LACONIA — The Laconia School Board's consideration of a mandatory drug testing for school bus drivers prompted questions of whether of other School Department employees should be subject to the same test as well.
The issue arose last night as the board took up a proposed policy requiring drug and alcohol tests for all bus drivers.
"Is there any reason we test only bus drivers?" board member Scott Vachon asked. "We have a lot of other people working in our schools who have direct contact with students."
School District Business Administrator Ed Emond said there was no requirement that teachers or other district employees submit to such tests.
Board member Beth Arsenault, who is also a state legislator, said she would inquire what state law or state Department of Education regulations say regarding a local district's ability to adopt such a policy.
Some on the board indicated that if a drug and alcohol testing policy were to be broadened that it would be subject to negotiation with the various collective bargaining units representing teachers and other unionized district employees.
The policy for school bus drivers received a first reading last night. The board will need to take it up a second time before it can be voted on.
The board did give unanimous approval to a policy regarding bomb threats. The policy states that the district will report to police the name of any student suspected of making a threat and that the student found to have made a threat will face disciplinary action, in addition to any criminal punishment. If a threat requires the evacuation of a school building no one will be allowed back into the building unless the superintendent or someone the superintendent designates gives approval.
NOTES: The board heard a presentation on the life skills program for special education students at the middle and high schools. As part of the presentation middle school student Hannah Harris demonstrated how she uses an electronic audio device to communicate, and Mark Lagueux, a high school student, told the board how the program has given him the skills that will help him get a job. . . . . . Arsenault noted that bills presently before the Legislature include one that would extend the school year to 190 days. Another bill would establish a dedicated fund for school robotics programs. . . . . . Resident and retired teacher Richard Coggon informed the board that former district Assistant Superintendent Al Blastos has died. Blastos served as assistant superintendent in the 1970s. . . . . . Coggon also drew the board's attention to the fact that Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who is now in the national news spotlight, is a 1986 graduate of Laconia High School. Last week Zimmer charged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration conditioned Superstorm Sandy relief money for Hoboken to her support for a redevelopment project proposed by a company with ties to Christie. Her allegations, which the governor's administration has denied, have added a new dimension to allegations of hardball politics gone awry in New Jersey under Christie's leadership.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:41
LACONIA — Joe Kenney of Wakefield topped Christopher Boothy of Meredith in the Republican primary for the Executive Council in District 1 yesterday.
Shortly before 9 p.m. Mark Laliberte, who managed Boothby's campaign, reported that approximately 60-percent of the districts reporting Kenney led Boothby by a margin of 2,117 to 1,756.
The vote for Mark Aldrich of Lebanon, the third candidate in the race, was not reported by press time.
In Laconia, where only 576 of the city's 9,620 registered voters — 6 percent — went to the polls, Kenney topped Boothby by 17 votes, 265 to 248, as the candidates split the six wards. Kenney carried wards 3, 5 and 6 while Boothby took wards 1, 2 and 4.
Boothby said that the number of voters who went to the polls appears to have fewer than the 9 percent he anticipated.
Boothby said, "I called and congratulated Joe Kenney and told him I intend to follow through on the promise I made to him when we first met during the campaign to support the Republican nominee. I will be endorsing Joe at a place and time of his choosing."
In a prepared statement, Boothby said that "in a two-month campaign, you get to know your fellow candidates for office real quick, and in talking with both of them, I learned a lot."
Boothby thanked his many volunteers and supports, especially the members of the "Boothby Brigade," whose "enthusiasm and company made the last five weeks so fulfilling." Likewise, he said that he enjoyed meeting the people of District 1 and was grateful to them for that opportunity.
Kenney will face Democrat Michael Cryans of Hanover, a longtime Grafton County Commissioner in the general election on March 11, town meeting day.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:30
LACONIA — The Heritage Commission will hold a public hearing this evening on the future of the Hathaway House in the the City Council chamber at City Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m.
In November, Cafua Management Company, LLC, the Dunkin' Donuts franchise holder that owns the property at 1106 Union Avenue formally applied for a demolition permit to raze the historic building.
Since the Hathaway House is more than 700-square-feet in area and 75 or more years old, as well as visible from a public right-of-way, the application was presented to the Heritage Commission for review. The commission refused to endorse the application and scheduled the public hearing in an effort to preserve the building.
Should the public hearing fail to produce an alternative to demolition, the Heritage Commission will meet with the owner within 10 days to seek agreement on an alternative. Without an agreement to preserve the building, the owner may proceed with demolition while the Heritage Commission, with the consent of the owner, can photograph and document the building as well as encourage the owner to salvage any of its important architectural features.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:21
LACONIA — Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward told members of the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee last night that admissions to the county jail have increased from 994 in the year 2000 to over 1600 last year and that during the same time the average daily inmate population has shot up from 42 in 2000 to 113 last year.
He said that current capacity of the jail is 109 and that when the inmate population reaches that number there is no longer any floor space or bed space, which means that above that level the county has no choice but to ship inmates out to facilities in other counties.
Last summer there were as many as 140 inmates at the facility with 17 women prisoners housed in the gymnasium and upwards of 30 inmates were shipped to three other county correctional facilities around the state.
''When we get to April, May and June those numbers will spike and there'll be a lot higher spikes than last year. We'll have to ship them out because we have no space,'' Ward told committee members, who predicts even more inmates will be placed in other facilities in 2014 than last year..
He said that the average length of stay at the jail has gone from 15.3 days in 2000 to 37.4 last year and that whereas 150 women were admitted to the jail in 2000 there were 510 women admitted last year.
Ward said that over the years there has been only one area of reduction and that is protective custody cases, which dropped from 1,338 in 2000 to 650 last year, which he said reflects in large part a different approach to law enforcement during Laconia Bike Week.
He said that despite the best efforts to develop programs which would reduce recidivism that the space has not been available for them and the lack of programs is being felt.
''It's very difficult to run any kind of therapeutic model. You can't do it here. The inmates who need support have to go back into a mixed environment,'' said Ward.
"There's a cost of not doing programs. Our length of stay and populations are increasing because we're not doing these programs,'' said Ward, who pointed to successes such as parenting skills and education programs, as well as bracelet programs which allow for work release and a recovery court which is about to have its first graduates.
He pointed out that the bracelet program costs the released inmate $3,000 a year compared to $30,000 for keeping an inmate in jail.
He said that the jail is currently holding 33 people awaiting trial, some for murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and assault and negligent homicide, and they have to be kept separate from those who are being held for lesser crimes while serving sentences.
Ward said that an analysis of the projections made by the Bennett Report, which was used as a basis for designing a community corrections program, appear to have been on the conservative side. The report said that if jail admissions rise to the 250 per 10,000 level for the county a 240-bed facility will be needed, rather than the projected 180-bed facility.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:17
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