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Gilford parents can now appeal use of material they find objectionable to school board

GILFORD — The School Board has made some minor changes to a few instructional material policies that could make a big difference for parents who want to know what is being taught to their children.

The first change adopted by the board in early September was to give parents an opportunity to the to appeal the use of specific course material to the School Board.

"This is not required by law and gives more local control to the parents," Hemingway said.

The basic procedure remains the same as it has since 2011. If a parent finds some specific material objectionable, then they must notify the building principal in writing, using the written procedure form, and request the student receive alternative material. No reason for the objection need be given and the cost of substitute materials, if allowed, will be borne by the parent.

The principal's decision can now be appealed to the School Board — a move Hemingway said goes beyond the recommended policy as suggested by the N.H. School Board Association.

Hemingway said the district made it much easier for parents to know which instructional materials are being used by incorporating two additional links on the individual schools' Websites.

A procedural change, Hemingway said they reviewed how other schools provide access to parents about instructional material and incorporated it into their own Website.

"We are trying to be a thorough as possible," Hemingway said.

The first is a link that lists all of the books and movies that could be assigned to students broken down by grade category with freshman and sophomores in one group and juniors and seniors in another.

The link focuses on social studies, English, wellness, and health.

A second link leads to an independent assessment of each book or movie from the American Library Association, the N.H. State Library, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Internet Movie Database.

The links can be accessed by going to the Gilford High School Website, clicking on curriculum and clicking on movie list or movie link list.

In response to an outcry last school year from a parent who objected to a specific novel being taught to his freshman daughter, the board implemented an "opt-in" policy.

Hemingway said that at the beginning of this school year, the district implemented the policy by sending to each parent a list of reading materials and movies to be included in each each of their children's classes.

If a parent has a particular objection to instructional material on the list, then he or she doesn't return the opt-in form and addresses it with the administration under the procedure outline above.

Hemingway said yesterday that he does not believe that any parents have objected to any of the course materials assigned to their children this year.

The School Board also made some minor changes to materials available from the school libraries including that the members of a review committee must read the objectionable material before rendering a decision.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:49

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Shaheen salutes women-owned businesses during visit to Laconia

LACONIA — On the heels of the endorsement by the National Association of Women-Owned Businesses, Jeanne Shaheen yesterday brought her campaign another six-year term in the United States Senate downtown to Vintage Row, where she was hosted by Jeanne Howe Compton, who owns and operates New England Porch Rockers.

The first woman from New Hampshire to be elected both governor and senator, Shaheen, a Democrat, finds herself in a tightening race against the challenge from Republican Scott Brown, who served one term in the Senate from Massachusetts.

Introducing the senator, Donna Gaudet Hosmer, a principal of the AutoServ Dealer Group of Tilton, expressed her pride in the four women — Shaheen and her Senate colleague Kelly Ayotte and Representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster — serving the state in Washington.

"We have very smart voters here," Shaheen remarked.

Hosmer, calling herself a "registered Republican," recalled that as president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, she found Shaheen "at the tip of the spear" when businesses appealed to their representatives for assistance. "She was always responsive, personally and passionately," she said. Hosmer called the election "the most critical" Shaheen has ever faced, with especially high stakes for women.

Shaheen, who polls indicate leads Brown by double digits among women while trailing him by a comparable margin among men, highlighted their differences over providing economic opportunity and appropriate health care for women. She explained that about two-thirds of those earning minimum wage in New Hampshire are women while nationwide women earn 78 cents for every $1 earned by men.
"Discrimination against women doesn't just affect women," she said. "It affects families."

Brown, Shaheen said, has opposed raising the federal minimum wage and twice voted against the Fair Pay Act providing equal pay for equal work while she has favored both as well as co-sponsored the "Lily Ledbetter Law," strengthening worker's capacity to challenge wage discrimination.

Shahen said that she has also worked with the Small Business Administration to expand access to credit for women who own and operate businesses. At the same time, she said she has joined bipartisan legislation to lift the bar against women bidding on sole source contracts with federal government agencies.

