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Posts from — January 2011

Hey! Look over there!

January 31, 2011   1 Comment

On Executive Pay

I wrote to Superintendent Jeanne Collins and asked her to accept no pay raise when her contract is renegotiated.  Not because of performance, but just as a symbolic gesture for the taxpayers and the teachers.

She’ll probably tell me to get lost, but at least I asked.

January 30, 2011   30 Comments

Egypt Erupts

Breaking News

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English online for the last 2 hours. It’s amazing what’s happening in Egypt. Protesters have set the main government building on fire and are demanding Hosni Mubarak leave the country. Hillary Clinton just made a statement. It feels a little like 1989….

Watch live at http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

January 28, 2011   2 Comments

The Contests

I stopped by City Hall yesterday (before the BT meeting) and picked up a copy of Who made it on the ballot.  Interested?  Of course you are. I asked for a copy of the ballot items, but they said it wasn’t ready.

Inspector of Election Candidates by Ward (W).
W1-Linda A. Sheehey (D)
W5-Doug Dunbebin (I)
W7-Kirstin Decelles (R)
W7-Linda Deliduka (D)

School Board Races by Ward (W)
W1- Keith Pillsbury walks on.
W2-Meredith Woodward-King walks on.
W3-(1yr term replacing Vince Brennam)-Rebecca Grmm vs. Dave Davidson
W4-Ben Truman (replacing Philip Baruth) walks on.
W5-Paul Hochanadel vs. Frederick S. Lane
W6-Alan Matson walks on.
W7-Ed Scott vs. Nathan Moreau

City Council races by Ward (W).
W1-Sharon Foley Bushor (I) walks on.
W2-Bram Kranichfeld (D) walks on.
W3-Vince Brennan (P) vs. Lynn Mesick (D) vs. Ronn C. Ruloff (I)
W4-Dave Hartnett (D) walks on.
W5-Joan Shannon (D) walks on.
W6-Norman Blais (D) walks on.
W7-Ellie Blais (I) vs. Greg Jenkins (D) vs. Vincent D. Dober Sr. (R)

I don’t know if Norman and Ellie are related.

I don’t know if inspector of election races are city wide or what. You’d think I’d know that by now, but I don’t. Board and Council are by ward for 2 year terms contested by ward. Please note the large number of (D)(R)(I)(P)s who get to walk into their positions without a challenge on the ballot. Walk-ons are not as healthy for the city as contests. I think if you believe in democracy, that’s just simple math.

January 28, 2011   2 Comments

$2 Coke at WTC

I went to the top of World Trade 2 (The south tower.  The one without the antenna.) sometime in the early nineties and I was shocked to see the coke machine up there charged two bucks for a can.  I went up there again a few years later at night, and looking down I could feel my height, not just from the island below, but from the bottom of the sea below the island.

It’s something I still think about sometimes.  Don’t ask me why.

January 28, 2011   1 Comment

Special Council Meeting on BT II

I had fun Tweeting there I guess.  I picked up three or four followers during the meeting too.  I really just love everybody who was there.  I love the whole community.  I love Shay and Lauren Glenn and Ed Adrian and Paul Decelles- Bob Kiss, Dale Tillotson.  Yes, I even love Sharon Bushor.  Briggs- Kurt- Everybody!  We are lucky to have so many caring people in our community.

The meeting itself was technically worthless, but did it have a meaning and a purpose?  Did it restore any public trust?  Is there any chance BT can be resurrected?  The answer is- yeah probably restored a little trust.  Kinda-sorta.  It certainly didn’t hurt the mayor or BT to have a Festivus style airing of the grievances.  There’s something to be said for the inoculation of political rock-bottom.  Or maybe freedom is just another name for nothing left to lose.  Or something.

January 27, 2011   No Comments

Special Council Meeting on BT

* * * * SPECIAL MEETING, CITY COUNCIL * * * *
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2011
CONTOIS AUDITORIUM, CITY HALL
6:30 P.M.

