Ayotte touts Export-Import Bank during visit to EFI in Meredith

MEREDITH — During a visit to EFI yesterday, United States Senator Kelly Ayotte had ample opportunity to address two issues near the top of her agenda — assuring advanced manufacturers an appropriate workforce and reauthorizing the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Scott Schinlever, senior vice-president and general manager of EFI's Inkjet Solutions division, explained that the company designs and manufactures wide-format digital printers and inks, together with the software to manage print projects, and exports about half of its output to customers in 140 different companies. The company employs 837 people, 350 of them in Meredith, where the printers are manufactured, of whom about a third are engineers. "We're the Microsoft of the Lakes Region," Schinlever remarked.

Recruiting employees with the appropriate aptitude and skills, particularly engineers, Schinlever said is "always a struggle." He noted that EFI finds itself competing with other advanced manufacturers in the state and region for a relatively small and rapidly aging workforce. He suggested that "we have glamorized the white collar jobs" and overlooked the rewards and opportunities of manufacturing employment.

Schinlever said that on the shop floor there are employees who started at $15 per hour with benefits who are now earning $100,000 a year.

Ayotte replied that she has heard the same from other advanced manufacturers across the state and has offered several proposals to encourage workforce development. With Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware, she sponsored a bill to establish a competitive grant program that would distribute $100 million to states each year to fund initiatives to foster the skills required for manufacturing employment. She has also introduced legislation to designate 25 universities as "manufacturing universities", which would provide incentives to more closely align the content of classroom curriculum with the needs of advanced manufacturers. Likeise, Ayotte contributed to amending an education reform bill to encourage increased enrollment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in secondary schools.

Schinlever also asked about the future of the Export-Import Bank, which finances and insures overseas purchases of goods made in the United States when other lenders are unable or unwilling to bear the political or commercial risks inherent in the transactions. He noted that while EFI is the leader in its industry it lacks the capacity to finance the growing volume of its overseas sales, which he expected would represent 60 percent of its output.

Ayotte, a staunch supporters of the Export-Import Bank, explained that its authorization expired at the end of June and the Senate included re-authorization in a highway and infrastructure bill endorsed by a bipartisan majority. However, re-authorization has stalled in the House of Representatives, where it is opposed by many conservative Republicans for catering to special interests at the expense of American taxpayers. Ayotte said that she is hopeful that when Congress reconvenes the opposition in House can be overcome and the bank reauthorized.

Ayotte remarked that many companies in New Hampshire, like EFI, have urged her to support re-authorization and added that export markets are become increasingly important to the success of manufacturers in the state.

CAPTION: Scott Schinlever, senior vice-president and general manager of EFI's Inkjet Solutions division in Meredith, shows United States Senator Kelly Ayotte, some of furnishings, clothing and artwork printed on the company's wide-format digital printers. Save for a leather sofa, everything in the room — and 75 percent of the billboards in Times Square — was printed on one of its products. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/ Michael Kitch)

Pleasant Street School learns having total strangers observe teaching methods pays off in student achievement

LACONIA — Some people probably thought Pleasant Street School Principal Dave Levesque was a little bit off his game when in late 2014 he recommended bringing a group of total stranger teachers into his classrooms to learn why some of students weren't thriving.

But with the support of Academic Coordinator Gail Bourn and Asst. Superintendent Kirk Beitler, that's exactly what Levesque did and the number of students who met growth targets in math jumped from 46.6 percent at the start of 5th grade to 83.6 percent by the end of the school year.

All Levesque needed to do was go to Harvard University and learn about "instructional rounds", which sounds like something that might take place at a hospital.

An instructional round in the education field is nothing more than inviting a group of educators from a different school district to critically observe a classroom and jot down what they see the students doing. A group of six Pleasant Street School educators, including Levesque and Bourn spent two weeks at Harvard learning what kinds of problems could be addressed, what specific behaviors to look for, and what kinds of questions to ask the students. They brought their training back to their teachers who observed other schools.

Laconia joined Manchester, Pembrook and Allenstown as a school with a group of people trained in the Harvard program.

Bourn and Levesque explained that the difference between the instructional rounds model and the traditional model is that the teachers themselves identify the problem and then, with the data collected by teachers from other districts, come up with their own solutions. Levesque said the rounds and their observations are teacher-based and not a top-down effort. Every classroom, including Special Education and Title 1, was evaluated.