Referring to an incident in Conway, Shaheen chided Brown for expressing support for the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case upholding the right of business owners to withhold insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds, "when they finally got him out of the men's room", where he apparently sought shelter from a reporter. She recalled that when the New Hampshire Legislature mandated insurance coverage for contraception the vote in the House of Representatives was 120 Democrats and 121 Republicans in favor. "There is broad bipartisan support for contraception," she said, adding that as a Brown voted for the so-called Blunt amendment that would have entitled employers to deny heath insurance reasons of conscience.

Shaheen said that she is pleased with the progress of her campaign, which she explained consists primarily of contacting individual voters either by canvassing door-to-door or by telephone. She noted while she and Brown have each expressed respect for the other without disguising their political differences, significant expenditures by independent groups has lent what she described as "an ugly" tone to the race. She said that she was disappointed by Brown's refusal to limit such expenditures.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:44

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Governor pulls SEC nominations from Executive Council

by Thomas P. Caldwell

ALEXANDRIA — Recognizing that she does not have the votes necessary for the confirmation of her nominees to the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, Governor Maggie Hassan dropped the item from Wednesday's Executive Council agenda.
Lori Lerner of Bridgewater, president of New Hampshire Wind Watch which has been lobbying for the defeat of the nominations, said the Executive Council has received hundreds of letters from citizens who object to the naming of state Senator Bob Odell, and Representative Amanda Merrill as alternate, to represent "the public" on the committee which reviews energy proposals for the state.
District 1 Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney reported only one constituent being in favor of the governor's choices. "People just don't feel that Odell can represent the public," said Lerner.
There was a similar sentiment among those attending the Alexandria selectmen's meeting on Sept. 30. The consensus was that the governor made a big mistake in thinking a retiring state legislator could reasonably be considered a member of the public.
"It should be someone who is totally neutral," said Alexandria resident Bob Piehler, adding that, as someone who opposes wind energy projects, he would not be right for the job, either.
Many residents connected with N.H. Wind Watch feel Sen. Odell's previous support of a wind project in Lempster proves he would not be an impartial voice on the panel.
Lerner said Gov. Hassan pulled the nomination from the agenda but that she has not changed her mind on her nominees. She simply needs to "work the Executive Council" to convince more members to support her position, Lerner surmised.
Press Secretary William Hinkle on Friday issued a statement saying, "As Governor Hassan works to diversify our energy sources, improve reliability and reduce energy costs, she remains committed to strengthening efforts to ensure that the voices of local communities are heard throughout the siting process ... As well-respected, retiring legislators, Bob Odell and Amanda Merrill have invaluable experience representing the views of the public on the important issues that face the SEC, including their work as members of energy and environment committees. Governor Hassan believes that their experience, temperament, and commitment to fairness will be assets as we pursue an energy strategy that will reduce costs and pollution, create jobs and improve reliability and diversity while protecting the natural resources that define us as a state."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:40

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Old Town Hall project progressing in Bristol but it won’t be ready for elections

