Brendan Minnihan excited about being chosen as new superintendent (407)

LACONIA – Newly named Laconia schools Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said he thinks one of his biggest challenges when he comes to Laconia in July will be to continually provide support to the transient student population.

He said Monday that he is excited and challenged by working in a district where the student body is facing increasing economic challenges and is proud to be working for one where the administration and School Board are so dedicated to them.

"Laconia has so many good programs and good things already in place," said Minnihan.

Minnihan was chosen in a meeting held early Saturday morning and was one of two candidates who made it through the long application process. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics from Carnegie Mellon University, a master's from Penn State and his doctorate from Indiana University. He is currently the superintendent in the Contoocook Valley Regional School District.

Minnihan said he is very impressed with the student body. During one of his tours of the Laconia High School, the students he spoke with were "very articulate and passionate."

Minnihan was also impressed with Laconia's facilities and appreciates the way the district has been able to continue to make improvements at the older schools like the high school despite the loss of the state building aid program.

Another positive he sees in Laconia is the excellence of the past and current administration and the dedication of the School Board to all of the people of Laconia. He said he has spoken with a number of people who have worked in the district and all of them had good things to say.

When asked about the recent Smarter Balanced tests and the School Board's desire to see considerable improvement in the lower grades, he said the district has to do what it can to provide technology knowledge to its youngest students.

"We need them to be technologically rich and get lots of practice," he said. "It's a shame we did poorly – not because we didn't know the material, but because we were unfamiliar with the mechanics of the test-taking," he said.

For at least his first year in Laconia, Minnihan said he would continue to live in a Con-Val Regional School District community because his daughter will be a senior there next year.

"We promised her [she could graduate with her class] when I applied for this appointment, but after that we'll just have to see," he said.

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Unequal raises for Gilford town, school employees raise hackles for some

GILFORD — Selectmen and the Budget Committee are at odds over proposed 2016 raises to nonunion staff, both for the town and School District. Traditionally, nonunion staff members have received raises equal to those called for in negotiated union contracts, but they may end up with less this year.

According to Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Leandro, the town's union employees are entitled by contract to a 2.5 percent annual raise. He said the Selectboard's budget included the same 2.5 percent for non-union staff but the Budget Committee voted to reduce the nonunion staff raise to 1.5 percent, lowering the total proposed town budget by $35,686.

"Our goal was to look at every line and reduce the budget as much as possible, Leandro said Thursday.

When brought to the attention of selectmen Wednesday night by Town Administrator Scott Dunn, Leandro was told by the selectman's representative to the Budget Committee, Richard "Rags" Grenier, that it was about the bottom line. He noted that only he and the School Board representative on the committee, Karen Thurston, voted against reducing the amount of the nonunion raises.

"(The Budget Committee members) wanted 1.5 percent maximum," said Grenier.

Leandro said that with few exceptions — primarily department heads — most of the Gilford town employees are unionized. He added that this is the first year in a long time that Social Security is not giving cost-of-living increases and that the economy has not sufficiently recovered to give out 2.5 percent raises except where union contracts require them to do so.

Thursday night the Budget Committee made the same reductions for nonunion staff employed by the School District. According to Superintendent Kent Hemingway, the School Board approved 3 percent raises for all nonunion staff. He said that only the teachers are members of the teachers' union and their contract calls for 1 percent plus a seniority step in pay level, which averages to a total about 3 percent.

Leandro said that, aside from teachers, most of the people at the School District are not organized and Hemingway said the reduction to 1.5 percent raises for nonunion staff means a reduction in the bottom line of the proposed School District budget of $53,473.

Leandro said one of his primary personal concerns is that administrators in the School District are getting 3 percent raises, which was the same as the board's request for non-union employees.

"It's not that they are bad administrators — they're not," he said. "It's just that, for this area, they are at the very top of the average pay scales, according to information I got from the New Hampshire Municipal Association."

"Our goal is to treat everybody similarly and give them all a 1.5 percent raise," he said, adding it's obvious that the Budget Committee can't do anything about existing labor contracts.

Hemingway said Friday that at Thursday's Budget Committee meeting, lowering raises for administrators and increasing raises for the support staff was discussed but not acted on.


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Gilford Concert Choir to sing with Kenny Rogers Sunday at the Capitor Center for the Arts

GILFORD — When Kenny Rogers makes his final farewell Christmas tour at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord on Sunday, 31 members of the Gilford Concert Choir will join him for three or four songs.

Band and chorus director Denise Sanborn said this concert is one of her more memorable moments as a teacher.

"I grew up in Vermont in a musical family," she said. "There were eight of us kids and my dad played the mandolin. Kenny Rogers was kind of a part of our musical family."

She said the road to the Capital Center concert came through the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook. The concert choir sang with the rock band Foreigner last summer after producing a video as part of a contest as to who would provide some backup singing.

She said Rogers usually has a chorus of singers from Massachusetts for his New England tours, but for his final Christmas tour, he reached out to the individual states where he would be performing. She said Rogers' people contacted R.J. Harding, the owner of Meadowbrook and he suggested the Gilford Concert Choir.

Sanborn said the choir was sent a set of songs they were to rehearse in September and practiced until December. She said in the past two weeks they've had a few scheduled rehearsals and a couple of impromptu ones.

She said all of the choir members will meet Sunday and travel to Concord in the afternoon where they will rehearse with Rogers during the afternoon for the 7:30 p.m. show.

Sanborn said the students are really excited because while many of them are too young to be really familiar with Rogers' entire body of work, she said all of them know him from a GEICO commercial featuring Rogers sitting at a poker table and singing "The Gambler" – one of his more famous songs – as his exasperated friends give him the evil eye.

The Rogers tour will be making a donation to the Gilford Concert Choir for their Sunday efforts.

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