward with a plan by December 1, in time to get a bond on the March Town Meeting Day ballot, but accelerated the timeline after repeated overflow problems.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Burlington Town Hall Featuring Bernie Sanders Draws New American Crowd

Posted By on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 at 8:13 PM

From left: Omar Bulle, Stefan Boley, Aden Haji, Mohamed Jafar, Ahmed Noor - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • From left: Omar Bulle, Stefan Boley, Aden Haji, Mohamed Jafar, Ahmed Noor
I am a change maker. That was what Aden Haji, 23, hoped each attendee would feel about themselves after attending a town hall event Sunday in Burlington that featured Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the headliner.

Haji, a University of Vermont senior, was one of the speakers at the event and called for greater civic engagement from members of New American communities.

The gathering at the Old North End Community Center specifically targeted New Americans and was intended to teach them the nuts and bolts of voting, to inspire them to become politically engaged, and to give them an opportunity to make their concerns known to Sanders. It attracted a crowd of about 150 people, most of whom were members of the Burmese, Bhutanese, Iraqi, Somali and Sudanese communities.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Burlington School Officials Seek to Quell Censorship Controversy

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 5:06 PM

The Register newspaper co-editor Julia Shannon-Grillo at Thursday's school board meeting - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The Register newspaper co-editor Julia Shannon-Grillo at Thursday's school board meeting
The Burlington School Board and Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng on Saturday attempted to quell the controversy over censorship of the city high school's newspaper, saying that a new policy will be developed.

The board and Obeng announced that guidelines for material to be published in the Burlington High School Register are no longer in effect. Instead, the board and administration will develop a policy that is consistent with the free speech and student journalist protections under Vermont's New Voices law, the announcement said.

It effectively scuttles a policy that BHS principal Noel Green conveyed Friday, after a dramatic week of shifting decisions over coverage.

On Tuesday, Green ordered Register editors and their teacher-adviser to remove a story from the paper's website that detailed Vermont Education Agency allegations of unprofessional conduct against BHS guidance director Mario Macias. He denies the allegations.
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After students and other critics called that censorship and a violation of the New Voices law, the principal announced Thursday that the article could be reposted. But just as free speech advocates began to cheer, Green issued a directive Friday that all editorial content in the Register was to be reviewed by him or other administrators 48 hours before publication.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Despite Controversy, Burlington Principal Plans to Vet Student Newspaper Stories

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 6:59 PM

The Register website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The Register website
Burlington High School principal Noel Green, whose censorship of a student newspaper led to a public outcry this week, has instituted a new policy that requires student journalists to submit articles for review 48 hours before publication.

The policy, issued two days after Green censored a story on the website of the Register, the school's newspaper, says that it is intended “to affirm support for the school newspaper, but also outline guidelines around how it functions.”

Seven Days obtained a copy of the new policy from the student journalists. It refers to Act 49, the Vermont law passed last year that was intended to prevent school administrators from censoring student journalists. But Green notes that there are six instances, such as libelous or slanderous information, that would be precluded from protection under the law, which is commonly referred to as New Voices.

“The only way school administrators can ensure that distributed material passes this litmus test, they must have the ability to view all material before it is printed,” Green wrote. “Thus, moving forward the BHS Register will re-continue the policy from 2016/17 which required material to be submitted to the administration 48 hours prior to publication.”

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Burlington School District Places Embattled Counselor on Leave

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 5:38 PM

Burlington High School - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • Burlington High School
Updated on September 15, 2018.

The Burlington School District announced Friday that it will place guidance director Mario Macias on administrative leave pending the completion of a state investigation.

Following a yearlong inquiry, the Agency of Education cited Macias on September 7 with six counts of alleged professional misconduct. The Register, the high school's student newspaper, broke the news of the allegations on Monday. Principal Noel Green ordered the newspaper to remove the story Tuesday, but not before other local media outlets verified and reported on the allegations. Green later agreed to allow the students to repost their story.

At a school board meeting Thursday night, residents berated Superintendent Yaw Obeng and the board for the handling of allegations levied against Macias. The board went into executive session for more than an hour to discuss a "personnel issue."

The district released a statement about Macias' leave at 5:13 p.m. Friday.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Burlington Principal Reverses Course, Allows Students to Publish Story

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 1:48 PM

The Register's website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The Register's website
Updated at 8:45 p.m.

