May 25, 2018

This Week’s Popcorn — ‘Due Date’

‘Due Date’ has not so great expectations

2 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

“Sacrilege … plagiarism … they did everything but pay the original writer royalties.” Thus I incredulously uttered as the plot of director Todd Phillips’s “Due Date” unspooled. Indignantly, I analogized my initial distaste. It was like once having a dear friend, now passed, and here shows up this less gifted usurper, this pretender to the hallowed throne.

The fact is, beloved films are indeed old companions, and we don’t care for anyone stomping on their memory. Granted, although this oil and water, couldn’t-possibly-ever-be-buddies road trip isn’t a word for word copy of John Hughes’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987), it stops just short of earning a place in some lawyer’s legal brief.

But while there is no outright violation of copyright, “Due Date” is guilty of a far worse offense. I hereby accuse the filmmaker of the artistic crime of committing a variation on a theme without veiling it in a novel twist. Psst. Don’t tell anyone. If we dig deep enough, we could probably even find the inspirational precedent for the classic it disses.

In any event, after duly noting this filmic felony, it behooves the critic to make a full disclosure. Call it temporary insanity or a movie reviewer’s version of the Stockholm Syndrome. But after the disbelief wore off, I found myself tittering, spiritedly laughing and, yes, even guffawing at Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis’ antics.

OK. So it’s not a real Rolex. Yet despite the obvious rip-off, the rapid-fire succession of adolescently inspired buffoonery enticed me to adopt an any-port-in-a-storm attitude, to take the laughs where I may … especially after the midterm elections. Am I bad? Maybe not. Perhaps it says I’m open-minded, and not that I can be bought for a cheap laugh.

You probably know the plot. But here’s a little refresher. Robert Downey Jr. does the Steve Martin part. He is Peter Highman, a buttoned-down, conservative architect who not only didn’t inhale, but looks down his nose at anything he considers déclassé. In Atlanta on business, he’s off to Los Angeles to be at his wife’s side when their firstborn arrives.

But thanks to the un-friend who will soon be foisted on him, this will not be easy. Enter his direct antithesis, bumbling, stumbling and switching his pot-containing luggage with Peter’s at the airport. Assuming the John Candy role, his French bulldog in tow, Zach Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, a would-be actor hoping to make it big in Hollywood.

Through what seems like a series of coincidences, their fortunes are soon as inextricably tied as the proverbial wet shoelace. Of course, lonely, multi-issue Ethan, whose dad just recently died, sees it as an opportunity to make a pal. Just as predictably, haughty Peter wants no part of what appears to be an unsavory loser. He will have no choice.

The airline has put them both on the no-fly list, and amidst this mess Peter has lost his wallet and credit cards, and thus his independence. Ethan, who has by now rented a car, suggests that the two set out for the Left Coast together. The picture of reluctant pragmatism, Peter accepts. The “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” redux is on the road.

Although the script isn’t an exact stencil of its iconic model, the ebb and flow of Ethan and Peter’s cross-country travail contains an analogous, farcical speed bump for every incident that befell arrogant Neal Page (Steve Martin) and sad sack Del Griffith (John Candy). No need to itemize each one here; you’ll point them out along the way.

Plainly, Messrs. Downey and Galifianakis’s representations are neither an homage to, nor a creative reinvention of, their spiritual predecessors. Instead, they occupy a no man’s land between the two. But more importantly, by failing to establish personae beyond hollow stereotypes, it invites the original film to haunt the work at every turn.

Consequently, the underachieving movie doesn’t strive beyond the adolescent cachet director Phillips seizes on in most of his efforts. Admittedly, it often entertains on this low-brow level. But without full-bodied characterizations there can be no successful establishment of the bittersweet component necessary to a tale of conflicted relationship.

Downey’s Peter Highman is uptight and intolerant, with only smidgens of potential humanity peeking through the cliché. Mr. Galifianakis’ Ethan, on the other hand, is a rationalizing mass of emotive flotsam and jetsam. While we’re not quite sure who or what he is, our better instincts suggest empathy for whatever the actor is trying to portray.

The result is diversion by default. So see it if there’s nothing new at the Rivoli, your mail carrier gave your latest Netflix to someone cross-town, or because it’s being shown on a plane and just has to be less boring than the guy sitting next to you. Otherwise, no bundle of joy, “Due Date” delivers pretty much what you were expecting.

