May 20, 2018

Letters to the Editor

Nov. 17, 2011


Community must remedy lead issue

When it comes to threatened public health in a community, it is time for that community to take notice. I refer to Adam White’s story (“Testing confirms lead pollution in farm’s well,” Observer, Oct. 13, 2011) and subsequent letters regarding the confirmation of at least one Old Creamery Road family’s well — with dangerously high contamination by lead — allegedly from the North Country Sportsman’s Gun Club adjacent to the residence. There are many other residences along the road that could also be contaminated.

The tested well showed a level of .053 mg per liter, or almost four times the acceptable lead level in drinking water for humans — is this not scary? I have lived on Old Creamery Road since 1964 and have always considered it a safe area to raise a family. I am questioning that now and I urge all neighboring homes with wells to have their water tested.

I understand the use of lead shot on the firing range is permitted and that there is alternative shot that could be used. I wonder why this has not happened in light of the fact that the problem was first made known to the public several years ago? And what about the considerable amount of lead in surrounding soil and groundwater that should be cleared out?

Isn’t it time we, as a community and town, explore and remedy these troubling findings affecting our neighbors and possibly larger segments of the population?

—Jane Packard Bryant, Williston

Scouts take a stand against lead

We would like to thank the members of Boy Scout Troop #692 who decided not to go to the North Country Sportsman’s Club this past Saturday (Nov. 12) to earn their shotgun badge. When it was explained to them that the club was not being a good steward of the land, by polluting the surrounding land and waterways with lead, they made the decision not to participate.

The Boy Scout “Outdoor Code” states…

“As an American, I will do my best to: Be clean in my outdoor manners; Be careful with fire; Be considerate in the outdoors, and Be conservation minded.”

We believe that these Boy Scouts did themselves, their families and Boy Scouting proud by standing up to a known toxin — lead. We appreciate their support!

It is our hope that another person, or club — that practices the Environmental Protection Agency’s Best Management Practices — will step forth and help these conscientious boys with their shotgun badge (hopefully in an area where they are not polluting our waterways).

When a person takes a stand against the wrongs of the world, they usually step forward being a stronger person. That is the scouting, and the American, way!

—Leo and Mona Boutin, Lead Free Williston

Guest column

The good news and the illuminated neglect

Nov. 17, 2011

By William J. Mathis


By William J. Mathis

Three vital reports on Vermont’s children and schools have been released this year. The country’s uniform test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, shows that our eighth grade scores tied for first place in the nation in reading and tied for second in math. For fourth-grade exams, we are tied for fourth place in math and tied for sixth in reading. Cross-walked into international scores, Vermont would score among the top ten nations of the world. These results stand in sharp contrast to the federal No Child Left Behind system, whose faulty design eventually classifies all schools as failures.

In other good news, the high school Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed improvements in almost all categories since 2009 — with much more dramatic decreases in risky behaviors over a 10-year period. Alcohol use, cigarettes, marijuana, and soda consumption all show long-term declines. Of particular note, community service increased from 43 percent to 55 percent. This was paralleled by an increase in “feeling needed by the community,” which rose from 46 percent to 55 percent. These latter numbers are paramount for our schools and our future.

Complimenting this picture is the 2011 Annie Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count” report. While poverty has increased in Vermont since 2005, the state ranked fourth overall on child well being (an improvement from eighth place in 2009). In a time of economic weakness, these numbers say a lot about Vermont’s well being.

As families, communities and schools interact so dramatically, comprehensive measures of the health of our society are far more important than the myopic view provided by a sole reliance on standardized test scores. We must remember the obvious; all else being equal, communities with greater social and family capital score higher on tests. Thus, when we look at school reforms (whether NCLB, consolidation, testing, etc.) we have to ask whether they will improve the community as well as the school. If the proposals are not comprehensive and if they do not directly improve the child, they are unlikely to succeed and may cause more harm than good.

