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Archive - 2007

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December 13th

UD-3 school board proposes 4.73 % spending increase

December 13, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 school board on Tuesday agreed to send voters a proposed 2008-2009 spending plan of $15 million and a request to spend almost $400,000 in surplus funds on security and energy efficiency upgrades to the Middlebury Union high school and middle school buildings.

The proposed budget places the district safely below the per-pupil spending penalty threshold prescribed under the state’s education funding law. Under that law, districts that spend 125 percent of the statewide average per-pupil spending level are taxed at a higher rate, with the “penalty” revenues used to help pay for education in poorer towns.

Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Lee Sease said the draft budget reflects a 4.73 percent increase in overall spending compared to the current year.

District officials are still firming up numbers on how the budget will affect taxpayers in the UD-3 member communities of Middlebury, Cornwall, Weybridge, Shoreham, Ripton, Salisbury and Bridport. The UD-3 budget reflects education expenses for both MUHS and MUMS.

Sease acknowledged that the district was in large part able to keep its budget under the state’s per-pupil spending threshold because 12 teachers have voiced interest in participating in an early retirement program. This program will allow the district to either keep some of the positions unfilled or hire new teachers at a lower wage scale.

But Sease added a cautionary note about the retirements in a recent memo to UD-3 board members.

“These early retirements have not been fully processed,” Sease wrote. “If for some reason these retirements do not come to pass, then substantial reductions-in-force will need to be made to meet the budget as presented.”

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Future of Vergennes summer childcare program in jeopardy

December 13, 2007

By ANDY KIRKALDY

VERGENNES — A chronic funding shortfall could end a summer childcare program that has served up to 100 Vergennes-area children and their families in recent years.

Mary Johnson Childcare Center co-director Ilana Snyder said the Vergennes Summer School Age Program has been losing between $20,000 and $25,000 annually for the past three years. After seeing the latest numbers at the end of this past summer the MJCC board voted to pull the plug unless more funding could be found. 

But MJCC officials are still working on ways to pay for the program, which has operated either at Vergennes Union Elementary School or Vergennes Union High School in recent years and was based at VUHS this past summer.

No one who knows the program — which offers arts, sports, field trips, swimming, and other activities, plus lunches — wants to see it end, Snyder said: Many working-class families rely on it for childcare while schools are out of session, and it also serves many families whose tuition is subsidized by the state. 

“It would be a loss for that community,” she said. “A hundred kids with no place to go … That’s an issue. That’s a cause for concern.”

Families not helped by the state paid $125 a week last summer for the seven-week, full-day program, which has operated when schools are closed and grew out of the Roxanne Bannister Provencher summer recreation program in the 1990s.

Snyder said MJCC is pursuing additional state funding and private grants for the program, which is too expensive for tuition alone to support.

full story

Bringing in trophy bucks is a family affair

December 13, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES and ANDY KIRKALDY

LINCOLN — The Sargent family of Lincoln will have lots of venison in the freezer this winter and stories to share for years to come thanks to a fortunate combination of hunting acumen and good luck last week.

First Stanley Sargent bagged a trophy buck with one shot from his muzzleloader, then three days later his son Brett Sargent felled an even bigger buck, also with a single shot.

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” Stanley said with a wry smile in his voice when asked how he felt upon learning that his son had got the bigger buck. Then he added, “Really, I’m tickled.”

It started on Wednesday, Dec. 5. “Everybody had been up there looking for this deer,” Stanley said that afternoon, as he nudged the 160-pound animal back into the bed of his truck, blood dripping onto the snow beneath it as he closed the rear gate.

Early that morning he swapped deer stories with fellow hunters while filling up on breakfast at Kinfolk Kountry Restaurant in Bristol. He’d been in the hospital only a week before for a hernia operation, so he hadn’t been able to hunt in Vermont muzzleloader season yet.

“If I get one, someone’s going to have to help me out,” he recalled telling the folks at the restaurant.

Sargent left Kinfolk, and not half a mile up the road, he saw the deer on the edge of the woods, evidently in pursuit of a doe, he said. He pulled over, grabbed his muzzleloader, got out of his truck and shot.