“Due Date,” rated R, is a Warner Bros. Pictures release directed by Todd Phillips and stars Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Monaghan. Running time: 100 minutes.

Sports Notes

Nov. 18, 2010

Former CVU soccer mates lead college teams

Four seasons ago, Micah Rose and Tyler Macnee led Champlain Valley Union High’s soccer team to a state Division 1 title.

Now, as college juniors, they are leading their teams into NCAA tournament action.

Rose, a midfielder and team captain at Swarthmore College in Lancaster, Pa., was named to the All-Centennial Conference team for a second straight year after pacing the Garnets to a 15-1-3 record and a spot in the NCAA Division 3 Tournament.

With Rose scoring six goals and eight assists, Swarthmore was ninth in the nation in a recent poll. Rose was also named to the 2010 Conference Academic Honor Roll.

Macnee, along with former Redhawk teammate Carson Cornbrooks, have Middlebury College headed to the Division 3 sectionals this coming weekend after a 2-1 victory over William Paterson College on Sunday. Macnee potted the game-winning goal with just under a minute remaining in regulation time.

Cornbrooks, a senior, has played in 77 games since joining the Panthers in his 2007 freshman year.

The 15-3-1 Panthers will take on Babson on Saturday at Bowdoin College in Maine.

Wrestling sign-ups on Thursday

Registration for seventh and eighth grade wrestlers in Chittenden South Supervisory Union, which includes Williston, began this week. The final day of sign-ups is Thursday.

The kindergarten through eighth grade wrestling club serves as a feeder program for Champlain Valley Union High School’s wrestling team. The club is entering its 12th season.

Coach Wayne Ring said athletes will learn the skills of folk style wrestling, balance, strength and teamwork. Practices are held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hinesburg Community School on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with tournaments on Saturdays.

Registration takes place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 18 in the Hinesburg Community School cafeteria. The cost of $65 includes a uniform. For more information, call Ring at 482-3747.

New England at the feet of CVU girls runners

Cross country team best in New England

Nov. 18, 2010

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Champlain Valley Union High’s girls cross country team, pictured above, captured its second New England title in seven years on Saturday. Runners are (from left) Aleksey Jordick, Claire Trotter, Adrienne Devita, Sophie Hess, Taylor Spillane, Summer Spillane and Julienne Devita. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork!

That is the key word for the Champlain Valley Union High girls cross country team, which won its second New England title in seven years Saturday at the hilly Thetford course on which it had prevailed in the Vermont State Meet two weeks before.

“We ran almost the same race we did in the states,” coach Scott Bliss said this week, noting that the individual times for the top five CVU runners were within two seconds ahead of or behind their state times.

Bliss had a coach’s usual pre-race dread of the unanticipated event (i.e. injury, illness, fall, etc.), but said everything went well including no surprises.

As per usual, it was the closeness of the finishers that earned CVU its biggest win in an undefeated season. Senior Summer Spillane was the top Redhawk in 24th place with a time of 20 minutes and 31.9 seconds.

Cousin Taylor Spillane, a sophomore, was 25th in 20:33.6, less than two seconds off Summer’s pace. Sophomore Aleksey Jordick (20:39.8) took 28th, junior Adrienne Devita came in 32nd (20:54.3) and sister Julienne Devita, a sophomore, was 62nd.

The team scores had CVU with 88 points to 121 for runner-up and highly regarded LaSalle of Rhode Island and 154 for third place Glastonbury, Conn.

The next highest Vermont team was Essex High, which took 14th place with top runner Markie Palermo finishing 17th.

The leading Vermonter was Richford High’s Elle Purrier, who, running as an individual, finished fourth in 19:44.1.

CVU’s boys team finished 25th overall and fourth among Vermont schools. Dan Hebert led CVU by finishing in 95th, eighth among Vermont runners.

Next up for the girls will be a post Thanksgiving regional event in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in which they will compete as a club, rather than a school, in the non-High School Federation competition.

Going into the New Englands, the CVU girls were ranked 24th in the nation by Harrier Magazine.

Runners talk diet, teamwork

A chat session with the team last week at CVU had the five top runners joined by juniors Claire Trotter and Sophie Hess, the sixth and seventh competitors though not necessarily in that order.

“They are very important,” Bliss said. “A team has to have solid sixth and seventh runners if something happens to anyone up front. Also, a team’s sixth runner breaks any team scoring ties involving the first five.”

