October 24, 2014

Teachers reject contract offer

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CSSU could impose contract

Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Contract talks between the local teachers union and Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s negotiation team broke down again last week. Both sides called the Jan. 20 meeting frustrating and blamed each other for the inability to agree on a two-year contract.

In the aftermath, CSSU school boards indicated they may impose a one-year contract if no consensus is reached by the end of the month. The teachers union plans to meet with its members about how to proceed, which could include striking.

According to Scott Cameron, CSSU’s chief negotiator and a Montpelier lawyer, the teachers union representatives walked away from the discussion table over disputes regarding step increases and teacher contributions toward health care premiums, among other concerns.

“The teachers got upset and walked out,” Cameron said. “It could have ended better.”

The CSSU team is made up of school board members from supervisory union boards. Teachers from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School make up the Chittenden South Education Association, also known as the CSEA.

Lisa Bisbee, the CSEA’s lead negotiator, said her team became increasingly frustrated when school board negotiators appeared unwilling to listen to teacher concerns.

“I think the (CSSU) boards became entrenched in their own rhetoric,” said Bisbee, who is also a special educator at Williston Central School.

“It’s really fracturing the climate of our negotiations and it doesn’t feel like a respectful process now,” she said.

Contract talks began 15 months ago and continued after the teacher contracts expired at the end of June 2010. A fact finder’s report issued in September found room for both parties to compromise, but no concessions occurred in the three times negotiators met since fact finding.

On Friday, CSSU issued a press release detailing where the parties remain unable to compromise. The CSEA followed that up this week with a letter to school boards disputing some of the details released by CSSU.

CSSU negotiators offered to add 2 percent in salary raises through step increases, along with a one-time, $300 payment to teachers not eligible for step increases in the 2010-2011 school year. For the second contract year, CSSU offered a 3 percent increase, which should favor teachers previously ineligible for step increases.

According to the CSEA, raises in the first contract year would not cover the money appropriated for the new teachers’ retirement system. Instead of offering one-time payments and a 2 percent raise, the CSEA prefers a 3 percent salary increase for all educators.

CSSU stated in its press release that if it approves the 3 percent increase, then school boards would need to revisit school budgets and make appropriate cuts, which could include staff reductions.

In terms of contributions to health care premiums, CSSU wants teachers to increase their payments to 13 percent in the first year and 15 percent the second year. The CSEA favors 13 percent contributions in both years.

Cameron said the school boards offered the best contract they could and does not foresee how they can alter the proposal. While the CSSU negotiators hold “tremendous respect” for the teachers, Cameron said the boards must first consider the taxpayers who ultimately pay for school costs.

“There’s a lot of people hurting out there right now,” Cameron said. “This is not business as usual.”

The CSSU board has given the CSEA until Jan. 31 to accept the CSSU proposal or make a “reasonable counter offer,” Cameron said, noting that the CSSU school boards may decide to impose a one-year contract to complete the process. In doing so, both sides would need to restart the entire negotiation process.

Bisbee said the CSEA will look at a counter proposal, but sees the contract imposition akin to a threat. She said CSEA negotiators will meet this week to discuss the latest developments, adding that a strike will certainly be debated.

“Right now, that’s our nuclear option,” Bisbee said.

Fields set for March elections

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Jan. 27, 2011

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Williston’s Town Meeting Day ballot will contain a number of candidates new to politics, but features only one contested race.

Debbie Ingram and Shelley Palmer will vie for a three-year term on the Selectboard, a position currently held by Judy Sassorossi.

Town Meeting Day is March 1.

Monday was the deadline for candidates to file petition forms for public offices, including School Board and library trustee. Incumbents for lister, town constable and other positions will run to retain their respective positions, including Town Clerk and Treasurer Deb Beckett. She filed her paperwork for the three-year terms before shipping out to Iraq last year as a member of the Vermont National Guard.

Two seats open on Selectboard

The race to replace Sassorossi on the Selectboard pits a Planning Commission member against a long-aspiring candidate for local office.

Ingram has served on the Planning Commission for five years, and wants to take her experience in that role to the next level. She said she’s been thinking about a Selectboard campaign for “quite a while” and decided to run after learning that Sassorossi planned to leave the board. If elected, Ingram plans to resign from the Planning Commission.

As a member of the Planning Commission, Ingram has had a hand in rewriting the Town Plan and turning Taft Corners into the state’s first designated growth center. She said one of Williston’s biggest challenges going forward will be balancing development throughout town.

“I feel I like I have something to contribute,” Ingram said. “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind committing to meetings.”

Palmer, who has campaigned unsuccessfully for the Selectboard and Vermont Legislature in the past, said he’s concerned with Williston’s direction and wants the town to attract more business, among other issues. Additional businesses means more revenue for the town, which in turn eases the tax burden on homeowners, Palmer said.

