Hudson-Litchfield News

Playing Respect

by Lynne Ober

How do you remember someone who touched your life or your organization?  That question faced Alvirne Music Director Gerry Bastien, who remembers all the work done by Judi and Doug Robinson before Alvirne had its first marching band.  Judi has terminal cancer, and although she no longer teaches music, she still has a love of it.  Bastien wanted to bring some joy into her life.

“They were there when we formed our group,” remembered Bastien.  “We opened the first Friends of Music bank account with dollar bills that we tossed in.”

And, so on Friday evening, the band marched from Alvirne to the Robinson’s home – a short distance.


Gerry Bastien and Judi Robinson with the band.

Doug, Judi, and I were sitting on their back patio.  Judi didn’t know the band was coming.  Neighborhood sounds flitted across the crisp evening air.  Suddenly Judi’s eyes lit up and a big grin split her face as she recognized the sound of drums beating the cadence of an approaching marching band.

When we went into the front yard, the band was just turning the corner.  With precision movements, as though they always gave impromptu concerts in the middle of residential streets, the band positioned themselves in front of the Robinson’s home.  Judi was thrilled to see them.  She and Gerry exchanged big hugs.

They played the theme from Indiana Jones as well as a lively marching tune that had everyone tapping their toes. 

Neighbors came onto their front yards and listened to the band.


The band played an impromptu concert in front of the Robinson’s home.

After the impromptu concert, Doug thanked them for coming and then cookies and water were given to band members before they returned to Alvirne and the football game.

“The Robinsons were instrumental (no pun intended) in there even being a high school band in Hudson,” said Friends of Music (FOM) President Fred Giuffrida.

The original group of people who started the band was Judi and Doug Robinson.  Doug became Vice President.  Gerry Bastien and his wife Dee, Chris Landry who became the first President, Leslie Murray who became Secretary, Don Oullette who become Treasurer.

The original group met at the Robinsons because they were the most centrally located.  Judi always baked goodies for the meetings.

“As you can imagine, back in those days, we did not really get "elected" and did not have much formality,” grinned Doug Robinson.  “Everything was done around my dining room table.  We got things done by volunteering someone else to do jobs.”

Judi was part of the committee that designed the band uniforms.  She and her son, Brian, who played drums in the band, designed the band T-shirts that are still worn today.

Gerry Bastien credits Doug with helping write the grant that paid for the marching band instruments.  “We wouldn’t be where we are today as a band without that group of wonderful, dedicated people,” he concluded.


Clegg Back as Majority Leader

by Lynne Ober

Never before during its 186 years has a New Hampshire Senate president been forced to step down in the middle of a biennium session.  Senator Tom Eaton [R-Keene] resigned a week ago when it was clear that he would be ousted from his position.

There’s been a three year rivalry between Eaton and Senator Ted Gatsas [R-Manchester].  Gatsas challenged Eaton last December for the Senate presidency and when he lost, was assigned an office in a former bathroom in the basement of the State House.

Although behind any political scene there is always some power struggles and bickering, the Senate’s troubles spilled into the public when Eaton wrote a memo denying access to Senators, particularly Gatsas, to Senate resources when forming legislation.

Nevertheless Gatsas crafted the educational reform legislation that was passed by both the House and the Senate and the health insurance reform that also passed.

Despite the problems Eaton seemed to be holding the Senate together until Senator Bob Clegg resigned as Majority Leader.  Then Eaton faced diminished respect and power with Senators questioning his methodology and the role of his staff.

The problems became media fodder.  Comments polarized people who chose sides.

Reportedly a short list of changes was given to Eaton with a two-week window for making changes, but Eaton made no changes.  Whether Eaton underestimated the strength of the opposition or was just too proud to comply will never be known, but it was the final straw in his troubled tenure.

When Eaton was presented with a petition from 14 of the 24 Senators asking for the September 9 meeting, his first response was to say that it would be held only if everyone could attend. 

The session, however, was convened; Eaton’s voice wavered with the words announcing his resignation.  “This vote is purely a referendum on my leadership style… No one has accused me of unethical behavior, malfeasance or dereliction of duty… To me, I'm left to think this is only the pursuit by some to settle old scores.  Is that what we want this chamber to become?  Is that a precedent we want to set?"

Gatsas, who was nominated and elected on a voice vote, cautioned his fellow Senators by stating that the day was not a time of celebration.  “My solemn commitment to you and the people of New Hampshire is to do my very best each day to make sure the 24 senators are given the opportunity to have their voices heard.  The coming days I will personally reach out to each and every one of you in an effort to put whatever differences we've had in the past behind us… and to develop a bold new agenda for the coming year.”

One of the appointments that Gatsas quickly made was to appoint Senator Bob Clegg as Majority Leader.


Round Two:  School Board vs. Hudson Federation of Teacher’s Union

by Maureen Gillum

The tensions from Hudson’s Staff Opening (8/25/05), and subsequent allegations from the Hudson Federation of Teachers (HFT) Union of “unfair labor practices,” were further exacerbated by a September 1 memo from Chairman Alukonis.

Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell, sent an e-mail last Thursday, at Mr. Alukonis’ request, regarding a memo distributed that day to all “Hudson Faculty.”  The memo, from David Alukonis on Hudson School Board letterhead, addressed “School Board Salary and Health Insurance Proposals.”  Mr. Bell informed me that a copy of the memo and spreadsheet, which he admitted may potentially be viewed as “inflammatory,” was also being sent to The Telegraph and Lowell Sun, in addition to the Hudson-Litchfield News.

