Anger in Alton - Parents shocked as officials walk out of school meeting


ALTON — The controversy pitting parents and teachers on the one hand against the school board and superintendent on the other, which has roiled the Alton School Board for months, boiled over again this week when, after the board deadlocked over electing a chairperson, Superintendent Maureen Ward recessed the meeting and left the room, followed by two board members — Steve Miller and Sandy Wyatt.
After a mere seven minutes, the abrupt end of the meeting left parents eager to address concerns expressed in a petition presented to the board in February dismayed and frustrated.
"The message they sent was loud and clear," wrote Kim Mochrie in a letter to The Laconia Daily Sun. "They do not want to hear from the community, nor do they respect us, and will take any measure to avoid hearing our concerns or answering our questions." She said that she was "disgusted," found their conduct "deplorable," hoped "this event is addressed by state authorities and dealt with accordingly."
The first item on the agenda was the reorganization of the board following the election last month, including the election of a chairperson. The policies of the board prescribe that "this meeting shall be called to order by the Superintendent, who shall preside during and until the election of a Chairperson."
Four members of the board were present: Miller, the outgoing chairperson, and Wyatt, an incumbent member, as well as two newly elected members, Michael Ball and Peter Leavitt. The fifth member, incumbent Terri Noyes, was ill. Ward called for nominations for chairperson. Miller and Leavitt were nominated and seconded. Each received two votes.
"Is there any chance of reconsideration?" Ward asked. "I don't believe so," Ball replied. "No," said Miller.
Ward opened a public hearing on the acceptance and expenditure of anticipated funds, which passed without comment, then announced "I am not comfortable continuing as your chair" and recessed the meeting "until a full quorum of the board can be here to elect a chair."
"You have a full quorum," Leavitt countered. "No, I don't," Ward responded. "I have a two-two." Leavitt repeated that a quorum was present while Ball asked "Doesn't the board have to vote on this?" Miller reminded him that "We don't have a chair or a vice chair."
Miller, stressing that he was speaking only for himself and not for the board, said yesterday that Ward had no choice but to recess the meeting. Her authority, he explained, began and ended with conducting the election of a chairperson. Without a chairperson, he said, the superintendent has no authority to proceed further.
"We have a legal opinion," he said.
However, Anna Ransom said that Ward failed to fulfill her duties. She insisted that the policy of the district requires the superintendent to chair the school board meeting until a chairperson is elected.
"Instead of working through a tie vote, she walked out," she said. "It's unacceptable."
The episode was the latest skirmish in a conflict that erupted on Feb. 15 when a petition expressing no confidence in Ward as well as with the principal, Cris Blackstone, and special education director, Jennifer Katz Borrin of Alton Central School, was presented to the School Board. With more than 250 signatories, the petition called on the board to impost a moratorium on reductions in personnel, freeze scheduling changes, reinstate laid-off staff, restore the preschool program, maintain the after-school program and keep the current schedule of 180 school days. The petition also urged the board to scuttle the contract with Ward to serve as a consultant and mentor her successor, Pamela Stiles, who will become superintendent on July 1.
Miller, who then chaired the board, told the petitioners that the board would consider their concerns when it met on April 4.

04-06 Alton SB walkout

Alton school officials pack up and leave the Monday night School Board meeting minutes after it began. With a 2-2 deadlock on choosing a chairman, they determined the meeting could not conitinue, much to the dismay of those in attendance. (Screenshot from YouTube video)

Gilford FIRST needs help - Robotics team must raise $7,000 by next week for trip to regional games


GILFORD — After topping the field and reaching the semifinals in two district competitions the Gilford Screaming Eagles, a robotics team, is looking further afield to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics New England Regional Championship in Hartford, Connecticut, where victory would earn them a place in the World Championship in St. Louis.
To get there, the team is hoping to raise $7,000 by April 13.
The competition sees teams involved in a six-week project in which they build a robot from a kit which is provided for them and requires them to use their math, science, technology and engineering skills to design and program the robot to perform certain tasks which are required as part of the competitions.
This year's game, FIRST Stronghold, is played by two alliances of three teams each. Alliances compete against each other to breach their opponents' defenses, known as outer works, and capture their tower. They score points by crossing elements of their opponents' outer works, scoring boulders in their opponents' tower goals, and surrounding and scaling their opponents' tower.
Brad Parker, who described himself as the foreman of the team, said yesterday that "The L'il Sweeper," the team's robot that dodges barriers and overcomes obstacles on its way to tossing a ball into a goal, is primed to compete. But, he added, designing and building the robot and meeting the registration fees and traveling expenses required to succeed in competition has all but exhausted the team's resources. This year, he said, the team has spent approximately $23,000. He expected the team would need to raise $7,000 to compete in Hartford between April 13 and 16 and another $18,000 by April 24 if it qualifies to compete in St. Louis at the world championship.
The team is one of 3,000 from around the world with an estimated 78,000 students involved in the FIRST Robotics competition, which was launched in 1989 by New Hampshire inventor and technological innovator Dean Kamen, with an eye to inspiring students to explore science and technology as future careers.
Those wishing to help the team can send a check to Gilford High School Robotics Team, 88 Alvah Wilson Road, Gilford, NH 03249, or visit

04-06 Gilford FIRST team

Some of Gilford’s FIRST team players celebrate their regional win. At top are Joe Bonnell and Mike Andrews, the drive team coach; kneeling are drivers Tim Rice and Connor Craigie. (Courtesy Photo)

Altrusa Club’s Taste of the Lakes Region draws more than 300 to fundraiser

04-06 Altrusa Taste 3Apr16238098

Debbie and Norman Johnson enjoy dishes from area restaurants at the 26th annual Altrusa Taste of the Lakes Region at Church Landing on Sunday evening.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)



MEREDITH — More than 300 people attended the 26th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region, held on Sunday at Church Landing in Meredith.

"It was great. Everyone that was there, I didn't hear one negative thing," said Nancy LeRoy, a member of Altrusa Club of Laconia. The event, which invites local restaurants and food companies to bring a sampling of their signature creations, serves as the prime fundraiser for Laconia Altrusa.

About 20 restaurants participated in this year's Taste, and while LeRoy wasn't able to sample everything, items that stood out to her included the shepherd's pie served by the Holy Grail of the Lakes, and the bread pudding brought by Hector's Fine Food & Spirits.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the club's service projects. Altrusa of Laconia offers four scholarships for women: one for a recent Laconia High School graduate, and others designed for adult women who are furthering their education ins business, education or health.

The club also promotes literacy through various avenues. Recent projects include providing bookshelves and books for the HealthFirst office in Laconia, and providing baby book packages for new mothers at LRGH.

LeRoy said she was grateful to all who had a hand in the Taste of the Lakes Region.

"We thank the community and the restaurants, if it wasn't for the restaurants and the people who buy the tickets, we wouldn't be able to do what we do."