October 18th, 2007
AMERICORPS AND VERMONT Youth Conservation Corps volunteer Paul D’Agnolo carries an old tire away from the shore of Otter Creek below the falls in Middlebury last Thursday morning. About a dozen volunteers worked last week to clean up the falls basin area and provide better access to Otter Creek from the Marble Works. The two-day cleanup was an outgrowth of the "Creative Economy" workshops in Middlebury last spring. More photos from the clean up are in the Oct. 18 print edition of the Independent.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — A Shoreham teen is asking United States District Court to compel Middlebury Union High School to officially recognize the on-campus religious club of which she and other students are members.
The lawsuit sets the stage for a legal test of the federal doctrines relating to the separation of church and state, a fight that backers of the lawsuit — Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) — vowed to take all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
A girl identified simply as “V.O.” filed the complaint on Oct. 12 in U.S. District Court in Burlington. The court has granted anonymity to the plaintiff because she is a minor. The Addison Independent knows the identity of the girl, but has agreed — at the request of her parents — to not name her unless she decides to come forward voluntarily or until the court lifts her legal veil of secrecy.
The complaint names UD-3; MUHS Principal Bill Lawson and Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) Superintendent Lee Sease as defendants.
V.O. alleges in her lawsuit that UD-3 officials have unjustly denied the Youth Alive Club the same official school recognition as other district-sanctioned clubs, such as the Gay/Straight Organization; the Arabic Club; the Outing Club; and the Student Coalition on Human Rights.
Officially recognized clubs at MUHS, according to the complaint, can be listed in the MUHS yearbook with an accompanying photo; can have their names listed on the MUHS Web site and in the school’s student-parent handbook; can have access to an advisor; and can receive access to district resources, including equipment, supplies and club funding.
By MEGAN JAMES
ADDISON COUNTY — Before moving to East Middlebury last year, Jeff Jones lived in the Caribbean, where he ran a food distribution company for the Turks and Caicos. It was there, a stone’s throw from the main island’s electricity plant, which ran on low-grade diesel fuel, that he first started tracking the peak oil crisis.
“The plant was a mile and a half away and it was just belching diesel fumes to provide energy,” Jones said. Without a dryer in the house, he would try to gauge which way the wind was blowing before hanging his clothes out to dry.
“My clothes would smell like I just got out of the garage after an eight-hour shift working on diesel engines,” he said. “This can’t be sustainable, I thought.”
Since then, Jones has been “ringing the alarm bell” about the rapidly-approaching expiration date of cheap oil, and that’s what drew him to Step It Up 2, the sequel to last April’s nationwide day of climate change demonstrations led by Ripton author Bill McKibben and a group of Middlebury College graduates.
“What we have to do for one, if we do it right, will help the other,” Jones said of global warming and peak oil, the time when half the world’s total oil reserves has been pumped out of the ground and people begin to face a scarcity of petroleum.
On Nov. 3, Jones will join area residents in making a second call to the U.S. government to “Step it up: cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.” But this time, the campaign doesn’t just offer a goal, but an outline of changes the country needs to make to get there.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Last week dozens of gangs of teenagers, more than 300 boys and girls in all, roamed throughout Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton and Waltham.
They were armed — with mops, rakes, paint brushes and sponges — and left in their wake a trail of gleaming windows, pruned bushes, fresh paint and neat lawns.
All were seniors, sophomores and freshmen at Vergennes Union High School. On the mornings of Oct. 9, 10 and 11, while their peers in the junior class took federally mandated tests that disrupted regular classes, they fanned out to their home towns for community service projects organized and supervised by VUHS teachers.
Despite some initial skepticism, the first-year experiment went well, according to both the beneficiaries of the work — town officials, church committee members and librarians — and VUHS administrators.
One skeptic was Ferrisburgh road foreman John Bull, whose employees oversaw VUHS students as they cleaned up the side of Sand Road and a town beach and rebuilt a fire pit at the beach.
Bull admitted he expected his workers “were going to waste three days” with the students, and was happy to say he was wrong after watching students do what he called “downright dirty manual labor,” like raking seaweed, dragging brush and picking up stones and trash.
