Charlotte Albright


Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.

I understand, in theory, why the State Board of Education wants more watchdog power over independent schools that educate some students at state expense, if there are no public schools available in those communities. I also get why some private school parents are outraged. But not all the media coverage I’ve seen accurately explains the proposed rule changes.

Here in Vermont, we might scoff at the House Republicans for trying to muzzle their own ethics watchdog. But that would be hypocritical, because Vermont is one of only three states without an ethics commission of its own.

If Vladimir Putin had walked into my Lyndonville polling place on November 8, I can’t imagine he would have been given a ballot. But in a sense, he may have all-but voted, covertly, from afar.

When I was a reporter, I rarely thought of news as either “good” or “bad.” I left those judgments to the audience. But now that I’m more of a consumer than a producer of media, I have to admit I’m growing weary of hourly reports about national and international strife.

My mother was a staunch Democrat whose Depression-era vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt put her at serious odds with her Republican in-laws. My father liked Ike – Eisenhower, that is - who was Republican.

It was 1972, the summer after my college graduation. I was a teaching fellow at Phillips Andover Academy, an ivy-covered liberal stronghold in deep blue Massachusetts. I was gregarious, but I didn’t know anyone – literally not one person - who wanted Richard Nixon to be president. George McGovern was the obvious choice, especially for young people like me who had taken to the streets to protest the Vietnam war.

The United Nations seems to have decided that there are no human women qualified to be new honorary ambassador for women and girls, so they’ve chosen… Wonder Woman.

The new health care model, called an all-payer system, looks logical enough. Simply put, primary care providers would not be paid for individual services. Instead, they could choose to join an accountable care organization, and get a monthly fee for taking care of their patients.

Let’s face it, a lot of us show up for work when we should stay home. Of course, when you have only about six weeks left to win a presidential election, spending a day in your pajamas binge watching West Wing and asking your husband to make you some chicken soup - my usual flu season gambit - is probably not an option.

Vermont’s Agency of Education has just released statewide results for standardized tests in language arts and math given in grades three through eight, and eleven. In general it would appear that Vermont students improve in language arts as they progress through school, with about 54 percent of third graders achieving proficiency, and almost 59 percent of eighth graders hitting that mark. In math, though, students seem to lose skills over time, from a 56 percent proficiency level in third grade to a 38 percent proficiency level in 11th grade.

As Tropical Storm Irene roared through Vermont, I was at home in the Northeast Kingdom, anxiously waiting for the rain and winds to make their way to my house in Lyndonville. A reporter at the time, I’d placed my hip boots, rain jacket and pants by the door, filled my car’s gas tank, and was ready to head out into the weather to report on damage and talk to victims.

Hospital report cards come from all kinds of sources these days, online and in news headlines. But the criteria for judgment vary, and scores can be wildly different, even for the same hospital, depending on who’s doing the inspection.

In my experience as a college professor, a student who plagiarizes doesn’t have the luxury of a speechwriter taking the fall.

If you’re old enough - and I am - to remember the thwack of rolled up newsprint hitting your door each morning, and the pleasure of perusing page one as you sip your coffee, this won’t be good news.

Let’s get this disclosure out of the way. I taught journalism at Lyndon State College from 2007-2012. I might still be there if, in 2011, the threat of budget cuts had not been real, and my job - even though I hold a doctorate - had not seemed so shaky.

When allegations surfaced recently that Donald Trump’s for-profit school made fraudulent claims, employed poor teachers, and exploited vulnerable students, the media pounced. But as damning as the testimony by the school’s former employees may - or may not - turn out be for the presumed GOP front runner, we may be missing the bigger picture about for-profit education.

We baby boomers cling to a lot of childhood memories younger generations find quaint. Take report cards. Mine was a study in simplicity. Sturdy tan cardstock, folded like a little book. Back then, we were not assessed. Assessing was done on real estate, not people.

Shopping for salad fixings the other day, I saw a little freckled boy - he looked about six - reach for a big, red, beet. The grown-up pushing the cart picked up a few more. “Great,” she said. “You love these.”

In another aisle, though, another kid was having a tantrum because she couldn’t have a sugary cereal. Her weary mother gave in, and added it to the chips and sodas in their cart.

As those very different scenes suggest, some Vermonters are more interested in healthy foods than others. And that goes for schools, too, as well as families.

The other day, when my curious three-and-a half year old granddaughter asked her mother a question, she was told that she could read to find the answer. The curly-haired cherub answered sweetly but matter-of-factly, “You know I can’t read.” But she does love books, and I bet this time next year she’ll be reading on her own, because she’ll be in pre-school – along with thousands of other little Vermonters.

When I was a reporter covering the Northeast Kingdom and the Upper Valley, I spent countless evenings in small towns listening to people wrangle about whether or where to erect wind turbines or solar arrays.