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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

President of Champlain College to Step Down

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2019 at 2:49 PM

  • Champlain College
  • Donald Laackman
Updated 3:40 p.m.

Champlain College President Donald J. Laackman will step down June 28, he announced Wednesday.

“I am deeply grateful for the privilege of leading Champlain College and will forever hold this community close to my heart,” Laackman said in a press release. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished together over the last five years.”

Laackman wrote a campus email to students and faculty announcing his departure and followed that with a press release to the broader community shortly after 2 p.m.

Provost and senior vice president Laurie Quinn will serve as interim president beginning in July. A national search is planned for the upcoming year.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Walters: Legislators Still Sparring Over School Lead Tests

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 8:12 PM

Reps. James Gregoire, Kate Webb and Kathleen James - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Reps. James Gregoire, Kate Webb and Kathleen James
In January, it seemed like the slam-dunkiest of legislative slam-dunks. After random tests found elevated lead levels in some schools' drinking water, Gov. Phil Scott proposed testing every tap and fountain in public schools across the state. Everyone understood that this was a critical situation that needed immediate action.

Fast forward five months later to Wednesday afternoon, and agreement on a lead-testing bill remained elusive. A House-Senate conference committee held three meetings and reached agreement on multiple key points — but its last meeting of the day adjourned abruptly with both sides trying to place the ball in the other's court.

The panel had agreed to include all licensed childcare facilities as well as schools. The actionable lead level was set at four parts per billion — a middle ground between the Senate's insistence on three parts per billion and the House's preferred five.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Statehouse Standoff Stalls Act 46 School Merger Deadline Extension

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2019 at 5:25 PM

Members of Vermont's House Education Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Members of Vermont's House Education Committee
Members of the House and the Senate have reached an apparent impasse in negotiations to grant a one-year deadline extension to school districts ordered by the State Board of Education to merge by July 1.

“This is the definition of bargaining in bad faith,” Senate Education Committee chair Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) said of his colleagues in the House.

Both chambers have passed versions of H.39, a bill designed to forestall some of the forced mergers ordered by the state board last October.

The Senate’s version of the bill offered a deadline extension to any of the districts ordered to combine, as long as those districts elected a new, merged school board and that board voted for the delay. The House-passed version provided that option to fewer districts.

Baruth's frustration stems from the fact that House members are now trying to offer even fewer extensions instead of compromising toward the Senate's position.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Winooski Voters Approve $57.8 Million School Bond

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 9:16 PM

Winooski Superintendent of Schools Sean McMannon (left) shakes hands with school board chair Mike Decarreau (right) as school board member Alex Yin looks on. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Winooski Superintendent of Schools Sean McMannon (left) shakes hands with school board chair Mike Decarreau (right) as school board member Alex Yin looks on.
Winooski voters approved a $57.8 million school renovation bond Tuesday by a vote of 368-346.

 School board members hugged and shook hands when the narrow margin of victory — 52 to 48 percent — was announced about 40 minutes after the polls closed at the Winooski Senior Center.

"Phew," school board chair Mike Decarreau said.

He then thanked residents for making the effort to cast ballots that had just the bond on them, saying that a turnout of 714 people was "a real bonus."

"It shows that we got the word out," Decarreau said.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award to Be Renamed

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 6:29 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award will be renamed next year in response to critics who said the author's legacy is tainted by ties to the Vermont eugenics movement in the 1920s and '30s.

Vermont State Librarian Jason Broughton made the decision, which was announced Friday at the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Conference in Barre. 

Vermont children will be asked to help choose a new name, Broughton told Seven Days in a telephone interview after the conference. Vermont Public Radio first reported news of the renaming.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Koch-Supported Entity Helped Fund Controversial Speaker at Middlebury

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 4:15 PM

McCardell Bicentennial Hall - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • McCardell Bicentennial Hall
A Virginia-based think tank heavily funded by billionaire Charles Koch is among the financial backers of a Middlebury College lecture series that reignited an intense debate about campus free speech this week.

Middlebury's Alexander Hamilton Forum was to host a public talk by conservative Polish politician and writer Ryszard Legutko on Wednesday. College administrators canceled the lecture, citing security worries, as protestors who branded Legutko a homophobe prepared to demonstrate.

The Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University helps fund the Alexander Hamilton Forum, the forum's director, Middlebury assistant professor Keegan Callanan, confirmed to Seven Days Friday. The Hamilton series is meant to broaden debate and inquiry at the highly selective private liberal arts college.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Middlebury College Cancels Forum Featuring Conservative Polish Leader

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 2:28 PM

  • Middlebury College
  • Ryszard Legutko
Updated 6:30 p.m.

Middlebury College officials canceled a forum Wednesday that would have featured conservative Polish politician and academic Ryszard Legutko, saying they were concerned that they could not guarantee people’s safety as protestors organized.

But Legutko still spoke informally to students in a Middlebury classroom at the Robert A. Jones House late Wednesday afternoon.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Middlebury College Bristles Over Planned Forum Featuring Polish Conservative

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:38 PM

McCardell Bicentennial Hall - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • McCardell Bicentennial Hall
Update: On Wednesday morning, Middlebury College canceled Legutko's talk.

More than 300 students and faculty at Middlebury College have signed a letter protesting a lecture scheduled for Wednesday by conservative Polish politician, philosopher and writer Ryszard Legutko.

Legutko's writings suggest that contemporary liberalism shares a trait with the communist leadership under which he grew up: a tendency to stifle free speech.

It's been two years since angry protestors shut down a lecture on campus by ultraconservative author Charles Murray. A Middlebury professor, Allison Stanger, was injured by protesters as she helped Murray flee to a waiting car.
  • Middlebury College
  • Ryszard Legutko
This week's dustup has similar themes. 

An online protest letter brands Legutko a racist and a homophobe and asks the Middlebury Political Science Department and Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs not to sponsor the talk, set for 4:30 p.m. at the McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

Walters: Scott Signs Bill on Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:26 PM

Rep. Kevin 'Coach' Christie - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Rep. Kevin 'Coach' Christie
At a Friday afternoon ceremony, Gov. Phil Scott held his first bill signing of the 2019 session. The measure, H.3, is meant to advance ethnic and social equity in Vermont schools.

It calls for a working group to advise the Vermont Agency of Education on adopting statewide standards for ethnic and social equity education, and to require the state Board of Education to publish information on hazing, harassment and bullying incidents "disaggregated by student groups, including ethnic and racial groups, poverty status, disability status, English language learner status, and gender," according to the text of the law.

The signing ceremony took place before a large, enthusiastic and diverse crowd of supporters.

In a brief speech, Scott talked of the "educational benefits for kids" and the ultimate goal of creating "a more tolerant society."

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Senate Plan Would Allow School Districts to Delay Forced Mergers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 5:22 PM

Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden)
The Vermont Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would give new flexibility to all school districts facing orders to merge from the state Board of Education.

The measure would force districts that were ordered to consolidate to form a new school board together. That board could then vote to delay the merger by one year, to July 2020, or chose to move forward with it this year, as originally mandated by the state.

The proposal is the Senate's take on H.39, which the House approved in February by a 134 to 10 vote. Both versions of the bill are designed to address the concerns of districts ordered to merge under Act 46, the state’s 2015 school consolidation law. But the version passed by the House would only give an extension to certain districts that haven’t yet presented a merger plan to voters.

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