New Hampshire Teacher of the Year leaving Laconia for better-paying job



LACONIA — New Hampshire Teacher of the Year Tate Aldrich plans to leave Laconia High School for a higher-paying job at another school, one of 17 teachers who are leaving the district or making plans to do so.

Teacher pay in Laconia, which operates under a restrictive property tax cap, lags behind that of many nearby school systems without a cap.

Aldrich, who is in his eighth year of teaching, earns $39,700 annually as chairman of the English department at Laconia High School, and will earn $51,500 at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro.

He declined to comment on his decision to teach at Kingswood next school year.

Laconia School District Superintendent Dr. Brendan Minnihan said he's sorry to see Aldrich leave.

"It is a loss whenever a district loses a high-quality teacher like Mr. Aldrich," he said.

Minnihan said 11 teachers are leaving the district for reasons other than retirement or the elimination of a position. They range in experience from two years to 11 years. An additional six teachers have notified the district they are actively looking for jobs elsewhere.

He said there are various reasons for turnover including relocation and career change.

"However, we also have some teachers leaving because of other reasons including compensation levels relative to other districts, uncertainty over school and district funding and job insecurity," Minnihan said.

School Board member Mike Persson said that in any line of work, employees are tempted to change jobs when offered significantly more money and greater stability.

"When you lose the New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, it speaks for itself," Persson said.

At Kingswood, Aldrich will be working under English Department Chairman Aaron Gauthier.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to bring in a teacher of Tate Aldrich's caliber," Gauthier said. "He's very impressive and very well spoken. He's humble and he cares about students.

"It's unfortunate, of course, to think that Laconia's loss is Kingswood's gain, but we are thankful for the opportunity to bring him in."

Gauthier said Aldrich responded to a posted job opening.

Minnihan said Laconia's salary level simply isn't competitive.

"I think the salary is low in comparison to other districts that are competing for our employees," he said. "Looking at some of the neighboring districts, he (Aldrich) and others could earn thousands of dollars more per year just by changing employers."

Laconia's teacher salaries lag behind nearby districts like Gilford, Plymouth, Inter-Lakes and Governor-Wentworth, which is the district that includes Kingswood.

Teachers are supposed to receive yearly step increases in salary as they gain experience. However, in Laconia, there have been freezes on step increases in four of the last 12 years.

A Laconia teacher with a bachelor's degree and 12 years of experience earns $3,447 less than their proper step and $9,419 less than a Gilford teacher with the same experience.

Laconia has also seen significant turnover in its administrative ranks. When Laconia High School Principal David Bartlett decided to quit to become assistant principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, he became at least the sixth school administrator to resign from the district since 2015.

Minnihan said administrative turnover is a concern. Like teachers, administrators are concerned about the district's finances.

"I do believe the same factors mentioned about teachers also hold true for our administrators," he said.

Laconia teacher salaries would increase under a five-year contract approved by teachers and the school board. The plan is subject to City Council approval.



Conservation fund plays critical role in Piper peak purchase

Conservation fund plays critical role in Piper peak purchase



GILFORD — Of all the sources of capital that went into bringing the peak of Piper Mountain under protective status, one of the most critical in getting the effort underway was the Gilford Conservation Fund.

“It was the foresight of the town of Gilford in getting 100 percent of the land use change tax into the conservation fund that allows us to have something like this to show for that,” said Everett McLaughlin during Saturday’s dedication ceremony.

The town contributed $115,000 toward the purchase of the 2,044-foot-high peak and 273 acres of surrounding land, without relying on direct taxation. The money came from the conversion of land that had been held in “current use” into market-value property.

Current use recognizes the influence of taxation on a landowner’s decision to preserve open space and allows owners to avoid paying on the full market value of the land by setting aside 10 or more acres to be taxed based on their value as open space. The goal is to encourage the preservation of farmland and other undeveloped tracts of land.

The land use change tax is a fee charged when land that has been in current use no longer qualifies or is sold. The 10 percent penalty assessed on the “full and true value” of the land serves as a disincentive to develop it.

By law, the money goes into a town’s general fund, but RSA 79-A:25, II allows a town to place a portion — up to 100 percent — of that amount into a nonlapsing conservation fund that can be used for the purchase of land, easements, and other conservation purposes.

Gilford has done just that and, on Saturday, McLaughlin encouraged other towns to follow suit. “Get that 100 percent of the land use change tax,” he advised.

