The_Valley_Reporter - MyView Fri, 31 Jul 2015 23:38:40 -0400 en-gb ‘Retail workshop is productive and exciting’

By Lori Klein

Last Thursday night, 17 members of the retail community of the Mad River Valley gathered together with members of the Mad River Valley Planning District, directors of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce and our volunteer facilitator, Patricia Floyd, at Three Mountain Cafe to discuss the future of retail here in The Valley.

At first, I was nervous about the format of breaking into small groups to brainstorm issues and concerns we all face. It turned out to be an exciting and, I think, productive process. I am always amazed at what a group of people can accomplish and the varied ideas that come forth!

I am encouraged and proud that our retail community is willing to work together for the good of the whole! I am very impressed with Joshua Schwartz and the work the planning district has done. Patricia is a knowledgeable and sensitive facilitator and breaks it all down into sensible, workable steps.

The ideas that came out of the session were plentiful and varied. We talked a lot about "seasonality" in all its facets. We are not only challenged here by the high and low periods of the year, i.e., mud season and stick season when we typically have few tourists or second-home owners and most businesses, especially restaurants, seem to close.

We also have to deal with bad snow seasons and rainy summer seasons. We are truly dependent on weather for our business success or failure and with global warming looming it's ugly head, we all realize that we have to do something here that is not season or weather dependent.

That brings us around to the realization that we must target a more local following, what I like to call the 50-mile radius. Draw a circle on the map around The Valley and you find a population base that we desperately need to attract for day trips and events. Addison, Chittenden and Washington County residents should all be our visitors, especially during the slow seasons when those folks must also be looking for things to do. We need the critical mass – food, shopping, recreation and sightseeing – to attract them. In that vein, we realized that the Vermont Attraction's Map and the Vermont Chamber's magazine practically ignore Central Vermont, specifically, the Mad River Valley!

We discussed the lack of a labor force here as a result of the seasonal nature of our businesses. It is definitely feast or famine around here, which makes it very difficult to keep and pay reliable help.

The cost of living here in The Valley is very high for these workers and commuting is difficult due to our geography and, again, weather conditions.

We discussed the chamber's role and how to strengthen and attract more members. One idea was to send the chamber newsletter to nonmembers so they can see what is happening and how the chamber might even benefit them. We need to do more broad reach advertising to get ourselves on those maps and publications. We even talked about possibly hiring a marketing consultant or firm to brand The Valley as a whole to attract more of these closer visitors.

The challenge, of course, is that all of this takes a commitment of time and money, but the feeling is we will disseminate the best of these ideas and work toward those goals, one step at a time.

I am very encouraged by this process and look forward to pooling the results of these workshops. I hope we can all keep the enthusiasm going. I highly recommend attending the workshops that pertain to your fields; it's informative, interesting, lively and fun!

Lori Klein lives in Warren.


MyView Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:56:36 -0400
Parents make progress

By Carl Lobel

The Warren School Board meeting on Tuesday, July 21, was being billed by the chairperson, Michael Ketchel, as a back-to-normal meeting and unlike the meeting of July 7, which was a public forum attended by a lively crowd of over 100 community members. The July 21 meeting would limit the public input to about 15 minutes, would focus on the future and not look back at the past actions of the board especially the now highly controversial decision to not renew the employment contract of Laurie Jones.

Ketchel would set the agenda and adhere to it. In the days leading up to the meeting, he rejected numerous requests for proposed agenda items. When the meeting began one could feel the difference. The community was out in force, at least as large a crowd as the previous meeting, but unlike July 7, the air did not crackle in anticipation of this historic first opportunity to vent in a public forum about the loss of Laurie Jones. On July 21, the atmosphere was much more subdued, the parents possibly resigned to the fact that the board had the power and they could not turn this around despite their numbers, despite the continued community support for Laurie Jones and despite the theoretical power of the truth which they believe is on their side.

To keep the meeting running smoothly veteran moderator Robert Messner was asked to moderate and he did. However, the meeting didn't follow Ketchel's game plan. After disposing of a few typical agenda items having to do with accepting minutes of past meetings and announcement of personnel changes and so forth, the public was invited to speak and the real meeting began.

First up was a surprise entry in the person of Katie Sullivan accompanied by three colleagues, all teachers at Warren School. Previous to this meeting I had been told by two different teachers that their union representative had advised them to stay away from the Laurie Jones controversy. Now that has changed and if the teachers are standing in solidarity with Laurie Jones, the school board, the principal and the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) will have a much more difficult time fixing their problems.

