Lamoille in the News


  • Payment request denied No extra checks for former superintendent    By Andrew Martin | News & Citizen    No work, no pay.    That was the takeaway Monday night when the Lamoille North Supervisory Union voted not to compensate former superintendent Edith Beatty for the remainder of her contract. Instead the board will only pay her for work up until her resignation on April 10.     Before her resignation Beatty informed the board she expected to be compensated through the remainder of her contract, which expired on June 30. In February the board had voted not to extend Beatty’s contract, despite a subcommittee recommending they do so.     Beatty resigned, citing a breach of contractual obligations by the board and a hostile work environment. She claims the board breached ...
    Posted Apr 28, 2016, 8:10 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Bumping into April wildlife Emerging animals give humans pause    By Kayla Friedrich | News & Citizen    April is one of the best times of year to see and hear wildlife in Vermont, with the waterfowl returning, spring peepers chirping in the ponds at night, and animals coming out of hibernation.     Unfortunately, those animals can spur conflicts with humans, as they are frequently out during the day looking for food.    “So we have a coyote problem,” Mary Collins — an Elmore resident — said on Facebook March 13. “Earlier this week, Don was spreading manure and saw a coyote out by our brush pile — far from the house, by the riding ring. This evening, the coyote was standing just beyond the manure pile, just yards from the barn and ...
    Posted Apr 28, 2016, 8:08 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Signs of the departed Businesses may go, but signs linger onBy Tommy Gardner | News & Citizen    When they close, business owners often literally leave behind signs of their departure.    The evidence is in the empty storefronts still displaying the names of their previous tenants.    In Morrisville, the Bee’s Knees logo is still affixed to the historic brick building that now houses a Thai restaurant.     In Stowe, the Sauce Italian Specialties sign is more noticeable than the “for lease” notice.    And the Green Top Market display is still up on the old country store that still says, “Morristown Corners 1812.”    Gary Bourne recently bought the building, which was simply known as The Corner Market when he was a kid. He’s not sure ...
    Posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:23 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • Cambridge center is shaping up     by Andrew Martin | News & Citizen     It’s not even open yet, and the Cambridge Community Center is already bringing people together.     Droves of volunteers and local business have helped to bring the center to the point where it is nearly ready to open.     “It’s been going wonderfully,” said Phil Rogers, the president of Cambridge 360, a nonprofit that’s been driving the push for the community center. It also operates a store that has funded some of the work.     “We’ve had a lot of local contractors and businesses step up lately to help us out,” he said. PHOTO BY ANDREW MARTIN Two volunteers wash the interior walls of the athletic facility inside the Cambridge Community Center last Saturday ...
    Posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:18 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • 4 of 6 towns OK school district merger     by Andrew Martin and Tommy Gardner  |  News & Citizen    Four of the six towns in the Lamoille North Supervisory Union voted Tuesday to form a single school district.     The dissenters were Cambridge, the largest of the six towns, and Waterville, one of the smallest.    Johnson, Hyde Park, Eden and Belvidere approved it — but because Cambridge and Waterville said no, the other four towns can’t qualify for an “accelerated merger” and the tax break that comes with it — 10 cents off the tax rate per $100 of property value for the first year after the merger. That’s $100 off the bill for a $100,000 house.    Instead, the four-town merger is considered conventional under Act 46, the state law ...
    Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:57 AM by Staff News & Citizen
  • No open doors: long road to recovery PART OF AN OCCASIONAL SERIES    By Kayla Friedrich | Stowe Reporter        Lamoille County doesn’t have many facilities to help the homeless or addicted, but it does have some success stories.    Many people think they know what a homeless or addicted  person looks like, but in truth there’s no stereotype. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, homelessness and addiction can happen to anyone — parents, military veterans, politicians, neighbors, doctors, the children of doctors.     Thirty people in Lamoille County were homeless in 2015, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county has minimal long-term housing options for homeless people, unless they fit a category — mentally ill, military veteran, victims of domestic ...
    Posted Apr 14, 2016, 6:51 AM by Staff News & Citizen
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Payment request denied

posted Apr 28, 2016, 8:10 AM by Staff News & Citizen

No extra checks for former superintendent


    By Andrew Martin | News & Citizen

    No work, no pay.
    That was the takeaway Monday night when the Lamoille North Supervisory Union voted not to compensate former superintendent Edith Beatty for the remainder of her contract. Instead the board will only pay her for work up until her resignation on April 10. 
    Before her resignation Beatty informed the board she expected to be compensated through the remainder of her contract, which expired on June 30. In February the board had voted not to extend Beatty’s contract, despite a subcommittee recommending they do so. 
    Beatty resigned, citing a breach of contractual obligations by the board and a hostile work environment. She claims the board breached her contract when it didn’t properly and legally notify her the contract was not being renewed. Beatty also felt certain board members had created an “untenable work environment” for herself and her staff. 
    In a March 25 letter Beatty informed the board that if she did not receive the compensation and vacation time owed to her through June 30 under her contract she would turn the matter over to her legal counsel to “seek appropriate redress and damages.”
    That threat of legal action didn’t seem to phase the board on Monday night, as they voted to adopt the recommendation of a special subcommittee to only “pay E. Beatty the $8,199.19 which will compensate her for her time and accrued vacation days up until April 10.” The motion to adopt the recommendation passed by voice vote. 
    Beatty will now be legally notified of the board’s decision. She was not available for comment at press time.

Act 46 questions abound
    The Lamoille North board’s decision regarding Beatty’s  compensation comes at a time when questions about Act 46 and the recent merger vote continue to swirl. 
    One of the most pressing questions is how the six towns of Lamoille North will be represented on different school boards. With Cambridge and Waterville saying no to a merger on April 12, supervisory union officials are now scrambling to find out how many school boards are necessary and just who will sit on those boards. 
    One question they know the answer to: how many school boards will exist if Cambridge and Waterville don’t reconsider the decision to merge? 
    “There will be four boards,” Marilyn Frederick, business manager for Lamoille North, said. If all six towns had voted yes to consolidation, then there would have only been one 18-member board for the entire district. 
    As it stands now, Cambridge and Waterville would each have their own separate elementary school boards, the new merged district of the four towns that said yes would have a board, and the Lamoille North Supervisory Union representing all six towns would continue to have a board. 
    Just who would be on those boards, specifically the merged board and Lamoille North board, is still up in the air. 
    “The merged board and Lamoille North board could be separate legal entities but have the same members,” Frederick said. 
    Much of the confusion stems from supervisory union officials receiving conflicting advice. The Agency of Education has been recommending one path forward with board membership while legal counsel has taken a different view. 
    “We’ve gotten a couple different opinions, and until we get the various agencies to agree we can’t say for sure what the makeup of the boards will be,” Frederick said. 
    “We are working on getting responses that are consistent,” Catherine Gallagher, interim superintendent, said. 
    Everyone thought the articles of agreement for the merger, which are supposed to govern a unified district, had already answered board makeup questions. How to deal with some towns saying no to the merger wasn’t part of the articles, though. 
    Everything could also change if Waterville or Cambridge hold a revote and say yes to a merger. 
    School officials know a petition for a revote is circulating in Waterville and have heard one was also taken out in Cambridge. A petition for a revote must take place within 30 days of the first vote. 
    The current Johnson school board is also waiting for definite answers before deciding how to fill one of its empty seats on the merged board. Johnson was supposed to have five seats on the unified board but only four candidates received enough votes to be elected. 
    In Belvidere, even though voters said yes to a merger, and Waterville said no, Belvidere students will continue to attend Waterville Central School for the near future. 
    Parents do have the option of petitioning the merged board to allow their students to go to a new school, according to Frederick.
    “Our articles of agreement indicate that for the first three years of a merger students will keep going to the school they go to now,” she said. 