The coach added that Hess has finished fifth in some races this season.

Teamwork was a constant during the wide-ranging discussion.

“We set team goals,” Summer Spillane said. “Yes, we have individual times but it is the team that comes first.”

“Once you start a race, there is no backing down,” Taylor Spillane added. “You have to think of the team.”

All agreed the sport requires hard work and, as Julienne Devita noted, the mindset has to be right.

“Pain is the seventh power,” Adrienne Devita said.

As for diet, the runners said they eat a lot of carbohydrates on Thursday through race day Saturday, with a pasta dinner every Friday night.

On the morning of the competitions, breakfast would be oatmeal, bananas and perhaps toast.

How did they feel about the New England meet two days before the event?

“We are confident,” Summer Spillane said. “We have run so many races there.”

“But we are not overconfident,” Adrienne Devita emphasized, with Summer Spillane nodding in agreement.

District looking to modify science curriculum

Nov. 18, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

One thing parents, teachers and staff of the Williston School District can agree on is that low student science scores are intolerable. At a School Board meeting on Nov. 10, the administration set forth a series of planned changes — from the way science is taught to laboratory upgrades — to ensure scores for the NECAP science exams no longer sink below the state average.

“The downward trend is not acceptable, period,” District Principal Walter Nardelli said at the meeting.

Since the state first administered the New England Common Assessment Program science tests in 2008, eighth grade scores have dropped 20 percentage points in Williston. In 2008, 46 percent of Williston eighth graders tested proficient or higher; in 2010, 26 percent of eighth grade students scored at that level. Across the state in 2010, 29 percent of eighth graders scored proficient or higher.

When the science scores became public in late September, several parents reacted by writing critical letters to the editor in the Observer. Two parents also attended an October School Board meeting to air their complaints. Last week’s meeting drew approximately 30 parents and teachers, some of whom stressed the importance of more time for science instruction, as well as making sure each house teaches an equal amount of science.

For their part, administrators admitted that science had fallen through the cracks, but that planned improvements would hopefully reverse the trend of declining test scores.

“With our attention to literacy and math, this is an area where we have slipped,” said Molly McClaskey, the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

“We need to bring (science) back to the forefront,” she added.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Nardelli and Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks spent approximately 30 minutes explaining to the School Board and meeting attendees what changes the district has made and what it plans to make in terms of science instruction. The PowerPoint presentation can be found on the district’s website,, under the curriculum header and in the science link.

Part of the administration’s plan is to understand why there is such a decline between fourth grade scores and eighth grade scores. Williston fourth graders tested much higher in their NECAP exams; 64 percent of students tested proficient or higher compared to the state average of 54 percent.

Nardelli said students need to become more engaged in the sciences, adding that more hands-on instruction could help increase scores and interest in the subject. Students will receive science notebooks to log experiments and classes will focus more on laboratory instruction.

In terms of Williston Central School’s science labs, the district and the board will have to consider serious upgrades to some classrooms. Several spaces used for labs don’t have adequate electrical outlets to power equipment, and others may need more sinks, Nardelli said. Also, lab equipment needs better cataloguing, as much of it has not been properly disseminated since the configuration changes over the summer. These upgrades will have an impact on next year’s budget, Nardelli told the board.

“We’re putting together decision packets right now,” he said.

The proposed laboratory improvements seemed to sit well with parents. Mary Whitcomb said students learn science better when taking part in lab experiments.

“We really need to get kids engaged,” she said.

In discussing the science curriculum, Nardelli reiterated that students in all houses throughout the district are receiving a minimum of 120 hours per year of direct instruction as required by state education standards. But some parents disputed this, stating there is no equity in science instruction across the houses, which remains an ongoing problem.

Abby Klein and Jeff Smith said hours of instruction vary widely depending on the house. Klein said the school hasn’t done its work on determining that all houses are meeting state requirements.

“I know for a fact some houses aren’t getting close to the 120 hours (of instruction),” she said.

Echoing Klein’s call for consistency, Smith offered a solution to the administration and the School Board on how to better create an equitable science curriculum.

“My opinion is (science) is best taught in single grades, and that way you can really hit it hard,” Smith said.

While there is much work to be done, the administration is confident the changes will turn science scores around. McClaskey said the updates offer an “exciting time for Williston.” School Board members also expressed hope of improvement.

“It looks like a real blitz and we need it,” board member Darlene Worth said.

