LACONIA — Attorneys from New Hampshire Legal Assistance have challenged a recent change to the city's welfare guidelines clarifying that someone whose assistance was suspended for failing to comply with the requirements of the program must become compliant before reapplying for assistance.
The prior guidelines stipulated that, subject to two conditions, the welfare officer was not bound to accept an application from a recipient who has been disqualified for failing to accurately disclose all income and other resources, participate in the work program, search for gainful employment or seek other specified sources of public assistance.
The first condition provided that any applicant contesting their disqualification can request a hearing. The second, and more controversial condition, used to read "that a recipient who has been suspended for at least six months due to noncompliance may file a new application."
City officials who administer the welfare program expressed concern that recipients — and their advocates — were interpreting the second condition to entitle them to file a new application for assistance six months after being disqualified regardless of whether or not they have resolved the issues leading to their suspension. Consequently, they asked the council to strike the language from the guidelines, which the council, after some debate, did on March 10.
This week Daniel Feltes and Stepahnie Bray of the Concord Office of New Hampshire Legal Assistance wrote to Finance Director Donna Woodaman, who oversees the Welfare Department, and Suzanne McCormack, who administers general assistance, questioning the amended guidelines.
First, noting the reference to suspensions of six months, Feltes and Bray claim that state law neither contemplates nor permits suspensions of six months, adding that in 2012 the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down such a provision in Manchester. Furthermore, they observed that the council rejected language that would have authorized the welfare officer to consider issues of non-compliance when weighing an application submitted six months or more after suspension. By refusing to accept applications for assistance without reviewing the applicants' circumstances, the attorneys charge this would deny applicants their rights of due process guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions.
City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that city officials sought advice of legal counsel before recommending amendments to the welfare guidelines to the City Council. "I am very confident that what we have adopted satisfies both the spirit and the letter of the law," he said, acknowledging that New Hampshire Legal Assistance takes a different view.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 10:42
LACONIA — Earlier this week the School District Budget and Personnel Committee reviewed some of the smaller capital and maintenance items that school officials indicated they wanted in their budgets for 2014-2015.
Some of the biggest items are at the High School and include landscaping and irrigation for the front lawn for $20,000, paving the south side parking lot for $30,000 and replacing the bleacher rails in the gymnasium.
Business Administrator Ed Emond said other things that should be done at the High School include repairing the fencing for an estimated $10,000, replacing one or two of the fire doors for $15,000, repairing some of the classroom ceilings for $15,000 and repairing some of the windows in the older section of the school.
The Laconia Middle School has asked for an increase in the number of video cameras and strategically locating or relocating some of those that are already there. Emond explained that in the three years since the school has been open, they have identified some "blind spots" including the front sign that was recently vandalized.
The administration recommends a water-bottle filling station for $1,500 and an auto-scrubber for the floors for $8,000.
A request from the SAU to refurbish the rest of the wood floors at the Harvard Street office building was nixed by the committee. Members said future efforts should be concentrated on replacing the boiler that failed three times this winter but all agreed an $80,000 boiler was not possible in the 2014-2015 budget.
The district's elementary schools appear to be in good shape with the exception of the oldest portion of the Pleasant Street School roof.
Emond recommended "roof crickets" or drainage channels to prevent water from ponding on certain parts of the roof. He said there is no leaking right now but that won't last forever.
The proposed expenditure is $5,000 for the roof crickets and $8,500 for sump pump roof drains.
Elm Street elementary School is requesting some outdoor cameras for $800, a carpet replacement for $1,500 and some playground improvements and repairs for $1,400. Emond said the school administration had initially asked for a landscaping shed for equipment but told the committee he recently learned the Huot Center students will be building the shed saving about $2,000 from the original estimate of $5,000.
At Woodland Heights Elementary School the administration team requested changing the exterior wall building lights to LED-type lights for $4,800. Emond said some savings would be gained through electricity costs.
Emond also said there are some areas of Woodland Heights schools that could use some painting including the cement staircase that the students use as an emergency exit.
The total requests from the building supervisors team is about $200,000. Committee members said the projects will be funded as the district gets a better understanding of its final budget.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 12:50
GILFORD — The School Board has hired Sydney Leggett to be the next principal of the Gilford Middle School.
For the past three years, Leggett has been the principal of Alton Central School, a kindergarten through 8th grade school, and was the Alton School District's Curriculum Coordinator before that.
She began her teaching career in the English Department at Gilford High School.
Leggett is a graduate of Oberlin College and received her Master's Degree from St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. She earned her Education Specialist degree from the University of New Hampshire in December of 2011.
In June of 2012 she was awarded the Aspiring Administrators Award from the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.
The position became open when Middle School Principal Marcia Ross announced her retirement earlier this year.
"We welcome Sydney to the Gilford staff where she had already served in a umber of volunteer roles as a parent and an active member of the community," said Superintendent Kent Hemingway. "Her leadership in Alton has helped initiate and lead many innovations and improvements."
