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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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Lawmakers Ponder Fate of Orphaned College Records

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 3:50 PM

  • Rob Donnelly
The Vermont Agency of Education wants to unload student academic records from the now-closed Burlington College onto the Secretary of State's Office — which doesn't want them either.

Who should store and manage student transcripts when a colleges closes is no idle concern in Vermont. So far this year, three private colleges in the state have announced they will close this summer: Green Mountain College in Poultney, Southern Vermont College in Bennington and the College of St. Joseph in Rutland. St. Joe's announced last week that it will shut down after a failed campaign to stay open.

The Agency of Education has managed Burlington College's records since the school closed in 2016. At the urging of the agency, the Vermont House Education Committee drafted a bill that would transfer the orphaned records to the Vermont State Archives & Records Administration by August 1. That's a division of the Vermont Secretary of State's Office. 

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Southern Vermont College to Close at End of Semester

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 4:05 PM

  • Rob Donnelly
Southern Vermont College is closing after the spring semester due to financial problems, college president David Evans announced on Monday.

The Bennington liberal arts college’s board voted to close during a special meeting on Friday, the day after a show-cause hearing with the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which is responsible for accrediting colleges and universities.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

University of Vermont Hires Garimella as Next President

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 4:01 PM

  • Courtesy of Purdue University
  • Suresh Garimella
It's official. University of Vermont trustees have hired Suresh Garimella to be the school's 27th president.

The announcement Friday was not a surprise. The senior administrator and mechanical engineering professor at Indiana's Purdue University had been the sole finalist for the job to succeed current president Thomas Sullivan, who will step down in July.

Garimella's contract is effective July 1. He'll earn a base salary of $480,000 and an additional $50,000 annually in deferred compensation for each year he stays on the job.

On top of those payments, Garimella will receive a $100,000 annual payment toward a retirement fund, according to his new contract.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

University of Vermont Faculty and Students Sound Off As Presidential Finalist Visits Campus

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 8:03 PM

Suresh Garimella at UVM Thursday - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Suresh Garimella at UVM Thursday
The sole finalist for the presidency of the University of Vermont, Suresh Garimella, was confident and cordial as he wrapped up a press conference with media on campus Thursday at the Dudley H. Davis Center. Nearby, an unhappy crowd gathered.

More than 100 students and faculty rallied to protest what they said was an undemocratic presidential search process.

They also railed against staff and faculty cuts in the humanities in response to declining enrollment and accused administrators of having an "edifice" complex that puts expensive buildings ahead of investments in teaching and learning.

Bloated administrative salaries and a "widget" mentality that looks at students as "data points" also came under fire at the rally, where protestors bemoaned a budget model they said is leading to the death of intellectualism at the school.

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State Revokes Burlington Guidance Director's License

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 6:12 PM

Mario Macias turns to speak with family members at a licensing hearing in December in Barre. - FILE: MOLLY WALSH
  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Mario Macias turns to speak with family members at a licensing hearing in December in Barre.
A state panel has revoked the license of embattled Burlington High School guidance director Mario Macias.

In a decision issued Thursday, the hearing panel concluded that Macias, who is on leave from his job, was guilty of three out of seven alleged licensing violations that were leveled at him last year.

He shouted at one employee, ridiculed another and "unreasonably impaired" colleagues' ability to perform their duties, which constituted misconduct, the panel determined.

Macias also showed incompetence and inability to perform the basic duties of his job, another violation, according to the panel. Macias further violated standards by inappropriately engaging in conversation with a student about the licensing charges against him, the panel found.

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Walters: One Year Later, Fair Haven Still Resonates

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 4:42 PM

Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, with Gov. Phil Scott - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, with Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott began his weekly press conference Thursday by recalling a tragedy and a near-tragedy that occurred the same week in February 2018. He cited the one-year anniversary of the "senseless, tragic and horrific" school shooting on February 14 in Parkland, Fla. — and the apparent plan by a Vermont teenager to commit a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, which was thwarted just a day after Parkland.

The governor praised the Fair Haven community for its "courage in supporting each other."

The arrest of 18-year-old Jack Sawyer and the revelation of his detailed plans to shoot "as many as I can get" proved to be a turning point for Scott. In the aftermath, the governor reversed his longstanding opposition to gun-safety legislation. In April, he signed a package of gun bills into law.
Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, spoke of the "tremendously resilient community" at the high school. "Everyone has banded together to really support one another," she added.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades

Posted By on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 at 10:51 PM

  • University of Vermont Special Collections
  • Kake Walk competitors
Updated February 12, 2019

When “Meet the Press” needed a guest to counter Alabama governor George Wallace’s segregationist views in 1964, the NBC show called on a progressive leader from Vermont. The late governor Phil Hoff delivered, supporting the new Civil Rights Act “while projecting Vermont’s self-image as a racially enlightened society,” according to the 2011 biography Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State.

Yet the governor also appeared more than once before thousands of people gathered at the University of Vermont to watch a popular annual blackface show called “A-Walkin-’Fo-De-Kake,” or Kake Walk. The event was so significant — and accepted — that local and state elected officials handed out trophies and cake to the fraternity brothers who performed best.

The 1963 Kake Walk program listed Hoff, lieutenant governor Ralph Foote, Burlington mayor Robert Bing and UVM president John Fey among the dignitaries scheduled to present awards.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

House Passes Plan to Delay Some Forced School District Mergers

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 3:20 PM

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (standing) addresses House lawmakers - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (standing) addresses House lawmakers
House lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would provide a deadline extension for some school districts that have been ordered to merge by Vermont’s Board of Education.

The legislation is a scaled-back version of a proposal that would have provided a one-year extension for all of the districts that were required to merge by July 1, 2019. That measure, which had support from a tripartisan coalition of House lawmakers, failed Wednesday.

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