Category Archives: Education

Norwich to support military student tuition through shutdown

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s Norwich University is promising about $150,000 in scholarships for military students affected by the federal government shutdown.
Officials at the Northfield college say 146 students will be able to continue their education despite the suspension of financial aid through the military tuition assistance program administered by the federal government.
The students in Norwich’s fall semester in bachelor’s degree completion programs and graduate programs are in the United States military while enrolled in online programs.
Norwich Dean William Clements says that keeping the men and women in class is of the utmost importance.

Walk to School Day in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Students in 52 Vermont schools are going to be taking part in the International Walk to School day.
About 12,000 Vermont students are expected to participate Wednesday in organized walking and biking to school events.
The International Walk to School Day will mark its 17th year this year.
Last year Vermont ranked 4th in the nation for participation.
This year, Vermont has more schools taking part than ever before.

Largest Castleton class sends some students to hotels, for now

CASTLETON - The largest class in the history of Castleton State College has resulted in some students living temporarily in a hotel in Rutland.
CSC’s enrollment is expected to top 2,150, a 34-percent increase since 2000, when 1,605 students attended the college. The large class has pushed the college’s housing system to capacity and beyond, said Jeff Weld, CSC’s director of college relations.
“We filled Hoff Hall, the 162-bed residence hall opened last year, and have converted all usable space in all of our residence halls to accommodate students,” Weld said. “We have seen an increase in upper-class students who wish to remain on campus, rather than seek alternatives off campus.”
As a result, 23 students will be housed at the Holiday Inn in Rutland. School officials expect they will relocate to campus within the next month.
Despite the record number of students, the student-to-teacher ratio is expected to remain at 14 to one.

Danville school officials cited in court

DANVILLE — The principal and superintendent of a Vermont school have been cited into court on charges of failing to report child abuse and neglect of duty by a public officer.
Vermont State Police say the Department of Children and Families received a report in May about a Danville High School student reported to have been inappropriately touched two times by a Danville School teacher.
Police say the incident was reported by principal Noah Noyes, who told superintendent Martha Tucker.
But police say neither reported it to the DCF within 24 hours as required by law.
Tucker said her lawyer would release a statement later Tuesday. Noah did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Police say the allegations of inappropriate contact between the teacher and student are being investigated

CCV graduates take many remarkable roads to degree

Mark Collier / Staff Photo CCV student Cerridwen Moser-Bertsche applauds as students rise to their feet to honor fellow CCV student Karri Benoir, this years student speaker, for her particularly moving talk about her life and the paths she followed to arrive the Community College of Vermont's 46th commencemtn at Norwich University's Shapiro Field House Saturday afternoon in Northfield.

Mark Collier / Staff Photo
CCV student Cerridwen Moser-Bertsche applauds as students rise to their feet to honor fellow CCV student Karri Benoir, this years student speaker, for her particularly moving talk about her life and the paths she followed to arrive the Community College of Vermont’s 46th commencemtn at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House Saturday afternoon in Northfield.

