THORNS to the government shutdown, period. Bigger THORNS to its potentially disastrous effects, if continued, on area Head Start programs. Bennington Head Start, which has programs in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, Manchester and Arlington, could be in danger of closing this winter if the shutdown persists into December. THORNS also to the shutdown’s shuttering of national parks and historic sites -- especially hard to swallow here in Vermont during foliage season, when the national parks are at their most bewitching.

ROSES to the faculty and staff of Fisher Elementary School in Arlington for creating a wonderful, inclusive place to learn for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have other disabilities, just as they do for students who have no disabilities. The school’s deaf and hard of hearing program, implemented in 2008 by Battenkill Valley School District Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist Rachel Boisvert, allows students with special needs to remain in conventional classrooms. "We’re all equals. The students with special needs are treated no differently here than anywhere else. It’s great, makes me happy," fifth-grade teacher Jeremy Pratico told the Banner. Clearly, by what was observed at the school this week by Banner staffers, it makes the students happy, too.

ROSES to Timberline Panel Co. and Vermont Timber Frames on opening a new production facility at 458 Morse Road, Bennington, this week. The company builds homes that require "very little energy" and provides good-paying jobs in the process.

THORNS to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its decision to reimburse the Town of Bennington for only a small part of what was outlaid to make emergency repairs following Tropical Storm Irene. FEMA announced this week plans to repay the town $1.2 million. With that number now official, the town is poised to appeal and seek $3.4 million to nearly re-fund the $3.9 million spent overall on Irene recovery efforts.

ROSES to Hoosick Falls Central School District’s fall athletics programs, including football, the boys and girls soccer programs, and field hockey, which have altogether lost only one name and drawn one game as of this writing. The New York school has achieved extremely strong results so far.

ROSES to Bennington paralympic skier Betsy Hurley who is aiming for a spot on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Born with a spinal cord defect called spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down, Hurley has been skiing since age 10 and racing since age 13 with a goal of becoming a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Hurley is seeking donations to fund her training camp in Colorado. To learn more or to make a donation, visit Betsy Hurley.com

ROSES to the Shulman family for donating 261 acres off Pleasant Valley Road to the Vermont Land Trust, meaning it cannot be developed or subdivided in perpetuity. Elise Annes, a forester working for the trust, told the Banner the trust will develop a forest management plan for the property for possible future timber harvests.

ROSES to the 6th annual Ciderfest held at Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury last weekend, which not only celebrated the harvest season, but also raised $2,700 for Clear Brook regular Carol Adinolfi. The funds, raised in part through the raffle of a shed decorated by dozens of local artists, will be used to contribute to Adinolfi’s recovery following a recent stem-cell transplant.

~Michelle Karas