Our greatest shortcoming is that Vermont has not done much about closing the poverty gap. Unfortunately, our efforts are inadequate and tokenistic. In human services, we too often address symptoms rather than causes. In education, annual test scores are released and we rightly praise our high achievement. Just as ritualistically, we shine a spotlight on the low scores of our neediest. Unfortunately, this is little more than illuminated neglect.

We ask schools with high poverty concentrations to submit improvement plans which, by themselves, do little to improve teaching, economic or social conditions. We make high-sounding proclamations of belief, such as: “What happens in schools can compensate for what hasn’t happened elsewhere in a child’s life,” as the state’s “Roots of Success” document claims. Unfortunately, the report’s data show the solutions they propose are too weak to have such an effect. Pretending that schools can by themselves overcome egregious parenting and poor environments is too far a reach. Likewise, trotting out “lighthouse schools” to show that schools can single-handedly overcome the effects of poverty simply misinterprets statistical outliers. Unfortunately, this indefensible misuse of data justifies ineffectiveness and neglect.

Looking broadly, the solution lies in a more comprehensive vision of schools, family and society. For example, the National Bureau of Economic Research recently posted an analysis that showed that a 2-percent increase in unemployment results in a 16-percent increase in schools not making adequate progress. Most troubling, in a nation driven more by self-interest than the common good, the expanding economic gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent is a harbinger of an increase in the achievement gap rather than a decrease.

Vermonters have reason to be proud of our schools. They are one of the state’s greatest economic and social assets. But we must also take an even sharper look at where we are failing. We should treasure and protect those things that work. Our strength for helping our neediest lies in the united, interactive and comprehensive bolstering of our communities, social capital and schools.


William J. Mathis is managing director of the National Education Policy Center and a former Vermont school superintendent.

Recipe corner

Thanksgiving recipes

Nov. 17, 2011

By Ginger Isham



Sweet potato casserole recipes contain a lot of sugar. I like the following recipe from my “Swedish Heart Diet” cookbook (2002).



Note: I double the recipe.

1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (scrub, cook with skins on until soft, remove skins and mash)

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup low fat or skim milk

3 tablespoons honey (I used only 2 tablespoons maple syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons brown sugar — packed

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon canola or light tasting olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Combine sweet potatoes, orange juice, milk, honey and vanilla in bowl and beat on high using hand mixer until smooth. Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and sprinkle on top. Bake on 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 5 servings, has 183 calories and low sodium.


When I was growing up, apple pie was served with a wedge of cheddar cheese. This is a tasty apple pie with cheddar cheese in the topping. I love making one-crust pies! I use McIntosh apples for pies and I think that is how you can reduce the amount of sugar in the pie.



3/4 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup sugar)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

4 large apples, peeled and sliced thin (I used 5 apples for more filling). Combine all ingredients and spread in an unbaked piecrust. Bake on 400 degrees for 15 minutes.


While pie is baking, mix together: 1/3 cup sugar (I use little less), 1/2 cup flour, ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese and 3 tablespoons butter until crumbled. Sprinkle over apples, place back in oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more.  Serve with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce or both.


If you are busy preparing for the turkey and trimmings, and have little time for a leisurely breakfast, try this:



1/2 medium banana

1/2 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen without sugar)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Puree fruit in blender, and then add yogurt and blend.


Make someone’s Thanksgiving special by writing a note thanking him or her for something they have done to enrich your life this year.


Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.


Life in Williston

Daddy’s closing spawns questions

Nov. 17, 2011

By Neel Tandan


One headline regarding the recent and very abrupt closing of all 12 Daddy’s Junky Music stores across New England read, “The gig is up for Daddy’s.” Another, less clever one, stated: “Daddy’s Junky Music ends on a sour note after 39 years.”

