At retirement age, a return to high school


LACONIA — At age 67, David Peter Sleeper, Sr. finally has his high school diploma, but apropos of his experience with the educational system, there's a problem.
The document from Laconia Academy, an adult evening high school diploma program, refers to him as David Peter Sleeper Jr.
Sleeper, one of six graduates from the program this year, ran into problems going through school the first time.
“When I was in junior high, I got caught smoking,” he recalled. “My grades weren't great anyway, and then they caught me smoking on school grounds at the end of the year. They decided to suspend me for two weeks, which killed my chance of passing my grade.”
After getting held back a grade because of that debacle, another problem surfaced a few years later. As a high school senior, he discovered he was a couple courses short of the requirements needed to graduate. At that point, he was fed up with school and decided to begin his work life and forget about a diploma.
He made a success of himself, running his own remodeling business, getting married and starting a family. He's now been married for 42 years. His children are 33, 36 and 39. He quit smoking in 1986.
But through it all, something was missing.
“I always wanted to finish the high school education I missed out on,” said Sleeper, who now is employed by a company that installs countertops. “I found it pretty profound not to have a high school diploma. Society teaches us to seek an education.”
He only needed to pass a math class and an English course to complete his high school diploma, so he decided to do that by taking night courses at the Laconia Academy, which are held at Laconia High School.
He was the oldest student in his class.
Sleeper noticed that, not unlike the earlier version of himself, some of the younger students lacked a certain focus.
“They are on a different wavelength,” he said.
“It seems like they are not studying to the fullest extent, and I guess when I think back on how I was in my high school days, you more or less do what you have to do and nothing more. I passed most of my courses without opening a book.”
He has plans for his diploma.
“If I ever get the right one, I will frame it,” he said. “I brought to their attention they put a junior after my name instead of a senior. My son is David P. Sleeper Jr., and he's already got his Master's degree.”
While Sleeper's return to school finished an experience begun decades ago, the travails of high school are much more fresh for Elisia Jean Civiello, another member of this year's Laconia Academy graduating class.
Civiello, 22, a mother of two, said she dropped out of high school after she became pregnant with her first child and bullies targeted her for harassment.
“I really don't care whatever people say, but what made me end up dropping out was a verbal fight with one of the girls that ended with me being pushed down stairs,” she said.
“I always really loved school, but I had trouble with people not being understanding of me being pregnant.”
She said her husband encouraged her to get her diploma.
“He saw how miserable I was in everyday life,” she said. “He wanted me to find something to be happy about every day.”
She hopes that having a high school diploma will allow her to realize goals of a meaningful job, perhaps in the culinary arts.
“I like baking,” she said. “I think it would be cool to do weddings.”
While going to night classes, she worked two jobs. It wasn't easy, and she offered some advice to today's high school students.
“I urge all the little ones to stay in school,” Civiello said.
Chris Ennis, the director of adult education for Laconia schools, said Civiello and Sleeper point up the fact that there is no typical Laconia Academy student.
He also said attendance numbers vary with the economy.
”When unemployment rates are low, our enrollment is low,” he said. “When people can't find jobs, they tend to go to school.”

County commission again asking for a $229,500 supplemental appropriation

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners, frustrated with the lack of response from Belknap County Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) on their request that the delegation meet to reconsider a $229,500 supplemental appropriation, have asked Vadney to schedule a public hearing on the matter.

Commissioners sent a letter to Vadney Friday asking him to post a notice of the public hearing by noon on Monday, June 19, so that the delegation can take up the request at a meeting it has already scheduled for June 27 to consider filling the position of Belknap County Attorney, which will become vacant when Melissa Guldbrandsen steps down on July 8 to become Laconia Circuit Court judge.

“We're waiting to hear from you. We're not going to be ignored,” said Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) at Thursday's meeting of the commission. DeVoy said that it has been almost a month since the initial supplemental appropriation request lost on a tie vote and that Vadney has yet to act after appearing to indicate at the conclusion of that meeting that he would call a meeting in two weeks.

Commissioners put off crucial decisions two weeks ago on the hiring of four correctional officers that Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray deemed essential to opening the new Community Corrections Center until they received word on the fate of the supplemental appropriation.

The $229,500 supplemental appropriation request lost on a 7-7 tie vote on May 22 after Vadney denied an attempt to by Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), vice chairman of the delegation, to abstain from voting. Howard then voted against the request, creating the tie.

The $229,500 supplemental appropriation request included $136,500 for the Corrections Department and $93,000 for the Sheriff’s Department. The proposal called for hiring three corrections officers on July 1 and another on Sept. 1.