1. AGENDA
2. COMMUNICATION: The Administration, re: Burlington Telecom (30 mins)
3. PUBLIC FORUM
A. Questions from the public submitted in advance
B. Additional questions and comments from the public
4. COUNCIL AND ADMINISTRATION DISCUSSION
5. ADJOURNMENT

****

I have to mention it because it’s a big media event.  I can’t be there ’till later, but I don’t know why I’m bothering at all.  Why is anyone?  Nobody’s going to get to the bottom of anything, and no new information is coming out tonight.  I’m listening to George Mallet and Shay Totten now.  Totten says Kurt Wright expects to run for mayor next year.

I have a weird feeling about this BT meeting tonight.  I don’t see the point, and I don’t understand what people are expecting to happen.  It’s just- weird.

January 27, 2011   No Comments

SEI vs. Neighborhood Schools

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

(note- S.E.I. stands for “Socio-Economic Integration”)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m on the School Board’s Policy and Advocacy committee.  At our last meeting on January 18- my 38th birthday- Commissioner Amy Werbel from Ward Five was present to advocate for changing Board Policy JE on School Boundaries.  The policy reads as follows:

JE  SCHOOL BOUNDARIES

Pupils shall be enrolled and attend the school located in the district in which they reside except as otherwise authorized in accordance herewith.

District boundaries shall be determined and may be revised by the Board of School Commissioners.

Individual requests for variance shall be acted upon by the Superintendent. Variances from one school to another will only be allowed when they directly benefit the education and/or welfare of the pupil. The Superintendent shall establish procedures to govern parental requests for variances to established District boundaries.

In the event that a neighborhood school has reached established class size limits, students may be assigned to another school at the discretion of the Superintendent. This assignment will remain in effect for the remainder of the school year. (See Policy EED – Student Transportation Services).

POLICY ADOPTED: December 7, 1986
POLICY REVISED: May 20, 1986
POLICY REVIEWED: October 12, 1988
POLICY REVISED: August 22, 1989
POLICY REVISED: October 12, 1993
POLICY REVIEWED: June 6, 1997

Amy is looking for a change of language to accommodate the new practice in elementary enrollment of ranking schools by preference. Now what happens is parents rank schools in order of preference. For Koko, Poopsie and I picked the school closest to our house as our 1st choice. We picked the school second closest as our 2nd choice. Superintendent Jeanne Collins seemed to indicate in the meeting that the vast majority of parents behave this way in deciding where to send their little ones. And of course that is obviously borne out by common sense. Parents want to be close to their children.

Come to think of it the ranking system we’re using to choose an elementary school for our kids in Burlington is a lot like the IRV voting system we just got rid of.

Anyway the point is- most parents pick the school closest to their home, which tends to correlate to the old boundary map that used to dictate where kids went to school, and so most people don’t notice a difference.

Now my understanding is- and any other commissioner or anyone- feel free to jump into the comments here- is that the SEI model of placement we’re working under functions a little bit like the nation’s military recruitment.  All volunteer, but we reserve the right of complusary placement.  And I guess so far with the so-called “magnet schools” (Barnes and Wheeler) we’ve had all volunteer recruitment from outside the old north end.  There is (or are?) seperate application(s) required to attend a magnet school.

In committee I was delighted to learn that the old policy still stood.  Some of the folks who had been around started talking about the last time they looked at this policy- which was not ”June 6, 1997″ like the policy says but really December 12, 2006 when after its first reading in amended form, the full Board sent it back to the Policy Committee where the amendment died.  The amendment would have inserted the following language at the beginning, before the word “pupil.”

The Burlington School District is committed to providing excellent and equitable education for all students.  The District believes that each student deserves the opportunity to learn from a comprehensive curriculum with a diverse population mix of peers that is similar to the demographics of the district as a whole.

Well- that little wedge meant to weaken the idea of kids going to school close to home- in neighborhood schools failed. 

 Thanks to commissioner Kathy Chasen from Ward One for providing the committee that reminder and a copy of what was voted out of committee at that time.  ‘She is the eyes and ears of this institution my friends.’

But now Amy Werbel is back at the committee trying to tie up some loose ends.  She wants the language of the current policy to bend and weaken in order to further solidify the concept and practice of Socio-Economic Integration in the Burlington School Distict.

