News Briefs

Lakes Region news briefs

By Lani Duke

Castleton Float Bridge contract approved, credit union permitting questioned

CASTLETON—Blair Enman of Enman Kesselring Consulting Engineering told the Castleton Select Board Nov. 27 that his company has been involved in the Float Bridge rework since about 2014. The east side is finished and Enman Kesselring is working on the proposal to build the west side. The company has received permitting for footings on both ends of the bridge. Enman agreed to work on the permit, which is due to expire Dec. 7, without charge. The board voted to sign the contract for the west side of the bridge with the engineering company.

Valerie Waldron came before the Select Board to question Heritage Family Credit Union’s conversion of second-floor rental units to office space at its new 643 Main St. location. She said she had seen no change-of-use permits for the bank building. Waldron said Zoning Administrator Jeff Biasuzzi told her that the building owner’s legal counsel told him no permit was necessary. Waldron objected to relying on an owner’s position on permitting requirements. Select Board member Richard Coombs told her that her question will be answered in a few weeks.

East Poultney man facing prison

POULTNEY—Rutland Superior Court Judge Tomas Zonay sentenced Roderick Geronimo to eight to 15 years in prison for killing his 82-year-old mother, Gertrudes “Gigi” Alwardt, in what experts labeled a “psychotic episode” July 2, 2012. In his ruling, Judge Zonay said the sentence will allow the Department of Corrections to evaluate whether Geronimo’s treatment needs can be met in prison while assuring that he will not be released until he is considered to not be a threat to public safety, according to VTDigger. Geronimo had returned to Vermont after his father died to take care of his mother. In addition to cancer, she had several other health problems, including severe arthritis. Geronimo himself was taking anti-depression and anxiety drug Lexapro and smoking marijuana. In a sentencing memorandum, Zonay wrote that forensic psychiatrist and prosecution expert Dr. Robert Linder, who did not testify in the Nov. 28 hearing, believed that voluntary use of marijuana rather than a mental disease had played a role.

Funds tight for Addison-Rutland SU

Schools throughout the state eye their budgets with concern, knowing that there may be as much as an $80 million deficit in the Vermont Education Fund. Many schools are also struggling to increase efficiency and decrease duplication of effort as they work toward smooth mergers per Act 46. School boards are asked to contemplate the development of early retirement incentives for not only teachers but also support and administrative staff.

On the other hand, ASRU foresees a higher than anticipated need for special services, as a greater number of students with needs for highly individualized or out-of-district programming have moved into the SU. Currently the district has a total of 263 students enrolled in Individualized Education Programs (IEP), slightly more than 1 in every 5 students in the 1,355-pupil district.

Online teaching tools may help the transition. Kindergarten through grade 5 students have been using the online math learning program Zearn, and teachers are piloting the math resource Reflex, which helps students “develop fact fluency.”

The district’s technology department has begun implementing the Data Wise Continuous Improvement process, developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Boston City Public Schools, to efficiently use data to improve student learning outcomes.

Slate Valley board meeting budget challenges

The Finance Committee of the Slate Valley Modified Unified Union School District board met Nov. 15 as it works to draft the budget for the district’s first year of merger. Overall, staff reductions include one in technology; 1.5 nursing assistants; six elementary and high school teachers; three secretarial staff; 2.2 in special area teaching, such as art, music, and library; and five instructional assistants in regular and special education. However, 2.6 additions have been made to staff, including a .6 FTE health teacher, one social studies teacher, and one school-based clinician, resulting in a net reduction of 16 positions.

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