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Gilford considers specifics on school resource officer’s duties


GILFORD — The Gilford School Board agreed Monday with most of the agreement proposed by the police chief regarding the school resource officer but wants to see a few changes before it is implemented.

The proposal, said Superintendent Kirk Beitler, is a way to codify the role of the SRO and to promote good communications between the police and the school district through his efforts.

"The chief wanted something written in place," Beitler explained to the board.

Over the past few years, there has been some confusion as to how many school resource officers would be assigned by the Police Department to the school district. Since the onset of deadly school shootings over the past 10 years in other parts of the country, the school district and the board of selectmen have wanted two full-time officers in the three-building campus of the Gilford School District.

Due to an increased volume of non-school police activity, Chief Anthony Bean Burpee told selectmen earlier this year that he is only able to provide one full-time school resource officer. To compensate for the second officer, Bean Burpee promised he would incorporate routine school visits by daytime patrol officers and management staff and to increase police presence at the beginning and end of school for traffic control. To date, members of the school district agreed he has met that promise.

Upon the first review by the School Board of the draft MOU on Monday night, member Chris McDonough said he would like to some language incorporated into the final copy that addresses those school visits by officers and traffic control during opening and closing hours of school.

McDonough said he understands that there will be some days or parts of days that police cannot be there because of other, more pressing incidents, but he would still like to see something incorporated into the memorandum.

"I would hate to see that go away," McDonough said.

In addition, there is a clause that states that if the school resource officer misses five consecutive school days, or more that 10 days per month, the two parties will meet and make staffing arrangements suitable for both.

McDonough said he'd prefer to see two consecutive days trigger a conversation between departments about a replacement, rather than five.

Board Vice Chairman Rae Mello Andrews said she would like to see a clause that mandates school resource officer to be at the school during pickup and drop-off times. She noted there has been one minor incident already and would hate to see any more.

Gretchen Gandini said the draft memorandum specifically allows for communication between school officials and the police regarding theft, destruction or violence. She said she would like to see alcohol and drugs added to the list of mandatory reports by staff.

However, the memorandum of understanding is meant to satisfy the the mandates of RSA 193-D:4 and D:5, which includes drugs and alcohol in the law, so it would appear those two violations are already included in the state law governing the memorandum.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Tuesday that he has long wanted a memorandum between the school and the police and believes the one being used as a draft is one he developed about six or seven years ago.

He said once the police and the school district reach a final decision, the agreement must be approved by both the Board of Selectmen and the School Board.

LHS Principal Bartlett no longer interim


LACONIA — The Laconia School Board agreed unanimously on Tuesday night to drop the "interim" from the titles for Principal David Bartlett, at left, and Assistant Principal Jason Lonergan.

Bartlett has been working at Laconia High School since 2013, when he was hired as assistant principal. He was named interim principal in July, following the resignation of Jim McCollum. Bartlett sees the decision to drop the "interim" from his title as an endorsement of the school's leadership team.

"It shows the district and school board shows confidence in what we're doing," said Bartlett, "that makes me feel good, and speaks about the team we have here to make this place run."

Lonergan, a Laconia native, was hired as interim assistant principal for the current school year.

"I was excited to come aboard at the beginning of the summer, I'm just as excited now. I'm happy to be part of this administrative team. There's a lot of good things happening in this building, in the community, and I'm happy to be a part of that," said Lonergan.

– Adam Drapcho



'Can You Eat It?' Fall fun foraging for fungi


Can you eat it? In this case, NO! The common name for this beautiful white mushroom is the Destroying Angel. See why it’s important to know which mushrooms are safe to eat? (TIM JONES PHOTO)


"Can you eat it?"

That's the first question most people ask when they find a mushroom in the woods or on their lawn. The answer is, you can eat absolutely any mushroom you find. Once. ... Some of those mushrooms will taste awful. Some will send you into psychic neverland. Some will kill you. And some will taste like ambrosia and leave you wanting more. The trick is to know which mushrooms are which. Especially the ones that are both tasty and safe, and the ones that contain deadly poisons.

