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Teacher turnover growing concern for Franklin superintendent

By Thomas P. Caldwell
FRANKLIN — With seven new resignations from the teaching staff in the Franklin School District, Superintendent William Compton reminded the school board on May 19 that the total number of non-returning teachers now stands at 12 if those who simply are not renewing their contracts are included in the count.
"I want to express my concern with that number of teachers leaving," Dr. Compton said. "I'm looking at the effect in terms of sustainability. Last year, 15 resigned and there may be one or two more who may be resigning this year."
He noted that this year's entire math department was new and he said he has a "deep concern" for the impact on the principals and the staff who are trying to maintain the quality of education amidst such a turnover.
Compton said Franklin has a lot of young, enthusiastic teachers and the school district does a superb job of training them; but after a few years, they go elsewhere, largely due to economics. Other school districts value those from Franklin, attracted by the volume and quality of the training programs the Franklin School District provides through its School Improvement Grant, he said. Franklin High School Principal Richard Towne concurred, saying he hears the same thing from administrators at other schools.
Curriculum Coordinator Traci Bricchi cited the case of a former Franklin guidance counselor who now works elsewhere but would like to finish her career in Franklin. However, she would have to take a $21,000 pay cut to do so.
School Board member Tim Dow asked whether Franklin could incorporate language in the contract that teachers would have to remain with the district for a specified period of time after receiving the training, but Compton pointed out that would require agreement from the teachers' union, which would be unlikely.
"What do we have to bargain with, since we have the lowest pay scale in the area?" asked board member Al Warner.
Compton compared Franklin's history of cutting expenditures in order to conform to the property tax cap to that of a community in Massachusetts that spiraled downward and ended up in receivership. In contrast, another community built an $88 million complex and now "everybody wants to buy a house there, and it's a boom town," he said.
"Money is not the answer," he conceded, "but schools are. Nothing is more important than getting out the message that we support our schools. Then the money will follow."
During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, former school board member Bill Grimm said Franklin has an opportunity to make significant improvement in the school district by adopting an assessment and improvement plan similar to the one Franklin Hospital is using. Grimm said the American Medical Association chose three hospitals in the United States, Franklin being one of them, for a quality improvement initiative that brings together physicians, trustees, and key staff members, along with community stakeholders, to work on setting quality improvement and medical safety goals. He showed examples of some of the assessment charts they had developed.
"Everybody has to be on board," Grimm said. "The morale among the teachers and employees is very important to its success as well. I'd be happy to help the school board look at this."
Increasing staff salaries will be a challenge next year because the school district is showing a $50,000 deficit, due to an $89,554 decrease in state adequacy grant funding from the state. The decrease is attributable to decreasing enrollment and Business Administrator Michael O'Neill said the number of Hill students attending Franklin also has been steadily declining.
Exasperating the problem is the fact that Hill voters will be casting votes on whether to withdraw from its Authorized Regional Enrollment Agreement (AREA) with Franklin. Hill initiated a withdrawal study last November and, in April, the N.H. Department of Education accepted the report, allowing voters of the town to decide whether they want to sever their enrollment agreement. The Hill School District is considering sending its secondary school students to Newfound or Winnisquam.
Recognizing the school district's difficulties, the Franklin City Council authorized a 50-50 split in the additional local funding allowed under the tax cap. Normally, the school gets 30 percent and the city gets 70 percent of that amount. Nevertheless, the school district has not yet managed to balance its budget for 2014-2015 and, although it anticipates a fund balance at the end of this fiscal year, state law does not allow school districts to carry over those balances.
There was a great deal of discussion among the school board about what to do with that anticipated fund balance, with a number of deferred maintenance items in the schools. O'Neill planned to bring the list of issues to a meeting of the joint city-school finance committee to apprise them of the challenges.
Several school board members were hoping to return at least a portion of the fund balance to the city with the understanding that the city council would transfer those funds back to school to meet its deficit next year. O'Neill, however, pointed out that the city is obligated to apply any money returned to rebuild its state surplus which is required as a set-aside against property tax abatements, exemptions, and other obligations.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 12:35

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Thanks to Huot Center students: Water, Water, Everywhere

LACONIA — Huot Technical Center plumbing and heating students Thursday morning completed the installation of a drinking fountain/water bottle filling station at Opechee Park.
''From start to finish it took us a couple of weeks. We did everything from digging the trench to installing all of the pipes from the bathhouse to the station,'' said R.J. Pauley, 18, of Laconia, He said that students from the building construction program at the Huot Center also contributed to the project by pouring the concrete for the base of the fountain.