Katie said that she and her colleagues had been able to contact 14 of the 19 teachers who are members of the Washington West Education Association, a branch of the Vermont NEA. The 14 teachers agreed on the wording of the letter sent by the teachers' group to the board, the principal and WWSU. The other five members could not be contacted in time. The letter included a statement from the group that they were deeply saddened by the board decision not to renew Laurie Jones' contract and they valued Laurie as a colleague and greatly appreciated her knowledge and expertise. Some of the 14 teachers who signed onto this letter have worked with Laurie for more than 20 years and one must acknowledge the credibility of their judgment.

I say bravo for the teachers. It took a lot of genuine courage to deliver this message publicly and I hope the board will respect the teachers' decision to speak publicly. Perhaps they may even find them persuasive and use the teacher solidarity as a way forward in correcting the mistakes already made.

Next up was Beth Binns. Her presentation would be key to the tone and flow of the meeting and it was crucial that she speak early and she did. Beth has previously expressed an interest in being on the school board and in my opinion she should be a member and I would urge her to run for a board seat in March 2016. Beth has made a formal proposal to the board that they create a new job position within the school: "coordinator of student events and program director."

Once created the job should be offered to Laurie Jones. Of the many jobs performed ably by Laurie, this job was the most important one and the one to which she seems ideally suited. Hiring her to a newly created position would be an elegant solution to a truly messed up situation. It would greatly please and appease the parent groups who are united in their desire to see her back at work in the school when the new year begins. I believe the parent group, Friends of the Warren School, is backing this proposal and worked with Beth to bring it to the board. Well done, Beth. As the meeting progressed speaker after speaker kept coming back to Beth's proposal and asking the board and the superintendent to say "Yes we can! Yes we will!"

Following Beth Binns was a parade of parents. Most with children currently in Warren School but some like Sherry Sherman had children in the school system many, many years ago at the start of Laurie's tenure. Just as we saw on July 7, the speakers were unanimous in their support of Laurie. Sherry was followed by Chessie Stevenson with 40 years' experience mediating disputes. She has volunteered to mediate this one and she ended by saying, "Use me."

Karen Nightingale, mother of Rachel Goodwin (who could forget Rachel's emotional plea on behalf of Laurie on July 7), spoke of Laurie being absolutely essential to Warren School.

The parent parade was interrupted at this point by Brigid Nease, the WWSU superintendent who oversees Warren School along with six other schools. Brigid is an expert on these things. She knows the rule book inside and out. She has mastered the bureaucratic maze. It would not be possible in a forum like this to score any points on Brigid. She could crush you with the rules and out-debate you on the facts.

Her ultimate fallback was invoked again and again as she defended the board decision to not renew Laurie's contract: "You will never know it all. You are not allowed to know. It is the law." The board had the facts and acted appropriately with those facts, says Brigid. Then she goes off on a tangent and wants to reveal some facts, those facts which will theoretically impress the parents and provide support for the board decision. These facts we are allowed to know, selectively chosen by Brigid. Note please that these facts have absolutely nothing to do with Laurie Jones.

But here they are: Warren School was out of compliance with certain state regulations. The checking account in question contained commingled funds, which was not appropriate. Certain taxes were not paid. The after school program did not have insurance. Jobs were performed, individuals paid but not as school employees. The school lunch program risked losing a $50,000 grant due to improper accounting or reporting. It was not easy to follow her well-rehearsed bullet points, but she fired them like scattershot; but in the opinion of the audience she was not hitting Laurie. She did repeat a few times that the board was ultimately responsible for all these problems.

She did not say that Laurie was responsible. It was her job to report these shortcomings in Warren to the state. Her job was on the line. Failure to report would have meant loss of her superintendent license. Brigid acknowledges that parents are angry. She wants to clear the air. She is not casting blame. The school needs to rectify the situation. Once again, a remarkable presentation that simply failed to even offer a clue as to how this all reflected badly on Laurie and why she lost her job while the board remains in place. I don't think she persuaded anyone.
Kinny Perot spoke shortly after Brigid. Kinny needs no introduction from me, but I will note that among other positions in the community Kinny was a school board member and actually served as truant officer at one point. Kinny also expressed sadness at the loss of Laurie to the school and at the way the decision was made abruptly, without a hearing, maybe even without notice.
Kinny was the first to mention that Brigid's presentation said nothing about Laurie and had nothing to do with Laurie. Having delivered this litany of causes in the context of a question about Laurie's future, Brigid planted a false trail which she hoped would lead to Laurie, but she failed and Kinny called her on it. This generated a round of applause from the crowd. Kinny supported Beth Binns' proposal of a new job for Laurie and asked the board if that could work. She asked how do we move forward? "How do we heal this?" Getting no response from the board, Kinny asked a direct question: "Do you (the board) have a proposal?" Ketchel answered with a simple "No."