Bumping into April wildlife

posted Apr 28, 2016, 8:08 AM by Staff News & Citizen

Emerging animals give humans pause

    By Kayla Friedrich | News & Citizen

    April is one of the best times of year to see and hear wildlife in Vermont, with the waterfowl returning, spring peepers chirping in the ponds at night, and animals coming out of hibernation. 
    Unfortunately, those animals can spur conflicts with humans, as they are frequently out during the day looking for food.
    “So we have a coyote problem,” Mary Collins — an Elmore resident — said on Facebook March 13. “Earlier this week, Don was spreading manure and saw a coyote out by our brush pile — far from the house, by the riding ring. This evening, the coyote was standing just beyond the manure pile, just yards from the barn and him. It was not frightened in the least. Does anyone have any ideas about what we should do? I’m concerned.”
    The coyote has since left Collins’ property of its own volition, but the incident incited a litany of responses from her friends and neighbors about what she should do. Shoot it? Leave it alone? Does it pose a threat to the animals, and could it be rabid?
    A few weeks later, residents of Waterbury posed similar questions about a wandering skunk that was seen on a number of properties during the day.
    Wild animals “live around us all the time; we just don’t see them,” said Eric Nuse, a retired game warden in Johnson. “It’s a hard thing, coming off of winter pretty hungry, and because they are hungry, they are often bolder than normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sick.”
    Foxes and skunks are the biggest rabies threats in Lamoille County, and Nuse recommends that people watch wild animals from a distance to determine whether they may be rabid. If they look suspicious, anyone can call the rabies hotline at 800-472-2437 to report the sighting. 
    The signs of rabies can differ depending on the animal. However, generally an animal with rabies will be unstable on its feet, may have paralysis in some of its limbs or its throat, and nocturnal animals may be more active during the day.
    Some daytime activity is normal in nocturnal animals, though, especially when they are feeding their young this time of year.
    Unprovoked aggression is usually seen in skunks, foxes, raccoons and dogs that have contracted rabies, while rabid bats usually exhibit unusual friendliness, and may be unable to fly. That can be dangerous for children, who are more apt to touch a wild animal than adults.
    If an animal is trapped for suspicion of rabies, the animal has to be killed, because the only way to diagnose rabies is to test the brain tissue in a lab. 
    “Before picking up the phone to call a trapper, think of ways to cohabitate with wildlife or convince them to move on on their own,” said Brenna Galdenzi, executive director of Protect our Wildlife, a Stowe nonprofit. “There haven’t been many cases of rabies in Lamoille County in the last few years, and there weren’t any reported in 2014 or 2015.”
    Over the last five years, Lamoille County has had 14 cases of confirmed rabies, nine of them in 2012. There were no cases reported in either 2014 or 2015, but two cases have been reported in the area so far this year. 
    A rabid big brown bat was trapped in Stowe just last week, April 14, and a rabid raccoon was picked up in Waterbury back in February. The majority of the rabid animals in Lamoille County have been raccoons and skunks.
    “If we get a call that an animal is acting strange,” said Bob Johnson, state public health veterinarian, “the decision is usually made to test the animal if it has been in contact with other animals or humans.”
    The Vermont rabies hotline is 1-800-4-RABIES, and information about positive rabies tests can be found at bit.ly/Rabiesdata.

Tips for living with wildlife
    Coyotes are one of the most maligned animals in Vermont, according to Galdenzi. There is an open season on coyotes in the state, and it’s not curtailed during breeding season. 
    Pups are generally born in late April or early May, remain in the den for two months, and follow their parents throughout the fall and winter to learn from them.
    Coyotes have adapted to live close to humans, and they sometimes do have conflicts, but people can do things to discourage coyote behavior.
    Some people opt for livestock guardian dogs — pastoral dogs bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators — or even guard llamas. Llamas are instinctively alert and will walk or run toward an intruder, and chase or kick it. Some llamas may also herd the animals they are guarding into a tight group or lead them away from danger.
    Electric fencing can also be a deterrent.
    Skunks don’t generally bother livestock, unless they get scared and spray, but there are also ways to curb their behavior.
    “Skunks come out in the spring, and they have their babies in April or May,” Galdenzi said. “So, you have to be careful when calling a trapper, because if trapped, the babies will not survive without the mother.”
    One way to deal with skunks on your property is to make their den unlivable. If people shine a bright light into the den during the night or play loud music, the skunks will likely move out on their own and find a new place to live. 
    Galdenzi had a skunk living under her deck, and her husband used those tactics to coax it to leave. After three to four days of lights aimed at the den, and a stereo playing on the deck, it was gone.
    “Protect our Wildlife will help people with those types of things,” she said. “A lot of animals are out at dawn or dusk right now — don’t be alarmed; they are foraging for food. People fear what they don’t understand, and a lot of it is embedded in not being knowledgeable.”

Bears and bird feeders
    Because animals are foraging for food more right now than any other time of year, Vermont law states that residents must take reasonable measures to protect their property from animals, especially bears, before lethal force can be taken. 
    Just recently, two bears got into the Dumpsters at Brewster River Pub in Jeffersonville and strewed garbage everywhere.
    “Bears can pose a threat,” Nuse said. “So, people should get food sources under cover, especially bird feeders. If you used to feed the birds, bears have a great memory, and will remember where feeders were in the past. Bears also love chicken food — they are not necessarily after the chickens.” 
    Bird feeders and Dumpsters are just two of the things that can attract hungry bears. Others are pet food, campsites with food left outside, and barbecue grills.
    People can protect themselves against bears by keeping chickens and honeybees secured inside electric fencing, storing trash in a secure place, and feeding pets indoors. 
    “Animals are the least wary of people this time of year, because they are hungry,” Nuse said. “It’s a good time of year to see wildlife; people just need to use common sense.”