BRISTOL — Work at the Old Town Hall is progressing but the building will not be ready in time for November elections, selectmen said at the board's Sept. 25 meeting.
Town Administrator Michael Capone said the roof work is done, chimney repairs have been completed, and the sills and duct work also were completed within the $49,350 bid. Next to be done is the drywall work, for which the town had a bid of $850.
Capone said that, even allowing $200 as a contingency on the drywall work, the town has nearly $6,000 left in its budget for work on the building and he suggested accepting Richard Batchelder's $2,750 bid for exterior work that involves wood trim and clapboard on the southeast corner where the old jail cell is. For another $2,000, he said they could have the clapboard extended all the way to chimney. In separate motions, the selectmen agreed to both.
With the traditional voting place still not ready for occupancy, voting will continue to take place at Marion Hall on West Shore Road. Holding elections there means officials have to move in the voting booths and ballot machines and cover the floors, then remove all of the equipment. The advantage is that there is more parking and easier access than at the Old Town Hall.
Residents are divided on which polling place is better with some complaining of the distance to Marion Hall and the preference for tradition while others welcome the change and hope they will be able to continue casting their votes there.
In other business, selectmen approved the paving of the municipal parking lot next to Union Lodge, with Highway Supervisor Mark Bucklin noting that the Masons' lot was the last paving project on his list.
With that $8,900 expenditure, Town Administrator Michael Capone said $61,000 remained in the paving budget. While that was too little to take on another road project, he said the town could address problems with the parking area at the municipal building where ice buildup was a constant problem during the winter.
Bucklin suggested that the town might get a good price on town office project by combining it with the Masons' lot and he agreed to speak with the contractor about it.
Selectmen granted the town administrator authority to sign an agreement not to exceed $10,000 for paving the town office lot.
The board approved the purchase of new street signs to direct traffic on North Main Street, now a one-way street, back to the main routes. One would be at the corner of North Main and Mayhew streets, directing traffic to Route 104 east; another at the intersection of North Main and Union streets for those going to Route 3-A; and a third at the intersection of Union and Lake streets, showing Route 3-A North and South and directing them to Route 104. The cost is $650 — $700, Capone said.
In discussing the Harriet Drive road project, Bucklin said the development has upgraded the road so it will meet town requirements. All is in place except for surfacing the road as required by the town, Bucklin said.
Chair Rick Alpers questioned whether the town should hold the development accountable to a standard that was not in place when the road project began. After some discussion, the selectmen agreed to put acceptance of the road on the agenda for a future meeting.
Bucklin provided updates on other projects and discussed the bids for winter sand, due Friday, Oct. 3. He also reported on the arrival of a new sidewalk tractor; progress on the installation of new doors and windows at the highway garage, and progress on a road service management program.
Turning to the newly established economic development task force, selectmen agreed to extend the deadline for people to apply for positions on panel. While five people have formally applied to serve on the task force, others have said they just learned of it.
Selectmen awarded a fuel bid to Dead River Company, with Capone noting that he had worked with School Administrative Unit 4 Business Manager Michael Limanni in securing bids for both town and school purchases. While Fred Fuller had submitted a comparable bid, concerns about the company's future led them to shy away from that oil company.
Selectmen agreed to have Capone notify Integrys Energy Services that it will be switching to Public Service of New Hampshire for its electricy. Capone said that October marks the end of the fixed energy price contract and, after that, Integrys' rates could rise to market levels.
The board postponed a decision on whether to accept Norwood Energy's offer of $58 per REC for every renewable energy certificate the Minot-Sleeper Library earns with the solar array on its roof. Capone said the New Jersey-based power company comes highly recommended and, while the town could try to market its RECs itself, it would not be worth it with the 20 credits per year that the library is able to earn. Should the town eventually power all of its municipal buildings with solar energy, the revenues might justify that, he said.
The library intends to use the revenues it receives from its REC sales for maintenance.
On a related note, Capone noted that the town has filed its grant application for a solar array at the wastewater treatment plant. The $1.25 million PUC grant would require a $150,000 match from the water and sewer department.
Bristol had good news from Melanson Heath & Company of Manchester which delivered a positive audit report to the town for the budget year ending Dec. 31, 2013. The accountants gave special recognition to the municipal departments for pulling together all the documentation the accounting firm needed for its review.
While the town's governmental activities balance sheet showed a negative net position, the auditors explained that it was because of the impact of the Central Square project that reconfigured the downtown area while replacing water, sewer, and electric lines beneath the roads.
Revenues above the budgeted amount allowed the town to end the year with a positive fund balance even though the town had used last year's unassigned fund balance to reduce taxation rather than using it for town expenses. Combined with the unexpended funds turned back in by the various departments, the town was able to put back into its fund balance almost all of the money returned to the taxpayers last year.
The auditors also gave the water and sewer department, which operates as an independent entity, good marks, noting that the fluctuations from last year are not significant.
Overall, the accountants liked the progress they were seeing in addressing deficiencies, the most notable of which is the assignment of values to capital assets such as buildings and streets. All communities are going through this change in accounting practice to better reflect their actual value and Bristol is making good progress, the report said.
Another concern is the segregation of duties but the accountants acknowledged the problem of working with a small staff. New accounting software for the town will eliminate the issue, they said.
The firm is researching deficit fund balances over the past 10 years, reconciling them with invoices to make sure everything is properly recorded.
Another recommendation is for the town to do more internal audit functions for better departmental budget oversight. The accountants acknowledged that is not easy to do on top of regular duties, but Bristol is making progress there, too.
An audit of the Central Square project is nearing completion and the accountants said they will be coming back with a "clean opinion" on that, as well.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:47

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