Shaker board accepts direction from voters on kindergarten & science teacher

BELMONT — The Shaker Regional School Board voted Tuesday night to implement the three changes request by voters who attended last Friday's Annual School District meeting.

The first was full-day kindergarten, which was petitioned on to the ballot and will be added in the 2015-2016 school year at a cost of $403,000.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer explained that there was not enough space for all-day kindergarten and universal preschool at Belmont Elementary School. As of yesterday she said she had 40 kindergarteners who has registered with Belmont and four who had registered with Canterbury — a school building with plenty of space.

Dreyer said the school still needs two classrooms for special education and that is not negotiable. By adding three additional classrooms for kindergarten, the school would forgo the computer lab, the Title 1 classroom and the readiness classroom.

Belmont Elementary Principal Sheila Arnold said Title 1 would still continue as part of general education and readiness would be handled in the first grade.

Arnold and Canterbury Principal Mary Morrison assured the school board and the one or two parents who attended the meeting that they would get it done.

Voters also elected to keep and fund the Belmont High School science teacher who had be eliminated from the budget proposal because of declining enrollments and extremely small classes at upper levels.

One of the concerns of the board was building interest in science in the middle school years to increase participation at high-level (honors and Advanced Placement) science classes.

Dreyer said she would move around some of the STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes and combine students to make core classes a little bigger so a few science teachers could dedicate some time to teaching more advanced classes.

Gretta Olson-Wilder suggested sending a survey to middle school students and ask what kinds of science interests them and then matching those students to the science teachers who are trained to teach that discipline.

Richy Bryant said he was concerned about the seeming lack of interest in science.

"How do we spark that enjoyment for it?" he asked.

Middle School Principal Aaron Pope said he would like to start offering additional science themes to his STEM curriculum to create some interest as the students move on.

Both he and High School Principal Dan Clary said that for some reason students start to loose interest in science around eighth grade. The student representative from the middle school said he agreed but thinks some of it may be that some of his fellow students don't always see eye-to-eye with the science teacher. He added that VLACS (a program administered by a computer-based charter school) provides on-line programs to students in nearly all disciplines.

Pope said the standards are rigorous in the middle school and he believes as students get used to having more expected from them, they will gain better interest in science in their later years.

As to supporting the preservation of the historic but empty Gale School building, Bryant of Belmont and Bob Reed of Canterbury volunteered to work with the Friends of the Gale School Committee to look for grants and other financial assistance. Voters had tabled a request for funds to demolish the building, which sits on a perch behind the middle school, on the edge of Bryant Park.

In other news, the School Board announced they had renewed Dreyer's contract for another two years. She will earn $120,000 for 2016 to 2017, with the right to negotiate her 2017-2018 contract.

Commissioners dueling via-mail over jail-planning effort

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioner Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) claims that fellow commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) is undermining efforts to develop a plan for a community corrections center by providing incorrect information on the size and cost of the project, which is still in the developmental stage.
DeVoy said that two options will be presented at a March 24 meeting with consultants from Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., the firm the county hired for $40,000 to develop a program for a community corrections facility.
One would be for a 19,400-square-foot building and another for a 23,900-square-foot building, which based on a $200 per square foot anticipated cost, would bring the construction cost in at between $4 and $5 million, said DeVoy.
''The Community Corrections Center is not 30,000-square-feet or $8 million as reported in the paper,'' said DeVoy, who called on Burchell to cite the page and paragraph in the consultant's report which has those numbers.

Burchell provided those numbers at a solo meeting he had with the press following a March 2 commissioner's meeting at which he was apparently ousted as chairman by DeVoy and commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton).
DeVoy wrote in an e-mail to Burchell: ''very disappointed you demanded you deal directly with the consultant with the sole purpose of undermining everyone's efforts.''
Burchell replied in an e-mail addressed to DeVoy, calling him the "vice chair" and answering, ''I have not undermined anyone or anything''. He maintained that the information which he made available to the press came from the ''Go to Meeting'' with the consultants on Feb. 27 ''at the same time that I was being maligned for not being engaged.''
Burchell said at the March 2 briefing a community corrections facility would cost between $7 and $8 million and would require between seven and 10 new staff members and suggested it would be less expensive for the county in the long run to build a $14 million jail along traditional lines because there would be a minimal staffing increase which would hold down future staffing costs compared to what it would cost for a community corrections facility.
Burchell expressed skepticism that there was an appetite in the county for spending the amount of money he thinks it will take to build and staff an inmate rehabilitation and education center. He also pointed out that the space estimates developed by the consultant for a 23,941-square-foot facility needed a multiplier for corridors, mechanical spaces and thickness of walls which would add 30 percent to square footage..
The roughly outlined community corrections facility plan for the county would see 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women. The new facility, which would be built next to the current jail and possibly connected to it, would be of heavy commercial grade construction, several steps below the type of construction needed for a secure jail facility.
The e-mails between Burchell and DeVoy have been widely circulated to all members of the county convention, whom DeVoy has invited to attend the March 24 meeting with the commissioners and consultants.

