Santa Suceeds at the Library
by Lynne Ober
Alicia, 5, and her sister, Hannah, 9, chat with Santa.
Kids of all ages enjoyed the holiday celebration at Hudson’s Hills Memorial Library. Santa was seated in a comfortable chair in front of the fire place. Kids talked to him and sat with him for photos. Some of them brought written lists so that they wouldn’t forget what to say and others just happily chatted away.
As always the Friends of Hudson Library sponsored this fun event. Mary Jane Ames took the photos of the kids with Santa. Friends acted as elves to help the children wait to see Santa.
When the visit with Santa was over, it was time to visit the craft section. “The Children’s Librarian helped us find this year’s craft,” said Friends President Jane Bowles. “Children can either do it here or take it home as each child gets a bag with all the supplies and directions.” In the annex, more Friends helped at the craft table. Children made a cone and then decorated it first with “evergreen needles” and then with Christmas tree decorations including a gold star for the top of the tree. The table was surrounded with happy, giggling children who worked on their trees.
In the back room Girl Scouts from Junior Girl Scout Troop 2405 served cookies and milk. “The Girl Scouts called and wanted to participate and we think it is great,” smiled Bowles.
In addition the Girl Scouts sang Christmas carols and were accompanied on the flute played by Serita Croce. “I’ve played the flute forever,” laughed Serita. “I started in school, played through college and then when I had kids, I quit playing – just didn’t have enough time. Then two weeks ago, I started practicing Christmas carols and here we are.” If you missed the Girl Scout carols last Saturday, they will also be caroling in the neighborhood around Dr. H. O. Smith School on December 22.
“This is an annual event put on by the Friends,” said Bowles. “We want everyone to have a fun morning and to take a minute to relax and enjoy the season.”
Brianna, Elizabeth, Shannon, Valerie, Heather, Hannah, Brianna sang Christmas carols while Serita played the flute.
Planning Your Next Vacation
by Lynne Ober
Jack Tremblay discussed travel plans for West Virginia.
Two of the fifth grade classes at Litchfield Middle School held a Travel Agent Convention for parents and friends. It was an absolutely dynamite opportunity to find out where you’d like to go on your next vacation.
The classes of Ms. Karen Bowie and Ms. Nancy Brucker had studied, created and were prepared to tell you and everyone what was special about the state they represented. Each student had been assigned a state and had spent a great deal of time researching the special landmarks and points of interest. State flowers, birds, trees, and, even, insects were shown. Students made large, colorful and informative displays for their states and last Friday, parents and friends were invited to view the beautiful, enlightening and interesting displays.
It’s travel agent had named his or her company and crafted business cards. Joshua Blackman proudly announced that he was travel agent and owner of J’s Traveling Company – a company for all your travel needs. Joshua had specialized in one of America’s flattest states, Kansas. Talking to Joshua, one learned that Kansas is known as the Sunflower state and has the Western Meadowlark as the state bird.
Jack Tremblay, smartly outfitted in a sport coat and tie, studied the beautiful state of West Virginia. He not only knew that West Virginia has a nickname of the Mountain State, but could identify all the important mountain peaks which he had displayed on the large state map that he had created. “The cardinal is the state bird,” he said, pointing to a picture of the cardinal. “The state tree is the Sugar Maple.” As he talked about wild, wonderful West Virginia, you wanted to book your vacation immediately.
Brigid Klaft from the Swaying Grass Travel Agency wore a bright purple Mardi Gras mask to represent Louisiana, the home of America’s Mardi Gras. Brigid’s company specialized in Louisiana according to her business card. She knew that Baton Rouge was the capital and that the state is known as the Pelican state. She pointed out Lake Ponchatrain, close to New Orleans and talked about its impact on the region.
If you wanted to vacation out west, Tim Gaumond could tell you all about the cliff dwellings found in New Mexico. He also offered fun facts about Albuquerque, the state capital, and talked about the history of the state.
Bobby Baril took a more global approach for his travel agency. He said that he could help plan any vacation and knew a lot about a number of states, not just the one that he had recently studied.
