More protest in Alton - School Board finally chooses chairman but parents push back


ALTON — Over 60 people crowded into the Alton Central School library late Monday afternoon to protest a decision by a majority of the Alton School Board to call an emergency meeting to elect a chairman without consulting with two new members of the board.
Members Steve Miller, Sandy Wyatt and Terri Noyes voted unanimously to name Miller as chairman even though the other two members of the board, Peter Leavitt and Michael Ball, were unable to attend Monday's meeting.
Miller, who was the outgoing chairman, defended the board's decision to act without input from the new members by saying that the board needed a chairman in order to hire staff in a critical shortage area as well as to deal with a pressing personnel issue.
He also said that without a chairman the board has not had anyone who was able to speak for the board in public or as official spokesman to the press since March.
"There are documents to be signed and no committees have been formed," said Miller.
The chairmanship has been vacant since earlier this month when the board deadlocked 2-2 between Miller and Leavitt as chairman at a meeting at which Superintendent Maureen Ward, who is authorized to conduct the election then surrender the chair to the newly elected chairperson, abruptly recessed.
But the argument didn't resonate with those present who were not allowed to provide any public input but nevertheless injected comments throughout the meeting.
Jeffrey Clay, a member of the public who has been critical of Alton town officials, said he believes a meeting at which the three board members decided to call an emergency meeting for this week was conducted in violation of the state Right-to-Know Law.
He urged Miller to resign "for the good of the town," and as the meeting wound up and Miller started to leave said that there was a reason Miller had not been successful in a race for selectmen and that given what has happened on the school board in recent weeks he "couldn't be elected as dogcatcher."
Controversy pitting parents and teachers on the one hand against the school board and superintendent on the other has escalated since February when more than 250 petitioners expressed no confidence in the superintendent and her administration and presented seven other demands. The board has yet to respond to the petition.
Kim Mochrie, a parent, was one of a group of a half dozen people who carried signs outside the school prior to the meeting. She criticized the board for not taking seriously the concerns expressed by the parents over changes at Alton Central School which she said have never been fully explained to the public.
Another parent, Anne Ransom, said that the decision by the three board members to elect a chairman without the participation of the other two board members "is a violation of the spirit of school board ethics.:
She noted that 60 percent of those who voted in this year's school board election supported Leavitt and Ball, which shows a lack of support for the board's policies in recent years.
"People know they have been holding meetings outside of the public view. The board tries to minimize the public concerns which are expressed, but when over 240 people sign a petition showing a vote of no confidence in the administration it shows that the entire community is concerned."
Scott Bickford, vice president of the Alton Teachers Association and a teacher at Alton Central School, said "The school board has not properly responded to many parent concerns, including a letter of no confidence that parents presented to the board at a recent meeting. The board has also ignored the results of a culture and climate survey completed by 38 of 44 teachers. Now the board is not allowing all of its elected members to be a complete part of their process. People want a fair school board that is going to listen to its concerned and frightened parents,community members and teachers. People want a board that will deal with the issues, and a board that will take appropriate, positive action for our students."

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More than 60 people showed up at an Alton School Board meeting Monday afternoon to protest the board’s action in calling an emergency meeting to elect a chairman. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Chamber of Commerce to present pumpkin festival


LACONIA — The Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce announced last Friday that it will be the official organizer of the 26th Annual New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival to be held downtown on Saturday, Oct. 22.

The city hosted the festival for the first time last year, after Keene, where the festival was held for its first two dozen years, chose to put it up for adoption after rioting among students and visitors at Keene State College marred the event. Let It Shine!, which had presented the festival for a number of years in Keene, presented it in Laconia last fall in partnership with the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

This year Let It Shine! has passed the torch. Karmen Gifford, executive director of the chamber, said, "We learned a lot, as we planned last year's event in less than six months time. " In particular, she said that an entirely new footprint for the festival was designed to to fit the streetscape of the city.

Gifford said that planning for the next festival began "when the jack-o-lanterns went dark." A number of businesses have already made investments and offered sponsorships, including AutoServ, Bank of New Hampshire, T Bones & Cactus Jack's restaurants, Boston Beer & Amoskeag Distributors, Lakes Region Tent & Event, Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, Laconia Harley-Davidson, Vista Foods, Associated Grocers of New England, Children's Dentistry and Kennell Orthodontics.

