August 22, 2019

Zoning proposal prompts concerns

St. George discusses new land-use rules

May 1, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

St. George residents last week debated new land-use rules that would steer development toward the middle of town while imposing stricter limits elsewhere.

The April 23 session at St. George Town Center drew more than 30 people who crowded into the small room filled with folding chairs for a lively, two-hour discussion.

Some critiqued zoning changes aimed at creating a compact village near the center of town along Vermont 2A. In addition to the town offices, that area now has only a mobile home park, a gas station/convenience store and a couple of small businesses.

"I don't understand why we need a downtown," said resident Candace Boyd. "We have a downtown in Williston. We can spit to it."

The discussion focused on two of the seven proposed zoning districts: village neighborhood and village center. The other districts would permit sparser development, including one that allows densities of only one residential unit per 25 acres.

The village center district would encourage dense, mixed-use development by permitting as many as 17 units per acre. It would feature multi-story buildings with little or no setbacks.

"The purpose is to basically create a small village or downtown," said Brandy Saxton, the consultant helping the town create new zoning. She showed aerial maps of Taft Corners in Williston and Church Street in Burlington as examples.

But some residents wondered if the idea was practical given that St. George does not have the public water and sewer systems to support larger-scale development.

Others worried that dense development would only create more traffic headaches along 2A. Residents have long complained about commuters who speed through town, endangering and aggravating those living along the road.

Planning Commission Chairman Scott Baker said more traffic would actually signal success.

"I think that every great place in the country has a lot of traffic," Baker said.

Dense development and many pedestrians, he said, would make vehicles move more slowly.

Resident John Barth suggested placing the town center on a new road parallel to 2A.

"If you put the town center off the main road you wouldn't necessarily have to solve the traffic problem," he said. "I don't think you are going to stop the flow because a lot of people commute."

Another resident thought the entire district should be moved south to the intersection of 2A and Vermont 116, noting that few motorists would be willing to drive out of their way to visit St. George.

Others worried the new zoning could create the kind of development seen in Williston and South Burlington.

"I appreciate efforts to do this kind of zoning," said Phil Beliveau. "I just don't want to end up like Shelburne Road or Taft Corners."

Dense in the center

The proposed village neighborhood district also generated debate. Saxton described the district, running along both sides of Vermont 2A just north of the village center district, as featuring a "little commercial and a lot of residential." The idea, she said, is to create the kind of compact development seen in the center of a "typical New England village."

The district would permit homes on quarter-acre lots, considerably smaller than typical in St. George. Much of that part of town is currently zoned for two-acre lots.

St. George Town Clerk Barbara Young, who owns a home in the district, said she preferred to keep the current zoning.

"I don't think that's why people moved here is to have quarter-acre lots," she said. "They would have lived elsewhere."

Baker said smaller lots are needed to attract the critical mass of residents needed to form a compact, pedestrian-friendly village.

But some residents worried that the new district would attract "cookie-cutter" subdivisions and warned infrastructure was inadequate to handle all the new people. Without sewer and water, they said the new zoning could result in scattered two- and three-unit subdivisions.

In all, the proposed zoning would allow approximately 2,000 new residential units, Baker said. St. George's current population is roughly 750.

Selectboard Chairman Tom Carlson questioned whether the town would ever see that amount of new development. The St. George town plan has long called for development surrounding the Town Center, but except for the Simon's convenience store, no new construction has occurred for years.

"Do we want to double the size of the town 10 years from now, 20 years from now?" Carlson said. "If we're not expecting it to happen, why are we doing it?"

Baker said the town needs new zoning now — the last substantial revision to the rules occurred more than 10 years ago — lest scattered development happen without adequate controls. He noted applications for two subdivisions are pending that involve roughly a quarter of all the developable land in town.

"The threat is very real that there is going to be a lot of development," he said. "We're trying to guide that as responsibly as we can."

[Read more…]

Town employee faces charges

D.K. Johnston accused in stalking case

May 1, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Town employee D.K. Johnston was charged with stalking after a local real estate agent alleged he sent her dozens of harassing messages and left a profanity-filled letter at her home.

Johnston, 59, served as Williston's zoning administrator for more than three years before resigning the position in March. His resignation was accompanied by a written agreement that allows him to continue working for the planning and zoning office through June 30, when his term as zoning administrator would have expired.

Johnston continues to work for the town in a limited capacity, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. Johnston is helping rewrite a portion of Williston's zoning ordinances, part of a larger effort to revise land-use rules.

