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Posts from — May 2010

Smells like India

The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside this morning was the smell of smoke.  I had an instant flash back to being in India thirteen years ago where the smell of smoke from burning wood or trash is often prevalent.

As it turns out the smoke we’re smelling here in Burlington is from a massive wildfire in Canada that has covered Montreal in a haze and is affecting Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

I experienced something similar when I lived in Austin, Texas.  There was a massive forest fire in Mexico which sent smoke to Austin.  People were walking around with handkerchiefs over their faces.  It was worse there because it’s drier and dustier to begin with.

The wind is supposed to start blowing north this afternoon, which should end this phenominon in Burlington.

May 31, 2010   1 Comment

School Board Update II

School Board Update II: The Superintendent Strikes Back


Some folks contacted me about what was going on with Parent Involvement Coordinator funding, so the other day I wrote to The District’s Grants Director Julie Cadwallader-Staub:

Hi Julie,

Some parents of NNE students have been asking me about PIC funding for this year.  Could you tell me a little about these positions and about the funding for them for this year?  Specifically- will there be any?

Haik Bedrosian
School Commissioner, Ward 7

This morning I received a reply to my email from the superintendent who made it quite clear that she intends to personally control the flow of information between School employees and School Board members.  She can direct the employees who report to her however she wishes but I have to wonder a little when the head of an organization makes message-control such a priority.  She also answers the question about the parent coordinator funding, for those of you who are interested:

Dear Haik

The normal protocol for Board member requests for information is to go through the  Supt. This allows the Supt to be the primary messenger, and to understand the needs of the individual Board members. The Board as a whole also directs the Supt to make things happen; no individual Board member has authority outside the Board as a whole.

I write this as I have reminded my staff that Board requests need to go through me and I wanted to explain why I am the one answering your email to Julie. Normally, you direct your request to me and I get the answer. If you do go to a director, they respond to me.

I hope not to offend you but to share Board protocol with you. Please check with Fred as chair if you have concerns about this protocol.

So now, here is the answer to your question.

Parent Involvement positions had been funded by Title 1 last year.  Because of cuts in Title 1 funding, tight budgeting at the local level, and the ending of ARRA funding, we had to choose between continued funding of PIC positions vs funding of teaching positions.  We chose teacher positions.  There will not be Title 1 funding for PIC positions for the coming year, and the PICs have known this for many months, as Julie meets with them frequently.  They are hired on a one-year contract every year because of the uncertainty of funding year to year.  It is possible that new positions to support parent involvement will be created through the Tier 1 school improvement funding.  These positions won’t be the “old” PIC positions, but would be closely tied to the outcomes necessary for school improvement at that particular school. That grant is due June 15.  We don’t know whether the grant will be approved, or which positions within that grant will be approved or denied, but we are hoping that we can continue to support parent involvement in our schools through this means. 

Jeanne Collins
Superintendent of Schools
Burlington School District

Well. Ok then. In other news…

*Smith and Hunt have their principals now.

*The Superintendent will decide this week whether or not to send a recruitment team to The Philippines to find teachers.

*Contract Negotiations: The first rule of contract negotiations if you’re on the school board is “Don’t talk about contract negotiations.”

*Anything else? The comments section is all yours.

May 26, 2010   11 Comments

When I wasn’t Looking

It’s hard to keep up with other city events now that I’m on  the school board.  Good thing Mount Mansfield Television’s got my back.  The Channel 3 News at 11 tells me tonight…

*Burlington Telecom might just be turning itself around, kind-of, sort-of,  a little- in unspecified ways.

*The city is setting up a separate account for the airport in response to Moody’s recent downgrade of its credit rating.  “Its” meaning the airport’s credit rating, although Moody’s recently downgraded the city’s rating too because of Burlington Telecom’s failures.  (The downgrade is also costing the Burlington School District money in increased interest payments.)

*And from the “I didn’t see that coming” files:  Former Ward Four school commissioner Jane O’meara Sanders is selling Colodny’s and moving Burlington College a click north to the Catholic Diocese at 351 North Ave.   I wonder if she gets to keep the link from the chain of Saint Peter that Pope Pius IX gave to Bishop De Goesbriand.

