July 20, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Legislative page program

Attention eighth grade students. Are you interested in history, law, politics and meeting new people? Consider applying to be a legislative page. This is a six-week opportunity to get to know legislators and other pages, follow legislation and perform a service for the State of Vermont. You also get paid while doing it! Applications are due to be filed with the Sergeant-at-Arms by Oct. 1. For more information and letters of reference, contact Rep. Terry Macaig at macaig@msn.com or Rep. Jim McCullough at jim_mccullough@myfairpoint.net.

Representatives Jim McCullough and Terry Macaig

Williston’s wildlife

I am not sure if the photos of the family of beavers in the Aug. 20 issue of the Observer were posted to show how cute and industrious nature’s engineers are or an obituary for this family.

From water control structures to exclusionary devices, there are many effective, sustainable and non-lethal solutions that can be used to address damage caused by beaver activity. As with any animal, killing a few will not solve the root of the problem, as another family of beavers will most likely fill the void left by this family’s death.

Compassionate conservation solutions should always be our first option. Beaver activities stabilize stream banks, control sedimentation and provide other ecological benefits to the public at large. Beavers, like most of our wildlife, are an important part of our ecosystem, and we can protect them while protecting our human habitats, too.

I am asking the Town of Williston to contact me if they would like to discuss more humane ways to deal with Williston’s wildlife.  Surely there is room in our town for everyone to live safely.  Learning how to humanely cohabitate with our wild neighbors is not only in the animals’ best interest, but ours as well.

Patricia Monteferrante-Koolen
Protect Our Wildlife Vermont

Editor’s Note: According to Public Works Director Bruce Hoar, preventative measures are used whenever possible, but when beaver activity threatened public infrastructure—such as the bridge over the Allen Brook and nearby pump station on North Williston Road—a licensed trapper was called. It is against state law to relocate beavers, and a trapper is only called as a last recourse, Hoar said.

A Q&A with new CVU principal Adam Bunting

By members of the
CVU School Board

This year, Champlain Valley Union High is excited to welcome Adam Bunting to the position of principal. A Shelburne native, Bunting graduated from CVU in 1994, and is a graduate of Connecticut College and Harvard University where he majored in English and School Leadership, respectively.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How will it inform your decision-making at CVU?

When I was in fifth grade, my mother had the idea that it would be healthy for her two sons—recently transplanted from Washington D.C. to Vermont—to attend a camp called Flying Cloud. No electricity. No running water. No candy. Moccasins optional. Needless to say, it took time to warm up to what sounded more like a punishment than a summer camp. Twenty-eight years later, I point to that camp as one of the foundational experiences of my life. In Flying Cloud I discovered the feeling of community. I felt what it meant to contribute, to be one part of a larger whole, to be valued—not for my sameness—but for my individual strengths. My work as a principal and as a teacher were born from a question that began to articulate itself in my mind that summer: how do we create communities that honor difference but move in the common rhythm of shared values?

Decision-making in the context of discovering, building and sharing values is one of the most fun (and complex) parts of the job of being a principal. To make value-based decisions forces us to actively listen, try on new perspectives, contemplate beliefs, and remember the ideals that drive our community. When done right, the process becomes as important as the outcome and the larger community feels a sense of ownership of the work.

Q: Regarding your most recent work as principal at Montpelier High School, what are you most proud of? Is there anything from that experience that you would like to bring to CVU?

We did a lot at MHS in a short period of time. We developed graduation standards, created flexible pathways, moved to block scheduling, implemented recess, explored standards-based learning, cleaned up the school and played mucho kickball. I would love to see the CVU community embrace a more nimble and flexible culture. We know that our brains learn best when we manage a balance between focused and playful. I would like to see us maintain that balance here.

Q: What are your priorities for the coming school year?

At the beginning of the summer, I asked our faculty, staff, and administrators to speak to what they valued most about CVU. One clear theme emerged in almost every discussion: the power of relationships. To maximize learning and teaching, we need to trust and to know one another well. The teacher must know a student’s strengths, interests, challenges, personality, learning profiles, etc. A student must know that they are safe, guided purposefully, cared for, valued, etc. The heart of the initiatives we embrace this year will be to improve our ability to accomplish the above.

