News Briefs
May 31, 2017

Rutland Region News Briefs

Teacher negotiations prove unproductive

Rutland City School Board President Dick Courcelle said the board recognized that negotiations with the teachers’ union were not being productive and declared an impasse at its May 23 meeting. A series of eight meetings with the Rutland Education Association that began Jan. 13 left most issues unresolved or unaddressed, according to reports by VTDigger and the Rutland Herald.

Vermont regulations permit either the School Board or the teachers’ union to declare an impasse if negotiation by itself seems dubious. Impasse declared, the contract must go to mediation or to a fact-finding process.

It’s too soon to stop negotiating, REA President Ellen Green said by email, describing the School Board’s action as unfortunate and disappointing. Although the School Board position was that a standstill had been reached, the teachers’ union, representing all but school administrators. Both school board and union agree that Rutland’s 260 teachers receive lower pay than do the teachers in surrounding districts, and that they should be paid more. The board apparently proposed an average 4.76 percent teacher salary increase while adding five workdays for a total of 190. Green had written to REA members that the School Board proposal also removed some teacher benefits. She labeled the school district attempt as breaking a respectful and cooperative relationship.

Films bring prizes, scholarship, career 

Stafford Technical Center student Harrison Steever won first prize, $500, at the Castleton VideoFest in 2016 as a junior for producing and directing the narrative fiction, “MLG Super Squad 360 Noscope Defenders of Gaben.” He won again this May with a sequel, “MLG Super Squad 360 Noscope Defenders of Gaben 2.” This year, he won $2,000 and a $2,000 PEGTV Courcelle scholarship.

Steever’s plot line, acted by a group of friends, is the story of three nerds who hang out together, he said. In the first film, they rescue a console stolen from a gaming company and return it to its owner. The second film follows the same group of friends, because Steever and his friends “decided we couldn’t just end it here.”

Video and Multimedia Communications teacher Cristina Kumka describes Steever as “a tremendously talented storyteller” who has learned a lot more than filmmaking at Stafford, following an educational model called “project-based learning.” Stafford helped Steever find his direction to go to college, Kumka said. He will enter Castleton with college credits.

Steever worked on video projects for the Vermont Small Business Administration and the Wonderfeet Children’s Museum in his first year. His second year, he took on a client project for General Electric’s North Clarendon plant.

“He and his fellow students have learned how to work on a professional basis, developing technical and networking with peers. Working with local companies also always teaches students to network and often, those companies remember students who worked for them in high school and offer them jobs after they get out,” Kumka said. “Darlene Miglorie, the work-based coordinator here, does an amazing job placing students from other programs in real jobs outside school when they are ready for it.”

Students in her courses know that “I’m speaking as their boss,” she said of the instructional method she employs. School is very much like a workplace setting. “For two years, the kids create their own grades system. They decide what a 50 or a 90 is. They grade themselves,” she said.

Students get three or four grades, then they begin working on a growth-based model, evaluating where they started and identifying how much they have improved from where they were a week or two previously. That ability to evaluate themselves gives students confidence that they know what to do to get an A.

To see Steevers’ prize-winning video, visit youtube.com/watch?v=alEWOlFOzRo.

The ghanging work vista

Certified Physician Assistant Jennifer Kish has joined the staff of Rutland Regional Medical Center’s Vermont Orthopedic Clinic. The Pittsburgh native graduated from Tufts University’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant program in 2017.

Blake Lopes, MPAS, PA, has joined Rutland General Surgery, Rutland Regional Medical Center, as a physician assistant with a focus on surgical care. She is a 2016 graduate of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences’ master of physician assistant studies program.

The College of St. Joseph has hired Jody Breault as vice president of human resources. During her 16 years of human resources experience, she spent nearly the last seven years as Rutland City director of human resources..

Level funding causes reduced hours at Rutland Free Library

On July 1, the Rutland Free Library will reduce its hours, Director Abby Noland announced recently. Monday through Wednesday, the library will close at 7 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. as it had done previously throughout the winter months.

Running the library grows ever more expensive, as the cost of materials, technology, and health insurance continue to rise, while the Board of Aldermen has not increased library funding. The library has pursued and received grants to cover essential work in the building, owned by Rutland City. Among those projects are replacing rotted subflooring in the circulation area and poorly functioning restroom plumbing in the lobby.

The trustees have helped to find ways to reduce overhead costs, Noland elaborated. Book sales, sponsorship and monetary donations have helped but unfortunately, not been enough to keep the library open longer hours.

Rutland courts reach decisions

Local bankruptcy attorney John Canney III accepted a federal plea agreement on two income tax-related charges, May 15; the two felony counts may result in his spending up to six years in jail. One charge was for an understated individual tax return; the other, a understated corporate tax return, according to a May 19 report published in the Rutland Herald. No date was set for sentencing at the time.

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed Christopher Sullivan’s conviction for DUI resulting in death but overturned his sentence, saying that the trial court should have allowed additional time for the former city attorney to bring expert testimony, reported in VTDigger, Apr. 15. But White River Junction Criminal Court Judge Theresa DiMauro refused to allow Sullivan release to home detention while he waits for a June 29 sentencing hearing. Home detention is only for defendants who have not yet been tried, VTDigger reported in a follow-up story May 26. Sullivan’s appeal does not deny his guilt in the April 10, 2013, death of Mary Jane Outslay.  The court’s ruling only covers Sullivan’s being refused the inclusion of testimony from a mitigation expert. Members of neither Sullivan’s nor Outslay’s families will be allowed to testify. Nor can the testimony look at anything that has occurred since Sullivan was sentenced.

Honors and awards

Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of the Southwest Region recently named hospice chaplain and bereavement counselor Andrew Carlson its 2016 Employee of the Year. Colleagues submit nominations for the honor, because of commitment to exceeding expectations in work and in patient and family support or comfort. Carlson has been at VNAHSR since 2015.

Several Rutland Recreation and Parks Department staffers recently received a variety of professional certifications, as compiled by Rutland Herald staff. Program Director Nicole Densmore is newly certified as a park and recreation professional. Foreman Tyler Dahlin and Maintenance Specialist Kyle Bourgeois both received certification as playground safety inspectors. Bourgeois also completed the certified pool operator program, as did Maintenance Specialist Conrad Zeller and Program Director Jamie Trayer.

The Vermont Recreation and Parks Association awarded its Young Professional award to Rutland Program Director April Cioffi. That organization gave a Facility of Merit award to Baxter Street Park; that honor singles out recreational facilities or amenities that exemplify outstanding and/or creative renovation or development.

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