The question arose again "Where is the principal, Jill Ballou?" Jill has now missed both July meetings. First miss was due to a medical condition. Second miss was due to a previously planned vacation.
The question arose, does the board have a plan? A five-year plan. Not on the website. Working on it.

Alycia Biondo spoke next. She is the most recent addition to the school board having been appointed to the board to finish the year in place of one of the members who recently resigned. Alycia has three children in the school. She acknowledges that there is a great deal of mistrust. The community has lost respect for the board. She sees her role as being one to restore trust, bring about reconciliation and return things to something more workable. Alycia will use her position on the board to encourage the board and superintendent to create a new job for Laurie along the lines proposed by Beth Binns. Alycia wisely kept quiet during this meeting. The parents were addressing the three board members who voted not to renew the contract. Alycia would not and could not defend the board and, therefore, remained silent. Matt Staples, the fifth board member also appointed recently to fill a seat that opened up due to a resignation, was not present at this meeting. It should be noted that Matt voted against the board proposal to not renew the contract.

Half hour into the meeting, I had a rough count of maybe 130 people in the auditorium. Didn't seem like a bigger crowd than July 7. Maybe equal in size but a different composition.

The following people spoke next: Becca Rubenstein; Bill Robinson; Chessie again; Beth Binns again (this time with pointed question about the principal as in "Do we have a principal?"); Brigid responding to Beth; Tracy Martin ("board stonewalling does not inspire"); Michael responds that they are legally obligated not to discuss that issue and, therefore, it is not stonewalling; Joanna Von Recklinghausen; Jen Watkins (one of the strongest speakers in support of Laurie pounding home the point that it did not appear that board made an effort to solve the problem short of nonrenewal of contract. Worth listening to Jen on MRVTV); Rob Rosen answers a question, but unlike the Rob Rosen we know so well for his intelligent and powerful budget presentations at Town Meeting, this Rob Rosen speaks too softly to be heard, doesn't make eye contact with the audience and seems a bit wishy-washy and unfocused; Andreas Lehner speaks next about his suggestion for a mediator but does not get much response from the board; Karen Nightingale again (a forceful speaker, a writer and thinker, deeply committed to the school and its success, worth listening to in full on MRVTV); Brigid responds to Karen's questions about the school lunch program and again Brigid can be formidable with her grasp of the rules and procedure and this time returns to the question of Warren noncompliance and implies that failure to comply could result in a mandatory 5 percent school tax increase and calls this a leadership crisis (she sure can talk and wants us to believe she is working for us); Tim Seniff spoke next, expressed anger and disappointed with the parents for their lack of trust and respect for the board (now that was a change of pace); Sarina Gulisano (yet another powerful voice in support of Laurie); and then Meredith Jacoby and once more we hear a powerful voice of a parent currently deeply involved in the school (please watch her speak on MRVTV, watch them all). We should be very proud of this community and its determination to see justice done and the school returned to its intended role of serving students above all else.

At this point I realize Adam Greshin has hardly said a word. And he will not speak until a question arises about a legislative act to consolidate schools, a recurring fear expressed by parents. Unlike Rob, Adam speaks loudly and clearly and with his usual focus. He does not believe that Warren School will be consolidated. Some school functions like accounting, bill paying, administration, paperwork compliance, etc. should be consolidated. No need for so much duplication among the seven schools in the WWSU district.

It is getting late. Closing in on 9 p.m. So far it is public forum 2.0. Board agenda is out the window. Soon Michael will plead for release. He has a family at home and wants to return to them very soon. I'm starving. Crowd is beginning to thin. Michael mentions another meeting on August 4 (gets date wrong but is corrected later). Another public forum! Vermont School Association will answer questions on how boards are run. Correct date is August 18.

This part of the meeting ended with a question from the audience: "Will you consider the new-job-for-Laurie proposal in time for the new school year?" No real answer from the board.