“I see feet flying and horns flying everywhere,” he said. But he didn’t have any powder left. He’d put his pouch full of muzzleloader paraphernalia away earlier this fall after hunting in New York during muzzleloader season there. After his surgery, Sargent forgot to put it back in his truck.

full story

December 11th

Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Speech by Al Gore on the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
December 10, 2007
Oslo, Norway

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention - dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken - if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures - a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

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Vocal jazz

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SOPHOMORE Elizabeth Goffe belts out a tune during a showcase of student jazz performances held in the college’s Center for the Arts last Thursday evening.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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Life learning

December 10, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

ADDISON COUNTY — René Nill never imagined she would get college credit for the work she did as a child on her parents’ rabbit farm, or her experience as a paste-up artist at a printing company. But the 47-year-old Vergennes resident found there was plenty she had already learned before setting foot in a Community College of Vermont classroom two years ago. All she needed was a way to articulate that learning.

That’s what she found in the Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) course she took at CCV last year. The course, which is being offered again this spring at seven different locations around the state, including Burlington and Rutland, assists adult students in the preparation of individual portfolios through which they request credit for learning acquired on the job, through volunteer work or even in self-taught hobbies.

“Students do not get credit for experience, they get credit for learning through experience,” said Gabrielle Dietzel, coordinator of assessment services for the Office of External Programs of the Vermont State Colleges, which evaluates the completed portfolios.

The program, which is one of the oldest of its kind in the country, has been offered for 30 years, but Dietzel said she’s seen a rise in enrollment since returning to college after years in the working world has become more common in recent years.

“Adults are going back to school in huge masses,” she said. “A lot of our students have a business background. They’ve risen through the ranks in their company … Now they’re 50 years old and they realize that not getting a degree is holding them back from getting promotions. Or they simply want a degree.”

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A couple's take on Middle East peace

December 10, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

BRIDPORT — Ask most people to share their views about the relationship between Israel and Palestine and they will describe a political conflict of epic proportions that is often punctuated by tanks, missiles and suicide bombs.

But a Bridport couple recently returned from the Middle East with a far different take on the state of Palestinian-Israeli relations. Diane Nancekivell and Tom Baskett spent two weeks in the region as part of a tour co-sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the American Friends Service Committee. They were part of a delegation that toured Israel and Palestine, speaking to many regular folks and citizens’ groups that are quietly working on peaceful solutions to one of the world’s most volatile disputes.

The simmering feud centers on land claims dating back at least to the mid-1940s and the establishment of an Israeli nation under a United Nations plan. Palestinians have seen their territory shrink over the years and have sought to reclaim territories they believe are rightfully theirs. Israel has disputed those claims.

“We think it’s very important for people to understand the truth over there, that it’s not one group that is good and another that is bad,” said Nancekivell, a retired Episcopal dean and assisting priest at St. Stephen’s Church in Middlebury. “It’s about two nations trying to find a way to share the land, feel secure in a sense of national identity and prosper in the future.”

Nancekivell had been to the region before, as part of a trip organized by Sabeel — a Palestinian Christian organization. She enjoyed her time, and this year wanted to go with her husband. Baskett, a Quaker and retired psychotherapist, was game for the journey.

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Dealing with stress through literature

December 10, 2007

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MIDDLEBURY — Health care is a highly stressful field with a risk of mental or emotional burnout, according to Diana Scholl, chaplain at Porter Hospital. Many medical professionals have found a way to deal with that stress through a new way to approach medicine: reading and discussing literature.

Scholl has helped run Porter’s Literature and Medicine program, a book club for doctors, nurses and others in the health care business in the Middlebury area. She says that reading about and discussing the inner lives of others can make a big difference.

“You have to have some way to deal with (burnout), and this gives people a way,” said Scholl, who in addition to being chaplain is one of Porter Hospital’s liaisons to the Vermont Humanities Council.

The club began about five years ago. The Vermont Humanities Council offers grants to help such programs get started, but Scholl said that Porter has paid its expenses for the past four years. Most participants are nurses and doctors at Porter, but the club also includes administrative and cafeteria staff at Porter, employees of Community Associates and other area medical practitioners that aren’t affiliated with Porter Medical Center, and retired medical professionals.

According to Scholl, most hospitals in Vermont have similar book clubs, but Porter’s is the most successful in terms of the number of members and consistent attendance. At the Dec. 6 meeting there were 20 guests.

The club’s activities sometimes include attendance at cultural events like movies and plays, in addition to reading books. They also discuss a related method called narrative medicine, which encourages doctors and nurses to think of a patient’s problem as a story rather than as a collection of symptoms and medication.

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