Young pitchers and catchers take up yoga

copyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Jay Gonyaw has operated a clinic through the Junior Legion Baseball Program for area pitchers and catchers for the past eight years, first at IROC and now at North Country Union High School.  His coaching experience, however, goes back even further.  Mr. Gonyaw is also the coach of the North Country Falcons junior varsity squad.

“I coached my first time when I was 18 years old,” Mr. Gonyaw told the Chronicle on Tuesday.  “So I’ve been around baseball and coaching baseball a long time.”

What Mr. Gonyaw has noticed lately is that his young athletes often aren’t quite in the condition they should be.  To remedy that, he’s introduced an unlikely new element to his coaching regimen — yoga.

A number of factors contribute to the fact that  kids aren’t as limber as they once were.  They range from the widespread use of technology to a more stringent focus on single or double sport athletic training.

“You see it when a kid transitions from playing in one sport season and switching over to a different one in the next season,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “They have to be in great shape to play at a high level in one sport, but when they switch they end up sore.  They’re going from working one group of muscles to a completely different group of muscles, and their bodies just aren’t ready for that.”

The ability to adapt from one sport to the next has also declined as varsity athletes begin to focus more on a single sport instead of the two or three sports that athletes of his generation played, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Working on the muscle groups that are used most ignores the benefits that a more complete workout experience delivers to those muscle groups you use less frequently.

Back in the day when outdoor activities formed a major part of a child’s life, multiple muscle groups were always being tested.  Kids rode bikes through town, played soccer in the park, or swam at the local beach.  As “free-play” activities have diminished, so has exposure to different kinds of body workouts.  And that has affected the ability of athletes to meet the physical demands of their sports, Mr. Gonyaw said.

“I see a lot of kids coming into my clinic or at the start of the season and they are pretty stiff,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “It got me to thinking that the traditional stretching routine maybe isn’t working as well as it used to.  So I started to think outside the box.”

So Mr. Gonyaw and his fellow trainer Eric LeBlanc arranged for yoga instructor Rebecca Marcotte of Barton to come in and work with his players.  The first 30 minutes of each weekly session are dedicated to yoga stretching and the final 60 minutes to pitching and catching.

“We’ve been at it for five weeks of our seven-week clinic and we’re already seeing a big difference,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “I’ve had kids ask me why we didn’t do this sooner, so they’re really buying into it.  They’re seeing the value of what we’re doing.”

While the clinic focuses on pitchers and catchers, the benefits of yoga would apply equally across the diamond and the outfield, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Pitchers and catchers are the only players with direct interaction with every pitch but that doesn’t mean that the position players, or batters for that matter, wouldn’t benefit as well.

“A centerfielder or a left fielder might go a couple of innings without needing to do anything,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But then they need to be ready to run at full speed and make the catch or make a throw right away.  That puts a lot of strain on the body.”

Not only will yoga help players perform at a higher level of readiness, but it should also help to avoid some of the more common injuries that occur during the season.  As short as the high school baseball season is in Vermont, by the time an injury has healed the season is effectively over for that player.

“I think we will see some early results when we start the daily practices in the spring,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “The real test will come at the end of the season when we see how many injuries we have or how many sore arms we have.  I really think that this is going to make a huge difference.”

Mr. Gonyaw intends to bring back yoga for his clinic in future years, and he also hopes to incorporate a ten- to 15-minute yoga routine in his daily practices and pre-game regimen.  As the student athletes become more comfortable with the yoga routines, he expects that players may also start to recognize the meditative benefits of yoga as well.

“I know of yoga mostly as a good way to stretch out your muscles and joints,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But I can see a time when a batter or pitcher can step back and refocus for the next at-bat.  The mental part will come.”

Mr. Gonyaw’s annual pitching and catching clinic is open to a wide range of ages from 12 years old to 17 years old and to kids from all over.  This year’s group includes four catchers and 13 pitchers who work with Mr. Gonyaw and Mr. LeBlanc, a former pro baseball player.

“Eric really has an amazing understanding of what it takes to pitch at all levels,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “He understands the mechanics of each pitch and the benefits of a good stretching routine.  That really enhances the experience for everyone.”

The positive feedback from players so far indicates that Mr. Gonyaw’s unorthodox yoga regimen has hit a home run.  How well the yoga stretching philosophy extends beyond the kids in his clinic is yet to be seen.

“I definitely think there’s something here that would benefit all players in all sports,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “If it helps them perform better and avoid injuries, it’s been totally worthwhile.”

 contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For more free stories like this one, please see our Sports pages.

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Sargent joins friends in Sochi for Olympics

Ida Sargent of Barton will ski in her first Winter Olympics next month.  Photo courtesy of Dave and Lindy Sargent

Ida Sargent of Barton will ski in her first Winter Olympics next month. Photo courtesy of Dave and Lindy Sargent

copyright the Chronicle January 29, 2014

by Natalie Hormilla

 

On the week of her twenty-sixth birthday, Ida Sargent of Barton got some very big news — that she had officially been named to the U.S. Olympic women’s cross-country ski team.