In an other school board issue, Hemingway said the last day for residents who want to fill the balance of a one-year term on the School Board is April 4. He said any one interested should call the SAU at 527-9512 and send a written letter of interest to the Gilford School Board. Hemingway said the board hopes to name the person at its April 7 meeting.
Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 01:12
By Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — Parents for years have complained about the lack of educational value in August school openings which also interfere with summer vacation plans. When the proposed 2014-2015 academic calendar for the Newfound Area School District called for a full week of school in August, they found a sympathetic ear with some members of the school board and, on March 20, the board adopted an alternative calendar that has classes beginning on Sept. 2 and running until June 17.
The revised calendar elicited the most discussion at last week's meeting, with faculty representatives objecting to the change.
"We were concerned about the drastic change, especially the school start," said Deirdre Conway, speaking for the Newfound Area Teachers Association. "Why now?"
She said that, in all the years the district has been opening before Labor Day, there has been no problem with attendance on those early days. Of all the school districts in the state, only 29 start after Labor Day, she said.
Ruby Hill of Danbury, who took over as chair of the school board during the organizational meeting, had spearheaded the effort for a revised calendar that not only had school starting earlier but also adjusted no-school days and shortened Christmas vacation time to keep the end date close to the original calendar which had the last day of classes occurring June 15.
The original calendar would have given students two full weeks off for the December vacation. Hill's version would have the winter break starting on Wednesday, the day before Christmas. Conway argued, "It's not educationally sound to have children in school the day before Santa Claus comes."
Parents in the audience, with one exception, supported the new calendar, speaking of the difficulties that so many holidays and days off create, often requiring a parent to forfeit pay and stay home to be with the child.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley explained that the early start was required by board policy which says Newfound needs to work with the Plymouth school system because several Newfound students attend the Plymouth Regional Career and Technical Education Center. Plymouth plans to start even earlier but she worked with them on the calendar so Newfound would not have to start until Aug. 25. Moving the start of school further back would deprive those students of the first six days of vocational classes, she said.
The board discussed sending a bus from the high school to Plymouth on those early days just for the voc-tech students, noting that students in athletics attend practices that occur prior to the start of school. They also asked for cost figures on sending shuttles to the homes of those students, although they noted that most of them probably have access to vehicles, anyway.
Business Administrator Michael Limanni said the cost of the buses would not be a significant expense, but he questioned what the participation would be. Board members responded that voc-tech students are vested in the programs and they thought attendance would not be a problem if they had a way to get there. Limanni agreed to get specific numbers for the board's consideration.
There also was discussion of the impact on summer classes that are required for special education students. By starting later, the district would need to extend those classes which Buckley said would be expensive with no money in the budget to cover the cost. Board members discussed adjusting the start date by a couple of days to provide a couple of days at the end of the summer, but Buckley said the schedules and contracts have already have gone out. "We make these plans six months ahead," she said.
Some of Hill's original suggestions, which would have the end of the school year occurring earlier in June, ran contrary to law, such as having students in school on Veterans' Day; others posed a problem for administrators who, by contract, do not have to work on Martin Luther King Day which Hill also had down as an instructional day. Upon learning of the conflicts, the board adjusted the proposed schedule.
The most difficult problem was trying to schedule teacher workshops and parent-teacher conferences on the new calendar. Hill particularly objected to November scheduling that would have students attend school on Monday, have Tuesday off for the Veterans' Day holiday, return to school on Tuesday and Wednesday, then have Friday off for parent-teacher conferences. But finding an alternative day for the conferences would have meant scheduling them too early to be meaningful, creating three partial weeks in a row, or having the conferences so close to the end of the term that teachers would have to spend their Thanksgiving break preparing report cards.
Conway finally suggested a compromise that would schedule the parent-teacher conferences just prior to the Thanksgiving break, but move back the date for report cards to give teachers time to prepare them without cutting into their holiday time.
Prior to the vote, Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater called the issue a "tough one". "The board has been criticized for micromanagement," he said, "and I don't like to go against to our professionals. But I'm conflicted by the parents and, with my belief in local control, and if there's enough interest in making a change, I have to listen. This issue was controversial last year, and the year before. While I'd like to defer to our employees, I am an employee of the taxpayer, so I'm more inclined to come up with something to satisfy my constituents, when this comes up time and time again."
In addition to adopting the new calendar, the board discussed the teacher's collective bargaining agreement that voters turned down earlier this month. The teachers have asked to return to the bargaining table and the board agreed.
The board also asked the superintendent to send a notice to the towns about appointing a representative to serve on the Bridgewater-Hebron withdrawal study committee, called for by the two towns. Bridgewater and Hebron formed a village district in order to build and maintain an elementary school in Bridgewater at a time when the Newfound Area School District was not willing to build more schools, and they have leased the building to the district for $1 per year. Now many residents of the two towns would like more control over the education of their students, so they are seeking a study of the feasibility and suitability of withdrawing. They envision operating a K-8 school and tuitioning older students to either Newfound or Plymouth, both of which have excess capacity in their high schools.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:57
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