By David Delcore | Staff Writer
NORTHFIELD — If Tom Bodett ever wants to finish what he started at Michigan State University 38 years ago, odds are pretty good that the Community College of Vermont will leave the lights on for the long-time Motel 6 pitchman, radio personality and author.
Bodett earned that much on Saturday when the successful college dropout delivered a commencement address to a diverse group of students whom he applauded for doggedly pursuing the diploma that they all earned and he never did.
There’s still time.
If Bodett doubts that he need only speak to the senior member of CCV’s Class of 2013 — a 67-year-old Bethel woman who said she can now die happy because she finally finished what she started when she was a stay-at-home-mom in Barre more than four decades ago.
“I had to have a degree before I died,” said Alma Twombly, who remembers enrolling in her first CCV course in 1971.
“It wasn’t even an accredited college back then,” explained Twombly, who eventually moved from Barre to Bethel with her partner and their family before dropping back into CCV more than a decade ago.
It’s been a pay-as-you-go-take-courses-when-you-can experience for Twombly, who seemed pretty pleased it was over.
“I finally finished my degree,” she crowed, quickly adding it might eventually have company on the wall of her Bethel home.
Twombly, who said she would like to land a job working with teenagers, is seriously considering enrolling at Johnson State College next semester.
“I’m not done yet,” she said.
Neither is Semir Mahmutovic.
Mahmutovic, 22, arrived in Barre from Bosnia unable to speak English as a sixth-grader. He quickly learned, launched a cleaning company after high school, and started taking CCV courses because, he said, they were comparatively inexpensive and were a good fit with his busy schedule.
“Here I am today graduating,” Mahmutovic said with a mixture of pride and awe befitting the occasion.
Mahmutovic said he’s planning to pursue his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, possibly at Norwich University — the site of Saturday’s graduation ceremonies — or Champlain College.
“Two more years,” he said.
Not for April Sloan. At least not now.
Sloan, 29, of Proctor credits her coursework in early childhood education for landing a job she loves as a para-educator.
“It feels good to wake up every morning and say: ‘I love my job and I can’t wait to go to work,’” Sloan said, suggesting the actual diploma was just icing on the cake.

For more of the story, see the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus. 

Bennington school budget defeated - again

BENNINGTON — The Bennington School District budget was defeated again Tuesday by a vote of 524-473.
The budget of $12,940,745 had been cut by more than $575,000 from the budget which was defeated in March.
That budget, $13,518,802, lost by a vote of 1,095-915.
In March, George Sleeman, vice-chairman of the Bennington School Board, said he thought the budget may have been defeated because it was an increase of about 19 percent from the previous year’s budget of $11,360,113.
Sleeman said Tuesday that the latest budget, which was an increase of about 14 percent from the budget passed in 2012, might have still been too high.
“What we’ll have to do is we’ll have to call an immediate meeting of the (school board.) We’ll try and meet, hopefully this week or the first of next week, and we’ll review it and come up with a decision as to what we’re going to do,” he said.

- Patrick McArdle

By PETER HIRSCHFELD
Vermont Press Bureau
MONTPELIER – As his July 15 eviction date nears, Jeremy Dodge’s seller’s remorse has begun to intensify.

Back on Nov. 7 of last year, when Dodge finalized the sale of his 16-acre homestead in bucolic East Montpelier, he believed the deal he cut with its buyer, Peter Shumlin, was the only way to avoid imminent ouster from the residence his now-deceased parents built 31 years ago.

He’d accumulated more than $17,000 in back taxes since inheriting the property in 2009, and the looming tax sale, Dodge says he believed at the time, would result in his eviction from the property.

So without a lawyer to represent him, Dodge signed his name to a purchase-and-sale agreement in which Shumlin, the second-term Democratic governor of Vermont, acquired the property for $58,000 – less than a quarter of the $233,700 for which the homestead was then appraised.

“I could not afford a lawyer,” Dodge says. “And (Shumlin) said we’d just use his lawyers.”

The sale price included $9,000 in rent for November through July, and a $9,000 “seller repair credit” – money Dodge won’t get if he hasn’t upgraded the condition of the property by the middle of next month.

“I don’t have nothing bad to say him, but yeah, I got ripped off, plain and simple,” Dodge said Tuesday. “I wish it had turned out differently. I wish that I had let it gone to tax auction.”

An East Montpelier town lister has since lowered the appraised value to $140,000, owing to the decrepit condition of the house in which Dodge has resided since before his parents died.

In an e-mailed statement late Tuesday, Shumlin said the sale price was fair.

“I believe $58,000 was a fair price, and we both agreed to it,” Shumlin said. “The house is in terrible shape; it will have to be knocked down or totally gutted.”

As for Dodge’s lack of counsel, Shumlin said he urged him last year to remedy that problem.

“He didn’t have a lawyer on this sale,” Shumlin said. “But I did recommend it.”

