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Local
Washington Central School Board
Board balks at 'hate symbols' ban

EAST MONTPELIER — Contraceptives soon could be available to students at U-32 Middle and High School. And while the Confederate flag may not be welcome there, the Washington Central School Board said it isn’t ready to enact a blanket ban on “hate symbols.”

On a night when board members met with local lawmakers and got a crash course on proficiency-based learning, a pair of policies proposed by separate student groups provoked protracted discussions that produced different results.

During its Wednesday meeting, the board approved the first of two required readings for a policy that would make condoms, dental dams and lubricants available to sexually active students at the 7-12 school. However, members struggled with a separate proposal designed to rid the East Montpelier campus of an ill-defined list of “hate symbols” in any “non-educational context … regardless of the stated intent of the individual displaying (the) symbol.”

While board members said they appreciated the passion and supported the intent of the diverse group of students requesting the latter policy, they also acknowledged it was potentially problematic. Constitutional questions aside — and there are constitutional questions — some wondered whether the school’s existing policy on harassment, hazing and bullying isn’t sufficient.

Principal Steven Dellinger-Pate said he believe it is.

“Our position is that we already can investigate these symbols as part of our current policy and that if it is causing a disruption or a disturbance … then certainly we can take action,” he explained.

That said, Dellinger-Pate acknowledged members of the student group “Seeking Social Justice” have pressed for a ban that — with an educational exception — would make“… the display, transmission or dissemination by any means … of any hate symbols” an automatic violation of the school’s harassment policy.

The proposal recently was pitched to a policy committee that entered the meeting looking for direction and has sparked an ongoing dialogue among students, staff and parents who have expressed fundamentally different opinions about whether it should be adopted.

That conversation continued as board members heard from a veteran teacher wary of a proposal he fears would do more harm than good and from their student representatives who argued the time for action is now.

Alden Byrd, who teaches English at the school, said he supported the proposed policy’s goal of creating a climate that is “free of hatred and harassment,” but argued the suggested ban was “legally dubious and very much counterproductive.”

Byrd questioned whether isolated instances of students wearing clothing that features the Confederate flag represented the kind of “material or substantial disruption” that would empower the board to limit the First Amendment rights of students based on the controlling court case.

Regardless of the answer to that question, Byrd said he has become increasingly convinced that the best way to alter student behavior is through education, communication and relationships not by enacting rules that might alienate them.

“Censorship is not the answer for this,” Byrd said, arguing the alternative might take more time, but would produce better and more lasting results.

Townes DeGroot, one of two student representatives on the board, said he isn’t willing to wait.

“Changing people minds is a goal, but it’s not as important a goal as making people feel safe,” DeGroot said, noting students already are prohibited from wearing clothing that makes references to drugs and alcohol and extending that to hate symbols isn’t a significant stretch.

However, it does beg a question the policy committee posed when the proposal was presented by students and its chairman, School Director Chris McVeigh, reiterated Wednesday night.

“Who would decide what a hate symbol is?” McVeigh asked, noting that list is potentially very long and deciding where to draw the line might not be as simple as it sounded.

DeGroot conceded it was a “gray area” as was the question of intent.

Dellinger-Pate disagreed on the latter point, noting the inclusion of the words “regardless of intent” in the draft policy was potentially problematic and opened the door to student complaints that could border on the bizarre.

“I’ve had students in my office who feel threatened because the Black Lives Matter Flag flies over the school,” he said. “‘Regardless of intent,’ if a student doesn’t feel comfortable coming into the school because of that, this policy might tell me that the flag has to come down.”

Dellinger-Pate’s admittedly extreme hypothetical provoked pushback from School Director Jonas Eno-Van Fleet, who described it as “perverse.”

“I think we can distinguish between the actual … effects of a Black Lives Matter flag and the actual real life effects of the Confederate flag,” he said.

During the discussion, board members sought to better understand the scope of the problem and the ability to address through existing policy.

“Are there symbols that would cause a student to face consequences or discipline now, or is it the position of the school a child could walk into U-32 wearing a swastika?” Eno-Van Fleet asked at one point.

DeGroot replied one once did, though, Dellinger-Pate said the incident wasn’t brought to the attention of school administrators at the time.

According to Dellinger-Pate, conversations with one student who had been wearing clothing that included the Confederate flag prompted a change of heart, though another recently has started regularly wearing the symbol.

“Part of that is in protest to the potential ban,” he said, explaining the student’s decision.

Dellinger-Pate said he sympathized with the board’s dilemma, while expressing skepticism the requested ban was the answer.

“I don’t know that this policy affords us any additional tools in terms of dealing with this issue, which is what a policy should do,” he said.

Board members generally agreed stressing the importance of education and expressing apprehension about the policy as proposed.

