By Lani Duke
Fair Haven Grade School turns 100
FAIR HAVEN—Fair Haven Grade School celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017. The Fair Haven Historical Society invites people who attended the school and anyone who works or worked there to take part in a discussion Jan. 15 in the school’s Learning Center. Please bring pictures and mementos.
Town Meeting: hallmark of democracy
At its Jan. 17 meeting, the Fair Haven Select Board will finalize the FY 2018 budget and sign the warrant, like many towns. Warrant is a word that contemporary Americans more likely associate with arrests or property seizures.
It is, however, integral to the Town Meeting process. Its precedent began in 1680 in Massachusetts. The warrant must state what will be discussed at the meeting, and a facilitator must be present to make sure members stay on track.
Advocates describe Town Meeting as the purest form of democracy, where community members vote on laws and budgets directly without intermediaries. Town Meeting is basically a townwide business meeting that sets policy and priorities for the following year. Prior to each Town Meeting, each property owner receives the town report outlining all items to be discussed.
Vermont’s Town Meeting is more than just a tradition. It is a stipulation of every town charter issued by Benning Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire, from 1749 to 1764, that each town would hold a general meeting in March. The Wentworth charters have never been rescinded or replaced, and when Vermont became a sovereign state in 1777, the practice was continued as new towns were chartered under Vermont.
Castleton international students end semester
CASTLETON—Four students on the Castleton campus this fall through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, have headed home. The program, known as UGrad, gives one-semester scholarships to outstanding undergrad students from around the world, combining non-degree full-time study with community service, professional development, and cultural enrichment.
Supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, UGrad brought Bayan Alsairy of Saudi Arabia, Mai Can of Vietnam, Elgun Mammadov of Azerbaijan, and Bahdja Sehli of Algeria to Castleton for the school’s first experience hosting students in the educational exchange program.
The guest students took classes on U.S. politics and government, performed community service, and took part in extracurricular activities like carving pumpkins and attending a ice hockey game. They shared food, traditional dance, and customs from their home countries with the student body, and began what they hope will be lifelong friendships.
Solar energy is big item for Benson’s town plan
BENSON—Benson has begun the process of updating its town plan with the assistance of an $8,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development. Intended updates include the plan’s goals and objectives and its energy section.
Land use regulations have remained unchanged for ten years; should an objective involve more regulation or less? The town plan may change allowed development at specific locations.
Officials have set aside the first 30 minutes of the Jan. 4, Feb. 1, and March 1 Planning Commission meetings for public comment and discussion on town plan changes. A townwide survey is due for return on Town Meeting Day, followed by a public meeting in April to report results, discuss options, and garner additional thoughts and comments.
The 2016 Act 174 established optional municipal and regional planning standards for energy. Working with the Rutland Region Planning Commission, the Benson Planning Commission is working toward an “enhanced energy plan.”
Act 174 is intended to allow towns to have input into the siting of energy projects, with the thought that locations for such projects would comply with town plan prescriptions. Currently, Benson contains three commercial-sized solar facilities, two on South Stage Road and one on Young Road. The Planning Commission has also received preliminary proposals that would place solar projects on East Lake Road on the hill behind the school, West Lake Road, Mill Pond Road, South Stage Road, and Howard Hill Road, but some of these have been discontinued.
As Act 174 reaches implementation, Benson will be assigned a target number of solar-produced megawatts to be obtained by the year 2050, although that future target date is not a law. For planning purposes, there will be an estimated number of acres required for solar panels, and the new plan will identify suitable and unsuitable locations for those panels, determined either by location or criteria.
In other news, the Benson Fish and Game Club Down Home Derby is planned for the weekend of Feb. 4-5. Participants may find tickets at bait shops, local businesses, and derby headquarters. Find out more by calling 537-2468.
ARSU superintendent retiring
When the school year ends, Addison Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Ron Ryan intends to retire, he announced at a special School Board meeting Dec. 21. He has led the organization for 20 years and was named Vermont Superintendent of the Year in 2015.
The 1,300-student ARSU oversees the schools in the towns of Benson, Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton, Orwell, and West Haven. It employs about 300 teachers and support personnel.
Announcing his plans this early in the school year gives the School Board ample lead time to consider who may take over Ryan’s position, he explained. “I wanted to make sure the transition was going to take place in an easier-type of situation and as early as possible,” he said.
Tom Spangenberg, chairman of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union School Board, praised Ryan for his long and effective service, noting that Ryan had “built a fantastic team at the central office.”
During his 37 years in education, Ryan has seen many changes in teaching methods and school district organization. He began as an elementary teacher, going into administration after 10 years of teaching. During his tenure at ARSU, Ryan oversaw service consolidation including transportation, special education, food service and curriculum development as the district unified.
The ARSU is undergoing a new consolidation plan mandated by Act 46. Voters will consider the issue during their March town meetings, a second go-round for the proposal. Last year, a similar plan received voter rejection; although the other towns voted to approve the plan, the town of Orwell turned it down. The 2017 ballot item does not require that all member towns approve.