And just like at any convention, there were too many interesting places to cover them all in the allotted hour. The students had created amazing displays and loved sharing what they learned. Wide grins were present on all the travel agents’ faces and their eyes sparkled as they told the slow moving crowd about their discoveries and what was special about the states they studied.
Brigid Klaft wore her Mardi Gras mask when talking to customers.
Parental Concerns about Campbell High School
by Lauren Danzi
Parents voiced their concerns on Wednesday, December 5 during a school board meeting discussion about what the school board plans to do in light of the bullets and threatening notes that were found at Campbell High School.
Both Bob Manseau, CHS Principal, and Dr. Elaine Cutler, the Superintendent, responded to the concerns during the meeting and Manseau said he had also held a parent forum before the school board meeting. However, not all parents knew about the parent forum and were surprised to learn about it after it had been held.
The primary discussion surrounded communication and how to have better communication between school district and parents. Parents noted that just knowing about the forum held by the principal was an example of where communication could be improved.
Developing a better emergency evacuation plan for the students was a concern of Superintendent Cutler. She explained that the school district needed such a plan and that parents needed to know what it was.
“CHS needs a specific evacuation plan,” said Sue Seabrook, the GMS School nurse and Litchfield resident. She and others felt that they needed something other than diverting students to facilities at Darrah Pond.
Cutler reiterated and agreed that an evacuation plan needed to be developed and disseminated to parents so that they would know how the district would handle an event requiring evacuation.
Parents’ concerns were that kids do not always dress appropriately for the weather and there is not enough room at Darrah Pond facilities for everyone to be inside. Parents also asked if an emergency develops at one school, if kids could be bussed to one of the other two schools. The school board agreed to examine all options and to work on an evacuation plan.
Cutler explained that they were looking at implementing a new system called Alert Now which would be used at all three schools. This is a phone system that would allow a phone message to be left on up to 5 phone numbers in case of an emergency situation at the schools. When Cutler was Superintendent at SAU 28 [Pelham and Windham] she did implement such a system and parents were very appreciative of the rapid communication capabilities of that system. Cutler told the board that she originally was thinking about the system for weather related emergencies, but felt that Friday would have been a good time to use such a system. “Safety is the primary issue we have,” said Cutler, who felt it was important for parents and children to feel safe at school.
Cutler also said they will investigate the incident fully and noted that Litchfield Police are assisting with the investigation. She stressed that the district needs an additional vehicle for communication – especially emergency communication and specifically mentioned that all parents needed to hear the communication from the district and not from a media outlet as happened with the threatening note incident. Cutler acknowledged that some parents were unaware of what was going on and found out on WMUR websites later that night rather than through the school’s website or from the district directly.
Cutler further talked about how the district can use their own websites to help circulate information. For this recent incident some information was posted on the CHS and SAU website after the event. Cutler also said that letters could be sent home after the event, but noted that such communication does not provide parents the information they need to know during the event. Implementing a system such as Alert Now, would provide that up-to-date information needed by parents during an event.
When deciding whether to evacuate or have a shelter in place, Manseau felt that sheltering in place was better because they were able to narrow it down to 1 or 2 individuals who left the note. As a result of that knowledge, administration decided that the lock down, called “shelter in place”, made the most sense.
Maneau also discussed other incidents including ammunition cartridges that were found on two separate occasions and another note found full of what Maneau called “extreme political rhetoric.” He said the note made no reference to Campbell High School and upon talking to the student he found, “The evidence suggests the three events are unrelated.” Manseua said that he understood how people might easily suspect the events to be related.
Dick Rafferty, a former school board member, felt that Campbell had strayed off course from its original goal. He felt that parents and students had not been treated with respect. Rafferty disputed Manseua’s contention that the events, e.g. note and ammunition cartridges, were not related and said he saw the incidents as related and a cry for help. He felt that once someone disrespects a student that it is really hard to get it back and if it is a freshman you could lose them for four years. He felt that in general the high school students do not want to be at school or be with each other and he does not completely blame the kids. He wants that to change and as a former school board member he felt he shared some portion of the blame. Rafferty hopes that students in the future can feel comfortable both during the school day and enjoy participating in sports or after school activities. The senior trip was canceled two years ago due to lack of interest. This year it was also canceled because only 7 kids had signed up. Rafferty challenged the board and the school to get back to where they used to be.