“I don’t hear any support for this policy around the table,” Eno-Van Fleet said, suggesting that balking at a ban shouldn’t preclude the board from making a strong statement.

“I hope it is the sense of this board that the Confederate flag is a hate symbol and it has no place in our schools,” he said. “Whether or not there is a First Amendment issue, or a ‘gray area’ issue or a political issue I hope that is the sense of this board.”

Board members agreed the policy should take a fresh look at the harassment policy to determine whether it might be modified in response to the concerns raised by students.

The sooner the better, according to DeGroot, who expressed a sense of urgency.

“Every week we don’t address it is a week when students are harmed,” he said.

Discussion of a the policy that would make contraceptives accessible to students at the school was comparatively tame, though health teacher Meg Falby described it as “a fairly politically charged topic.”

Due to the lateness of the hour, members of the student group that proposed the policy left the meeting before the discussion began, leaving Falby to urge the board to advance a measure that she argued would make students who are sexually active safer.

If there are concerns, none were raised by board members who approved the first reading of the policy and were invited to forward any suggestions to the committee before it is scheduled for second reading and adoption.

david.delcore @timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

For the Birds

Instructor Ted Fecteau, right, and students in the Exploratory Tech class Thursday at Central Vermont Career Center install one of three bluebird houses they built in Barre’s Cow Pasture park.


Local
Caballero Murder Trial
Defense presents argument in Caballero murder trial

Caballero

BARRE — Jayveon Caballero didn’t intend to kill Markus Austin and the bullet that killed Austin ricocheted off his vehicle, the defendant’s attorney told a jury on Thursday.

Caballero, 31, of Barre, has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Austin in Montpelier in January 2017. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in August 2018, and is being held without bail at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Jury selection for the trial started Wednesday and finished Thursday. Sixteen jurors were selected, including four alternates who will be picked at random and dismissed once the trial is over. The trial started immediately after that, with opening statements from the attorney general’s office and Dan Sedon, Caballero’s attorney.

According to court records, a witness told police Austin was shot around 4:30 a.m. Jan. 22, 2017, in the parking lot outside his 191 Barre St. apartment in Montpelier. Austin died from a 9mm gunshot wound to the chest, according to police and court records.

Police said the shooting followed a fight in Barre the previous evening, when witnesses said Austin hit Caballero’s girlfriend, who required medical treatment as a result. Officials said Caballero waited outside Austin’s apartment before Austin was shot.

Police said Caballero then fled to Florida, where he was arrested in May 2017 and brought back to Vermont.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Anderson said in court Thursday the case is about “disrespect and revenge.” Anderson said Caballero felt disrespected by Austin and couldn’t let it go.

“And cost Markus his life,” she said.

Anderson said Caballero’s girlfriend was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin for treatment for her injuries, and the evidence will show Caballero was mad, pacing around the hospital, getting on and off his cellphone multiple times.

“This is a big deal, the defendant’s girlfriend just got hit in the face, and he just let it happen,” she said.

Anderson said this was the motivation that led Caballero to shoot and kill Austin. She said Caballero was “waiting for his chance to settle the score.”

She said Caballero was sitting in a vehicle outside Austin’s apartment when Austin showed up. Anderson said it only took seconds from when Austin stopped his car to Caballero shooting into the windshield of Austin’s car, the bullet striking him in the chest.

The killing has been called Montpelier’s first murder in 100 years. But Sedon said this was no murder.

He said Austin pulled up, saw Caballero in his vehicle and got out. He said Caballero got out of his vehicle, and Austin and Caballero then shouted at each other.

Sedon said Caballero pulled out a gun, pointed it at the windshield of Austin’s car and shot once. He said the bullet hit the far left side of the windshield, away from Austin.

“Mr. Austin is standing at the doorway of his car. That bullet strikes the windshield at the precise location where it is both angled back and curved to the left,” he said.

Sedon said Austin saw Caballero with the gun and instinctively ducked a little. He said the bullet deflected off the car and hit Austin in the chest.

He said a witness to the case was awake at the time and heard the shouting. Sedon said the witness looked outside and saw Austin on the ground. He said the witness saw Caballero tentatively walk over to Austin and ask Austin whether he was OK. Sedon said after that the witness saw Caballero put his hands on his head. He said the witness reported it looked like Caballero intended to shoot, but didn’t mean to hit anyone.

“And then Mr. Caballero runs. Because in his mind, at that point, he’s alone in a parking lot. Mr. Austin wound up shot in the chest. And there’s no one to see it and it looks like he intentionally shot him. And he ran,” Sedon said.

On top of statements from the witness, Sedon said the physical evidence doesn’t show Caballero intended to kill Austin. He said when the bullet hit the windshield, it sent glass flying everywhere. Sedon said there was glass inside the vehicle, including on the driver’s seat, and outside the vehicle on the hood, the roof and the trunk.