What did I think after it was over? I think the parents made progress. I think community support for Laurie was confirmed. I think the board has heard all they need to hear and now must decide if they are interested in a solution. I think the principal is toast. I think the superintendent will continue to be an obstacle. I think the sun will rise in the morning. I think it will stop raining by August 1. I think the parents will continue to press for change. I think there is a genuine possibility Laurie Jones will be working at Warren School when the school year begins. I think Warren is blessed with an incredible number of powerful moms and dads who will not be denied. I think the children will have another fun year and I think I will be at the graduation ceremony in June 2016 when Rachel Goodwin gets her well-deserved diploma. Yea, and God bless Warren School.

Lobel lives in Warren.


MyView Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:17:03 -0400
‘Community left spinning and confused’

By Asah Rowles

Another school board meeting and again a community is left spinning and confused. Some of us are now more convinced the root issue is not Laurie Jones' performance but instead lies within the workings of this board, this principal and this superintendent and for unknown reasons (since they can't tell us).

The board and the superintendent say they have our best interests at heart yet the voters and the parents are continually left in the dark on critical issues. New revelations: Warren School was on the verge of a forced shutdown this year! Warren town was on the verge of a 5 percent school tax increase! Warren School was about to lose $50,000 in federal money! Warren School is out of compliance on a whole list of items! How could our community not know these things? How could our Warren School board, our principal and our superintendent not communicate such critical issues? Is this truly a result of Laurie's performance as Bridget insinuated? Or could it be they didn't know how critical this had become – as they should have? When will the truth penetrate their shield of secrecy?

I wholeheartedly agree with Bridget's assessment of Warren School having a leadership crisis. And everyone knows leadership crises start from the top, not from an administrative assistant position. It is she, the principal, and the board who brought us to this crisis. And in the meantime, we have a young inexperienced principal who struggles to answer emails, return phone calls or attend board meetings and with a reputation for being unseen. This is not a model of professional leadership for steering us clear of such a crisis.

No matter what egregious behavior you may attempt to stick on Laurie, it doesn't change the fact that the board, the principal and the superintendent could have handled this situation with much more professionalism and respect for our community and, more importantly, for Laurie. I am convinced a more professional, compassionate group would have found a way to release Laurie AND celebrate her 27 years of dedicated service. All it takes is respect. But instead we are met with a defiant board and superintendent bent on condescension and defensiveness. And, even though parent after parent comes to the microphone in support of Laurie, not a word of praise or ounce of respect is expressed from our school board or superintendent. Does your veil of confidentiality prohibit you from extending respect for 27 years of dedication? And what message does this deliver to the remaining employees at Warren School?

I personally believe Laurie has earned the right to make a mistake as I believe she has earned the right for any corrective action and reinstatement. I also believe Jill can grow into her position with patience and respect from all. And whether the board and superintendent understand it or not, Laurie has long represented the very essence of Warren School. Unfortunately, our board has torn that essence from our school and it may be impossible to bring it back. I look to them to resolve the crisis they created.

Asah Rowles lives in Warren.


MyView Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:15:18 -0400
Underground electric, phone lines on Bridge Street must wait

By David Sellers

After more than a month of discussions and proposals each of the contractors – Green Mountain Power, Kingsbury Construction, Alpine (the prime contractor) and Waitsfield Telecom – all passed on contributing to prepare for underground by placing conduit at this time. The proposal was to put the conduit for the lines underground now so that when the town wants to eliminate the power lines and poles on Bridge Street, they not interrupt the road and sidewalk to run wires in conduit and not shut down Bridge Street again.

Although the town of Waitsfield expressed interest in seeing the lines and poles eliminated with underground conduits with two town votes, there was no traction last week with either the select board or the contractors to cover the expenses of conduit placed now while the road is torn up. Each of the contractors, other than the phone company, were emphatic that putting at least conduit now was smart and should be done while the road is torn up. That meant $25,000 for digging the trench and backfilling it. When the conduit is added to Green Mountain Power specs, add another $10,000. The town sadly said no. A proposal that each of the contractors contribute to the conduit was rejected. For good reason as they all need to make a profit. The select board, to their credit, considered the opportunity and declined to ask the town for additional funds at this time.

The sidewalk brick and pedestrian scaled streetlights will go ahead thanks to the super efforts by AnneMarie DeFreest and Barbra Gulisano; however, even that has been compromised. The primary conduit could go under the south sidewalk if placed now. But since they will not go in now, at some time in the future if the town votes to do it, Bridge Street and the sidewalk will have to be dug up again, shutting down Bridge Street. If the conduits are placed now and the sidewalks are brick, running the lines in the future will not disrupt the street. But, the contract between the town and the contractor calls for a 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalk with a brick border, not a brick sidewalk. This design was decided at a select board meeting where it was determined that the sidewalk plow would damage the bricks, so a standard concrete sidewalk was voted in with bricks on the edges.