“I think when I found out I couldn’t stop smiling,” Ms. Sargent said in a telephone interview Friday from Toblach, Italy, where she will compete in two World Cup races this weekend. 

The weekend’s events are the last for Ms. Sargent before she heads to her first Olympic games, in Sochi, Russia.

“Then on Sunday, we’ll drive to Munich, then Monday we do all the processing — fill out the forms, get the visas figured out, and get our uniforms.  Then on Tuesday, we fly to Sochi.”

Even with the Olympics around the corner, Ms. Sargent is still focused on the tasks at hand.

“Right now, I’m still kind of focusing on these next World Cup races and trying to just take each moment in stride,” she said.

Her birthday plans included hard training sessions in the morning, followed by fun with a couple of friends who just happen to be in Italy, too.

“Hannah Dreissigacker and Susan Dunklee are training about 30 minutes from here, which is really unique, because we usually don’t cross paths,” she said.  “That’ll be a really special way to celebrate my birthday.”

Ms. Dunklee and Ms. Dreissigacker are newly named Olympians themselves, having been nominated to the U.S. women’s biathlon team.

The three women have known each other most of their lives, through skiing together at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, first as kids in the Bill Koch League, then as young women in the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.

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War on Poverty: Fifty years later schools are the battleground

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport.  She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport. She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle January 22, 2014

Editor’s note:  The following story is the first in a two-part series on the link between poverty and success in school.

by Richard Creaser

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared in his State of the Union Address an “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.”

Fifty years later, the war rages on with the nation’s public schools as the battleground in this epic struggle.

“As a history teacher, I just can’t help but see that this isn’t anything new,” said Lisa Grout, a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School.  “At times, it has been described as a racial divide, but really it’s something else — it isn’t a war on poverty, it’s a war on the poor.  We need to rid ourselves of this myth that anyone can do whatever they want to do if they really want it.  Our system just isn’t balanced evenly that way.”

In fact, the system appears to be heavily weighted against students from poor families.

A direct link between low household income and student achievement is known in the educational system as the achievement gap.  The evidence is most readily appreciated by examining student performance on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores as tabulated by the Vermont Agency of Education.  Agency data for the reporting period of 2011-2012 for North Country is especially telling, although it’s important to consider that NECAP tests are only administered to juniors at the high school level.

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In field hockey: Falcons and Hilltoppers battle to 1-1 tie

field hockey tangle

Falcon Mara Spates (right) battles with St. Johnsbury’s Emily Reardon during Saturday’s varsity match at North Country. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 10-20-2013

NEWPORT — Saturday morning’s match between the North Country Falcons (7-3-3) and the visiting St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers (2-9-2) was a fitting regular season finale for both squads.  While both sides flashed moments of offensive brilliance, the attack was outshone by the defensive prowess of the game’s two goalies — Falcon Myrriah Gonyaw and Hilltopper Grace Desrochers.

Falcons Coach Chantelle Bouchard was pleasantly surprised to learn that St. Johnsbury’s goaltender was a JV call-up, brought in to replace injured starter Bea Brody. Continue reading

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Hand Artists introduces sign language

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Pictured is Jan Caswell, a Derby Line native, holding her book, Hand Artists.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Pictured is Jan Caswell, a Derby Line native, holding her book, Hand Artists. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

by Natalie Hormilla

When Jan Caswell was growing up in Derby Line, she had no idea what sort of career lay in her future.  Now, after 40 years of working with deaf people in a variety of ways, she’s created a book that introduces American Sign Language and deaf culture, entitled Hand Artists.

Ms. Caswell said she basically fell into working with deaf people.

“It’s given me a career for 40 years, and I have met some people who are just fascinating,” she said in an interview with the Chronicle.

After graduating from North Country Union High School’s second class, in 1969, Ms. Caswell went to the University of Connecticut.  She said she thought she’d return to the Northeast Kingdom, but took a job at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, on a lark.

“I needed a job and I wanted to be back in Vermont,” she said.  The job was to be a dormitory counselor at the Austine school.

“I lived in a separate house with 25 girls between the ages of 16 and 21,” she said.  All the girls were deaf students at Austine.

“I was like the big sister,” she said.

Ms. Caswell was 22 years old at the time, and had no previous experience in sign language.  She was told she wouldn’t need to know sign for the job.

“That was too scary,” she said.

As luck would have it, Ms. Caswell knew a returning senior at Austine who lived in Newport.  Ms. Caswell asked to borrow the girl’s yearbook, and taught herself how to letter spell each student’s name so she would at least have an entry point for conversation once she got to Austine.

Ms. Caswell picked up American Sign Language very quickly once she got to Austine.

“In six weeks, I was fluent,” she said.

“It was hands-on the minute I started.”  Ms. Caswell said the girls would try to tell her dirty jokes in American Sign Language.
“I wouldn’t understand them.  I’d sign, ‘slow,’ ‘again.’”