“But when Mr. Austin’s body was examined closely under magnification by a trained pathologist, not one shard of glass on him,” Sedon said, adding no glass was found under Austin’s body.

The trial is scheduled to continue today (Friday) with testimony from witnesses, including the eyewitness in Montpelier.

eric.blaisdell @timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

Up and Running

Mark Brocar, of Northfield, manager of the new Jiffy Mart on Route 2, near the roundabout in Montpelier, tastes a cup of fresh-brewed coffee Wednesday. The gas station and convenience store opened on Halloween with 16 new gas and diesel pumps, a grab-and-go deli, and Ramunto’s Pizza Express. The station is open daily from 5 a.m., to 11 p.m., and will celebrate a grand opening in the coming weeks.


Local
CVHHH celebrated in exhibition

MONTPELIER — Touching tributes are captured in a photo exhibition about Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice at National Life in the Capital City this month.

November is nationally recognized as Hospice and Palliative Care Month to honor medical staff and caregivers who care for both the living and those dealing with end-of-life issues.

Titled “Being There,” the exhibition at National Life features a two-year project by CVHHH and photographer Corey Hendrickson, who captured images of 14 staff and family members of patients supported by CVHHH’s palliative care and hospice team and other services.

The exhibition included portraits of CVHHH staff and clients finding ways to relax and replenish after the stresses of the job or the loss of a loved one. Participants in the exhibition also are featured in a video about the project.

Hendrickson is a commercial and editorial photographer in East Middlebury who decided to work on the project after hospice cared for his grandmother, Evelyn Umryz, who died at age 95 in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in February 2012.

“It allowed me to be there with her and not have to think so much about some of the logistical stuff (concerning her care),” Hendrickson said. “I had a lot going on and to be able to just go take a shower and know that someone was going to be with her was transformative. You get scared to leave, but in reality, you need to take some breaks.”

Subjects include Gordie Eurich, of Montpelier, whose wife, Casey, died at age 52 in 2015. The couple worked in the retail ski industry for decades and getting back to the slopes with their daughter, Ellen, was a cathartic way for them to heal.

Eurich was photographed at Mad River Glen in Fayston, where he and his daughter were returning to commemorate Casey.

“My first date with Casey was up here skiing,” Eurich said. “The last run I took with her skiing was also up here.”

Mary Larson is a registered nurse, pictured with horses at her Moretown home.

“I find being with the horses to be very grounding and centering,” Larson said.

Larry Detweiler, hospice interfaith chaplain, is shown on a swing at his Huntington home.

“I like the motion of the swing and the movement and the ability to calm my thoughts and emotions and to take in the beauty of nature around me,” Detweiler said.

Bridget Coburn, a registered nurse and former member of the hospice and palliative care team, is seen with her son among cows at Fairmont Farm in East Montpelier.

“It’s such a joy to come up here and look at the cows and help my son out, just connecting with the animals,” Coburn said. “I think animals are a great form of therapy and it’s something I truly enjoy.”

And for some at CVHHH, it’s also about sharing their experiences of personal loss and being able to relate to their patients.

Bonnie Breer, of Cabot, has been a registered nurse with the hospice and palliative care team for nearly 12 years. In the exhibition, Breer is photographed at Pho Capital restaurant in Montpelier, where she has lunch once a month with one of her living sons, Jeremiah, in remembrance of one son, Joshua, who was killed a car accident five years ago.

Breer said she received a nice compliment from a patient who contacted her this week.

“I got paged last night by a patient and I instructed her on what to do and I said, ‘Call me back if it doesn’t work,’” Breer said. “She never called me back, but I called this morning to do a follow up, and she said, ‘You’re the angel in the night,’ because everything worked well and everything was good.:

Sandy Rousse said she joined the nonprofit as a board member after taking care of her parents through the end of life and rose through the ranks over the years to become CEO of CVHHH.

Rousse said CVHHH has an annual budget of about $13 million, primarily funded through Medicaid and Medicare and fundraisers such as its recent annual Seasons of Life fashion show, which raised more than $60,000 last month. However, CVHHH still provided services worth $590,000 in 2018 that were not reimbursed, creating fiscal challenges for the nonprofit.

Rousse also paid tribute to grant funding from National Life and thanked the company for staging the exhibition.

“The exhibit is a good fit for National Life Group which has had a relationship with CVHHH for many years,” said Beth Rusnock, president of National Life Group Foundation. “We see our role as helping families manage major life events with life assurance and annuities. CVHHH also helps families during challenging times by providing hospice care and other services.”

In 2018, CVHHH made nearly 86,000 home visits and provided 1.303 flu shots and 2,163 foot-care treatments. In the same year, CVHHH employed 208 staff and also relied on the services of 115 volunteers.

