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.

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.

The EB-5 program was supposed to bring economic salvation to the Northeast Kingdom. Until I left VPR last year, I covered this story as a field reporter, beginning with the press conference at Jay Peak resort in 2012, where Bill Stenger mapped out the projects he said would create 10,000 jobs.

When I was a little girl living in Pennsylvania, my dentist, Dr. Miller, was a curmudgeon. If he happened to spot you in the local diner about to stick your fork into a piece of pie, he would whisk away the dessert plate and replace it with a piece of fruit.

As the presidential primary campaign grinds on, it's been reported that a slew of Americans are doing online research about how to leave this loony country – as they currently see it - for the country of the loony.

Now that the suspected carcinogen PFOA is turning up in more and more private wells in North Bennington, Vermont, and across the country, people who live near possibly contaminated sites are justifiably worried.

The Northeast Kingdom, where I live, is a gorgeous place to call home. Ridges, valleys, farm towns, sunsets - it’s a feast for the eyes. But putting food on the table isn’t easy for everyone. There’s high unemployment, rising taxes, and crumbling infrastructure. Yet those very liabilities have made my Kingdom neighbors resilient and creative.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

Bag Balm, that yellowish salve made in the Northeast Kingdom, was developed 115 years ago for farmers who wanted to soften their cows’ teats before milking.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

Joyce Dobbertin, a physician at Corner Medical, a large rural primary care practice in Lyndonville, is a big fan of electronic medical records. In fact, about 15 years ago, when Corner Medical’s office burned down, she saw an opportunity rise from the ashes, as a fellow physician looked at the flames in horror.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

If you’ve had a medical appointment lately, you’ve probably seen your provider peering at your medical history on a computer. Many doctors and patients are happy that paper records are giving way to digital information. But there are concerns that electronic health records can be hacked, and that physicians are now spending too much time with computers and not enough with patients.