That job marked the beginning of a lifelong love for signing.  Since then, Ms. Caswell has worked as the Vermont state coordinator of services for the deaf, as an educational interpreter in California, as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the deaf in Massachusetts, and she even worked as the interpreter on Madeline Kunin’s gubernatorial campaign, among other things.

“I’ve done everything you can do — I think.”

She said that she is sometimes mistaken as being a deaf person, rather than a hearing person.

Ms. Caswell said that her kids really encouraged her to publish a book after learning that she had written some stories, just for fun.

After she wrote the book, she used the online funding platform Kickstarter to gather money for publishing expenses.

Kickstarter allows for people from just about anywhere to donate to a project, whether because they know the project creator or they just think it’s a cool idea.

Ms. Caswell said that she raised most of the $6,600 she needed through Kickstarter.  Donations ranged from $5 to $500.
“People donated from all over:  Alaska, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, California, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Connecticut, Florida,” she said.

She said some people who weren’t at all connected to her or even the deaf community donated money.

The donations were helpful because, as Ms. Caswell put it, “I’m not going to make millions.  It’s really a work of love.”

Ms. Caswell brought on a late-deafened woman, Stephanie Labrie, to be the illustrator.
“Steph had never done anything professionally before,” she said.

Ms. Labrie used watercolor pencils, which allow for colors that are deep and bold.

“When you take a 3-D language and put it on a 2-D page, it’s extremely difficult,” Ms. Caswell said.

Hand Artists is a very colorful book that tells the story of Kyleigh, a deaf girl, and Erin, a hearing girl, who are best friends.  American Sign Language is interspersed throughout the pages.  The discerning reader will learn the signs for different letters, numbers, and even words like “story” and “goal.”  The illustrator used curved arrows to indicate the hand motions needed for more complicated signs.

“It’s an opportunity to learn a little bit about sign, but it’s not something to ‘teach’ sign with,” Ms. Caswell said.  “It’s meant to introduce it.”  The book is also meant to be an introduction to deaf culture.

“My friends who are educators said it’s most likely for five-to-ten-year-olds, but older kids can benefit, too,” she said.  “It’s meant for whomever, or for hearing people who want to learn a little more about sign.”

Ms. Caswell said that about a dozen teachers, from Ontario, Canada, to western Massachusetts, have ordered the book for their classrooms.
Ms. Caswell lives in western Massachusetts, but she said she still considers Vermont her home, and visits her parents in Derby Line often.

Hand Artists is available at Wider Than the Sky in Newport, the Woodknot Bookshop in Newport, Barnes and Noble, and amazon.com.

contact Natalie Hormilla at natalie@bartonchronicle.com

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Glover Day honors a local vaudevillian

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Sophia Cannizzaro gazes in shock and awe at the Golden Barbie trophy she and Susie Perkins won for their rendition of “The Little Waif” at the Johnnie Prindle song contest.  Ms. Cannizzaro left after her rendition of the tragic ballad and returned to find that she had become the proud owner of the coveted award.

Sophia Cannizzaro gazes in shock and awe at the Golden Barbie trophy she and Susie Perkins won for their rendition of “The Little Waif” at the Johnnie Prindle song contest. Ms. Cannizzaro left after her rendition of the tragic ballad and returned to find that she had become the proud owner of the coveted award.  Photos by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser 

GLOVER — An annual community event with a weight of tradition always faces the risk of becoming stodgy.  Glover Day, with its Chamberlain Run, bicycle race and puppet show re-enacting the story of Runaway Pond, could easily become a snooze.  But the citizens of Glover are too resourceful to allow that to happen.

For the 2013 edition of the town celebration Glover mined a new vein of history and came up with a unique competition — the Johnnie Prindle lookalike and song contest.  In the latter part of the nineteenth century Mr. Prindle was a successful vaudeville performer, who, when not touring the country, made his home in Glover.

Earlier this year a group of his descendants presented a collection of his papers to the Glover Historical Society.  That was the inspiration for this year’s contest, which brought out a group of talented performers each trying to outdo the others as they played and sang some of the songs that brought Mr. Prindle fame and some degree of fortune.

Glover Selectman Jack Sumberg served as the master of ceremonies for the contest, and introduced a novel mode of deciding its winner — the “silent clap-o-meter.”  Mr. Sumberg and his partner in judgment, Linda Elbow, claimed to be able to detect the enthusiasm felt by spectators as they thought about applauding for contestants in the lookalike competition.  He did not reveal the method by which the judges reached their verdict on the best performance of a Johnnie Prindle song.

The first Johnnie Prindle song competition brings out the best competitors.  Here, from left to right, Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall, and Celia Latham vamp and preen for their adoring fans as they sing “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole,” a warning of the dangers faced by those too amply supplied with beauty.

The first Johnnie Prindle song competition brings out the best competitors. Here, from left to right, Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall, and Celia Latham vamp and preen for their adoring fans as they sing “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole,” a warning of the dangers faced by those too amply supplied with beauty.