Mr. Alukonis’ brief one- page memo began, “As I promised you, spreadsheets are now available which illustrate how the School Board’s overall proposals could be distributed.  These spreadsheets are available in your school’s administrative offices, or at the SAU.”  From the Chairman’s perspective, he was rightfully fulfilling his “pledge that within one week, he’d have a costing out of the Board’s offer” as he stated in his staff address on August 25, 2005 (see Hudson-Litchfield News 9/2/05 issue, page 1 and page 8 article, Hudson’s Staff Opening Emphasizes Honors… and Challenges). 

Referenced in his memo was a complex five-page spreadsheet, which listed each specific teacher’s name, pay grade, medical plan, current health contribution (13%), and current salary (2005 - 2006, no increases; same as last year).  This also included proposed projections for the same, including salary gain, offsetting cost of increased health insurance and the net gain for each year for the next three years of 2006 - 2007, 2007 - 2008, and 2008 - 2009.  Within projected years, the current 13% health care contributions, as well as the projected stepped increases in health care, respectively jumping to 16%, 18% and 20% over the course of the proposed contract were shown.

In a brief, impromptu meeting with Mr. Bell last Thursday, he also stepped through the spreadsheet explaining the salary gain in each year, which included a 15% health insurance rate increase escalator.  This roughly correlates with industry averages and the health care increases of 14% - 15% the District’s had in the last three to four years, according to Mr. Bell.  He also pointed out, “the district is prepared to make such significant increases in salary offers -- of up to 20% to 25% over three years (net gains after health) in the lower pay grades -- in recognition that we have 0% increases this year (with no contract settlement) and Hudson’s teachers salaries (especially for newer teachers) are low, in relation to surrounding districts.”  While a weighted average of the approximately 250 district staff members was not listed, at a glance, the average net increase over three years of the appeared to fall in the 14% to 18% range.  Of note, Hudson’s longest-standing veteran teachers, with better family health plans, typically yielded a three year net gain (after health) of just 6% to 9%.

AFT-NH’s chief negotiator for Hudson Federation of Teachers (HFT), Attorney Terri Donovan, vehemently reiterated what she conveyed in the HFT’s initial allegations (see Hudson-Litchfield News 9/2/05 issue, page 22 and page 23 article, Hudson Federation of Teachers Union Alleges Unfair Labor Practices).  “We are appalled at the continuing violations by the Board, but most importantly the misinformation and disclosure of confidential employee information released to all employees,” stated Attorney Donovan, in response to Mr. Alukonis’ latest memo and spreadsheet.  She was also upset that, “this (information, as of 9/5/05) has not been provided to the HFT or to me as their counsel, despite the fact I requested the same of their negotiator (SAU 81’s Attorney Michael Elwell of Sewall and Leslie out of Salem, New Hampshire) last on August 25, 2005.”  Donovan said she also planned that upon the receipt (of the memo and spreadsheet); HFT will also analyze this information thoroughly and prepare accurate information for our membership.

All in all, many district teachers seem upset, confused and think continued ‘out of context misinformation’ further ‘erodes’ and ‘undermines’ the prospect of a negotiation settlement.  Summarizing one teacher’s anonymous reaction, ‘this is most crazy as Mr. Alukonis has no jurisdiction in negotiations (in reference to the Board’s official negotiation team, Rick Nolan and Gary Rodgers) and he has a major conflict of interest.’

Thus, the contract negotiation and labor dispute saga continues in SAU 81, unfortunately.  With both sides increasingly at odds, a settlement seems further than ever, with the prospect of no winners on either side.  Most regrettably, the potentially biggest losers here may be Hudson students and taxpayers.  Again, the Hudson-Litchfield News urges involvement (School Board meetings 9/12 and 9/19, Town Hall 6:30 p.m.) and responses (news@areanewsgroup.com) from parents and Hudson citizens to incite a positive outcome.


Litchfield Revaluation Starting

Litchfield Selectmen announced that assessors who will be completing Litchfield revaluation will begin knocking on doors next week.  They plan to go subdivision by subdivision and will need to gain access to homes and businesses.

Each assessor will have a badge and a card.  However residents who are concerned about allowing the assessor into their homes can call either the Selectmen’s office at 424-4046 or Litchfield Police Department to verify that the assessor at the door works for the Town before admitting him.

The assessors will work from now until sometime in early 2006.


Musical Notes

submitted by Barbara Bailey, AHS Friends of Music

Football season has arrived and with it comes the beginning of marching band season!  The Alvirne High School Bronco Marching Band debut their program at last Friday’s football game.  Numbering 130 musicians and 16 color guard, the group was quite impressive to see on the field.  This year's program features the music of John Williams.  If you didn't get to see the show last week, be sure to check it out at the next football game on September 23.  The band will also perform at home games on September 30, October 14 and October 28.

In addition to marching at football games, the Alvirne band and color guard will perform at the Hudson Harvest Fest on October 8.  Following this performance, they will quickly board buses and head to the Salem Band Show.  On September 24 the group will travel to Amherst, Massachusetts to participate in the University of Massachusetts band day.

Behind the scenes, Friends of Music has three fundraising events planned to help with traveling expenses to Florida next April.  Once again, families will be traveling to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon to help with cleanup after the races.  From September 19 through October 7 band members will be selling Yankee Candles and related items.  This is a great chance to start your holiday shopping.  Speaking of holiday shopping, mark your calendar for October 29 and be sure to stop by Friends of Music’s annual craft fair.  Crafter applications are still being accepted for this show.  For more information or an application, visit our web page at www.ahsmusic.org.

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