With that in mind, it was hard to resist the teaser put out by the New Hampshire Mushroom Company for the "Can You Eat It?" mushroom hunting classes they run in the late summer and fall: "Join us here at the farm for a half day mushroom class. Start off with an introduction to mushrooming basics and light appetizers before heading off into the woods to forage for mushrooms. After a good amount of field time we head back for a buffet style mushroom-themed dinner featuring our local organic cultivated mushrooms. The expert mycologist on hand will wrap up the class with an overview of the mushrooms we collected. Please bring water, good hiking shoes, and a basket for collecting."

Sign me up for that! Whether you are an experienced mushroom forager, or just curious about it, the best way to learn about collecting mushrooms (or any other wild edibles) is by going afield with experts. And the promise of excellent eats afterwards, well that's just a bonus!

Located on Gardner Hill Road in Tamworth, the New Hampshire Mushroom Company is a newish barn structure surrounded at this time of year by piles of wood. It could be firewood, and, in this case, it is. They use that wood to heat their structures in the winter. To grow their mushrooms, they get red oak sawdust from a mill a few miles down the road to use as "substrate." Mushroom food, in other words. After the mushrooms are grown and harvested, the used substrate is sold as a soil conditioner.

If you are interested in what it takes to grow mushrooms commercially, the New Hampshire Mushroom Company gives free tours of the farm every Sunday at noon. They produce about 1,200 pounds a week (which is A LOT of mushrooms), selling them to various restaurants and markets around New England. In the Mount Washington Valley, you can find their products at The Local Grocer (nhlocalgrocer.com) in North Conway and at the Tamworth Farmers' Market (tamworthfarmersmarket.org). In the Lakes Region, they sell to E.M Heath Supermarket (heathsmarket.com) in Center Harbor, Sunflower Natural Foods (sunflowernaturalfoods.typepad.com) in Laconia and the Tilton Winter Farmers' Market (tiltonwinterfarmersmarket.com). They are also available New England-wide at 
Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com).

But on this Sunday, at least for the dozen or so participants in the "Can You Eat It" class, the focus was on wild mushrooms, the kind you find and pick yourself. Before we headed for the woods, we got an overview of mushrooms in general and some of the ones we were likely to find that day.

Our expert for the day was Noah Siegel, a Massachusetts native who travels all of North America identifying various fungi and their roles in the larger ecosystem. Noah is co-author (with Christian Schwarz) of Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast, a comprehensive guide to the fungi of coastal northern California.

Among the tidbits Noah offered in his prep talk:

• Fungi are everywhere, and that's a good thing, because life on earth as we know it would not be possible without them. Fungi take plant material (like oak sawdust) and help break it down and recycle it back into the soil where it can grow new plants and new trees. There are fungi to help break down almost everything—including old mushrooms.

• Many edible mushrooms are associated with the specific tree species. To find the mushrooms, you have to be able to find and identify the trees.

• Nobody knows exactly how many different kinds of fungi there are in any given area because new ones are always being discovered. Fortunately, if all you are interested in is mushrooms to eat, you only have to pay attention to the "macro fungi" the ones big enough to see easily and substantial enough to make a meal (or, at least, an appetizer). You only need to be able to identify a few mushrooms to pick and eat them safely.

• The mushrooms we see are just the fruiting bodies of a much larger organism (called the mycelium) that spreads its tendrils through rotting wood or forest duff. Most of the fungus is hidden. Imagine if a giant oak tree was buried in the ground and all you could see was the tiny flowers it sprouts in the spring. The mushrooms you see are the flowers.

• The largest living single organism ever found in the world, known affectionately among mycologists as "the humongous fungus," is the mycelium of a honey mushroom (Armillaria) that measures 2.4 miles (3.8 km) across in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. Yes, honey mushrooms are edible—for most people. About 1 in 20 people has an allergic reaction and gets sick. (I've eaten honey mushrooms without any ill effect, so you can give them to me if you don't dare try them!)

