'Public' represented by 1 person at forum regarding Laconia superintendent search

LACONIA — Rows of folding chairs filled the expanse of the multipurpose room at Laconia Middle School on Wednesday night, where Ken DeBenedictis of the New England Development Council, who is conducting the search for a superintendent of schools to succeed Terri Forsten, hosted a meeting to sound members of the public.

Only one person attended — Heather Drolet, the mother of a pupil at Elm Street Elementary School who is an elementary school teacher in Corcord.

Dr. Philip McCormack is serving as interim superintendent for the current school year. It is anticipated a permanent replacement for Forsten, now the superintendent in Concord, will begin work next summer.

DeBendictis explained to Drolet that after advertising the position across the country, the next step in the selection process was to host a series of focus groups with the school administrators, school board, teaching staff and general public. The groups were asked to respond to two questions, one about what background, characteristics and experience they preferred in a superintendent and another about what tasks and initiatives they expected the superintendent to address.

The views expressed by the focus groups, DeBendictis said, would be melded into a profile, which would be matched against the qualifications of the applicants to winnow the field of candidates. He anticipated that after an initial round of interviews, between three and five candidates would be recommended to the School Board for a final round of interviews. The applications close on November 11 and DeBendictis anticipated that an appointment would be made shortly after the Christmas holidays.

"You are the voice of the community," DeBendictis told Drolet, who stressed that she favored a "progressive" superintendent, with "a willingness try outside of the box strategies, including applying technology in the classroom and offering "real world experience", such as job shadowing. In particular, she preferred a superintendent with teaching experience, who would be "a good listener" and "be pro-active rather than reactive."

Drlet also said that the superintendent should have a strong presence in the community with the ability to form partnerships with civic organizations and private businesses. She underlined the importance of engaging parents in the education of their children and the lives of their schools. Referring to the gap between "haves and have-nots", Drolet said the superintendent should strive to ensure equitable access to all learning opportunities. Finally, maintaining sound relationships between the administrative staff and classroom teachers and encouraging professional development is the responsibility of the superintendent.

DeBendictis told Drolet that if 75 people had attended the focus group he would have expected to hear all of the points she made and commended her for speaking on behalf of the community.

Police looking at pair of untimely deaths in city

LACONIA — Police responded to two calls for untimely deaths Wednesday.

The police log indicates that the first call was at 7:06 a.m. at 14 Baldwin Street and the second call was at 11:24 a.m. at 20 Meadow Street.

Sgt. Gary Hubbard said that due to ongoing investigation of both incidents no other details are available.

New downtown park debuts just in time for Pumpkin Festival visitors

LACONIA — Near the junction of Pleasant Street and Main Street, where water once puddled and froze, it now bubbles from a circular fountain of polished granite that serves as the centerpiece of an oasis in the passageway leading from Vintage Row in the McIntryre Block to the heart of downtown.

"It's beautiful," said Jeanne Compton of New England Porch Rockers, whose shop overlooks the space. "And no more puddles."

City Manager Scott Myers said that in seeking to overcome the significant drainage problems in the area, the city took the opportunity to enhance the streetscape by providing an eye-catching space for plantings, respites and even performances. The beds, planted with chrysanthemums to bring color to autumn that will be replaced by perennials in the spring, are irrigated. Paved area between the plantings will accommodate tables, chairs and benches. Another space offers a venue to street musicians and performers.There is electricity at the site for lighting and sound along with a fixture to display a Christmas tree. The theme along the passage has been carried through to Main Street, where less obtrusive plantings have taken the place of the trees shrouding the storefronts.

Myers said that the final cost of the project has yet to be tallied, but anticipated the drainage and landscaping would total approximately $90,000.