Big day for road agent, Year-Round Library & folks who wanted out of the Gilmanton Historic District

GILMANTON — Voters gave elected Road Agent Paul Perkins a resounding thumbs up at Tuesday's election not only by electing him to a fourth term but by overwhelmingly defeating an article that called for the job to go from an elected position to an appointed one.

Perkins defeated Road Task Force member Raymond "Mickey" Daigle by a vote of 553 to 383. The warrant article to appoint rather than elect the road agent was defeated by a vote of 687 against to 268 for it.

In a three-way selectman's race where only one candidate actively campaigned, Michael Jean prevailed over Scott Dunn and last-minute write-in candidate and incumbent Chair Brett Currier.

Jean earned 463 votes, Currier earned 279, and Dunn earned 160.

The petitioned request by two homeowners in the Gilmanton Historic District have won their bid to have their properties from removed from the jurisdiction.

The two — Craig Gardner of 533 Meeting House Road and Roland Huber of 485 Meeting House Road — had initiated warrant articles because of ongoing differencec of opinion between them and the Historic District Commission.

Gardner objected to the commission telling him he had to build a wooden fence no higher than 4-feet tall off from his barn after he constructed one of white vinyl that was 6-feet tall to prevents his dogs from escaping. His home was constructed in 1977 and he contended that vinyl was appropriate material for the date and period of his home.

Huber's home is an older homestead that has been in his wife's family for years. He contended that every effort to improve the looks of his home was thwarted by the Historic District Commission because he wanted to use more durable and less expensive vinyl windows and doors as opposed to less durable, less energy efficient and less expensive wood replicas.

The votes were won by very narrow margins — Gardner prevailed by a vote of 484 to 448 while Huber prevailed by a vote of 488 to 441.

The town rejected the the proposed 2015 operating budget of $3,458,130 in favor of the the default budget which was about $57,000 higher at $3,515,283. The proposed budget was altered at deliberative session when former selectman Brett Currier included 2 percent raises for every town employee to give them parity with the two employees of the Town Clerk/Tax Collectors Office.

Since the Board of Selectmen are the ultimate decision-making authority for spending as long as it doesn't exceed the total amount appropriated, it will now be up to the new board to determine if the raises are awarded.

A petitioned warrant article to rescind SB-2 (the Official Ballot Act) and return to the traditional Town Meeting format was defeated by 561 to 402. The article needed a 60-percent majority to pass.

Last but certainly not least, funding for the Gilmanton Year-Round Library passed by 548 votes for to 454 votes against funding it at $45,975 for this fiscal year. Last year funding for the Year-Round Library passed by a narrow 17-vote margin. This year the margin was 94.

Forty-two percent of Gilmanton's registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election, a very high turnout for a local election

In the Gilmanton School District races, Malcolm Macleod ran unopposed for one seat on the School Board and Rachel M. Frechette Hatch ran unopposed for the district clerk.

School and Town Moderator Mark Sisti also ran unopposed for his seat and School District Treasurer Debora Wheeler ran unopposed for treasurer.

Voters authorized spending $100,000 for a leach field replacement with all but $12,460 coming from new taxes. The rest is in a capital reserve account.

The district also approved a two-class room refurbished modular building and raise through taxes $72,400 to cover the cost for the first of five years payments and installation.
The cost for the remaining four years is $37,642 annually.

A similar proposal failed last year but after a special space needs committee was formed and examined the Gilmanton School building for a year, it determined a temporary modular was indeed needed to mitigate crowded conditions. The measure passed by 534 to 422.


Lawmakers united in opposition to background check bill

CONCORD — When the New Hampshire House of Representatives yesterday voted to scuttle a bill requiring background checks for all commercial firearms sales, the Belknap County Delegation — all Republicans —voted unanimously with the majority.

House Bill 650 was rejected by a margin of 236 to 124. The bill was intended to close the loopholes through which firearms can be purchased online and at gun shows without background checks.

Representatives Glen Aldrich and Russ Dumais and George Hurt of Gilford, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Dennis Fields and Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Robert Fisher, Bob Luther, Frank Tilton and Peter Spanos of Laconia, Valerie Fraser New Hampton, Ray Howard and Peter Varney of Alton, Shari LeBreche and Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Herb Vadney of Meredith all voted against the bill.

Representatives Don Flanders of Laconia and David Russell of Gilmanton did not vote.