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Wolk on: Former Rutland superintendent takes interim role

Rutland City Public Schools is welcoming back an old friend.

On Tuesday night, the Rutland City Public Schools Board of Commissioners announced former superintendent David Wolk will return Wednesday to begin his tenure as interim superintendent.

“It would have been very hard to say no to Rutland,” Wolk said in a Tuesday night interview. “I love Rutland. My beloved dad was born here 100 years ago and went through the schools. My brothers and I went through the schools. My kids went through the schools. It would have been almost impossible to say no.”

Wolk, who was unanimously approved for the interim role by the School Board, will serve until June 30 while the board searches for a new permanent superintendent, Board Chairman Richard Courcelle said.

Work said he’s had other job offers and opportunities, but the offer from the board was the only one that felt right.

“I just want to help out my hometown,” Wolk said. “There are so many wonderful things happening in the school district.”

Given that it’s been 20 years since his time in the superintendent’s office, Wolk said he was excited to get up to speed and hopes to spend his first few days visiting every teacher, custodian, bus driver, faculty and staff member at each district school.

“It’ll take me a little while, but I want to talk to everyone,” Wolk said. “And most of all, the most pleasurable part of this will be getting back in touch with kids. ... We should all treat the students in Rutland schools as if they were our own.”

Wolk previously served as Castleton University president, Rutland High School principal and Vermont Commissioner of Education. He retired in 2017 after 43 years in education.

“I was kind of enjoying my life,” Wolk said of his retirement. “But I just love Rutland ... I love Rutland, I love kids, and it would have been impossible to say no.”

Wolk’s hiring comes after the departure of Adam Taylor, who was granted leave until the end of his contract on June 30.

“Many of you either know Dave or know of him,” Courcelle said. “He will be a familiar sight throughout the district, and he plans to hit the ground running by visiting schools and reacquainting himself with this wonderful district.”

The board unanimously voted to accept Superintendent Adam Taylor’s request for indefinite leave through the end of his contract during its Aug. 27 meeting, according to Commissioner Alison Notte.

“It was the board’s feeling that the request was legitimate and valid, and that was authorized unanimously,” Courcelle said in a previous interview.

Courcelle said the board was surprised to receive the request, and the board intends to continue to pay Taylor through the end of his contract. Taylor came to Rutland from Oakland, California, in 2018 to replace the former superintendent Mary Moran, who retired. Taylor taught school in California for decades.



Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

In Remembrance

Norwich freshman William Tyler, of Manchester, New Hampshire, joins classmates in the planting of more than 3,000 small American flags on Tuesday evening ahead the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The project was coordinated by Norwich University’s political science club, POLITEA.

Pregnancy clinic seeks tax-exempt status

A pregnancy clinic is suing the city for tax-exempt status.

In a complaint filed last week in Rutland civil court, First Step Pregnancy Clinic argues that the city incorrectly denied their application for tax-exempt status at their Washington Street facility.

The clinic previously existed on West Street as the First Steps Pregnancy Center, moving and changing its name earlier this year. It offers free ultrasounds, counseling and supplies — and while offering information on adoption services, it does not offer information on abortion, birth control or STD testing.

The complaint states that the clinic is funded by private donors and that the property is used solely for its programs.

The Vermont Supreme Court has established a three-pronged test determining when a nonprofit’s property is tax-exempt — the property “must be dedicated unconditionally to public use” which benefits both an “indefinite class of persons” as well as society as a whole and must be “owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis.”

Available court filings do not indicate the reason the city denied the clinic, and City Attorney Matt Bloomer did not respond to inquiries Tuesday except to say that the city had not yet been served with the complaint. First Step’s lawyer, Kylie Peterson, declined to comment.

The city has lost two similar cases in recent years.

A 2016 appeal by the Rutland County Parent-Child Center went all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the nonprofit in 2017. The city had argued that the children and parents served by the center constituted a “discrete” population rather than the “indefinite class of persons” that state law said an organization needed to serve to earn the exemption, but the court found that the community as a whole benefited, even if indirectly, from the center’s services.

In 2018, a Rutland County civil court judge reached a similar conclusion regarding Mandala House, a program run by the Vermont Achievement Center working to reintegrate female convicts into the community, and overruled the city’s denial of its tax-exempt status.