Mr. Prindle’s songs were written in a wide variety of styles, and some were clearly not intended to be performed by him.  One that was, though, was “I’m Not As Green As I Look,” a piece used in his personation of Ruben Glue, a hayseed from Glover.

Bread and Puppet stalwart Jason Hicks, outfitted in a seersucker jacket and top hat, was backed by Lily Paulina on baritone horn and Hannah Temple on accordion.  Mr. Hicks was progressively drenched by Erin Bell, in accord with the admonition repeated in the song’s chorus — “Let’s push it down into the brook.”

When Mr. Hicks finished the song Ms. Bell threw him over her shoulder and ran off with him toward the Barton River.  He returned, soaked to the skin, during the second act on the bill.

That was a winsome trio made up of Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall and Celia Latham vamping their way through “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole.”  As they peered over their fans and flirted with the audience, Ma’s fears appeared to be well founded.

Geoff Goodhue does his best Johnnie Prindle impression.  He was awarded a pair of sunglasses bearing the image of the Glover vaudevillian for his role in the first Johnnie Prindle song contest at Glover Day on Saturday.

Geoff Goodhue does his best Johnnie Prindle impression. He was awarded a pair of sunglasses bearing the image of the Glover vaudevillian for his role in the first Johnnie Prindle song contest at Glover Day on Saturday.

Johnnie Prindle’s attempt at topical satire was taken on by Geoff Goodhue.  With accompaniment by Lindsay McCaw and bubbles provided by Maura Gahan, Mr. Goodhue sang about a series of impossibilities including police officers making a hundred dollars a day and women getting the vote.

These and other amazing eventualities were predicted to happen “Not this year, but some other year.”

When Susie Perkins and Sophia Cannizzaro took the stage in tatterdemalion with dirt-smudged faces, the program took a sharp turn toward the pathetic.  Accompanied by Ms. Cannizzaro’s fiddle, Ms. Perkins shook a small tin with a few coins in it as the pair sang “The Little Waif.”

Their rendition of the tear-jerker was affecting enough that members of the audience spontaneously left their seats to add coppers to Ms. Perkins small store of wealth, much to the performers’ surprise.  They pulled in enough over the course of the song for Ms. Cannizzaro to buy a refreshing ice cream cone.

Greg Corbino accompanied himself on accordion as he asked the musical question “Who Am I?”  The enigmatic song was billed as Mr. Prindle’s great specialty, but Mr. Corbino, who performed the chorus as a sing-along, failed to supply the answer.

The contest concluded as Lila Winstead sang a sad piano bench song to a lunch bucket.  Ms. Winstead said Mr. Prindle wrote the many, many verses of

Dameon Russell is congratulated at the end of the 2013 Chamberlain Run.  Mr. Russell, who hails from Newport, finished with a time of 31:02.  Second place finisher Max Lockwood of Washington, D.C., trailed by more than half a minute with a time of 31:40.

Dameon Russell is congratulated at the end of the 2013 Chamberlain Run. Mr. Russell, who hails from Newport, finished with a time of 31:02. Second place finisher Max Lockwood of Washington, D.C., trailed by more than half a minute with a time of 31:40.

“The Little Tin Bucket” in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the market for sentimental ballads.  She said she remains unsure whether the Glover tunesmith was copying the trend or satirizing it.

Mr. Sumberg’s silent clap-o-meter determined that Mr. Goodhue was the person who bore the closest resemblance to Mr. Prindle and awarded him a set of sunglasses ornamented with a steel-cut engraving of the master.

Ms. Perkins and Ms. Cannizzaro took the golden Barbie trophy as best interpreter of Mr. Prindle’s songs.

Leah Frost streaks toward the finish line of the Chamberlain Run Saturday.  With a time of 32:55, Ms. Frost ended the eight-year reign of Tara Nelson as Glover’s fastest woman.  Ms. Nelson finished with an excellent time — 35:12 — and took fourth place overall in the race.  Ms. Frost was third.

Leah Frost streaks toward the finish line of the Chamberlain Run Saturday. With a time of 32:55, Ms. Frost ended the eight-year reign of Tara Nelson as Glover’s fastest woman. Ms. Nelson finished with an excellent time — 35:12 — and took fourth place overall in the race. Ms. Frost was third.

Other Glover Day novelties included the defeat of Tara Nelson for the title of fastest woman in the 5.5-mile Chamberlain Run.  Ms. Nelson had held that distinction since 2005, but was outpaced this year by Leah Frost.

Ms. Frost is from Maine, but plans to remain in the area and has been engaged by North Country Union High School to coach its cross-country team.

Red Sky Trading Company attracted a big crowd as owner Cheri Safford played host to a celebration of local foods.  Visitors were able to sample from a farm-to-table tasting menu featuring locally made cheeses and meats, along with produce from local farms.  Bethany Dunbar also read from Kingdom’s Bounty, her illustrated catalog of local food producers, to provide context for the meal.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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NCUHS board favors plans to hire police officer

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by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — After a discussion that occasionally veered toward the contentious, the North Country Union High School board decided Tuesday to move forward on negotiations with Newport aimed at hiring a city police officer as a community resource officer in the school.