• The one absolute rule to remember is not to eat any mushroom you can't positively identify. "When in doubt, throw it out."

After the lecture, we sampled some wonderful mushroom themed snacks and Chaga tea, which is not unpleasantly flavored (some people like it) and reputed to be medicinal. Then it was off to the forest to actually hunt for mushrooms. We car pooled about 2 miles to the Big Pines Natural Area on Route 113A in Tamworth where, before most of us had gotten out of our cars, Noah had found a couple of interesting-if-inedible fungi to show us. In the first 100 feet of trail, we stopped four or five different times to gather around and learn new things about the specific fungi we'd found.

Then it was off, gathering baskets in hand (baskets don't break or smush the mushrooms the way a bag would) to look for mushrooms on our own. We were somewhat handicapped by the recent dry weather. Many mushrooms only sprout after a heavy rain. It had rained a bit that morning, but not enough, apparently, to bring on the mushrooms.

I have to admit here that I got distracted by the fact that one of largest white pine trees in the northeast is in this stand of woods. Instead of concentrating entirely on mushrooms, I made a short detour to visit the big tree which, at more than 4 feet in diameter and 14 feet in circumference at breast height is truly impressive.

After roughly an hour of wandering on our own we returned to the trailhead and carpooled back the mushroom farm, where we spread our gatherings on a large table. Despite the poor picking conditions, our group had gathered about 70 different species of fungi ranging from tiny to large.

Noah went over each one, explained its distinguishing characteristics, and whether or not it was edible. One appealing-looking mushroom we found in abundance was the pure white Amanita virosa, otherwise known by its common name "The Destroying Angel." One of the more deadly of the poisonous species (Noah explained that it first made you violently sick, then killed you by destroying your liver. Ouch). Fortunately, the Destroying Angel is really easy to identify and avoid. Not so easy to sort out was the category known among mycologists as Little Brown Mushrooms (LBMs) which contains a number of deadly poisonous and some hallucinogenic species. No one eats LBMs.

Several of the other mushrooms we found were poisonous or questionable as well—a reminder to never, ever eat any mushroom you can't positively identify.

What was lacking in our treasure trove was enough edible mushrooms to even make a decent omelet. So we had to settle for a five-course feast (including dessert) prepared using local ingredients and the mushrooms grown at the farm.

Oh well, maybe next time we go fungi foraging we'll get some rain and all those "choice edible" mushrooms will start popping. At least we know some of the ones it's safe to eat.


Mushroom Resources:

• New Hampshire Mushroom Company, 153 Gardner Hill Road, Tamworth, NH 03886.
Phone: (603) 323-0097, Web: http://www.nhmushrooms.com; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• In addition to free farm tours and $60 "Can You Eat It" classes, they also offer the Saturday Supper Club, a 5-course prix fixe meal ($50) prepared by Chef Kaylon Sweet with organic local mushrooms and local from the Tamworth Farmers Market.

• White Mountain Mushrooms, Web: http://www.whitemountainmushrooms.com; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• Brothers Jimmie and Parker Veitch are professional foragers, educators and all-around mushroom fanatics. They offer classes, mushroom walks, mushroom identification, and on-site assessments of potential mushrooming hotspots.

• White Mountain Mycolgical Society. Web: http://www.meetup.com/WhiteMountainMycologicalSociety/, a meetup group dedicated to all things mushroom. As the old joke says, these are really "fun guys."

• The web offers a host of resources for finding and identifying mushrooms. I have found the Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions by Michael E. Ostry Neil A. Anderson Joseph G. O'Brien
from the US Forest Service to be particularly interesting and useful: http://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs79.pdf


The Harvest: With the booty spread out on a table at the end of the day, mycologist Noah Siegel begins explaining what we found—and whether or not we can eait it. (TIM JONES PHOTO)