McGuire noted that Johnston works from his home and his job no longer involves public contact.

It is unclear if there is a connection between Johnston's legal troubles and his pending resignation. McGuire refused to say if such a connection exists or if the charges prompted the resignation agreement. The agreement forbids a negative employment reference and limits what Williston officials can say about Johnston and what he can say about the town.

Asked Friday if he knew of the charges when the resignation agreement was struck, McGuire paused for several seconds before saying he'd have to check with someone before answering. On Tuesday, McGuire acknowledged that he did know about the accusations when he signed the agreement on March 21.

Johnston could not be reached for comment. A message on his answering machine said he would be out of town until May 2. His attorney, Bud Allen, declined comment.

Johnston also faces a charge of disturbing the peace-phone/repeat calls. The stalking charge is a misdemeanor punishable by two years imprisonment; the disturbing the peace charge carries a potential three-month sentence. Johnston has pleaded innocent to both charges.

The legal proceedings against Johnston were initiated in January after South Burlington real estate agent Carol Stone told police that he had sent her numerous harassing messages via e-mail, telephone and fax, court records say.

Stone and her partner helped Johnston buy a Burlington condominium in December 2004, according to an affidavit filed by South Burlington Police Officer Lindsay Walker, who investigated the case.

In February 2005, Johnston filed a complaint against Stone with the Vermont Office of Professional Regulations. The affidavit said the agency dismissed the complaint due to Johnston's "perjury."

But Johnston continued to send e-mail messages to Stone and her co-workers at the Lang McLaughry Spera real estate offices in South Burlington, court records say. The affidavit states that Johnston sent at least 35 e-mail messages as well as leaving numerous voice mail messages.

"Your time to step down in ignominy will come very soon," the police affidavit quoted one e-mail message as saying. "Retire before you(r) whole career comes crashing down in the public image, the press and the courts."

In October 2007, Stone found eight 8-by-11-inch pieces of paper containing a message laced with four-letter words affixed to her front door, according to the affidavit. One especially profane passage in the message has been cited by the prosecution as part of the evidence the stalking charge is justified.

Johnston was appointed as zoning administrator by the Williston Selectboard in December 2004. His duties included enforcing zoning ordinances, attending Development Review Board meetings and fielding questions from the public.

The latest case marks the second time Johnston has faced legal trouble during his time with the town.

In November 2006, Johnston was cited on a charge of driving under the influence after Shelburne police found him in the parking lot of a furniture store.

He was hitting the building with an unidentified object, according to a police affidavit. Signs advertising the business were scattered nearby. Johnston told police he was frustrated with illegal signs, the affidavit said.

The DUI charge was later amended to unlawful mischief, court records show. Johnston was given a suspended sentence and fined.

For the past four months, proceedings in Vermont District Court in Burlington have involved legal wrangling over what charges Johnston will face in the current case.

Johnston's attorney is seeking to have the stalking charge dismissed.

The prosecution claims that the totality of the circumstances warrants the charge.

Johnston's repeated messages "would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress or fear for his or her physical safety," the prosecution's legal brief asserts. "The sheer volume of calls and emails, all angry and confrontational with escalating furor, in conjunction with repeated intrusions into Ms. Stone's private and professional life, by their very nature threaten violence or at least imply such."

Deputy State's Attorney Julia Flores said legal arguments in the case have revolved around the legislative intent behind the stalking law. The defense claims that the state must show evidence that Stone feared bodily or sexual injury, Flores said. The prosecution claims the law requires only that a "reasonable person" fear injury.

The purpose of the next hearing, scheduled for May 6, is to hear arguments on the dismissal motions, Flores said.

[Read more…]

Administration reveals specifics in upper house configuration plan

School reveals changes to upper house structure

Parent opposition group schedules community forum

May 1, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Williston School District officials have revealed updated plans for reconfiguring the upper house structure at Williston Central School. Two houses will be dissolved and the reshuffling of teachers will create a new four-teacher team, according to District Principal Walter Nardelli.

Changes are set to take effect at the beginning of the next school year.

The plans come in the face of recent opposition from parents who have organized as the Williston Schools Re-Configuration Campaign for Change. The group is hosting a community forum at the Williston Federated Church on Monday, May 5 at 7 p.m.

Member Jeff Smith said it would be an opportunity for parents to work towards their goal of changing the configuration plan.

"I think we will change it," Smith said. "We have to."

Nardelli stressed he wants the best for the students and that pleasing everyone is impossible in the process.

