Tuesday March 19, 2013

School budget cuts
will do much harm

Editor of the Reformer:

I really do honor the many hours of work the members of the Town Finance Committee put into their efforts for our town. However, I will be the first to say that I very much disagree with the committee’s recommendation to the Town Meeting that they vote against the Town School budget unless it is cut. Their proposal to cut more than $240,000 will have an extremely negative effect on the very things that families value for their children: effective teaching, exposure to arts and foreign language studies, safe and healthy environments.

Brattleboro’s elementary students have made significant performance gains in the past few years. All of our schools are implementing programs to raise the achievement levels of not only our neediest students but all students. These programs are research-based efforts focused on improving teaching and learning, integrating techniques to address student behavior and school climate, and increasing the participation of parents and families. We also have continued to offer all our elementary students the opportunity to explore music, the arts and foreign languages; elements important to our community that has come to pride itself on its artistic and cultural diversity.

Meanwhile, our schools also provide resources that were once strictly the responsibility of the family, ranging from meals to access to healthcare and mental health services.


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As statewide programs to assist families in need are dismantled, schools necessarily pick up the slack. Children in distress cannot learn, and the success of all students no matter their background is the goal of all our town schools.

The Finance Committee’s short sighted recommendation works to deepen the divide between the haves and have-nots. Families who want an excellent education for their children, with lots of diverse opportunities and can pay the price, will move to private schools. Other families will be left with a more impoverished and less effective public system. This long-term does not help the town. It will not attract younger people, entrepreneurs, or artists. This less desirable system will flatten housing values -- because what family or business wants to move to a place with financially and culturally impoverished schools?

I hope that parents and the citizens of Brattleboro will urge their Town Representatives to support this budget. It is an investment in the future of this town.

Margaret Atkinson,

Brattleboro, March 12

Out after dark?
Dress appropriately

Editor of the Reformer:

Many residents of the Brattleboro area have voiced a major concern: reflective clothing for walkers, runners, cyclists, and anybody using the road system.

At least five times this past few months I have passed pedestrians or runners without noticing them. Whether this oversight is due to the winter lighting, rain, mist, and/or snow, or just the overhanging trees that border our roads, these individuals are often hard to spot.

Today, swerving into the breakdown lane on Route 5 outside to avoid an on-coming vehicle, I nearly struck a runner. She, deservedly, was upset, making rude if deserved gestures. Her clothing, however, maroon and black, had not caused me to notice her presence beside the main road where I was watching the approaching car.

Of course, I was shocked and a bit shaken at this near disaster. Although driving under the speed limit (50 mph), I would not have saved her life or serious injury had my car struck her.

Previously, particularly on the Route 5 stretch (where today’s incident occurred) I have often passed pedestrians walking to and from town without noting them until afterwards. Rarely do such people wear reflective bands, jackets, shoes, or vests. Of course, they have every right to wear the dark colors so common today, but they can be invisible in twilight, rain, or heavy storms.

While most cyclists do use neon colors as well as reflecting discs on their bicycles, runners, walkers, and other people do not.

This letter is a request for some kind of public safety reminder: Go Slow Children; Deaf Child; School Zone: all of these help raise our consciousness of potential hazard.

Is there not someway our population might help out knowing that reflective gear on the road is as important as it is in the woods?

Anne W.S. Montgomery,

East Dummerston, March 9

On newspapers, history and the Reformer

Editor of the Reformer:

Congratulations to the Reformer on its centennial anniversary as Windham County’s "first draft" of the historical record since 1913.

This anniversary provides an opportunity to think about history and reflect back on the rich historical resources which we all can access. As a librarian for the past 38-plus years I have seen many changes in the ways information is collected, organized and disseminated. We are fortunate to have a free and open Internet that has become a global engine of political, social and economic change.

The most recent count of web pages on the Internet is around 43 billion. Yet there is still a huge iceberg of data submerged under the information surface, and that is content still under copyright. For example, Brooks Memorial Library owns microfilm for the Reformer going back to 1913, and even for those newspapers that preceded it, such as the Windham County Reformer and Vermont Phoenix. This information was published after 1922 and is still under copyright, but usually cannot be accessed for free on the Internet. For more recent copyrighted materials, Brooks does have full-text access through our Newsbank database to the Reformer from the current date to 2003. For this access we need a license that comes with a subscription fee, but anyone with a library card also carries the license to access it. Go to brookslibraryvt.org, and click on "Search and Learn" for the databases.

But what about the newspaper record before 1922? Thanks to the National Endowment on Humanities for supporting the Vermont Newspaper Digital Project, a partnership of the University of Vermont Libraries, Vermont Department of Libraries, Ilsley (Middlebury) Public Library, and the Vermont Historical Society. Information on the project may be found at http://library.uvm.edu/vtnp/.

Since July 2010 the Project has digitized over 130,000 pages of Vermont newspapers from 1836 to 1922. And in the current funding year scanners will digitize another 100,000 pages. Reference Librarian Jeanne Walsh and I serve on the project’s advisory committee, and among the Vermont titles you will find are 3,217 issues of Brattleboro’s Vermont Phoenix from January 22, 1836, to December 22, 1922, and 22 issues of Brattleboro’s Windham County Democrat, from July 21, 1837, to October 1853. These newspapers can be browsed issue by issue, but are also searchable using keywords, and may be accessed for free by going to the Library of Congress, Chronicling America page, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.

As we commemorate Women’s History month in March, it is worth noting that the Democrat was published by Brattleboro resident Clarina Howard Nichols, who was an early national champion of women’s rights. One can read her editorials informing her readers of women’s political and economic issues as well as antislavery topics.

If you like reading the historical record through newspapers, try browsing some of these issues at the Library of Congress website.

Jerry Carbone,

Brooks Memorial Library,

Brattleboro, March 4