Pauley, who also serves as teaching assistant for Mike Schofield, who teaches the class, said that he appreciates the opportunities for hands-on learning that the class provides.
''It's more useful than regular school classes,'' says Pauley, who, according to Schofield, already has offers of apprenticeship jobs with two local plumbing firms.
''It gives students real-world skills that they can build a career on,'' says Schofield, who says that members of the class work closely with the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department on projects in city parks and every year open the water lines in all of the parks and shut them off in the late fall.
''Last year we put in all new bathrooms at Memorial Park and also did a lot of work on the concessions stands at Laconia High School's new athletic field. These are great learning experiences for our students,'' says Schofield.
He's particularly grateful to Parks and Rec, noting that ''they call me for everything and if there's any way we can get to do it we try and help out.''
Students in the class, like Nate Furbish of Gilford, who says what the class does is ''awesome'', enjoy the chance to work on projects which benefit the community and point them out with pride to their fellow students.
Schofield, now in his third year at the Huot Center, said enrollment in the class has been increasing in recent years and that this year was the best ever with a total of 39 students.
''They come from six different school districts (Laconia, Gilford, Inter-Lakes, Shaker Regional, Franklin and Winnisquam) and within days of the first class form friendships. It's really fun to see how they work together. A few weeks ago they were all talking about a track meet that was coming up that afternoon where they were going to be competing against one another for their home high schools.''
Schofield says that students who complete two years of plumbing and heating classes at the Huot Center get a leg up in the career path towards becoming a licensed plumber. ''It takes four years of classes and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training to get a license. But they get credit for a year of school, which saves them money and makes it easier to become licensed,'' says Schofield.
And the students who complete the classes are in big demand in the area's job market. Schofield says he regularly gets calls from local plumbing firms looking for new workers that they might consider hiring.

CAPTION: plumbing pix in AA-2014

Matthew Rosette of Meredith works on a drinking fountain, water bottle filling station at Opechee Park in Laconia as fellow Huot Center plumbing and heating student Alex Boucher of Sanbornton tests out the fountain. (Roger Amsden for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 12:26

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LHS Top 10 Dinner: Treasured teachers; treasured students

LACONIA — Amid the exhaustion and anxiety that comes with finishing four years of high school and staying at the top of your class, the top 10 graduating seniors at Laconia High School took a well deserved two-hour break Thursday night and honored themselves, their teachers and their families.

Held at the Meredith Village Savings Bank Culinary Arts dining room at the Huot Technical Center, the inaugural Top 10 dinner gave each student a chance to thank their favorite teacher and for each teacher to thank the student who chose them.

"They are the real deal, " said Laconia High School Principal Jim McCollum as he looked out in the room filled with tables, each seating a graduating senior, his or her key family member and his or her favorite teacher. "This is a demonstration of appreciation for their commitment."

For Merissa Conrad, health science teacher Gina McGuire's optimism, energy and caring was what led to her choice. "She genuinely cares for each of her students," said Conrad who is pursuing a career in salon and spa technology along with a business degree at Lakes Region Community College.

McGuire described Conrad as "the last person who would brag on herself" saying she was focused, composed and thoughtful.

"I love to talk, she loves to listen, said McGuire fighting back tears of pride. "I love to teach, she loves to learn."

For John Hannond, a senior with a list of drama credits that could impress Broadway, drama coach Bernie Campbell was his choice for favorite teacher.

Hammond, who is off to the Coast Guard Academy, said he acted in Middle School and Campbell knew who he was before he was in high school.

"He complimented me and I didn't know who he was," he said, going on to describe the long hours involved in theater and how Campbell gradually became "just another guy."

"He taught me how to be a man, when to be professional and when to just have fun," said Hammond.

Campbell clipped a line from "Casablanca" and said meeting Hammond was "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"I'm honored by John's choice," he said describing Hammond as his "go to guy" in the Drama Club.

Spanish and math teacher Amanda Stefanik was senior Nicole Bogert choice for her favorite teacher. Stefanik taught Bogert both Spanish and algebra when they were both at the middle school and said Bogert was part of a small but dedicated group of students in her algebra prep class.

Bogert said Stefanik gave her the foundations she needed to master algebra and helped her develop the "ability to push past any problem."

She also said she never conjugated as many verbs in her life as she did in Stafanik's class.

Kylee Powers chose biotechnology teacher Ivy Leavitt-Carlson as her favorite teacher, a choice that Leavitt-Carlson said surprised her.

"She would sit in the back of class and scowl at me," said Leavitt-Carlson, who said she came to realize that Powers's scowl was really the look of an intellectually curious student who was intent on learning what she was teaching.

When Powers took a second class from Leavitt-Carlson, the teacher said she was surprised to learn she was her favorite teacher.