Everyday Gourmet

Make Easy Memories

Nov. 18, 2010

By Kim Dannies

One of the best things about the Thanksgiving holiday is gathering family and friends to help out in the kitchen. Food is the point of this holiday, and with so many cooking tasks it’s nice to spread the work around. Hors d’oeuvres play a major role, too, as families tend to arrive early for games, hikes and football, and visiting makes people hungry. These snacks are great because they are simple enough for children or cook-shy folks to help out with, but so delicious they could easily become holiday classics.

Smoked Salmon Chips

By Carol Conard

You’ll need: 9-ounce bag of Kettle Brand Krinkle-Cut Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper Potato Chips, 6 ounces smoked salmon, 1/2 cup crème fraiche, fresh dill, capers. (Healthy option: substitute English cucumber slices for the chips.)

Arrange chips on a sliver platter. Fold small amounts of the salmon onto each chip. Dollop each chip with some crème fraiche, top with a few capers and a wisp of fresh dill. (Do ahead: 1 hour.)

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

By Ina Garten (‘Barefoot in Paris’)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place 1 1/4 pounds of cashew nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm or cool.

Bleu Cheese Grapes

Wash 1 pound of red seedless grapes; allow them to dry thoroughly. Toast 1 cup pistachio nuts or walnuts for 3 minutes. Cool. Pour nuts into a plastic, quart-sized zip-lock bag and crush the nuts with a rolling pin. Pour nuts onto a plate.

Using a fork, mix together 1/2 pound blue cheese (or goat cheese) and 1/2 pound cream cheese, adding a bit of milk to create a creamy-paste consistency. Coat each grape with the cheese mixture; then roll the grape in the nuts to coat. Arrange on a platter. (Do-ahead: 6 hours.)

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three 20-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to

Little Details

Interpreting history

Nov. 18, 2010

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Deep into a descent from 30,000 feet, the plane returning us from Japan glided toward the runway. Dipping below dense clouds, landing gear issued forth. Snow swirled outside, obscuring views of the Windy City.

Our plane suddenly thrust upward with a jerking motion. We were ascending. A collective gasp rippled through the cabin.

“Ladies and gentleman,” the captain announced, “the plane in front of us skidded off the runway. We’re flying to Detroit.”

It was 1995. I sat scrunched in a middle row, crammed between my husband and a young soldier dressed in camo. The soldier didn’t talk much. He sat quietly, sipping Southern Comfort poured from tiny glass bottles delivered by flight attendants. I’m not a beer drinker, much less a whiskey drinker. Aromas of fermented corn mash blended with “spices” wafted under my nose, compounding claustrophobic queasiness. I felt relieved when, libations downed, the soldier pulled his cap over his eyes and fell asleep. I guessed he was heading home, for Christmas.

Economy seats offered scant luxury during our 11-hour Tokyo to Chicago flight. The airline appeared to aim for the lowest common denominator when preparing “special meals,” covering all potential bases of non-meat eaters. Our vegetarian dinners arrived on plastic trays, vegan and gluten-free. I remember rice noodles with lukewarm veggies and a “donut” made of potatoes for dessert. I had to tell the flight attendant I was pregnant to garner a little protein in the form of cheese. I ate my “donut,” salivating as neighboring carnivores dipped into chocolate frosted cake.

A Detroit diversion was not part of our plan. Concerned about our connecting flight and wearied by pregnancy-induced nausea, I was eager to exit the flying machine. Chicago experienced near-blizzard conditions. Detroit lacked customs officials at that late hour. We waited on the tarmac for hours for Chicago skies to clear. Toilet paper and patience ran low as flight attendants plied us with the few remaining pretzels on board.

Ten days in Japan as a tag-along conference spouse proved exhilarating and sometimes lonely. With my husband’s expenses covered, we shelled out the extra money for my flight, meals and lodging. We also packed Grape Nuts, peanut butter and crackers.

My husband left our room each morning for technical presentations. Semiconductor types gathered from Asia, North America and Europe to share research findings. Work sessions eased into business lunches and a few evening cocktail hours. In short, during the conference, I was largely on my own.

Hotel staff, immaculate and smiling in neatly pressed uniforms, spoke “veneer” English. They capably and courteously provided room reservations, arranged for cabs and recommended restaurants. Attempts to engage them in deeper human exchanges elicited silent smiles and the look of, “I don’t know what you are asking me.” I can’t complain. Their English skills far exceeded my few words of Japanese.