May 25, 2010   2 Comments

School Board Approves Principal Hires

Breaking News

During a special meeting convened this evening at the School District’s central office on ColchesterAvenue, the Burlington School Board voted unanimously to take the appointments of the principals for Smith and Hunt schools off the table and approve them.  The room was packed with parents, teachers and residents, many of whom spoke during the public forum about the principal selection process.  I saw my own kindergarten teacher from the 1979-1980 school year in attendance.

It’s funny.  On a side note, I also saw my old elementary school principal from S.W. Thayer School at Hannaford just the other day.  He was barreling out of the store behind a shopping cart saying “Look out world!  Here I come!”  He looked like he could be pushing 80 or so.  Good old Mr. Ryder.  

The new Hunt principal Marcie Lewis was at the meeting and received a warm and sustained round of applause when she was introduced after the vote.  She said she didn’t take the two week delay personally.  Whew.  That’s good.  Thom Fleury relayed a message of thanks to the Board by phone and said he looked forward to hitting the ground running at Smith.  That’s good because Koko starts Kindergarten at Smith this fall.

For my part I said I wasn’t sorry for my vote to delay two weeks ago because it gave me a chance to learn a whole lot.  I said I expected to get information from the folks who work for the board and I did- but what I didn’t expect was the level of input I received from the folks for whom the board works.  That means folks like you reading this here blog.  As a new school board member from the ward with the two schools needing principals- I heard a lot about the vote from people.  Some was angry and some offered details about the selection process that I was ignorant of.  All of it was instructive.

May 24, 2010   Comments Off

Foreign Teacher Recruitment

Superintendent Jeanne Collins reported to the school board today that she is considering sending the district’s diversity director and another administrator to The Philippines to investigate recruiting teachers from there.  She said she has to decide by next week whether to send them.

My preference would be to limit our teacher recruitment efforts to The United States, but maybe I’m being closed-minded. 

What do you think?

Should the Burlington School District recruit teachers from The Phillipines?
Free polls from

May 20, 2010   27 Comments

When were “the days?” (Third Re-run)

I’m not beneath re-running old posts.  This post was published previously on 02.21.06, 04.25.07 and 04.24.08.


Click Picture to Hear Song.
I’ll write about the second mayoral debate later.

Even though I only have “broadcast level” cable, TV Land Network ‘bleeds’ into my cable service somehow and I get to watch it fuzzy for free. (Fox “News” also comes in, but perfectly clear- an obvious Adelphia conspiracy.) “All in the Family” is one of my favorite shows on TV Land. The IMDB Plot Outline: “A working class bigot constantly squabbles with his family over the important issues of the day.”

On one episode I saw recently, a Jewish militant was killed by a car bomb while Archie, Gloria and Mike watched in horror. I’m not kidding. It’s amazing to see what passed for comedy in the seventies. Well, not that scene specifically, but you know what I mean. Sitcoms were more hard-hitting then, than the news is today.

Anyway. I started ruminating about the theme song “Those were the Days” written by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams for the show which ran from 1971-1979. Everyone who knows the show is familiar with the song’s performance by Carroll O’Connor and Maureen Stapleton at the opening of each episode. But have you ever really thought about the lyrics? When exactly were “the days” they’re singing about?

My analysis of the lyrics:

Boy, the way Glenn Miller played!(1)
Songs that made the Hit Parade. (2)
Guys like us, we had it made. (3)
Those were the days! (4)

And you knew where you were then.
Girls were girls and men were men. (5)
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. (6)

Didn’t need no welfare state. (7)
Everybody pulled his weight. (8)
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. (9)
Those were the days! (10)

(1) Big Band Musician Glenn Miller lived 1904-1944.
(2) The “Hit Parade” was a radio show from 1935-50. Sort of a precursor to “American Bandstand.”
(3) The first in a series of ‘male-normative’ phrases with sexist overtones.
(4) When were the days? So far they must have been between 1935-1944 to include Glenn Miller & “Hit Parade.”
(5) The second sexist phrase, this time juxtaposing male maturity with female infantilization.
(6) Hoover’s presidency (1929-1934) saw the Depression begin. He lived 1879-1964.
(7) That’s a double-negative. It means they DID need a “welfare state.”
(8) Third sexist phrase. Use of the pronoun “his” implies that the speaker believes “everybody” doesn’t include women.
(9) Cadillac LaSalle (named for French explorer) An American car produced from 1927 to late 1950s.
(10) When were the days? Apparently they didn’t exist. Hoover was out office before the “Hit Parade” was ever on the radio. What is this crap? Didn’t anybody bother to tell Norman Lear?