“They’ve pitched right in,” Bull said. “It’s been superb, above and beyond what we expected. It’s been a bright spot to see young people in our community like this.”
Bull gave students top marks for the way they conducted themselves, and said he hoped VUHS would hold more community service days in the future.
“Their attitude has just been A-plus,” Bull said. “It’s been a really positive experience.”
FROM THE WASHINGTON POST
By 12 former Army captains
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 12:00 AM
Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.
As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.
What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.
Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.
EARL BESSETT OF Addison stands on the deck of the historic Ticonderoga passenger steamship on the grounds of the Shelburne Museum. Bessett, 83, served as first mate on the ship, which cruised Lake Champlain for almost 50 years, in the early 1940s.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
October 15, 2007
By JOHN FLOWERS
SHELBURNE — Earl Bessett one day last week joined the dozens of people who eagerly scoped out the legendary steamboat Ticonderoga, which sits on the lawn at the Shelburne Museum.
But while most of the visitors marveled at the architectural splendor of the vessel and could only imagine what it must have been like to take her on a cruise in Lake Champlain, the Ticonderoga held no mysteries for Bessett.
That’s because the Addison resident, now 83, became intimately familiar with the boat as its first mate during two eventful summers back in the early 1940s. On Thursday, Bessett returned to the vessel to renew acquaintances and share some of his memories as a crew member in 1941 and 1942.
The Ticonderoga is the world’s only preserved side-paddlewheel passenger steamboat endowed with a walking beam engine. She was built in Shelburne in 1906 and operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain, serving ports along the New York and Vermont shores until 1953. She was the last commercially operating steamer on the lake.
In a what was a truly remarkable feat of engineering, the Ticonderoga in 1955 was moved two miles overland to the Shelburne Museum grounds, where it was painstakingly restored at its unlikely dry dock.
Bessett, who moved to Addison 12 years ago, still remembers the big move via specially-laid railroad tracks from Shelburne Bay to the museum grounds.
“I never thought they could do it,” he said. “I though it would tip over. It’s nice to see it preserved.”
October 15, 2007
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School administrators decided last week to base the class rank and grade-point averages (GPAs) of their junior and senior classes on the school’s previous grading system, not the new grading system VUHS adopted for the current school year.
Grades for freshman and juniors will still be reported under the new system.
VUHS Co-Principal Edwin Webbley said last Wednesday that decision was made after “further conversations with board members, parents and the guidance department.” Those conversations included an Oct. 3 meeting with four dozen parents.
“We’re exactly and absolutely going to keep what we have as far as their GPA and class rank for this year and next year,” Webbley said.
Administrators also reversed course on VUHS honor roll standards, which now will be based on underlying numerical grades, not on letter grades. On Oct. 4 they had decided to retain the existing letter-grade based system, but now Webbley said the honor roll will be based strictly on the numbers.
To earn high honors, students will need to maintain an average of at least 90 in all their courses, and to earn a spot on the honor roll a student must achieve at least an 80 on all his or her courses and a 90 in a least one course.
October 15, 2007
By MEGAN JAMES
BRANDON — When Anthony Albarello was in junior high school in Harlem, he took a picture of a single typewriter key for his first photography assignment. It was an awful photo, he said. But for some reason, he couldn’t stop tinkering with it.
“I thought, I can make that better,” he said. “I can make that stupid typewriter key a work of art.”
The answer, he soon found, was in the lighting: With the right light, he could make anything beautiful.
Albarello is 62 now, living in Brandon and a seasoned photographer, having spent the last 40 years shooting high-end fashion, commercial and finally, his passion, architecture photography around the world. Through it all, his keen sense of light — and his patience to wait for it — has almost singularly defined his work.
A selection of Albarello’s architecture and interior photographs is on display through Oct. 22 at the Watershed Tavern in Brandon. The photos, chosen primarily from his work in New York City, create an architectural landscape with the lines and details “that make a room a piece of art,” he said.