This Week's Photos


FRESH TRACKS
PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

A driver with a sense for symmetry has created a bit of public art on Randolph Road in Morrisville, using car tires and an open road as the media.

Signs of the departed

posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:23 AM by Staff News & Citizen

Businesses may go, but signs linger on

By Tommy Gardner | News & Citizen

    When they close, business owners often literally leave behind signs of their departure.
    The evidence is in the empty storefronts still displaying the names of their previous tenants.
    In Morrisville, the Bee’s Knees logo is still affixed to the historic brick building that now houses a Thai restaurant. 
    In Stowe, the Sauce Italian Specialties sign is more noticeable than the “for lease” notice.
    And the Green Top Market display is still up on the old country store that still says, “Morristown Corners 1812.”
    Gary Bourne recently bought the building, which was simply known as The Corner Market when he was a kid. He’s not sure what’ll become of the sign, but he thinks its handsome, and he’s also something of an old sign collector. 
    Bourne still has the plywood “Buy Ice Here” sign that Morrisville man-about-town Rus-sell West made for him when Bourne was 15 years old and West’s “step n’ fetch kid.” 
    Part of the Bourne fuel family, he has accumulated lots of old oil company signs — Texacos and Essos. And he has the garish green and orange Aubuchon sign from the former downtown hardware store.
    “That one was so god-awful ugly,” he laughed. “There was no level of insult you could add to any other place in town that wasn’t already there with that sign.”


PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

Old signs, new places
    Tricia Follert, Morristown’s community development coordinator, would prefer that businesses leaving town take their signs with them. It can get a little confusing for people, she said.
    There’s the Jost Dishes and Cones sign outside the place that sold satellite dishes and creemees for five or six years. And nearby, the somewhat maligned Nepveu building still has the former Norm’s Furniture logo on the side.
    Still, sometimes, a departed business can leave a legacy that some building owners would be more than happy to hold on to. And Follert gets that, too.
    “I just think it should be something that you earn,” she said.
    No offense to 10 Railroad Street, but unless that place lasts for decades, people past the age of 40 are always going to remember the address as The Station (and not the Oriental version, either). And, Follert said, people still remember the folks that ran Tegu Market when they see the current town offices, located in the Tegu Building.
    In Stowe, Graham Mink is wondering what he’ll do with the old Lackey’s Variety Store sign. Mink bought the building last year, and his wife is re-opening a space known as Country Store on Main. 
    “Before we even closed on the building, people were asking me about the sign,” Mink said. 
    Originally, the Lackey family wasn’t interested in having the sign back, but reconsidered last month and donated it to the Stowe Historical Society. Mink said if the historical society wants to place it on the building to help identify the landmark, he’ll make sure it has a place of honor, with a plaque and everything.
    “There are so many good memories attached to these places. It’s bittersweet. You’ve got the memories but, ultimately, the business is gone,” he said. “Given how long the Lackeys had been in there, it makes sense to commemorate that.”

Leaving a sign
    A vacant restaurant space on Mountain Road in Stowe still sports the sign of the Italian eatery that went out of business this year after a painfully slow first winter. 
    Building owner Bobby Roberts isn’t sure what’ll become of the bright red Sauce Italian Specialties sign, but it isn’t an eyesore, and he’s not rushing the former owner to take it away. 
    “When people usually go the way of the dodo, they don’t come back,” Roberts said. “The signs just kind of hang out, unless someone wants to take them.”
    Roberts knows this well. He’s the former owner of the Rusty Nail, and once collected the signs from old businesses all around town. They’re reportedly still in the Nail’s basement.
    The Vermont Bird Feeder. The Burton Chill Shop. Pie in the Sky. Whiskers. Sister Kate’s. Baggy Knees. Down Home Hot Tub. 
    Oh, and the old Rusty Nail sign? That’s in the basement, too, he said.
    Stowe’s zoning laws are vague about signs that advertise a place that isn’t there. It’s a violation to put up a false sign, but nothing prohibits a former sign from staying there until a new tenant can be found.
    That can lead to some confusion for tourists — and headaches for landlords. 
    Across the street from Sauce, a restaurant space was a clash of cultures until this past weekend, with one sign advertising the coming Saen Sook Thai restaurant and the other remembering O’Grady’s Irish pub that used to be there. 
    The former Phoenix restaurant sign stayed up for months befor the Mountain River School moved into the building.
    On Main Street, the Butler House has been home to three restaurants in three years, and landlord Paul Biron is used to having his building be known as different places. 
    There was Frida’s Tacqueria, which he co-owned; Mi Casa Kitchen and Bar, which he and his wife owned outright; and Grazer’s, the burger joint with a Williston sister location that lasted only a few months. 
    “I had to take that one down because people were coming up to the front door looking for a restaurant,” Biron said. “I think it’s probably a case of they just didn’t want their sign back.”

Cambridge center is shaping up

posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:11 AM by Staff News & Citizen   [ updated Apr 21, 2016, 9:18 AM ]

    by Andrew Martin | News & Citizen 

    It’s not even open yet, and the Cambridge Community Center is already bringing people together. 
    Droves of volunteers and local business have helped to bring the center to the point where it is nearly ready to open. 
    “It’s been going wonderfully,” said Phil Rogers, the president of Cambridge 360, a nonprofit that’s been driving the push for the community center. It also operates a store that has funded some of the work. 
    “We’ve had a lot of local contractors and businesses step up lately to help us out,” he said. 


PHOTO BY ANDREW MARTIN
 
Two volunteers wash the interior walls of the athletic facility inside the 
Cambridge Community Center last Saturday. 

    Not so long ago, the idea of creating a community center at the former Windridge Tennis Camp in Jeffersonville seemed out of reach, even a bit far-fetched. Not anymore, though. Volunteers have turned out every Saturday for months to work on the property and some local businesses donated several thousand dollars apiece to the project. 
    “There is a core of volunteers who do everything from helping with publicity, design and marketing to fundraising, as well as a stalwart few who show up regularly for our Saturday morning work parties,” said Russ Weis, one of the people who bought the tennis center property with the goal of establishing it as a community center. 
    The volunteers are motivated by a number of reasons. 
    “A community center was one thing we identified that would be a big benefit to Cambridge in general,” said volunteer Liam McKone, who has helped with fundraising. “It will be handy to have a meeting space like that.” 
    He also looks forward to using the fitness gym in the center; Weis and his partner John Dunn hope to open the fitness center by the start of summer. 
    With a bit of luck, the field house and indoor sports facility could follow suit later this year.