Q: What do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities that are unique or particularly important to the CVU community?

As with any community, our defining characteristic tends to be both our strength and challenge. CVU has long been associated with a culture of excellence. The upside of this culture is that we have high expectations for all of our students. Students feel valued and rise to these expectations as a result. The downside to this culture only became apparent to me when I became a principal at MHS. I have a vivid memory of watching the school play and noticing that the cast consisted of soccer players, cross country runners and young women from the field hockey team. The students were encouraged to take risks and involve themselves across a breadth of activities. At CVU, students tend to specialize more and to pursue depth in one area. I worry that our culture of excellence can conflict with a culture of healthy risk taking.

Q: CVU’s influence goes beyond those who have daily contact with the school. What message would you like to send out to all residents of the sending towns?

Schools can’t function in isolation of the larger community. Our work—mine and yours—is to develop our future neighbors (and our future workforce). Let us know if you have opportunities for our students to explore.

The CVU School Board Communications Committee includes Lia Cravedi (lcravedi@uvm.edu), Susan Grasso (malbec@comcast.net) and Kim Schmitt (kschmitt@cssu.org).

Fitzgerald named ‘Early Childhood Superhero’

Kathleen Fitzgerald

Kathleen Fitzgerald

Observer staff report

Let’s Grow Kids recently announced that Williston resident Kathleen Fitzgerald is among the inaugural group of five Vermonters to be recognized as Early Childhood Superheroes for “going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential,” according to a press release from the organization.

The selection of Early Childhood Superheroes followed a statewide call for nominations of unsung heroes among educators, child care professionals, parents, grandparents, volunteers, business people, policymakers, civic leaders and clergy. From the nominations, Let’s Grow Kids staff selected five Vermonters from various regions of the state who have demonstrated a commitment to the success of Vermont’s youngest children.

An autism interventionist through Children’s Integrated Services-Early Intervention at Vermont Family Network in Williston, Fitzgerald works with children from birth to age three with autism spectrum disorders. She helps support children to become lifelong, engaged learners. She also works with caregivers and childcare centers to help professionals understand autism so that they can help children achieve their full potential.

The other inaugural Early Childhood Superheroes include Dr. Jody Brakeley of Middlebury, Matthew LeFluer of Alburgh, Samantha Maskell and Monica Stowell.

To nominate an Early Childhood Superhero, visit www.letsgrowkids.org/nominate-superhero

Williston student spreads love of books

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate Jocelyn Kaplan, 10, unloads a box of books to bring to the Williston Community Food Shelf on Monday. She has been collecting books to donate for an initiative she started called ‘Nourish the Love of Reading.’

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate
Jocelyn Kaplan, 10, unloads a box of books to bring to the Williston Community Food Shelf on Monday. She has been collecting books to donate for an initiative she started called ‘Nourish the Love of Reading.’

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Ten-year-old Jocelyn Kaplan is a bookworm.

“It’s fun to discover cool adventures inside books,” she said. “I love reading. It’s kind of weird to imagine a life without books.”

So when she realized that not all of her peers have the same access to books at home, she decided to take action.

A background question on a standardized test last year got her thinking.

“There was a question about how many books you have at home, and one of the options was 3-5 books,” she said. “I was depressed to learn some people only have 3-5 books in their house.”

So, she decided to start collecting books and delivering them to the Williston Community Food Shelf for customers to take.

She titled the initiative “Nourish the Love of Reading.”

“You can get books at the library, but it’s different than having your own books to keep,” she said.

Since the winter, she has collected approximately 350 books, and hopes to double that amount. Jocelyn pulled books from her own library to donate and asked her classmates to bring in books. The class also selected books from the classroom library to donate. She also gleaned books left over from friends’ yard sales.

Now, she hopes to get more people involved. Jocelyn placed a box at the entrance of Williston Central School for book donations, and residents can also drop books at the Kaplan home. To bring books, email jillian2u@comcast.net.

“I think it’s important that everyone have books,” she said. “You can make someone’s day when they have something new, and it’s so simple.”