Other concerns included complaints about the semester grading system interfering with their students’ abilities to apply for financial aid and scholarships. Al Raccio explained his daughter was among the first to graduate from Campbell and that this system posed significant challenges when trying to put the grading system to get federal funding. He felt the core competencies were positive but the semester grading was not.
Rafferty was also not happy with semester grading system.
Manseau does not like the semester grading system either. He would like to align the core competencies system with the quarter grading system but recognizes that there are certain structural challenges of making that work.
This is not the first time that the school board has heard parents’ concerns about the grading system. The board did not agree to make changes at this time, but agreed that an on-going dialogue between school district and parents would be beneficial in making Litchfield’s education system an excellent system.
State Denies New Litchfield School Plans without Kindergarten Classrooms
by Margaret Moore
At the December 5 Litchfield School Board meeting members listened to Dan Cecile of Harriman Associates re-address the new Litchfield elementary school plan. Cecile is the lead engineer who has worked with the Building Committee over many months creating a school plan to replace the cramped and deteriorating Griffin Memorial School. The school board previously approved the plan originally proposed by the Building Committee several weeks ago. However, once the proposal was elevated to the Department of Education (DOE) for approval it was denied.
The reasons for denying the proposal at the state level was a direct result of the fact that the proposal did not include designs for adequate kindergarten space. While Litchfield is one of the 11 New Hampshire school districts that does not offer public kindergarten, on November 20 an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader written by Statehouse Bureau Chief Tom Fahey described a key committee endorsement to have kindergarten in every New Hampshire school district by September 2009.
Hence, without kindergarten space the DOE made it clear that the state would not give approval of the plan, nor give the anticipated 30 percent state financial aid toward construction. Steve Martin, Litchfield administrator, said DOE simply is not approving school plans without kindergarten space. The new construction plan adds four 1,050-square-foot classrooms to accommodate future kindergarten.
The potential silver lining is that to ensure prompt compliance from all districts to offer kindergarten that currently do not, the state will boost state financial support to do so. The plan would be to assist districts with 100 percent of the leasing and furnishing of portable classrooms to get started and extend the existing offer to assist with 75 percent of the real costs of any kindergarten construction. With the new school plan Cecile pointed out that Litchfield could take advantage of the 75 percent state assistance for kindergarten classroom construction, and the 30 percent state assistance for the rest of the school building costs.
Cecile also discussed savings for the operational costs after the building is completed by planning to use energy efficient materials and systems. He highlighted the fact that grants and financial aid are available to schools that meet high energy efficiency standards, referred to as “high performing schools.” He pointed out that the building committee did choose many of these high performance options and potentially could gain additional cost savings. However, after discussing further it appeared that additional money would need to be spent to meet the actual high performance criteria. Cecile’s point was that by going “green” Litchfield could be provided 3 percent toward costs by the state. Cecil explained the system they plan on using is complex but well-tested technology and the current plan will be more energy efficient than Griffin Memorial, Litchfield Middle or Campbell High schools. The board and Cecil felt that just meeting code would be an energy saver.
The kindergarten was approved; however, the board will decide later time regarding any changes in increasing energy efficiency. The new Litchfield superintendent, Elaine Cutler, and the board expressed the desire that the required kindergarten classrooms be at zero additional costs to taxpayers.
“I believe the current thinking is that we will receive 75 percent kindergarten aid, and use accrued impact fees for the remainder of the cost,” said Cutler when asked how to fund the whole 100 percent.
Unfortunately, for those 11 districts without kindergarten, the state will not make decisions regarding funding commitments of exactly how much aid the state is willing to extend for mandatory kindergarten until March 2008 at the next legislative session.
“Although the committee has recommended that the state assume all the costs, that is not actual fact until much later during legislative session. We will not have assurances until after the March meeting, so it is difficult to inform the community,” Cutler said.
As it stands, Litchfield has no money allocated for kindergarten in this year’s budget, but it does have approval from the board to build kindergarten space. For next year, until the March 2008 legislative session has given the school districts some needed fiscal planning information, Litchfield and the other districts are forced to wait to make any firm decisions regarding future kindergarten programs.