A long time coming
    Rumors about a community center in Cambridge have swirled for years. 
    Weis and Dunn took a big step toward turning those rumors into reality when they bought the former Windridge Tennis Camp in January 2014. They bought the 7.4-acre property, which includes two large buildings, because they feel passionately that Cambridge could use a community center. 
    “We both like to play and coach soccer; we also like to play other sports, such as tennis,” Weis said. “We also liked the idea of a facility where the arts, theater and perhaps educational events could flourish in the heart of Jeffersonville.” 
    They also saw the potential for community groups to use the center, and decided to make the purchase before the two buildings deteriorated any further. 
    That was two years ago, and work quickly began on rehabilitating the larger of the two buildings, the 13,200-square-foot field house. It will become a home for indoor soccer, lacrosse, tennis and other sports, while doubling as an indoor play space for younger kids and providing a community meeting spot.

A laundry list of work
    The driveway to the building was improved last year, and a Northern Borders grant will allow the driveway to be widened and for 18 parking spaces to be added later this spring. The grant was awarded because the parking lot will also be a trailhead for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. 
    The field house annex will have a public gym and fitness center, and those facilities have been getting a lot of attention lately. The locker rooms were reconfigured and a medical office was added. Plumbers have volunteered to finish the bathrooms and a pumping station has been installed to connect the building to the village sewer system, possibly later this month. 
    Once the sewer line’s working, new fitness equipment will be ordered and the gym should open in late May or early June. 
    A small café will also be in the annex. 
    The inside of the field house is getting a makeover and a concrete floor was recently poured. Fundraising is about to begin for the sports flooring that will be placed over the concrete. 
    Dunn estimates that the flooring will cost $70,000, although there’s hope that a grant will provide half the money. 
    “We might have to do it in sections,” Dunn said. If funding can be found for the flooring, the goal is to have it installed by fall so the field house can be open for winter. 
    Work is also now being done on the entrances to the field house and the building’s heating system. 
    Once the field house is completely refurbished, Dunn and Weis plan to begin repairs on what used to be a dormitory building at the tennis center. The interior needs to be renovated and the building will have to be raised to comply with flood regulations. That portion of the project is expected to cost at least $250,000, and the search for grant money has already begun. 
    Weis and Dunn hope the dorm building can become a center for learning and wellness, with classrooms and office space. 
    The roughly 6 acres around the buildings will also be used for sports fields, a community garden that began last year, and a walking path.

Stock credits
    Financing is one of the community center’s biggest challenges. 
    One promising possibility is an Internal Revenue Service program that allows people to donate old stocks to Cambridge 360 in exchange for tax credits. 
    “You normally pay taxes on any gains when you cash in a stock, but this program allows people to donate the full value of the stock and get tax credits,” Rogers said. Several people have already used the program to donate thousands of dollars to the center. 
    “Financially, it makes more sense for them to do this than cashing in the stocks themselves,” Rogers said. 
    One other funding source is the Cambridge 360 store, which resells donated items to fund the work on the community center. So many people are donating time and money to the renovation work that Rogers has actually had trouble finding volunteers to man the store during normal hours. 
    “This is our long-term funding source for the center. It’s sustainable, and we need to keep focusing on it,” Rogers said about the store. “When it’s open, people come in to donate items or to buy them.” 
    A grand opening event for the center may be held in July in conjunction with the Cambridge Music Festival. Anyone who wants to learn more about the Cambridge Community Center can visit cambridgevtcommunitycenter.com.

4 of 6 towns OK school district merger

posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:57 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    by Andrew Martin and Tommy Gardner  |  News & Citizen

    Four of the six towns in the Lamoille North Supervisory Union voted Tuesday to form a single school district. 
    The dissenters were Cambridge, the largest of the six towns, and Waterville, one of the smallest.
    Johnson, Hyde Park, Eden and Belvidere approved it — but because Cambridge and Waterville said no, the other four towns can’t qualify for an “accelerated merger” and the tax break that comes with it — 10 cents off the tax rate per $100 of property value for the first year after the merger. That’s $100 off the bill for a $100,000 house.
    Instead, the four-town merger is considered conventional under Act 46, the state law that encourages school districts to merge into larger organizations with at least 900 students. Conventional mergers get tax-rate breaks of 8 cents the first year, then 6, 4 and 2 cents in ensuing years.
    On Tuesday, residents also voted for an 18-member school board for the six-town district — and, with Cambridge and Waterville saying no, only 12 board members were elected. The proposed board was based on population. Now, board membership will have to be sorted out.


PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

Ashley Nunery casts her vote on the Lamoille North Supervisory Union merger plan at the Hyde Park municipal building on Tuesday. Town-by-town results, Page 11.

Opinions split
    Reactions varied across the districts as the results came in Tuesday night. 
    Becky Penberthy, Waterville school board chair, said voting in her town went as expected. 
    The town strongly supports its elementary school, and putting that school’s fate in the hands of an 18-person board with only one Waterville member was a non-starter. 
    “We were firmly against Act 46, and we were clear about that with our community,” Penberthy said. “How do you start a new union on the fragile ground that we have?”
    In Cambridge, “I think the results show that a majority of our residents feel the concerns involved with a single merged district outweigh the benefits,” said Mark Stebbins, chair of the Cambridge School Board. 
    The possibility of losing Cambridge Elementary School’s enrichment program seems to be the major concern for Cambridge voters. They worried a merged board would cut the program, since it doesn’t exist at other Lamoille North schools. 
    The idea of sharing school buses also raised some eyebrows. Cambridge and Eden own and operate their own; the other four towns hire bus companies.
    Eden’s approval was a bit of a surprise, considering concerns over losing control of the town elementary school, which doubles as a community center. Further, Dave Whitcomb — chairman of both the Eden School Board and the Lamoille Union High School Board — voted against the merger. But his neighbors didn’t follow his lead, voting 52-27 in favor. 
    Whitcomb was upset with Eden’s voter turnout: Less than 10 percent of registered voters made the decision.
    “I’d like to see more people out there,” he said. “What the hell is going on?”
    As for mergers in general, “to have to give up your building — that’s the biggest thing for me,” Whitcomb said.
    Johnson residents voted strongly for the merger, though tax breaks there will be minimal. 
    “I think the biggest reason we voted yes was that we want to control our own destiny,” said Katie Orost, who chairs the Johnson School Board. “People are afraid the state is going to come in and tell us what to do if we don’t do something ourselves now. Plus, we get some tax incentives this way.” 
    Hyde Park voters favored a merger by an overwhelming majority.
    “It’s fantastic that the majority of our communities, whose elementary schools have for so long been loosely affiliated, have chosen to solidify those relationships and work together for the greater good,” said Raven Walters, chair of the Hyde Park School Board. “It will now be much easier for us to work together to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and to manage costs, throughout our district.” 
    One factor in Hyde Park voters’ decision is an upcoming vote on a $9.8 million overhaul of the town elementary school. In a merged district, other towns will help repay that money.

