July 22, 2014

War hits home for Williston family (12/23/09)

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Father will be deployed to Afghanistan

Dec. 23, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

When your spouse is a soldier soon leaving for Afghanistan, there is a time to worry and a time to put it out of your mind. On the cusp of Christmas, Jennifer Lunna for now has picked the latter.

“You know, I’m really not thinking about it,” she said. “I’m thinking about the holidays and getting through that. The emotions are really like a raw nerve, so we haven’t talked about it as a family.”

Her husband, Sgt. Maj. Stephen Lunna, will depart next month for his second deployment to Afghanistan.

The couple and their two children, Cassandra, 13, and Shania, 10, talked about how they will cope with his yearlong absence during an interview Friday at their Williston home.

The kids sprawled on the couch while Zorah and Thunder, their Labrador retrievers, curled up on the floor nearby. (Two other children from Jennifer’s prior marriage, Sierra and Veronica, were not present.)

Prior experience — Stephen served in Afghanistan during an 18-month deployment in 2005-06 — and two years advance notice this time have made preparations for the current assignment a little easier, the couple said. Still, there’s nothing routine about heading to a war zone and leaving your family behind.

“I’m not as stressed about this one as I was the first one,” Stephen said. “I feel confident of Jennifer’s ability to handle anything and everything that comes up.”

But he acknowledged that he’s been trying to tie up loose ends — will the snowplowing service clear the driveway? Does she have the plumber’s number? — before he leaves.

Stephen Lunna is among the roughly 1,500 Vermont National Guard members headed to Afghanistan, the largest deployment since World War II and one that includes 10 soldiers from Williston. He is scheduled to depart for training Jan. 10 before heading overseas.

Like Lunna, many of his fellow soldiers have been there before. At least half of Vermont National Guard members going to or already in Afghanistan are on their second deployment, said Capt. Kate Irish, a Guard spokeswoman.

Circumstances have changed for the better since Stephen’s first deployment. Back then, they lived in Jeffersonville, an isolated town that was a long way from stores and services.

They had a dial-up Internet connection, so sending e-mail was problematic. Stephen instead stayed in touch by using a cheap cell phone.

The couple agreed in advance that he would tell Jennifer everything, leaving no room for her imagination to roam. But she avoided watching television news and shielded the children from alarming war reports.

“It was easier last time because I kind of cocooned them,” she said.” I’ll try the best I can (this time), but they’re more aware of things.”

This deployment will be eased by the family’s more central location and increased support services for military families.

For example, Cassandra and Shania are in a group for military children at Williston Central School. Shania said she is not sure talking about her dad’s military service with other kids helps.

“It makes me think about it more,” she said softly. “I get scared.”

During the last deployment, the couple tried to help their young children by hanging up a map of Afghanistan to show them where dad was stationed. They also sent a package filled with their toys to Afghan children.

With another deployment looming, Jennifer said the children have “been a little on edge, both around each other and with us.”

The family is bracing for the inevitable disruption when Stephen leaves. Jennifer has told her boss that she can no longer work the late shift at her job as an X-ray technologist at Northwest Medical Center in St. Albans.

Shania noted that when she and her sister miss the after-school bus, they will no longer be able to bum a ride from dad, who normally works across the street at the Williston Armory. Even the dogs’ routine will change: Jennifer won’t let them hop into bed before she rises in the morning, as Stephen does.

Barbara Purinton, an assistant with the Family Readiness Program at the Williston Armory, said many military families face similar challenges. In addition to what she hears from soldiers through her job, Purinton has firsthand experience: Both her daughter, Caitlin, and her husband, Charles, have been deployed overseas. Caitlin was in Kuwait from 2004-05 and Charles was in Iraq from 2005-06.

Prior deployments can help, Purinton said, but knowing what to expect can also create unhappy anticipation.

“In a way, it’s easier because you know what needs to be done to be ready,” she said. “But it’s harder because you know how long it is and how hard it is when they are away from home.”

Unlike the many part-time Guard members being deployed, Lunna, 50, had made the military his career. A towering man with the requisite closed-cropped hair, he has served in the Vermont Army National Guard for 27 years, rising to the highest enlisted rank.