"It doesn't matter which way you go, you're going to have unhappy people," he said.

In the new upper house configuration, every house but Meeting House will experience change. Phoenix and Verve Houses will dissolve, according to a letter sent to parents by the administration. A new team will be created with teachers Jessica Contois of Phoenix House, Debra McConnell of Verve House, and Dominique St. Arnaud and Deb Taylor of Voyager House.

Voyager House will add Amy Durant and Aron Merrill of Phoenix. Swift House will take on an extra group of fifth graders and add Susan Mahony of Phoenix. Full House will take on an extra group of eighth graders and add John Duncan of Verve, according to Nardelli.

Rick McGraw of Verve will become the interim math coordinator next year while current coordinator Cristin Milks is on maternity leave, Nardelli said.

Configuration history

Swift House teacher Al Myers wrote a letter to his house's parents, explaining the decisions made on configuration.

"Information is the most powerful thing to have as opposed to innuendo," he told the Observer. "A great majority of parents weren't informed enough."

Myers is co-chairman of the Program Council and was on the subcommittee that helped determine the final configuration proposals. He said three plans were put forth to faculty and administrators. The current configuration proposal came from the best parts of the two plans, he said.

Myers began teaching at Williston Central School in 1973. He said the current house structure of four-year houses with four-teacher teams began in 1991 when the school expanded due to increased class sizes.

Before 1991, Williston was set up with a kindergarten through third grade primary school, a fourth and fifth grade multi-age structure, and a sixth through eighth grade multi-age structure. The older configuration was proposed in the latest round of configuration talks, but would have required dismantling all the teams, Myers said.

Myers likes the new proposal, but admits it poses challenges.

"The challenge we face is that two teams will have more kids," he said. "Right now, we have an 'even-Steven' structure."

He also said the new team will have to learn how to work best together.

Community reaction

Smith, a guidance counselor at Essex Middle School who, along with his wife, Anne, has vocally opposed the latest proposal, said students are currently missing out on science and social studies instruction. He believes the structure hinders the potential of students, pointing to recent NECAP scores as evidence.

"These are some of the major issues of accountability with the school," he said.

Abby Klein, who has children in fifth and seventh grade and is a member of the Williston Schools Re-Configuration Campaign for Change, thinks nothing is being done in regards to parent concerns.

"The administration had a golden opportunity to do something and they totally squandered it," said Klein, who unsuccessfully ran for the School Board earlier this year. "It was shocking. It's just taking a bad system and making it worse."

Nardelli denies the administration is not listening to parents' concerns, stating he's read more than 300 pages of responses from the December 2007 configuration survey taken by Williston residents.

"I can say, for the most part, what we saw is what's being said," Nardelli said. "It's kind of the same points. They haven't really changed — the isolation of students and the transition to fifth grade."

School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth admitted to being surprised by much of the negative reaction.

"What surprised me most was the tone of the reactions," she said. "Some people are very angry and very rude in what they're saying."

Worth said she likes the house system and would like to see it continue, but also knows parents concerns must be listened to.

"I think what people are saying is that they haven't been listened to over the years and they've lost trust in the administration and the board," she said. "We need to work to earn back that trust."

Klein said she hopes the parents' reconfiguration organization can urge the board to investigate and question the configuration changes.

"They basically just listened to what the administration did and put a rubber stamp on it," Klein said.

But not all parents are unhappy with the changes. Melissa Akey said her fifth grade son had a "very positive" experience with the current house structure.

"The teachers have a created a strong sense of community and helped our son greatly," Akey told the Observer. "He's had a lot of support from eighth graders as mentors."

Overall, she likes the changes the administration has put forth. Her worries concern the overtaxing of teachers who will take on the extra fifth and eighth grade. Akey said she's not alone in supporting the new configuration.

"I know a lot of people are very happy," she said. "I don't know where they are. I'm trying to round them up, though."

At the upcoming parent meeting, Smith said all community, School Board and administration members are welcome. Worth said she would be unable to attend due to a previously scheduled vacation. Nardelli said he "wasn't sure" if he would attend.

"We're all on the same team and we have to reach a consensus," Smith said. "It's nothing personal against the administration, it's just an issue on the structure."

[Read more…]

Another government office may be coming to Williston

The General Services Administration (GSA) applied for and was recently granted an administrative permit through the Planning and Zoning Office to move into office space in the former Rossignol office building on Industrial Avenue, Town Planner Lee Nellis said.

The GSA aids in the basic functioning of a wide range of government services.