Photo by Jon Olender  

Puppy love

Jasper Kingsley, 10, of Pittsford, pets Jill Smith, of Bridgewater’s puppies Bonnie, right, and Clyde before the cross country race at Otter Valley Union High School on Tuesday afternoon.

Pending resolution
Taxes waived over disputed property, for now

WALLINGFORD — The Select Board voted Monday to hire an attorney and waive the taxes on a certain property straddling its disputed border with Tinmouth.

After coming out of an executive session, the board voted unanimously to approve a motion made by Selectwoman Rose Regula that contained several components.

“What we’ve decided is to hire attorney Charles Merriman and then authorize him to send a letter to (Attorney William Meub) waiving taxes for the town of Wallingford for the Taylor property until this matter is settled with the town of Tinmouth,” Regula said. “Then we authorize (Wallingford Assessor Lisa Wright) to remove the Taylor property from the grand list. Then authorize the attorney to work with (former town clerk Joyce Barbieri) on this matter.”

The Stan Taylor property is on West Hill Road. The border between Wallingford and Tinmouth runs through it, along with several other properties that are undeveloped. For years, there’s been some uncertainty with regard to where exactly the town line is. In 2017, Wallingford and Tinmouth reached an agreement that put the main house and some other structures in Tinmouth. This held until March of this year when the Select Board, at the suggestion of Barbieri, who had researched the matter, added the house and other buildings back to the Wallingford grand list.

The property is 373 acres. Taken altogether in Wallingford its assessed value is $1,325,000, while Tinmouth has the house assessed for $500,000.

Officials in both towns met a few times over the course of the spring and summer in an effort to resolve the matter, but no agreement was reached, resulting in the Taylor property being double-taxed. The Taylors hired attorney William Meub, of Meub Gallivan & Larson, Attorneys PLC in Rutland City, who sent both towns a letter saying if the matter wasn’t resolved soon, both towns would be taken to court.

Meub said he spoke with Merriman and officials in Tinmouth on Tuesday and has been told they’ll work towards a resolution. Meub said he expects an agreement would be reached prior to any tax bills coming due. His clients want a clear resolution as to how they’re to be taxed, and how they’ll be taxed going forward.

He said no filings regarding this matter have been made in court.

In a past interview, Meub said this sort of situation is rare, but something similar happened in 1969 between a property owner and the towns of Danville and Cabot.

Tinmouth Town Clerk and Treasurer Gail Fallar said in an interview Tuesday that the Tinmouth Select Board has this matter on its agenda for its next regular meeting on Thursday. She said the town hasn’t hired an attorney, but that will likely be discussed by the board.

“We would like to resolve it without having to hire an attorney,” Fallar said, adding that Tinmouth remains willing to discuss a resolution with Wallingford.

Several officials in both towns have expressed a desire to simply hire a surveyor to settle where the town line is between them. Meub said in a past interview that solution would also work for his client.



Trump dismisses John Bolton, says they 'disagreed strongly'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday abruptly forced out John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser with whom he had strong disagreements on Iran, Afghanistan and a cascade of other global challenges.

The two men offered opposing accounts on Bolton’s less-than-friendly departure, final shots for what had been a fractious relationship almost from the start.

Trump tweeted that he told Bolton Monday night his services were no longer needed at the White House and Bolton submitted his resignation Tuesday morning. Bolton responded in a tweet of his own that he offered to resign Monday “and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”

Trump said that he had “disagreed strongly” with many of Bolton’s suggestions as national security adviser, “as did others in the administration.”

The departure comes at a trying moment for the Trump administration on the world stage, weeks ahead of the United Nations General Assembly and as the president faces pressing decisions on a host of foreign policy issues.

As pressure has mounted amid global troubles and signs of an economic slowdown at home, Trump has increasingly favored aides who are willing to defend him on television. Bolton was tentatively booked to appear on a pair of Sunday talk shows in late August but backed out, saying he was not comfortable with some of the administration’s plans, and that drew the president’s ire, according to a White House official not authorized to discuss private conversations

Also, tensions have risen between Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over influence in the president’s orbit and how to manage the president’s desire to negotiate with some of the world’s most unsavory actors.

Since joining the administration in the spring of last year, Bolton has espoused skepticism about the president’s whirlwind rapprochement with North Korea and has advocated against Trump’s decision last year to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. He masterminded a quiet campaign inside the administration and with allies abroad to persuade Trump to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State and Iranian influence in the region.