He comes from a long line of military members. His father, mother and uncle all served during World War II. His sister and cousin were enlisted during the Vietnam era. Five family members now serve in the Vermont National Guard.

Stephen said when he leaves he will most miss the little things about family life, such as watching television together and going to the kids’ soccer games. Now that they have high-speed Internet service at home, he plans to stay in touch via online video transmitted between his laptop and the computer back home.

The couple’s effort to keep their sense of humor despite having their life upended came into sharp focus as they talked about the sacrifices of military families.

“All the hard work is with Jennifer,” Stephen said. “I leave and I have everything taken care of for me. Someone feeds me, someone clothes me, someone washes my clothes for me.”

“He’s a little baby!” his wife interjected, laughing.

“She is now a single parent having to deal with twice as much of the effort,” Stephen continued. “So it’s all her. The families are the ones that have to work hard when we deploy.”

 


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Home tests await boys hockey squad (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

They bagged a big victory Saturday at their home Cairns Arena over Spaulding High of Barre, and hit the road Wednesday for St. Albans and a 1-1 Bellows Free Academy outfit. Next up for the Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team are home games at 2 p.m. Saturday against 2-0-1 Rutland High and at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when Hartford High comes calling.

Wednesday’s game was scheduled for after press deadline.

The victory over Spaulding came partly as a result of the lethal hookup (at least to the Crimson Tide) of forwards Nate LaCroix and Robbie Dobrowski.

LaCroix fired home two goals, including the game winner that snapped a 2-2 knot as the third period was down to the 4:30 mark.

Dobrowski assisted on the winner and the previous LaCroix marker and also knocked in a tally of his own.

Spaulding outshot the Redhawks 32-20. Senior net minder Mark Albertson came up with a big effort, stopping 30 Crimson Tide shots.

The game was originally scheduled for last Wednesday but was switched to Saturday, which both teams had as an open date.

 

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


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Girls rally to defeat South Burlington (12/17/09)

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Redhawks hockey team takes to the road

Dec. 17, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Valley Union High girls hockey team, 3-0 at the beginning of the week, had some serious bus time coming up, starting Wednesday with a trip to Manchester for a session with Burr and Burton Academy.

Burr and Burton moved up from Division 2 to Division 1 this season. Wednesday’s game was scheduled for after press deadline.

On Saturday, the Redhawks will motor down Interstate 89 to Hartford to test the always tough Hurricanes in a 2 p.m. match at the Hartford BOR building.

Home ice will be in the Hawks’ schedule at 3 p.m. on Monday against Rice Memorial High and Wednesday when Burlington High comes to Cairns Arena for a 7:30 p.m. game.

The Redhawks were off Saturday following their stunning, 5-4 come-from-behind final-minutes victory last Wednesday over South Burlington High.

CVU trailed 3-0 going into the closing period and 4-1 before scoring the last four goals of the game. The winner came on a shot from Maggie Ryan at the left corner of the cage after a sweet setup pass from Molly Howard.

Howard, who had two earlier goals and has seven in the first three games, had tied the score at 4 with a wicked slap shot from just outside the faceoff circle.

Also scoring twice (five goals for the season) was Sophia Steinhoff, who got the Redhawks’ initial tally some seven seconds into the final reel when she took the faceoff and charged into the Rebels’ end to score.

KK Logan had two assists for CVU.

“It was great,” Redhawks coach Tom Ryan said of the comeback. He also had praise for defenders Alyx Rivard and Amanda Lacaillade’s work behind the blue line.

“I thought we had the edge in play when we were down 3-0,” Ryan said. “The girls just kept bringing it and found a way to win.”

 


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CVU gymnasts in close call with mighty Essex (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

A surging Champlain Valley Union High gymnastics team is looking ahead to Saturday’s South Burlington Invitational meet after coming within a whisker of nipping the defending state champion Essex High Hornets on Tuesday night.

Saturday’s competition at South Burlington High School begins at noon.