The board was acting on a recommendation from its human resources committee, which favors hiring the officer.

Newport representative Richard Cartee said he is worried that the $40,000 available to pay for the officer will be too little, and the school will find itself spending money it doesn’t have.

Principal Bill Rivard pledged not to spend more than the amount given to the school out of Medicaid funds.

“I’ll hold you to that,” Mr. Cartee said.

“Please do,” replied Mr. Rivard.

Mr. Rivard said the $40,000 represents new Medicaid money above and beyond the money now used to pay for a half-time school psychologist and a behavior specialist.

Mr. Rivard said he has spoken with Newport Police Chief Seth DiSanto and come up with a draft of a memorandum of understanding outlining the responsibilities of the school and the police department.

Under the terms of the memorandum the officer will “provide specialized assistance… to the school’s administrators, teachers and parents.”

The agreement also lists the officer’s duties as providing instruction to students, investigating criminal activity, and dealing with other police matters concerning the school or students.

Newport Mayor Paul Monette, who attended the school board meeting along with Alderman Dennis Chenette, said the council has yet to see the agreement.  Mr. Monette said he is concerned about any potential cost to city taxpayers.

“The bottom line is that we already have a million dollar police force and we don’t want to increase that,” the mayor said.

Mr. Cartee said he was disturbed to hear people saying that he attended the city council meeting Monday night in order to oppose the board’s plans.

He had gone to the meeting as a Newport taxpayer, he said, to express his concerns about the possibility that the city would get stuck with unforeseen expenses.

Richard Nelson, a board member from Derby, said he has mixed feelings about the proposal.  While he understands that the cost of the program’s first year will be covered by the Medicaid grant, “all good things come to an end,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Nelson continued, most of the people he’s spoken to about the proposal have favored hiring a school resource officer.

“I spoke with some police officers,” he said.  “They’re eager to see it, see how it works.  It could be a benefit to the school and a benefit to the students.”

Mr. Nelson said the school has an ex-state trooper serving as truancy officer, who is “a hell of a good guy doing a good job,” but he will retire someday.

The school could think about combining the two positions, Mr. Nelson said.

He said that although some people worry about having a law enforcement officer in school “I always believe, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”

The board need not worry about negotiations, he suggested, because any changes made by the police or city officials would have to be ratified by the school board.

Scott Boskind, another of Derby’s representatives on the board and himself a former school principal, said that it’s important to think about the question of school safety.

“While no one wants to talk about the most horrific events,” he said, the violent attacks in Newtown, Connecticut and Columbine, Colorado, should never be forgotten.

Mr. Boskind even cited a school massacre in 1927 in Michigan “where a school board member planted a bomb because he was disgruntled.”

Mr. Cartee laughed.  “I appreciate that,” he said.

“While I’m glad that we have a board member who is cognizant of finances, we all have a passion to make sure students come to school and are going to be safe,” Mr. Boskind said.

“I think that never, ever, ever can you say I am not concerned about safety of students,” Mr. Cartee said.  But all too often the school approves spending on a program and then exceeds that amount, he continued.

He said that a good example is the cost of the school’s new running track, the bulk of which was to have been paid for through private fund-raising events, but which was largely paid for with public funds.

If hiring a resource officer costs $50,000 a year, and voters approve the expense, that would be fine with him, Mr. Cartee said.

Mr. Rivard said that the cost of a Newport officer would vary depending on the amount of experience the officer has.  Should a very senior officer decide to seek the post, that might mean fewer days on the job.

For instance, Mr. Rivard said, it might mean the officer is in the school 125 days a year rather than 175.  In no event, he said, would the cost exceed $40,000

Maggie Griffith, one of Newport’s representatives, asked Mr. Rivard if officers are called to the school often.

Mr. Rivard said he didn’t have figures, but they are there “some.”

Mr. Nelson said the officers he talked to said there ought to be a school resource officer because they are called to the school four or five times a week.  He made a gesture indicating that he didn’t believe those statements.

There were no votes cast in opposition to the plan to seek a school resource officer.  Mr. Nelson abstained from voting.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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North Country grad will coach NBA Charlotte Bobcats

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Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High, was named the head coach of the NBA franchise the Charlotte Bobcats on May 29.  It has been a long 28-year journey, but Mr. Clifford is thrilled to be doing what he loves most.  Courtesy photo by Kent Smith, NBAE/Getty Images

Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High, was named the head coach of the NBA franchise the Charlotte Bobcats on May 29. It has been a long 28-year journey, but Mr. Clifford is thrilled to be doing what he loves most. Courtesy photo by Kent Smith, NBAE/Getty Images

by Richard Creaser

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High School, has been named head coach of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats.  Mr. Clifford accepted a two-year, $6-million deal with a club option for a third year.  Mr. Clifford spoke with the Chronicle about his new position on Thursday, June 6.