I’m pretty sure Ward Seven, which I represent, would not want the current, traditional, common sense policy to be messed with.  In committee I tried to mollify concerns that the Policy does not concur with the current practice of ranking schools- (in place because of a seperate resolution, not a policy change) by arguing that when someone ranked a school that would have been outside their normal school boundary as #1, that was in essence a request for a varience.  Similarly, when someone from outside the old north end boundaries of Barnes or Wheeler applied to a magnet school, that too was a request for a varience.

This strategy succeeded in allowing passage of a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting Tuesday February 15 at 7pm- most likely at the Ira Allen Building on Colchester Ave.  But the discussion of amending the current policy JE called “School Boundaries” will be back on then- and I’m afraid there is a sticky wicket in my argument that the current practice fits the existing policy.  It doesn’t fully.  Both the ranking system and the magnet school applications exist so the District can mix up rich kids and poor kids, not according to boundary lines on a map, but according to their parents income tax returns.  The District will do it by parent choice if possible, and by force if necessary.  Even if that comes with a significant transportation cost to the district, as it did this year when we had to add a new bus for that kid that somehow though a misunderstanding ended up at Wheeler instead of Edmumds.

The reality of the whole “Socio-Economic Integration” hullabaloo is that this practice as it now exists in the Burlngton School District, is out of line with the district’s own policy.  Under what I was trying to argue ‘mostly’ fits the current policy variences may be granted not becuase it will  ”directly benefit the education and/or welfare of the pupil”  as an individual as the policy states, but will serve a much more hypothetical good of the District as a whole.  Interested parties with deep enough pockets and enough time on their hands might have halted the SEI via Magnet School model in Burlington in its tracks with a lawsuit anytime in the last two or three years.

Well what am I supposed to do about this?  I represent my ward and what I think is common sense and the best good of the kids the best I can.  Everything else is up to parents and voters.  You want to keep the policy the way it is?  Write to the school board, especially the one assigened to you by virtue of the map, and not the socio-economic status of the commissioners, of which mine is probably the lowest or second lowest. Here’s a link to our email addresses.  It’s a crappy link, because you have to scroll down and you can’t cut and paste, but it’s got what it takes to allow some involvement with a little effort for those who care enough. 

If there’s a large enough outcry again, like there was the last time around- we will keep our wise and good policy the way it is.  Otherwise, Amy and other pro-SEI commissioners will probably succeed in getting the policy changed.  I’m only one vote and I can’t stall them forever.

January 26, 2011   6 Comments

Response to the Larkin Report

The mayor has issued a response to The Larkin Report .  It’s available at: http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/docs/3367.pdf .

I haven’t read it all yet, but I did glance at the response to issue number 6. “Non-Compliance with Condition 60 Since Issuance of the CPG.”  and I can’t say I find it entirely convincing.  Here’s the part with the gist- 

“Larkin does not accurately characterize BT’s available funding to repay pooled cash.  When taking into account available funds from the lease purchase financing, the debit to pooled cash was covered throughout the period. In other words, BT’s financial position was positive.”

 So… as long as BT had the money to pay back the cash pool, it’s cool that they didn’t actually do it, because they could have? Um…That doesn’t work.  Having the money and paying the money are two different things.

I’ll let you analyze the rest, and maybe I’ll see you Thursday at City Hall for the big BT meeting.

January 26, 2011   No Comments

New Public Broadcasting Campaign

Press Release From Michelle Jeffery at Vermont Public Radio:
*****

For Immediate Release:

VPR Joins National “170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting” Campaign

Dear Colleagues,

Vermont Public Radio has joined with other public radio and television stations across the country in an unprecedented effort to harness the enthusiasm of the 170 million Americans who watch, listen to, or use the services and programming of public media each month.

View the full release and learn more about VPR’s involvement with the 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting campaign here:
http://pitch.pe/117251

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or needs.

Best,
Michelle Jeffery
Coordinator of Marketing&  Communications
Vermont Public Radio
mjeffery@vpr.net

January 23, 2011   1 Comment