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GHS looking at ending practice of adding value to grades earned in tougher classes

GILFORD — The School Board got its first look at what could be a new approach to weighted-grading, class rankings and differentiated diplomas at its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Presented by Superintendent Kent Hemingway and High School Principal Peter Sawyer, the focus was if and how the School District would change the way it reports student data.

Specifically, the district could move away from a so-called weighted grade — a process by which a student can earn additional points on his or her grade point average (GPA) by taking honors or Advanced Placement (AP) level classes.

In Sawyer's opinion and as a result of his research, "there is no benefit (or detriment) to a student applying for a college coming from a high school that weights or (does not weight) grades."

Largely, he said, this is because colleges typically have their own standards for determining admissions and GPAs are not the only standard used, adding standardized test scores (SAT, ACT) and community service are also some of the things that factor into college acceptance. Furthermore, he said, every school district has different ways of "weighting" the value of different classes so there is no common standard.

Sawyer also pointed out that students should be enrolling in courses that have the appropriate level of rigor and not necessarily taking a class because it can possibly lead to a higher grade point average. He cited one instance where a class valedictorian had a GPA of 4.6 and was headed into his senior year with four advanced placement (AP) classes and a study hall. The student didn't want the study hall and really wanted to take chorus — a class without any weight possibility. However, if he took the class and earned an A (4.0) in it, his overall GPA would have gone down as a result.

"We would much rather have a student enroll in a course than a study hall in his or her senior year," Sawyer wrote in his proposal.

School Board Vice Chair Kurt Webber said he was leery and was especially concerned that class rankings would be affected. A West Point graduate and a current member of that military academy's admission team, Webber noted that class rank is very important for admission to military academies and top-tier schools such as Harvard or Princeton.

Webber also noted that class rank can effect financial aid packages for students and he wouldn't want to see any financial harm come to any family in terms of college expenses.

"I don't want to impact the students who want to get into the top schools," Webber continued, saying that finishing in the top 20 percent of a class increases a student's chance of getting into a top 20 college.

Sawyer said he did a study of the current graduating class and said removing the weighted grades had minimal effect on who finished in the top 10. He said the top seven didn't change and the two people who are eighth and seventh switched positions. He assured the board he didn't want to do anything that would effect the top 10 students.

"How do we know this class isn't an anomaly?" asked Webber.

Sawyer said he didn't know and said he would research the last six or seven classes to make sure his results were accurate for previous classes as well.

Hemingway said yesterday that school districts in the Lakes Region are dissimilar when it comes to weighted grades. While Laconia, Inter-Lakes, and Winnisquam Regional weight grades, Belmont and Plymouth do not. In Newfound, AP classes are weighted at 1.05 percent — much less than the other weighted districts.

He also added that after listening to the initial input from the school board, he was going to recommend that class rankings remain as they are.

Hemingway and Sawyer said they would continue to do more research about grade-weighting and report back to the School Board in January or February. Ideally, they said if there were to be changes, the earliest they could take place would be for the incoming freshman class of 2019.

Hemingway is recommending the Gilford School District add a "diploma with distinction" that would require 26 class credits to earn — a Gilford High School diploma now requires 23.5, would require a minimum GPA of 3.5 and there would be a community service component for one-half of a credit that would require a minimum of 24 hours. In addition, a diploma with distinction would require a student earn 13.5 or more credits from honors or AP classes.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 01:35

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Laconia police investigating pair of burglaries

LACONIA — City police are investigating two separate burglaries that occurred last week.

Lt. Rich Simmons said on November 25 a homeowner on Meredith Center Road returned home at 6:15 p.m. to find a screen on one of his windows cut and some items including jewelry missing from his home.

A Pine Street Extension break-in was reported to police at 5:53 p.m. on November 27 and the homeowner reported there was no apparent forced entry and some cash was taken.

Simmons said police do not think the two burglaries are related however anyone with any information about either of them is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 527-1717.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 02:32

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Default budget for Gilford Schools comes in $273K less than plan for 2014-2015

GILFORD — The School Board voted unanimously last night to accept a 2014-2015 default budget of $24.4-million, which is about $273,000 less than the requested budget of $24.7-million that was adopted last month.

The default budget represents the current fiscal year's budget less one-time appropriations and, should the proposed budget fail at the annual town meeting ballot vote in March of 2014, the default budget is automatically adopted.

