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Easton mayor distributes $8M in American Rescue Plan Act checks

EASTON — Easton Mayor Robert Willey distributed American Rescue Plan Act checks to downtown business owners and other local organizations Monday evening

Thirty local businesses, nonprofits and other groups received checks as part of the $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief program. The town of Easton was granted over $16 million from the federal pandemic spending package. Just over $8 million was distributed in August; the remaining funds are expected to arrive in August 2022.

Funds received will help local businesses and other groups with payroll, equipment, material and cleaning costs as well as employee retention efforts, rents and mortgage payments and utility bills. The federal money is the latest U.S. stimulus effort to help businesses, nonprofits and state and local governments with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Downtown Easton businesses and organizations that received checks include:

• Allen’s Transportation

• Blake Blackston Post 77

• Anhac Inc. DBA Easton Plaza Cleaners

• Apex Barber Shop

• Asbury United Methodist Church

• Building African American Minds (BAAM)

• BOSS Fitness

• Chesapeake Film Festival

• Easton Day Care

• Easton Volunteer Fire Department

• Easton Utilities

• Family Care of Easton

• For All Seasons

• Laser Letters

• Midshore Veterinary Service

• Neighborhood Service Center

• Pensel & Walker

• Polaris Village Ministries

• Rude BBQ

• Rude Burger

• Shapers

• Spring Hill Cemetery

• Talbot County Free Library

• Talbot Historical Society

• Talbot Humane Society

• Talbot Interfaith Shelter

• The Total Image

• Upper Shore Aging

• Waterfowl Festival

• YMCA of the Chesapeake.

3 things

1 Famous birthdays: Singer-musician Paul Simon is 80. Musician Robert Lamm (Chicago) is 77. Singer-musician Sammy Hagar is 74. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is 61. Singer/TV personality Marie Osmond is 62. NBA coach Doc Rivers is 60. College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is 59. Olympic silver medal figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is 52. TV personality Billy Bush is 50. Former NBA All-Star Paul Pierce is 44. DJ Vice is 43. Singer Ashanti (pictured) is 41. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is 32.

2 In 1775, the United States Navy had its origins as the Continental Congress ordered the construction of a naval fleet. In 1943, Italy declared war on Germany, its one-time Axis partner. In 1972, a Uruguayan chartered flight carrying 45 people crashed in the Andes; survivors resorted to feeding off the remains of some of the dead in order to stay alive until they were rescued more than two months later. In 1974, longtime television host Ed Sullivan died in New York City at age 73. (More history on A4)

3 The Maryland couple charged in a plot to sell sensitive U.S. submarine secrets to a foreign government will remain behind bars for now, a judge said Tuesday in granting a detention request from prosecutors. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe each made brief appearances in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble ordered them to remain detained pending a detention hearing on Friday at which more extensive arguments are expected to be made. (Story on StarDem.com)

Brune becomes interim head of school at Country School

EASTON — Jean Waller Brune has come out of retirement with energy and five decades of experience to lead the Country School during a time of transition.

Brune is serving as interim head of school for the Country School on Goldsborough Street after resignation of Bill Ennist in July.

Brune has more 50 years of experience and brings her chocolate lab with her to school. She insists that she is just an interim solution and will only be at the helm of the Easton private school for two years until they can find another head to take over.

She liked being retired she said with a laugh.

“I will be here two years. That is the interim position. That has been determined by the board and that is what I have agreed to. I am thrilled to be here. I have a ton of energy, but I came out of retirement to do this and I will happy to go back into retirement. The kids energize me. They are good and eager to learn.” she said.

Brune is affable, humble, smart and motivated by her students, she is definitely a roll up your sleeves type of person. Already she is on a first name basis with all of the students who she fist bumps with in the morning.

Bill Ennist resigned in late July. He had been head of the Country School for one year.

COVID still takes up a lot of her concern. How to run a school and keep everyone safe takes up more than half her bandwidth. She was on the board of the Country School for six years as the voice of an educator. Once they offered her the interim position of head of school, she resigned from the board.

She went to Middlebury College and studied English. Her thesis was on an obscure Elizabethan playwright, Ben Johnson, who was a contemporary of William Shakespeare in the 1600s. She juxtaposed a comedy and a tragedy. But all along she knew she wanted to teach so she went on and got a Master’s in Literary Arts at Johns Hopkins. She taught in Baltimore at two prestigious private schools that happened to be in the same neighborhood. Gilman and Roland Park Country School. She taught or was in administration for 51 years.

“Going first from Gilman to Roland Park taught me that every independent school has its own culture. So I came to Country School wanting to know, first of all, its culture, because that has a lot do with decision making and how you go about doing it,” said Brune. She knows Neil Mufson the former head of school.

“I already knew this was a good place but between Neil’s retiring, COVID and somebody who was just here for a year, the school didn’t need another transition right now. I let the board know that I would be one of the ones considered to be the interim. So that is what I am doing and it feels right to me.

We were able to be open and not have everyone be virtual. I thought that was great. This year’s challenge is to make sure we can remain open. Our school nurse is in touch with the Talbot County Health Department every week to be advised and get the statistics. COVID is tricky and we don’t want to be caught off guard. We are universally masked,” she said.

She says that although COVID demands a lot of her focus, most of her consciousness is taken up with “fostering and continuing and facilitating the teaching and learning that takes place here. And how to support the faculty to deliver a great education. That takes up most of my thinking. The nine key words that are in the classrooms. That they are integrated into the students’ being is absolutely what makes this school amazing,” she said.

