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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Opinion
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

Kake Walk competitors - UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
  • 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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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Vermont House Defeats School District Merger Delay, But It's Not Over Yet

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 7:04 PM

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe), left, with Rep. Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) on Tuesday at the Statehouse. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe), left, with Rep. Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) on Tuesday at the Statehouse.
Vermont lawmakers narrowly defeated a tripartisan proposal Wednesday that would have provided a one-year deadline extension to school districts that have been ordered to merge by July.

The 69-74 vote in the Vermont House was a setback for communities asking for more time to set up new, merged districts — but it did not signify the end of the road.

Dozens of districts are also looking to the courts for help. They’ve sued the state Board of Education, which ordered the mergers under Act 46, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional. Those hoping for delay said the extra time would allow for the court cases to be resolved before the districts are forced to change their governance.

Despite Wednesday's defeat, a more limited delay may still be in the offing.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

House to Vote on Dueling Proposals to Delay School District Mergers

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 8:36 PM

Rep. Kate Webb (D-Shelburne), right, addresses the House Education Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Rep. Kate Webb (D-Shelburne), right, addresses the House Education Committee
The legislature passed Act 46 in 2015, but House lawmakers are preparing for yet another emotional debate Wednesday about how soon the state should force school districts to merge.

House lawmakers are set to vote Wednesday on a bill from Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) that would delay forced school district mergers ordered by the state Board of Education. But Scheuermann says an alternative proposal passed late Tuesday afternoon by the House Education Committee has the potential to fracture a tripartisan coalition supporting her bill.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

University of Vermont Names 'Sole Finalist' for President Job

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 4:33 PM

Suresh Garimella - COURTESY OF PURDUE UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy of Purdue University
  • Suresh Garimella
The University of Vermont has announced a single finalist for the top job on campus.

Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University in Indiana, is scheduled to visit UVM’s campus at the end of next week. He is the “sole finalist” to replace outgoing president Thomas Sullivan, according to an announcement Monday from UVM Board of Trustees chair David Daigle.

“We had over 90 outstanding individuals apply for our presidency. The search committee personally interviewed 10 of the most highly qualified candidates in this exceptional pool,” Daigle wrote. “Candidate confidentiality requirements necessitate that we not identify publicly the entire group of outstanding finalists."

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Middlebury College to Divest $55 Million From Fossil Fuel Companies

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 6:03 PM

COURTESY OF DIVEST MIDDLEBURY
  • Courtesy of Divest Middlebury
Years of student pressure is prompting Middlebury College to phase out most investments in fossil-fuel companies, the school announced Tuesday.

The board of trustees for the private liberal arts college unanimously voted to divest January 26 as part of a sweeping sustainability plan dubbed Energy2028, according to a Tuesday press release.

Trustees had previously rejected students' divestment demands. The college's resistance was notable because scholar-in-residence Bill McKibben is a leading proponent of the international movement, as is the organization he and a group of Midd students founded in 2008, 350.org.

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South Burlington High School to Raise a Black Lives Matter Flag

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 3:11 PM

South Burlington residents rallying in 2017 during a time of upheaval around the high school's "Rebel" moniker - FILE: MOLLY WALSH
  • File: Molly Walsh
  • South Burlington residents rallying in 2017 during a time of upheaval around the high school's "Rebel" moniker
South Burlington High School students and faculty will raise a Black Lives Matter flag on Friday, and some residents have sharply criticized the plan.

The school board voted unanimously to support the flag-raising back in June. It will fly at the school during February in honor of Black History Month. School officials expect to hoist it in future years to mark the month.

Partly in response to concerns about potential disruptions and safety, school district leaders have limited public access. Only students and employees will be able to attend the 3 p.m. event. Other observers, including members of the news media, will only be allowed to watch from across the street from the school, on the west side of Dorset Street, in the parking lot by South Burlington's municipal building.

"Keeping the Black Lives Matter flag-raising assembly and outside ceremony limited to students and staff enhances student safety," superintendent David Young said in a public statement. "Additionally, the student leaders' and their advisers' goal for both the assembly and ceremony is to raise awareness, deepen learning and inspire further dialogue within their school community."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Unsustainable: Green Mountain College to Close in May

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 7:02 PM

JUDITH A. BROWN | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Judith A. Brown | Dreamstime.com
Updated 9:55 p.m.

Green Mountain College will shut down after graduation this spring, the private liberal arts institution in Poultney announced Wednesday.

"The decision to close Green Mountain College comes only after a tireless pursuit of multiple options to remain open, including the rigorous search for new partnerships and reorganization of our finances," president Bob Allen said, in a message posted on the college's website. "Despite our noteworthy accomplishments related to social and environmental sustainability, we have not been able to assure the economic sustainability of the College."

The Rutland Herald reported that Allen announced the closure during an all-hands meeting at the school's campus.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Legislators Call for Delaying Forced School District Mergers

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 4:39 PM

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe)
Updated on January 18, 2019.

A tripartisan group of more than two dozen lawmakers plans to advance legislation that would delay school district mergers that are required by Act 46.

The 2015 law created property tax incentives for communities that opted to merge school districts, and also set a deadline after which districts could be forced to consolidate. Last year, after the deadline passed and the Vermont Board of Education ordered mergers, more than 30 school boards sued to stop the process.

The coalition of House and Senate lawmakers, led by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) and Rep. Mike Mrowicki (D-Putney) said the state should delay the forced mergers until those legal cases are decided.

“We need more time,” Mrowicki said.

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