“The difficulty of getting an Act 250 permit is keeping a lot of businesses away,” Palmer said.

Palmer said he’d also look forward to shaping the new Town Plan. He described the plan as a sound document, but said certain areas need further review.

The other Selectboard seat, a two-year term currently held by Ted Kenney, features only one contender, Jay Michaud. With his experience as a small business owner, Michaud said he plans to bring his professional knowledge to the Selectboard. Michaud ran unsuccessfully last year as a Republican candidate for the Vermont House. He admits he’s a political rookie, but said that’s advantageous for Williston.

“There needs to be a fresh perspective on the board,” Michaud said. “I can bring that.”

School Board expects to welcome new members

The Williston School Board has three positions, all uncontested, that will appear on the Town Meeting ballot.

Current board member Kevin Mara, who the board appointed in August to replace Keith Roy, will run for Laura Gigliotti’s two-year seat. Gigliotti decided earlier this month not to run for reelection. Roy resigned last summer before he deployed with the National Guard to Afghanistan.

Mara is a veteran of the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee, a group that helped determine the new school district reconfiguration.

Joshua Diamond, a lawyer with a practice in Montpelier, will run for Darlene Worth’s three-year term. Worth, also the current chairwoman of the Chittenden South Supervisory Union School Board, will step down from both positions in March. Diamond, a newcomer to public office, told the Observer earlier this month that his experience as a school budget aid helped persuade him to join the board.

Giovanna Boggero, also a newcomer to elected office, will run for the one-year seat currently held by Mara. Boggero said that, as a parent, she plans to ensure Williston continues to offer quality instruction.

“I want to make sure our kids get the best education they can,” Boggero said.

David Rath, one of Williston’s four representatives on the Champlain Valley Union High School Board, will run again for his three-year term.

ON THE BALLOT

The annual Town and School Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28. Australian ballot voting will occur on March 1, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Candidates are running for the following positions:

Selectboard, three-year term: Debbie Ingram, Shelley Palmer

Selectboard, two-year term: Jay Michaud

Williston School Board, three-year term: Joshua Diamond

Williston School Board, two-year term: Kevin Mara

Williston School Board, one-year term: Giovanna Boggero

CVU School Board, three-year term: David Rath

Town Clerk/Treasurer, three-year term: Deb Beckett

Lister, three-year term: Linda Ladd

Library Trustee, five-year term: Elizabeth Jordan-Shook

First Constable, one-year term: Kermit Laclair

Champlain Water District Representative, three-year term: Donald Phillips

This Week’s Popcorn – ‘The Green Hornet’

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‘The Green Hornet’ stings up the theater

1 popcorn

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

Seth Rogen, who has thus far enjoyed a successful film career as the affable slacker who serendipitously rises to heroic heights, fails to summon that persona in director Michel Gondry’s “The Green Hornet.” Playing both Britt Reid, heir to a publishing dynasty, and his alter ego title character, he is but an unredeeming and not so terribly funny schnook.

Unimaginatively written and poorly paced, “The Green Hornet” possesses a hit and miss level of slipshod glib that can’t decide whether it wants to imply campiness or convince us to sympathetically embrace its would-be superhero. Adding insult to injury, for a few dollars more per ducat you can accentuate the negative and see all this ineptitude in 3-D.

But the only thing that will stand out with any consequence is the waste of money said option represents. While the lightshow attending the nonstop scenes of destruction Mr. Gondry wreaks throughout his film might have blown us away in the late 1960s, employed now the cacophonous psychedelia is about as cutting edge as a Nehru jacket.

Based on the accumulated lore that has evolved in radio, film and pulp form since the 1930s, the contemporary update of creator George W. Trendle’s Depression Era vigilante is penned by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Pity is, instead of imbuing the protagonists with a comic book fancifulness, they simulate the cartoonish hijinks of Tom and Jerry.

The story initially follows the familiar, first episode exposition common to most superhero accounts, the major difference being this dude’s lack of character. Other than chasing the girls and wallowing in the decadence his wealth makes possible, Britt Reid doesn’t want to accomplish a thing. Naturally, a tragic watershed spurs a change of heart.

Catalytic to the ensuing epiphany is Britt’s acquaintance with Jay Chou’s Kato, his dad’s ingenious auto mechanic, tech virtuoso and coffee maker extraordinaire. Never mind that the wastrel just wanted a good cup of Joe. The idea of being masked vigilantes is hatched, but never fully baked. It doesn’t deter them from rushing headlong to their first mission.

After a while, discovering they don’t know a thing about their newly chosen profession, they make the crime-fighting franchise a troika, yet do so without letting the third party in on the deal. She is Cameron Diaz’s brainy Lenore Case, happy to be hired as a researcher at the prestigious Daily Sentinel. Slyly, they tap her for the skinny on the local bad guys.