“My dad was a really successful coach at North Country, and I think that’s really where it all started,” Mr. Clifford said, referring to his father, Gerald Clifford.  “There were a lot of nights spent sitting around the kitchen table talking basketball.  We definitely were a basketball family — it was a big part of how we lived.”

By the time he graduated from North Country, Mr. Clifford had already taken his first steps on the path to the NBA.  He entered the University of Maine at Farmington, graduating with a degree in special education.

“I always knew, even from a young age, that teaching and coaching were something I wanted to do,” he said.  “It was while in college that I started off coaching at Woodland High School.”

Mr. Clifford made the transition from high school varsity to the collegiate coaching world with a four-year stint at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire.  Over the next 14 years he would find himself at Fairfield College, Boston University, and Siena College before landing a head coaching position at Adelphi University.

During his time at Adelphi, Mr. Clifford led the program to an 86-36 record and four straight 20-plus win seasons, including four appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament.  Mr. Clifford would then serve one year as assistant coach at East Carolina University before making his first foray into the NBA.

Mr. Clifford’s career in the NBA began in 2000 as an advance scout for the New York Knicks and as an assistant coach from 2001-2003.  He then went on to serve as assistant coach to Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets from 2003-2007 and then as an assistant coach to Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic from 2007-2011 before landing with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2011-2012 season.

“I didn’t set out to be an NBA coach,” Mr. Clifford said.  “I’ve just always loved my job and went where the opportunities presented themselves.”

There are a few simple sounding things that have helped guide him to his current position, Mr. Clifford revealed.

“It starts with finding a profession you have a passion for,” he said.  “I go to work every day and I’m excited by it and challenged by it.”

It’s also important to focus on each and every task you encounter.  You need to take pride in what you produce each and every time, Mr. Clifford said.  When you take pride in your work, others will take notice.

Next you need to be able to handle the good and the bad.  It’s never easy to accept bad news, but it is a fact that life doesn’t always give you exactly what you want or how you want it, regardless of what profession you’re in, Mr. Clifford said.

“How you deal with adversity is a big part of life,” he said.  “Throughout my career I’ve been fired four times.  It’s never easy but you have to pick up and move on.”

But success is not a plateau but an ever-evolving goal.  “You need to strive to continually evolve,” he said.  “It’s not always easy in this world but you need to be ready to jump at the opportunities that present themselves.”

Along with success there are always drawbacks as well.  Some sacrifices will have to be made, even as the head coach of an NBA franchise, Mr. Clifford said.

“The demands of the job will affect your personal life and your family time,” he said.  “That’s the biggest negative.  It’s the kind of job where you can’t just half do it.  It takes a lot of your time and you have to be prepared for that.”

As head coach you’re always under the microscope of the fans, your employers and the media, Mr. Clifford said.

“There’s nothing else I could do to make the kind of money I do at something I love,” he said.  “Dealing with the reality of what it is is a big part of being able to move on and do better.  You don’t get all of the great things without all of the bad things.”

Taking the helm of a team, at any level, is a test of leadership.  It involves establishing credibility with your players and setting a direction for the team, Mr. Clifford said.

“The detail parts are so important,” he said.  “Coaching, to me, at any level, is hard.  The difference is this:   If you’re coaching at the high school level, you’re the best coach that guy has ever played for.  By the time you get to the NBA, they’ve played for a lot of great coaches.”

Standing out among great coaches isn’t easy.  Despite the challenges, Mr. Clifford is certain that it’s a challenge he’s willing to accept.

“It’s great,” he said.  “It’s something you never take for granted.  There are times when you’re driving home and you’ve just seen the brilliance of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and you have to think this is the best job in the world.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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In Newport: New gallery features art reflecting social concerns

Artists Sam Thurston and Abigail Meredith check out the artwork at the opening of the 99 Gallery Sunday afternoon.  The gallery will also serve as a meeting place for NEK 99%, a grassroots organization for social change.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Artists Sam Thurston and Abigail Meredith check out the artwork at the opening of the 99 Gallery Sunday afternoon. The gallery will also serve as a meeting place for NEK 99%, a grassroots organization for social change. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — A new addition to Newport’s art scene opened Sunday, offering an exhibit with a title — “Politically Incorrect” — that pointed out the path the gallery means to follow.

According to Diane Peel, its founder, the 99 Gallery is an outgrowth of NEK 99 %, an organization inspired by the Occupy protests of 2011 and made up of local activists.  The gallery is tucked into a lovely old carriage house on School Street, just off Main Street.

On Sunday the space was filled with artists — some of high school age — and visitors.  On the walls, a variety of works was displayed, most of them reflecting social concerns.

Abigail Meredith’s acrylic “Shockwave” shows a woman with her hair blowing back in a blast of intense white light.  The North Country Union High School junior said the painting was meant to remind viewers that the peril of nuclear weapons remains.

She said she came up with the image when she heard that the energy of an atomic bomb can burn the silhouette of a figure into a nearby wall.