According to the GSA plans, the agency's Department of Homeland Security branch would occupy nearly 18,000 square feet of office space, and the agency's census branch would occupy nearly 6,500 square feet.

Nellis said much of the building is being reconfigured inside to make room for other offices. Part of the plans calls for a proposed entrance for GSA employees off Winter Sports Lane.

"Most of the entrances already exist, they will just be used for different purposes than when Rossignol was in there," Nellis said.

The Historic and Architectural Advisory Committee is scheduled to look at the plans on May 12 and the Development Review Board will most likely view the plans at its May 27 meeting.

[Read more…]

Stream restoration project winds down after 15 years

April 24, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A long-running effort to restore a Williston waterway culminates this weekend when volunteers plant vegetation to stabilize stream banks.

Sucker Brook, which meanders through the southern end of town, changed course after a rainstorm in the 1980s. The brook jumped its banks and flowed into an abandoned gravel pit.

The pit filled and its walls collapsed, starting a cycle of erosion in the surrounding area. Over the years, erosion pushed an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of sediment downstream, creating a canyon 70 feet wide and 50 feet deep.

The town of Williston has worked for more than 15 years to restore the stream. The effort included meeting with landowners, consulting with stream experts and designing restoration work.

Nearly $500,000 in grants from the state and federal governments, as well as various nonprofits, has been secured to pay for the project. Only $12,000 in town funding was used.

Over the past three years, about 850 linear feet of stream have been restored. Work has included installing a stone-lined step pool and re-grading stream banks. Volunteers have helped plant alders and willows that will prevent erosion.

"Now, when you go down there you see grass growing on the banks," said Carrie Deegan, Williston's environmental planner.

This year's plantings will consolidate previous efforts and ensure the stream maintains its current course for years to come. Speckled alder and dogwood shrubs will be planted as well as willow cuttings.

Sucker Brook is a tributary of Muddy Brook. It originates near the Williston-Hinesburg line near Lake Iroquois and crosses Vermont 2A before emptying into Muddy Brook.

Restoring Sucker Brook was considered an important conservation effort because sediment carries pollutants downstream. Even though the brook is a minor waterway, it is in the watershed that empties into Lake Champlain.

Deegan said this year's planting will mark the final large-scale restoration effort on Sucker Brook. In future years, the town will simply check to ensure that the erosion control measures remain functional.

More than a dozen people have already volunteered to help with this weekend's planting, Deegan said. But a few more volunteers would be welcome.

The effort takes place on Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to noon each day. Volunteers will meet on LaClair Lane, a driveway located along Vermont 2A about 2.5 miles south of Taft Corners. Volunteers are asked to park along the driveway, not in the grass.

For more information, contact Deegan at or 878-6704 x3.

[Read more…]

More stalking charges for WCS janitor

April 24, 2008

By Marianne Apfelbaum

Observer staff

The Williston school janitor charged earlier this month with stalking a 13-year-old Williston Central School student has been charged again, this time for allegedly stalking a former employee at the school.

Norman Croteau, 47, of South Burlington, was charged after police were notified that a 23-year-old woman who had worked at the school for a short time might have information pertinent to the ongoing investigation, according to police.

After interviewing the woman, investigating officer Justin Huizenga said Croteau was "following (the woman), saying inappropriate things, walking in bathrooms while she was in them, the same type of stuff" he is accused of doing to the WCS student. The incidents allegedly occurred at the school while Croteau was employed and working on school grounds, police said. Huizenga said the woman was a para educator at the school — one of a number of support staff that assists students and teachers.

Croteau was issued a citation on the new charges last Friday through his lawyer, Mark Kaplan, who could not be reached for comment by press deadline.

"We're still investigating. We don't know if new charges will come. We are still interviewing people," Huizenga said.

Croteau has been issued trespass notices for the school and the victims' homes, Huizenga said.

On May 27, Croteau is scheduled to be arraigned on the latest charges, which also include voyeurism, Huizenga said. At that time, there will also be a status conference regarding the previous charge of aggravated stalking, Huizenga said.

Calls to the school for comment went unanswered Wednesday morning as school vacation continues through the weekend.

[Read more…]

High turnover plagues planners

April 24, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

If there's a revolving door at Williston Town Hall, it spins in the planning and zoning office.

Eight employees have resigned over the past four years, including two that recently gave their notices. Carrie Deegan, the environmental planner, and D.K. Johnston, the zoning administrator, will step down in coming weeks.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the turnover "creates a problem but is not the symptom of a problem." He explained that when employees leave it can disrupt the continuity of ongoing projects and cause gaps in staffing.

