Cavendish library board disputes Powden email that it agreed to move from CTES

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Alittle more than 30 years after the ground breaking for construction of the Cavendish Fletcher Community Library, it was announced that that institution’s board had decided to vacate the building and move to the town Green. But the problem is that the board had never discussed that, didn’t vote on it and didn’t make the announcement.

CTES Principal Deb Beaupre who called the safety committee meeting to discuss the library shown on Nov. 21 saying ‘The library should go.’ Telegraph file photo

In an email dated Friday, Feb. 28 and sent to the members of the Board of Directors of the Green Mountain Unified School District and to the principals of the three schools in that district, Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Meg Powden announced that the library’s board “stated they will begin work toward moving the Town library to a location on the green.”

The email followed a Wednesday, Feb. 26 “emergency”meeting in the office of Cavendish Town Elementary School Principal Deb Beaupre. Present at the meeting were Beaupre, State Police Sgt. Kevin Hughes, Proctorsville Fire Chief Bob Glidden and Deputy Chief Bob Glidden, CTES Facilities Manager John Beman and Administrative Assistant Donna Hamilton. Powden did not attend the meeting.

Librarian Kata Welch was asked to come to the meeting and she contacted outgoing library board chair Robert Evens and treasurer Sandra Russo to come as well. The meeting  was scheduled for 2 p.m. and that’s when Cavendish Town Manager Brendan McNamara received a call to come and participate in the session.

McNamara said that the town doesn’t have a public safety committee and it was his understanding that those present at the meeting – except for him and the library trustees – were part of a “crisis team” that plans for emergencies at the school.

Library director Kata Welch, far right, takes a question from GM board member Kate Lamphere when the board toured the facility on Dec. 12, 2019. Telegraph file photo

According to Russo, the meeting concerned questions of school safety arising out of the library building being connected to the school. There have been some issues including the arrest of a frequent patron who was carrying a gun during an evening visit to the library and an incident in which a patron was verbally abusive and banned from the library. The school subsequently served that person with a “no trespass” order.

On Monday, March 2, Russo told The Telegraph that she and Evens came to the meeting with ideas for making the situation safer. But through the discussions she came “to see the writing on the wall” and that the library should consider relocating. Both Russo and Evens confirmed that the topic of moving had not been discussed by the library board. Russo said she did not remember the idea of moving to the Green ever coming up but in an e-mail to school staff on Wednesday night,  March 4, Beaupre said Sgt. Hughes had suggested moving the library to the Green to give the town more “curb appeal.”

The library building – which was financed entirely through a community efforts – is the property of the Town of Cavendish, according to McNamara, who said that it and its contents are municipal assets and would have to be purchased by the school district if they wanted to use them. The library building sits on school land under a 99-year lease, signed two years ago to keep it from becoming part of the school property turned over to GMUSD in the Act 46 consolidation. There is also an easement to allow patrons to cross the parking lot to get to the library door.

The Cavendish Library removed the circulation desk last week to improve sight lines for better security. Before on the left, after on the right. Photos courtesy of Kata Welch

At a regular meeting of the library board on Wednesday, March 4, incoming chair Peggy Svec noted that the library has made or suggested a significant number of changes to ameliorate the situation. These include limiting public hours from  noon to 7 p.m. so children can have the exclusive use of the space from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Welch now comes in an hour earlier to accommodate them. In addition, the library recently had its circulation desk removed to give employees better sight lines and the library moved its computers to separate adults and children.

Among the suggestions made by the library to help security were having a fenced entrance from the street to a separate side door and the school having a resource officer on hand when children are outside. At Cavendish elementary, the parking lot on Main Street in the front of the school is used as a playground and each morning children assemble there to start the school day. A number of people who have commented for this story point to that exposure as more worrying than the library.

GM board chair Joe Fromberger telling Cavendish Library board members that he believes the situation can be worked out at a Dec. 12, 2019 meeting Telegraph file photo

“We’ve bent over backwards, but it’s never enough,” said Svec during Wednesday’s meeting. Svec, who spent 32 of her 42-year teaching career at CTES, added that she shares the concern for student safety. While the library board will be in discussions with the school, Svec made it clear that there have been no decisions made and none will be made without a “transparent process that includes community input.” Thursday, the board also sent a letter to the editor of The Telegraph to that effect.

The situation has been discussed twice by the GMUSD board – once on Nov. 21 and again on Dec. 12 when the board toured the library. In both instances, GMUSD board chair Joe Fromberger said he thought the two boards could get together on the issue and come up with solution they could be happy with and asked the administration to work with the library.

But at the Nov. 21 meeting, Beaupre said that such solutions were only for that year and in her opinion, “The library should go.”

What would separating the school and library mean?

Something like this would be a huge undertaking involving the community and multiple boards,” said McNamara, noting that back in the late 1980s local people did fund raising and even took out second mortgages on their homes to finance the building. Going elsewhere would involve “a huge amount of money.”

While Cavendish Elementary uses the Fletcher library as its school library, the departure of the library would bring its own problems. 2122.2 of Vermont’s Education Quality Standards mandate that each school provide access to a library with a certified library media specialist.

For the use of the community library and the teaching time of the library staff, the GM school district currently pays $1,900 per year and provides some in-kind services like electricity and trash disposal. Welch estimates the library costs the school about $8,000 a year. The library board pays for the bulk of its remaining expenses including salaries, for a total of $115,000 annually. Again that library also serves town residents’ needs and includes extended hours of operation.

By comparison, the cost of running the dedicated library at Chester-Andover Elementary comes in just shy of $100,000 annually. And, in addition to the money to operate the library, there would be start-up costs such as buying the building, fitting it out and stocking it with books and materials.

Sara Stowell remembers when the CTES library consisted of boxes under the stage in the multi-purpose room. Telegraph file photo

“What a lot of people who haven’t been here for long don’t realize is that for years at Cavendish Elementary, our library was in boxes under the stage in the multipurpose room,” said Sara Stowell, who took a position on the library board on Thursday, “so teachers had to go underneath the stage and pull out boxes to get books for kids. And so an amazing committee of people came together and they did a huge fundraising campaign to create a library that serves our community, and the children are part of that community.”

“Accessibility has always been an issue with patrons crossing the parking lot and safety has to be an issue” said Stowell noting that, “We need a strong school and community that work together to keep both our library and school safe and open to keep this town viable.”

Powden did not return The Telegraph’s earlier call or email for comment on this story. Beaupre did not respond to a phone message left on Thursday.

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  1. As a student at CTES from 1973 to 1980 I remember walking to the Proctorsville Library with the entire class. We would read, check out books and conduct research. We also took the short bus ride to the Cavendish Library, which was in the meeting room at the town office. Mildred Ward was the librarian in Cavendish. She would read to the kids and was very helpful in finding books and doing research.