Mid-Shore Education: Saints Peter and Paul School Rainforest Turns Nineteen Years Old

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It may not be that unusual anymore for school to create a model rainforest as part of an introductory science course but when the Spy learned that the Saints Peter and Paul School rainforest is now going on its 19th year. It got our attention pretty quickly.

Ever since Lisa Morrell started to teach elementary science at the Catholic day school in Easton, the annual building of the rainforest has been one of the great traditions at a  school that already has a significant number of them. In fact, it’s safe to say that while only a handful of students create the rainforest every year, it’s also true that literally, every student at Peter and Paul’s lower school will walk through as well.

The Spy caught up with Lisa and a few of her students this week just before the rainforest was to be dismantled and stored while it waits for its 20th anniversary next year.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Saints Peter and Paul School please go here

Publisher Notes: The Spy in 2018

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Waiting for the Stage William Caton Woodville (National Gallery of Art). Forwarded by Spy Agent Glass

For almost nine years now, I have made it a practice to insulate the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy from any comparison to other print or online publications. In simple terms, this has meant that I have never participated in any professional association nor have I been a subscriber to the Star Democrat and Kent County News.

Like any act of innovation, it is not in the creator’s best interest to compare one’s new enterprise to models that are not direct competition. From its earliest beginning in the spring of 2009, The Spy was developing an entirely different news source targeted at community education first and foremost. It also began as a “no-profit” turned non-profit business that aimed at successful sustainability rather than return on investment.

All of that has worked in our favor as we recently completed eight years of operation. Unlike countless other start-ups, particularly in small communities throughout the country, the Spy has been able to grow in its reach (one million plus hits a year) while maintaining the trust of our readers and the confidence of our sponsors.

But like every other curious person in the world, I couldn’t help but wonder about the “other guys.” And last November I broke these vows of separation in two ways: 1) I attended a conference devoted to independent local online newspapers and 2) took out subscriptions for Chesapeake Publishing’s local papers.

In Chicago, over 150 publications and their representatives gathered for four days to discuss best practices and new trends in this growing field. And it was heartening to hear in some ways that not one these other online ventures had found on a sustainable business concept like the Spy model.

The other trend was that very few of these newspapers moved beyond their primary focus of covering local government issues.  In most cases, there was no attempt to include local arts and culture, or there were only token steps to publish press releases related to these subjects. And few, if any, had taken advantage of multimedia like original content video, which has been the Spy’s primary tool since we began with now close to 2,000 videos online.

In the case of both the Star Democrat and the Kent County News, my response is only one of respect for these “newspapers of record.” Unlike the Spy, these printed news sources must take on the responsibility, and the expense, of covering such local topics as crime, sports, weather, legal notices, and obituaries, all of which is not in the Spy portfolio.  It was a relief to note the unique difference between the Spy and these legacy papers, and the complementary nature the Spy plays to their hard work.

And so the Spy starts the new year with a renewed confidence but also profound gratitude to its writers, columnists, poets, and the kind and thoughtful support from the Spy’s fiscal agent, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, as well as the Spy’s talented and generous board of advisors for making it the success it has become.

Beyond our investment in technology, the Spy has been particularly proud of the extraordinary trust our 100,000 readers a year have in these two online news sources. In the midst of what might be one of the most challenging times for public discourse and the public’s trust in news in our country’s history, every week the Spy has become a safe harbor for serious and thought-provoking perspectives. I am indebted to our remarkably distinguished columnists and friends Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, Jimmie Galbreath, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Mary McCoy, George Merrill, David Montgomery, Nancy Mugele, Al Sikes, and Amy Steward for sharing their very different points of view with the community. Likewise, we are grateful to our readers willing to engage in civilized debate in response to those opinions by offering up their comments.

As publisher, it would have been impossible to fulfill our mission last year without the generous contributions of our writers and volunteer editors. Those include Jane Jewell and Peter Heck in their coverage of Kent County, Jenn Martella for Talbot County, Jean Sanders for maintaining our high quality of design and our Facebook presence, the marketing strategic support of Bill Rolle and Mary Kramer, and Neoma Rohman and Derek Beck for website support. We are also indebted to our content partners, the Delmarva Review, Capital News Service, the Bay Journal, Maryland Reporter and Talbot Historical Society for their invaluable service to our region.

One of the reasons that the Spy has maintained its existence for eight years is to keep the organization financially nimble and free of debt. One way we accomplish this is that neither the Spies nor our parent, the Community Newspaper Project Fund, have any full-time employees, including this publisher. Instead, we offer modest stipends for our writers and greatly benefit from the volunteer support of others.

We will continue that tradition in 2018 with a few changes in editorial priorities and staffing.

To emphasize our commitment to public affairs, we have renamed our Occurrences section just that to reflect the Spy’s coverage of local issues facing the community rather than the need to produce daily headlines. While we suspect that most of our readers understand this subtle but significant difference, it helps to reinforce our mission to educate the community through “long-form” coverage of timely issues.