The decision requires a town meeting vote, and may involve a lesser portion of the tax going into the fund. Unlike most municipal appropriations, money placed in a conservation fund is non-lapsing, allowing the amount to accumulate until it is needed.

40-year climb – Relentless effort to preserve Piper Mt.

GILFORD — Four decades of effort and tenacity culminated in a celebration on Saturday atop the summit of Piper Mountain among the parties that have ensured the peak's preservation for use by future generations.
The dedication ceremony included champagne, ice cream and Piper Mountain blueberries — and the presentation of a plaque to Everett McLaughlin, credited with making the purchase possible.
Don Berry, president of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust that now owns the 273-acre property, said the $220,000 purchase was the collaborative effort of several organizations, as well as businesses and individuals who contributed the funds needed. The Gilford Conservation Commission and Gilford Land Conservation Task Force also spearheaded the effort, with support from the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition and the Belknap County Sportsmen's Association.
"From the beginning, this was at the top of our wish list," Berry said of the summit's purchase, "but it seemed that nothing was ever going to happen. Then, last fall, Everett accomplished the impossible, and told us the owner wanted to sell."
That still left the task of raising the money for the purchase, and Berry said the Samuel P. Pardoe Foundation stepped in with a challenge grant to help bring the campaign to a successful conclusion.
With the purchase, the conservation trust now owns contiguous parcels totaling 691 acres, and the town of Gilford holds conservation easements on that property, ensuring the protection of the forest habitat and preservation of the popular hiking trails. As part of the project, the conservation trust also granted an easement to the town of 86 acres the organization already owned.
Doug Hill, who serves on the Gilford Conservation Commission and the Land Conservation Task Force, said the town's voters in March 1979 had agreed to purchase the summit, but a title search showed that the seller they thought owned the property was not the owner, after all. The town was able to go ahead with the purchase of what has become known as the Whiteface-Powell tract, but, "The Piper Mountain tract somewhat eluded us."
After several years of litigation between the parties claiming ownership of the summit, Ernie Gould emerged as the owner and, in 2011, the conservation commission and land trust tried in vain to reach an agreement to purchase the property from Gould.
"We moved on to other things," Hill said, "but it left us with a doughnut hole." While land around the summit was now protected, the top remained in private ownership.
"We gave up," Hill said, "except Everett McLaughlin didn't give up. He was worse than the IRS: He tracked Ernie Gould down, kept after him on his cell phone, and finally showed up with this signed document. ... Nobody, not even Ernie Gould, can withstand an Everett attack."
McLaughlin deflected the accolades, thanking Gould and saying, without him, they would not have the property.
The purchase-and-sales agreement had been signed Aug. 17, 2016, but its terms included that the closing would have to occur no later than January 2017.
"When Everett came into the meeting," recalled Russ Wilkins of the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, "he said it's all arranged; all you have to do is raise umpteen thousands of dollars to purchase it."
A massive fundraising effort followed, with $115,000 in seed money from the town's conservation fund. The Pardoe challenge grant helped to push the campaign over the top, Wilkins said, and he cited Grappone Ford of Concord and Piche's of Gilford as among the many businesses that stepped forward to support the purchase.
"I always say that conservation is good business," Wilkins commented. "This is what we do around here."
Conservation also is what McLaughlin does. Since he started a second career as a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and moved to Gilford in 1984, he has repeatedly volunteered to protect the land. In dedicating the 2013 Gilford Town Report to him, the selectmen cited his protection of the 236-acre Weeks Farm in 2004, and the 332-acre Gage parcel on the east slope of Piper Mountain in 2013, as well as a number of smaller purchases in between.
McLaughlin joined the Gilford Conservation Commission and Land Conservation Task Force in 2006, and was named N.H. Audubon Society Volunteer of the Year in 2010. In 2011, he and his wife, Sandy, were grand marshals of the Gilford Old Home Day parade.
"This whole process wasn't the easiest thing in the world," McLaughlin said, "and we wouldn't be here without all of you."
Speakers also acknowledged the contributions of the late Dave Roberts, the Belknap County Sportsmen's Association's representative on the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition. Even during his illness, Roberts provided valuable maps and information, sharing his personal knowledge of the area. Piper Mountain's 2,044-foot-high peak was at the top of his list of priorities, as well, and he shared information about the effort with the sportsmen's club and encouraged its members to help with trail markers.


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Doug Hill and Don Berry look on as Everett McLaughlin accepts a plaque for his role in pursuing the conservation of the summit of Piper Mountain. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun)