Archive - May 2008 - Page
By JOHN FLOWERS
SALISBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) officials will soon offer some recommendations on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in district schools.
The recommendations are being developed in response to a parent’s inquiry into how the Pledge is being observed at the Salisbury Community School. Sal Morana, whose daughter attends the Salisbury school, brought the matter to local school directors’ attention earlier this year out of concern that not all students were being given the opportunity to recite the Pledge each morning. He learned that the Pledge was being offered regularly in some classes, but not in others.
“Those kids should be offered the opportunity to say the Pledge every day,” Morana said. “Here we are in a rural, agricultural town with kids who may grow up to join the military … and it was surprising to me (there is no Pledge policy).”
Morana shared his views last month with the Salisbury school board and ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease. Since then, Sease acknowledged he has received more than 75 e-mails from people weighing in on the Pledge, most of them in favor of its observance in ACSU schools.
“There is support for the Pledge of Allegiance and recognizing patriotism,” said Sease, who has discovered the ACSU has no uniform policy or guidelines on the Pledge of Allegiance. He noted some ACSU schools have a student recite the Pledge over the intercom; others leave it up to individual teachers or confine it to special events.
“While this issue has come up in Salisbury, I don’t think approaching this from a single school standpoint makes much sense,” he said.
By MEGAN JAMES & CYRUS LEVESQUE
ADDISON COUNTY — Only about 70 percent of high school students in the United States graduate in four years with a regular diploma, and about 1.2 million students drop out every year, according to a new report issued by America’s Promise Alliance.
By that standard, students in Addison County are doing exceptionally well.
Over the last five years the dropout rates at the four local high schools — Middlebury Union High School, Mount Abraham Union High School, Otter Valley Union High School and Vergennes Union High School — have all gradually fallen or hovered around already tiny percentages.
Counselors and administrators at all four local high schools credit some of their success in keeping youngsters in school to the fact that they address the different learning styles of students in different ways. Catching potential dropout students early on and engaging them in alternative education programs allows students to learn in nontraditional ways and offers them a sense of belonging in a different community, said MUHS guidance counselor Mark Thuma.
“The kids who feel disenfranchised with our system can find that sense of community with an alt ed program,” Thuma said.
Vermont kids start out in school with one advantage — geography. The Alliance’s report, which was based on school district data from the 2003-2004 school year, found that students in suburban and rural public high schools are more likely to graduate than their counterparts in urban public high schools, only about half of whom receive diplomas.
Local students have it even better. The most recent data from the 2005-2006 school year shows MUHS, MAUHS and VUHS all below the state average of 2.85 percent, and OVUHS just a hair above it.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — The Maine search and rescue organization that took more than 700 aerial photographs of the Otter Creek last month in an effort to locate missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, has confirmed that a suspicious object identified in the river during that search could have been the 19-year-old’s body. Officials said it was the color and shape of a pair of blue jeans attached to what could have been a white shoe at the end of each leg that led them to that determination.
Garza was wearing a red, button-down shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes on Feb. 5, the night he disappeared from the Middlebury campus.
Down East Emergency Medical Institute (DEEMI) has known about this detail since its photographs were analyzed on April 17, but until this week the public and the Garza family knew only of an “object of interest” that prompted an unplanned search of the river behind Middlebury Union High School on April 18, resulting in no new leads.
DEEMI director Richard Bowie said his organization has a policy not to reveal details of the aerial photographs it takes in missing persons cases, in an effort to be sensitive to the family and to ensure general searching doesn’t stop.
This detail became public after news leaked out.
“We want the public to continue to look,” Bowie said. “We don’t want to say, ‘He’s in the water; stop looking.’ You have to continue looking elsewhere because what if it isn’t him?”
Still, Bowie stressed the object, which searchers have not been able to locate, is well worth tracking down.
“We look for colors,” he said. “We’re looking for jeans … it’s pretty easy to pick them out among Mother Nature. So when you’re looking at this thing in the river, you start associating shapes, sizes, dimensions. Nothing about this looked natural.”
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
ADDISON COUNTY — Conditions this spring have been a mixed blessing for Addison County farmers — milk prices are relatively high but so are the costs of feed and fuel.
But a deal to extend and expand a federal dairy price support program struck on Friday could be a big help.
After a marathon negotiating session, conferees from the U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees agreed on an extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program in the U.S. Farm Bill at around 1 a.m. last Friday, according Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. The Democrat is the senior member of the Senate agriculture committee.
The expansions to the program include incorporating the rising cost of feed, making base payments larger and making farms with larger herds available.
The MILC program, originally created in 2002, provides extra help for dairy farmers when the price of milk falls below a certain threshold. Under the current program, if the price of raw milk drops below $16.94 per hundredweight — about 12 gallons — extra payments for farmers are triggered. The payment is equal to the amount of milk a farmer sold in that month multiplied by 34 percent of the difference between $16.94 and the price that milk actually sold for.
Payments are capped after a farm has sold 2.4 million pounds of milk in a year.
The revised version in the program includes three significant changes.
First, the rising cost of feed will, for the first time, become a factor triggering payments under the program. When three major feed commodities — corn, hay alfalfa and soybeans — hit a certain price, payments will kick in. Rising feed costs, fueled especially by skyrocketing energy costs, are a growing strain on farmers.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents are taking a lead role in organizing a major art exhibit that will tour through some major cities and venues next year celebrating Lake Champlain and the 400th anniversary of its naming by French explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Dubbed “Champlain’s Lake Rediscovered,” the exhibit will boast 50 works — primarily paintings — submitted exclusively by Vermont artists. In 2009, the collection will meander its way through the six major institutions: Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, the National Arts Club in New York City, the Boston Public Library, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Washington, D.C., the Chaffee Art Gallery in Rutland and the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester.
The show — the only visual arts feature from Vermont in next year’s quadricentennial celebration of Lake Champlain — is the brainchild of Middlebury artist Doug Lazarus. Lazarus is serving as curator of the exhibit, while Ripton-based artist Jean Cherouny is coordinating the endeavor.
The exhibit’s major sponsor is the nonprofit Willowell Foundation, an Addison County-based organization that supports projects connecting the arts, education and the environment.
“This is the first time, according to the Vermont Arts Council, that Vermont art has every traveled to major cities as ‘Vermont art,’” Lazarus said of the exhibit. “This (show) will declare that Vermont has a seriously competent art community in it.”
Lazarus conceived of the exhibit last year as a way to showcase Vermont artists, export images of the lake in this special anniversary, and provide an added incentive for tourists to come to the Green Mountain State.
By JOHN FLOWERS
FERRISBURGH — The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) is seeking $100,000 for the final studies it needs before recommending a preservation plan for the Revolutionary War-era gunboat Spitfire that remains docked in its watery grave at the bottom of the lake.
And one of the tools the LCMM will use to try and raise the needed funds will be a short film — currently in the final stages of production — that tells the history of the Spitfire and its 1997 discovery in the depths of Lake Champlain. Art Cohn, executive director of the LCMM, said plans call for the film to be aired on Vermont Public Television later this year.
“We’re trying to move this (preservation) plan forward,” Cohn said last week. Preservation options range from safeguarding the gunboat at its current undisclosed location, or undertaking the extraordinary task of raising it for eventual public display.
Museum officials have spent the past 11 years carefully crafting a plan for the Spitfire, one in a small fleet of gunboats commanded by Benedict Arnold during the Battle of Valcour Island on Oct. 11, 1776. All of Arnold’s boats, except the New York, were destroyed by the British, captured or scuttled by the Continental Army. While British forces won the battle, Arnold’s forces damaged the British fleet enough to send it back to Canada to regroup, thereby giving the Americans time to galvanize their own forces for a winning war effort.
MIDDLEBURY — Natalie Garza, the mother of missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, has asked participants in Green Up Day to keep their eyes peeled for clothing or items belonging to the 19-year-old as they’re combing Addison County roads for trash on Saturday, May 3.
Nicholas Garza was wearing jeans, a long-sleeved red, button-down shirt and white, size-12 tennis shoes on Feb. 5, the night he went missing. His cell phone, wallet and dorm access card have not been found.
Anyone who finds items matching this profile is asked to contact the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191.
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — More than a hundred people fanned out across an open field east of Middlebury’s Porter Hospital on Saturday, kicking through dead grass, looking for a trace of missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza.
“My son had on jeans, he had on a long-sleeved, red, button-down shirt and he has a size 12 tennis shoe on,” his mother, Natalie Garza, told the crowd of volunteer searchers packed into the bleachers at Kenyon Arena before they began the full-day search. “His cell phone, wallet, his badge to his room have not been found.”
Searchers made their way north from the hospital grounds to Mr. Up’s Restaurant — some searched the Otter Creek from kayaks — turning up nothing more than a few articles of clothing that didn’t match Garza’s profile.
Leading the search was Gary Peterson, an investigator for the Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office who consulted on the Garza case in March as part of Texas EquuSearch, a private search and rescue organization. He returned to Middlebury at the suggestion of Nan O’Brien, a Vermont medium and spiritual advisor working with the Garza family. O’Brien previously helped Peterson with a case in Iowa.
Nick Garza was last seen leaving a Middlebury College dorm on the night of Feb. 5. He has not contacted any family or friends, and it does not appear that he was unhappy in Middlebury. Local police have headed up the investigation and previous searches that have included sixteen organizations, more than 200 search personnel, two helicopters, two airplanes and 13 search dogs.
According to Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley, Saturday’s volunteer search organized by Natalie Garza, covered very little ground that hadn’t already been searched.