October 23, 2014

CVU aces Outright Vermont’s report card

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Dec. 22, 2010

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

Champlain Valley Union High School is one of the safest schools for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, according to a survey by advocacy group Outright Vermont.

CVU received the highest possible score on the Safe Schools Report Card, along with 10 other schools.

“These schools are doing amazing work to end harassment and provide needed support to (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, or LGBTQQ) youth,” an Outright Vermont press release read.

Outright Vermont surveyed all 61 public high schools in Vermont for its 2010 Safe Schools Report Card.

The survey asked schools whether they have some form of Gay-Straight Alliance, gender-neutral bathrooms, whether they track bullying and harassment and if they have a bullying and harassment program. CVU answered positively to all four questions.

CVU’s Gay-Straight-Transgender Alliance has been active for more than 10 years.

“The kids say it’s a safe place to be yourself,” said teacher Emily Rinkema, who has been one of the group’s advisors for nearly 10 years. “People come for a lot of different reasons, and we don’t ask why.”

The group, which has between 15 and 20 members, meets once a week. It offers support or just a place to meet friends — whatever students want to get out of it, Rinkema said. For some, it makes a huge difference.

“We’ve got students who, when they come up from middle school, they say that just knowing the high school has an active GSTA made them feel like they can get through high school,” she said. “For some kids, it’s the one place where once a week they can completely be themselves.”

Melissa Murray, Outright Vermont’s executive director, said that the mere presence of a Gay-Straight Alliance improves the climate of a school for all students. It especially helps those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, some of whom may not have other support systems.

“The biggest issue facing queer youth in Vermont is isolation,” Murray said.

Outright Vermont found that 46 percent of schools, including CVU, have a Gay-Straight Alliance. Murray said that while her team is seeing progress, there is still work to be done.

“Harassment is the major issue,” she said. “The rate of harassment of queer-identified youth is off the charts. In some schools it’s getting better, in some schools it’s getting worse and some schools refuse to acknowledge that it’s an issue.”

Bullying in school based on someone’s status in a protected class — in this case sexual orientation — qualifies as harassment, according to Vermont’s education laws.

Outright Vermont officials spoke to nearly 4,000 youths in schools this year about harassment. At the end of each presentation, the speaker encouraged each student to do one thing to make his or her school a safer place.

“It puts it in the hands of the students to really make a difference,” Murray said.

Rinkema said CVU has not had to deal with many issues of sexuality-related harassment or bullying.

“If anything, sometimes there’s some ignorance,” she said. “Kids will say, ‘That’s so gay,’ but it’s not being done out of intolerance, it’s being done out of ignorance.”

To combat the use of the word “gay” as an insult, the Gay-Straight-Transgender Alliance has peppered the halls with posters suggesting other words to use instead.

Rinkema said CVU generally has a safe climate, possibly because the Alliance has been active for so long.

“The kids here feel safe and they feel accepted,” she said. “Overall, I think the kids feel lucky to be here at CVU. It’s a wonderful school and a wonderful community.”

Vermont Tech looks to add dorm space

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Dec. 22, 2010

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Vermont Technical College’s Williston campus, where hundreds of students attend classes on a semester basis, recently asked the town for permission to double its housing for capacity.

While the school remains mostly a commuter campus, college officials hope to add more dormitory-style housing for 22 students and one residency director. The college already has rooms for 22 students on the third floor of its 72 Helena Drive building, which the school calls Williston Hall. Vermont Tech wants to build additional housing on the hall’s second floor.

Currently, Vermont Tech also houses 20 students at the New England Culinary Institute’s facility in Essex Junction, according to Brent Sargent, the college’s Williston campus dean.

“We want them all together here on campus,” Sargent said.

Since it opened in Blair Park in 2003 with 32 students, the school has now grown to approximately 480 full- and part-time students, Sargent said. Vermont Tech’s main campus in Randolph enrolls more than 800 students.

Through the years, the Williston campus has added degrees and classes that attract students from across northern Vermont. As a result, the college looked to offer housing opportunities in Blair Park. The college bought the three-story Helena Drive office building in 2008, transforming the first and second floors into office and classroom space. The college completed the third floor dorms last year.

Stelletta Salon still occupies space on the first floor and renewed its lease for another five years as per its original contract, Sargent said. He said the college plans to honor the salon’s lease.

The third floor dorms proved popular with the students who lived there last school year, Sargent said. The dorms, a mix of single and double occupancy rooms, encircle a common area complete with a kitchen, sofas and a large-screen television. Nearly all the rooms feature extensive views of the Green Mountains or the Adirondacks.

“The students by and large really like what we have up there a lot,” Sargent said.

He explained that the proposed plan for the second floor housing will be all double rooms, with the exception of a single occupancy room for a residency director.

Building the extra dorms would require additional sewer use, and Williston has a sewage allotment from the wastewater facility in Essex Junction. College representatives asked the Selectboard for 1,015 gallons of sewer allocation at its Dec. 6 meeting.