This year Jenn Martella will take on a managing editor role for the Spy. Jenn created the Spy’s popular Habitat section for Chestertown and Talbot County, and we have asked her to extend that coverage to include our culture and arts as well as direct the Spy’s ongoing sponsorship/ad program from Mary who is leaving the Spy after six years of very committed service to our mission.

2018 will also be the first year that the Spy will have an annual giving campaign to encourage our readers to donate what they might to keep the Spy solvent. While we are committed to maintaining the newspapers free to every member of the community, like every nonprofit organization, we must also find an easy way for those who appreciate our role on the Eastern Shore to support the Spy on a monthly or yearly basis.

Lastly, pundits are predicting 2018 to be a gruelling time in American politics as the country faces a Congressional election in November. It is unlikely the Mid-Shore will avoid this environment as challengers continue to sign up to oppose Congressman Andy Harris for the 1st Congressional District race from both parties. Once again, the Spy is determined to be a safe harbor for debate and will be making this race a public affairs priority over the next eleven months. We look forward to working with all political parties to ensure constructive dialogue in what might be one of the most critical elections in our country’s history.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher and Executive Editor

 

 

Mid-Shore Arts: South Street and Dutchman’s Lane on Display (Really) at the National Gallery of Art

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It is safe to say that any time the Spy notices a reference to the Mid-Shore, and in particular, South Street in Easton, in one of the great international art museums of the world, our instinct is to investigate.

And that was certainly the case when we learned first-hand that three sketches of South Street and Dutchman’s Lane by the late artist Anne Truitt opens her major exhibition, In the Tower: Anne Truitt, at the National Gallery of Art. These simple drawings, with such notes of where Mr. Lockwood’s hardware store or Dr. Stevens office were located, were actually used as a gateway to childhood memories of forms and colors for one of America’s most original and important sculptors of the 20th Century.

The Spy grabbed just a few Eastern Shore highlights from a recent conversation between the show’s curator, James Meyer, and Truitt’s daughter, Alexandra, at the National Gallery of Art last November to share with our readers.  We thought most would relate to her connection with Eastern Shore picket fences.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. In the Tower: Anne Truitt, on view from November 19, 2017, through April 1, 2018. For more information about the exhibition please go here, to hear the Mayer-Truitt Interview in full please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: Photographers Hunter Harris and H. Robins Hollyday in Contrast

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It might be a bit of a stretch to say there are comparisons with Kent County native and photographer Hunter Harris’ exhibit at the Oxford Community Center entitled Above the Bay and artist Emily Lombardo’s current show at the Academy Art Museum, but not by much.

Both Emily and Hunter have gone back in time and captured contemporary impressions of similar subjects that two great masters in their field documented years before. One is the artist Francisco de Goya from the 17th Century, and H. Robins Hollyday, the famed Eastern Shore photographer from the 1920s.

In Hunter’s case, he worked with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the Talbot Historical Society a few years ago to produce large reproductions of Hollyday’s stunning aerial photography and matching it with his own images of these unique landscapes. The results of both men’s work can now be seen side-by-side at the OCC until the end of the year.

The Spy caught up with Hunter yesterday afternoon to talk about the project.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Oxford Community Center please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: The MSO “Holiday Joy” Preview with Julien Benichou and Jeffrey Parker

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While there are plenty of reasons to be grateful that the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra makes Easton its home throughout the year, it is hard to match the enthusiasm and brilliance performances that come with the Symphony’s annual holiday program. And this year is no different.

On December 7 at 7 p.m., the Orchestra will return to the Avalon for their celebration of the December holidays which gave us an opportunity to catch up with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s musical director, Julien Benichou, and the Symphony board president, Jeffrey Parker to get a sneak preview of what’s planned for what must be the MSO’s most popular performance of the year.

This year the orchestra will be joined by soprano Leah Hawkins in what both Julian and Jeffrey agree could be a perfect pairing of an extraordinary singer with the warmth and brilliance of David Fraser’s This Christmastide or Jessye’s Carol since composition was written for the great Jessye Norman.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra please go here

 

Mid-Shore Education: Radcliffe Creek School’s Molly Judge Takes a Bow

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As Radcliffe Creek School director Molly Judge enters her last year leading the private school she founded in Chestertown as a regional hub for bright students who learn differently, it is safe to predict that what took place at the Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s annual awards lunch last Friday will be repeated quite a few times before she officially steps down at the end of June.

And that is because, as Buck Duncan, president of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, noted in his remarks to the overflow crowd in presenting Molly with the Foundation’s Town Watch Society Award, Molly has, “changed the educational landscape on the Mid-Shore forever.”

The Spy caught some of Buck’s comments and raided the Radcliffe Creek School’s Facebook page for some images of the school and its students.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Radcliffe Creek School please go here

 

Spy Survey Results: Cut vs. Hire

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Thanks to all who participated!