In Ms. Meredith’s image, though, the figure is not the result of a catastrophe.

“I put it in the middle of the explosion rather than the aftermath,” she said.  “Movement is very interesting to me.”

Ms. Meredith, along with North Country freshman Ryland Brown, whose intricate pen and ink drawing of a skull and guitar also graced the new art space, is studying at the school’s Arts and Communications Academy.

One of their teachers, Natalie Guillette, also contributed a painting to the show, an eerie image of a face shrouded in a mask.  According to her artist’s statement, Ms. Guillette was moved to create a series of similar paintings by a visit to a World War II museum where gas masks were on exhibit.

Other artists from the community also brought their works for the initial show.  Jack Rogers showed a trio of pencil drawings, which included an image of a hand blocking the lens of a camera and Rodney King being menaced by the baton of a police officer.

In a very different vein, Sam Thurston of Lowell offered a drawing of a street life under a New York elevated train and a watercolor illustration of a verse by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

An improptu manifesto was chalked on the sidewalk in front of the 99 Gallery Sunday afternoon.  In addition to presenting art shows, the gallery will also provide a home for NEK 99 %, according to its founder, Diane Peel.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

An improptu manifesto was chalked on the sidewalk in front of the 99 Gallery Sunday afternoon. In addition to presenting art shows, the gallery will also provide a home for NEK 99 %, according to its founder, Diane Peel. Photo by Joseph Gresser

The 99 Gallery, while it offers a home to artists living in and around Newport, was created in large part to display the work of a painter and sculptor who spent very little of his life in the area.

Ms. Peel’s father, Donald William Peel, was an active artist for most of his 89 years.  He started making paintings in the magic realist style in the 1950s, moved on to abstract sculpture, and finally back to surrealist paintings in his final years.

Mr. Peel achieved recognition, especially on the West Coast, where he lived most of his life.  His work is represented in museums and university collections in the Pacific Northwest.

Ms. Peel said that after her mother, a fashion designer, died in 2001 she wanted her father to move to Vermont and build a home and a studio that could handle the big painting he was making.  Sadly, Mr. Peel died in 2010.

Left with a large collection of her father’s works, Ms. Peel said she had to make a choice.  She could store the big surrealist paintings, but then they wouldn’t be seen and, without climate control, would suffer permanent damage.  She decided on the alternative of creating a space in which her father’s work can be shown and, she hopes, purchased by collectors.

Her plans call for interspersing shows by living artists with displays of her father’s paintings.

Ms. Peel said she wants the new gallery to serve as a home for work that might not fit in at the MAC Center.  Her gallery is not intended to compete with the more established art space, Ms. Peel said, but is meant to broaden the options available to artists and art lovers in Newport.

She said she hopes to offer “edgier” art than might be possible for a space that relies on sales to keep its doors open.  The 99 Gallery, Ms. Peel said, is paid for out of her earnings as a nurse and can keep going whether or not any paintings are sold.

The gallery, like the NEK 99 % organization is nonpolitical, Ms. Peel said.

“We’re not involved with the political process,” Ms. Peel declared.  “We’re involved with the people process.”

Pointing to Mr. Rogers’ drawing of the blocked camera, she said the image depicts the “surveillance state.”  Government intrusion into the private affairs of citizens is not a political issue, but a people issue, Ms. Peel said.

She recalled criticisms of the original Occupy protests, which questioned the movement’s lack of leadership and formal structure.  Those objections, she said, were based on a misunderstanding of the movement’s intentions.

“Occupy was trying to organize a horizontal system at the grassroots level,” she said.  The 99 Gallery, Ms. Peel will embody the same principles.

Those who want to see how these principles look on the walls of a gallery can see “Politically Incorrect” through the end of July.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

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At NCUHS: Choral director receives surprise send-off

Retiring North Country choral director Anne Hamilton reacts to a musical tribute from present and former students.  New words to the song “’Til There Was You,” were written by Adam (left) and Matt Podd, who have gone on to professional music careers in New York City.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Retiring North Country choral director Anne Hamilton reacts to a musical tribute from present and former students. New words to the song “’Til There Was You,” were written by Adam (left) and Matt Podd, who have gone on to professional music careers in New York City. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle June 5, 2013

NEWPORT — The choral program at North Country Union High School has been successful long enough to have established traditions.  For instance, the Christmas concert always ends with a performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” in which alumni of North Country are invited to participate.  Similarly, the second part of the annual pops concert always features solos by graduating seniors set amid choral performances.

At this year’s concert, on May 29, the traditions were unexpectedly mingled.  Anne Hamilton, retiring after serving as the school’s choral director for the past 13 years, planned a medley of Beatles songs for her final North Country concert.

During the performance, Ms. Hamilton said a few days later, she looked out into the audience and noticed that many of her former students were present.

“I didn’t want them to leave without getting to say hello to them,” Ms. Hamilton said.  So shortly before the final selection, “Hey Jude,” she invited alumni in the audience to come down to the front of the auditorium and join in the final section of the song.

