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Gilford School Board hires new Middle School principal

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

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Newfound defies trend toward earlier school openings - 1086

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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4 new programs to be added to Huot Center offerings

LACONIA — The School District Budget and Personnel Committee met Tuesday night to review some of the programs and repairs that came from its initial day-long budget session in February.

There will be four program additions at the Huot  Regional Technical Education Center: Law Enforcement, Automotive Specialists, Bio-Technology, and LNA II instruction.

While the total costs of these programs is $110,000, tuition fees paid from the sending schools will pay for them making them budget-neutral for Laconia.

Administrators said the LNA (Licensed Nursing Assistant) I program is over-enrolled and there is a great deal of interest in the second level that is usually offered in college.

The Huot Center also plans on the addition a part-time curriculum coordinator to the Huot administrative staff whose $12,000 annual stipend will be paid for though tuition.

The committee also recommended a high school biology teacher who could also teach physics. As it stands now, one of the biology teachers is retiring. Some committee members felt that students should be able to choose between two physics teacher whereas right now there is only one choice.

Continuing with biology, the committee said it would not support adding a $100,000 biology classroom to the high school at this time. Members said that while it would be nice to have, they said it would be more cost-effective to reconfigure classroom space from the areas vacated by the new Huot Center and use them for lectures while better coordinating the use of the five new science labs built last year.

Committee members also supported adding a part-time secretary to the guidance department. About three years ago, the School District eliminated one of four guidance positions as well as the part-time assistant.

Administrators said they would ideally like to return to four guidance councilors plus a secretary but it may not be doable in the 2014-2015 budget.

At the Middle School there is a federal SAMHSA grant that will pay for an attendance coordinator as well as $10,000 to expand reading-leveled book for an intervention class.
SAMHSA is a federal program that provides money to school districts to support substance abuse and mental health issues.

At the elementary level, a SAMHSA grant will pay for pre-kindergarten classes for all three school. The district has also requested an attendance coordinator from the same grant for the three elementary school.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:54

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Laconia told new cable TV franchise deal as good as it gets

LACONIA — Katherine Miller, the attorney represented the consortium of a dozen municipalities that negotiated the renewal of the cable television franchise agreement with MetroCast, told the City Council this week that by bargaining together the members of the consortium were able to obtain more favorable terms than most communities in New Hampshire are able to negotiate with their cable operators.

City purchasing agent Jon Gardner, who was party to the negotiations, credited Miller for the success the consortium achieved. Apart from the city, the consortium included the city of Franklin and towns of Alton, Belmont, Gilford, Gilmanton, Meredith and Tilton in Belknap County as well as Northfield, Deerfield, New Durham and Northwood.

Miller said that the cable industry is going through "a transition time" marked by rising costs for programming. "MetroCast is feeling a squeeze on their costs," she said, adding that subscribers were also feeling pinched." She noted that neither the content of programming nor the cost of service, the two issues of greatest interest to subscribers, are open to negotiation.

Under the 10-year agreement, MetroCast will continue to provide the city with Internet service connecting municipal facilities at a discounted rate not to exceed $75 per megabit a month and annual rate increases not to exceed 5 percent. Miller said the discount is "unique in my experience." The expense of this institutional network will born by the company, not its subscribers. The company also agreed to to pay property taxes for its use of public rights-of way.

The current agreement specifies that 10 new subscribers per mile are required for MetroCast to extend its system without cost. The new agreement changes the requirement to five subscribers, who pay for a year's service in advance, per half- mile, which enables the system to expand in smaller increments and less time.

The three local access channels, which have been provided by Lakes Region Public Access (LRPA), will now be managed directly by the municipalities, which may contract with LRPA or another provider. Metrocast, which has paid LRPA $30,000 per year, will instead provide grants to support the local access channels to the municipalities. The payments will consist of 75 cents per subscriber plus up to $2,500 for the capital costs of equipment or facilities. The cost of these payments will be reflected in charges to subscribers in any way. Gardner said that Laconia, with 5,378 television subscribers, will receive a grant of a little more than $4,000.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 12:51

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