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With enrollment at 39, Sant Bani to close high school next year

SANBORNTON — "This was a big, difficult decision," said Kent Bicknell, the head of the private Sant Bani School, of the vote by the board of trustees to eliminate its high school program at the close of the current academic year.

Sant Bani School began as an elementary school in 1973 with just six students, but added instruction for grades 9 through 12 three years later and graduated four students in 1978. Bicknell said during the 38 years of the high school program the largest graduating class was 22 and the smallest was one.

Bicknell said that the decision of the board followed a year-long strategic planning process based on a thorough consideration of demographic and educational trends. He noted that the aging demographic of New Hampshire has led to declining numbers of school-age children, particularly in the central and northern reaches of the state.

"We found that the public schools in the region adding exciting programs and improving their instruction," Bicknell said. At the same time, he noted that independent schools in the region like New Hampton School, Holderness School, Tilton School and Proctor Academy, have been aggressively recruiting day students. In effect, Sant Bani School found itself facing increasing competition for a shrinking number of students.

Bicknell said that 60 students represented an optimal enrollment for its high school program, adding that "students would be okay." This year, he explained. enrollment slipped to 39. Bicknell said that without sufficient numbers the school is unable to provide its students with the academic, extra-curricular and athletic opportunities an ideal high school experience requires.

The school has committed itself to support and prepare its current students in grades 7 through 11 as their consider their options for high school by providing academic coaching and counseling, SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) courses, application fees to other independent schools and time to visit public and private schools.

In the meantime, Bicknell said that the K through 8 program will strengthened in the 2015-2016 school year with greater emphasis on learning through community service and the introduction of in Spanish in all grades. "We expect our students will achieve fluency in Spanish by 8th grade," he said. The school will also offer extended hours to meet the needs of working families. He said that the school has capacity for approximately 144 students, 16 in each grade, in its K through 8 program.

Sant Bani School began as an outgrowth of the Sant Bani Ashram, a center for spiritual retreat, and became an independent organization in 1983. Since then the school and the Ashram have coexisted as neighbors. Both the Ashram and the school were founded under the direction of a spiritual teacher from India, Sant Kirpal Singh (1894-1974). The school also received the guidance and wisdom of Sant Kirpal Singh's successor, Sant Ajaib Singh (1926-1997), for 21 years. Students and faculty of all backgrounds are welcome at Sant Bani School, which holds among its founding principles that truth can thrive only when there is freedom of thought and expression.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 01:08

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Driver of car involved in fatal Parade Rd. wreck charged with homicide

LACONIA — The Kingston man at the wheel of the Cadillac sedan that recently careened into trees off Parade Road leaving one passenger dead and another injured is being held in Belknap County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail following his arraignment on charges of negligent homicide, second degree assault and aggravated driving while intoxicated in Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Ryan Mears, 26, was arrested by Laconia police early Tuesday afternoon upon his release from Concord Hospital, where he was treated for injuries sustained in the collision that took the life of Tiffany Nieves, 28, of 24 Estates Circle, Laconia and severely injured Jeremy King, 28, of Atkinson.

Prosecutor Jim Sawyer requested $15,000 cash bail, telling the court that Mears has a significant criminal history, including felony convictions for theft as well as convictions for simple assault.

According to the affidavit of Officer Holly Callanan, who was the first to reach the scene of the collision, Mears told her he drank "three or four beers" and "three shots" as well as used cocaine before the crash, which occurred shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 2.

Callanan stated that she spoke with the woman who reported the incident, who told her that she followed the Cadillac as the two cars traveled northward past the former site of the Laconia State School. Twice, she said, the Cadillac swerved, once crossing the white fog line then crossing the double yellow line before speeding out of her sight. She said that after passing through the intersection at Meredith Center Road she found the Cadillac in the road, "wrecked," and heard the driver yell "help" and "hurry." She called 911.

From the tire marks in the road, Callanan, determined that just past the intersection with Meredith Center Road the sedan swerved off the road, briefly tracked the northbound lane then crossed into the southbound lane, left the road, struck the trees and caromed back to the center of Parade Road. The Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team is investigating the incident.

Callahan said that King had been partially ejected from the window on the passenger side of the vehicle, appeared to have multiple injuries and was "drifting in and out of consciousness." Nieves, who was laying between the front and rear seats, was not responsive and pronounced dead at the scene. Mears was pinned between the driver's seat and steering column.
King was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital with life threatening injuries and soon after to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where he is still being treated for multiple injuries.

Mears was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital, where Callanan spoke with him after the collision. She reported that he told her that he had been drinking at a tavern in Belmont and used cocaine earlier that evening. Police found a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in the Cadillac. Callanan described Mears's speech as "heavily slurred" and his responses as "delayed." She said that she smelt alcohol on his breath and noticed he struggled to hold a pen and write his name. He was arrested at the hospital and charged with aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, a class B felony.