Click here to here the song again.

May 19, 2010   Comments Off

Executive Session re: Phoenix House

The last amendment to the city council agenda for tonight…

“Add to the agenda item 10.5. COMMUNICATION: Ken Schatz, City Attorney, re: Phoenix House (oral): expected
executive session.”

May 17, 2010   Comments Off

Kurt Wright May Run for Mayor in 2009

Breaking News 

I ran into Kurt Wright at Hannaford a couple of hours ago  on February 27, 2008.  He was sporting a tie and a friendly demeanor. I asked if he was running for mayor next year and he didn’t say no.

May 14, 2010   Comments Off

School Board Delays Principal Hires

Breaking News

The Burlington School Board voted 8-6 Tuesday night to approve a motion by commissioner Philip Baruth to postpone a decision to hire two new school principals recommended by superintendent Jeanne Collins.  Members voting in favor of the motion expressed a desire to study the selection process, and learn more about the those who were chosen, as well as about some of those who were not, and why.

The Board heard public comment for nearly three hours, much of it expressing dissappointment over the District’s failure to hire more people of color, despite its stated policy of seeking a measurably more diverse workforce.

In other action, the Board voted to accept a contractor bid of just over $1.1 million for the construction of a new elevator at Edmunds Elementary School.

The meeting was long and I’m tired.

May 12, 2010   16 Comments

Keith Pillsbury to Run for Open House Seat in Chittenden 3-4

Breaking News

From a press release issued moments ago…


Burlington, VT: Keith Pillsbury, veteran Ward 1 School Commissioner, announces he is a Democratic candidate for the open house seat in Chittenden district 3-4. Pillsbury is beginning his 20th year as school commissioner and wants to expand his community service as a state legislator. He and his wife, Penelope DeLaire Pillsbury, have raised their two children in and been active in the district since 1974. Pillsbury is serving currently as chairman of the School Board’s Finance Committee, and has served as chairman of the Curriculum Committee.

“As a school board member, I have experienced the impact of state mandates on our decision-making. I want to bring the voice of my Burlington neighborhood as a legislator to sustain a strong public school system, to support the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, the expansion of job and entrepreneurial opportunities, and to promote sustainable and renewable energy for Vermonters.”

While on the Burlington School Board, Pillsbury worked to ensure a quality education for all children, advocating rigorous, comprehensive academic programs within responsible school budgets. He has been involved in community conversations about achieving diversity among the district faculty and administration, use of corporate advertising in our schools, social-economic integration, and consolidation of schools. His record includes supporting the  hiring of a diversity and equity director,  keeping Barnes Elementary School open,  having an anti-branding policy, and the creation of the district magnet schools to promote choice with social-economic integration. Pillsbury won a
Certificate of Recognition as an Outstanding Vermont Teacher in 2001.

“Growing up on a local Shelburne dairy farm, delivering eggs to Burlington homes, vegetable gardening in the backyard like crazy and being a member of the Onion River Coop/City market from the beginning, I totally support our local farmers and their efforts to market local food. I volunteer in the Farm to School program and am amazed at all their work to support farmers and bring healthy meals to Burlington students.”

Pillsbury graduated from Rice Memorial High School and the University of Vermont, earning his bachelors and masters in education from UVM. As a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Pillsbury is proud that his entire unit returned safely from their deployment in Vietnam in 1971. He was responsible for traffic control in and out of Da Nang. He began his teaching career in North Carolina in a system that was under federal court order to racially integrate.  During the last 36 years, he taught various levels at Essex Middle School. He found especially satisfying team-teaching doing a loop team with fifth and sixth graders, changing from the elementary school to the middle school every other year. Pillsbury won a Certificate of Recognition as an Outstanding Vermont Teacher in 2001. Currently Pillsbury works as a coordinator for the We the People: the Citizen and Constitution program.

Pillsbury is married to Penelope Pillsbury who is the director of the Brownell Library in Essex Junction. Their daughter, Ellen, is a regional planner in Duluth, Minnesota, and son Caleb, teaches choral music at Mount Mansfield Union High School. Both are graduates of the Burlington Public School System.

May 11, 2010   4 Comments