I ventured out, befriending another conference spouse. Fast friends are made when few speak your language.

Conference concluded, my husband and I spent several days exploring Tokyo. Extreme “orderliness” took some getting used to. Commuters patiently lined up along black perpendicular lines painted on subway platforms. When a subway rolled in, they entered with calm precision. The Japanese definition of “personal space” was different from my own. Squeezed into a car, I experienced extremely close encounters with fellow riders. My husband and I towered above, brunette beacons amid a sea of satiny black hair.

With map and compass in hand, we explored the city on foot, deciphering, as best we could, signs and symbols. We ambled under trees on the periphery of the Imperial Palace, encountering ducks, swans and enormous orange carp flitting in ponds.

Architecture in downtown Tokyo was decidedly modern, with lots of neon, a la Times Square. Venturing off main thoroughfares, deeper into neighborhoods, we found examples of beautifully carved wood structures. We wandered through an outdoor market where every form of seafood — recognizable and unrecognizable — appeared. I remember lots of tentacles. We sought out green, quieter spaces amid frenetic activity. We walked to a cemetery. Graves displaying bonsai and rock gardens were accented with mini pagodas from which incense burned.

We visited Yasukuni-jinja, a Shinto shrine honoring Japan’s war dead. The Shinto religion, associated with extreme nationalism during World War II, experienced a “church-state separation” imposed by American occupiers after World War II. Exploring the shrine, I sought to understand what drove some Japanese to blindly serve their Emperor’s distorted wishes.

One room was dedicated to more than 6,000 kamikaze soldiers who completed suicide missions to advance Japan’s war effort. These acts were performed with planes, boats and even “human torpedoes,” one of which was on display. Photos of soldiers, handsome and healthy as they attended their pre-mission funerals, lined the walls. I sensed pride and reverence. I did not sense remorse.

Each country must interpret its own history. The more I travel, the more I learn, the more I wonder if we as Americans are doing a good job interpreting our own.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or

Letters to the Editor

Nov. 18, 2010

Local or organic?

I have been a certified organic vegetable grower since 1997 and have not been growing this way for so many years because I think I can charge more for my products. The biggest reason I follow strict standards for growing safe and healthy food is selfish: I am the one that is closest to the soil and pests and if I use chemical means for treatment I have the biggest exposure to the risks. My customers and the earth get the side benefits of my choice.

I believe it is important to know where our food comes from and be connected to the people that grow or produce the food we eat. My personal choice is local organic but I do choose local, conventionally grown vegetables over out-of-state organic food if I know that the grower is practicing Integrated Pest Management or is using low spray methods.

In today’s economy, a family needs to choose what is best for them. In mine, I choose to purchase organic food for the health and safety of my family. Although I do not and cannot buy everything organically, the things we eat the most and the crops that are the most dangerous (GMO and foods most likely to be contaminated by pesticides, herbicides and hormones) are definitely organic.

I am reminded of a visit to my pediatrician when my children were young and the doctor being shocked that there were two wellness checks on the same page in the file; many other families have at least six sick visits between these annual checkups. My choice to feed my family organic has led to very healthy children.

Lisa Dillon Beliveau, St. George

Voter appreciation

On behalf of the families of the Soldiers of National Guard unit HHC Williston, I’d like to thank the Williston voters for their support of the bake sale held at the Armory on voting day. Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, the families of the soldiers will be able to donate $1,000 to the HHC Williston FRG for a Homecoming Celebration.

Peter Moreman, co-leader, Williston Headquarters Company of the Family Readiness Group

Shumlin deserves a chance

In response to Kayla Purvis’ comments concerning the gubernatorial outcome, I would like to make a few remarks.

Peter Shumlin won — whether by a narrow or wide margin is immaterial. He will be our next governor, and to verbally attack him before he even takes the oath of office is unreal.

To state that Dubie would have been a better governor because he is “good natured” is ridiculous. I am certain Dubie is a good father and a good pilot, but I would have been disappointed had he won. Whatever Shumlin’s family situation, it has no bearing on his ability to be governor.

Shumlin cares about Vermont. He voted against re-commissioning Vermont Yankee because the facility has major problems and is leaking tritium, strontium, cesium and who knows what else into the soil and air, he cares about women and wants them to have reproductive freedom of choice, he cares about all Vermonters, whether they be straight or gay, and wants everyone to have the same rights and privileges.