It is sad to see that the select board decides that the snowplow driver determines the character and historic quality of our town. In summary, now we will see the temporary Green Mountain Power pole next to the river replaced with the old one by the covered bridge, concrete sidewalks and business as usual when the roadwork is done. I doubt the town has the stomach to see the road and sidewalk torn up again in the future to replace the overhead wires with underground conduit.
We do get street trees, brick borders and streetlights to replace the ones on the poles which is a terrific example of citizen effort.

Sellers is the owner and curator of the Madsonian Museum in Waitsfield.


MyView Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:13:41 -0400
Support for Laurie Jones was overwhelming

By Carl Lobel

Turnout for the meeting was huge. Support for Laurie Jones was overwhelming; probably as close to unanimous as possible except where it counted most – the three board members who voted not to renew her contract and asked for her resignation. At the start the board released a statement which board member Mike Ketchel read into the record while copies were distributed to audience members.

Here is my take on the board statement:

Corporate management 101 done badly! When large public or private institutions including stockholder corporations are involved in legal controversies they have a well-worn playbook that they follow. Say nothing. Admit nothing. Stonewall. Change the subject. Hide behind legal barricades. Protect your back. CYA. Hire lawyers, publicists, spokespersons and keep the process secret. You are in control and you must never lose control of the process.

The last piece to be put in place happened Thursday when, according to Mike Ketchel, Laurie Jones was given a paper and asked to sign and she did. With this paper Laurie resigned her position and in return received the most generous possible retirement package that the board could offer but for this she paid a price. By signing she agreed to not publicly disclose the details of the agreement or disclose any of the reasons for her resignation. The board agreed to not disclose the reasons that they asked for her resignation. Laurie really has no choice. If she doesn't sign she is in for a long drawn-out fight (lawyers, court dates, arbitration, more lawyers) with the possibility that ultimately she loses the legal fight or has to spend a lot of time, money and energy to pursue her rights.

For the school board it is a win-win. The public is the real loser. The public is told that we are not allowed by law to reveal the details of our decision in order to protect the privacy of the other party who has been compelled to waive her rights in return for a retirement benefit that she earned with 28 years of dedicated service to Warren School. Read the board statement. It says nothing substantive about the reason for the public forum. It never thanked Laurie for her years of service. No going away party for Laurie. Just go away and keep your mouth shut.

Then the public spoke. The speakers, almost everyone of whom had or has children in Warren School, were magnificent. Thoughtful, respectful, intelligent and each one had nothing but praise for Laurie Jones. When each speaker finished the crowd burst into applause. There were many great words spoken, some very moving but none could top the youngest speaker, a Warren School student who received a standing ovation for her words in support of Laurie Jones.

It is very likely that this young girl was speaking for all of the students when she said that she wants Laurie Jones to be in her usual place when school starts on August 28. That same sentiment was universally expressed by parents – they want Laurie Jones to be at her desk for as long as Laurie wishes to serve/work. They asked again and again: "How can we make this happen?" but the board response was "You can't."

Over and over again the speakers expressed the overriding concern of all parents: The board had shown no respect for Laurie Jones and the community had lost all respect for the board. Many speakers pointed out that the close ties of family had been broken and all in service of what? No response. That special bond that we all feel with the school has been taken away from us. How will we be able to go forward in the new school year? Who will we trust? Who will we turn to? What will we tell our children?

There was no support for the board position in attendance except perhaps for the embarrassing attempt at support offered by the wife of a board member. Note to wife: Pillow talk is not evidentiary. One board member claimed that he had spoken to many citizen taxpayers who supported their position, but the crowd forced to him to admit that they were not in attendance tonight. Note to board member: Hearsay doesn't count. The board had no cards to play but only platitudes to spin.

Which brings me to my last observation. Where was the principal who holds the ultimate position of authority in the school? The principal is the team captain, the leader, the inspiration, the buck stops here person. Our principal couldn't take the heat. Our principal could take a medical leave because this swirling controversy gave her a serious migraine. She was too stressed out to attend. Our leader, our field marshal is suffering from PTSD and the battle has just begun. Note to principal: Start working on your resume and maybe leave out school year 2014-2015.

I was very proud of the community tonight, all highly motivated parents, friends and a few children too. No politicians in this crowd, just honestly felt and expressed emotions and love for Laurie Jones. God bless you, Laurie, and God bless Warren School. Thank you.