For those unaware of the existence of a Daddy’s Junkie Music store in Williston, it was located in Maple Tree Place — on the backside of the Majestic 10 movie theater (maybe you passed it on the way to pick up your morning rocket fuel from Starbucks). Either way, the music chain, which began in New Hampshire in 1972, closed all of its stores on Oct. 26 — leaving many customers and employees with their mouths agape.

I was no less shocked at the news and could hardly believe my eyes when I drove by the darkened storefront and saw the covered up windows, and a dumpster piled high with discarded fixtures and splintered wood. I was also a little upset, too — seeing as I had purchased an electric guitar from Daddy’s no more than a month ago that included a fairly hefty guarantee. On top of that, I was encouraged to buy an accessory card for quote, unquote, “future savings.” Either the employees were left in the dark on this or they were gouging me good. I like to think the latter, and after reading some of the testimonials by lamenting customers, loyal ex-employees and even the seemingly bewildered founder, Fred Bramante, this appears likely.

So, who’s to blame? Unfortunately some of the signs are pointing to a familiar and ubiquitous culprit of the 21st Century: the dreaded Internet. It’s no joking matter, I suppose, and with Border’s recently being ousted by what some called a too-little-too-late attempt to convert to the new age of cyber-shopping, it is clear that the perp isn’t shying away from the bigger fish. Maybe someone should start devising viruses to plague these faceless servers into closure, like the Luddites of the 18th Century — that would be an interesting novel.

It is interesting to note that earlier this year, however, Daddy’s founder said that the company had planned to only close a few of its locations (the ones that didn’t work in its brick and mortar business model) and keep the others open. It didn’t become clear that all stores would close, and under “sour” circumstances until, well, they did. Legal issues were cited as the cause for the complete closure and a default to the tune of about $3 million.

GE Capital, one of the financers of the company, took possession of the stores remaining inventory — and its 52 full-time workers and 14-part-timers bit the dust. Some customers who had instruments under repair at one of the stores didn’t even have a chance to retrieve them. Likewise, those with goods on layaway or with an item on order, have been scrambling to figure out the next step in gaining some compensation (answers remain scarce).

I guess in the bigger scheme, it’s another fallen soldier to the merciless Maple Tree Place, where stores come and go with the seasons. What happened to that wine store, anyway? I mean, if Ben and Jerry’s wasn’t turning a profit there, I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. We’ll see what’s to come in the future with the brick-and-mortar — hopefully, something with some stability.

Neel Tanden is a lifelong Williston resident who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2010.


Little Details

Elegy to Andy … and his teacher

Nov. 17, 2011

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

“When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who told me I was a good writer, so I set out to become a writer myself.”

Andy Rooney shared this insight in his 1,097th and final essay for the news program, “60 Minutes,” broadcast for Oct. 2, 2011. I watched it online, not realizing Rooney had so little time left in the newsroom of life. He passed away Nov. 4 at age 92.

My husband and I gave up television in 1994. Cable and satellite, with their gazillion stations, held no particular attraction. The explosion in programming, in our view, provided overwhelming quantity that seemed to erode overall quality. Commercial frequency increased, making even well written storylines harder to follow with interruptions every 12 (or is it nine?) minutes.

I knew I’d miss one television show: “60 Minutes.” Can you hear the tick, tick, and tick?  I’d especially miss weekly doses of, “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney.” I watched him dutifully for years. Something about his writing and nasally, Albany-accented voice resonated.

“60 Minutes” first appeared in 1968 when I was 3-years-old. The news program taught me about the war in Vietnam, thalidomide babies and homosexuality. A 1989 segment on Alar temporarily altered my relationship — and perhaps that of many Americans — with apples (the Environmental Protection Agency has since banned Alar use on food crops.).

I remember sitting on the floor beside my father on Sunday evenings watching “60 Minutes” together, his hand resting atop my head. Despite limited formal education, dad possessed an inherent interest in history and politics. He followed the news, with a little help from Walter Cronkite and the crew at “60 Minutes.”