Ms. Hamilton couldn’t have prevented them from doing so.  Unbeknownst to her, a conspiracy had been hatched by present and former students.

When the final strains of “Hey Jude,” were sung, accompanist Vivian Spates turned over the piano to Mark Violette.

“When I saw Mark at the piano, I felt things were spiraling out of control,” Ms. Hamilton said.

They were, perhaps, but not in a bad way.  Sheets of music were distributed as Mr. Violette played the opening bars of “’Til There Was You,” a song from the musical The Music Man, that was actually covered by The Beatles.

“There were notes on the page

But we never knew their meaning

No, we never knew it at all

’Til there was you,” sang students past and present.  Meredith Wilson’s original words had been replaced with ones written for the occasion by brothers Adam and Matt Podd.

“You put songs in our lives

And you taught us all sight-reading

Do Re Mi Fa

Ti Ti Ta La

’Til There Was You!”

Ms. Hamilton, seated next to Ms. Spates in the front row, seemed overcome by what was happening before her eyes and ears.  At the next verse…

“And there was All-State!

And other logistical nightmares

The drama of high notes and hormones,”

Ms. Hamilton burst into laughter.  She kept smiling as the chorus concluded their serenade.

“So we thank you

For the time that we had

And the joy we found in singing

We’re so grateful for all those years

Singing with you.”

After their first time through the song, North Country graduate Phil Gosselin, an actor who usually resides in New York City, took the microphone and thanked Ms. Hamilton on behalf of his fellow alumni.

ann hamilton spates

Ms. Hamilton and long-time accompanist Vivian Spates enjoy the witty lyrics and the enthusiastic performance. Photo by Joseph Gresser

He was followed by Joseph Cornelius who said he was taught by Ms. Hamilton in pre-school, a claim she later denied.  Mr. Cornelius was one of Ms. Hamilton’s students when he attended elementary school in Island Pond and at North Country.

“I hoped that my two daughters would get to study with her,” Mr. Cornelius said, “but it was not to be.”  He urged present North Country students to appreciate their good fortune in having the experience of Ms. Hamilton as their teacher.

After another chorus of “’Til There Was You,” the concert ended as present and former students surrounded and embraced Ms. Hamilton.

A couple of days after the concert, Ms. Hamilton reflected on the event and her time at North Country.

She said an all-Beatles concert was not a random choice.

“That’s the pops concert I wanted to go out on,” Ms. Hamilton said.  The quality of the music and the opportunities it gave for her students to shine made for an ideal final concert, she said.

“I want the students to feel they can be successful, and that means to be truly successful,” Ms. Hamilton said. “Everyone’s a winner, doesn’t work.”

Ms. Hamilton said she was very pleased that the seniors who chose to perform solos all rose to the challenge of performing such familiar and beloved music.

She said she was caught completely by surprise by the tribute organized by her former students.  The Podd brothers, she said, were at North Country giving a presentation to students on Tuesday.

“They were very coy about whether they would be able to make it to the concert,” Ms. Hamilton said.  After the workshop with the students, she took them out to dinner and invited Mr. Gosselin, one of their former classmates, whom she knew was in town working with QNEK.

At dinner, the Podd brothers told Ms. Hamilton that Mr. Gosselin would be delayed by a rehearsal.

“They didn’t tell me that it was a rehearsal for their surprise,” she said.

Ms. Hamilton said she herself followed a popular choral teacher, Glory Douglass, when she arrived at North Country after six years teaching at North Country Union Junior High School and nine years cruising between Brighton, Morgan, Holland and Charleston teaching music to elementary school students.

Ms. Hamilton said she had 11 years between graduating college and beginning her teaching career.  Although she was certified as a music teacher, Ms. Hamilton said, she felt she needed more training.

One of the benefits of going back to school, she said, was making the acquaintance of Sandi MacLeod, who today directs Music-Comp, a program that helps students learn to write music.  Ms. Hamilton has been involved in the program since its inception and she said she plans to continue working with the organization after she leaves North Country.

Ms. Hamilton said she also plans to continue leading Northsong, a locally based chamber choir that performs around the Northeast Kingdom.  Northsong will allow Ms. Hamilton to continue her collaboration with Ms. Spates, whose musicianship and generosity she praised.

Aside from that, Ms. Hamilton said she plans to take some time to think.  She said she is “50 percent committed” to learning the violin.  Her husband, Amos, after retiring from the Customs service, took up the clarinet seriously and frequently plays chamber music with friends.

After 13 years teaching at the school, Ms. Hamilton still has much good to say about North Country and the Newport community.

She said that the Rotary Club’s steadfast support of the annual music festival has translated into a general support for student artistic achievement.

“This community has always been supportive of the arts, it’s legend.  People around the state can’t believe it,” Ms. Hamilton said.

She said that she has been very well supported by the administration and her colleagues at North Country.

“This is a very nice job,” Ms. Hamilton mused, “This is a very nice job.”

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.
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