At the meeting, Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau said the Selectboard had approved a similar request in 2008 when Vermont Tech started its renovation of Williston Hall. The board approved the sewer allocation request on Dec. 6, but noted that only 3,290 gallons of sewer allocation is available for the commercial and industrial portion of town through fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30.

Vermont Tech has already earned a pre-application building permit from the Development Review Board. With the sewer allocation, the school can now pursue a discretionary permit, Belliveau said.

Belliveau said a representative of the college will appear before the Development Review Board on Jan. 25. If the board approves the housing plans, Sargent said the rooms may be ready for the fall 2011 semester.

The new dorm space would bump out two classrooms and five office spaces, Sargent said.

“There will be some logistical puzzles we’ll have to solve,” he said. “For now, we’ll just do with what we have.”

Vermont Tech continues investigating more parking options in and around Blair Park and Taft Corners. Commuter parking remains limited and Sargent said the school needs to find a solution as soon as possible. As for additional space, Vermont Tech maxed out its 50,000 square-foot campus last year. Sargent said the school discussed moving into portions of Finney Crossing when it’s developed, but will be looking for other options as well. The school is also considering further alternatives for additional housing, Sargent said.

More space will become necessary as the Williston campus continues adding programs, Sargent said. Next year, the college will add a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor’s program for students interested in becoming commercial airline pilots.

PHOTOS: VYOA concert extravaganza

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Dec. 16, 2010

Courtesy photos by Mina Levinsky-Wohl

High school seniors Daphnee Vandal, Nureen Wohl and Sachi Leith spoke at the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association’s Orchestrapalooza on Dec. 5. The event also featured performances from numerous youth orchestras.

PHOTOS: Polar Express

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Dec. 16, 2010

Observer photos by Stephen Mease (www.stevemease.com)

The Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation held its annual Polar Express event in Burlington on Dec. 11. Students from Williston Central School’s Swift House volunteered at the event as elves.

PHOTOS: CVU girls hockey vs. MMU

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Dec. 16, 2010

Observer photos by Shane Bufano (www.shanebufano.com)

Champlain Valley Union High School’s girls hockey team opened the season on Dec. 11 with a 9-2 win over Mount Mansfield Union.

PHOTOS: CVU wrestling

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Dec. 16, 2010

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

The Champlain Valley Union High School wrestling team kicked off the season by competing in the St. Johnsbury Academy Invitational on Dec. 11. The Redhawks finished eighth out of 21 teams.

PHOTOS: CVU Celebrate the Arts night

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Dec. 16, 2010

Observer photos by Stephen Mease (www.stevemease.com)

Champlain Valley Union High School’s second annual Celebrate the Arts night took place on Dec. 9, and featured theater, music and artwork from students.

This Week’s Popcorn – ‘Love and Other Drugs’

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‘Love and Other Drugs’ a prescription for romance

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

Does anyone really ever love anyone the way they do in the movies, the way Rick loved Ilsa in “Casablanca” (1942)? Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie Randall, cynical ladies man extraordinaire in Edward Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs,” surely doesn’t think so. Neither does Anne Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock. And then they meet.

Unless this is the first romantic dramedy you’ve ever seen, you could easily fill in most of the blanks on the letters of transit Cupid has issued these two likeable characters. But, proving what distinguishes one gushy saga from another, it’s what you didn’t fathom that throws you for an engaging loop. Good love stories define the indefinable.

It’s done by example, a whirlwind of intoxicating samples unleashed as the vicarious you and the perfect mate intersect in a cloud of carefree confusion. Just yesterday, it was only you, alone in a world of 6.7 billion. Now there are two, cutting the odds of loneliness in half. It seemed so improbable.

And as time goes by, unless you are the exception that proves the rule, you find that now and again it is totally impossible. But that’s what makes it genuine: realism clashing with idealism. Achieving just the right mixture of these elements, director Zwick has us enthusiastically buying his bill of goods. We are ennobled. Yeah for us humans.

Epitomizing the idea, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal sustain a winning credibility. Whether basking in the glow of their optimistic epiphany or reacting to the hard facts that loom once the steaminess of new love clears, the portrayals are seamless. Miss Hathaway could very possibly hand herself a statuette when she hosts the Oscars on Feb. 27.

But first, courtesy of a scene worthy of Woody Allen, we learn about Gyllenhaal’s spoiled brat of a Lothario. It’s a family at war around the dinner table. No embarrassment goes unturned, no button unpushed. Dad (George Segal) and sister are big doctors and fat little brother is a dot.com millionaire. Unexplainably, handsome Jamie is a dropout.

Perhaps it’s the same skepticism that precludes the remote possibility of true love and spurs a steady diet of sexual conquests. Set in the mid 1990s, it makes him a seriocomic Tom Jones for the X Generation. But it isn’t until his philandering ways lose him his job at an electronics store that he finds how to truly capitalize on his charisma: drugs.

