GILFORD — The School Board received proposed changes last evening to policies dealing with objectionable course materials at a meeting during which board members were accused of arrogance and one board member countering that critics have been disrespectful.
The dispute came during the public comment period which preceded the overview of the so-called "opt in" proposal which would require that parents give explicit advance permission allowing their children to read or view fictional works assigned as part of course. In the past parents could "opt out," meaning parents notified the school only if they objected to their child read certain material.
The controversy over the suitability of course material erupted last month when William Baer, the father of a Gilford High School freshman protested the use the Jodi Picoult book "Nineteen Minutes" being assigned to his daughter's honors English class. Baer was upset the school had assigned the book which contained a graphic sex scene between two teenagers.
Baer was arrested during the May 8 meeting after he talked out of turn and would not stop when asked.
On Monday School Board member Kurt Webber, speaking before the public comment period, said the May 8 meeting was "excellent civics lesson" in how local government works.
Webber said that no one's free speech rights were denied during the May meeting in which School Board Chairman Sue Allen limited speakers to two minutes
"The right to free speech is not absolute," Webber said, noting that a member of the public has no right to interrupt a court proceeding or a session of the Legislature. "The School Board meeting is not an open forum to have an argument," he added. Webber said that when members of the public fail to obey the rules of order one appropriate recourse is to have them arrested.
But resident and conservative blogger Skip Murphy chastised Webber and the board for failing to show respect to Baer and his views. "The morality (that underscored Baer's objections) was important to him, but not to you," he said, adding the board exhibited a "condescending attitude toward parents."
Baer was present at Monday's meeting but did not speak.
Offering a differing point of view, Joe Wernig, defended the school system and added, "Most parents feel you have done well."
It was Wernig who was speaking of May 8 when Baer interrupted.
In explaining the proposed policy changes Superintendent Kent Hemingway said that all the fictional books and films which will be used during in various English courses will be posted on the School District website along with links for reviews of those works for anyone to see. In addition at the beginning of each school term every student will be given a sheet which will include the books which are being assigned for that particular course. Parents will have to sign their approval for their children to read those books. Parents who fail to sign the sheet, indicating their approval or disapproval, will be contacted by the school. Parents who object to any material will meet with the teacher and other school officials to arrange for a suitable substitute.
Under the proposal parents, however, would not be able to appeal the school's decision to the School Board. That prompted Murphy to object saying it prohibited parents from taking concerns to their elected representatives.
The proposed policies would also allow any Gilford resident to object to the content of course material as well as to books and other material in the school's media center.
The objection would be reviewed by a committee which would be comprised of teachers, other school officials and a parent.
Murphy urged the board to name Baer as the parent representative on that committee.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 01:36
BELMONT — Selectmen will hold a public hearing at their next meeting on June 16 on a proposed ordinance change which will ban dogs from Sargent Park.
Jane Breton, Parks and Recreation Director, requested the change be made due to concerns for the health of the children using the town park.
''Kids are sitting on the ground where the dogs have been. When you think of how much a mess it has been and how unsanitary it can be you can see why I'm asking for a change.''
Currently dogs on a leash are allowed in the park and the department has animal waste bags at entryways but some users are not complying with state law that provides that they pick up dog waste.
Breton observed that a change in the law will make it easier for park attendants to keep dogs out of the park.
Ruth Mooney, chairperson of the Selectboard, said that she agreed with the proposed change in the town ordinance. Town Administrator Jean Beaudin said that she would have the language of the proposed ordinance change ready for the June 16 meeting and the public hearing.
Selectmen also heard a request from Steve Paquin, town building inspector, for a part-time assistant for his office.
Paquin said that his office has been inundated with requests for building permits in the last two months with 10 new commercial buildings, numerous single-family buildings and at least 27 property violations. He said that the commercial buildings require visits at least twice a week and that he is facing at least 85 annual inspections as well as inspections of five junkyards.
''I'm falling behind on the paperwork in my office and need a temporary part-time office assistant,'' said Paquin.
Mooney asked Paquin if he was confident that he could handle the field work and he said that he was but had no idea how long the spike in demand for his services would continue.