Water quality efforts at Lake Iroquois get boost

In a related project, Vermont Fish and Wildlife crews are replacing the boat ramp at Lake Iroquois this week. On Monday, teams will start a pilot project at the access to mitigate erosion.

In a related project, Vermont Fish and Wildlife crews are replacing the boat ramp at Lake Iroquois this week. On Monday, teams will start a pilot project at the access to mitigate erosion.

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Lake Iroquois is the site of a pilot project the state hopes can help public and private landowners combat erosion and improve water quality with minimal cost and disruption.

On Monday, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Vermont Department of Conservation and Lake Iroquois Association staff and volunteers will head to the public boat access point at the lake for the one-day project staff hopes will mitigate erosion.

“We’re working together to come up with a method that hopefully will be workable at other sites. Not just Fish and Wildlife access areas, but camps,” said Mike Wichrowski, land facilities administrator for the Fish and Wildlife Department. “We hope this can be another tool for the state and lakefront property owners to use for improving water quality and fish and wildlife habitat and improving and protecting our waterfront.”

Similar to some lakefront homes, the access point is right on the edge of the water, and is a stretch of primarily grass and sod. The department stopped mowing the area five years ago, but Wichrowski said stabilizing shrubs haven’t moved in quickly enough.

“I’ve been here about eight years and I’ve seen the shoreline to the south of the ramp erode at least 10 to 12 feet, if not more,” he said. “We’re losing more than a foot of shoreline every year it seems like, mostly due to a lack of vegetation around the shoreline.”

On Monday, workers will grade and remove four or five feet of sod, then put “coir fiber” logs along the waterline. The logs are made of coconut fiber tightly wound into 12-inch-diameter logs. Natural round stones will go in the water next to the logs, preventing waves and ice from eroding the soil.

A biodegradable erosion mat will be put down over the exposed soil, and vegetation will be planted in holes cut into the mat.

The method avoids using large rocks and riprap, which is less appealing to look at and less effective, Wichrowski said.

“It’s a much more natural look and ideally in a few years you don’t see anything except for a vegetated shore line. That’s really the goal of the project,” Wichrowski said. “We’ve not done this sort of work in the past… It’s relatively inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing.”

Wichrowski estimated that the project materials and equipment cost approximately $1,500—plus the sweat equity of a crew of staff and volunteers.

Dan Sharpe, president of the conservation group Lake Iroquois Association, said he hopes the project can help change the attitude of a perfect camp having a golf-course-like lawn sloping to the waters edge.

“One of the big issues that we’re learning…for people who have camps on the lake is that building buffers of vegetation and native plants around the shore is a good thing for water quality.”

He hopes the project can serve as an example.

“For us, it’s a demonstration to camp owners and other property owners on the lake to learn how to build these buffers,” Sharpe said. “The hope is maybe over time we learn to be better stewards of the lake.”

Williston, CVU pleased with new exam scores

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

As students return to the classroom for the start of a new school year, administrators are delving into the first results from the state’s new standardized tests.

All Vermont students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced Assessment exams—a computer-delivered test intended to be interactive and tailored to each student—for the first time in the spring. Williston students took a pilot exam in 2013.

The state released exam results Monday.

The tests are adaptive, meaning each student begins with a question that is in the middle of student ability level for that grade. If the student answers correctly, the next question is harder. If they answer incorrectly, the following question is easier.

Williston students surpassed state scores in reading, but were more in line with their peers across Vermont in math proficiency. Champlain Valley Union High juniors were well above state levels.

Jeff Evans, director of learning and innovation for Chittenden South Supervisory Union, said he was pleased with the results overall.

“We were told repeatedly that this was a more rigorous assessment and to anticipate a significant drop in scores from earlier standardized assessments,” Evans said. “When you look at projections nationally, we scored significantly higher than projections and also scored pretty high compared to other schools in the state. From those angles, we’re pretty happy. Right now it’s pretty early in terms of how to use the data and what to glean from it.”

Vermont is one of 31 states involved in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of states working to establish a new assessment system based on Common Core academic standards. The new assessments replaced the New England Common Assessment Program, known as NECAPs, in the 2014-2015 school year.

According to the state, scores were higher than projected, but students continue to struggle with math proficiency.

