May 23, 2015

Firewood awareness week: buy local, burn local


By Steven J. Sinclai

The locavore movement in Vermont is strong, whether vegetables, meat, craft beer or goods and services. I am here to promote the same approach in the purchase and burning of firewood.
Why is this important? Transported firewood is a major vehicle of invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer (EAB) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). These pests are a grave threat to our forests. Over half of Vermont’s trees are potential hosts of these invasives and our state tree, the sugar maple, is no exception. Slowing the spread of invasive pests affords us the time to study additional options for tree pest management while still maintaining and providing the variety of goods and services to the public that come from our forests and trees. [Read more...]

Academic Honors


Bushey-Hansen honored
St. Lawrence University student Aaron M. Bushey-Hansen of Williston was recently elected to Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society.

Kohlasch receives award
Kaelyn L. Kohlasch of Williston was recently presented with St. Lawrence University’s Presidential Diversity Scholar Awards, which was established to increase student diversity by facilitating the enrollment of students of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic American [Read more...]

Education experts take the new standardized test


By Amy Ash Nixon
For Vermont Digger

A group of adults went back to school recently to take a standardized test required of Vermont students starting this year.
Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, chair of the House Education Committee, was one of four who took the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium online test at Montpelier High School.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a new state test which replaces the NECAP — New England Common Assessment Program test. An increasing number of colleges are now using the SBAC as part of their admission reviews.
It was an exercise that Sharpe, a retired teacher who has been at the helm of education governance reform this session, was the last to finish.
“While the test appears to be good with regard to evaluating the skills a student needs to have in order to be successful in college, I’m not sure how well it measures potential success in life,” Sharpe said. “At least on my version of the test, there were no questions on credit cards, checking accounts, car or mortgage financing, the function of retirement accounts, or understanding the stock market.”
Also taking the test were Scott Giles, president and CEO of the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., Ric Reardon, director of education at Castleton State College, and a VTDigger reporter.

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Special Olympics ‘Summer Games’ coming to Williston


By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

In late May, dozens of athletes will flood the Williston Community Park fields for the 2015 Special Olympics Vermont Summer Games.
The games will be held May 29-31 on the Williston fields, as well as University of Vermont’s athletic complex. [Read more...]

Running for education May 16


Observer staff report

The third Annual WillistonRuns! for Education 5K & Kids Fun Run is set for Saturday, May 16 at the Williston Central School. Inspired by the memory of Stephen Mount, a former chair of the Families As Partners (FAP) parent/teacher organization and a lifelong athlete, Williston Runs started as a small memorial 5K fun run and has since evolved and grown into a much larger community event and important fundraiser for Allen Brook and Williston Central schools. [Read more...]

All Shook Up Variety Show returns to Williston

R&B artist Jamell Rogers

R&B artist Jamell Rogers

Annual community-driven concert May 16 at Williston Central School
By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

The All Shook Up Variety Show, named in honor and memory of Williston resident Joe Shook, is moving back to the community Shook loved.
The event will be held at Williston Central School this year.
“Joe was so connected with his community,” said Joe’s mother, Liz Jordan-Shook. “He had a wonderful experience at Williston Central and we just wanted to bring the event back. Joe loved the (Williston Central) theater and drama. It’s just really going to be special to have it in our community.” [Read more...]

Town eliminates two-tiered stormwater fee system


Holds off on new zoning district

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard worked out some of the kinks in the town’s new stormwater fee system.
Last week, the board opted to eliminate its two-tiered system used to assess the fee.
All single-family homes in town will now be charged $51 a year for one Equivalent Residential Unit, or ERU, based on the average amount of impervious surface on Williston residential properties. Formerly, the residential properties with the largest amounts of impervious surface—those in the top 10 percentile of parcels in Williston—were billed for two ERUs, $102 annually. [Read more...]

Jiggety Jog raises $52k for Vermont Respite House


The Vermont Respite House 5k Fun Run and Jiggety Jog on Saturday raised more than $52,000 for Vermont’s only hospice home. Support came from individual fundraising, team fundraising and sponsor contributions.
The sun was shining brightly when nearly 200 runners, walkers, bikers, hula hoopers and dog walkers took off from Allen Brook School in Williston and headed down the bike path. Every dollar raised at the event will allow Vermont Respite House to continue to care for residents who receive hospice care at the House, but are unable to pay full fee for room and board. Last year, the Respite House served 214 people with terminal illness, providing them a home-away-from-home to live out their remaining days with dignity, surrounded by family and friends. [Read more...]

Vermont schools over-reliant on paraprofessionals


By Amy Ash Nixon
For Vermont Digger

A study for the Vermont Legislature found that most school administrators want to reduce the number of paraprofessionals that provide special education services.
The study shows that Vermont schools use paraprofessional educators extensively in special education programs.
The study was commissioned for the Legislature by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. Researchers recently shared the study’s findings with the House and Senate Education committees.
Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said working to bring the number of paraprofessionals down could be part of the state’s push toward lowering staff-to-student ratios in Vermont and capturing personnel savings.
Cummings said the increase in the use of paraprofessionals is “one of the major cost drivers” in school spending.

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POPCORN: “Ex Machina” It’s Alive! It’s Alive! Maybe

Popcorn - 3.5

3.5 popcorns

“Ex Machina”

It’s Alive! It’s Alive! Maybe

3 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


It was in a diner late at night in a time long, long ago, after the bars had closed, when, opining about current events and the perceived circumstances of my reality, a waitress pressed her hands onto the counter, peered deep into my eyes and asked, “Who’s to say what’s real?” Oddly, while he was doubtfully privy to said event, writer-director Alex Garland nonetheless expounds on the waitress’ provocative query in “Ex Machina,” his hypothetically enticing foray into artificial intelligence. It’s the best science fiction to come down the cinema pike in a robot’s age. [Read more...]