Tuesday’s event was held at the Redhawks’ Green Mountain Gymnastics home site. Essex prevailed in the meet by a narrow 132.7-131.3, while CVU sophomore Ashley Bachand took top all around performer honors. Bachand had wins on the bars and beam and tied for first with Essex veteran Mary Parmenter on the vault.

Parmenter took second in the all around.

CVU senior Amanda Holman was third in all around and in floor exercise. Freshman Madison Bourdeau captured second place in floor exercise and third on the vault.

 

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 


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Cougars, Knights next for CVU basketball girls (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

A Friday night rematch with the Mount Mansfield Union High Cougars is up next for coach Stan Williams and his surging, 4-0 Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team.

The Redhawks will journey to the Cougars’ Jericho Center lair Friday night for a 7 p.m. match against the team they nipped 55-51 in overtime in their season opener, played Dec. 4 at Bremner Gymnasium. The Hawks return home Tuesday for a 7 p.m. clash with 1-3 Rice Memorial High.

Victory number four came Tuesday night deep in the Northeast Kingdom, where the Redhawks sent 2-1 North Country Union to its initial defeat of the campaign, 49-27.

Senior Allison Gannon popped in 16 points to the lead all scorers. CVU lead 23-14 at intermission and gradually extended the edge through the second half.

Last Friday night, the Redhawks crushed visiting Vergennes High 72-36 with all 11 players on the roster contributing.

In fact, the team got a sort-of compliment when a disappointed Commodores enthusiast complained to Williams that he was playing his starters throughout the fourth quarter of the blowout.

When one cannot tell the reserves from the starters, that’s known as serious depth on the roster.

The starters — Gannon, Kendal Kohlasch, Shae Hulbert, Sara Riordan and Carlee Evans — combined for 29 of the CVU points. Scoring leaders were reserves Abbie Giles (13 points, seven rebounds), Amanda Kinneston (12 points) and Elana Bayer-Pacht (10 points, four rebounds, five steals).

Evans, at the point guard slot, gave a first quarter demonstration of how a busy mix of contributions without scoring can lead a team to great heights. The junior gave Vergennes a nifty how-do-you-do with three steals, two assists and four rebounds as CVU rolled out to a 15-8 first stanza edge that became 36-15 by halftime.

Hulbert hit for six points, grabbed a rebound and blocked a shot in that first period bonanza

Williams’ entire cast had points plus at least one rebound in the triumph. The glass master for the game was reserve Lazrin Schenk, with 10 rebounds in about a half of action.

 

Vergennes-CVU, Score

Vergennes       8            7            9            12   –   36

CVU             15            21            18            18   –   72

 

VERGENNES HIGH (36)

VanWyck 1-2 0-2 2, Kerschner 1-6 1-2 3, Stapleford 2-5 0-1 4, Provost 4-15 4-4 12, Higbee 4-6 1-2 9, Bougor 0-3 0-0 0, Danyow 2-5 0-1 4, Grant 1-2 0-0 2, Straley 0-2 0-0 0, Dow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-46 6-12 36.

CVU (72)

Kohlasch 3-6 0-0 6, Hulbert 4-8 0-0 8, Gannon 3-10 2-4 8, Riordan 1-4 2-2 5, Evans 1-4 0-0 2, Bayer-Pacht 4-7 2-6 10, Giles 6-10 1-5 13, Donnelly 1-5 0-0 2, Kinneston 5-9 2-2 12, Schenk 2-3 0-0 4, Hawley 1-2 0-2 2. Totals 31-68 9-21 72.

 


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Redhawks warm the nets with sharp shooting (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Helped by solid shooting and prickly defense, the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team will take a season-opening, four-game winning streak to Swanton on Thursday night for a rematch with the Missisquoi Union High Thunderbirds.

The Redhawks rapped Missisquoi 65-46 last Thursday at Bremner Gymnasium, the start of a two-game home stand that ended Monday night with a 59-38 triumph over Vergennes Union High.

Coach Scott Bliss and his hungry Hawks return home Wednesday to face a challenging Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans aggregation at 7 p.m.