The letter to Vadney reads in part: “You closed the meeting on 5/22/17 with assurance that another meeting would occur within two weeks.
As you know, we are unable to complete the construction project for the Community Corrections Center without relocating inmates to other county facilities. This will cause significant expense to our Corrections and Sheriff’s Departments. Not to mention countless lawyers and families (constituents) within the county. The relocation of inmates would not be a temporary measure, as we will have no facility to house them without expanding into our new Community Corrections Center. Several of the existing housing units will be closed or repurposed with the project.

“It appears that the delegation intended to fund two of the four new officers necessary to safely occupy the new facility. Unfortunately, no funding was included for any officers. Our existing jail is already understaffed by all accounts by at least 8 full time employees. Four is the minimum required to safely supervise inmates throughout the expanded square footage of the new facility.

“The Sheriff’s Department is in a dire situation without adequate funding already; requiring additional transfer responsibility will prevent the Sheriff from performing his constitutional duties.”

The letter concludes by saying, “We urge you to allow the opportunity to work through this problem in the best interest of the county.”

Gray has said that hiring the additional officers is a priority as their presence is needed in order to complete reconstruction work in the old jail, which will allow for continued use of portions of that facility once the community corrections center is on line.

He said that plans call for 10 male prisoners, currently housed in attic space, as well as 16 female prisoners housed in the gymnasium, to be transferred temporarily to the new facility while work is underway on the old jail. He said that there is no other space in the facility for those prisoners, who, unless the correction officers are hired, would have to be relocated to other facilities, costing the county as much as $34,500 a month.

The latest date at which work can be stopped and the present jail still able to hold most prisoners is Aug. 15.

What is measure of a 'successful' Motorcycle Week


LACONIA — The 94th Laconia Motorcycle Week attracted thousands of motorcyclists, and appeared to be held in a safe and organized fashion. On that account, it was a success.

As to how it stacked up against previous Motorcycle Weeks in terms of finances and attendance, that is a more complicated question.

Motorcycles seemed everywhere this week, but longtime residents remember that years ago, there were simply many more bikes in town.

City Councilor Henry Lipman remembers a kind of motorcycle gridlock that would occur during the festival in the 1980s.

“I can remember that it was almost impossible to get up Union Avenue near the Rite Aid and Laconia High School,” he said.

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said the festival has more competition than ever. In 1992, there were 50 other motorcycle rallies advertised around the country.

“Now there's over 800, so that cuts into stuff,” he said.

He proclaimed this year's Motorcycle Week a success, but its attendance, which is always a hard-to-estimate and unofficial number, is certainly nowhere near a peak he estimated at about 430,000 people in 2004. Attendance declined after that amid an economic downturn, he said.

His priorities include more than just attendance.

“My concern is that the businesses that do come have an excellent, safe time,” he said. “That is my No. 1 goal.”

Crowds also may have seemed bigger in the past because essentially it was a three-day event, he said.

“It basically became a three-day drinking party with mainly locals and a spring break mentality,” he said.

One metric of Motorcycle Week is how much the event costs the city, versus how much revenue the city takes in for permits, licensing, site review fees and boardwalk rental. The expenses for this year will not be available for a week.

Revenue figures are in and any changes would likely be minimal, said Laconia Tax Collector Lindsey. As of Thursday, festival revenues for the city totaled $127,915.

City revenues from Motorcycle Week last year were $154,836 and expenses were $215,652, an expense figure that was driven up by problems at a concert venue. In 2015, revenues were about $148,000 and expenses were about $149,000.

Motorcycle Week is hugely important to local restaurants, hotels and bars, so municipal finances are only a small part of the picture. Still, City Manager Scott Myers said municipal financial considerations are important.

“It's a big deal if our revenues don't cover our expenses,” he said. “We would have to make up the shortfall from somewhere else.”

Doug Asermely, of Sick Boy motorcycle apparel,, said at the beginning of the week that it was important to keep such events vibrant and up-to-date, so they can continue to be attractive to visitors.

He noticed that while there was a lot of vehicular traffic this year, there weren't as many pedestrians as he expected in the Weirs Beach area.

He said attendance appeared to be a little below average.

“It seems like less people stayed overnight,” he said. “There were a lot of day trips. I'm not sure why people stay during the day, and then the attendance dwindles at night.”

Sales were off when temperatures soared into the 90s for a couple days during the week.

“Heat irritates people and doesn't put them in that shopping mood,” Asermely said.

Rain is often blamed for festival problems, but he said precipitation can be good for sales.

“People don't come prepared, so they may come in and buy clothing like sweat shirts,” he said.

By Friday, the rain was falling steadily as crowds milled about looking at items that included shirts, all kinds of leather goods, jackets, knives and even specialty items like whips and corsets. Restaurants and bars were crowded, and signs proclaimed more excitement later, including a wet T-shirt contest.