“The scores were better than we had expected,” Michael Hock, director of educational assessment at the Agency of Education, said.

Hock said that the SBAC had conducted a projection of Vermont’s possible scores based on past scores with the NECAP and other tests, but Vermont students had surpassed the projected scores.

In sixth and 11th grade, 37 percent of students statewide scored “proficient” or higher. Fifty-two percent of third graders met the standard. In English Language Arts, between 51 and 58 percent of students received scores that were proficient or higher.

As this was the first time that the SBAC was given to Vermont students, AOE Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said in a press release the results should not be compared to those from the NECAP or other standardized tests.

“As with any change, there will be a period of adjustment, as teachers and students get used to the new standards and tests,” the press release states. “Parents may notice that fewer students scored as proficient on the Smarter Balanced test than did on the NECAP tests.  This does not mean our students now know less, nor does it mean that our schools—both public and independent—are doing worse.  It simply means the test is a more challenging test, and the Smarter Balanced Consortium deliberately set a proficiency threshold that it knew most students would not meet.”


More Williston students scored proficient or higher than students statewide, but in many cases—though not all—trailed behind students in Charlotte, Shelburne and Hinesburg. Williston is the largest of the districts in the Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

“It was really great to see how well the (supervisory union) did, as compared to the state,” Williston School District Principal Greg Marino said. “Williston didn’t do as well on math and (English Language Arts) as some of the other K-8 districts, and we want to dig deeper into that.”

Marino said he plans to analyze results more thoroughly in the coming weeks and months.

“The questions are linked to Common Core standards. What standards are students strongest in, and what questions linked to which standards were the most challenging for Williston students?” Marino said. “We will dig in and look at the programmatic implications of that. What can we do to make sure students are more solid on those standards?”


CVU easily surpassed state levels, but some achievement gaps remain.

“Given CVU’s performance on other standardized tests I’ve seen and knowing what I know about the school, I’m not surprised to see how well our students performed,” CVU Principal Adam Bunting said. “Clearly there’s work to be done, as there always is. First and foremost, I want to take a moment to celebrate the hard work of our students and the faculty.

Evans said that as the former CVU principal, he was especially pleased to see that 81 percent of students scored proficient or higher on the reading portion of the exam, but that 50 percent scored proficient with distinction.

“That’s half our kids reading at a really high level,” he said.

On the math portion, 60 percent of students reached the proficient level.

Bunting said the next step is to sit down and analyze the data—not just administrators, but educators and faculty members and, when possible, students.

“We like to approach that with the idea of it being a team, not just administration,” he said.

The test results can be used to inform the education system as a whole, but can also focus on individuals and classes to figure out how to help students, Bunting said.

He noted that, like any test, the exams are a one-time assessment, and results should be taken with a grain of salt.

“The intent is to offer a mirror for how we’re progressing on our national and state standards, but it also helps provide a mirror on our own locally assessed standards,” he said.

Evans said supervisory union staff will also look for trends.

“These are standards-based assessments, so we’ll work on finding the trends within the standards to see which standards we’re particularly strong at and which ones need some focus,” he said. “It can help us develop moving forward as a system, and we take that same approach to the individual—how to prescribe learning paths for students to make sure they all are successful.”

—Sarah Olsen of Vermont Digger contributed to this report.

POPCORN: “Ricki and the Flash” No Flash in the Pan


3 popcorns

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


Seeing Meryl Streep dissolve into rock musician Ricki Rendazzo in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash,” it occurred to me how lucky I am. The simple facts of chronology precluded me from seeing baseball players like Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb ply their craft. But in that fickle, sometimes great equalizer of fate, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the Great Streep’s career, right from the beginning. A few films in, I actually disliked her in “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) because she gave my man Dustin the gate. I have since forgiven her.


Fast forward a few decades and you can’t help taking her for granted. She’s always going to be good. More likely the question is, will she score yet another best actress nomination? She already has 19. That’s seven more than Katharine Hepburn (who has one more win—4) and nine more than Bette Davis, esteemed colleagues in that pantheon of which she’s now a full-fledged member.


