M'borough facing up to 'new reality' of much lower student enrollment

MOULTONBOROUGH — Both the School Board and the Advisory Budget Committee have expressed growing concern about the declining enrollment in the local school district, where the number of students has dwindled since 2005 from 710 to 521, a drop of 27-percent, and is projected to shrink by another 100 during the next five years.

When the School Board met earlier this month the declining numbers were the touchstone of the strategic planning process to begin in March. School Superintendent Susan Noyes said yesterday that numbers have been falling for "quite a while" and explained that so far the administration and school board have chosen to address the implications year-by-year. For example, some elective courses at the Academy (high school) are now offered every other year in order to ensure optimal class sizes. A course incorporating "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been dropped from the curriculum. And the 2015-2016 budget includes a decrease of $277,855 in salary and associated costs representing a reduction in staff in response to falling enrollment.

This year, Noyes said, the board decided to prepare a strategic plan to address what she has called the '''new normal". She stressed that the school is a significant element of the community and the purpose of the planning process is to develop creative options for ensuring a sound educational program in light of the anticipated smaller enrollment.

The process will proceed in two stages, Noyes explained. First, data and projections will be compiled and most important the administration and the board will reach out to all sections of the community — parents, residents, businesses and other interests — for their perspectives and suggestions. After ordering the priorities, she said, "we'll see how to make things happen."

Meanwhile, the Advisory Budget Committee, in its report on the School District budget, expressed its concern that "the declining enrollment has now reached a 'tipping' point." The committee voiced its support for the strategic planning process. "it is critical that the community as a whole come together to support the process of addressing strategies that will allow Moultonborough to continue to provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in a cost effective and challenging environment," the committee wrote.

While the committee endorsed the steps taken by the school board, it voiced disappointment that the "STEM" component was stripped from the curriculum. Likewise, the committee noted that the Region 9 Lakes Region Technology Center in Wolfeboro does not draw more students from Moultonborough and lamented a reduction in the appropriation for vocational education while applauding the effort at Moultonborough Academy to encourage more students to enroll in vocational programs.

In conclusion, the committee repeated that "the continued enrollment decline and changing demographics will in the near term have a serious impact on Moultonborough's ability to continue (under its present mode of operation) to provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in a cost effective and challenging environment." Like the School Board, the Advisory Budget Committee considers "this a town-wide issue" and called "long term contingency plans" to address it.

Writing on Moultonborough Speaks, Selectman Paul Punturieri stressed that the strategic plan must account for the cost of schooling. "The 'truth' as you have read here, continues to be that we are paying $14M plus to educate 500 or so students," he noted. "We all pay for this educational experience and the large majority of that money is paid with tax dollars of those that can't vote on how it is spent nor utilize the school system.," he continued. "Much of the rest is paid by folks that are average middle class or fixed income retirees who really are the majority of the full time residents of our town."
Punturieri applauded the school for undertaking a strategic planning process, but remarked "while we can certainly afford to pay more than most, that should not be part of the equation."


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Laconia Police force to be armed with new guns paid for with forfeiture money

LACONIA — Police Captain Bill Clary reviewed the rules surrounding using the federal government' program for money and items recovered during drug arrests for the Board of Commissioners Thursday afternoon.

Clary explained that it took a little bit longer to use the federal program as opposed to the state forfeiture program but said in the long run the 65 percent kickback to Laconia drug-fighting program is worth the wait.

"People have to understand that this isn't typically a lot of money," Clary said. He said there is some cash, an automobile that the federal government will sell and give them 65 percent, and some jewelry. Federal regulations surrounding this program require it be spent on drug enforcement.

Clary said this year he has combined money from two years of forfeitures, some money from the equipment line, and trade-in values to update all of the handguns being used by the department.

He said the new guns will be Generation 4 Glocks. Most of the department's guns are Generation 2 or 3 Glocks. He said all of the holsters will be replaced by a two-step holster as opposed to the current one-step holster.

The difference means it takes an extra step to remove a handgun from the holster.