In our unscientific survey we found from our many responses that 70% always cut their grass with tractor or mower, while 19% never cut their own grass.

A full 2/3rds strongly agreed that they enjoy taking care of their own lawn; with, 51% strongly agreeing that they like driving a tractor.

Maybe best of all, regardless of whether you “cut” or “hire,” a full 83% report liking the way the lawn looks.

Numerous comments offered even more insights…some of our favorites:

“When I was growing up, my brothers got to mow the grass while I had to do housecleaning. I love mowing the grass, especially with my starts-in-2-pulls-of-the-rope Toro! I let my grass grow quite tall so that mowing it will be even more satisfying, and I sometimes play with making patterns as I cut. So much fun!”

“Husband sits on the tractor and cuts the fields and larger areas. Wife pushes the gas powered lawn mower around the trees and foundation plantings.  Both are happy with the outcome!”

“It is a peaceful time to be riding a mower trimming grass. Nobody bothers me with questions or whatever. I look forward to doing it every 4 days.”

“I grew up in a city apartment where I never learned to be expert with lawns or shrubs. I love the way our yard looks and could never hope to make it so nice with my lack of knowledge on the subject. I do my expert things and pay someone else who is good at their’s to do the lawn and all that comes with it. That helps make everyone happy and employed.”

“The best solution might be a herd of sheep but they are not as fast. See below”

What a Tease: The 2017 Chesapeake Film Festival Trailer Released

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One of the most fun parts of any film festival is the tradition of creating a unique trailer to promote it.  The Chesapeake Film Festival has been doing this for years – ten years to be exact – and for 2017 asked independent film producer and current volunteer marketing director for the CFF, Kindall Rende, to give it a go.

The Spy obtained her final version and thought our readers would enjoy seeing it as the Mid-Shore prepares for the popular film program to returns from October 27th to the 29th.

For more information about the 2017 Chesapeake Film Festival please go here

Washington College Transition: Bair Resigns

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The Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors today announced the resignation of President Sheila Bair.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with President Bair for these past two years, and wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” said Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “Her work on behalf of both this institution, and the nation’s undergraduate population as a whole, to diminish our national student debt crisis has been remarkable, and we both thank and commend President Bair for her dedication to improving access to high-quality education for all students.”

“It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as President of this historic college, and my time here is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my career and life,” said President Bair. “Being a part of an institution co-founded by our nation’s own Founding Father, George Washington, will be impossible to match, and I thank the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Visitors and Governors for their support these past two years, particularly for our access and affordability initiatives. Unfortunately, this job has required that I be away from my family quite a bit, and I underestimated the hardship that would create when I took up leadership of the college. I regret that I am not able to serve my full five-year term, but in many ways, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our hardworking campus community, we accomplished in two years what would have required five at other institutions.”

President Bair came to Washington College after serving as Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011, where she played a key role in stabilizing the banking system during the financial crisis. She was officially appointed in May 2015, and served as the institution’s first female president in its 234-year history.

A native of Independence, Kansas, Bair earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Kansas in 1974 and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1978. She began her career in public service as an aide to Kansas senator Bob Dole and later served as a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a senior vice president for government relations at the New York Stock Exchange, and Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. For four years, she was the Dean’s Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Appointed to lead the FDIC by President George W. Bush in 2006, Bair was recognized for sound fiscal management and for raising employee morale. She was one of the first officials to warn about the damage the growing subprime mortgage crisis would pose to millions of homeowners and the economy at large. Consumer advocates praised her relentless efforts to represent the interests of homeowners, bank customers and taxpayers. She helped shape and implement the Dodd-Frank Act, which gave the FDIC expanded power to “wind down” rather than bail out a failing bank, and created the Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion in an effort to bring banking services to underserved populations.

Bair chronicled her five years at the FDIC in Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself, a New York Times bestseller published in September 2012. A prolific writer, she has been a regular contributor to Fortune and has written three books for children that offer lessons in financial literacy.

During her presidency at the college, she pioneered several student debt reduction programs, including a program to match scholarship dollars to every dollar spent out of a family’s 529 or Education Savings Account, and George’s Brigade, offering full scholarships to highly qualified, low-income students. In addition, she ushered in Fixedfor4, a tuition plan that guarantees entering students that their tuition will not go up during their four years at the College, bringing certainty to one of the largest expenditures a family makes.

Launched in the fall of 2016, the Brigade saw 14 first-generation students complete their freshmen year. Twenty new George’s Brigade scholars are expected to matriculate in the fall. Another affordability initiative, Dam the Debt, is a “back-end” scholarship that helps pay off the federal loans of graduating seniors. Since its inception, Washington College has dispersed a total of $659,000 to graduating seniors, reducing their overall debt by over 10 percent.

The College expects to continue the efforts that began under Bair’s leadership. Her contributions to the improvements in diversity, retention, advancement, and alumni participation are greatly appreciated, as is the contribution she made to help raise the public profile of the College

President Bair’s resignation will be effective June 30.