Friday, December 23, 2005

UPDATE: MGRHS social worker concerned about "bullying" news conference

The school-adjustment councilor at Mount Greylock Regional High School, Debora Cole-Duffy, has sent a letter to The Berkshire Eagle expressing concern about the effect the paper's coverage of "bullying" incidents may be having on the school.

The text, supplied by Ms. Cole-Duffy to, appears below.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Cole-Duffy, Debora
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 3:12 PM
To: Admin Team; all
Subject: FW: Re: Letter to the editor

Dear Colleagues,

Below is a letter that I wrote to the Editor of the Eagle as I could no longer bear to read about us in the Eagle without offering a response to the bullying behavior, and how I believe that 'we' have been affected by the press coverage.

Please do take care,


From: Cole-Duffy, Debora
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 2:10 PM
To: ''
Subject: Re: Letter to the editor

To: Bill Everhart

From: Deb Cole-Duffy, School Adjustment Counselor

To The Editor of the Berkshire Eagle:

As the School Adjustment Counselor of the Mt. Greylock Regional School District, I believe it is due time to offer a voice of concern about the unfortunate occurrences of bullying and harassment that have affected some of our middle-school students. Since the beginning of the school year, many middle-school students have been experiencing the ill effects of interpersonal conflict and bullying. Students who bully others and students on the receiving end of the bullying behavior are in many cases observed in both roles.

Bullying and harassing behavior can traumatize a child and his/her family and peers, and certainly this behavior affects the community-at-large. Bullying and harassment behaviors are unfortunately more pervasive in latency-age, pre-pubescent and early adolescent children and children are more likely to offend when they struggle with personal and social issues. As many people are aware, bullying is a chronic problem, not an isolated incident. The child that bullies wants to control another child through violent or verbal acts or through threatening behavior.

The victim fears regular contact with the bully, and at times will withdraw socially from the group that associates with the bully. The bullied student may struggle to concentrate at school, may not want to attend school, may begin to develop physical symptoms, i.e., headaches, and stomach problems, and may begin to develop emotional difficulties; for example, depression and/or anxiety. The child who bullies and the child that is victimized may exhibit an increase in behavior problems in school and/or at home.

With regard to the incidents that have achieved such notoriety, I am sure that people are well aware that the triggers of this behavior did not simply manifest themselves once these students reached the doors of our school. Obviously, such behaviors resulted from the personal and social difficulties that the children have likely experienced for a number of years.

However, it is important to note that my colleagues and I have observed that a number of students did arrive at Mt. Greylock this year with unresolved histories of interpersonal conflict. And, once the criticality of the situation was assessed, immediate steps were taken to develop greater prevention and intervention efforts. Mt. Greylock has taken steps to prevent bullying behavior and has immediately intervened when it occurs.

Students must feel safe to attend school - to learn, have fun, and discover their true selves. Middle School Principal Ellen Kaiser has met several times with students and with parents to speak of the school's progressive discipline policy.

Bullying behavior is not being tolerated at Mt. Greylock and appropriate school consequences are issued. Law enforcement is accessed if the bullying behavior does not cease. Teachers have taken an active role to observe students in and out of the classroom and to limit inappropriate behavior.

They are more vigilant when observing student interactions: for example; some students may walk arm in arm as a way of showing their friendship. However, it is for this very reason that some bullies choose this tactic to control the victim, so the behavior seemingly appears innocent.

With this in mind, Mrs. Kaiser has set a clear limit on physical contact between students. The counselors and outreach worker meet with students affected by bullying and work closely to help administrators and teachers understand the effects of the behavior.

I have been employing a bullying prevention program in the middle school advisory classes, called 'Second Step,' which is a research-based violence prevention program developed by the Committee for Children.

The program focuses on understanding the problem; stopping and preventing the bullying behavior and interpersonal conflict; training for empathy, impulse control and anger management; and applying the skills via role play and class discussion. Many students who are respectful of others are being rewarded each week at morning meeting for 'getting caught doing the right thing' through the Penna's Pride program; and the middle school is developing a plan to institute a school-community initiative to help students become responsible citizens.