So it’s fine that Ms. Purvis and her assorted relatives know Dubie and his family, and that she has heard secondhand stories about Shumlin from a Republican representative, but what does that have to do with anything?

Give Shumlin a chance. The people have spoken. Let’s move on.

Julie Bonanno, Williston

Williston and Vermont politics

The back and forth liberal – conservative columns of the Observer are enjoyable.

However, right now it is not a particularly balanced set of columns. “Liberally Speaking” is created by a software engineer and “Right to the Point” is written by a high school student. No matter how accomplished the latter, it is not a fair fight.

I do appreciate that Steve Mount takes a soft tone to his liberalism and is not pigeonholed in his views. His columns are very well written. But I was a bit surprised by his comment that he “still (has) a lot of work to do … trying to convince the majority of (his) neighbors that the best choice for Vermont is left-leaning.”

The town of Williston is unlikely to be anything but moderate. Its demographics are such that the majority of residents are employed and pay substantial taxes.

The fact that Peter Shumlin won by a razor thin margin in a heretofore solidly blue state and lost essentially all suburbs like Williston demonstrates the anxiety people feel about the consequences of an all-left Legislature and governor. As such, our newly-elected governor does not have a mandate for his one-size-fits-all health care system, nor does he have a mandate to shut down Vermont Yankee.

Of course, everyone sees these issues through their own tinted glasses. I was speaking with a longstanding liberal legislator who noted that all of the businesses he saw had Shumlin signs in front of them. Funny, but I didn’t see it that way.

As an aside, trying to convince people to change their political views is like herding cats. The best thing we could all do right now would be to stop trying to convince each other that we are right and focus on one goal and only one goal — creating and maintaining a solid workforce. It is perhaps the one thing we can all agree on.

Glenn Goldman, Williston

Budget forum ideas

The School Board held budget forums for faculty/staff and community members. The forums were held to generate ideas to guide our work on the 2011-2012 school budget. Williston has been asked by the state to reduce our spending by $265,760 under the Challenges for Change. The board is looking for ways to preserve the quality educational programs for all students while funding sources continue to decline.

Forum participants suggested consolidation of services in the areas of special education, curriculum coordinators and central office services as ways to reduce spending. Transportation and food service were other areas that could be more efficient. County-wide merger and more efficient data collection were also suggested as ways to reduce costs.

The areas that participants felt should not be changed included technology, team collaboration and keeping student/teacher ratios low. Community members felt that it is important to keep programs such as Enrichment.

Indicators that we would not be providing a quality education for our students included high caseloads for special educators and guidance, increased class size and reduced planning time for teachers. Project-based learning was considered an important component of a quality educational program.

There were many ideas around how we can rethink the way we currently provide education and preserve the quality. Online learning and year-round school were some of the suggestions for improving efficiency in Williston. Pursuing alternative funding sources and increasing facility rental fees could help reduce educational spending.

The next budget meeting will be held on Nov. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the Williston Central School dining room. We hope you can join us.

Holly Rouelle, Deb Baker-Moody, Laura Gigliotti, Kevin Mara and Darlene Worth, Williston School Board

Lost dog saved

Kondros is a big red brindle Great Dane mix who escaped, dragging a leash from All Breed Rescue volunteers on Oct. 30. A gentle giant, Kondros was so scared he wouldn’t let anyone near him, and so many wonderful people tried to catch him.

He spent the cold first week of November on River Cove Road, where the Williston Fire Department and the Williston Police called in sightings and tried to catch him on several occasions. So many people called us to let us know they had seen him but he wouldn’t get in their car or take food from their hands. The Chittenden County Humane Society lent us their large have a heart trap and we set it for him, but he was too smart for that.

On Nov. 5 he moved to the Williston Woods neighborhood and was seen crossing the interstate and at the Williston rest area twice on Nov. 6. Finally, on Nov. 7, he collapsed in the backyard of a wonderful family on Lamplite Lane who called the Williston Police and we went to pick him up. He was not dehydrated but was emaciated and had an upper respiratory infection. He was seen by Dr. Angelos that afternoon and got a shot and some antibiotics and EN food.

Kondros went home that night with his new family to rest and recover from his cold and wet and hungry ordeal. He will be his wonderful wise self after his course of antibiotics, warm rest and healthy food. Without all of the help Kondros got from this caring community of animal lovers, he might not be snoozing on his memory foam bed in a committed home tonight. We are so grateful it is beyond description. Thank you to all, from Kondros and All Breed Rescue.