The nine values are honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, generosity, commitment, cooperation, fairness, and moral courage. A phrase that is often repeated at Country School is “Do my best always.”

“If you stretch yourself, you might fail at first. How to get up and try again. I think that is so important in life. We do a lot of that. Part of what helps is we are not a big school. We know all of our kids really well. So when they are applying to schools, we are able to be good advocates for them,” she said.

Stop Together And Read (STAR) is a school wide moment where everybody stops and takes 20 minutes to read. Any book that the student wants to read.

“I have never seen a school as consistently committed to that concept of STAR as this school is. It happens every day. They are focused on the book and I love it because in today’s world there isn’t that same consistent emphasis on reading. Love of books, love of reading,” she said.

Brune also made a point that not every student learns the same way.

“Some are auditory learners which is the way teachers used to do it in the old day. They stood at the front of the room and they talked. We have improved the curriculum to be able to teach many different modalities,” she said.

She says the word for the year is community. She refers specifically to parents and teachers working together for what is best for the student.

“You have to be an advocate for your child. You know your daughter better than we do, but we know children and how they learn. For example, we might think this is normal development, this is not unexpected. It is not an aberration, so don’t get too nervous. Or this is unusual and we need to figure out something different because this is isn’t a normal learning pattern that we are seeing. That is the best partnership when you tell us all about your child and we tell you all we know about children,” she said.

With all the competing pressures of being head of school, she manages to make it fun.

“A sense of humor is the most important thing, because you have to be able to put it in perspective. You have got to let things go and you have to learn how to laugh at yourself.”

In two years she will be walking down a wintery back road in Vermont with her chocolate lab, knowing that she worked with school’s culture to the best of her ability. Retired at last.

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Easton Historic District Commission unanimously backs removal of Talbot Boys Confederate statue

EASTON — The Easton Historic District Commission unanimously voted to approve the removal of the Talbot Boys statue in a meeting Monday evening, in another chapter in the long and contentious battle over whether the Confederate monument should stay or go.

Following the approval, the commission will issue a certificate of appropriateness to the county — a document that states that the proposed project is appropriate and meets criteria in the local code. Once the certificate is obtained, the Talbot County Council is permitted to begin working on the project and could begin enacting the council’s Sept. 14 administrative resolution to relocate the statue to a private Civil War park in Virginia.

Prior to the vote, attorney Daniel Saunders represented the county council in asking for the certificate and answering questions from commission members and members of the public, saying that he wanted to “err on the side of transparency” in his presentation.

Members of the town’s Historic District Commission questioned Saunders on how the Talbot Boys statue would be removed, what would happen to its previous location after its removal and what considerations would be given to finding a new location.

Saunders told the commission that the county council “may be open to other proposals” on alternate locations for the Talbot Boys statue. However, it ultimately comes down to the commission to review applications and consider the larger context of the county’s public health, safety and welfare in possible new locations.

“It is controversial, it is divisive, sadly, and it is hurtful to certain citizens of the county,” Saunders said.

The commission’s review of the county’s application to remove the Talbot Boys statue comes just a few weeks after Talbot County Council member Frank Divilio first introduced the administrative resolution at the Sept. 14 council meeting. The resolution dictates that the monument would be placed under the custody of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and relocated to the Cross Keys Battlefield in Harrisonburg, Va.

Three members from Preserve Talbot History, a local group focused on the statue’s historical context, petitioned the county council to create a numbered resolution to rescind Divilio’s administrative resolution at the Sept. 28 meeting. The petition was denied by Divilio and fellow council members Pete Lesher and Corey Pack — the three members who voted in support of the original relocation resolution.

The same three members from Preserve Talbot History who proposed the petition attended the Historic District Commission’s meeting Monday in an additional attempt to block the relocation of the Talbot Boys.

During her comments to the commission, Lynn Mielke, of Easton, emphasized the statue’s historic significance as a prime reason to keep the Talbot Boys in its current location. She asserted that the Talbot Boys monument is not a memorial to traitors or non-veterans; in actuality, the Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments recognizes the Talbot Boys monument as a military monument.

“The idea of it being a military monument is thoroughly supported by history,” she said.

Easton resident Clive Ewing brought up several different concerns on the county council’s resolution and the possible relocation of the Talbot Boys statue. During his comments, Ewing questioned the definition of a statue and whether or not it includes the base, adding that the county council’s application states that it’s for removing the statue, not the base.

Ewing also brought up concerns about the council’s future plans for the space on the county courthouse lawn if the Talbot Boys statue was removed, asking if a Union Boys statue would be built or if there were other plans. He also asked how the large, fragile statue would be removed from its current location, stating that he didn’t know if anyone had made any efforts to work with the Easton Historic District Commission on relocation.

Preserve Talbot History president David Montgomery questioned if a majority of Talbot County residents actually want the statue to be moved, saying that there was “really no evidence of that whatsoever.”

“Their intention is to move it to a battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley that’s 200 miles away from here,” he said. “That does not help tell the story of Talbot history in Talbot County.”

Montgomery reminded the commission that history has “hard and sometimes unpleasant edges.”

“I’m very glad to hear that the county is willing to consider alternative locations that would allow it to stay in Talbot County,” Montgomery continued. “I certainly hope we can work together to find that out.”

All seven members of the Easton Historic District Commission voted to approve the removal of the statue from the county courthouse lawn. The certificate of appropriateness is expected to be issued in the next few weeks.

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.