Such accomplishment comes with a challenge. Each succeeding performance is an in event unto itself, which can easily upstage the drama encompassing it. But the greats have a way of ameliorating that, employing some sort of secret thespic supercharger to direct our focus. Therefore yes, we know that’s Ms. Streep up there on the silver screen, larger than life. Still, as the reels roll, we’re certain that she’s also Ricki, the struggling singer who gave it all up for her music.


So of course, as the captivating lead singer of the title rock group that is a regular attraction at the Salt Well, a San Fernando Valley saloon, the actress also convincingly plays rhythm guitar. The train of big money stardom pulled out of the station some years ago. But having never given up their allegiance to the god of Rock ‘n’ Roll, like countless other, ‘should-a-been-famous’ bar bands around the globe, these grass roots altruists play the oldies and throw in a couple new ones, just to prove they can. They have a small but devoted following.


Exploring this oft-overlooked bit of sociology, director Demme, working from a script by Diablo Cody, attaches a rather traditional tale about the family Ricki Rendazzo, a.k.a. Linda Brummel, forsook in service of her muse. Expect the usual fallout, recriminations, awkward moments and tender epiphanies when, informed that her recently betrayed daughter has gone off the deep end, Ricki flies back to her prior world to stop the bleeding and mend fences.


There, literally back home in Indiana, she is greeted by her former hubby, Pete, who sent out the S.O.S. A nice guy played by Kevin Kline, his workaholic ways have bought him a McMansion in a gated community. Although remarried, his wife (Audra McDonald) is off visiting her sick dad in another state. Hmm? Oh, it’s OK. It’s even OK, in a soap opera sort of way, that Ricki, a supermarket cashier when she’s not rocking and rolling, has no money to stay in a hotel. Hmm?


Before long, we meet the immediate victims of Ricki’s mortal sin, gathered to vociferously impress that there is no statute of limitations for deserting one’s family, with the two-timed daughter, Julie, played by Streep’s real-life offspring, Mamie Gummer, leading the tirade. While it’s too early to say whether or not Miss Gummer is a chip off the old icon, her frighteningly unkempt martyr assures us that Hell still hath no fury like a woman scorned. Adding their own vitriol to the fire are twin brothers Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate).


The subsequent train wreck and rather predictable upshot veers to the clichéd side of things. But again, at the risk of seeming très ad nauseam, and using an adverb as an adjective, it requires noting that Miss Streep utilizes the dysfunctional typicalness as a telling contrast to how far from the fold the housewife turned rocker has drifted. In a poignant monologue from the stage, a bit in her cups, Ricki notes how it’s funny that Mick (Jagger), who has seven children by four women, is “still the man.” Yet she, who gave up hearth and home for her passion, is deemed a monster.


Playing kindred spirit to her diva, real rocker Rick Springfield is decent as Greg, who’d like to be more than just Ricki’s lead guitarist. And Flash members Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale and Bernie Worrell, accomplished musicians all, create an authentic milieu as our gal’s loyal band of cohorts. But like the patrons of the story’s Salt Well, we’ve come to see Ricki, to once again be amazed, and left to wonder not what “Ricki and the Flash’s” blazing star can do, but rather, if there’s anything she can’t do?

“Ricki and the Flash,” rated PG-13, is a Sony Pictures release directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield and Mamie Gummer. Running time: 101 minutes







PHOTOS: Second-Line Procession

Observer courtesy photos by Tia Rooney

Despite some rain on Saturday, Susie and Paul Dickins held a Second Line procession—a tradition in Susie Dickins’ hometown of New Orleans—along Williston Road from the Old Brick Church, where the ceremony was held, to the intersection with North Williston Road, where the couple live.


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PHOTOS: CVU softball camp

Observer photos by Al Frey

Organizer Hattie Roberts of Williston held a softball clinic last week, teaching skills to eight local girls, with help from 15 Champlain Valley Union High players and local parents.

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PHOTOS: Wyman Bat Girls

Observer courtesy photos

The pair was chosen to be Honorary Bat Girls during Vermont Day, held Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston. They sat in the dugout after putting helmets out for the team, met official bat girl Lynn Herman and members of the team.



Williston twins, Kate and Kenzie Wyman, 8, pose with Red Sox left fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. on Sunday.