Lobel lives in Warren.


MyView Thu, 16 Jul 2015 14:47:21 -0400
Mad River Valley Rotarians bring changes to Vermont Music Festival

By Chris Pierson

Early in 2015, the Vermont Music Festival (VMF), brainchild of the talented Jeff Mack and his friends, was on life support and the verge of extinction. Executing such a large festival with talented musicians while charging no admission was no longer feasible.

The Mad River Valley Rotary recognized the importance of the Vermont Music Festival as a Valleywide celebration of great food, wholesome family fun and incredible music. Many Rotarians remember the days of the Sugarbush Folk Festival and the Ben & Jerry's One World One Heart Music Fest and felt that with the group's management and organizational skills we can be a part of the renaissance of the summer music scene in The Valley.

Mack, wanting to see the festival survive and thrive, generously donated all of the rights to the Vermont Music Festival to the Mad River Valley Rotary.

Building on Mack's foundation, the Rotary resurrected the VMF while incorporating all of the successful elements from previous years.

In order to survive, the Mad River Valley Rotary knew admission would have to be charged. It is our hope that enough money can be raised to pay for first-rate talent and operation of the event and any additional funds raised will go to the Rotary, which in turn will be reinvested in the community.

Many Valley residents are not aware of what Rotary is and how we support local nonprofits with grants, scholarships for Harwood students, stocking the Waitsfield Food Shelf with goods donated by Shaw's and performing volunteer work for those in need. We are a vibrant and relevant club, the largest in Vermont, with members both young and old from a variety of business backgrounds. Unfortunately, we are mostly known for standing outside of Mehuron's and The Warren Store dripping with icicles selling tickets for various fundraising events. This is an image we intend to change and our foray into the music festival as a fundraiser is a harbinger of this change.

We hope that you will attend the Vermont Music Festival on August 8. Check out the lineup of musicians and planned family activities at and learn more about the Mad River Valley Rotary at

Pierson lives in Duxbury and is president of the Mad River Valley Rotary Club.


MyView Thu, 09 Jul 2015 11:57:39 -0400
Vermont’s major role in our independence

By Senator Bill Doyle

When we celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we should remember the contributions made by Vermonters in the fight for independence.

In his History of Vermont, Walter Crockett made reference to Ethan Allen and the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. Crockett wrote, "The first surrender of a British fortress in the long struggle for American Independence was made to Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, and in the history of the military affairs of the United States the capture of Ticonderoga hedged the list as the first important aggressive movement in the Revolutionary War."

Charles Jellison, in Ethan Allen: Frontier Rebel, wrote that Ticonderoga "must be considered a major military victory, for it drastically altered the power potential in the northern colonies and may very well have meant the difference between success and failure for the Revolutionary cause."

In the winter of 1775-76, George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, found himself short of military equipment needed to drive the British out of Boston. Henry Knox, colonel of the artillery, suggested to Washington that captured military supplies from Crown Point and Ticonderoga could be transported to Boston. Washington, in a letter to Knox, wrote the following: "You're to immediately examine into the state of the artillery of this army, and take an account of the cannon, mortars, shells, lead and ammunition that are wanting. The want to them is so great that no trouble or expense must be spared to obtain." In December of 1775, Knox removed heavy military equipment from Ticonderoga. He floated the supplies on Lake George and then transported the equipment by land with 42 sleds and 81 yoke of oxen. When these supplies reached Boston in March 1776, the British decided to evacuate and Washington's military strategy prevailed.

The following excerpt was printed in Earle Newton's The Vermont Story: "Fort Ticonderoga's immortal guns go to General George Washington ... in the winter of 1776 ... over hundreds of miles of roadless, trackless, snow-clad mountains and valleys, through thick forest, over ice-covered lakes and rivers ... on sledges pulled by oxen ... in the charge of General Knox and his artillery men in their red-trim regimentals, who deliver the guns at Dorchester Heights. There, roaring down at the enemy, they drive him out of Boston Town."

The next year, in 1777, Vermonters fought with valor at the Battle of Bennington. Edward Conant said that the battle led to the British surrender of Saratoga, often referred to as one of the decisive battles in the history of the world. Washington was impressed by the fighting qualities of Vermonters and was of great assistance to our joining the Union.

On January 15, 1777, Vermont declared its independence from Great Britain and New York. Vermont's Declaration, influenced by the American Declaration, stated that "we will, at all times, consider ourselves as a free and independent state and the people have an inherent right of ruling." The Vermont Declaration went on to support the War of Independence.