Burlington High School principal Noel Green has reversed course and will allow student journalists to again publish a story online that he had ordered removed.

The article, first published Monday night by school newspaper the Register, detailed the results of a yearlong Vermont Agency of Education investigation into BHS guidance director Mario Macias, who’s been accused of unprofessional and incompetent behavior. Green asked students to pull the story down Tuesday morning, according to a statement from the school district, after he reviewed Act 49, a law passed in 2017 that’s meant to free student journalists from administrative censorship.

“While protecting student journalism, this law also allows administration to ask students to remove any story which is deemed to be ‘substantially disrupting the ability of the school to perform its educational mission,’” district spokesperson Russ Elek wrote in the statement. “In the opinion of Principal Green, this story very much fell under this stipulation at the time, and District leadership supported his decision to ask that the story be taken off the site.”

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Censorship of Burlington School Newspaper May Have Violated Law

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 6:58 PM

The Register's website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The Register's website
Burlington High School principal Noel Green may have violated state law when he ordered student journalists to take down a story posted to the school newspaper’s website.

Monday night the Register broke the news that the state has been investigating school guidance director Mario Macias, who is accused of unprofessional conduct and could lose his educator's license for nearly a year.
By Tuesday morning, Green ordered the Register’s teacher adviser, Beth Fialko Casey, to pull the article. Fialko Casey conferred with the article’s four authors — editors Julia Shannon-Grillo, Halle Newman, Nataleigh Noble and Jenna Peterson — who reluctantly agreed to comply.

“It did cross our minds that they’d want to talk to us and we were ready to defend our actions but we were not expecting it to be censored,” said Shannon-Grillo, a 16-year-old junior. “We understand [Green’s] decision, but as editors, we don’t agree with it.”

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Investigator: 'Unprofessional' Burlington High School Guidance Director Faked Transcript

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 6:34 PM

Burlington High School - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • Burlington High School
After a yearlong investigation, the Vermont Agency of Education alleges that Burlington High School guidance director Mario Macias faked a transcript so a student could graduate, behaved unprofessionally with a college student who was substitute teaching and demonstrated incompetence by being unaware of the basic functions of the guidance department.

On September 7, the Agency cited Macias with six counts of alleged unprofessional conduct. He remains on the job and will have the right to respond to the allegations at a hearing to be scheduled within 60 days. Vermont Education Secretary Daniel French recommended that Macias' license be suspended for 364 days if the allegations are proven.

Macias did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Authorities Say Investigating St. Joseph's Orphanage Abuse Won't Be Easy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 2:42 PM

The former orphanage - NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • Natalie Williams
  • The former orphanage
Even as Vermont law enforcement officials announced Monday the formation of a task force to investigate claims of abuse at the long-shuttered St. Joseph's Catholic Orphanage, they acknowledged the challenges that it will face.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan suggested that the probe, prompted by a recent Buzzfeed story detailing decades of abuse suffered by children, could focus more on fact-finding than legal action. The story includes claims that children died at the hands of nuns.

Many of the victims and alleged perpetrators are dead or elderly, and the statutes of limitation have expired for many acts at the North Avenue orphanage, which closed in 1974.
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"While there may be challenges given the current state of our laws ... there should be no challenge to bringing truth and reconciliation and closure and justice for victims," Donovan said. He added, "Justice doesn't always occur in a courtroom."

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Burlington Police, Mayor Criticize Prosecutors for Not Charging Suspect

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 1:47 PM

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo at a press conference - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo at a press conference
Updated at 5:20 p.m.

In a highly unusual move, Burlington police on Friday publicly criticized prosecutors for not pursuing criminal charges against a Colchester man who claimed self-defense for his role in a downtown shooting that injured an innocent bystander.

Carl Martin was charged in August with aggravated assault, aggravated disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment for his alleged actions in the February incident.

According to police, Martin's brother had a long-simmering dispute with Rashad Nashid over a woman. The men ran into each other at Nectar's on Main Street one February night and began arguing. Nashid later left and went next door to Esox, another bar.

But he and Carl Martin continued to argue while both were outside smoking. Martin eventually punched Nashid in the face, prompting both men to pull handguns. Nashid fired, according to cops, hitting the 27-year-old bystander.

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