Lynne Robertson, vice president, All Breed Rescue, South Burlington

Catamount adding solar

Want solar, but do not have a spot? Catamount Outdoor Family Center is installing two solar panels as part of VPIRG Energy’s Solar Communities promotion. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has negotiated low financing rates and a huge savings on purchase and installation.

We hope you will join us in helping Vermonters take charge of our own electricity needs. If you do not have a site that is “solar suitable,” we will host your solar panel for a modest lease, benefitting Catamount. We have set aside 12 spots for panels; nine spots are remaining. You must be in the Green Mountain Power service area to participate.

Visit the VPIRG site,, for all the details.

Jim McCullough, owner Catamount Outdoor Family Center, Williston

‘Voices’ a success

The Howley Foundation extends its heartfelt thanks to all of its contributors, supporters, volunteers and gifted performers who made Voices For The Children of India successful on Nov. 7. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it has taken all of them to make this event a success, for which we are very grateful.

Brenda Howley, founder The Howley Foundation, South Burlington

Guest Column

When war glory prevails

Nov. 18, 2010

By Edwin Cooney

Last Thursday being Veteran’s Day, it was almost inevitable that I would hear once again Sgt. Barry Sadler’s big 1966 hit, “The Ballad of the Green Berets.”

As I listened to Sgt. Sadler’s description of these men with “silver wings upon their chests,” I was both stirred and saddened. I was stirred by my memory of the time the song was popular and by its description of men of patriotism. I was saddened, however, by the idea that the fighting man represents “America’s best.”

Those of us born between 1940 and 1960 were raised on the glorious deeds of those who fought and died for our freedom during World War II. We revered the flag and loved the soldier, most of all perhaps, the handsome and daring marine. We were thrilled with the memory of FDR’s and especially Winston Churchill’s wartime eloquence. We only hoped that as the Soviet menace threatened to engulf us, we would be as well protected by our current leaders as we were by those of yesterday.

Then came the war in Vietnam. Suddenly, what President Eisenhower once identified as the “Military-Industrial Complex” joined forces with our political establishment to convince an increasingly dubious younger generation that unquestioning military service was a patriotic obligation that went along with one’s American birthright! Thus, as the war dragged on and the number of casualties increased, many Americans began to see the military mindset as being coldly indifferent to young America’s legitimate anguish regarding the wisdom, legality and even the morality of that war.

Hence, many Americans invariably vented their frustration and anger with the Vietnam War on Vietnam veterans whether they reluctantly or enthusiastically answered the calls of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon to fight Vietnam’s civil war. For the brave soldiers of the mid and late 1960s and 1970s, there would be fewer benefits and much less appreciation than their World War II fathers and uncles enjoyed.

One has to be 50 years old to have experienced the anguish of Vietnam. Most people today believe that President Reagan’s willingness to play nuclear stick-em-up, more than the decay of the Soviet system, ended the cold war. Today’s veterans recall with pride President George H. W. Bush’s glorious adventures into Panama and the Persian Gulf. President Clinton even gets a grudging pat on the back for limited casualties during the 1999 conflict in the Balkans. As for President George W. Bush, criticism of his Iraqi conquest is somewhat muffled due to the comparative sizes of the Iraqi vs. Vietnamese war casualty lists. Additionally, our national political leadership has become savvy enough to devise ways to keep the horrors of war off television. Presidents today don’t have to wonder, as did LBJ and RMN, how well the war news as edited by independent evening network news broadcasters is being digested at America’s supper tables.

While listening to the lyrics of Sgt. Sadler’s 44-year-old hit, I wondered: Were the men of the Green Berets really “America’s best?” Was it then and is it now wise to believe that men whose mission is internationally sanctioned murder, even in the defense of freedom, are delivering the “best” America has to offer? Even more, isn’t it sad that Sgt. Sadler’s Green Beret hero’s fondest wish for his son is that he too may wear “silver wings upon his chest” and thus perhaps suffer his father’s fate!

Surely, modern America stands for political, social, economic and religious freedom to a greater degree than any other nation in the world. However, I find the following perspective compelling even when considering how legitimate and necessary our military establishment is to protect our national sovereignty. The need for fighting men and women really and truly represents human failure more than it does human glory!