Revotes possible
    Tuesday’s vote wasn’t the final work on a merger. If residents of any town are upset with Tuesday’s decision, they can petition for a revote. 
    Revotes are a town-by-town matter. Petitions for revotes are due within 30 days of Tuesday’s vote. 
    Penberthy’s not sure how Waterville will proceed. The school board will talk about the issues tonight. 
    The Cambridge board plans to consider its options in the next few weeks, and a revote could be one of those options. 
    Peter Ingvoldstad, who chaired Lamoille North’s merger study committee, says a reversal in Cambridge isn’t out of the question: The merger failed by only 36 votes, and less than 10 percent of voters turned out.
    The Cambridge board will continue working closely with the other districts in any case.
    “We are going to move forward and continue to be engaged with the rest of Lamoille North in promoting educational excellence for all our students,” Stebbins said.
    If Cambridge and Waterville approve the merger in a revote before June 30, the new district could still qualify for the accelerated tax breaks. And the door is still open for them to join the merged four-town district. They have until July 1, 2017, to join the district without doing any additional work. After that, though, Cambridge and Waterville would need the approval of the new, merged school board to join the district.
    Ingvoldstad hopes it will happen.
    “I hope that, in the not too distant future, Cambridge and Waterville decide that things are going smoothly with the new district and decide to join,” he said.

What’s next?
    Things won’t be settled for the new four-town district until the time for revotes has passed.
    The makeup of the new school board may also have to be changed. The 18-member board that voters considered was based on populations across six towns, not four. 
    The new board was supposed to replace the Lamoille North and Lamoille Union school boards, but with Cambridge and Waterville opting out, that can’t happen.
    Questions have also surfaced about the relationship between Belvidere and Waterville. All Belvidere elementary students now go to Waterville Elementary School. 
    Cambridge and Waterville also face the possibility that they’ll have to merge with someone eventually. In just a few years, the state education department can force unmerged districts to combine with other, similar districts. 
    This uncertainty comes as Lamoille North is again changing its leadership. The school superintendent, Edith Beatty, furious at the Lamoille North board, resigned April 10. Catherine Gallagher and Joe Ciccolo are replacing her for the rest of this school year, then Gallagher becomes the superintendent July 1. 
    The leadership turmoil has many people wondering why Lamoille North can’t keep a superintendent for very long. Gallagher will be the fourth superintendent since 2011. 


Merger votes
Here’s how the six Lamoille North Supervisory Union
towns voted on whether to merge into a single school
district. Four voted yes; two voted no.

                Yes     No  Turnout
Belvidere        44  24  31.3%
Cambridge  128  164  9.8%
Eden               52  27  9.7%
Hyde Park      283  22  15.1%
Johnson  140  62  10%
Waterville  28  63  16.8%

No open doors: long road to recovery

posted Apr 14, 2016, 6:51 AM by Staff News & Citizen


PART OF AN OCCASIONAL SERIES

    By Kayla Friedrich | Stowe Reporter
    
    Lamoille County doesn’t have many facilities to help the homeless or addicted, but it does have some success stories.
    Many people think they know what a homeless or addicted  person looks like, but in truth there’s no stereotype. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, homelessness and addiction can happen to anyone — parents, military veterans, politicians, neighbors, doctors, the children of doctors. 
    Thirty people in Lamoille County were homeless in 2015, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county has minimal long-term housing options for homeless people, unless they fit a category — mentally ill, military veteran, victims of domestic violence.
    A 2015 inventory showed 19 beds at Lamoille County Mental Health for people with mental illness, 2 beds available to veterans, 19 motel voucher beds that can be used by anyone (although the program may soon be gone), 7 emergency beds for victims of domestic violence, 7 transitional housing beds, and 9 beds in a rental subsidy program. 
    That number of beds exceeds the homeless total, but many are reserved for people who fit specific criteria. 
    Likewise, there are few centers to help treat substance abuse. Treatment Associates in Morrisville treats opioid addiction; Teen Challenge in Johnson treats teen drug addiction; North Central Vermont Recovery Center offers peer-to-peer recovery assistance in Morrisville; and Therapeutic Counseling and Consulting Services offers substance-abuse counseling in Morrisville. 
    Even so, people from this county have been able to overcome both homelessness and addiction. One is Annie Brandt, a recovering addict whose mother is a Copley Hospital doctor, Betsy Perez, M.D.

The signs
    Annie Brandt is a young, stay-at-home mom who recently married and just closed on her first house last week. Eventually, she’d like to go back to college to get a degree in music therapy, possibly to help addicts. 
    Her life wasn’t always so put together. Just two and a half years ago, Brandt was an addict herself, sleeping under a tarp across from Burlington High School.
    “Looking back, I probably knew what was going on, but I was in big-time denial,” said Betsy Perez. “Annie broke both her legs in a skiing accident when she was 13 years old. I think that is probably when the addiction gene was triggered — she was on painkillers and sedatives that, looking back, I wish we hadn’t given her. 
    “After high school, Annie started at Marlboro College, but dropped out after only four weeks and went into a job in food service, staying with friends. Things just kept happening. All of a sudden she kept ‘losing her wallet,’ and needing money. She would try to disappear for days at a time, which I found out later was when she’d get high.”
    Brandt said she was on sedatives and painkillers after breaking her legs, but she traces her addiction gene back to early childhood.
    “I never felt accepted, and for a long time, things just felt wrong,” Brandt said. “I just wanted to belong to something, and I saw a group of people smoking marijuana that I thought were cool, so I started. I didn’t really get into opiates until I was 19. I don’t want to suggest that marijuana is a gateway drug. I got into opiates because of depression, and it became what my life was about.”
    Throughout high school, Brandt smoked marijuana off and on, then she got into cocaine. About when she dropped out of college, Brandt started doing heroin too.
    In March 2012, Perez let Brandt house-sit for her and her boyfriend, David Deciucias while they were in Jamaica. When they returned, things were missing, including a coin collection passed down from Deciucias’ grandfather. All had been sold to pawn shops for drug money.
    “Annie’s jeans were still sitting on the floor in the bedroom, and one of the coins was in the pocket,” Perez said. “It was like she was asking to get caught. So, I confronted her about the theft, and about her drug problem. It was obvious at that point, because nobody steals from their family unless they have a problem.”
    Perez and Deciucias pressed charges against Brandt for felony grand larceny. They told her that, if she went to counseling, they would drop the charges. Brandt didn’t go into counseling, but she did eventually get into Maple Leaf Treatment Facility in Underhill, where she detoxed for a few weeks. Then she was in a halfway house in Burlington, until she was kicked out for “suspicious activity.” 
    She was caught shoplifting in Winooski right after that — the last straw. Brandt was arrested, missed a court date, and spent a night in jail. She decided she never wanted to do that again, and was ready to accept 90 days of in-patient treatment.