At Pleasant Street School, which was the first school in Laconia to get the instructional rounds training, the teachers identified the What I Need (WIN) time, which is time set aside for small group instruction, as something that wasn't being used effectively.

A group of visiting teachers trained in instructional rounds came to Pleasant Street School to observe the WIN times in the fifth grade and they collected unbiased and comprehensive data. They observed the students and asked them questions about what they were learning and if it excited them to be learning it. If not, the outside team asked the students what they thought would make it more interesting.

For example said Bourn, in one math class, WIN time observers noticed that nine children got a drink, a few were doodling, and a few didn't seem to be participating at all.

"They weren't engaged," said Bourn, who said Laconia's teachers needed to figure out why and change it.

What they learned from the data was that the teaches weren't always seeing the distinction between the entire classroom and small groups. She also said the use of WIN time was different in different classrooms and the students wanted more consistency.

"The rounds were grounded in facts," said Bourn. The after-action was that the the teachers built a common language and created a common goal — narrowing the focus of how the 30 minutes of blocks of WIN time would be used.

Bourn said the district offered after-school professional development to its teachers and 90-percent of them participated. She said they worked the problems out collectively and came to a consensus as to how to better use the time help the students who needed a little more attention and how to keep the students who didn't need extra assistance engaged in school work.

As an additional benefit, she said teacher evaluations improved after they had the outside rounds of observers give them the facts that allowed them to better help individual students.

Levesque said that as "nerve-wracking" as it was to have strangers evaluating the classrooms in the beginning, the Pleasant Street School teachers now welcome the second set of eyes. By the end of school year 2015, 13 of the 15 classrooms at the school met their student growth targets.

The next step for the instructional rounds is to expand it to Elm Street School and eventually bring it to Woodland Heights and the Middle School.

Levesque also said that because Laconia was one of the pioneer districts in instructional rounds, other school districts are looking to Laconia for help in establishing WIN times and using Laconia's teachers to get some training for their own instructional rounds programs.

2 more people now facing charges related to interaction with police at birthday party

CIRCUIT COURT — A Sanbornton couple that faces criminal charges stemming from a June 30 family birthday party on Forest Drive in Belmont to which police were called waived their individual arraignments in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Jeremy Cole, 37, of Brook Road is charged with two Class A misdemeanor counts of simple assault on a police officer, which carries an enhanced penalty, and one Class B misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

Erika Cole, 34, also of Brook Road, is charged with one Class A misdemeanor count of hindering apprehension.

Jeremy Cole is represented by Sisti Law. It is not known who is representing Erika Cole.

According to a media statement made by the police, they were called to Forest Drive around 9:30 p.m. by a neighbor who said there was a loud party and it appeared there was going to be a fight.

Police said that when the first officer arrived he saw a man and a woman arguing. After he separated them, he was surrounded by a group of intoxicated adults who were seemingly unhappy about having a police officer in their midst.
As the second officer arrived, said Mann, the group was surrounding the first officer and Jeremy Cole, 37, of Brook Road in Sanbornton allegedly pushed him. Mann said he also assaulted a second officer and was zapped by a Taser and taken into custody.
Erika Cole, 34, was charged with hindering apprehension for allegedly trying to get between her husband and the arresting officer.
Two others, Frederick Scheffer of Belmont and Daureen Harding of Sanbornton were also charged with Class B misdemeanors in connection with the "melee" and are scheduled to be arraigned on August 20. The Belmont Prosecutor said yesterday that because Scheffer and Harding (who is Erika Cole's mother) are facing "B" misdemeanors there is no possibility of them being sentenced to jail.

While police said the two officers were surrounded by a number of angry and intoxicated people when they responded to the party, the homeowner and host of the party for an 18-year-old said in a letter to the editor that it was the officers themselves who were the instigators of the ensuing difficulties.
She claimed there was an argument between two men who were at the party but it was over before police came and what they saw was a discussion between the Coles in the front part of the house while the party continued on another part of the property.
She claimed Jeremy Cole was going up on the porch to separate himself from the situation and not to avoid or to disobey the police. She said when the first officer overreacted a second one arrived and called for multiple other police departments to respond.