Newfound board posts 'recommended reading' prior to Monday's meeting on future of middle school

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board has posted "recommended reading" on the school website in preparation for Monday night's planning and dialogue meeting that will focus on the possible closing of Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The school board is considering the advantages and disadvantages of closing the school, reacting to financial pressures the district is facing with declining enrollments and a loss of state aid, as well as complaints about the quality of education at the middle school. Many residents have been advocating a return to a junior-senior high school model and retaining the elementary grades at the outlying schools.
Danbury recently considered withdrawing from the seven-town school district and the towns of Bridgewater and Hebron currently are looking at withdrawal, in part because of the concerns about the middle school.
At the Sept. 8 school board meeting, a number of teachers and residents voiced support for the current educational structure and defended the middle school, questioning why the board would even consider closing it. Others faulted the school board for failing to present any information to justify the discussion and the board said it would put together a presentation for the Sept. 22 meeting.
Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said a series of documents on the website, under the heading "Recommended Reading for the K-6 & NMMS Closure Discussion", provides information on cost per pupil, student-teacher ratios, teacher retention, teachers' salaries, and 10 years of enrollment history.
Also among the issues the school board is looking at are the amount of time students spend on buses and the advantages of keeping the current configuration that has kindergarten through Grade 5 in the individual towns, grades 6-8 in the middle school, and grades 9-12 at the high school.
Without a change, there is a possibility that Bridgewater and Hebron would leave the district to operate their own K-8 school in the building the two towns built and currently lease to the school district for $1 per year. It would tuition its high school students to either Plymouth, which offers a more attractive per pupil cost, or to Newfound Regional High School.
Groton might decide to follow their lead, rather than send its elementary students all the way to Bristol, Danbury, or New Hampton. Most of Groton's elementary students now attend the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School.
Another factor in the discussion is the town of Hill's interest in ending its enrollment agreement with Franklin and sending students to either Newfound or Merrimack Valley. If they were to come to Newfound, it would partially compensate for the loss in the local student population and bring an infusion of tuition revenue to the district.
Monday's meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the high school.

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Man sentenced to prison for variety of crimes in Laconia

LACONIA — A man who pleaded guilty to drug possession, burglary, and theft of a firearm in July also pleaded guilty this week to one count of criminal threatening with a deadly weapon.

Joseph Coughlin, 34, formerly of Spring Street was sentenced to three to six years, all suspended, in the N.H. State Prison for threatening a person on May 4 of 2013 with a knife by saying "I'm going to cut you up."

Coughlin is already in prison, having pleaded guilty in July of 2014 to possession of clonazepam on July 9, 2013 and was sentenced by Belknap County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler to one to two years in the New Hampshire State Prison.

At the same time, he also pleaded guilty to one count of burglary for breaking into a home on Harvard Street and stealing a handgun. For the burglary he was sentenced to one to three years, suspended, and for the theft by unauthorized taking ( a hand gun) he was sentenced to three to six years, all suspended.

Coughlin was arrested on July 9 after three Laconia Police officers who were on their way to a special detail at a rock concert saw some suspicious activity near the Laconia Public Library and stopped to investigate.

Coughlin ran, was chased down by a Laconia police captain who was threatened by Coughlin with a knife. As part of a plea agreement, those charges were dropped as were possession of marijuana charges and two other counts of theft by unauthorized taking, firearms.

Should Coughlin re-offend after his release from prison, he faces an additional nine year of incarceration at a minimum.

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Barbara Luther seeking school board appointment

LACONIA — Retiring Belknap County Registrar of Deeds Barbara Luther is the first person to officially put her name into consideration for the Ward 2 seat on the School Board left vacant with the resignation of Beth Arsenault.

Luther said that with her impending retirement from the registry, she thinks that serving on the School Board will "be a good way for her to continue to give back to the community."

Luther has lived in Laconia for 42 years and all three of her children attended Laconia schools. She has two grandchildren enrolled in the school district — one at Pleasant Street School and one who is a freshman at Laconia High School.

Originally from Waltham, Mass, Luther graduated from Waltham High School.

She began her professional career as an administrator at a law office and worked at Martin, Lord, and Osman.

For the past 30 years she has been with the Belknap County Registrar of Deeds.

Luther said she has no particular agenda when it comes to serving on the School Board but said she is very interested and supportive of the Huot Technical Center.

"My son attended Huot Technical Center and is now a master electrician," she said.

She also said she would like to learn more about so-called block scheduling at the high school.

If chosen, she said serving on the School Board would be a new challenge for her.

"It appears to me that the School District does the best possible with the amount of money they are given," she said.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said any additional candidates from Ward 2 have until September 23 (Tuesday) to express an interest in the position.

All candidates will be first interviewed by the Budget and Personnel Committee and then by the full School Board with some recommendations from the Budget and Personnel Committee. All of the interview sessions will be conducted in public and noticed as are regular meetings.

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Sachems earn 58-19 homecoming win over Man. West

LACONIA — Running back Kyle Chiasson piled up 207 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 18 first-half carries as Laconia blasted Manchester West 58-19 in its homecoming football game last night on Jim Fitzgerald Field. Neither team scored in the second half as the "mercy" rule was in effect and clock was not stopped for any reason.

Connor Doherty sparked the Sachems' defense with a pair on interceptions.

Laconia, now 1-1, dropped season opener 22-21 at Lebanon. The Sachems were stopped on a two point conversion after a Matt Swormstedt touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the game.

Manchester West had struggled over its first two games prior to last night. The Blue Knights have only scored one touchdown on the season while giving up over 40 per game over the same period. West will now have a week off before heading to Pembroke on October 3.

The Sachems will be back on the road next Friday at Hanover for a NHIAA Division II - North Conference match up. Laconia held off a late comeback by the Marauders to win 26-20 at Bank of New Hampshire Stadium last season.

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