Not sick enough
    Perez and Brandt tried to find a good treatment facility, but couldn’t get her in anywhere.
    “They all said she wasn’t sick enough,” Perez said. “If you are overdosing, you are considered sick enough, so Annie went out and deliberately overdosed, because she was so desperate. Luckily, her boyfriend at the time was someone who wasn’t using, and he brought her up to Copley for detox. I thought she was going to die.”
    A social worker tried to get Brandt into a psych unit in central Vermont, but the psychiatrist wouldn’t accept her, even though they had beds. Copley’s emergency room doctor at the time, Liam Gannon, somehow persuaded the psychiatrist to take her. 
    Brandt spent eight or nine days there, and then went back to Maple Leaf. While there, Dr. William Grass, a psychiatrist certified in addiction medicine, got Brandt on Suboxone — a drug used to treat opioid and heroin addiction — and he and Gannon persuaded Perez that they needed to get Brandt into a place called Talbott Recovery in Atlanta. 
    Brandt spent five months at the science-based recovery center, and she turned her life around. She was weaned off Suboxone and put on Vivitrol — a monthly shot that prevents people from getting high from narcotics. It binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, and blocks opioids from entering. 
    During that time, Brandt went to all her appointments and followed a 12-step program. She got a job, and she met her future husband in rehab. He has been sober for almost two years. They moved in together, eloped, and are now raising a happy 4-month-old boy in Atlanta.
    From homelessness and addiction to a home of their own, Brandt still goes to counseling and group therapy, and frequents her former recovery center to interact with current patients and help them. So far, hers is a success story.
    “For me, the important thing for people to realize is how difficult it is to get clean or sober in Vermont,” Brandt said. “Had I not been able to get into Talbott, I don’t know if I could have done it. And if my mom hadn’t had the money she did — treatment was almost $150,000 total — I don’t think I could have done it. 
    “By getting treatment, I overcame my addiction, and I don’t even know if many of the people I used to use with in Vermont are still alive. A lot of them don’t have the resources.”  
    Perez says the emergency department at Copley Hospital deals with homelessness and addiction on a daily basis, and she wishes the county at least had a needle exchange to curb some of the problems with drug use.
    Even so, Perez said she is proud that the Lamoille County community has always seemed to take care of its own, even though it’s one of the few counties in Vermont that has no shelter.
    “It takes a community to help an addict or alcoholic recover,” Perez said.

4393: Vote for the best of the best

posted Apr 14, 2016, 6:47 AM by Staff News & Citizen

    Voting starts Friday in the second annual 4393 Awards, a reader survey sponsored by the Stowe Reporter, Waterbury Record and News & Citizen to honor the best in our area.
    Readers helped to shape the survey by nominating their favorite restaurants, shops, local heroes — more than 70 categories in all.
    The awards honor the 4,393-foot summit of Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont. There’s no higher honor than that! The contest encompasses Stowe, Morrisville, Waterbury, Cambridge and Johnson, the communities where Mansfield looms the largest.
    Participating is easy: visit stowetoday.com/4393awards and vote for your favorites.
    The contest is organized into sections including food and drink (best bar, apres ski, restaurant); the outdoors (mountain bike trail, yoga teacher, ski tuner); people we love; and “best of the rest,” including best annual event, best day trip and best community organization.
    Winners will be announced July 7 in a special section published in the Waterbury Record, Stowe Reporter and the News & Citizen of Morrisville, and distributed through the fall at select retail outlets. An electronic version of the section will live online until next year’s winners are announced.
    Each winner will receive a frameable certificate, and advertisers — both winners and nominees — can use the 4393 logo in their advertising. Voting is open at stowetoday.com/4393awards through May 12.

Silent no more

posted Apr 13, 2016, 9:43 AM by Staff News & Citizen

by Tommy Gardner | News & Citizen

   Joanne Ainsworth got the call on a Sunday: She should be in court the next day, because there was a good chance the man who killed her husband would be going free.
   True enough, the next day, Dennis Tribble pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in the 2000 shooting of Michael Borello. Just like that, his jail sentence was over.
   For 15 years, Ainsworth — she’s since remarried — said the prosecution had prepped her: Don’t talk to the press, don’t get angry, don’t cry in front of the jurors. 
   Now, she’s tired of being silent.
   “That’s a lot to go through, and to keep quiet, and sit there like a good soldier,” she said last week in a lengthy interview with the Stowe Reporter. “I’ve been sugarcoating it. I’ve been tough. I’ve been holding it in all this time, and I want the truth to come out.”

Not another trial
   The Dennis Tribble murder case was a long, drawn-out affair that resulted in two guilty verdicts — one in 2002 for first-degree murder, and another one in 2009 for second-degree murder — that were both overturned by the Vermont Supreme Court. It was messy; Tribble fired six teams of court-appointed lawyers and refused to attend his own trial.
   With a third trial looming, the Borello family had had enough. Ainsworth and her children and the rest of the Borello family didn’t want to go through it all over again. 
   State’s Attorney Paul Finnerty said the evidence “wasn’t getting any better,” and a third trial was likely to show diminishing returns while opening old wounds yet again.
   “The kids are starting to move on with their lives again. If we could avoid that, I said, that would be lovely,” Ainsworth said. “Trials are really hard. You see a lot of things you don’t want to see, hear a lot you don’t want to hear, and being put on the witness stand takes a lot out of you. After 15 years, you don’t even know what it does to you.”
   It wasn’t always a private proceeding; print and television news crews from around the state covered the trials in detail.
   “Oh Lord have mercy, we’re a pretty private family, and seeing yourself on TV everywhere you go, it’s overwhelming,” she said.

In court the next day
   In the end, the case was closed after a few hours of private deliberation in a room of a Morristown hotel that’s currently serving as the county courthouse.
Although there had been talk of a bargain on the table, the plea agreement came a lot more quickly than the family expected. 
   “I get a phone call, all of a sudden, at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, saying they need me in court the next day. I went into panic mode,” Ainsworth said. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a hold of my family in time.”
   Ainsworth, a bus driver for Wolcott Elementary School, had to drive her route that Monday with a lot on her mind. Luckily, when she was done, she was able to get her brother to accompany her to court. 
   Her son tried to get there, she said. He drove to the courthouse, parked his car, but then drove off again, unwilling to be in the same room as his father’s killer. She couldn’t get hold of her daughter, who didn’t know Tribble was freed until the day after he walked. 
   Ainsworth understands a plea agreement probably had to be made. She said prosecutors weren’t holding out much hope of pinning a murder charge on Tribble when both first- and second-degree murder convictions had already been tossed. 
   Joel Page worked the case from the moment the arrest was made in 2000 until his 33-year career as Lamoille County state’s attorney ended in late 2014. He was succeeded by Finnerty, a former Chittenden County prosecutor. 
   Borello said Page did a wonderful job, and even Finnerty gets something of a pass compared to the real problem: the chinks in state and federal law that Tribble was able to find and blow wide open.
   “It’s the system itself that allowed him to keep getting away with this. Personally, I think it’s a bunch of crap,” she said. “It’s ridiculous, the reasons that (the guilty verdicts) were turned over. When you chase a man and shoot him in the back, and then shoot a hole in his chest? That’s not vicious?”

