Interim Shaker superintendent greets parents


BELMONT — "I like people," was Interim Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Michael Tursi's opening statement to the nearly 50 teachers and parents who came to a meet-and-greet session Monday night at Belmont High School.

The first question he fielded from the audience what whether he is considering a permanent position, to which he answered, "I'm not here as a stepping stone."

He said he likes to have a visible presence in the schools and can rarely be found in his office. He said likes to talk with everyone in the building, from the building leaders to the students to the custodial and kitchen staff, to know how a school is operating from within.

As the current superintendent of SAU 64, he said he reduced the dropout rate from 9.7 percent to 0 by creating two diploma options and being creative with learning opportunities, a local community college and project-based learning.

One question to Tursi was how he planned on communicating and coordinating with parents and teachers, which were hot topics in the culture survey discussion later on the evening.

Tursi admitted to "not being an email person" but said he strives to get better at it because social media is one of the best ways to get a message out to a wide variety of people in a short period of time, "especially if something is welling up in the community." He said he favors one-to-one conversations with younger students.

He also said he likes community forums like the ones held Monday night.

Tursi supports competency-based education, promised to learn what the teachers need to become the best they can be, and support professional development in all of the staff.

Describing himself and friendly and approachable, Tursi told the gathering he came to New Hampshire from Virginia to be a hiking guide in the Appalachian Mountain Club. Armed with his degree in geology, he started his own school while earning his master's degree in education at Plymouth State University.

He said a friend of his told him he should get into the schools immediately. He said he became a paraprofessional at Plymouth Elementary School for a child with cerebral palsy. He joined Plymouth High school as a science teacher, then his wife urged him into administration.

Tursi became an assistant principal at Barrington Middle School and later the principal. He said that during one of the times the Shaker superintendent position became open he applied and was rejected. In retrospect, he said that it was a big leap from principal to superintendent. Instead, he said he spent three years as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum in the Manchester School District and was grateful for the experience of working in a big city school district with multicultural students and where many different languages are spoken.

For the past three years, he has been superintendent for the Wakefield-Milford School District, which is SAU 64, but they are splitting at the end of 2017 and his job will be eliminated. He said he could have stayed the final year but said he wanted to come to Shaker Regional instead.

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Interim Shaker Superintendent Michael Tursi addresses a group of parents and teachers at a meet-and-greet at the Belmont High School Monday night. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Walkway to honor Peter Karagianis

LACONIA — The walkway from Beacon Street East to the footbridge over the Winnipesaukee, which passes in front of the Belknap Mill, will be named Peter Karagianis Way, in honor of the man who, among his many contributions to the city, at the forefront of the effort that spared the oldest, unaltered, brick mill in the nation from demolition.
Karagianis, who passed away on May 14 at the age of 99, was dubbed "Mr. Laconia" in 1985 by Edwin Chertok, a former mayor of the city, in recognition of his service to the community.
On June 23, the Belknap Mill Society will celebrate what would have been Karagianis's 100th birthday when Peter Karagianis Way will be dedicated to the memory of one of the city's most beloved and revered citizens.
– Michael Kitch

Belknap Mill trip brings Industrial Revolution to life for fourth-graders


LACONIA — Laconia is blessed with having the oldest unaltered textile mill in America, the Belknap Mill, a spectacle that students from all over the state come to experience. This Tuesday, fourth-grade students from Barrington Elementary School came to take part in a program called "My First Day of Work at the Belknap Mill," in which they are given a job and told to work as if it is their first day in 1918: World War I is just underway and the soldiers are in need of socks from the mill.
The jobs the students are given are knitter; looper, responsible for closing the toes of socks; boarder, who shapes the socks in a steam chamber; turner boy; who turns the socks inside out for the looper and right side out for the boarder; finisher, responsible for checking the finished socks for mistakes; machine fixer; and supervisor, who oversees the whole operation. Students learn about the gendered workplace of the time, as girls can only be knitters, loopers, or finishers while men take the other jobs. Only machine fixers and supervisors, all of whom are men, are paid by the hour, while all other jobs are "by the piece" paid for each sock they finish.
Students are greeted by Bill Nunamacher, who, in costume with a top hat, plays the owner of the Belknap Mill and chides them for being late as they were supposed to arrive at dawn. Students then rotate through four interactive stations. The sluiceway outside the Belknap Mill introduces students to the importance of water at the time. The knitting room shows students what the knitting processes of the time were like. The powerhouse room demonstrates how energy was generated and sent to the different areas of the mill. Lastly, the finishing room shows students how the socks were steamed and inspected.
Asked about the parallels to the curriculum, Barrington Elementary teacher Cathy Neild at first joked, "This is a field trip," innocently downplaying the obvious historical perspective gained and highlighting the fact that this is a lot of fun for the students. "We talk in class about the differences between a modern factory and a mill. Also," she said, "we talk about the differences between the colonial times and focus on the changes the Industrial Revolution brought. In the colonial piece, they all made everything at home, then came the mill, and now we have factories."
One student, Lily Fitzgerald, was asked what position she would take, and after the young man next to her said he would be a supervisor said she would keep the job she was handed in the morning, knitter, because she had been a weaver when they studied the colonial jobs and felt the two worked nicely together.
"We also talked about the dangers of the industrial revolution," Neild said, "with kids working in the mills at the age of 10." As most of the students visiting were 10 years old, points like this one truly hit home. It was apparent from looking on and hearing what they talked about in class that the day was bringing their classroom conversations to life in a way they would never be able to imagine if a place like the Belknap Mill did not exist.
Simply having the mill is not enough, however. These programs thrive only because of the volunteer support for them. Volunteers ran each of the stations teaching the students about the different aspects of the mill. The assembly line in which all the different jobs came together at the end was overseen by Helga Stamp, who, volunteering since 1999, has almost been there from the start of the program and currently serves as program organizer.
The program, which goes through May and about half of June, is always looking for volunteers. The time commitment is not overly demanding, a few hours in the middle of the day four times a week. It can also be quite rewarding. One of the volunteers, Sue Witham, compared it to being a teacher except you get new faces each day.

"It's wonderful to be a volunteer," she said. "Everyone wants it to stay alive."

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Fourth-grade students from Barrington Elementary School learn about early 20th-century knitting practices. (Brendan Sorrell photo/for The Laconia Daily Sun)