Last month, Superintendent Kent Hemingway said some of the keys to the recommended budget include a reduction in the health insurance costs of $115,000 because of a premium holiday from the Local Government Center and a $33,000 reduction in the district's worker's compensation insurance cost. He also said the first year of the teachers' collective bargaining agreement that will also be voted on at Town Meeting includes a savings of $156,000 in health insurance.

Hemingway said there are two teacher position reductions — one at the middle school and one at the elementary school — to reflect declining enrollments.

The proposed budget included a three-percent raise for support staff and two major projects — a $200,000 telephone system and $105,000 for auditorium seating.

The School Board will present the proposed 2014-2015 school year budget to the Budget Committee at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The School District Deliberative session was set for February 4, 2014.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 02:29

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Veteran Christmas Village trio wondering who will take their place

LACONIA — "There's somebody out there who wants to do it," said Ernie Bolduc, who with his brother Armand and their friend Bob Hamel have been the mainstays of Christmas Village since the annual festival began 38 years ago. "But, finding them, I just don't know." Ernie is 80, Armand is 74 and Hamel, the baby of the bunch is 62.

"We're not getting any younger," Armand said.

In 1975, Dick Tappley, director of Parks and Recreation, inspired by the example set by his father in Bristol, overcame resistance from the City Council to inaugurate the Christmas Village. Ernie said that the village started small, but grew quickly to fill the Community Center. Black plastic covered the walls while snowflakes, strung from strands of fishing line, fell from the girders, offering the illusion of a snowy, moonlit Christmas Eve. The village began as five eight-foot by eight-foot buildings, including a castle, barn, toy shop, post office and train deport. Local merchants, along with the Police and Fire Departments, operated stalls. A creche featured a burro and sheep from the Bolduc farm, along with a live Christ child, whose conception, Ernie quipped, was timed to suit the Christmas season.

Gradually the merchants disappeared and fire regulations stiffened, which changed the shape and face of the village without diminishing its charm to young and old. "It's for all ages, not just kids," said Ernie, who estimates that between 4,500 and 5,000 people pass through the village during its four day run each year.

While for the Bolducs and Hamel the village has been a labor of love, its construction and operation also represent a significant investment of time and money. Ernie estimated that 6,000 man hours are required to set it up and take it down. They credited Fred McVey, who this year enlisted hockey players from Laconia and Gilford to haul the sets from storage, with assisting with the assembly as well as arranging the train displays.

What Armand called "the holding area," the ground floor where children gather to await their turn through the village upstairs, was painted and decorated by Sharon Cavanaugh. She also has provided face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" to entertain the children under the watchful eyes of some of the 60 or 70 elves working in the village under the supervision of Kathy McClellan. In the village itself Dave and Sylvia Detscher host "Santa's Sidewalk Cafe," featuring gallons of pink lemonade and 600 dozen cookies, brewed and baked at the direction of Patty Desrosiers.

"It's not just the construction and the set up," said Ernie. "It's the operation. It wouldn't work without these volunteers."

"It costs a good $8,000 a year," Hamel said. "$5,000 for toys alone." Ernie said that the village has enjoyed the generosity of a number of anonymous donors as well as contributions from the WLNH Children's Auction. Many of the decorations have been donated or salvaged over the years.

"We've sold Christmas trees, ornaments, candy bars and all kinds of stuff and we've reached into our own pockets more than once," noted Hamel. "And we still do," Ernie added. "It's a lot of work," he continued. "We'll have our first meeting in January and there isn't a week during the year I won't do something for Christmas Village."

"It's a lot work," Hamel agreed. "But, it's all worth when you see those kids come through the curtain and their faces light up. It brings tears to your eyes." He said that every child leaves laden with an ornament, turned from wood that Ernie rescued from the Allen-Rogers factory, a gift, personal letter from Santa, bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia N.H. 03246-1/2 . "The only thing they pay for is a color photograph with Santa for $3," he said.

"We're concerned," said Erniue. "There are no successors in the wings. The volunteers and donors are aging and dwindling. My wife told me 'you'll do it as long as you're alive,'" he continued. "And it doesn't enter my mind not to do it. But, I'm getting concerned."

The Christmas Village will be open to the public Thursday, December 5 and Friday December 6 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday December 8 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizen on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 05:08

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