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Interviewing Dan Dubenetsky

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Dan Dubenetsky is an extremely personable guy, and a wealth of great yarns.  Unfortunately, his and Alice’s path to Starksboro is so long and interesting it takes a good amount of time until any Starksboro stories come out.  Dan’s interview includes some great stories about being the clueless newbies in the neighborhood in the rundown farmhouse, and the hilarity that ensued.  Like Alice, he also has an in depth perspective of town politics, and is a good source of insight on planning’s place in the town, who supports it or hates it.  He also talks about how Starksboro is different, and how this difference may ensure its survival.  GREAT town meeting story, at 21:39.



0:54 Dan talks about his family ties to radio- important background info for Dan- great story about collecting reject RPM records, too!

3:55  Dan’s break into radio –literally thrown into it with no experience- he tells constant great stories.

10:30 Dan’s break into VT, through his father’s radio station- NOT what he intended, by the way.

11:07 Interruption- Banana Chocolate chip muffin plate

13:00 Finding their house- in April, in mud season, somehow buying what was then a real wreck, despite Dan’s absolute refusal.  A good description of the old Jerusalem town, when more depressed, and how the house used to be, too…

14:36  How they made it through the first winter- the help of the neighbors, their adamant insistence that they stay

14:41Thank God for a couple of neighbors who are still on this road that helped us not burn the house down, thaw some pipes out, and taught me some things that at least you can survive!… One time when we thought about moving in ’94 because the house was still falling down, that half was and one of our neighbors said there’s no way, you’re not moving! Your not moving, forget it, just get over it, fix it!.. He says don’t be an idiot, just fix it, why are you gonna move?  So we just fixed it, and stayed.

16:04 The rat wars…

17:10 Maple syrup getting them through the first winters, and other stories (falling through ceilings, rocking the back roads, etc.)

17:10 This road used to be ridiculous, but also entertaining! We would learn how to make maple syrup and so I had my revenuer thing in the back yard here and a couple friends from the radio station Tom one time came when I fell through the ceiling onto the refrigerator.  Just before he gets here I’m up looking for another bucket or something and I fall through and end up on the refrigerator and bruise my shin… We decide we need more beer now, and we decide what a great time to go to the Jerusalem store the back way you could just go the easy way but no we want to see how bad it is on Robert Young.  I don’t even know how we made it but just riding the ridges to see how fast you can go and… Yeah, mud season is actually very entertaining.

19:20 actually getting back to syrup topic, the tapping an Oak tree for sap story!

19:07 Andy, a friend of ours who moved to Nova Scotia, he said I’m gonna leave this with you and it was a fifty gallon drum cut in half and showed me the whole thing and how to do it and from there I bought a pan and little tiny… nothing, we’re talking cinder block operation, you make two gallons you’re happy… Provided you tap the right tree, because I tapped one tree that wasn’t a maple tree and that became the laughing stock of our neighborhood, everybody knew about that by the end of the day!  Hey, he’s got an oak tree tapped!… (Alice) They didn’t tell us immediately, either, they just came by and laughed!

20:09 We don’t have dinner every week, it’s just if you need something they’re there and we’re there

Stories about neighbor interactions follow

21:39 Dan being suckered into town moderation, because he is a radio guy… Talks about the folks he’s met, the things he’s heard.  Speaks of Starksboro as a relatively friendly and community oriented place compared to other towns- great story about Town meeting being saved b/c people talked so long in line to vote they realized how town meetings got them to hang out w/ each other.

            Somehow I got talked into running for moderator, they thought this radio guy should be able to do this.  Yeah, well I didn’t know a damned thing about Robert’s Rules! … Stories about fist fights and all kinds of stuff, but we have never had that we… [Starksboro’s great!] …the second town meeting I ever moderated and I still didn’t know everything and they were trying to kill town meeting.  And so the guy made a motion to change the orders of the day, which means you want to change all the articles around, so that by the time you got to the end there might not be anyone left and he could vote, and he would have enough of his buddies there to kill it… Was the biggest turnout ever, and the longest one that I’ve ever been involved in, so the Town meeting starts at 9, and I don’t think it got over until ten of 5… this guy just kept dragging it out, calling for paper ballot, and what backfired on him was every time they called for paper ballot people had to get up out of their chairs and ended up standing in line for half an hour, forty five minutes, and they ended up talking!…  At the end, it was so laughable because people who were so against/wanted to kill town meeting and ended up saying they had such a good time, they’d never been to one before, that when it came to the vote, it got voted down!  It totally backfired on the guy!

25:10  Helping Starksboro politics- the presence of Frank Bryant.  Always brings them back together- they all agree to disagree.  They also talk about the things they’ve (Alice and Dan) have done for town; they’ve done a LOT.  Insist that they’ve rarely gotten flak for being political figures.