But the 53-year-old Dodge, a parolee with an criminal rap sheet that includes convictions for drugs and domestic assault, says if he knew last year what he knows now, he would have been able to avoid losing the house, or at least sold it more profitably.

Dodge, who speaks haltingly through a severe stutter, says he’d always been confident the property would fetch at auction more than what Shumlin offered in advance of the tax sale. But he says he believed he’d be forced out of the residence once it sold.

“From how I understood it that once it went to tax auction, I would have to move out and wouldn’t have no money to move with,” Dodge says. “I found out later that that’s not true, that if it went to tax auction, I would been able to stay there for a year to pay off the taxes.”

Shumlin said Dodge’s regret over the deal is sudden and disappointing, and if Dodge was mistaken about the scope of options before him, then it wasn’t evident at the time.

“What I can tell you is that, regardless of what he may say now about his ability to review this agreement, we talked about the terms of this agreement together, and I was under the impression the entire time that he knew exactly what he was getting from the purchase - cash in hand, a place to continue to live for many months, and cash when he would get a new place,” Shumlin said. 

Shumlin and Dodge first crossed paths in the summer of 2012, after Shumlin purchased a 32-acre parcel adjacent to Dodge’s land. That land deal became the subject of intense media scrutiny when municipal records revealed he had purchased for $35,000 a parcel that was later valued by town listers at $147,000. The governor has since constructed a 2,200-square-foot home on that lot, a property in which he now resides.

Dodge said it was him who approached Shumlin about a possible deal to avoid the tax sale.

“And he said he really didn’t want to get involved in buying more property, but that he would help me out,” Dodge says. “So he wrote out a contract type of thing … and he paid my back taxes off, paid my child support, and gave me two grand on top of that, and then when I move out in July of this year, I’ll be getting $15,000 more”

Shumlin said he viewed the transaction as a win-win for him and Dodge.

“He had been behind on taxes and other bills for some time at this property; he didn’t have a way to stay in his place, which lacked heat, power, and water when I agreed to buy it, and couldn’t continue to serve as his home,” Shumlin said. “I believed this purchase agreement would give him the resources and time to find another place to live.”

The terms of the deal changed over the course of the six-week period between the scheduled tax sale, and the date on which the men closed on the deal.

Shumlin’s hand-written first offer, scrawled on the front of a manila envelope, stipulates a sale price of $32,000 “total being paid.” The offer includes $17,494 in back taxes, $3,735 for delinquent child support payments, $1,766 in cash to Dodge, and another $9,000 upon his departure from the home “no later than July 15, 2013.”

Shumlin also agreed to pay the property taxes for the remainder of Dodge’s time in the property, and not to charge him rent during the intervening months.

The final purchase-and-sale agreement, a copy of which the Vermont Press Bureau was unable to obtain a copy by deadline Tuesday, stipulates a $58,000 sale price. The price includes $9,000 for “prepaid occupancy” for Dodge’s stay through July 15, and the $9,000 “holdback “that Dodge won’t receive unless he’s completed unspecified repairs on the 964 square-foot single-level stick frame home.

Shumlin ran the a transaction through the same limited liability company – Foster Road LLC – that he used to buy the 32-acre parcel earlier that year. Shumlin, who, in addition to co-owning Putney Student Travel, is an accomplished real estate developer with ownership stakes in at least five LLCs. Income from rental properties accounted for two-thirds of the $950,000 Shumlin reported in personal income on his tax returns in 2009.

Bernie Corliss, a longtime friend of Dodge’s, spent summers working in the fields on Dodge’s father’s old dairy farm. Corliss said he initially “thought the governor was doing a good thing” when he agreed to purchase the land from Dodge last year.

As he learned more about the particulars, Corliss said in the living room of his home at the Weston Mobile Home Park Berlin Monday, he began to doubt the soundness of the deal.

“My main concern is that (Dodge) didn’t have anyone representing his interests,” Corliss said.

