Friday March 22, 2013

WNESU bus drivers address upcoming budget

Editor of the Reformer:

The bus drivers for the towns of Athens, Grafton, Rockingham and Westminster would like to bring to the attention of the public the developments in the WNESU bus drivers’ insurance coverage and pay. Most drivers pay averages $10,000 to $12,000 per year. Currently, drivers are offered single, two-person coverage with a 10 percent contribution on all premiums.

The proposal in the WNESU budget (adopted) has the drivers paying 15 percent of the premium cost for the driver, plus 50 percent of the premium cost for the second person. Insurance costs to the drivers associated with the proposed budget are estimated to be in the $5,000- $6,000 range for the two-person plan which most drivers participate in. The proposal also includes a pay raise of 1.5 percent, or 24 cents. Paraprofessional employees and teachers are not required to pay the 50 percent premium cost for their second person coverage. The drivers are seeking to be treated the same as other school employees. We do not have any problem paying the 15 percent premium contribution.

Some drivers have been asked to do repair work on the buses in order to save the WNESU money. The drivers that were asked to do repairs have assisted in the effort to save tax dollars. However, as proposed, the drivers would be paying for insurance coverage consuming up to 50 percent of our wages.

We are asking for support from voters and parents whose children are bused to school, and who appreciate the effort put forth by drivers they know and trust. We realize that in Vermont there is no requirement to bus students with the exception of Special Ed or IEP students, but without buses, students in rural areas would have to be brought to school by their parents or guardians. We are requesting to be included on the WNESU meeting March 27 to present our case, and to reach an equitable compromise. We are trying to meet with the superintendent prior to me March board meeting. The WNESU bus drivers appreciate your support.

WNESU Bus Drivers: Walt Allbee, Jennifer Coburn,

Peter Golec, Deb Halberg,

Andrea Howe, Jennifer Huppe,

Andy Martin, Archie McDermid,

Sandy McDermid, Dave Morey,

Sally Ryea, Jim Sears,

Dave Smith, Amber Stevens,

Matt Tenney and Larry Wunderle,

March 17 Daylight savings time? No thanks!

Editor of the Reformer:

I read in the Almanac section of today’s Reformer (March 19) that Congress approved Daylight Savings Time on this day in 1918. In the fall we’ll be asked to turn the clocks back -- I guess one could call it "Daylight Wasting Time." I’m sure Congress had a valid reason for the euphemism, but I would prefer to have the same time all year.

Ken Heile,

Guilford, March 19

On VY, green energy ...

Editor of the Reformer:

I read with interest and general agreement the comments by elected officials to the effect that Vermont must act boldly to develop and energy from non-fossil fuel resources. I work at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and I can assure you that there is no carbon-emitting "smoke stack" here. In fact, Vermont Yankee is the largest low-carbon power generator to operate in the state.

Closing Vermont Yankee would blunt our region’s greenhouse gas-reduction efforts, as most of the "replacement power" on the New England grid would come from natural gas generators. As we all know, natural gas, despite being cleaner than coal and oil, is still an emissions-generating fossil fuel and therefore far "dirtier" than hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear.

Vermonters who truly care about carbon reduction should open their eyes and recognize my place of work for what it is -- a plentiful source of existing, low-carbon power. Claiming otherwise is factually incorrect and, perhaps worse, goes against the grain of doing whatever it takes to reduce carbon emissions.

Dick January,

Jaffrey, N.H., March 12

On bullying ...

Editor of the Reformer:

The Brattleboro Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) hosted a meeting at the Putney Library Tuesday evening on the topic "Bullying: Where Does It Start?" The presenter was Mimi Yahn, a Westminster resident, who has been exploring this question through various surveys over the years .

We learned that the term "bullying" has had too narrow a definition in the past by social scientists and that there is a strong need to "unteach ourselves the forms of aggression and bullying that we’ve come to accept as normal."

Bullying, explained Yahn, is "rooted in the society we all live in, and this is a society that values aggression and war over cooperation and peacemaking. For thousands of years, our world has presumed that war is the natural state, while peace is the exception."

Therefore since our society places great value on aggression, she noted, bullying can be "too easily internalized by children as appropriate and socially validated behavior."

Yahn cited how television, movies, video games, the Internet and other social media teach aggression as being the norm. She challenged those present to "actively and purposefully UNTEACH aggression" and instead of valuing individualism, to place more emphasis on the values of community, cooperation, respect, equality and peace.

She also noted that females are the main target on the Internet and that this is being accepted as the norm. She has also tracked levels of bullying on primetime network television.

"We as women can initiate a new social paradigm and become proactive. We may start small but our vision can spread, through groups we are already part of," including AAUW chapters, she shared. AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

Judith Myrick,

Brattleboro, March 13

Round and round ...

Editor of the Reformer:

Four new roundabouts along Putney Road? It’s scary enough driving the one we have now (imagine driving a tractor trailer). This "dismal commercial strip" certainly can use some widening, a median and definite improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. But roundabouts are a nightmare and, in this case, unnecessary. This will give people four more reasons to stay on the Interstate and avoid this town.

Dave Ward,

Brattleboro, March 13