GM director takes aim at school property use in student music video

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.

Screen capture of one student’s pretty spectacular leap.

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.”

Teachers in their tie dye lab coats.

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.

Principal Tom Ferenc and GM office staff also displayed some cool moves in the video.

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.

Alison DesLauriers
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.

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Filed Under: Education NewsFeaturedLatest News

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.

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  1. Beverly Hart says:

    Looks like more people enjoy the video than not. Mr. Mauti and Mr. Lindbergh are out numbered here.

  2. Craig Miller says:

    I do sincerely hope that these students take the time to reflect on the power and impact Monty Python has had on opening closed minds and go on to produce a sequel.

    Count me as being happy with my tax dollar expenditures.

  3. Milliwatt Rob says:

    Horrifying!! That does it!! Dissolve the school district. Mandatory home schooling for all!! Draft each voter and property owner to a few hours per school year to teach what they know best. ;^)

  4. Peter d says:

    Hope this goes viral. Great job! Saw rooms I have not seen since 1978. Hank, go to sleep!

  5. Arlene says:

    I am appalled at the people who think this is ‘fun’ and ‘kids will be kids.’

    And the man who let his kids jump on the furniture? It is probably your kids who are jumping on the furniture in the video. No respect for your parents home, so why respect other’s property?

    This video was made with teachers’ supervisions? No wonder GMUHS is 40th in the state. Embarrassing. FYI? I voted no on the budgets and will continue to do so. A 5 percent increase in my taxes for THIS?

    And dyes. Those are NOT tie-dyes. They are g/l rainbows. But hey this is VT, the most liberal state in the nation. This is what you get when you take no responsibility for your actions.

  6. Wayne says:

    I am a taxpayer and homeowner in Chester, and have been for a long, a very long time. I wholeheartedly approve of my tax dollars going toward the making this video! I wish they would make more! School is so much more than learning to read and write.

    Did you ever stop to think that even the act of making this video might have inspired some of these students to do even more with their lives? Maybe they found talents they never knew they had. Perhaps someone who never even thought about it before now wants to be a videographer or editor. Someone else might want to act or sing or dance or direct. Maybe even some of them view their teachers in a whole new light, seeing them as inspirational, or fun or even human.

    Speaking of which, Mr. Mauti, don’t you think we could all have a little more humanity? From your views, it sounds like you are the type of person who sits out on their porch and yells at kids to get off your lawn!

  7. Janet Stewart says:

    What a fun video! Sorry Mr. Mauti but from this taxpayer’s point of view, there was nothing appalling in the highly entertaining lip synch video nor any abuse of property.

    I understand you are a watchdog when it comes to fiscal responsibilities, but I do not see anything improper with having a school that fosters creativity.

    I doubt any reasonable person watching this would find it appalling, they’d be charmed by the enthusiasm GMUHS has shown.

    Separately, I am concerned you saw fit to remark over the two female teachers wearing tie-dye lab coats,(and I quote from above article) “wearing the colors of the gay and lesbian rainbow thing.” Strikes me as a very sexist and prejudiced comment based on the gender. Had it been two male teachers wearing the same lab coats, would your view have been the same?

  8. Claudio Veliz says:

    Brilliant. Is there some award these kids might get?

    The astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has long stated that when most parents catch their wee kids banging pans in the kitchen, they get upset and stop them. He recommends instead giving the kids more pans. These kids should be praised and rewarded. Hell…give them better cameras.

  9. Linda Diak says:

    Great job! And a wonderful way to showcase school spirit, the students themselves and the facilities. Bravo!

  10. Richaard Pease-Grant says:

    I just saw the fantastic program put on by the kids in the high school Bravo to all! Great work and don’t be concerned about those who are to too maudlin about it. IT WAS GREAT!

  11. Aleks says:

    Study after study has shown that participating in performing arts does improve kids’ performance in schools. Performing is the key word. Kids need this kind of activity. It provides training in structure, teamwork, timing, coordination and patience.

    Contrary to Mr. Mauti’s assessment, structured performance is far more contributory to success than his apparently preferred “sit down, shut up and study” approach.

    If nothing else, this project got the kids up and active during the current couch potato epidemic. These kids were not running amok. They were participating in a supervised, choreographed performance piece. Any faculty involved were working above and beyond their responsibilities as employees and deserve our gratitude at the very least.

    No taxpayer property was destroyed. No one’s tax bill is going up due to it. The notion that this was an event about which authorities needed to “alerted” to (with the implication of it being somehow underhanded) is ludicrous in the age of social media. This was no secret operation conducted by a sinister cabal.

    What is sinister is denigrating the whole school community, calling their rankings terrible. U.S. schools are ranking 29th worldwide, but it is not Vermont schools dragging the U.S. rankings down. The fact is, if the Vermont average was the national average, the U.S. would be ranked near the top. To rely on cherry-picked test scores is simple-minded at best.

    Tests fail to account for kids who face some very nearly insurmountable challenges at home. For too many kids, school is the only thing in their lives that even approaches anything resembling “normalcy.” Between drugs, alcoholism, poverty and abuse at home some of these kids barely stand a chance, and any activity that engages them should be lauded.

    We moved here back in 1999, specifically because of the schools. We saw the dedication and personalized approach to teaching here and were more impressed by very charming kids we met in and around town during our search for a place to raise our daughter than by the single, myopic metric of standardized tests.

    Our daughter went through the Chester-Andover Elementary School and GMUHS from grades 1 – 12, and by age 22 she had graduated from RPI with two bachelor’s degrees (biomedical engineering and Design, innovation and society studies, and a master’s degree in quantitative finance, has been published in peer reviewed journals and is now working on a PhD at Vanderbilt.) All that despite the fact that test taking is not her strong suit.

