Category Archives: Education

Another Snowflake Melts Away

Poor, poor, misunderstood Liz Cady. The person who courted controversy with her dog whistles about critical race theory and Black Lives Matter and, lest we forget, brought disgrace on her community by comparing BLM to Nazism, has up and quit. She resigned from the school board after little more than a year in office.

What a trooper.

Of course, it’s pretty much S.O.P. for right-wing culture warriors to screech at the slightest criticism while liberally defaming anyone else. How many January 6 insurrectionists have folded quietly in the face of 45 days in jail or some such? Pretty much all of ’em.

Let’s set aside the offensiveness that Cady tries to erase from her tenure, just for a moment, and simply say this: Democracy is hard. If you want to reform a public body, you’d best be willing to get in the trenches and be prepared for a long battle with an uncertain endpoint. Especially if the others on the body don’t share your views.

Even more so when a slate of like-minded candidates went down to defeat in this spring’s election. Sorry to say it, but the voters have spoken and Cady’s viewpoint did not carry the day. That doesn’t doom her cause to defeat, but it is a definite setback and it made her task that much more difficult. Difficult enough that she turned tail and ran.

And tried to frame herself as martyr and victim in the process. Pathetic.

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Lightning Round!

As the Legislature winds down, the political news is coming thick and fast. Got several items worthy of comment including Gov. Phil Scott’s generic condemnation of persons unknown, a better use for the state’s “extra” money, three potentially interesting House races, and a depressingly rote report on last night’s Congressional debate. Let’s GOOOO!!!

Scott condemns… somebody. Perhaps because of the killing of Fern Feather, the governor (or his comms staff) took to Twitter and amped up his language condemning hate speech in the political arena. He cited “disturbing hostility toward the transgender community” and lamented that Vermont “is not immune to this.” It was a good statement, as far as it went.

But he failed to mention the source of all the hostility: his own Republican Party. He also failed to name the two individuals responsible for bringing the hate home: VTGOP chair Paul Dame and Burlington Republican Committee chair Christopher-Aaron Felker. As long as the governor refrains from identifying those responsible and refuses to step into his own party and deal with this garbage, his words are sadly empty, In the vernacular, it’s time for him to grow a pair.

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Mill River Dodges a Bullet, and Other Happy Tidings From Town Meeting Day — UPDATED with Rutland Results

It was a bad night for Town Meeting candidates who foam at the mouth over mask mandates and the imaginary evils of critical race theory, as VTDigger reports this morning. David Xavier Wallace and Chad Bushway got curbstomped in their bids for Winooski selectboard; likewise for the three Milton candidates who put out a batshit manifesto; Katie Parent was soundly rejected by Springfield voters; Arlington voters said a resounding “no” to former state trooper Luke Hall; likewise for St. Albans’ Keith Longmore and Kingdom East’s Mathew Johnson…

… and three anti-CRTers were turned back by voters in the Mill River Unified School District — by disconcertingly narrow margins. If a handful of votes had changed sides, the antis would have had a majority on the Mill River school board.

How narrow? Incumbent Liz Filskov beat Nick Flanders by 20 votes. Josh Squier turned back QAnon Jewelry Lady Ingrid Lepley by the same margin. And board chair Adrienne Raymond beat Kristine Billings by about 30 votes.

Yikes.

Double yikes with nuts on top.

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Dregs of the Ballot: This Is How You Do It

In my pre-TMD series on far-right candidates seeking local office, I’ve criticized our news media for taking a cookie-cutter approach to the races. They often put in the absolute minimum effort, and thus fail to reveal the actual agenda of these hopefuls.

Well, I have to say the Bennington Banner hit this one out of the park. In a story profiling a school board race in Arlington, reporter Greg Sukiennik wrote all that needs to be written about the candidate pictured above: Luke Hall, who resigned from the Vermont State Police last year for social media posts in support of the January 6 insurrecrtion.

Posts like “Cheers to the great Patriots in Washington DC,” and “it might be war.”

Yeah, not a good look for a keeper of public order. (Although I suspect that if someone did a social media sweep of Vermont’s law enforcement community, they’d find a lot more Luke Halls.)

The agenda for his candidacy seems to boil down to one thing: He doesn’t like mask mandates.

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Dregs of the Ballot: Mill River Mafia

We take you now to the Mill River Unified School District, where a small number of very loud white people are trying to take over the school board. And they may do just that on Town Meeting Day. Voters should be aware of who’s on the ballot, because some of these people are stealth candidates hiding behind bland statements about quality education and transparency and parental involvement. I previously mentioned one of them: Ingrid Lepley, a QAnon believer whose online jewelry business used to offer a bunch of Q-inspired pieces before she partially scrubbed it upon launching her campaign. (And like many of these people, she refused interview requests from Seven Days and the Rutland Herald.)

For the last few years, these folks have been making life miserable for board members, school staff and anyone who tries to watch a meeting with their yammering about critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and the alleged misbehavior of members who don’t buy their agenda.

This all started in 2020, when the board approved the flying of the Black Lives Matter flag outside Mill River Union High School. This raised the hackles of those who believe that racism doesn’t exist, and that it’s used as a pretext for social engineering by, uh, you know, educators and the elites, and what the heck, maybe George Soros as well. The BLM flag was the original trigger, but the disaffected have added a laundry list of allegations to their agenda.