Clary said all of the holsters have been ordered and he expects the guns to arrive some time in March.

Every officer will undergo extensive training, he said, especially for using the new holsters. He said all of the training will be done this spring.

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Woman said to have lured Gilmanton man out of his house so she could come in behind him & help herself

GILMANTON — A Belmont woman allegedly lied about being left by herself in Barnstead so she could lure a man out of his house in this town so she could burglarize it.

Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said on February 17, Caitlin Fillion, 25, of 10 Fuller Street called a friend who lives at 18 Elm Street to say she was at the Barnstead Country Store getting pizza but her ride had dumped her.

She asked the alleged victim to drive over and pick her up.

When the alleged victim got there, he realized the store was closed (and has been for a while) and that she wasn't around.

When the victim returned home, he found Fillion in his apartment loading a bag with his things.

When he tried to stop her, she told him not to because the guy she was with and who was parked across the street is really dangerous and will hurt her.

He told police Fillion ran to the car with his things and fled.

Fillion was arrested overnight and appeared yesterday in circuit court and faces one count of felony burglary. She is being held on $1,000 cash only-bail. Judge Jim Carroll also forbade her to go to Gilmanton, ordered her to live at 10 Fuller Street if she posts bail, and to stay out of contact with her alleged victim.

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Driver involved in fatal Parade Road crash indicted for manslaughter & negligent homicide

LACONIA — A Belknap County Grand Jury had indicted a Kingston man for one count of manslaughter, three counts of Class A felony negligent homicide and one count cocaine possession.

Ryan Mears, 26, formerly of Windsong Drive had allegedly been drinking, had allegedly used cocaine and was allegedly driving at an excessive speeds on Nov. 2 on Parade Road when he lost control of his car and slammed into some trees just before 2 a.m.

Tiffnay Nieves of Laconia was killed instantly by what the medical examiner said was blunt-force trauma. She was a passenger in the back seat and the examiner said she died of a torn aorta, a lacerated heart and lung and a fractured skull. She was found laying in the back seat.

At Mear's probable cause hearing on November 19, the preliminary investigating officer said a second passenger, Jeremy King, had been partially ejected from the car and was hanging by his feet with his head toward the ground.

She described the scene as one of the worst she had ever seen.

She found an open bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey under Nieves's body and a cracked bottle of Crown Royal whiskey in the front seat. She said the seal on the Jack Daniels bottle had been broken.

The officer testified that she first saw Mears from her vantage point on the passenger side of the car and observed he was pinned between the steering wheel and the front seat. She said he told her at the scene that he was driving the car.

Laconia Police generated three initial search warrants for blood samples from Mears.  Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division ordered the results of Mears' medical records and the blood draws to be sealed.

The officer re-created Mears evening up until the crash and testified at the probable cause hearing that he told her he was at Shooter's tavern in Belmont and had one shot of Jack Daniels and one beer. He told her he had used cocaine before going into the bar.

In a subsequent conversation she had with him, he told her he drank three shots of Jack Daniels and two beers. She said he signed a consent form to have his blood taken but his signature was barely legible, although he had no injuries to his hand, wrist or arm.

The officer later interviewed other people who were with Mears that evening and was told that the three of them, Mears, King, and Nieves, each had one shot and one beer at the Baja Beach Club in Laconia and left there is separate cars. They went to Funky Monkey, also in Laconia, and had "last call" in their car at 1:30 a.m. because there had been some issues inside concerning King.

Guldbransen said she charged him with one count of manslaughter because his actions were reckless and because he was aware or should have been aware of the possible consequences. If convicted of manslaughter, Mears could spend up to 30 years in jail.

She has also charged him with with three counts of A felony negligent homicide — one for driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol; one for driving a car about reasonable and prudent speeds and failing to maintain proper land control while under the influence of alcohol and drugs; and one for driving under the influence of alcohol in that his blood alcohol content was about .08.

If he is convicted of the Class A Felony of negligent homicide, Mears could serve up to 15 years in prison.

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