Corliss said he doubts Dodge has the cognitive skills to advocate for himself effectively, or even understand the basic elements of the deal.

“Jeremy’s not all there,” Corliss said Monday. “If you walk up to him, shake his hand, he seems alright. But if you spend anytime with him…”

Dodge says he dropped out of U-32 High School after 9th grade.

“They told me I could either walk out or they would remove me,” Dodge says.

Dodge says financial limitations prevented him from securing counsel. He says he negotiated the land deal independently with Shumlin, and didn’t have in-person contact with any attorneys until he sat down with Shumlin’s lawyer, Gloria Rice, at the Nov. 7 closing.

Dodge says the first suggestion he secure counsel came from Rice, on the day he sat down with her to finalize closing, a closing that proceeded, Dodge says, after he explained he was unable to afford one. Dodge works 32 hours a week at the Salvation Army.

Rice is out of the country until next week, according to a receptionist at her law office.

Dodge says Shumlin came knocking late last week to ask about whether he’d been speaking recently with reporters. Shumlin said he had to visit his soon-departing neighbor anyway to see if the Roto-Rooter he sent over “succeed(ed) in clearing out the pipes.”

“Second, I had heard rumors that he or his friends or family members were suddenly not happy with the sale, and so I asked him if it was true, since he had never expressed anything like that to me,” Shumlin said. “He told me that reporters had shown up at his house and wanted to interview him about the real estate purchase. He told me that, while he expressed appreciation for everything that I had done for him, he was no longer happy with the arrangement, and he had told the reporters that.”

Shumlin said he found the exchange “upsetting.”

“Jerry’s a neighbor who has had his share of difficulty, as you know,” Shumlin said.

Dodge says he’s having a difficult time securing new housing, a challenge he attributes to an 8-year-old pitbull/rottweiller mix named Coda. He also has a 9-year-old lab mix named Sasha.

“They’re my family,” Dodge says. “They’re all I’ve had the past two years.”

Dodge says he hopes to find a spot near downtown Barre, closer to his job and the twice-weekly Intensive Domestic Abuse Program classes that are part of the conditions of his release from 2011 conviction for domestic assault.

He said however that he’ll miss summers, especially, in his home, where he can see from his backyard the old farmhouse in which he grew up.

Says Dodge, “it is beautiful here.”
Stefan Hard, staff photographer for The Times Argus, contributed to this report
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South Burlington teacher contract talks go to mediator

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The school board and teachers in the Vermont city of South Burlington are hoping a mediator can help them reach an agreement on a new contract.
Negotiations have been underway since November and a mediator from Boston met with both parties May 15 but was unable to resolve an impasse in negotiations.
A fact-finding report is due mid-summer.
The Burlington Free Press (http://bfpne.ws/116t1qw ) is reporting neither side is willing to discuss the details of the negotiations.
The current contract expires June 30 but it includes a clause extending the terms of the contract if no new agreement has been reached.
The starting salary for South Burlington teachers is just over $41,000 with a maximum salary of $85,382.

VIDEO: Black River students learn the dangers of texting and driving firsthand

Stafford to host chainsaw competition

Staff Report

PITTSFORD — Stafford Tech’s Forestry and Natural Resource Program is hosting a chainsaw safety and skills competition at 8 a.m. Friday at Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford.

Forty high school students in the Natural Resource Technical Programs from across the state will exercise their skills in a nationally recognized Game of Logging event.

They will compete in events that require precision, accuracy and safety with a chainsaw.

Northeast Woodland Training will judge the event and award prizes to top competitors.

For more information, contact Mark Raishart, Stafford’s forestry and natural resource instructor, at 770-1057 or email [email protected]

Harwood to close a second day due to vandals

DUXBURY — A Vermont high school will remain closed for a second day after someone broke in and damaged the plumbing, causing some flooding.

State police said they became aware of the clogged drains at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury early Wednesday.

The school has been closed due to water damage and cleanup.

Police are investigating the incident.