But the turnover doesn't mean the planning office is a bad place to work, McGuire said. He noted that the office is admired throughout the state for its progressive planning policies and has won awards for its efforts.

He also cited the widely varying reasons employees have left — one retired, another left because the office was restructured, yet another resigned because he found a job with better pay and more responsibilities — as evidence that there is no pattern that points to a problem.

Some past planning employees, however, have complained that staffing was inadequate in a town that has seen more than its share of development over the past few years. Lara Dumond, who resigned her position as planning assistant in 2005, told the Observer at the time that a lack of "warm bodies" and the "overwhelming number" of applications for new projects limited staff's ability to process and enforce permits.

Job responsibilities may be reshuffled to attract and keep people who will fill the openings, town officials said. They are willing to tailor the positions to fit the qualifications and career goals of new hires.

The position Johnston held will now be called development review planner. It will carry most of Johnston's duties, but Town Planner Lee Nellis will at least for the time being continue as acting zoning administrator. The other position will still be called environmental planner.

The town received about 35 applications for each position, according to Nellis. A total of five finalists have been selected for a second round of interviews. Nellis said he hopes to hire the new employees by May 1.

The new staffers will join an office that has only four employees. Not one person remains among those working there in the beginning of 2004.

As a whole, the town's municipal government has a low turnover rate. Only the Williston Police Department has seen sizeable numbers of people leave in recent years.

In fact, several municipal town employees have logged a decade or more of service. A few, such as Public Works Director Neil Boyden, have worked for Williston for more than 20 years.

Attracting and keeping employees in the planning office is related to a statewide issue: low pay and a high cost of living compared to other parts of the country, Nellis said. That limits the number of people who will apply for and stay in some positions.

"People who like Carrie's job are willing to hang around Vermont for its quality of life," Nellis said. "That's not true of the potential applicants for other jobs."

The national average for entry-level pay among those with graduate degrees working in the planning profession is $51,000, Nellis said. The town is offering between $32,968 and $47,403 for each of the two planning office openings.

"Our salaries are lower, so there are less potential applicants," Nellis said.

[Read more…]

Construction of government building may begin in July

April 24, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A new federal government building has been proposed in Taft Corners. An application has been submitted to the Williston Planning Office for the construction of a 27,000 square-foot office building on three tax parcels between Harvest Lane and Williston Road. The building will be occupied by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Department, or USCIS, which many still call INS, or the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services.

The reference is confusing, because INS was dissolved in March 2003 and largely absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security as USCIS. The USCIS handles visa and naturalization petitions, as well as numerous immigration responsibilities.

Town Planner Lee Nellis said the town has been aware of the construction plans for some time, but the formal applications to the Planning Office and Williston Historical and Architectural Advisory Committee have recently started to arrive.

Williston already houses a Department of Homeland Security office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, also created in 2003.

The new building would be built for and leased to the USCIS, Taft Corners Associates senior member Gary Lavigne said at the April 14 Williston Historic and Architectural Advisory Committee meeting. Lavigne represented Taft Corners Associates and Williston developer J.L. Davis Realty at the meeting, telling the committee the building would be built with brick in keeping with the design of nearby structures.

According to the preliminary plans for the new structure, local builders D.E.W. Construction would handle the building of the project. The Colchester architectural firm Wiemann Lamphere has designed the plans.

Plans for landscaping, outdoor lighting and runoff and erosion at the construction site are still in the works.

Lavigne told the committee the facility would be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certifications, in accordance with federal government regulations.

A major feature of the new building would be a glass etching of the Statue of Liberty above the front entrance. Lavigne told the committee this is a design requirement for all new INS buildings.

Nellis said there needs to be a closer look at the proposed etching, as well as at a sign on the building.

"(The sign) appears that it fits into the maximum size permitted, but we have not determined that yet," Nellis said.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices are located at 188 Harvest Lane, directly across   from the proposed building. Lavigne said those offices will not move into the new building.

"It's a field office," Lavigne told the Observer. "All we know is there will be very few walk-ins for the public."

Nellis said the developer wants to get started on the project as early as the beginning of July.

"Barring any unforeseen events, we'll probably be giving approval at the end of May or early June," Nellis said.