A staple of the two home victories has been an ability to find the nets. The Redhawks fired at a 49 percent clip (21-for-43) in rolling over Missisquoi. After a chilly 5-for-19 in the first quarter against Vergennes, they kicked it up a notch to tickle the twine at 53 percent over the final three periods for a 44 percent (22-for-50) game.

Like most coaches, Bliss loves tough defense. His Hawks held Missisquoi to 37 percent from the field (16-for-42) and then tightened things up Monday, limiting the Commodores to but 11 hits in 39 pops, a lowly 28 percent.

Though never in the lead, Vergennes hung around through most of the first half before Jake Donnelly (20 points) nailed a trey at 1:34 to help elevate the Redhawks to a 28-19 edge at intermission.

In the third quarter, whippet guard Chris Beaton, who sat out the second reel, took charge with a remarkable assortment of goodies that included three assists, two steals, a rebound and a slick driving layup through the massed Commodores.

Robert Russ, who turned in a solid night with 14 points and 10 rebounds, went 3-for-3 from the field in the period and CVU shot out to a 43-25 lead by the start of the fourth quarter.

Vergennes, now 2-4, was never able to mount a challenge after that.

Connor Merrill, its 6-foot-6 center, led the visitors with 15 points, but was held to three hoops in 12 shots from the floor by the Redhawks’ swarming interior defenders.

 

Hurd pours in points against Missisquoi

In the victory over Missisquoi, CVU inside guy Will Hurd had hot hands from downtown. The veteran senior nailed 7 of 9 trey attempts as he chalked up 23 points to go with seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Despite early 9-0 and 12-2 leads, CVU encountered a first half insurrection from the Thunderbirds. Led by freshman whiz Matt St. Amour (four threebies and 14 points), Missisquoi came back to tie the game at 16 and trailed just 33-28 at the half.

But St. Amour picked up his fourth personal foul with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter as the Redhawks were putting some defensive clamps on the visiting Birds.

With Hurd continuing his assault from afar and Donnelly (18 points) emerging from a quiet first half, CVU outscored Missisquoi 14-7 in the stanza and took control in the finale with the moves-to-the-hoop Donnelly going 7-for-11 from the charity stripe.

Beaton had a strong effort from the point guard slot, nailing nine points to go with four assists, four rebounds and a theft.

Among efficient performers off the pine was Mark Clayton, who tossed his weight around for seven points, three rebounds and three steals.

 

Vergennes-CVU, Score

Vergennes        8                  11                  6                  13   –   38

CVU              13                  15                  15                  16   –   59

 

Vergennes Union High (38)

Williams 4-10 3-4 12, Bushee 0-3 0-0 0, Merrill 3-12 9-10 15, Brooks 1-2 0-2 2, Carter 0-6 0-0 0, VanDeWeert 3-3 0-0 7, Dugan 0-2 1-2 1, Stapleford 0-1 1-2 1, Firlik 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-39 14-20 38.

CVU (59)

Donnelly 7-18 5-7 20, Nigh 1-1 0-0 3, Hurd 2-8 2-2 6, Russ 6-10 2-4 14, Beaton 2-4 2-2 6, Hart 0-1 0-0 0, Gale 0-2 0-0 0, Rensch 2-2 0-1 4, Leckerling 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton 2-2 0-0 4, Karnes 0-0 1-2 1, Pierson 0 2 0-0 0, Boland 0-0 0-1 0, Spencer 0-0 1-3 1. Totals 22-50 13-22 59.

 


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Wrestlers enter holidays on winning note (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

The Champlain Valley Union High wrestlers have team and individual victories to bring additional joy as the team takes a two-week Yuletide break.

 


    Courtesy photo by Jennifer Olson
Sam Fortin of the CVU wrestling team shows off his hardware after winning outstanding wrestler honors with a triumph in his 171-pound class in the St. Johnsbury Academy tournament.

 


    Courtesy photo by Jennifer Olson
Champlain Valley Union High wrestler Nick Meunier (right) grapples with an opponent at the St. Johnsbury Early Bird Tournament on Saturday.