While Vermont fought to win American independence, Vermont was not admitted into the Union until 1791, 14 years later, to become the 14th state. The American Declaration of Independence proved a great example for Vermont to follow.

When we celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we should remember the role of Vermonters in a Revolution that changed the course of history.

Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education and Senate Economic Development Committees. He teaches government history at Johnson State College.


MyView Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:14:32 -0400
How do you build community?

By AnneMarie Simko-DeFreest

Question: How do you build community?
Answer: One brick at a time.

In 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene descended upon Vermont, I was in California bidding my daughter a fond farewell as she got on a plane headed to Mexico. She was crossing the U.S. border to work with children from indigenous tribes who were left on the streets. Meanwhile, the streets of the place I call home were being swallowed by the river. Adults and children whose names I knew were all of a sudden homeless.

Over the Internet I witnessed what Tropical Storm Irene was doing to my beloved town and neighbors. Even if I was in Waitsfield, there would be little I could personally do. Bucket brigading sludge out of buildings and moving sand bags was beyond my physical ability. I was just a few months into my recovery from a touch-and-go surgery. From afar, I asked my employees to do all that they could do to lessen the burden to fellow business owners that could not fulfill commitments to their customers due to the devastation of their property. It never felt like I did anything to help. My staff stepped up. My facility was made available. I was one of the lucky ones and so was my fortress on the hill fondly known as The Round Barn Farm.

One bucket at a time our community rebuilt itself. I focused on my healing, as did our community. That fall I walked the path along the banks of the Mad River almost every day. I saw a child's backpack rescued from the current by a tree branch reaching out. The backpack dangled, still waiting to be claimed by its young owner. I saw someone's front door welcome mat askew on the rocks, one pink sneaker, oil cans and car parts.

Years have passed since 2011. Now my view is one of beauty as I sit on my front porch swing taking in the emerald green of a Vermont summer morning. In the distance though, I can hear the bucket loaders and drills on Bridge Street. Ledge is being demolished, storm drains are being installed, soils are being compacted and Bridge Street is once again being rocked.

While visiting with a neighbor and friend, an old-fashioned "kitchen sit" as many once called it, I learned that the plans for the sidewalks of Bridge Street included conduit that would be safely tucked under the new concrete sidewalks, buried away, to someday in the future be dug up so we could add streetlamps. Some day in the future, warm light would illuminate the gateway to the Waitsfield covered bridge. I drove through that bridge each and every day for 29 years of my life. It's a part of me.

This plan, I believe, was a well-laid plan at the moment in which it was made. Those who made it had the best intentions of our community in their hearts. Two years later, it is now being implemented. There is a better option though at this very moment. With a little effort, cooperation and contributions from those who care and can, this community can complete the rebuilding of Bridge Street and historic Waitsfield Village.

So back to the beginning and stating my view ... How do you build community? One step and, in this case, one brick at a time. Underneath it all will be massive storm drains, conduit and wires, loads of rock and gravel. It is human nature for people to judge only what the eye can see. I see stars, lit with gentle white light, hanging from historic-style streetlamps this winter season. I see the magic, the beauty that time after time takes my breath away in this place that I call home.

Join me in beautifying Bridge Street by buying a brick, supporting a lamp post, providing a bench for those in need of a rest. Together we can complete this project. This is your chance to be a part of history. Put the past behind us. Build for the future. Preserve our history with integrity. There are forms to pledge your support available at the Waitsfield Town Hall and Chamber of Commerce offices. You can have one emailed to you by contacting or We are currently building a website for online orders and contributions and will post that URL in next week's Valley Reporter and on Front Porch Forum.

Simko-DeFreest lives in Waitsfield.


MyView Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:25:36 -0400
Use your power – vote

By Cormac Stevens

With Governor Shumlin not running for re-election, I've been thinking a lot about my place in politics and politics in general. I'm 17 years old and these upcoming elections of 2016 will be the first in which I will be able to vote. This scares me. It doesn't scare me because I think my vote has a lot of importance on the political stage or because I think I'll make the wrong choice; it scares me because I'm worried that no one else cares. I'm worried that people have lost their trust in voting. And that's terrifying.