Gifford said that, along with the carving and lighting of pumpkins, the 2016 festival will again include a grand parade, pumpkin bowling and activities for children on PumpCANALLY as well as "Not So Ordinary" pumpkin patch by Prescott Farm and "Mayhem at the Mill." There will also be art and craft exhibits, food and drink, and live entertainment.

Wicwas Grange celebrates revival as community gathering place for Meredith Center (756 w/cuts)

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A flag once flown over the State House in Concord was raised at Wicwas Grange Saturday at its open house. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)



MEREDITH — The Lake Wicwas Grange celebrated National Grange Month with an open house Saturday afternoon, at which a new American flag which has flown over the New Hampshire State House and was presented to the Grange by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester. It was raised in an opening ceremony.
The organization also presented the Granger of the Year and the Citizen of the Year awards. Jeanne Lowrey, a life-long resident of Meredith Center who has been a member of the Grange for six years, was named Granger of the Year for her role in making sure that the Grange hall is always in tip-top condition and that the flowers on the grounds are always taken care of.
Citizen of the Year award was presented to Adam Hirshan, publisher of The Laconia Daily Sun, who, according to Steve Durand, Grange master and co-chair of Meredith's 250th Committee, donated $25,000 in in-kind services to the committee which will help it publish a history of Meredith, including the Grange, for its 2018 celebration.
"He went above and beyond to help us," said Durand, who said that the history of the town is being prepared in cooperation with the Meredith Historical Society and will sell for around $39 when it is published.
Ed Engler, founder and former publisher of the Daily Sun, accepted the award on behalf of Hirshan, who as out of town on a family vacation over the weekend and unable to attend the ceremony.
There were displays by Meredith Center Maple, DD Forge, Gouin Farmstand and the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of New Hampshire. Nicholas Durand, owner of DD Forge, demonstrated his blacksmithing skills throughout the day and later in the evening served as DJ at a sock hop at the Grange.
Also on display was a history of the national Grange, which was established in 1867 as a fraternal organization fostering mutual cooperation to further the economic fortunes and civic interests of rural, farming communities. Known as the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, its membership topped 850,000 within a decade and, by the turn of the century, the movement had spawned numerous consumer cooperatives as well as contributed to the regulation of railroads and grain elevators and the introduction of the cooperative extension service, farm credit system and rural free mail delivery.
Also featured in a display was the Grange dictionary project, which distributes more than 300 dictionaries each year to third-grade pupils at nine public and three private schools in the Lakes Region.
The Wicwas Lake Grange was established in 1901. The Grange Hall in Meredith Center was built in 1925 and, after burning to the ground, was rebuilt a year later. Durand said that in New Hampshire Granges were instrumental in bringing power and police to rural towns with the formation of both New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and the New Hampshire State Police.
The local Grange was revived by residents of the Meredith Center area starting in 2010 with a membership drive which led to repairs and renovations to the historic building and has made the Wicwas Grange the largest in the state with nearly 100 members.
Linda Phelps, who first joined the Grange as a 14-year-old in 1967, recalled that her aunt Irene Greenleaf was master of the Wicwas Grange, who worked hard over the years to help keep the organization running.
She said she remembers many weddings, anniversaries and reunions as well as baby showers being held at the Grange hall and was among those who went around the neighborhood leaving letters of invitation to the 2010 meeting which led to the revival of the local Grange.
She is also the master of the Baker River Grange in Rumney, which she said is currently conducting a membership drive with the hope that it can revive the organization in that community.
Winners of the dance-off competition held Saturday night were Herb and Karen Vadney, who won a gift certificate to Hart's Turkey Farm; Jack and Vicki Carty, who won a prize from Louis' Pizza; and Paul Fielders and Rosemary Mellon, who won a prize from the Waterfall Cafe.

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Nicholas Durand displayed his blacksmithing skills at an open house celebrating National Grange Month which was held at Saturday at the Wicwas Lake Grange in Meredith Center. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Jeanne Lowrey was honored as Grange Member of the Year at an open house held at the Lake Wicwas Grange Saturday. She was presented with the award and flowers by Steve Durand, Grange master. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)