Certainly, we are right to honor the bravery, patriotism and “supreme sacrifice” of what Dwight D. Eisenhower used to refer to as “the regular soldier.” Ike used to insist, “… a soldier is an agent of his government to do a very necessary and desperate task.”

Unlike the doctor who cures illness, the teacher who dispenses knowledge or the preacher who instills religious faith, the courageous soldier’s skills and tasks are at the command of often willful, greedy, suspicious and egocentric national leaders of numerous ideologies. Remember, during wartime, cruelty, courage and valor visit all sides.

Even as the individual soldier’s glory legitimately shines in all of our hearts, we can be sure of two realities. The “regular soldier” never starts a war — and thus all honor is due to his name. Excessive glorification of his suffering and death, however, invariably fuels the righteous anger that makes future wars almost inevitable.

Of course, we should celebrate Memorial and Veterans days so long as we’re determined to honor the memory of all veterans by making the future safer than the world we called on them to “please, please save!”

As for “America’s best,” I nominate the men and women of the American Red Cross!

Edwin Cooney is a national political and historical columnist.

Around Town

Nov. 18, 2010

Williston spellers going to states

Williston Central School’s seventh and eighth grade Spelling Team won the Vermont Principals Association’s Regional Spelling Bee on Nov. 6, earning a trip to the state championship this weekend.

At the Regional Bee, Williston Central School competed against teams from Vergennes Middle School, Georgia Middle School, Edmunds Middle School, Missisquoi Middle School and St. Albans City School.

The state championship takes place at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Northfield Middle High School.

Jazzercise helps Women’s Rape Crisis Center

The Williston Jazzercise Fitness Center is hosting an event on Saturday to benefit the Women’s Rape Crisis Center.

The Girls’ Night Out fund-raiser specialty class begins at 6 p.m. Following the class, participants can enjoy refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.

Earlier in the day, at 10:30 a.m., Jazzercise will host a Personal Safety Awareness presentation by local law enforcement and Women’s Rape Crisis Center representatives.

Jazzercise requests a $5 minimum donation for the Girls’ Night Out class. Cash or checks payable to WRCC will be accepted. The Rape Crisis Center also needs other donations, including new sweatpants, sweatshirts, medium-sized t-shirts and undergarments, art supplies, office supplies, gift cards to grocery stores and more.

Space in the Girls’ Night Out class is limited to 60 participants. Make a reservation by e-mailing or calling 872-8800. Jazzercise is located at 59 Day Lane in Williston.

Heart Association seeks friends

The American Heart Association, which has an office in Williston, has announced the creation of a Facebook page.

To visit the page, search on Facebook for “American Heart Association – Vermont.” The page will contain information about the Heart Association’s upcoming events, volunteers and heart health news.

“I hope you will ‘like’ the page, and comment on it regularly!” Katherine McCarthy, senior regional director of Communications for the American Heart Association, wrote in a press release.

Town awaits update on CVS/pharmacy

Nov. 18, 2010

Since the Development Review Board denied CVS/pharmacy a discretionary permit in October, town planners have been waiting to hear back from the national chain on the company’s next steps. Planning Director Ken Belliveau said he hasn’t heard from CVS since the board’s Oct. 19 meeting.

The proposal from CVS called for a nearly 14,000 square-foot pharmacy to be built at the spot now occupied by the Imported Car Center, which would be demolished in favor of the new building. Imported Car Center owner Arlo Cato has said his business would relocate.

At issue were the pharmacy’s attempts at meeting development requirements outlined in town bylaws. Last year, Williston adopted a new set of bylaws, which said projects in Taft Corners had to meet several standards. One of those standards was multi-use, such as a combination of retail, office and residential space. CVS opted to add retail space above its main store, but board members didn’t like the design.

At the Oct. 19 meeting, CVS returned to the Development Review Board with revised plans, but the secondary retail space design still did not sit well with some board members. After CVS’ lawyer, Matt Daly, asked for a vote on a discretionary permit, it was ultimately turned down by the board. Calls to Daly and CVS representatives were not returned by press deadline.

Belliveau said he hopes to hear from CVS again as he believes it would be situated at a “tremendous location” at the corner of Vermont 2A and Wright Avenue across from Maple Tree Place at a stoplight intersection.

“I think they’re mulling their options,” Belliveau said. “The ball’s in their court right now.”

— Tim Simard, Observer staff