Bolton was also opposed to Trump’s now-scrapped notion to bring Taliban negotiators to Camp David last weekend to try to finalize a peace deal in Afghanistan.

One Republican familiar with the disagreements between Trump and Bolton said the adviser’s opposition to a possible meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a precipitating factor in the dismissal. French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to broker such a meeting, possibly on the sidelines of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, in the hope of salvaging the international Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from.

In Tehran, Hesameddin Ashena an adviser to Rouhani said in a tweet that dismissal of Bolton was a result of the “resistance” of Iran, adding that “cornering and omitting Bolton is a strong sign of failure of maximal pressure policy of the U.S.”

Pompeo said Trump has been clear that he is willing to meet with Rouhani “with no preconditions.” Speaking at an unrelated briefing at the White House, Pompeo acknowledged that he had often disagreed with Bolton on issues.

“There were many times that Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed. That’s to be sure,” Pompeo said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who appeared with Pompeo, said: “The president’s view of the Iraq war and Ambassador Bolton’s was very different.”

Asked if world leaders should expect changes in Trump’s foreign policies going forward, Pompeo replied: “I don’t think any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way.”

Bolton and his National Security Council staff were also viewed warily by some in the White House who viewed them as more attuned to their own agendas than the president’s — and some administration aides have accused Bolton’s staff of being behind leaks of information embarrassing to Trump.

Bolton’s ouster came as a surprise to many in the White House. Just an hour before Trump’s tweet, the press office announced that Bolton would join Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a briefing. A White House official said that Bolton had departed the premises after Trump’s tweet and would no longer appear as scheduled.

In a further sign of acrimonious relationship, a person close to Bolton told reporters that they had been authorized to say one thing — that since Bolton has been national security adviser there have been no “bad deals” on Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria. The person, who did not divulge who had given the authorization, was not allowed to discuss the issue by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

When asked to respond to the person’s comment, White House press secretary Grisham smiled and told reporters: “I don’t know how to read” it. “Sounds like just somebody trying to protect him,” she added.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the move was a cause for worry.

“John Bolton was the wrong choice and the silver lining to this instability is that there will be fewer people whispering war chants in the president’s ear,” said Murphy. “But no one of any quality is going to take a job in the nation’s national security cabinet so long as everyone’s head is permanently hovering slightly above the chopping block.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was traveling with Trump Monday, said reports of Bolton’s dissent on the Taliban meeting was a “bridge too far” for Trump.

Later, in a statement, Graham, a close ally of Trump’s, said Bolton pursued an agenda that helped the president and protected U.S. national security. But he also said, “President Trump, like every other president, has the right to a national security adviser of his own choosing.”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Charles Kupperman, the deputy national security adviser and a former Reagan administration official and defense contracting executive, would fill Bolton’s role on an acting basis. Trump said he would name a replacement for Bolton next week.

Bolton was named Trump’s third national security adviser in March 2018 after the departure of Army Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Bolton was always an unlikely pick to be Trump’s third national security adviser, with a world view seemingly ill-fit to the president’s isolationist “America First” pronouncements.

He’s championed hawkish foreign policy views dating back to the Reagan administration and became a household name over his vociferous support for the Iraq War as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush. Bolton briefly considered running for president in 2016, in part to make the case against the isolationism that Trump would come to embody.

Still, Trump has admired Bolton for years, praising him on Twitter as far back as 2014. Trump has told allies he thinks Bolton is “a killer” on television, where Bolton is a frequent face on Fox News, though the president has voiced some unhappiness about Bolton’s trademark mustache.


AP writers Matthew Lee and Jonathan Lemire contributed.


“While any reduction in poverty or increase in income is a step in the right direction, most families have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade.”

Elise Gould, senior economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, commenting about a Census study reporting that 27.5 million Americans lacked health insurance coverage in 2018. — B4

Tribes file suit

The Trump administration seeks to overthrow a lawsuit filed by Native American tribes to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Nebraska through tribal land. A7

RHD Hotspot


Young Pro summit

Equal parts professional development and community action empowering young people to create positive change by connecting them with business leaders, policymakers and peers. $30, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St. Rutland, tbeau1991@gmail.com, 775-4321.