    The Chester schools prepared her very well to face today’s challenges. My wife and I applaud the faculty’s efforts to engage so many kids in positive activities. Curmudgeons for whom kids’ dancing elicits a first impulse is to “defend the taxpayers property,” we don’t celebrate so much. Nor do celebrate them for being the steadfast guardians of taxpayers’ property against kids’ learning.

    And Mr. Mauti, this is most important of all. The kids do know who they are, whether who they are meets your approval or not. If you believe there is anything laudable about derision and mockery of children based upon the circumstances of their birth and very being, then the children, the school and the community at large would be far better served by your resignation than by your scorn for them.

    If you really want test scores to improve, being less stingy with resources for performing arts is a scientifically proven route to that end. Mocking children based upon who they were born to be does not make you a valiant culture warrior fighting against political correctness. It makes you a bully fighting against science.

  12. Paul says:

    I thought the video was great. It showed a lot of creative school spirit. As for test scores, maybe they continue to be poor because we have forced schools and teachers to narrow curriculum to fit into the NECAP schema.

    Ever since it’s conception, we have been forcing the students to focus on Literacy and Math scores by having them sit down in class and do mechanical repetition, rather than creating more projects.

    In this video, a group of students managed to pull the whole school community together, and choreograph the students and teachers into a grand display of talent and – yes -fun. If you think about the skills that it takes to do that, then you will understand the education that occurred in the making of this really cool film.

  13. Larry Kelley says:

    I have watched this video a few times and think it was exceptional! It brought me back to places I had not seen or thought about for over thirty years. It also showed me that GMUHS is much more than a test score, movement, or numbers in a budget. It’s about the kids and it always should be. Education should be FUN! Hats off to everyone at GMUHS for bringing some fun back through a great social media video!

  14. Sean Snyder says:

    I understand the concern Hank. You are actually hoping that education tax money would go toward sitting down and getting an education. I get it. I agree that Vermont schools are not doing well and when we compare our schools among each other we are not getting a good comparison. I believe we need to step back and educate, not push kids through unprepared for the future.

    Now, on the other hand, I did enjoy the video and agree that it is cool, witty and kept the kids active and interested. My God, what if we did that to educate kids instead of just passing them onto the next grade because it might be detrimental to their feelings socially having different classmates?

    Make education fun; where a student can leave senior high feeling great about themselves and their school, not having to take summer classes to get into college or getting discharged from the service because they are illiterate.

    Teaching is a necessity, not just a job. We the taxpayers are paying dearly for what our children are actually gaining from it.

    Sean Snyder
    Taxpayer,Parent and GMUHS class of 2001

  15. Stu Lindberg says:

    According to rankings by School Digger, Green Mountain ranks 40th out of 59 high schools in Vermont. School Digger also gives GMUHS 2 out of 5 stars for academic performance.

    It should be noted that there are 319 students at GMUHS with a 10:1 student/ teacher ratio. The budget this year is almost $6.1 million.

    The 2015-16 standardized test results indicate that 71 percent of 11th graders at GMUHS rank below proficient in math. In addition, 47 percent of 11th graders perform at a level below proficient in English language arts, and 85 percent of 11th graders are below proficient in science (www.schooldigger.com/go/VT/schools/0824800348/school.aspx?t=tbTestScores).

  16. Ann DiBernardo says:

    First I read the negative comments by one school board member, then I looked at the video on you.tube. I expected to see students running wild, damaging furniture, etc. What I saw, however, was kids having fun and taking great pride in their school! A highly creative video, I might add. Schools should be more than just test scores. Creativity will take you further than a high NECAP score in this world.

  17. Diana says:

    Great kids and teachers doing something fun and creative. If someone is concerned by test scores, maybe helping with tutoring would be more constructive than worrying about a school-wide, teacher-supervised activity. Good clean fun that everyone will remember for years. Didn’t seem like anything was broken. With the atmosphere of bullying that pervades most schools – well, this was very heartening. Good for you, students!

  18. Corryn says:

    I found this absolutely ridiculous. It is horrible that the high school kids can’t even make a fun video – not harming anyone or anything – without being ridiculed and publicized as bad kids ruining things. Give them a break! It’s better than what they COULD easily be doing- drinking, drugging and defacing public property. Be happy these kids are in school and are enjoying themselves.

  19. Charles Craft says:

    Seldom does one see both the rhetorical grace and intellectual insight of Mike Pence in a local government official in Vermont.

  20. Bill & Leigh Dakin` says:

    Spirit and energy, fun and creativity-this presentation should make all of us get up and dance in support of our great kids and staff at Green Mountain Union High School.

    I would hope that this video link is posted on every website that includes the words “Chester Vermont” so more can see what is positive and good about our kids and our community. We are looking forward to the next video from GM.

  21. Pauline Aube says:

    That is so awesome! Great teamwork and totally harmless I’d say…

  22. Michele says:

    Someone always has to spoil the fun!!

    With all the other things to worry about in the world today, I don’t understand how it would even cross someone’s mind to put down or nitpick a fun video showing school spirit!

    The teachers, staff and students at Green Mountain go above and beyond for students and community. Many students featured in the video, I know as well as their families. They are some of the most caring, respectful and generous families in this town!!

    How does a fun video even relate to test scores?? To even make a comment about the rainbow colors and to attach it to the gay movement shows just how small-minded the whole argument is. Let kids be kids!!

  23. Melody Reed says:

    Excellent! Love the school spirit.