[Read more…]

A return to the sidelines for CVU

April 17, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

“I’m being recycled,” chuckled Jim Provost during a Sunday conversation after the announcement that he has been named the new head football coach at Champlain Valley Union High School.
The Williston resident was the head football coach at Rice Memorial High for 14 years before hanging up the clipboard in 1999. Provost becomes the third head coach of the CVU program, which enters its fourth varsity level campaign this fall.
He replaces Charlie Burnett, who resigned to take over the coaching reins at Essex High this coming season. Burnett teaches at Essex and resides in that community.
Provost said the idea of returning to the high school gridiron scene became attractive because CVU has “a program on the way up.” He cited a solid number of players at the varsity and feeder levels, a supportive administration and a solid booster organization.
“They built the program the right way,” he said.
The anticipation runs both ways.
“We are excited to have him,” Athletic Director Kevin Riell said Monday.
Joining Provost as an assistant will be Kevin McCarthy, a native of southern New England who is new to coaching in Vermont. CVU and Provost are still looking for assistants for the varsity and junior varsity teams.
In his days at Rice, Provost led the Green Knights to two state titles and was head coach of the 1990 Vermont Shrine football team.
The veteran coach says his philosophy is “don’t beat yourself” with penalties and other mistakes.
“We want people to know they will have to play well to beat us that day,” he said.
Provost has been looking at film from CVU’s playoff season of 2007, and with 55 sophomores, juniors and seniors — not counting incoming freshmen — returning, he said, “We will find some players.”
He promised potential players that if they work hard in practice, “We will find a spot for you.”
Provost is planning a summer conditioning program. Whether there will be spring practice will be decided in the next few weeks.
“We do hope to have a meeting with players and parents before school lets out,” he said.

[Read more…]

Parents react to school administration decision about changes in house structure

Summit House students will move to other houses


The Williston School District administration made its pitch for new house structures to the Williston School Board and a large group of parents during last Wednesday’s board meeting.
Close to 40 parents attended the April 9 meeting. District Principal Walter Nardelli gave detailed descriptions of the changes parents and students should expect for the next school year. Significant changes will include the formation of a separate administration for lower houses at Williston Central School and more integrated grade level learning across houses, especially for fifth graders (see adjoining story regarding the upper houses).
“There’s a lot of logistics to meet the needs of students and families,” Nardelli said at the meeting. “We’re hoping there’s enough balance.”
Nardelli agreed everyone would not be pleased with the changes taking place, but his goal was to reach a favorable consensus of at least 75 percent of parents, faculty and students. National education consultant Raymond McNulty, a former Vermont education commissioner, delivered free advice on how to proceed with changes, Nardelli said.
“Ray believes we have an excellent (educational) model,” he said. “He understands there are weaknesses and he said our goal should be in addressing those weaknesses rather than create a completely new model.”

Lower house concerns
Some parents voiced concern over the changes, especially those with students in Allen Brook School’s Summit House, which will be dissolved at the end of the current school year. Two teachers will move to Williston Central School while two who had one-year positions will not have their contracts renewed. Nardelli said Summit House would be cut because of the one-year contracts.
Summit House students will move with friends to different houses, in an attempt to ease the transition.
“Summit comes first right now,” Nardelli said “We’ll take care of them first, then everyone else.”
Parent Christina Mead expressed frustration that parents were not involved in the reconfiguration process.
“I’m disappointed on how it was handled,” she said. “I would have liked to have been asked to be part of the discussion. A lot of (Summit House parents) would have loved to have been included.”
Cindy O’Farrell, parent of a Summit House student, thinks there may have been easier ways to accomplish their goals.
“The two (elementary) schools idea is a little wacky to me,” she said. “I think it would work more efficiently and least expensively if they were to have everything all under one roof.”
Part of the administration’s plan would move all kindergarten classes to Allen Brook School and move some lower house students to Williston Central School.
A subcommittee of the district’s Program Council, a group of faculty and staff, decided upon the configuration. Mead said Summit House has been dealing with changes and transitions for a few years. Teachers Laura Lewis and Cara Crowther, who have the one-year contracts, were brought in to replace teachers who left on extended leave or switched to a different house, she said.
Mead said she hopes the administration will support parents and children as they decide where students will go. She said her daughter would have to choose which friends to pair up with before the end of the year.
“She’s a little anxious, and maybe even a little concerned,” Mead said.
O’Farrell, who has a child in Summit House, thinks the added transitions will be hard for all students in the house, but understands the small steps the administration is making.
“They’ve done a lot of work in a short amount of time,” O’Farrell said. “After hearing the specifics, I think to make a major change right in the beginning would be foolhardy.”

[Read more…]