Powers said when she first met Leavitt-Carlson she was ambivalent, describing her a "just another teachers whose job it was to teach me." She said Leavitt-Carlson "pushes her everyday" and helped her understand how things really work.

"She understands that I'm not a normal person," said Powers.

When English teacher Chuck Mathis met Rebecca Dragon and learned she was writing a novel, he said his first reaction was "Oh great. Another student novel."

He said he did read enough of it to realize it wasn't a novel but a memoir — one he described as "honest, edgy and brutal."

Dragon said she didn't know if Mathis even realizes how much he helped her. "He helped me take the bad things that happened in my life and make me understand," she said.

She said he forced her to write every week and she "wrote in an explosion of emotion."

"I feel I can go to him with anything," she said.

Music Teacher Deb Gibson and senior Mikayla Minor are both musicians. Dedicated to their craft both said it was friendship just waiting to happen.

Gibson described Minor's dedication to perfection in music with her parallel dedication to training her horse. She spoke about how well she handled the adult responsibilities that come with owning a horse.

"I'm so happy I taught her," said Gibson.

For Minor's part, she said Gibson is what she wants to be — a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.

"I don't know how we manage to fit anything in," Minor said laughing and saying Gibson's love of life was contagious and infected her and many of her other students.

Pre-engineering and manufacturing tech teacher Ken Martin said that when he met Garrett Guilmett he thought he was quiet, shy, and lacked confidence.

"Well not anymore," he said to laughter from those in the room, especially Guilmett's parents. Martin said he could see the pride that would emanate from Guilmett after he had designed and built something.

Guilmett, who will study mechanical engineering, said his time with Martin helped him realize his full potential.

He said he admires Martin for being someone who "knew what he wanted to do" from the start including his service in the military to working in industry to teaching.

Amila Hadzic chose business technology teacher Jannine Farrah as her favorite. For Hadzic, who wants to study accounting and become a CPA, Farrah's help in teaching her marketable business skills will help her realize her goals.

Farrah couldn't say enough about the school scribe who she said designed one of the best business plans one of her own community mentors ever saw.

Farrah said she also admired Hadzic for being on the ground floor of Stand Up Laconia and saying she wanted to make a change to better her community.

"I truly, truly admire her," said Farrah.

Class Salutatorian Brittany Pond brought social studies teacher Rick Crockford who said the first time he met Pond she was a "little red-headed girl with her nose in a book leaning on her locker."

He said he never has her in class until she took his AP Psychology class and then his AP American Studies class.

On her way to Holy Cross, Crockford said Pond was going to find out she really is one of the smartest people in the room.

Pond said Crockford initially intimidated her because she had heard his classes were very demanding but she wanted a challenge so she signed up for psychology.
What she found was a teacher who was demanding but one who also understood that she was easily stressed and who taught her how to overcome it.

"He transformed me from a scared freshman to a confident senior," said Pond.

Valedictorian Danielle Cote wept as her favorite instructor Chris Ulrich, a social studies teacher, described how gifted she was in science and math but how he grew to admire her for her tenacity in learning history and world studies.

"She sets standards she can't possibly meet, and she tries, tries, and tries again," said Ulrich.

He said he admires her because she believes there is good in everyone and works to bring those good qualities from everyone.

Cote, who rushed to the dinner in her lacrosse uniform, wept as she talked about how Ulrich taught her to have confidence in herself and to believe in her own instincts.

She lightened up as she told the audience how Ulrich was also one to lighten the mood.

"I just never realized that outside of academics a teacher could have so much effect," Cote said.

And that, said McCollum, was what the top 10 dinner was all about.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 01:29

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Loon found shot in Gilford

CONCORD — New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers are seeking help from the public in identifying suspects who were involved with shooting loons in two separate incidents this week.

On May 20 a loon was found dead on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford near Varney Point. I was later confirmed that the loon had been shot and killed.

The same day Fish and Game officials were given information that a loon was found wounded in a field near the Cocheco River in Dover. The loon was taken to an emergency veterinary hospital, where X-rays revealed that the bird had been shot. Currently, the loon is being cared for and expected to be released back into the wild.

Conservation Officers and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officer are currently investigating both shootings. It has not been determined whether these two incidents are connected in any manner.

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is protected by both state and federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In New Hampshire, the Common Loon is listed as a threatened species, making it a misdemeanor if someone were to injure or shoot a loon; even to attempt to do so would violate the law.

Anyone with information that may be relevant to these cases is asked to call N.H. Fish and Game's Dispatch at 603-271-3361 (Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), OR contact Operation Game Thief (anytime) at 1-800-344-4262 or via the Operation Game Thief website, http://www.huntnh.com/OGT. Callers may choose to remain anonymous, and all information is welcome.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 01:11

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