Anywhere but here
   Manslaughter carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence, which means as soon as Tribble pleaded guilty to that lesser charge, he was able to walk out the front door of the courthouse. 
According to Finnerty, one reason Tribble agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter was that the Vermont Department of Corrections allowed him to move back home.
   But having him back in his old house is a raw deal for the family of Michael Borello. Tribble still owns the property on very rural Jones Lane, and just two places up is the Borello property, still owned by Borello’s son, now in his mid-30s.
   Although no one lives year-round in the Borello place, the family still uses it as a rural getaway during the summer, and Borello’s son putters around there regularly. 
   Ainsworth said she had to move out of the house years ago because she couldn’t stand driving past the place where her husband was gunned down. Now, she doesn’t foresee going there ever again.
   “You can’t get there without going past Tribble’s place,” Ainsworth said. “They said they’d give us a police escort to go up there, but how long will that happen? Not forever, right? It’s not fair we can’t go up there any more.”
   Finnerty said he understands Ainsworth’s frustrations, and reiterated what he said the day after the plea agreement: “Like I said, it wasn’t a perfect outcome, but it was an acceptable outcome.”
Unless they’re serving a life sentence or sitting on death row, people who go to jail eventually leave, and most of them go back home. Finnerty said Tribble had kept up on his property taxes and, although the old place has been ransacked — it reportedly has no roof or windows — he has a right to go home.
   “On some level, we want Dennis Tribble to be able to re-integrate into society,” he said.

Support system
   Now that Tribble’s out, Ainsworth has had trouble sleeping, jumps at loud noises. It took her years after Borello’s death to be able to deal with fireworks, and now, “if I hear a door slam in the night, I start screaming. I never used to do that.”
   Her current husband, Frank — they married in 2004 — has been her rock, both during the trial and in the weeks since the plea agreement.
   “My husband’s been through all of this with us, and he’s been amazing, always been there for the kids,” she said. “My kids love him, actually. My grandson calls him grandpa.”
   She said Frank is a patient partner who understands what she’s been through in the 15 years since her first husband was killed. She had been married to Borello for more than 20 years, and thinks if he hadn’t been killed they would have been close to celebrating 36 years together. Frank gets that, she said, understands how she misses Michael. 
   “Miss him? Always, yes, always. And my husband, Frank, doesn’t have a problem with that at all,” she said. 
   In fact, Michael Borello and Frank Ainsworth probably would have gotten along just swell. It was Michael who taught Joanne how to drive a bus — he was a very popular bus driver for Fletcher Elementary School in the 1990s. Joanne drives for Wolcott Elementary School, and now, Frank does the same thing. Joanne taught him to drive a bus, and she sees that as quite fitting. 
   “The thing I have going for me is I have a good support system,” she said. “I pick myself up every day, and I love driving my bus. I have to concentrate on that, and the kids, and I love it.”


This Week's Photos

School chief rips board, resigning April 10

posted Apr 8, 2016, 8:40 AM by Staff News & Citizen

by Andrew Martin | News & Citizen

    Everyone knew the leadership was going to change in the Lamoille North Supervisory Union.
    But nobody expected it to occur this quickly.
    The Lamoille North board decided in January not to extend the contract of Edith Beatty as school superintendent; her contract runs through June 30.
    But last Friday, Beatty tendered her resignation. Rather than staying until June 30, her last day will be April 10. 
    Beatty’s tenure is coming to a messy and somewhat mysterious end. She started the superintendent’s job July 1, 2014, and an evaluation committee unanimously recommended that her contract be extended. But in a secret ballot, the Lamoille North board voted 10-7 against renewing her contract. Reasons for that vote have not been disclosed.
    However, friction like this generally indicates that a majority of the board had problems with Beatty’s leadership style, and wanted a change.
    The board has already chosen replacements for Beatty. Former superintendent Joe Ciccolo and Catherine Gallagher, now director of student support services for Lamoille North, will be co-interim superintendents from April 11 through June 30. 
    On July 1, Gallagher will become the interim superintendent, an appointment that extends through June 2017. 
    “I couldn’t be more pleased with the decision by the board,” Ciccolo said about Gallagher’s appointment as the 2016-17 superintendent. When Ciccolo was Lamoille North’s superintendent in 2013, Gallagher began training to become a superintendent.
    “I saw someone who wasn’t aspiring to become a leader, but who was becoming one naturally,” he said about Gallagher. 
    “I think this rights the ship immediately,” Ciccolo said. “The supervisory union will benefit immensely from her talents.” 
    Ciccolo pointed to the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union as evidence that Gallagher could stop the revolving door in the Lamoille North superintendent’s office. Gallagher will be the fourth person to hold the position since 2011. 
    Joanne LeBlanc was recently named interim superintendent of Orleans Southwest, and later was named to the permanent position. 
    “I think they should consider that model,” he said.

Breach of contract
    Beatty contends that she was not properly notified that her contract wasn’t being extended.
    In a letter last Friday to David Whitcomb, chairman of the Lamoille North board, Beatty said that the board failed to “take appropriate action to legally exercise its option not to extend the terms of the existing contract.” And, Beatty says, though the board didn’t follow procedure, Whitcomb told her that her contract would not be extended anyway.
    Beatty called these actions “a flagrant breach of the terms of our contractual employment agreement.” 
    According to Whitcomb, an official, proper document notifying Beatty of her termination was sent to her Feb. 3 by certified mail. Beatty did not pick up the document until Feb. 16.
    Beatty said some actions by board members were factors in her decision to resign early. She says certain board members helped create an “untenable work environment for me and for the Lamoille North Supervisory Union staff.”
    “They have engaged in behaviors that have served to usurp my authority,” Beatty said, forcing the supervisory union staff into “insubordinate behaviors.”
    “This current behavior, and its interference with my administration of the supervisory union, has reached a degree beyond tolerance,” Beatty said in the letter. 
    Beatty told the board she expects to collect her full pay through June 30, as well as accrued vacation time. If that’s not the case, Beatty said, she’ll sue.
    The board has appointed a subcommittee to come up with a response to Beatty; the committee’s proposal will be presented to the board for approval.

