It’s a Colorful World
Thank you for [“The Diversity Test,” August 25]. Working at UVM for the last seven years, the lack of racial and ethnic diversity within our education system is a concern, as our new college students can sometimes have trouble finding role models and mentors who look like them and share similar experiences as people of color. I can only imagine how many more students from underrepresented backgrounds we could have in colleges and universities if they found those role models in the K-12 system.
I find it truly disturbing and disappointing that there doesn’t seem to be a system in place at a variety of state levels to even do the basic tracking of statistics as to how school districts are recruiting, interviewing and retaining teachers of color. I am fortunate enough to work in a department that values diversity, and within my own team of two dozen professionals, more than half of us identify as people of color. Recruitment and the retention of professionals of color is possible, even in places with leaders who identify as white.
As we go into another series of elections for multiple state offices, my hope is that the gubernatorial candidates seriously address this lack of diversity within the school systems. Failing to fix this problem in a country that is getting younger and more ethnically and racially diverse threatens to make Vermont out of touch globally, socially and economically. There may be “good people” in these systems, but we need to do better.
I read with disbelief the racist “The Diversity Test” [August 25]. In an age when I’m teaching my children to ignore color, Seven Days would have us highlight it. While I’m teaching my children to judge by the content of character, Seven Days would have the schools judge by the color of skin. Shame on you!
“The Diversity Test” showed clearly that the author has not learned the difference between “diverse cultural background” and color. If I am Jewish, am I not from a diverse cultural background from the majority of Vermont? If I’ve traveled the world, or relocated from another state, might I not have diversity from many native Vermonters? Why does Seven Days only see diversity as being nonwhite?
Perhaps the DOE does not track race, color or religion because they have moved beyond using them as selection criteria, as mandated under law. Hiring based on color is illegal for private firms; that battle was fought 40 years ago. The DOE has achieved Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality. Seven Days should catch up.
Furthermore, the article seemed to want the state to fund bureaucrats going on far-flung, expensive recruiting missions handing out teaching contracts and signing bonuses like gumballs to try to woo Asian, Latino or nonwhite teachers to Vermont. Diverting education funds away from the classroom to support more bureaucracy is bad for any Vermont student, of any race.
This blind ambition to hire only nonwhite teachers in Burlington is (1) not the only measure of cultural diversity; (2) choking off the applicant pool of otherwise great teachers; and (3) racist. It says to those children that they are different, and must have a certain kind of teacher to teach them.
I think Asian, Latino and nonwhite students should be given more credit. I think they can learn from a good teacher, no matter what the teacher’s race may be. Hiring based on race is just plain wrong, including teachers.
Lower Church Street Rents
Re: “The Church Street Marketplace Wants to Charge Burlington for Being There,” August 18. It’s simple, folks. If the rents on Church Street being charged by the buildings’ owners are too high, the spaces will remain empty. When we have vacancies at Main Street Landing for a period of time, we reassess our rents and lower them. It doesn’t take much time to fill them up when we adjust the rent to meet the economic realities. Our vacancy rate is below 2 percent. Leaving a space empty for months and sometimes years just doesn’t make economic sense, and it hurts the entire downtown. The call for the city to pay a portion of the Marketplace fees isn’t the issue. The issue is keeping Church Street vibrant and occupied, which will benefit everyone.
Moulton is CEO and redeveloper of Burlington’s Main Street Landing.
Salary is only a small part of their compensation package [“Which Vermont Superintendents Make the Most — and Least — Money?” August 18]. You should have provided the value of the taxpayer-subsidized health care and lavish pension and benefit package, which is worth millions. If this is amortized into their pay, they are grossly overpaid for similar jobs in the private sector.
It was with great pride that I opened up the Seven Daysies edition of Seven Days [August 4] to find that 21 businesses in downtown Montpelier won Daysie awards this year, and eight businesses were named runners-up. It was gratifying to see our eateries, independent retailers and independent movie theater recognized for their excellence. On behalf of the downtown organization, Montpelier Alive, and the entire downtown community, thank you!
Eikenberry is executive director of Montpelier Alive.
Re: “Down Memory Lane” [June 23]: Beautiful.
Good work, Rick Kisonak, on your dead-on review of the self-indulgent movie Eat Pray Love [Movies, August 18]. What Elizabeth Gilbert and her followers need is a healthy dose of feminist introspection, and I’m not even thinking of the so-called radical kind. They could also read Vermont writer Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place to understand how cultures, especially those less dominant, are used and abused by travelers.
By the way, in my literary theory class at Norwich, where I teach English, class members took umbrage with the classifications “chick flick” and “chick lit.” They wonder why terms such as “dick flick” and “dick lit” have not been coined by society. I suspect they wouldn’t mind if Seven Days adopted such in their relative book and movie reviews.
Patricia J. Ferreira
Ferreira is associate professor of English at Norwich University.
Vermonters Are Hungry
As the manager of Morrisville’s Lamoille Community Food Share, I found the article “Starving for Attention” enlightening [“Fair Game,” August 18]. In July we saw a 33 percent increase in the number of people visiting our pantry when compared to the same time last year. We have been hearing a lot about problems with 3SquaresVT, aka food stamps, and this article clarified the information we have been receiving.
While we agree with the observation about the ripple effect related to the problems with 3SquaresVT, we would like to point out that when people are going hungry because of food-stamp snafus, they visit their local food shelves. With that in mind, we would like to encourage our neighbors in communities throughout Vermont to support those food shelves.
Our recent economic environment has been tough on everyone. We’ve all been hanging in there, but some people just can’t hang any longer — they’re starting to fall. If you are in a position to help, even in a small way, please do. Your efforts will be greatly appreciated by those in need.
I appreciated your “Fringe Friday” interview with independent gubernatorial candidate Emily Peyton [August 11]. What is significant is that you have allowed her to bring up both her platform and how she would handle the budget crisis. Peyton’s platform is unique in that it introduces the idea of a state bank, as practiced in North Dakota, to Vermont. This and related economic reforms will help the investment potential for farms, business and community for a positive future.
Regarding the budget deficit, Peyton addresses the fact that speculative trading on Wall Street and other markets is not taxed, while people pay tax on essentials for their children. A modest 1 percent transfer tax will more than cover the shortfall and perhaps allow for tax cuts! The idea of a State Bank of Vermont and the implementation of a Wall Street Transaction Tax, which New York State has levied for years but not collected, are not fringe ideas but responsible measures commanding mainstream debate. I look forward to Seven Days fostering this needed dialogue and debate.
I enjoyed your article on the noon whistle [“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” August 4]. Anyone who has lived in the Midwest for long knows there is another purpose for those whistles — or, more often now, sirens, and maybe only on one or two days a week. They warn of tornadoes. Anyone who hears the siren at the nontest hour knows to turn on his or her radio and get to shelter. Quickly.
In several small Indiana towns where I worked, some folks kept weather stations or police scanners on at all times. The others counted on those sirens working when they were needed.
And when they were tested at noon, there was a moment’s anxiety before the relief of realizing it’s just a test — and knowing they would work when needed.