The team’s next match will be its Dec. 29 appearance at the Middlebury Invitational.

Coach Rahn Fleming’s Redhawks scored a double victory Monday night at Randolph High, trouncing the host Galloping Ghosts 48-15 and Mount Abraham Union High 45-9.

Sam Fortin scored the Hawks’ lone win in contested matches with Randolph with a pin in the 171-pound class.

Bryant Grey (130), Ryan Stearns (135), Tucker Austin (160) and James Datillio (285) were the CVU victors against Mount Abraham.

Fortin had a huge day Saturday, capturing outstanding wrestler honors with a triumph in his 171-pound class in the prestigious St. Johnsbury Academy Early Bird Tournament. The event attracted teams from all over Vermont and northern New England.

The Redhawks finished ninth, seventh among the Vermont entries.

 

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

 


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CVU bus in accident (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

A Champlain Valley Union High School bus was involved in a minor accident during a snowstorm on Dec. 9. A vehicle in Shelburne struck a bus carrying CVU’s Madrigal Singers from Hinesburg to a rehearsal in Burlington.

Roads were slick with ice and snow the afternoon of the accident.

Bob Mason, chief operations officer with Chittenden South Supervisory Union, said there were no injuries to any bus passengers. According to police reports, the driver of the car initially left the scene of the accident, but returned after police arrived. The driver had a learner’s driving permit and was in the car with his mother.

There was little damage to the bus or the car. Police are investigating to determine whether to file charges.

Classes were not cancelled at CVU on Wednesday and many afterschool events continued as planned.

“After school activity cancellation is evaluated locally by each building principal, once decisions are made they communicate directly to parents,” Mason wrote in an e-mail to the Observer.

 

— Tim Simard, Observer staff

 


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RETN, Comcast reach contract agreement (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Regional Educational Television Network and cable giant Comcast officially settled their long-running disagreement last week. Both sides agreed to a new contract that will continue funding for the nonprofit television station for the next five years.

The Vermont Public Service Board dismissed the Comcast suit against RETN on Dec. 9, nearly a year after both parties first sat before the governing board with hopes of ironing out differences.

The parties agreed to a new contract on Sept. 30, but delays in paperwork and signatures kept the service board from dismissing the case until this month. The five-year contract will run through Sept. 30, 2014.

RETN Community Relations Associate Doug Dunbebin and Comcast Public Relations Associate Laura Brubaker released a joint statement following the Public Service Board decision.

“Comcast and RETN have signed a five-year agreement that ensures quality educational access programming and associated services will be provided to the towns of Burlington, Charlotte, Essex, Essex Junction, Ferrisburgh, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne, South Burlington, Vergennes, Waltham, Williston and Winooski,” the statement said.

RETN airs on channel 16 and provides educational programming, such as coverage of school board meetings and graduations, for cities and towns across the Champlain Valley. RETN is mainly funded by Comcast, which sets aside a portion of its user fees for local programming in accordance with federal and state laws.

The contract dispute between RETN and Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has been simmering since 2007. Comcast accused RETN of poor bookkeeping practices and unnecessary expenditures. While RETN agreed to tidy up its financial reporting, it argued that Comcast was trying to usurp authority from its board of directors.

As contract negotiations continued, Comcast agreed to fund RETN on an interim basis. During that time, an independent auditor found no errors or irregularities in RETN’s bookkeeping after the time Comcast brought the issue to attention. The auditor’s report also detailed ways for both parties to reach an amicable solution.

In a separate statement released last week, Dunbebin said the new contract for RETN amounts to a victory for cable access providers.

“We are pleased to have secured full funding for the programming and services we provide our communities and cable subscribers,” Dunbebin wrote in an e-mail. “We now look to our statewide association, the Vermont Access Network, and offer our full support as it works to resolve important issues facing Public, Educational and Government access television in Vermont.”

Rob Chapman, president of the Vermont Access Network, said Comcast has had other contract disputes with small cable access organizations, both in Vermont and elsewhere. The Vermont Access Network represents organizations like RETN on a statewide level.