Even as a little kid, I remember enjoying Rooney’s essays. His funny, leprechaun-like appearance, with bushy eyebrows caught my eye. His stories — about war, the economy and quirky consumer trends — captured my youthful attention.

Rooney was cantankerous and sometimes snide. He managed to sum up the frustrations of the everyman, the workaday person just trying to get ahead…or simply stay afloat. He did it with sharp wit and humor. I didn’t always agree. However, I respected his mastery of getting his point across, however blunt.

Perhaps Rooney’s most significant message is the one conveyed in his final essay: a teacher told him he was good at something. External affirmation fueled what would become his life’s work, that of a writer.

I am reminded how very important is it for each of us to dig deeply to find those things we are good at. All too often, our weaknesses stare us in the face in the morning mirror. I can list only too well the things I am utterly lousy at:  math, computers, skiing, fashion, interior decorating and small talk at cocktail parties.

As we bumble our way through life, we owe certain indebtedness to those who see a glimmer of talent in us and actually identify it — sometimes pointing out what we ourselves have been unable to see.

Several years ago, I took a writing class just for fun. I wrote an essay about teaching Allen Brook School students about spiders as an ELF (now Four Winds) volunteer. To my surprise, the instructor encouraged me to submit the homework assignment for publication. Emboldened, I sent it off to the Williston Observer as a proposed guest column.

The then-editor called me up and asked, “Are you a writer?”

Surprised by the question, I answered, “No, actually, I’m a mom.”

The editor told me I was a good writer. No one ever said that to me before. I’ve since learned that I can be a writer and a mom.

I don’t aspire to Rooney’s stature and fame. I aspire to pass on the gifts of acknowledgment given to me.

My invitation to you — when you recognize that sparkle of potential in someone, point it out. You just might do for someone what Andy Rooney’s teacher did for him.

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


PHOTOS: CVU boys soccer in state championship game I

Observer photos by Trey Peiffer

The Champlain Valley Union boys soccer team lost in the Division I state championship game to South Burlington, 1-0, on Nov. 5.

PHOTOS: CVU boys soccer in state championship game II

Observer photos by Glenn Fay Jr.

The Champlain Valley Union boys soccer team lost in the Division I state championship game to South Burlington, 1-0, on Nov. 5.


PHOTOS: CVU girls soccer in state championship game I

Observer photos by Shane Bufano (

The Champlain Valley Union girls soccer team won the Division I state title with a 4-0 victory over South Burlington on Nov. 5.

PHOTOS: CVU girls soccer in state championship game II

Observer photos by Glenn Fay Jr.

The Champlain Valley Union girls soccer team won the Division I state title with a 4-0 victory over South Burlington on Nov. 5.

Hawk harrier girls seeking another N.E. title

Nov. 10, 2011

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With their eighth Vermont Division I title in the past nine years in their 2011 bag of triumphs, coach Scott Bliss and his Champlain Valley Union cross country girls have their sights set this weekend on a second straight New England crown.

The event takes place Saturday in North Scituate, R.I., approximately 10 miles west of Providence.

“We are probably the favorites going in,” Bliss said Monday at the team’s practice session at the CVU track. He said the Redhawks are ranked second in the northeast and in the top 30 nationwide.

A victory Saturday could result in a return to the Nike Nationals in which CVU participated last year.

“We are definitely ready,” said senior runner Adrienne DeVita. “We are stronger than last year.”

The Redhawks won the Vermont crown two weeks ago with a show of great depth, capturing seven of the top 11 positions. Bliss said the 25 points posted by his team was one of the lowest scores ever.

“If we all run as we can, we will do well,” said junior Taylor Spillane, the Redhawks’ top runner.

Spillane, D-I individual champ Markie Palermo of Essex and D-III titleholder Elle Purrier of Richford are expected to contest for top honors over the flat 5-kilometer course.

Bliss said all three runners have exceeded the R.I. course record time of 18 minutes and 15 seconds on a similar layout in Vermont.