Of course, they are soon vying for her attentions. Added to the fact that neither the L.A. Police nor the city’s criminal element knows exactly what the duo is up to, the resultant rift only confuses matters. But by Britt’s twisted way of thinking, that serves to makes his crusade more illustrious. Such irrationality not only fails to amuse, but tries our patience.

It is a glazier’s dream. Utilizing the CGI magic available to him, director Gondry takes a dyspeptic child’s toy-breaking fantasy to newly destructive heights. After half an hour, there isn’t a pane of virtual glass left intact in L.A. Delirious in his newfound passion, Britt/Green Hornet kicks off a tedious, self-congratulatory rant to underline the nonsense.

The ensuing banter fest between lead and sidekick, never achieving a satisfyingly comic rhythm, points out Mr. Rogen’s ultimate inappropriateness for the role. While Adam Sandler might have put it across, the heretofore schlumpy Rogen is just not a likable brat. To play it straight, à la Michael Keaton in “Batman” (1989), would defeat the purpose.

While the supporting players are less incompatible, none is interesting enough to save the day. Cameron Diaz’s precocious underling might have been bolstered to better effect. And Christoph Waltz, whose supremely villainous portrayal in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) won him an Oscar, can’t find his humorous bad self as the gangster Chudnofsky.

Mr. Chou’s Kato, on the other hand, is hampered by the lack of chemistry he and his partner in — well, whatever it is they’re trying to achieve — exude. Though the wiz wows us with his technical prowess, Rogen’s uncertain portrayal doesn’t allow him to establish anything beyond the rebellious, Man Friday stereotype he ostensibly plays in a vacuum.

About the only thing that works here is the ideal you bring to the theater … that hopeful little kid you were, comfily ensconced under the covers, trusty flashlight leading the way across the comic book pages as you made the world safe for democracy. Unworthy of that romantic aspiration, “The Green Hornet” betrays the true blue hero in you.

“The Green Hornet,” rated PG-13, is a Columbia Pictures release directed by Michel Gondry and stars Seth Rogen, Jay Chou and Cameron Diaz. Running time: 119 minutes.

BREAKING: CSSU, teachers association fail to reach contract consensus

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By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s negotiating team and the local teachers union failed to agree on a new contract Thursday night. Scott Cameron, the lead negotiator for CSSU and a Montpelier lawyer, said representatives from the Chittenden South Education Association walked out of the negotiations about three hours into the meeting at Williston Central School.

According to a press release issued by CSSU Friday afternoon, both sides remain apart on the issues of step increases and teacher payments towards health care premiums, among other concerns.

The CSSU board has given the Chittenden South Education Association until Jan. 31 to accept the CSSU proposal or make a “reasonable counter offer,” Cameron said. He added the CSSU school boards may decide to impose a one-year contract to complete the process.

Lisa Bisbee, chief negotiator for the Chittenden South Education Association, did not return calls from the Observer on Friday afternoon. In the past, the teachers union has met with a lawyer to discuss the legalities of a strike.

The Chittenden South Education Association is made up of teachers from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School.

The Observer will feature more in the Jan. 27 issue.

PHOTOS: CVU junior varsity wrestling

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Jan. 20, 2011

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

Champlain Valley Union High School’s junior varsity wrestling program captured first place in the annual Middlebury jayvee tournament on Jan. 15. Fifteen teams competed in the event. The Redhawks scored 143 points, easily besting the 56 points from runner-up Essex High.

PHOTOS: CVU wrestling at Middlebury Union High

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Jan. 20, 2011

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

In their last meet on Jan. 13, the Champlain Valley Union High wrestling team was edged 33-27 by Middlebury Union High. CVU got victories from Chris Roy in the 119-pound class and Ryan Stearns in the 130-pound grouping.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey vs. Rutland

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Jan. 20, 2011

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

The Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team beat Rutland High 6-3 on Jan. 17.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey vs. South Burlington

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Jan. 20, 2011

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

The Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team notched a 4-0 win over South Burlington High on Jan. 15.

PHOTOS: CVU Family Formal by Kayla Walters

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Jan. 20, 2011

Observer photos by Kayla Walters

More than 100 people attended the fourth annual Family Formal at Champlain Valley Union High School on Jan. 15. The school’s Business Ethics class hosts the dance as a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Teacher Tamie Jo Dickinson said the goal was to raise $3,000 while also teaching students ‘how businesses should be socially responsible and build a sense of community.’

PHOTOS: CVU Family Formal by Marianne Apfelbaum

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Jan. 20, 2011

Observer photos by Marianne Apfelbaum

More than 100 people attended the fourth annual Family Formal at Champlain Valley Union High School on Jan. 15. The school’s Business Ethics class hosts the dance as a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Teacher Tamie Jo Dickinson said the goal was to raise $3,000 while also teaching students ‘how businesses should be socially responsible and build a sense of community.’