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October 18, 2012

Middlebury College Dalai Lama Prank Turns Focus on Endowment

Dalai3In the run-up to last weekend's high-profile visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Middlebury College came this surprising announcement: The college was using the Dalai Lama's visit, apparently, as an opportune time to publicly divest its endowment from investments supporting war and environmental destruction.  

At least, that's what Tim Shornak, the "Director of the College Office of Communications of the Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee," claimed in a press release emailed to students and faculty and posted on flyers around campus Oct. 12. But red flags went up quickly. The student online publication Midd Blog quickly realized "Shornak" wasn't listed in the college directory — and, tellingly, used a Gmail address to send the message. Officials who were listed in the directory — such as director of communications Sarah Ray — disavowed the announcement. 

Earlier this week, the so-called "Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee" stepped forward.

Continue reading "Middlebury College Dalai Lama Prank Turns Focus on Endowment" »

September 25, 2012

At Burlington's Sustainability Academy, Upgrades Are More Than Skin Deep

DSC_3431At a dedication ceremony at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes today, the Burlington magnet school celebrated the construction of its new outdoor classroom.

Students, teachers and parents — as well as a few representatives from Seventh Generation, which funded the project — crammed into and around the open-air veranda. It's a space that teachers and students dreamed up for outdoor classes and community gatherings.

We have a longer story about the Sustainability Academy in tomorrow's issue of Seven Days, focusing less on cosmetic updates to the once-neglected schoolyard and more on the growing momentum to transform a high-poverty elementary school into a leader in experimental education.

The school reopened as a magnet school in 2009, in large part because Burlington desperately needed a way to economically integrate its school. Ninety-five percent of Barnes students at that time lived in poverty, compared to roughly 48 percent district wide.

Today, that percentage at Barnes has dropped to 70 percent. Test scores are starting to improve. And under the leadership of interim principal Brian Williams — who labored on the outdoor classroom for six weeks alongside Burlington High School art teacher Chris Sharp — parents report that changes are coming rapidly to the Old North End elementary school. That's perhaps most obvious in the school yard, where school leaders envision constructing accessible tree houses and natural playgrounds in addition to the new outdoor classroom.

Continue reading "At Burlington's Sustainability Academy, Upgrades Are More Than Skin Deep" »

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