Letters to the Editor1/8/09

Jan. 8, 2009

School budget discussions

We would like to invite Williston community members to give final input on the 2009-2010 school budget at the Jan. 8 meeting at 6 p.m. at Williston Central School.

We are grateful to community members and budget buddies who have given us input as we make difficult decisions on how to cut $325,000 off our current expenditures to stay within the threshold of increase defined by our Vermont legislators under Act 82. At this meeting, we will finalize budget decisions that will impact our educational programs and facilities for the upcoming school year. We value your input and support as we strive to continue to offer a quality education program during such challenging economic times.

Budget meetings will also be held at Williston Central School on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m., followed by a regular School Board meeting at 7:30 p.m., and on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m.

Darlene Worth, Holly Rouelle, Deb Baker-Moody, Laura Gigliotti, Keith Roy

Williston School Board

Religion and history (and science)

Kayla Purvis, in the Dec. 24 issue (“Visions of Youth”), nicely presented arguments for not teaching “religion itself” in schools, while highlighting the importance of not excluding material about historically important religious figures.

She recognizes that there is unfairness in teaching any one form of religious belief without teaching all. She seems to recognize also that a belief is not the same thing as a fact, when she points out that “every form of belief is the same in one way: they’re a belief,” with which “some will agree … and some will disagree.”

I wish, though, that she had also recognized that evolution is not a “belief” in the same sense as religious belief. The difference is pointed out with irony in the logo on one of my t-shirts that reads, “Evolution is just a theory, like, umm, gravity.”

We have no difficulty accepting gravity. The evidence for it is overwhelming, although physicists have yet to provide a complete explanation of it. The evidence for evolution is also overwhelming, though Darwin’s original theory has been modified and questions remain about certain mechanisms. However, the differences among biologists about details of the evolutionary process do not include any doubt that all life forms are subject to it.

There is no legitimate argument for teaching evolution in our schools as anything other than fact. But let’s understand what a “fact” is, to scientists: Namely, an observation which has been confirmed repeatedly and is accepted as true — though its truth is never final. This is where belief in religious ideas and belief in evolution differ. Scientific “belief” thrives on the discovery of its own mistakes; religious belief thrives on the certainty that it represents immutable truth. Scientific inquiry welcomes different viewpoints; religious belief prefers their avoidance. Hence, the problem that Kayla Purvis has addressed.

Spencer Wright

Williston

Dance to support the CVU auditorium

Recent articles in the Observer have described the Champlain Valley Union High School Board’s continued efforts to develop a construction and financing plan for the CVU auditorium renovations. The project remains a priority, for educational and safety reasons.

In no other classroom in the CVU building are faculty and students asked to use run-down, out-of-date, mismatched technology in a facility that barely meets or is grandfathered from current fire and safety code requirements. Watching them work is like watching biology students use magnifying glasses when they need microscopes, or metalwork students welding without safety goggles.

As a result of these deficits, there are, truly, only a handful of faculty, staff and students who can operate the systems in the auditorium at all and work safely in doing so. For the rest of the CVU community, the auditorium is largely a wasted educational resource. The CVU auditorium should, instead, be the core — the very center — of educational opportunities and program needs in media production, technology and performance across the CVU curriculum and the Chittenden South Supervisory Union District as a whole.

Financial support for this project from the broader community remains a reality at this point, and there are many ways to help out, especially with the “Dance Marathon” this coming Feb. 7-8. The CVU Student Council is hosting this fundraiser for the auditorium, with junior Sasha Gunther of Shelburne and CVU alumnus Erin Evarts of Hinesburg leading the charge.

Want to dance? Community members ages 12 to 112 (and older!) are invited to join in to raise money toward the auditorium rehabilitation. Organize a team and join the fun!

Want to volunteer? Please contact any one of us, or a CVU board member, to sign up.

Participation information and registration forms for the Dance Marathon are currently available on the CVU Web site, www.cvuhs.org (click on “Auditorium Project”).

Dance Marathon Community Volunteers

Debbie Light, Hinesburg,

Annamarie Cioffari, Hinesburg

Sandy Lewis, Williston

Patty Whitney, Hinesburg

Joyce Wallace, Charlotte

Erin Evarts, Katie Palmer

Sandy Steingard, Charlotte

Lori Smith, Shelburne

Sarah Gentry Tischler, St. George