I'm not a political scientist. I'm not even done with high school. I think I have a pretty good grasp on how the political system works, but I probably don't. Politics is complicated. Here's the thing about politics, though; they're meant for the common man to participate in them. And once upon a time, most of the common men did.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout hasn't risen to above 70 percent since 1900 and has been lower than 60 percent since 1968. In the last presidential election, in 2012, the percentage was 54.9 percent. Even in Vermont, the turnout for the last gubernatorial election was less than 45 percent. That's pretty bad, but even worse when you consider that over 70 million people who are eligible to vote in America aren't even registered.

Why is that? Why is it that almost half of Americans just don't go out and vote on the future of their country? It's a tough question, one that much smarter people than I have asked, but nevertheless, I will attempt to answer in a small way.

There are many reasons for not voting, but the main reason I'm focusing on is the one that I've seen in my studies at school and makes sense to me: the disconnect of voters from their government. The feeling that the government doesn't care about the people that it governs. It's a powerful reason for apathy. People can say, "Why should I vote? It's not like I'm going to make a difference. Politicians don't care about me." And they'd be right. But please, don't stop reading after that sentence; for lack of anything else, it's a very depressing sentence to stop on.

This disconnect, this lack of feeling for politics, it's a dangerous thing. When people that do terrible things to this country get elected over and over again, it doesn't make the common person want to vote. It makes them want to give up. And when they give up, the cycle continues, and things get worse.

I urge you, as a soon-to-be voter, to not let this happen. I urge you, the reader of this article, to go out and vote in the next election. There is no magic wand. And there is no one candidate that will wave it and fix the things that have been going wrong in this country since the turn of the 20th century. There is, however, the power of voting. And it is a power. Men fought and died in the 1770s for it. Women fought and were brutally punished for it in the 1920s. This power of voting, of choosing who gets to be the next leader of our country, is a power that many do not have. So I urge you: Use it.

Some of my classmates have called me idealistic. They're probably right. But I want to see an America where her people are actively involved in their government. I've seen on the state level that there are politicians who want to help the people they govern. Vermont is great, but I want to see more than a state in a corner of the East Coast. I want to see an America where every candidate isn't just spouting off whatever will get them the most votes but actually speaks their mind. Wouldn't that be something?

Stevens lives in Waterbury and will be a senior at Harwood Union next year.


MyView Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:35:37 -0400
Fiscal education and propaganda

By Neil Johnson

Our schools need to be educating our students and the public in general about the world of money and propaganda. In the 1800s, part of regular schooling included talks about money, interest, loans and how to read financial statements. This is clearly not taught in our current high schools, colleges and in general. At the founding of our country, men and women were versed in the knowledge of propaganda and/or the words of government-sponsored press. Today we have fallen short in our recognitions and critical thinking; they have gotten us to side on team red or team blue espousing the inherent "truths" and condemning the "ignorance" on the other sides. See, they've won; we are regurgitating things without really putting serious thought or financial wisdom into our decisions.

A couple of examples: Students are given degrees and good grades when they don't have a real understanding of the subject material. On top of that, the subject material will not garner them a significant increase in pay, but they haven't done the numbers, so they are ignorant of the financial slavery they are putting themselves into! They are given a loan that cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy. They are put into financial slavery, because they are ignorant of finance and now being taken advantage of. While they aren't confined to a plantation, the slavery is no different. It has the blessing of our government and Wall Street. Guess who the big winner is on this? Guess who worked together on this? This is done under the guise of higher education and earning power, which are true and noble. However, in many cases we see that it's being abused, this couldn't happen with an informed public and student. Many of these institutions are funded or financed by government, so they can't fail. A charter school or school run with private money would not last. It would be found out and people would not pay for that school degree with their own money.

Another example is tax rates. Some people believe our tax rate was 93 percent and rich people actually paid that much in tax. It's a commonly published and promoted idea that our tax rates have gone down and they are too low now. So let's look at this. Say I earned a million dollars this past year, a great year in real estate for sure! So at 93 percent, I would pay the government $930,000 in taxes and would keep $70,000? If I won the million-dollar lottery I'd be able to keep $70,000! Even the mob wouldn't try this. Do you really think this ever happened?

You see, what people don't say is, there were tax write-offs. There were so many tax write-offs that, guess what, rich people weren't paying any taxes. The government couldn't get a handle on their financial house; it was getting too complicated, hence the tax reform of 1986. Do you really think any millionaire was paying $930,000 in tax every year? If they did, I bet their accountant was sporting some new concrete dress shoes, but most certainly that accountant was in the unemployment line. We need to recognize propaganda, we need to be fiscally educated, and otherwise those in power will own us.

Neil Johnson


MyView Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:45:55 -0400