Beaudin said that she had talked with Paquin about the situation and was looking for funds within the budget which could be used for a temporary position and also for a person who could serve in a temporary position.
Selectmen decided to request more information from the Shaker Regional School District on a request that the town share the $58,000 cost for reclaiming and paving roadway near the Belmont Middle School.
Mooney suggested that she was amenable to a 50-50 split with the school district on costs of the project pointing out that ''it all comes out of the same pocket'' but Selectman Ron Cormier Jr. said he was opposed, pointing out that it was the responsibility of the school district.
''It's poor planning on their part'' said Cormier, who maintained that the school district had been made aware of the Belmont downtown project and could have become involved with the town at that time.
Selectman Jon Pike asked if the estimated cost of the project was correct and what the scope of work for the project was.
''I want to hear more about the entire project before we make a decision,'' said Pike.
Mooney said she would obtain more information about the project before the next meeting of the selectmen.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 01:20
LACONIA — Two men are facing charges regarding a home invasion on Clinton Street that allegedly occurred at 6:27 p.m. Sunday night.
Jordan Miller, 19, of 31 Merrimac St. in Laconia is charged with one felony count of burglary with the intent to commit an assault assault and David Bickford, 20, of 57 Blueberry Lane in Laconia is charged with one count of criminal trespass and one count of felony burglary with intent to commit an assault.
According to police affidavits made available in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Miller, Bickford and a third man who is as yet unidentified, knocked on the door of an apartment on Clinton Street and "stormed their way into the room" when the resident answered it.
The victim said one of the three pushed him to the kitchen floor but when other people in the apartment said they were going to call the police, the three men left.
Investigating officers said one of the people in the apartment recognized Bickford.
Police said a short time later, the victim got a text message from a friend that told him Bickford was on Main Street near the Colonial Theater and police found him there.
At 8 p.m. police said Miller went to the police station and told them he went to the victim's house to tell him to stop selling heroin to one of his family members. He confirmed Bickford was with him.
During his conversation with police Miller allegedly told the officer, "I went there and told that kid to his (explicative) face. I told him to stop selling (explicative) drugs."
Police said they reminded Miller of his rights and that he could have an attorney but he continued calling the entire matter "bull (explicative)" and saying that he shouldn't be under arrest for telling an alleged heroin dealer to stop selling drugs.
At his video arraignment yesterday, Miller appeared without a lawyer.
Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer said Miller has convictions from the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division for criminal mischief, the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and resisting arrest in 2013. Sawyer asked for $2,500 cash-only bail.
Miller said he has a full-time job and has always appeared in court when he was supposed to. He asked Carroll for personal recognizance bail so he wouldn't lose his job.
Carroll ordered him held on $2,500 cash only.
Bickford was represented by the the N.H. Public Defender's Office.
Sawyer said he had convictions for robbery, possession of controlled drugs, criminal mischief, theft from 2013 and most recently a conviction for shoplifting. He said Bickford is on probation and was subject to a 72-hour hold.
Carroll ordered Bickford held on $10,000 cash only bail.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 June 2014 11:57
MEREDITH — Bob Greemore of Meredith, a Republican who has served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said last week that he has decided not to seek a third term.
"The fire isn't out," said Greemore, who explained that his business, Bob's Sharp-All, required more of his time than his responsibilities as a legislator enabled him to provide. He said that for the past two years he has spent three, four and sometimes five days a week in Concord as well as a significant amount of time dealing with county affairs as vice-chair of the Belknap County Convention. He acknowledged that his business, which he said has doubled every year for the past decade, has suffered. "I've just got to get it back," he explained.
Greemore was first elected in 2010 and served on the House Education Committee during his tenure. His retirement, together with the decision of Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) not to seek re-election, leaves two of the four seats in Belknap District 2, consisting of Meredith and Gilford, open.
Greemore is a solid part of the convention majority coalition that has, under Worsman's leadership, been at at loggerheads with the Belknap County Commission over the past two years.
The filing period for the 2014 general election opens tomorrow and runs through Friday, June 13.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 June 2014 11:51
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