New leadership
    After Beatty resigned, the Lamoille North board quickly found replacements. At a meeting on Monday, the board unanimously named Joe Ciccolo and Catherine Gallagher as interim co-superintendents. Once this school year ends on June 30, Gallagher will become the sole interim superintendent.
    Gallagher has worked in Lamoille North for eight years. She was hired as a special educator in 2008 and was named director of student support services in 2013. She was also interim principal at Johnson Elementary School for several months during the 2012-13 school year. 
    She earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and holds an administrator’s license as a special education director, principal and superintendent. 
    Gallagher’s educational philosophy centers on children.  
    “It’s all about the students,” she said. 
    She also said it’s important to recognize and honor the unique characteristics, history and culture of each of the six towns in Lamoille North, even as they consider merging into a single district.
    Ciccolo was Lamoille North’s interim superintendent from 2011 through 2014. For the rest of this school year, he will split his time between the supervisory union and Eden Central School, where he is serving a one-year stint as interim principal. 
    It’s possible to fulfill both roles, Ciccolo said. “A lot of the work of a superintendent during the day is done electronically.” 
    He said he and Gallagher will work together to cover the circumstances that require the superintendent be there in person; many of them occur after school.

Six towns vote April 12 on school merger

posted Mar 31, 2016, 8:16 AM by Staff News & Citizen

Costs, local control, state pressure all factors in the decision on whether to combine

by Andrew Martin | News & Citizen

    Is merging really what’s best for us? That question has been on the minds of Lamoille North Supervisory Union residents for the past few months. 
    Many are still trying to answer the question, even as they prepare to vote April 12 on merging six school districts into one.


PHOTO BY GLENN CALLAHAN

Crossing guard Dennis Naughton stops traffic outside Hyde Park Elementary School as students head home after classes on Tuesday. School renovation plans could be approved ahead of a merger vote.

    The plan affects Belvidere, Cambridge, Hyde Park, Eden, Johnson and Waterville.
    Under Act 46, a new state law, state education officials have been nudging school districts to merge into larger organizations. Elmore and Morristown voted earlier this year to merge; to the south, six districts in the Waterbury-Mad River Valley area are headed toward a merger decision. 
    “To me, it boils down to voters having the chance to make this decision themselves and get tax incentives, or knowing that the decision could be made for them and getting no incentives,” said Marilyn Frederick, business manager for Lamoille North. The supervisory union provides top-level administrative services for the six school districts.
    Under Act 46, districts that merge soon will receive tax benefits; those that don’t will have to help pay for those incentives. The state could also force districts to merge if they haven’t done so by 2019. 
    Many people think that approach is heavy-handed, and “I think it is fair to say that my fellow citizens do not generally react well to perceived dictates, no matter how well intended,” said Pierre LaFlamme, vice chair of the Lamoille North merger study committee. He hopes people vote “based on what they feel is best for our students.”
    And what is best for students? Some teachers and staff members worry that favorite programs could be eliminated in a merged district. 
    “Our enrichment program is near and dear to many people,” said Mary Anderson, principal of Cambridge Elementary School. That program offers accelerated classes, special help, and after-school learning to students. It’s been in existence for nearly 20 years, and the community has consistently supported it, approving extra staff and funding even through lean years.
    “Our program isn’t in the other schools, and our fear is that it will march out the door when the new board is considering all the communities,” Anderson said. “We are concerned that the quality of education for the children in our community could go down.” 
    However, Cambridge could have a big influence in the merged district, holding five of the 14 school board seats.
Others think the Cambridge program could be expanded into the rest of the merged district.
    “It’s a wonderful program,” said Peter Ingvoldstad, chairman of the committee that investigated the merger. 
    Ingvoldstad envisions Cambridge Elementary as a magnet school, drawing students from around the merged district who want to join the program and get ahead in certain subjects, or who need special attention. If a second elementary school on the other side of the district added the program, then students in all six communities would have a close-to-home option.

‘A lot more efficient’
    Other educators see a chance for even more academic opportunity in a merged district, including a uniform curriculum that gives all students the same opportunities.
    “Since the day I arrived four years ago, I’ve been asking why we aren’t doing for grades K-6 what we already do for grades 7-12,” said Ciccolol. “If we weren’t all trying to reinvent the wheel, we could be a lot more efficient.”
    Ciccolo thinks a uniform curriculum for all Lamoille North elementary students would prepare them better for the transition to Lamoille Union Middle and High School. 
    “If we aren’t hitting a mark in a certain subject in grade 7, we could have specialists from the district go back into the elementary schools and put more of an emphasis on it,” he said. 
    The ability to share specialists and technicians is another benefit in Ciccolo’s mind. Those staff members could be deployed across the merged district, offering equivalent services in every school.
    One example is maintenance. If there’s an emergency at a school, maintenance workers from across the merged district could respond in force. That’s not an option right now. 
    “If we are all one district, the barriers are gone and we are all using the same pot of money,” said Dylan Laflam, the facilities manager at Lamoille Union Middle and High School. “Instead of paying a contractor a couple of hundred dollars to fix an emergency at a small school, I could just send one of our staff instead. I don’t think it would cost Lamoille any more money.” 

Shared costs
    Another popular question is how a merged district will handle future construction projects.
    Right now, a major building plan — perhaps $10 million — is looming in Hyde Park, and residents of other towns are wondering if they will have to help pay for it.
    After a merger, the school board would have control over all district assets, including buildings. That means the board’s representatives from each town would have a say on construction at any school. 
    “All of the towns in the new district would have a say with regards to incurring more debt,” said Pierre LaFlamme. 
    But, based on timing, Hyde Park could be an exception to that rule. If the merger is approved April 12, the new school board will get to work organizing the new district. However, the current Hyde Park School Board will continue to oversee its elementary school until July 2017, and a bond vote should happen before that. 
    “We are aiming for a fall 2016 vote on the building renovation project,” said Raven Walters, chair of the Hyde Park board. “… So Hyde Park will still be able to decide, for itself, whether to approve the current proposed project, regardless of whether the merger is approved.”
    On April 4, Hyde Park could decide when the bond vote will be; it will also discuss the project’s cost estimate.
    Walters says sharing assets and expenses benefits everyone. In any large bond vote, no one town would be especially hard hit, because the base would be broader.
    “While, if the merger is approved, it will be Hyde Park’s turn to benefit now, all the towns could expect to benefit similarly in the future,” she said. 
    The merger has also raised questions about the future of the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center, adjacent to Lamoille Union High School. No changes are expected for the tech center, other than the fact that it will be governed by the board of the new district. The school will continue to serve students from Lamoille North communities, and from Craftsbury, Hardwick, Morrisville and Stowe. 
    Now, Lamoille Union Middle and High School and the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center both have their own boards; they, too, would be overseen by the merged board, although the tech center would continue to have an advisory board.

Informational meetings

    A series of informational meetings about the proposed merger will be held in all six of the Lamoille North Supervisory Union school districts in the week leading up to the vote on April 12. 

    Each meeting will be at the town’s elementary school: Belvidere April 5, Cambridge April 6, Hyde Park April 4, Eden April 7, Johnson April 11, and Waterville April 7. All meetings start at 6 p.m. except Waterville’s, which is at 7. 

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