The neat thing about Starksboro is, we also have Frank Bryant in town, and Frank is a political science professor for UVM, and he’s written a lot of books, and he nows how to just bring it back into perspective at the end.  Usually by the end of town meetings, everybody who’s in total disagreement on whether it’s the Iraqi war or whatever is shaking hands and putting the chairs away and sweeping the floor.

ALICE: We agree to disagree, doesn’t mean we don’t like each other.

27:45 People’s approach to planning- different ‘groups’ or approaches, and the difficulty of getting communication up between folks.  Issues for folks trying to sell, develop, etc.  The difficulty with active planning with such diverse interests- how the planning board needs more perspectives so everyone supports.

29:00 What’s more important, education or road maintenance- apparently getting $ to school is easier than anything else.

31:00 Living with the commute to Burlington- a necessity if you are going to survive financially with no jobs available in Starksboro- the need and want for business in Starksboro.

32-33:12 Nice reflection on the community- just how nice it is.

It’s a great community, it would be tough to leave, because we know so many people, and it’s kinda nice to go to Starksboro and Bristol and know almost everyone!

35:35 Dan’s prediction for Starksboro in 2020, and his hopes.  Accepts the reality of development, hopes they cluster, thinks they’ll cluster, and wants to preserve the beauty.

39:00 Looking at space- the cluster- what they hope people will do, what they don’t want for themselves

40:30 the charms and harms of Starksboro

You can be in Bristol and it’s spitting rain, and you get up here and we got a full fledged blizzard going on (laughter)… Yeah, I’ve pulled my share of people out of the ditch.  That’s always fun in mud season, too, meeting people and pulling them out of the mud.  Yeah.


I really need to get up to Bristol/Starksboro tomorrow. Is anyone going or can anyone give me a lift?

Ruth’s Students’ Projects

Hey, representing the Jerusalem group, we were wondering if anyone was going up to Starksboro Monday or Tuesday.  If someone is, could you meet with Ruth Beecher and pick up some of the Jerusalem projects that her students did for us to use in our digital map?  I will tell her and set up the time.  Thanks all.

(almost) forgotten interview…

Well, now NOT forgotten! I hope to be back at school soon. Didn’t want this one by Tucker and me to slip by….it’s the interview of the wonderful people of the Russell Family Farm.

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Interview with Ruth Beecher

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Ruth Beecher was energetic and extremely enthusiastic about her classes and teaching. She gave me insight into the unique program at the Robinson School and showed me the creative projects that the kids have done. Not only does Ruth Beecher teach traditional academic subjects, but she teaches her students art, teamwork, cooking, community knowledge and experiential knowledge of nature. She brings in people from the community to impart skills and wisdom that they have. Looking at the projects that she was doing was quite stunning when considering their breadth and depth. The interview went very well, but it makes me sad that it is not possible to focus on Robinson School with all of its unique attributes and deep connection to the town as a whole.

0:25 Growing up in Vermont. Living in the city and in the country.

0:57 Family and siblings. Family life growing up.

1:46 Husband Will and moving to Starksboro. College at UVM.

5:13 Switching from teaching different grades. This is her first year with third and fourth graders.

6:03 “What’s interesting, even within a straight grade, there is a huge range of ability. . . there’s a lot of sharing going on. . .t he older kids can teach the younger kids. . . everyone is good at something, some are better at riding a bike. . . or climbing the pole at recess.”

8:28 Lucky at Robinson school to have small class sizes.

8:55 “I have this huge range, so whatever level the child is at, I try to have things available for them in reading.”

10:12 Team building and emotional development in the classroom.

10:45 “We try to have a school-wide climate with three basic rules: we respect learning, we respect each other, and we respect Robinson School. . . . [any rule] can be phrased positively . . . We try to have the kids help make the classroom rules, and then see how they fit into those three categories.”

16:40 Learning outside the classroom, in nature

17:30 Sled dogs and learning from community

18:04 Art grant and on trying to infuse art into the classroom. Visual art, music, dance and movement. Her students’ art projects.

20:00 Student Writing

22:25 Bringing in the community members. Examples: Native American knowledge, cooking; making salsa, making cornmeal and cornbread

22:48 “I really am into food and nutrition and want kids to prepare their food and see where it comes from, and then eat it.”

26:00 “They love coming to school.”

26:26 Persistence as school wide theme and the importance of teaching persistence. Persistence the musical.

29:10 Differences between teaching younger versus older kids. Third and fourth graders are into social interactions.

31:56 How do you asses students?

35:36 Conflicts between classroom and administrative requirements.

37:02 “I also love living in the town that I work in because I feel like I know a lot of the families so well.”

37:41 “School is just one part of their day and then they have this other family life, and their friend life . . . . and that helps me understand if someone is having a hard time.”

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