Archive - Apr 24, 2008
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Sometimes when Sue Schmidt and her sons are shopping for groceries, a stranger will come up to them and ask if she can touch the boys’ hair. Schmidt’s sons are both adopted — one is African American, the other biracial — and the soft dreadlocks on the younger 6-year-old attract a lot of attention.
Schmidt’s answer is always the same — no — but she tries to use the interaction as an opportunity to bring up a topic often overlooked in Vermont, where according to the 2006 U.S. census, 96.7 percent of the population is white.
“We don’t talk about race in Vermont, as white people we have the privilege to not talk about race,” she said. “My children don’t have that privilege. They will never have it.”
In her own family Schmidt, who works as Middlebury’s Agency of Human Services Field Director, seizes every opportunity to discuss the issue with her sons, whether it’s in the grocery store or on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“My youngest son, earlier this month, said, ‘What means assassination?’ So I explained it. You have to make sure he understands the world that he’s living in,” Schmidt said. “But there was also part of me that was really sad… because I don’t want him to be afraid.”
Schmidt is a panelist in an upcoming community discussion on race following a screening at Middlebury College of the Vermont film, “Living on the Fault Line: Where Race and Family Meet.”
The documentary, which explores the emotional costs of racial discrimination and white privilege as it plays out in the privacy of trans-racial Vermont families, starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, in Twilight Hall.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
ADDISON COUNTY — As Green Up Day nears, students at Middlebury Union Middle School are keeping their eyes open for a visit from a local superhero. Captain Green Up, clad in a costume made from the green plastic bags distributed on Green Up Day, has led the charge to pick up litter and trash around the school for several years now, and this year probably will be no different.
“He always seems to be there when they need him,” said social studies teacher Peter Brakeley, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the superhero.
Brakeley, who helps organize Green Up Day activities himself at the school but mysteriously has never been photographed with Captain Green Up, has recently taken a leave of absence for medical reasons. However, he said that he will still be able to take part in Green Up Day activities this year. “I should be able to keep my involvement,” Brakeley said.
At MUMS, Brakeley helps mobilize about 300 middle school students to help clean up the area on the annual day when Vermonters help clean up roadsides and public areas.
Green Up Day began in 1970 to promote the stewardship of the state’s natural landscape, according to Green Up Vermont, the nonprofit organization that has coordinated efforts since 1979. Held on the first Saturday of May, over 40,000 bags of trash are collected annually with the help of more than 250 volunteer coordinators and over 15,000 participants.
This year Brakeley said middle school students will begin work on Friday, May 2, at around 2:15 p.m. The students are eager to help out, partly to get out of the classroom on a spring afternoon and partly just to help their community.
“I think it’s important to get students involved with community service,” Brakeley said. “There’s a lot we can do for our community, especially an energetic group of 10- to 14-year-olds.”
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY —Middlebury selectmen will hire a consultant to assess the current space woes besetting the local fire, public works and municipal offices, and determine whether some of those services could be accommodated on the former wastewater treatment plant property off Seymour Street.
The former wastewater treatment plant, now relegated to a pump station, sits on 12.5 acres of town-owned land. It currently hosts the Middlebury Police Department and a small cluster of buildings — including a garage — that are no longer used by the sewer department and are now falling into disrepair.
Town officials want to determine whether any of those former treatment plant buildings can be salvaged for storage of municipal equipment, and whether it would make sense to consider some kind of new structure there to alleviate the space crunch some town departments are now experiencing.
The consultant will also look at the potential of other town-owned land, and perhaps private property, that could meet municipal space needs, according to Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger.
Middlebury has $35,000 set aside in its capital budget to pay for the study, Finger noted.
“We want to take into account the space needs of the town and look at the potential to accommodate those needs on property already owned by the town, then look elsewhere,” Finger said.
Middlebury’s fire department needs are already well documented. While there is decent meeting space in the department’s headquarters at 5 Seymour Street, the building is having an increasingly tough time housing the force’s vehicles. Fire Chief Rick Cole explained the northern section of the building was erected during the 1930s, while the southern portion was added during the 1970s. Planners back then could not have envisioned the size of today’s firefighting vehicles.