News Briefs
February 15, 2017

Lakes Region News Briefs

Castleton mom questions school snacks list
CASTLETON—Nicole Wilkins told the Castleton School Board the school snack policy needs revision, when the board met Feb. 1. The school sends parents a list of snacks that students may bring to school with them, and offers snacks that children may buy at school for one dollar.
However, numerous products that students may not bring with them are available for students to buy once they are at school, while those same products are available at local grocery stores for far lower prices, Wilkins said. She agrees with the ban on products that contain peanuts and shellfish.
She shared the 11-page Safe Snack Guide, which documents “allergy-friendly products to help keep allergens out of the classroom and the home,” available online through SnackSafely.com. School board member Julie Finnegan noted that food offered at school is guaranteed to be manufactured in a peanut-free facility, whereas that may not be true of food purchased through a mass merchandiser. A growing number of students at the school do have severe peanut allergies and carry EpiPens®.
Castleton Elementary Principal Kathleen Cotton and School Nurse Diane Hubbard outlined some of the procedures aimed at both improving nutrition and protecting students with allergies. The list of products is updated every two weeks, they noted, and cottage cheese and deli meat are recent list additions.
Safety is the primary concern, Hubbard stated. Students who have a nut allergy are allergic to more than the nuts themselves, but also to oils from the nuts. Students are expected to wash their hands after lunch and snacks.

Town manager settling into new job
POULTNEY—After three-plus months, Paul Donaldson is getting his “sea legs” as Poultney’s town manager. Looking ahead, it’s hard to speculate how long Donaldson will continue to be known as the “new” town manager. He is following Jonas Rosenthal, who held the position for 34 years.
Donaldson was one of 27 applicants from as far away as Florida and Michigan. The attorney brought a diverse but relevant resume to his new position, with a practice that encompassed real estate, land use, and zoning as well as some municipal law. Nor is he a stranger to Poultney lifeways, having moved to the community in 2008 and serving on the Village Board of Trustees.
His short commute meets one of his chief career change search requirements, “to keep me closer to the kids,” he said recently.
He’s pleased with the day-to-day variety. No one day is like another. In that respect, it’s a lot like practicing law, he noted.

School staff comings and goings
Castleton Elementary custodian Walt Brown has submitted a letter of resignation effective March 1, moving up the previously accepted resignation date of the end of the year. He has worked at the school for 24 years.
Custodian Holly Ross also resigned at the Feb. 1 Castleton-Hubbardton School Board meeting. Amanda Felion has accepted a custodial position of up to 40 hours a week, at a wage of $11 an hour.
At Fair Haven Grade School’s Feb. 2 School Board meeting, guidance counselor JoAnna Surething submitted a letter of resignation, and instrumental band director Dave Etzler submitted a letter of retirement.
On the other hand, the Castleton-Hubbardton board approved a contract with Kelsey Towslee for becoming sixth grade assistant girls’ basketball coach.

Teens recognized for outstanding volunteering initiative
Pawlet’s Riley Callen, 14, is the middle-school state honoree in the 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The eighth-grader at Dorset Elementary School founded an annual “hike-athon” that has raised more than $250,000 toward finding a cure for brain tumors, a condition for which she had undergone two major surgeries.
Also recognized was 18-year-old Maria Wiles of Brandon, named a distinguished finalist at the high school level. A Girl Scout and senior at Middlebury Union High School, she led an effort to build a learning center, held a book drive that collected 700 books for low-income children and created a website on youth volunteer opportunities.

Looking at Town Meeting Day changes
The first Tuesday in March has been Vermont’s Town Meeting Day since before Vermont became a state. Bennington held the first one in 1762. Vermont was admitted to the Union on Town Meeting Day, March 4, 1791.
These public forums are face-to-face, direct democracy, where neighbors meet, discuss both their town’s governance and other issues of the day, elect local officials, and set their community and school budgets for the upcoming year. Now, some 200-plus years later, economic forces have altered the schedules of many communities’ town meetings.
According to the 2008 Secretary of State publication “A Citizen’s Guide to Vermont Town Meeting,” the state permits towns to hold Town Meeting on days most convenient for the townspeople, but Australian balloting must be done on the official date. Each town has a slightly different structure for how its citizens approach the issues facing them in the coming fiscal year, when and how the topics are discussed, and the form that voting itself takes. Towns typically hold an a general informational meeting before Town Meeting day and the School Boards typically present as well.
Vermont law requires that all local officials be elected by paper ballot, unless the town uses Australian ballots for all voting. Australian balloting, first employed in Vermont in 1892, is secret voting by paper ballot. Officials running for office and organizations wanting to be considered for funding or voter approval of a political statement must have collected a certain number of petition signatures and turned them in no later than the sixth Monday before Town Meeting Day.
The state contains 255 municipalities: 237 towns, nine cities, five unincorporated areas, and four gores. (Unincorporated towns originally had charters, but their population became so small that the state legislature revoked their charters. Gores are unincorporated areas not part of any town, with limited self-government; originally they often were the result of surveyors’ errors, lying between two towns.)
Only about 40 of the state’s towns continue to have full town meetings with floor discussion and open voting by a show of hands. All others rely partially or totally on Australian ballot procedures. In Castleton, residents will gather Monday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. to act on Articles 1 through 5 then and on Tuesday, March 7, starting at 10 a.m. residents will vote by Australian ballot on Articles 6 through 50 at the Town of Castleton Public Safety Building (Fire Station). Polls close at 7 p.m. On Monday the five articles will include: reviewing the Town Report as printed, authorizing tax payment to the town in quarterly installments, authorizing the Select Board to borrow money in anticipation of taxes, discussing the budget for the coming fiscal year, and acting on any business coming before the meeting.
On Tuesday, voters will cast a ballot for the issues and electable officials for and against what folks have been politicking for the last couple of months. In Castleton, Article 6 determines town officials; articles 7 and 8, school district directors; and articles 9 through 50 are to give consent to the spending of specific amounts of money for specific tasks and departments.
Fair Haven takes care of all but one article in the Tuesday balloting held at Fair Haven Legion Post #49. The Monday discussion and Article 23, “To transact any other business properly to be done at the annual Town Meeting” occur Monday at the Fair Haven Grade School.

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