The electoral landscape isn’t easy to wrap your head around because the district includes four towns (Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford) that independently elect board members. But the bottom line is this: The Congregation of the Aggrieved currently hold four of the eleven seats, and could potentially net another three on Town Meeting Day. That’d give them a solid majority.

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Dregs of the Ballot: Katie Parent

This, ladies and germs, is Katie Parent, candidate for school board in Springfield, bragging about having “picked a fight against the district.”

Well, as long as you’ve got an open mind.

Parent has a conspiratorial view of critical race theory. She has posted messages on social media in support of the truckers’ convoy to Washington, D.C., which means she’s cool with closing down cities, being loud and obnoxious, harassing locals, and interfering with daily life. As you see above, she’s also identified herself as part of a closed Facebook group called “Vermont Against Excessive Quarantine.” So she covers the waterfront of far-right activism.

Funny thing, she doesn’t seem nearly so brave outside of her little right-wing bubbles. This week, Seven Days did a long and worthwhile story on far-right candidates for school and select boards, and Parent was one of several who did not answer requests for interviews. Braveheart!

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Dregs of the Ballot: Stealth Candidates

Let’s start here. Everyone has the right to run for elective office. But if you run, you ought to be honest about who you are and what you believe.

But there’s a movement among adherents of QAnon conspiracy theories to run for local office while concealing their extreme ideologies. And some of it is happening right here in Vermont. Voters need to watch for the warning signs of a stealth candidacy, and news media need to be more diligent in their often formulaic coverage of local elections.

The biggest tell that you’ve got a QAnon type running for school board or select board is a complete absence of any policy positions. Instead, the candidate emphasizes family, community ties and activities.

Take, for example, Ingrid Lepley of Tinmouth. In a social media announcement of her candidacy for the Mill River Unified Union School Board, she wrote paragraph after paragraph about her participation in numerous community activities while saying little to nothing about education policy. She offered a couple of bromides about loving her community and the local schools, and hoping they “continue to grow and do well.”

Meanwhile, she reportedly ran an online jewelry design business that featured numerous pieces that seemed to signal QAnon adherence. She used coded phrases and symbols from the QAnon lexicon. And some of her customers specifically praised her for selling QAnon jewelry. She has apparently scrubbed her site of the more overtly coded pieces, but there are still large quantities of “Q” and rabbit designs. (“Follow the white rabbit” is one of Q’s dog-whistle slogans.)

After the jump: Advice for the news media.

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Never Miss a Chance to Hit Your Talking Points, No Matter How Awkward the Context

Gov. Phil Scott used the occasion of his weekly Covid briefing — well, customarily weekly; he’s missed two of the last three weeks — to do a little bragging. The Omicron numbers are starting to trend downward and Scott was quick to take credit, although he also warned it was too soon for a victory lap.

That’s all fine. Normal for a politician. But on a couple of occasions, the governor took it uncomfortably close to the realm of tastelessness.

First, a reporter asked him to reflect on Vermont’s death toll passing the 500 milestone. He said the right words, most of them, although in an oddly dispassionate tone; but he couldn’t resist referring — not once, but twice — to the state’s relatively low death toll. In other words, he took a solemn moment as a pretext for delivering a political talking point. And later on, he talked of keeping the death rate on the low side in spite of Vermont’s aging population. Yeah, I know, us Olds are so inconvenient.

Details and a few other notes… after the jump.

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Phil Scott Shows His Educational True Colors

The above was burped out this morning by “National School Choice Week,” an organization that claims to support education but doesn’t know how to spell Phil Scott’s first name. For the record, it’s one-L, as in Ogden Nash’s lama.

“National School Choice Week” is one of those innocuous-sounding labels adopted by a right-wing organization to obscure its true nature. Here’s how they themselves describe what they stand for:

School choice means giving parents access to the best K-12 education options for their children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

Of course, parents already have access to all these options. What NCSW wants is for public dollars to follow every student no matter where they are educated, including institutions that practice various forms of discrimination and religious indoctrination. Such a program inevitably drains resources away from the public school system, which is one of the jewels of American government.

And yes indeed, Scott did issue a proclamation in support of NCSW. It’s couched in the usual language about improving the quality of education and accountability and parental authority. But look: Scott is endorsing a cause put forward by the enemies of public education on the right. That should worry anyone in Vermont who supports a strong system of public schools.

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It’s Friday! Time for the Weekly Dan French Disaster!

One week ago I referred to Education Secretary Dan French as “the Inspector Clouseau of the Scott cabinet.” Today, on advice from our crack legal team, I am unreservedly apologizing to the memory of the good Inspector, his descendants, and especially his lawyered-up estate. Because good God, the man is starting to make Clouseau look like a paragon of efficiency and organization.

The past two Fridays brought us (1) a sudden and complete reversal in school Covid policy, abandoning contact tracing and Test to Stay in favor of A Policy Yet To Be Named, and (2) the unveiling of said policy, “test at home,” in which parents would do the testing instead of school staff.

And only a few days later, as VTDigger reports, we learn that the schools don’t have anywhere near enough test kits to actually conduct “test at home.” Yep, French’s latest policy was a disaster from conception to unveiling to pratfall.

Got a question. How the blue Hell did French’s agency not realize that tests would run out? School officials realized it within a couple of days.

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