To view the “Being There” video, visit www.vimeo.com/368625596.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com


Local
Montpelier Farmers Market
Farmers market winter move to Caledonia Spirits

MONTPELIER - The Montpelier Farmers Market is on the move again.

This time it has found new locations for its upcoming winter season, as well as for a spot next summer.

Organizers say the popular central Vermont market will move to Caledonia Spirits on Barre Street for the winter season, beginning Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And beginning in May, the market will move to the state parking lot at 2 Taylor St., across from the new Montpelier Transit Center. It will be open from 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In a statement, Hannah Blackmer, president of the Montpelier Farmers Market board of directors, welcomed the new locations.

“The summer and winter markets have faced a lot of challenges regarding location over the past several years and collaborating with Barr Hill (the brand name of Caledonia Spirits’ products) feels to be the start of a new era,” Blackmer said. “We're incredibly excited to explore this partnership. It's the first of many exciting things to come.”

Previously, the summer market had operated mainly on State Street - and occasionally returned to its former location in the Heney Lot off State Street - but there were sometimes conflicts with businesses along State Street whose owners complained the market was obstructing access for their customers.

In winter, the market has recently operated at City Center on Main Street, a location that also proved problematic, market officials said. Previous to that, the winter market had been held at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Keri Ryan, interim market manager, said she was excited about the new collaborations.

“The Montpelier Farmers Market has never really found a nice, permanent home,” Ryan said. “We just recently voted to move our outdoor summer market to Taylor Street, which is a parking lot over from where it’s been for however many years in the Heney Lot, so now we’re moving over to a much larger space and will have a permanent lease, and we’re very excited about that.

“And we’ve been seeking a nice spot for the winter market, and this space, obviously, is beautiful,” Ryan said of the interior of the new Caledonia Spirits space.

Ryan said officials at Caledonia Spirits were excited about the prospect as well.

“When we reached out to Caledonia Spirits, they were extremely receptive and very supportive,” Ryan said. “So, we’ve just recently said, ‘It’s a go, let’s do this,’ and the vendors just got notified last week at our annual meeting at which they voted on it as well and approved the move. Everyone is over the moon.”

Caledonia Spirits Hospitality Manager Hallie Picard said the collaboration with the farmers’ market was a good fit.

“Part of our whole mission as a company is to be connected to our agricultural community and as a vendor in markets across the state, since our inception as a company, we’ve been a vendor at various markets, including Montpelier, and that’s how we built our business, so we’re very intertwined with farmers' markets," Picard said.

“So it’s all linked. Part of our mission is to support the working agricultural landscape, so it totally fits,” she added. “There are some logistical things to figure out, but we’ll make it work.”

Ryan said it is hoped to have between 30 and 40 vendors at the market at Caledonia Spirits, with some rotating to avoid making the space too tight.

Picard said the distillery was planning to change the hours of its bar operations to accommodate the market.

"Our bar will open at 10 a.m. - normally we open at noon on Saturdays - so we’ll have early bar options for those who want to indulge in that, some breakfast cocktails, some brunchy cocktails, so it should be fun,” she said.

Also, Picard said it planned to have J.D.K. B.B.Q., of Plainfield, provide a food service at the market at Caledonia Spirits.

Jimmy Kennedy, who runs J.D.K. B.B.Q. (and formerly River Run in Plainfield), said he planned to prepare pancakes and biscuits and offer fillings of Greenfield Highland Beef in Plainfield and charcuterie from Vermont Salumi in Barre, and is also thinking about preparing eggs and ratatouille.

Picard said the distillery normally conducts guided tours at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. but would reschedule the tours while the market was operating.

Beginning Dec. 4, the farmers' market will hold winter markets weekly on Dec. 14 and 21. In the new year, the winter market will resume Jan. 4 and operate biweekly through April before moving to Taylor Street in May.

Ryan also noted that siting the market at the distillery might make it less accessible for customers, so market officials are hoping to arrange with Green Mountain Transit to provide a shuttle service from the downtown, or alter one of its routes on Saturday.


Rail

“There need to be more calls for civility, thoughtful debate, an open-mindedness toward hearing points of view that are different from ours. In essence, we need to relearn how to agree to disagree, and let those differences weave the strong fabric of our society.”

Editorial, A4

In the news

The Barre Partnership has a lot planned for the upcoming holiday season. A2

A local man is accused of making crack cocaine inside his vehicle. A3

The union representing the Barre City firefighters has not reached an agreement yet, but progress is being made. A3

A man who stole goods from the National Guard and sold the items online pleads guilty in court. A3


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Today

Color Chorus

Abstract landscape paintings by Julia Jensen and fabric collages by Elizabeth Bunsen, with live music from the Zeichner Trio and light refreshments. 6-7:30 p.m. ART, etc., 32 Depot Square, Northfield, artetcvt@gmail.com, 279-5048.