As a clinical social worker, I am also extremely concerned about the trauma that our school is experiencing regarding the deleterious effects of the press coverage. Ironically, such effects are actually paralleling the effects of harassing behavior.Now, in addition to the weighty task of expanding our services to students, our school is now being charged to manage the understandable reactions to the press. Our students, staff, and members of our school community are now reeling from the opinions noted in the press, which characterize Mt. Greylock to be a school that bullies, and one that is tainted as racist, anti-Semitic, and discriminating.

The Eagle has synthesized ill-willed opinions with a harassment report creating for critical reactions from students, staff, and members of our community. The majority of students in the middle and high school as well as parents and community members are outraged that their school is being depicted not only as being tolerant of harassing behavior, but also at some level as actually perpetuating the harassment. The irony is that now we must handle the rippling effects of the secondary traumatization to our school community, which is indeed getting in the way of our primary efforts.

With regard to the opinion that the 38 students withdrew from Mt. Greylock last year did so as a likely result from the effects of harassment is simply untrue. The Director of Student Services reported that the majority of students sought a vocational placement. Others were unable to handle the structure and expectations of a public-school program. I am not saying that we had no students withdraw as a result of being harassed; however, the vast majority had other academic/vocational plans.

Sadly, it is my belief that there has been a rather neglectful posture taken against our school. There appears the need to make a public example of Mt. Greylock as being a 'bad place,' for the serious conduct of some students. As a result, the Eagle must have felt that it was best to contact other highly regarded professionals in the community to speak about the judicial, mental health and school adjustment consequences of bullying behavior. I was simply shocked that none of our teachers or counselors was asked for their views about the problem, and more importantly to learn how our school has addressed the critical incidents.

Our school is one part of the community-at-large, which must work hand in hand with student leaders, parents, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and interested community members to help our children make positive relational choices. They must learn from us all to tolerate and respect others. Respectful and empathic behavior must be modeled in our homes, community, and nation.

The school is an optimum place to take charge of developing and enhancing an inter-disciplinary social-emotional program to educate and inform students, but it cannot act alone, and the institution itself will not benefit from suffering the consequences of innuendo and opinion. Students must be empowered to stay safe: If possible, he/she should tell the child that bullies to stop the behavior. If the child cannot communicate with the offender, he/she must be urged to report the incident to an administrator, teacher or counselor, and trust that the reports will be acted upon swiftly, and trust that the school will sustain its prevention and intervention efforts.

Mt. Greylock deserves the opportunity to air its views about these efforts, and certainly to listen and learn from others about ways to enhance these efforts.

Debora S. Cole-Duffy
Dalton, Mass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Where are the voices of college presidents? |


from the December 21, 2005 edition

Where are the voices of college presidents?
By John Merrow

(John Merrow, who reports on education for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, is the host and executive producer of "Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk."

NEW YORK -- Here's a quiz for you. Name the presidents of any three of
America's 4,000-plus colleges and universities.

Odds are most readers flunked that quiz, but it wouldn't be fair to take points off anyone's grade. How could the public know the names of higher education leaders, who are largely silent on the great issues of the day? Today's presidents only get noticed if they say something outrageous (Harvard's Lawrence Summers's comments about women and science), live too lavishly (former American University President Benjamin Ladner), or
make millions (Lynn University's Donald Ross).

It hasn't always been this way. Father Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, who led that institution for 35 years, declared, "Anyone who refuses to speak out off campus does not deserve to be listened to on campus." Many 20th-century university presidents also served as ambassadors and heads of major national commissions. Think Clark Kerr of the University of California, Jill Kerr Conway of Smith, Kingman Brewster of Yale, and Robert Hutchins and Edward Levi of the University of Chicago. Reporters knew to call them for opinions on the burning issues of the day.

I spent much of the past three years reporting about higher education and didn't find their modern-day equivalents.
Presidents I met said they devoted much of their time to fundraising, often to build dormitories with wi-fi, athletic
facilities with climbing walls, and stadiums with luxury boxes. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released its own survey of university presidents, and its results confirm that observation. Five of the six most pressing issues have to do with money, and the sixth - retaining students - is only marginally related to teaching and learning.

Perhaps because of their preoccupation with dollars, today's college presidents are not educating the rest of us on issues that matter. Take the issue of intelligent design. Only three university presidents have spoken out against treating intelligent design as science.

Cornell University's interim leader, Hunter R. Rawlings III, was blunt, devoting his state of the university address to
the subject. "Intelligent design is a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea. It is neither clearly identified as
a proposition of faith nor supported by other rationally based arguments," he said.

The two other presidents made their views known in a less public way, in letters to their employees. University of Idaho President Timothy P. White wrote that intelligent design could be taught in courses like religion and philosophy or even social studies, as part of an examination of the role of religion in our society.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bob Hemenway wrote that evolution, "the central unifying principle of modern biology," must be the prevailing scientific idea in order to "raise the level of scientific literacy among our citizenry." Speaking out, even by letter, was an act of certain courage in Kansas, where the state board of education has mandated including intelligent design in its science curriculum.

Yet the overwhelming silence on this topic, among others, shows just how far higher education has slipped from its
pedestal. Greater leadership in public debate on critical issues is what's needed to stop academia's declining prestige,
not a fixation on the bottom dollar. Copyright © 2005 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

MCLA offers "Future of Journalism" course

Unprecedented change in America's news media and the potential threat to
the survival of traditional journalism are topics of a new, three-credit
evening course, which will meet Thursdays beginning Jan. 19 at the
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"The rise of the Internet and the fragmentation of advertising undermine
the financing of in-depth and watchdog reporting by mainstream media,"
says Robert Bishoff, chairman of the English/Communication Department at
MCLA. "This course is designed to give students . and the public . the
opportunity to understand these changes and how they may affect
participatory democracy and community."

The course, "The Future of Journalism: Issues and Opportunities in a
Connected World," is being organized and taught by visiting lecturer Bill
Densmore, director and editor of The Media Giraffe Project with support
from the Hardman Family Foundation at MCLA. Besides traditional readings,
the 6:30 p.m.-9:15 p.m. sessions each Thursday will use films, video and
audio from contemporary websites as well as invited speakers and

"We're aiming for a lively mix of brief lectures, group participation
around readings, guest visits, panel discussion and viewing of web-based
multimedia materials from The Media Giraffe Project and elsewhere," says
Densmore. "We'll give participants a sense of options and tools for
participating in the new environment as citizen journalists."

Besides MCLA students, and Williams College students who may cross-enroll, the
sessions are open to Massachusetts citizens over age 60 at no charge.
Massachusetts residents under 60 may enroll by paying standard three-credit
tuitions and fees prior to the first session on Jan. 19.

For a detailed course description, planned materials and session topics, view
the course syllabus at: (or
syllabus.pdf). A weblog has been established for the course and will be a
resource for updates on assignments, planned class schedules, appearances and
discussions, reading and resource materials and links.

The Media Giraffe Project ( ) is a non-partisan
research effort, which finds and spotlights individuals making innovative,
sustainable use of media (old and new) to foster participatory democracy and
community. Its aim is to encourage .above the crowd. work by established
journalists, and detail unique services which citizens can use or emulate.

The Hardman Family Foundation at MCLA endows a lecture series, academic
research, a student scholarship and the MCLA archives in the name of the family
that formerly published The North Adams Transcript.

For more information contact:
December 1, 2005 Robert Bishoff, 662-5372 or
Bill Densmore (cell: 458-8001)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

OPINION: Ben Jacques on the killing of Stanley Williams

The writer is an English professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal

By Ben Jacques

Last night, after watching a great basketball game at UMass(Minutemen
defeated Boston University Terriers), a few of us went out for a snack.
The TVs were on in the restaurant, and for me the night suddenly turned
ugly as I heard the announcement that Gov. Schwarzenegger had denied
clemency to Stanley Williams.

Over the last few days radio pundits have been arguing about whether
Williams was truly redeemed, rehabbed, reformed, repentent, etc., --but
for me that's not even the issue. Setting aside the question of his guilt
and/or his redemption, the issue for me is: are we as a society going to
continue to, in cold blood, plan and conduct the killing of human beings.
I think of all the people who take part, those who witness, those who
strap, those who inject the needles, and those behind the curtain who push
the poison through the tubes--it's a bizzare and barbaric death ritual
that dehumanizes everyone.

Maybe all the anger and sadness can lead to ending capital punishment, and
a diminishing of the racism and classism imbedded in the criminal justice
system. I know many disagree with me, some of them my friends and
relatives. That's all right. I do believe it's time to raise the issue, to
talk about it, and to take political action to end this culture of

For some reason last night and today, the words of Portia in Merchant of
Venice kept going through my head:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings:
But mercy is above this sceptred sway:
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself.

I guess Schwarzenegger never read Shakespeare.

Disney songs featured this weekend in MGRHS musical senior project

Provided by Lisa Russo at 413-442-8187 or 413-441-0013

Subject: "Disney Songs From the Heart" Joe Sicotte's Senior Project -
December 16 and 17 - matinee Thursday, December 15

A mystical magical production "Disney Songs From the Heart" featuring
favorite Disney characters will be presented on December
16th and17th at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium at the Mt. Greylock Regional
High School. A matinee will be held on Thursday, December 15th at 2:30
p.m. Tickets for the evening performance are $5.00 for students and
seniors, and $7.00 for adults. Matinee tickets all seats will be $3.00.
Proceeds from the performance will go to the American heart Association
in memory of Joseph R. Sicotte the grandfather of Joseph M. Sicotte, the
show's producer/director.

Joseph M. Sicotte along, with his mentor Ralph Petrillo, has been
working on the production for several months to fulfill the "Senior
Project" graduation requirement at Mt. Greylock. Mr. Petillo has over
twenty years experience working in theatre, ten of those years with his
own company, and ten years working for Disney.

"Disney Songs From the Heart" will offer its audience a lighthearted
evening of entertainment and the opportunity to support the American
Heart Association's educational programs.

Even Scrooge couldn't pass this show up!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Carol singing in 1753 replica house set Wednesday in Williamstown

Submitted by:
Gail M. Burns, , 413-458-4246

All are invited to the 32nd annual 1753 House Carol Sing at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21. Dress warmly and bring a candle to see by. Gail Burns will lead the singing and carol books will be provided. The 1753 House Carol Sing is a free, ecumenical event for all ages, which focuses on celebrating the miracle of Christ's birth through song. Carl and Marilyn Faulkner of the Williams Inn kindly donate hot mulled cider to warm the carolers. The 1753 House is located in Field Park in between the Williams Inn and the Milne Public Library. Parking is available at the Inn and the Library. For more information call 413-458-4246

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prof. Winston's study on college tuition noted in news

A study published in the lastest issue of the Jornal of Human Resources by Williams College economics professor Gordon C. Winston has been noted in a United Press International story. The full article in the Madison, Wis., journal does not appear to be online. According to the UPI story, "many leading private colleges tailor prices to students' financial means" and "says the tuition and other costs are structured to allow some students to pay only a fraction of the schools' high "sticker prices." In the 2001-02 academic year, the schools' average "sticker price" was $33,831, yet the average amount paid by students who received financial aid was 47 percent of that amount, the UPI story reports. "We asked what students at different income levels actually pay at the leading private colleges and universities in the United States," it quotes Winston as saying. "We found that very consistently, these wealthy, high-quality schools give large discounts to low-income kids. On average!
, the ultimate net prices are well under the prices of public colleges."

EPA describes completion of PhoTech cleanup; now what?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published Nov. 29 on the web details of the cleanup of the old PhoTech mill site in Williamstown alongside the Hoosic River. Now what will happen there?


After removing more than 1,700 tons of debris containing asbestos from an abandoned mill complex, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed the cleanup work at the Photech site in Williamstown, Mass. EPA's work included the safe removal of contaminated materials, followed by off-site transport for proper disposal. EPA oversaw the removal of asbestos-containing material from the multi-story building by carefully demolishing the already partially collapsed center portion of the mill building. As part of the cleanup, 1,782 tons of the contaminated debris were removed from the building and shipped off-site for disposal at a licensed facility. In addition, 243 tons of scrap metal were transported off-site for recycling. Brick from the razed portions of the mill complex was used to backfill the open basement area where the mill building previously stood. After backfilling the area with the masonry debris, EPA placed six inches of clean fill over the brick, graded the !
area, and re-established or installed erosion control fence along the riverbank.

Ken Lin's play about past deeds wins WTF's Weissberger award

The Williamstown Theatre Festival announced on Wednesday that playwright Kenneth lin has won a $10,000 prize for his play with an odd name -- .," said Said. The L. Arnold Weissberger Award for playwriting, which brings the money, guaranteed publication by Samuel French and a reading during next summer's festival. The period, the comma and the quotation marks are all part of the title of the play. The play is about a Nobel Prize-winning poet named Andre Said and a mysterious visitor who interrupts his life with his daughter Sarah and brings to the fore his agony in the past as an Algerian political prisoner. It"explores the tension between the deeds of one's past and present," accord to a review in Playbill. Buried in the etchings of an ancient language, the agonies of Said's early years as a political prisoner in Algeria are unearthed in a climactic confrontation with his former captor. .," said Said is already set for production at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Playwrigh!
t John Guare was a member of the selection panel.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Images Cinema launches end-of-year fund-raising effort with $7K challenge

Images Cinema announced today the Williamstown-based non-for-profit,
single-screen movie house is launching a year-end fund-raising campaign
with a $7,000 challenge pledge.

The news release follows from janet Curran (

Initial Gift of $7,000 Kicks-Off Annual Fundraising Appeal

Images Cinema has announced that a gift of $7,000 has
been made by a group of friends of the cinema. The friends who made the
donation make a challenge to the community to match this amount to raise a
total of $14,000 for the cinema. This challenge can be achieved with
everyone’s help! Send a check to Images at PO Box 283, Williamstown, MA
01267, or throw some change into the bucket in the cinema lobby. All
donations, large or small, will help meet the challenge.

Images Cinema is a non-profit arts organization, and as such, requires
financial support outside of membership dollars alone. Says Sandra Thomas,
Executive Director of Images, “Over the past three years we have increased
our membership to 400+—a huge accomplishment! But, as with many nonprofit
organizations, finances are up and down. We are constantly monitoring the
bottom line and often squeak by.” She adds that an annual appeal, along with
membership and fundraisers, all help to secure the future of the inclusive
regional arts organization.

This year Images Cinema has been celebrating its 7th Anniversary as a
non-profit organization, and the “challenge” appeal is the finale to the
anniversary events. Why celebrate the seventh anniversary? In 1927,
Ricciotto Canudo, an Italian film critic and theorist, described cinema as a
fusion of science with the three arts of space (painting, architecture and
dance) and the three arts of time (music, theater and literature). Canudo
dubbed cinema the seventh art.

“In celebration of you, our extended film family, and film as the seventh
art, help us meet our fundraising goal!” states Thomas who also noted that
to date, a total of $10,286 has been raised and only $3,714 are needed to
reach the $14,000 goal.

One of the few year-round single-screen nonprofit cinemas left in the
country, Images Cinema has been a non-profit organization for seven years.
It continues to expand programming to meet the educational and cultural
needs of the community, while maintaining its dedication to quality
independent film. Images Cinema is supported in part by the Massachusetts
Cultural Council, a state agency. Current happenings are listed at

Contact: Sandra Thomas, 413 458 1039, Images Cinema director