July 30, 2008
I feel compelled to respond to your article [“Hard Lessons,” July 16 ] to make sure that certain points are corrected. The following are the reasons your article missed the mark:
1. Mr. Blackhurst’s “FLKs” comment was not taken out of context. I was present when it was said, and it was horrid. “Out of context” really means let me cover my ass. He spun you like he does many things with his round-about talking.
2. The previous schools that Mr. Blackhurst worked at were actually middle schools for primarily dyslexic students. This is where Pine Ridge School is now going, and one can only wonder why.
3. The school did have financial troubles that should have been addressed before I ever started working at Pine Ridge School in the fall of 2006. However, our parents offered close to $1 million for Dana to resign. The problem, therefore, was not truly a problem, but rather a minor setback that could have been fixed in three or four years.
4. Pine Ridge School truly was a place that saved kids. Much like Mr. Blackhurst did, you discredit those who worked at Pine Ridge, some for over a decade. The school took kids who were scared, angry and diffident, and turned them into capable, proud and self-assured future leaders of tomorrow.
What was the point of writing your article? I feel slighted, as I am sure many others do. Upon serious reflection, I realize your article proves no point and doesn’t actually portray the sad reality that the community at large may never know the evil that lurks and looms at Pine Ridge School.
“Hard Lessons” [July 16 ] suggests that Pine Ridge School is in peril of being destroyed. To imply the possible destruction of a school in your own community is shouldering a terribly large responsibility. To accuse the leader of that school, a dyslexic, of being “illiterate” is a gross misunderstanding of learning disabilities and truly harmful to public perception of learning differences.
Over many years at Pine Ridge, I have collected so many notes of gratefulness from parents. I have also observed the lapse in standards that Dana Blackhurst is determined to overcome. Granted, I still work there, so I may not voice the resentments (mostly anonymous) which are so shrill throughout your article. Resisting tightened rules and standards, as well as difficulty with change, are part of the tasks of adolescents.
As a public resource in the community, you should be helping with that transition. Hidden beneath the “one woman disappointed in a change of leadership” and the “he said, she said” hearsay and out-of-context information is a story. Why didn’t you look into the reasons why the school was so financially beleaguered? Why didn’t you look into the reasons for the massive personal attacks on Dana? Isn’t there a story there? Instead, using very weak journalism, you attempted to add one more attack.
MAKE IT WORK
I find it hard to believe that two responsible agencies, such as the Intervale and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, cannot settle their differences so that large sources of kitchen waste can continue to send that waste for composting [Fair Game, July 9  & 16 ].
If that controversy isn’t settled, one of two undesirable results will occur: All that waste is sent to the landfill; or another site is used, involving huge transportation expense.
For Pete’s sake, let’s get down to business!
Alice Cook Bassett
Progressive candidate Anthony Pollina has reiterated his desire for change in Vermont and his dissatisfaction with Vermont’s established Democratic and Republican parties [Fair Game, July 23 ].
Although Mr. Pollina has no ties whatsoever to presidential candidate Barack Obama, he sure does love to pretend he does. Similar to the rhetoric used in Mr. Pollina’s previously unsuccessful campaigns, a pledge was made to pursue straightforward campaigning and to ensure transparency and integrity.
However, the actions taken by Mr. Pollina’s campaign reflect a behavior right in line with Karl Rove’s immoral politics. By changing his political party affiliation from Progressive to Independent on the last day petitions were due, Mr. Pollina unfairly tricked Vermonters who thought he represented progressive values and persuaded anyone else from running as a Progressive candidate.
There’s nothing forward-thinking about manipulating the political system to dissuade others from participating in the democratic process.
Mr. Pollina’s true colors have shone through, illuminating a candidate with not nearly as much concern for what’s best for Vermont and for democracy as for personal empowerment. It’s one thing to try and sabotage the Democrat’s legitimate attempt at pursuing change. It’s more disturbing when active steps are taken to disenfranchise people in his own Progressive party from running.
Holding ever fast to the coattails of our perennial independent politician in Washington, usual Progressive candidate Anthony Pollina has announced that he will run as an Independent this November [Fair Game, July 23 ].
Campaign staffers point to a coalition of the willing from different ideologies across the state as reason enough to leave party lines behind. Anthony leaves a Progressive party whose flag he has flown, not only for the last seven months of campaigning, but also in three previous campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor.
He claims that by laying down the shield of the Progressive Party, he will be more appealing, especially to Republican voters. To think that simple party titles and affiliations are a major hinge for swing votes is to degrade the voting competency of Vermonters. People around here don’t vote on a strict party line. If they do vote, they do so for the person they think is best. For instance, we had a “Republicrat” for 11 years in the governor’s office.
I suggest more concrete actions and plans for progress rather than foolish label maneuvering.
Thanks for giving Bill McKibben a platform to hold forth on Green Mountain independence [“Independence Fray,” July 23 ]. His compelling wisdom is (mostly) spot on.
I could spend time quibbling with a few of Bill’s observations:
1. Bill’s heavily edited re-telling of the 2007 Second Vermont Republic/League of the South discussion and Mr. Odum/Green Mountain Daily’s role in it. (No comment — time to move on.)
2. Or Bill’s dismissing of President Abraham Lincoln’s radical re-invention of the U.S. Constitution in the 19th century as relatively unimportant. (Then again, I am a historian by training.)
3. Or Bill’s call for “less theater.” (Jeezum, erstwhile “terrorist” Ethan Allen, Vermont’s mythical founder, proved to be one of the 18th century’s single most gifted showmen/actors).
4. Or the title’s misleading rhetorical call: “Can Vermont go it alone?” Secession should never be confused with isolation.
But time is too short for nit picking, and Bill gets it mostly right, I think.
We launched Vermont Commons in spring 2005 because a number of us believe that peaceable secession and the re-invention of Vermont as an independent republic, working in concert with the rest of the world, was an old idea ready for reinvigoration.
We need to create blueprints (or, green prints, perhaps) to get us there. We need to rethink energy and agriculture and education and transportation and currency and our media culture and dozens of other things — good food, good beer and good compost among them.
We invite all Vermonters of good will to join us.
Free Vermont. Long live the UNtied States.
Williams is the editor of Vermont Commons.
In the July 18 cover story, “Turn, Turn, Turn,”  the name of a wooden horse at the Shelburne Museum was spelled incorrectly. The correct spelling is Bucephalus. We regret the error.