Oh, it’s all fully legal and purportedly above board, mind you. Choosing to sell pharmaceuticals, Jamie is assigned to the tutelage of journeyman hawker Bruce Winston (Oliver Platt), a pill pusher in the Ohio Valley since time immemorial. And therein lies the edgy, muckraking subplot that deliriously educates and abashes.

Intertwining its complementing narratives, both interspersed with alternating portions of light and dark, “Love and Other Drugs” strides a challenging course. And like real life itself, things don’t always integrate the way you’d like … without pain, fear and mystification. But then love conquers all, doesn’t it? Well, we’ll just have to see.

So here’s the rub. Established right from the get-go, Maggie has Parkinson’s disease. But as this rare manifestation of the condition is still in an early stage, Jamie isn’t prepared for what complications might lie ahead. Maggie knows better. No matter. The lovers have their defense shields up, supported by a steady banter of carefree bravado.

Quicker than you can say contemporary update of “Love Story” (1970), the script ushers in an eye-opening bevy of scandalous information about Big Pharma as its comedy relief. Jamie’s career becomes a case in point as he seeks to inveigle his way into the good graces of those docs who will hopefully prescribe his plethora of panaceas.

Hank Azaria as the swaggeringly sarcastic Dr. Stan Knight does a nice job of capsuling the conundrum today’s physicians find themselves in whilst trying to practice medicine. At a party, bemoaning the vise grip of HMOs determined not to pay and drug companies dangling bribes, he snivels of corruptness and the death of once held principles.

While prompted to wonder if our own doctor got a kickback for that last Rx we had filled, it’s a tribute to our better nature that we nonetheless sympathize with Dr. Knight, and hence, with humankind itself. Charging back into the arms of the tale’s romantic puzzle, we seek purity of purpose. Surely everything can’t be a deal.

Which may be why we invest so much hope and emotion in what my mom would have called a nice young couple. Sure, those powers that be might sully the atmosphere with snake oil promises. But we’ve a sneaking suspicion that we come equipped with our own, life defining potions, nicely compounded and dispensed in “Love and Other Drugs.”

“Love and Other Drugs,” rated R, is a Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation release directed by Edward Zwick and stars Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal and Oliver Platt. Running time: 112 minutes.

Redhawks earn football honors

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Dec. 16, 2010

Their second — and final — football season in Division 2 saw the Champlain Valley Union High Redhawks gain the semifinals and then place five players on the Burlington Free Press All-State team. Sixteen players earned All-Division honors.

Junior place kicker Tucker Kohlasch was named to the All-State first team offense while wide receiver Taylor Gingras earned honorable mention.

On the All-State defense, senior Konnor Fleming got a defensive back slot and senior Cameron Fitzgerald was named to the line. Linebacker Eric Palmer, also a senior, got an honorable mention.

During the season, Kohlasch, Old Thunderfoot, nailed 25 extra points and six field goals, one of 42 yards.

Fleming, who also led the CVU offense from his quarterback slot, was a prime time defender with big pass interceptions and tackles.

Fitzgerald, a stalwart on the defensive line, also scored three touchdowns by breaking up plays with fumble recoveries and in one case an interception.

All-Division 2 offensive stars were Gingras on the first team and Fleming on the second team as quarterback. Honorable mentions went to running backs Tyler Barnes and J. P.Benoit, tight end Ryan Beaudry and linemen Alec Distler, Quinn Kropf and Dylan Raymond.

On the first team defense were Fitzgerald as lineman and punter, and Fleming. Second team selections went to linebackers Palmer and Barnes, along with lineman Dale Conger. Honorable mentions were awarded to defensive backs Derek Goodwin and Gingras, linebackers Ryan Fleming and Drew Nick and linemen Crawford Morris and Ian Solomon.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

Redhawk wrestlers to grapple next week

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Dec. 16, 2010

Champlain Valley Union High School wrestler Sam Fortin (right) faces off against an opponent in the St. Johnsbury Academy Invitational. The tournament, held on Saturday, kicked off the wrestling season for CVU. (Courtesy photo by Jennifer Olson)

Coach Rahn Fleming and his Champlain Valley Union High wrestling team will be off to Bristol and a match at Mount Abraham Union on Monday night. The team returns to CVU on Wednesday for home-opening matches against Vergennes Union and Enosburg High at 5:30 p.m.

The junior varsity will travel to a Saturday tournament at Otter Valley Union High in Brandon. Matches begin at 10 a.m.

The Redhawks started their season Saturday by finishing eighth in the 21-team St. Johnsbury Academy Invitational.

Senior captain Ryan Stearns ruled his 130-pound class with early pins in all three of his matches.

Sam Fortin finished fourth in the 121-pound class. Fleming said by e-mail that Tucker Austin had a good day. CVU was represented in six of the 14 weight classes.

Fleming is working with 24 wrestlers, 18 of which are freshmen and sophomores.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent