By Stephen Seitz
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC
A 10-minute lip-synced video created by Green Mountain Union High caused a stir during Thursday night’s GMUHS Board of Directors meeting when one director criticized student use of school property and drew a line from it to the NECAP test scores from the junior class.
Board member Hank Mauti, who represents Andover, told the board that one of his relatives alerted him to the video, which is posted on YouTube.
“So she punched it up on the computer, and I watched it,” Mauti said. “So I watched it and I don’t have any problem with it. I don’t have a problem with kids having fun. But the abuse of school property and unsafe acts, kids running across the soft furniture in the library here — ”
“Oh, that was the lip dub,” said Principal Tom Ferenc.
Mauti continued, “– people standing and jumping on tables and dancing. They go down into the kitchen area and they’ve got kitchen utensils on their heads. I don’t have a problem with that if they washed them afterwards. If that’s the best they can do with respect to the taxpayers … It was appalling what they did, on camera, where everyone can watch them abuse the taxpayers’ property. There were a couple of female teachers with lab smocks on, wearing the colors of the gay and lesbian rainbow thing. I hope that wasn’t involved with taxpayers’ money. That was horrible.”
Chester board member Jeff Hance said Mauti’s view of the video belonged to him alone.
“They were having fun, Hank,” he said. “It brought the school together, for crying out loud.”
“Didn’t I say at the beginning I have no problem with that?” Mauti replied.
Chester board member Deborah Brown said nothing was broken.
“Do you let your kids jump on the furniture in your house?” Mauti asked.
“Sometimes,” Brown said. “When they were smaller, sure.”
“That’s your furniture,” said Mauti. “The stuff in this school belongs to the taxpayers, and should be shown a little bit more respect, that’s all.”
Ferenc said gay pride had nothing to do with the video. “Each class has its own colors. The staff has tie-dye colors. So what you saw with the lab coats, like back in the ‘60s. Our colors just happen to be tie-dye.”
Mauti has criticized the school publicly before. During Andover Town Meeting on Saturday, March 4, he complained about the bathroom policy for transgender students adopted by Green Mountain Union High School last spring saying, “Those who don’t know who they are can go to the questionable bathroom.”
The video, which as of Friday has been viewed more than 4,700 times, was shot in one long, continuous take. It’s inspiration apparently comes from a trend in lip dub videos created throughout the country’s high schools since 2015.
In the Green Mountain video, students do use kitchen utensils and school furniture — one even jumped on and over library furniture. The entire production was supervised by faculty and staff.
Mauti said the video prompted him to check Green Mountain’s student scores. He selected the New England Common Assessment Program — NECAP — scores in math, science, and English for the 11th grade.
“This school ranks terrible,” he said. “Terrible. So you’ve only got one more year to save your butt. The state scores are bad enough, but then you’ve got Green Mountain compared to the state. The taxpayers were very generous. They gave us $6 million to educate the kids, and another million dollars to fix the roof on their investment, and I think they deserve a little bit better payback. There are 59 high schools in the state of Vermont. Green Mountain ranks 40th.”
Board chair Alison DesLauriers said that ranking came from Schooldigger.com, a privately run website that bases it rankings on NECAP science, smarter balanced English language arts test scores released by the Vermont Agency of Education. By their reckoning, Green Mountain ranks 40th on the list this year.
DesLauriers said Mauti created a false impression, adding that he “cherry-picked the grade (level) which, historically, has the lowest scores throughout the state.”
“There are a lot of kids in Grade 11 who do not take this very seriously, and it’s an issue,” said DesLauriers, adding, “The year we had the best gains at Green Mountain, when we had an amazing increase in test scores, was when Tom Ferenc agreed to shave his head if the scores go up by so much, and he did. It was a huge motivator for the kids. It was something different and exciting. Our scores in the seventh and eighth grades are much better than this. Look for the positives. I challenge you to do that.”
The year we had the best gains at Green Mountain, when we had an amazing increase in test scores, was when Tom Ferenc agreed to shave his head if the scores go up by so much, and he did. It was a huge motivator for the kids.
School board chair
Ferenc objected as well.
“Our kids don’t do any better or any worse than all the other kids in Vermont, who don’t do all that well, either,” he said. “I don’t know of any data which shows you how happy or productive they are, based on how proficient they are on a federally mandated test. You, who rail at the federal government, bring their stuff in here to criticize us, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m surprised about that.”
Mauti’s own data bear Ferenc out. Mauti took NECAP assessments from the 2015-2016 school year. For English language arts, the 47 11th Graders from Green Mountain averaged a score of 2591.1. The 5,825 students in the state averaged 2597.7, a difference of about 6 points. In math, Green Mountain students scored 2574.6; the state, 2580.9. In science, the scores almost coincide: 1132.8 for Green Mountain and 1134.7 for the state.
To find the data Mauti used, visit the state Agency of Education on this link, and click on the Participation Reports icon: http://education.vermont.gov/data-and-reporting/school-reports.
About the Author: Steve Seitz is an author, journalist and film critic based in Springfield,VT. He has reported local news in the Upper Connecticut River Valley for many years. Steve has been interviewed on NPR's "The Story" for his knowledge of cinematic music. He also has interviewed such cinematic luminaries as James Earl Jones, Jerry Lewis, James Whitmore, Matthew Lewis ("Neville Longbottom" from the Harry Potter films), and an original cast member from every "Star Trek" series, among many others. He is working on other novels.