Chapman said Comcast has tried many times to influence financial reporting practices, as well as the day-to-day operations of organizations such as RETN. It’s as if Comcast is trying to redefine how cable companies work with small networks, he said.

“The access community has resisted that,” Chapman said. “A lot of places are questioning Comcast’s motives.”

As other cases move forward with Comcast, Chapman said he’d continue to push for settlements that keep autonomy for access providers.


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Parents give opinions on budget (12/17/09)

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Dec. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Next year’s school budget increase may be low, but can it go lower?

The Williston School Board and administration heard a variety of opinions about the 2010-2011 school budget Tuesday night during a public forum. While the majority seemed pleased with the increase of 1.05 percent over the current budget, some parents offered suggestions on how to reduce costs even more.

Next year’s budget is estimated at $16.49 million. That figure does not include possible additional service costs.

One parent believed the administration and board should make further cuts and remove what she believes are extraneous costs. Parent Abby Klein, who teaches kindergarten in South Burlington, said the board should consider eliminating many teacher assistant positions. Klein has two children in Williston’s upper houses. She said in her experience, teacher assistants did mostly secretarial work and spent little time directly instructing students.

“To me, it’s not even a discussion,” Klein said. “Why are we paying people to do a teacher’s clerical work? I have a hard time with that. We’re paying for teachers to have a secretary.”

The idea of cutting teacher assistants has come up before, including last year when the budget needed significant downsizing. Parents defended teacher assistants at last year’s budget forum, saying they’ve helped students with individual learning while letting teachers provide more instruction to the entire classroom.

The board eventually cut two teacher assistant positions in this year’s final budget. The school district currently employs 21 teacher assistants, most of whom work part-time.

Klein said part of her job as a teacher includes work like sending e-mails, scheduling conferences and photocopying assignment sheets. In Williston, teacher assistants often complete those tasks.

But a few parents on Tuesday defended the teacher assistants, saying they’ve helped immensely in their children’s education, especially in the lower houses.

Parent Kevin Mara suggested the teaching assistant job should become more standardized across the houses.

“Make it more equitable,” Mara said. “Some (teacher assistants) are amazing, some just do clerical things.”

District Principal Walter Nardelli defended the current teacher assistant roles, as they can cover lunch and playground duty instead of paraeducators. By giving paraeducators more time to work with special needs students, the district is able to have more of those funds reimbursed through the state.

Nardelli said it’s the main reason Williston has one of the lowest cost per pupil figures in the Champlain Valley.

“We have more reimbursable resources than most school districts,” Nardelli said. “We offer a lot of great education for the dollar.”

Board members said they and the administration would further investigate the teacher assistant positions.

“I’ve said it before: It’s a luxury we have in this district,” board member Holly Rouelle said.

 

Budget additions

Nardelli also spoke at length about possible additions to the budget. School officials proposed 15 budget “decision packets” last week, ranging from supply increases to configuration moving expenses. The board, however, told the administration that it wants to keep the budget increase at or below 1.05 percent.

“If any of those packets come in, something has to come out,” School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said.

Nardelli said there were certain items that had to be addressed in next year’s budget. The school’s reconfiguration moving expenses are figured at $32,000, which Nardelli said was a high estimate.

Furthermore, Williston’s high enrollment of students with English as a second language will require the addition of a teaching position, costing nearly $60,000. Nardelli said Williston serves half of the English language learners in Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

Williston Central School’s logic board needs replacing as well, at a cost of $15,000. The logic board controls all of the school’s heating, air ventilation and alarm systems. It’s a preventive measure to avoid extra costs if the system breaks down next year, Nardelli said. He’s looking to see if a new logic board could be paid for by June with this year’s budget money.

Other decision packets include $10,000 for science class supplies. Nardelli said new supplies could help increase New England Common Assessment Program science test scores. Parents appeared to support the science decision packet.

“We have not spent money in that area in a long time and I think the board needs to take a long look at that,” Mara said.

The School Board will continue its budget work after the New Year, including tax rate appraisal and a final review of decision packets.

 

The next School Board budget meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 7 at Williston Central School.

 


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