The charge of negligent homicide, while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, is a class A felony and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Second degree assault is a class B felony with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Aggravated driving while intoxicated is a class B felony and carries a fine, jail sentence and license revocation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 01:00

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Meredith speakers urge veterans to keep American Legion vital as an advocate for their interests

MEREDITH — Speakers at two Veterans Day ceremonies held here Tuesday called on a new generation of Iraq and Afghan war veterans to join their local American Legion Post and help the Legion remain an effective advocacy group for veterans.
''Make sure your brothers and sisters in arms are respected. The American Legion once had 3-million members and now we're down to 1.5 million. We need new blood,'' said Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post service officer and former commander Bob Kennelly at a ceremony held in front of the Meredith Library.
He noted the historic impact the American Legion has had, noting that in 1943 the Legion pushed for what would become the GI Bill, which has provided educational support for millions of veterans and has been one of the most effective government programs ever offered.
Kennelly encouraged non-veterans to join support organizations like the auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion to help ensure that veterans continue to have a voice on public policy.
Later, the Legion Color Guard and those taking part in the ceremony walked to the site of the POW-MIA Memorial at nearby Hesky Park, where they were greeted by Bob Jones, one of those who helped found the weekly POW-MIA vigil which marked its 26th year in August.
Jones said that the Meredith site, which is the state's original POW-MIA memorial, is ''a special place, an important place'' and said that he has been a proud member of the American Legion for 46 years.
He noted that Post #33 has been involved in an effort to locate grave markers of veterans and earlier in the day had placed flags and markers at five veterans grave sites, three from the Revolutionary War and two from the War of 1812.
He urged younger veterans to join Post #33 and said ''veterans organizations are changing for the better. All the veterans organizations are supporting each other and need new members to help with their missions.''
Also speaking at the earlier event held in front of the library were state Senator Jeanie Forester, whose father served with an airborne unit during the Korean War, and Korean War veteran, Master Sgt. Elliott Finn.
Forrester urged those attending to remember when they left to ''thinks of things you can do to make a difference in the lives of our veterans as a way to thank those who put their lives on the line.''
Finn said that there was a reason that those who were gathered at the ceremony weren't speaking German or Japanese and that was because of the sacrifices of those who served in World War II, when 16 million Americans were in the armed services.
He said that there were only 1-million service members left from what has been called the Greatest Generation, which survived the Great Depression and went on to defeat the Axis powers in World War II.
''They're dying at the rate of 250 a day and by 2036 there will be no World War II veterans left. So give those living a hug and thank them for their service,'' said Finn.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 02:15

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Weirs Boulevard cemetery holds grave of Revolutionary War veteran: Winthrop Langley

LACONIA — Veterans organizations are constantly searching for the grave sites of fellow veterans of previous wars in order to place markers and American flags on those graves.
Yesterday in Meredith, members of the Griggs-Wyatt Post #33 American Legion marked Veterans Day by placing markers and flags at five grave sites, three of them soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War and two who served in the war of 1812.
The search for veterans' grave sites has been going on for many years as is evidenced by an account of one which was located in 1935 and whose story is recounted on the Laconia Ancestry Too website, which is maintained by the Laconia Historical and Museum Society.
This following is from the Laconia Citizen for Saturday, June 29, 1935:
"Care for Grave of Winthrop Langley:
"Laconia Post, 1670, V.F.W., has just completed the installing of a fence around the cemetery at Langley Cove where the bodies of Winthrop Langley, veteran of the Revolutionary war and his family are buried.
"Winthrop Langley was born in 1750 and died in 1834 and was buried on the shores of the lake where he settled after serving in Capt. Butler's company, Great Island 1775; and West Point, 1780.
"The Veterans of Foreign Wars take a great interest in remembering the graves of departed comrades of all wars and feel it is a disgrace to see a cemetery all covered with brush and stones where our soldier
dead are buried.
"Laconia post a short time ago cleaned up in the Laconia district alone, six of these private cemeteries.
"The committee in charge besides the commander Guy Colby included W.D. Kempton, Winfield Pearson, Bill Reister and Custer Sanborn."
The cemetery and the enclosure which was installed in 1935 are still visible from Weirs Boulevard as is an American flag which was installed at then grave in recent years which bears an insignia marker from the Sons of the American Revolution.
A history of the Winthrop Langley family which included on the website and written by a researcher of the cemetery's history says that Langley Cove was named for the Langley family and that Winthrop Langley settled in what was then Gilford on Long Bay (now known as Paugus Bay) after moving to the area from Newmarket in 1775.
Langley married Achsah Quimby, daughter of John Quimby of Gilford in 1813. According to the researcher a Mr. Libbey, who was an old neighbor, remembered attending her funeral when a small boy. The researcher wrote ''She was buried beside the highway on a small elevation, where we found twelve graves, under some pretty pine trees with field stones for head and foot of graves (the cuttings nearly work off by the elements), which is the last resting place of the Langley family, just across from Quimby Island, in Langley Cove that formerly was main land, but the water has worn a passage and made it an island.''
What was then known as Quimby Island is now known as Christmas Island where a resort and a nearby restaurant were developed by Phil Roux of Gilford in the 1950s.
For more on the Langley family visit http://www.freewebs.com/laconiaancestrytoo/home.htm.

A Sons of the American Revolution marker and an American flag mark the grave of Winthrop Langley, who fought in the American Revolution. The grave is located in a cemetery across from Langley Cove on Weirs Boulevard which also is the burial site of members of Langley's family. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 02:01

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