Susan Keese

Producer, Reporter

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR. 

Susan passed away in 2015.

Ways to Connect

Mikael Damkier / Thinkstock

Some students look back on their middle school years fondly. But for others, it’s a time they’d rather forget.

Author R.J. Palacio explores the emotional ups and downs of August Pullman’s first year of middle school in her book, Wonder. The novel is the Vermont Humanities Council’s pick for Vermont Reads this year.

Excerpt: The Plague

In this passage from Wonder, Auggie's friend Summer describes some of the bullying Auggie had to put up with at school:

State officials were in Brattleboro this week to discuss how to spend more than $2.5 million earmarked for clean energy projects in Windham County.

The money is part of a final $5.3 million payment by Entergy Vermont Yankee to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Entergy has funded the state program since it began in 2005. Those payments will stop when the plant closes at the end of December.

Voters in Vernon Tuesday passed a slightly pared-down version of the $4.4 million school budget they rejected at town meeting in March. Vernon School Board Chairman Mike Hebert said the board shaved about $50,000 from the original budget.

"We did say to people that we were going to do as much as we could without changing our offerings in the school and what we need to do to maintain our quality level education," Hebert said.

Windham County resident Stephan Morse will serve as interim executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. The position opened up recently when Governor Peter Shumlin tapped current director Patricia Moulton Powden as Secretary of the State Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Moulton Powden had only been director of the Brattleboro development group for a few months when the administration announced her new appointment.

Susan Keese / VPR

Residents of Vernon have voted for a second time to eliminate the town’s police force.

The original vote to de-fund the Vernon Police Department came as a surprise at the town’s annual meeting this past March.

Local residents reaffirmed that decision at a special meeting Monday night that drew what some said was the biggest turnout in the town’s  history.

Voters agreed to contract instead with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department. They accepted a proposal made by Sheriff Keith Clark for round-the-clock police coverage at significant savings to the town.

The owner of Santa’s land in Putney and the park’s caretaker appeared in Brattleboro District Court Tuesday. Lillian Billewicz  and Brian Deistler pled not guilty to charges of animal cruelty. Earlier this winter 16 fallow deer, a pot-bellied pig and a pheasant were found dead at the once-popular theme park.  Court documents say other animals were found in stalls with frozen water and insufficient hay.

Susan Keese / VPR

The owner of Santa’s Land in Putney and the theme park’s caretaker are scheduled to appear Tuesday in Brattleboro District Court. The two were cited in March for animal cruelty and neglect after 16 fallow deer, a pheasant and a pot-bellied pig were found dead on the park’s premises. Now the park’s remaining animals are getting attention from some local residents who’ve been trying to feed them.

Katherine Partington / Vermont Performance Lab

A short documentary that originated in Bellows Falls debuted recently in town. The film shows what happened when ten women of different ages and with very different lives came together to create a "friendship dance."  The women used movement, body language and words to bridge a generational disconnect in this small southern Vermont town.

The film begins by the Connecticut River on the ragged back side of Bellows Falls. A young woman is jumping up and down, waving at the sky. Later we learn that she’s trying to flag down an airplane. Alexis Harris tells the story.

Susan Keese / VPR

Workers facing unemployment in May when Bennington’s Plasan Carbon Composites closes got a crash course Friday in the art of job hunting. More than 50 people showed up at the Bennington Career Center for a day of workshops sponsored by the Vermont Department of Labor.

About 160 workers, two thirds of them Vermonters, will lose their jobs when Plasan Carbon Composites leaves the state. The company makes carbon composite components for high-priced sports cars. It announced in February it was moving to Michigan to be closer to the automotive industry.

Susan Keese / VPR

Voters in Brattleboro overturned the town’s 2015 municipal budget in a town-wide ballot Thursday. The $16 million spending plan was approved at Brattleboro’s representative town meeting on March 22. But later, more than the required 50 town meeting representatives signed a petition to revisit the budget in a town-wide referendum. The budget failed by a wide margin, 771 to 478.

Susan Keese / VPR

Trustees of Brattleboro’s Austine School for the Deaf have voted to close the 100-year-old residential program at the end of this school year. But the board also made a commitment to work towards reopening the school in 2016.

The Austine School had enrollments of close to 150 students in the 1970s and 80s. It now serves fewer than 20. According to Austine President Bill Gurney, the school’s 174-acre campus costs more than $1 million dollars annually to maintain. Gurney says the school’s endowment and credit are maxed out.

The owners of Vermont Yankee say the plant can’t operate under the state’s proposed conditions for releasing heated water into the Connecticut River. A leading environmentalist counters that the plant’s thermal discharge harms the river’s migrating fish.

Entergy Vermont Yankee uses the river to cool its reactor. It’s been releasing heated water into the Connecticut under an expired permit for at least eight years. But a new permit is expected to include more stringent standards on how much heat the plant can add to the river.

Susan Keese / VPR

Voters in Brattleboro will get a chance to weigh in on the town’s budget in a referendum set for later this month. The budget was approved at Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting in late March. Backers of the recall vote say the $16 million spending plan will increase a town tax rate that’s already too high.

Paul Howe / Landmark College

Landmark College in Putney plans to build a $10 million center for education and research in the so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. The college is designed for students with learning disabilities. School officials say that, given the right training, many of those students could help fill the need for smart young workers in math and science fields.

Susan Keese / VPR

Brattleboro’s Austine School for the Deaf is facing a financial crisis that could force its 100-year-old residential program to close. The school’s enrollment has declined, from about 140 students in the early 1980s to about 20 residential students in 2014.

Austine President Bill Gurney says the school’s parent organization, the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is sponsoring a growing number of programs and services.  

VPR/Susan Keese

More than 50 experts and officials met in Putney Wednesday to begin to plan a national conference for regions and states facing nuclear plant closings.

The country will see a landslide of nuclear plant closings in the next few decades, organizer Jeff Lewis told the group. He said the economic and social impacts on those regions will be severe. But Lewis says there isn’t much information on how host communities and states can protect their interests when nuclear power plants stop operating.

State regulators have granted Entergy Vermont Yankee a permit to operate through December 2014, when the nuclear plant will close permanently.

Friday's decision includes the approval of a Memorandum of Understanding between the state and Entergy Vermont Yankee. It also settles years of litigation between  the state and the plant's owners. But not everyone thinks the ruling serves the region’s best interests.

AP File Photo

Vermont utility regulators have until March 31 to decide whether to approve a tentative agreement between Entergy Vermont Yankee and the Shumlin Administration.

The pact calls for Entergy to pay $10 million to help with economic recovery after Vermont Yankee closes later this year. But opponents say the state would lose more than it gains if the deal goes forward.

Susan Keese / VPR

Vernon residents will get a second crack at the town’s 2015 budget at a special town meeting next month, thanks to a petition filed Thursday. But town officials say it’s far from certain that last week’s town meeting vote to disband the Vernon Police Department will be reversed.

Vernon Police Chief Mary Beth Hebert says the motion to eliminate funds for her department was a shock. What was even harder was that some people applauded when the motion passed by a six-vote margin, 118 to 112.

VPR/Susan Keese

If you’re really tired of snow by now, you might want to consider a walk in the woods. With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of attention, the snow-covered forest can open a window into the lives of wild animals that are all around us, but seldom seen.

Lynn Levine is a forester from Dummerston and the author of Animal Tracks and Scat, a hands-on tracking book. She often leads tracking workshops for schools, nature centers and other groups.

VPR’s Susan Keese tagged along on one such outing recently.

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