New principal shares his vision for GHS

GILFORD – It's been a life-changing few weeks for newly-named High School Principal Anthony Sperazzo. Not only did he get a promotion but over the weekend he also got married.
"I guess you could say it's been a great couple of weeks for me," said the energetic Sperazzo as he took some time to talk about himself and his vision for Gilford High School.
Sperazzo never stops moving. His two computers are set high on his desk so that he never has to sit while he's working at them. His office is neat as a pin — something he said he's been teased about since he was a youth.
"I guess I'm a little over organized," he said.
He's also athletic. A former physical education teacher, he runs marathons, sails, skis, swims and said he participate in just about every athletic event he can.
Although he hails from Ayre, Mass., now he's all Gilford.
Sperazzo graduated from Plymouth State University 11 years ago with a degree in Physical Education. He did his student teaching at Gilford Elementary School, fell in love with the district and the town and was hired to be the Physical Education and Health teacher at the middle school.
He considers himself a lifelong learner and while teaching at the middle school he continued his studies at Plymouth State, earning his Masters in Education and his certification to be a superintendent, should he decide to take that route someday.
Four years ago he was tapped to be assistant principal of the high school and as of July 1, he'll take over as principal while Peter Sawyer assumes the role of principal at the middle school.
In his role as principal, Sperazzo plans on spending as much time as possible with the students in his charge.
"I believe every student has a story and it's our job to understand enough of that story to ensure he or she gets the right education," he said. "There are many things (that go on in their lives) that go beyond the four walls of this school."
Sperazzo said he is particularly proud of the improvement he's seen in the student culture at the high school in the past four years.
"As we will report in June (to the School Board) our disciplinary data has gotten much better," he said.
"We've given clear expectations about behavior and have seen students rise to meet those expectations," he said.
Sperazzo said students need structure and they need to be held accountable. Gilford High School has seen marked improvements on that front, he added.
As principal he said one of his main jobs is to continue to keep Gilford High School a good place to work.
"We have a great staff and great teachers," he said, noting teacher and staff morale is critical to student learning. "We want our staff to want to be here."
"We have strong professional development programs that are designed to help the teachers challenge students to think critically, invest in what their learning, and continue to be active learners," he said.
When asked his opinion on grade weighing – a topic of acute interest in Gilford these days – Sperazzo was quick not to be backed into a corner but said his overall take-away was how interested and invested parents were in their children's eduction.
"It's a three-pronged approach," he said, saying learning stems from parent support, well-qualified and talented educators and from the child him or herself.
"It's gotta come from inside, from personalizing education," Sperazzo said.
When asked how he was going the reach the parents who weren't at the recent meetings of the School Board and the Policy Committee, he said he wanted to start more community outreach – and reaching deeper and different students than those who are typically spotlighted by the community like those who participate in athletes, music, and theater. (Three disciplines Gilford High School consistently excels in statewide.)
He said there are Gilford students who are doing great and exciting work at the Huot Technical Center, at the Agricultural Program at the Winnisquam Regional High School, and online with computer classes.
"I'd like to see them get some recognition and publicity as well," he said.
Above all, Sperazzo wants to see the school continually demand its students think critically, think outside the box, and analyze data to come up with their own conclusions.
And while he spends his spring break on his honeymoon and his summer teaching sailing, he said he'll also be preparing for when the teachers and students return this fall for some more rigorous academics, challenging after-school programs and some fun while learning.

Motorcyclist crashes in Laconia after refusing to stop for Gilford officer

LACONIA — Police from three communities were involved in a brief car-motorcycle chase that happened Saturday afternoon after a motorcycle refused to stop for a Gilford Police car on the Laconia Bypass.

Laconia Police said Donald F. Marcotte, 34, 5 Dewey St. Apt. B was speeding while headed westbound and would not stop for a Gilford Police Officer who was in a marked cruiser.

Police said Marcotte took the Route 107 exit and headed into Laconia. By this time, the Gilford cruiser had canceled his lights and sirens but continued to follow him.

Marcotte lost control of the motorcycle just south of Morin Road and Belmont Road and slid to a stop.

He was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital by ambulance with what police said were non life-threatening injuries. The motorcycle was towed.

Marcotte was charged by Gilford Police for driving after being deemed an habitual offender, reckless driving, disobeying an officer and resisting arrest. Laconia and Belmont police assisted.

He was released on personal recognizance bail and scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division in June.

Weirs Beach erosion study to be presented to City Council on Monday night

LACONIA — The recommendations of the Woods Hole Group for stemming the erosion and restoring the extent of Weirs Beach will be presented to the City Council when it meets Monday night.

Under contract by the city, the Massachusetts consulting group began studying the migration of sand at the beach in 2011 and in 2012 reported that each year approximately 1,200-cubic-yards of sand — enough to fill 182 city dump trucks — is swept by wind and water from Weirs Beach into Lake Winnipesaukee and the Weirs Channel.

The team from Woods Hole Group collected data on the direction and strength of prevailing winds and waves, along with records of water levels and measures of water depth. Meanwhile, a crew from the Department of Public Works regularly surveyed the beach over the course of a year to provide a record of its changing topography. He said that analyzing and modeling this data indicated that some 600-cubic-yards of sand was blown from beach by wind, another 500-cubic-yards was lost to the action of waves and less than 100-cubic-yards was carried away by stormwater. The total of 1,200-cubic-yards calculated by the model nearly matched the 1,275-cubic-yards confirmed by the surveys of the beach.

In its final report the Woods Hole Group recommends a handful of measures to mitigate the erosion and stabilize the beach. First and foremost, the report calls for "nourishing" the beach with between 7,300 and 9,000-cubic-yards of additional sand, which would increase the width of the beach by 60 to 75 feet,

The report proposes supplementing the addition of sand with steps to keep it in place. First, installation of sand fence parallel to the jetty at the eastern edge of the beach would capture sand that wind would otherwise sweep into the channel. The group estimates the fencing could trap as much as 600-cubic-yards of sand a year, which is equivalent to the annual loss of sand to the wind. Fencing would be accompanied by what the report calls "manual backpassing", or simply transporting the sand captured at the eastern edge of the beach to the western end of the beach every two or three years. Finally, adding 20 feet to the jetty, which reaches about 100 feet into the lake, would significantly reduce the amount of sand carried around the jetty and into the mouth of the channel.

Finally, the report suggests erecting two adjustable barriers called groins to stabilize the replenished beach would extend the life of the restored beach. The authors of the report estimate that after five years only half the additional sand would remain without the groins compared to three-quarters of the additional sand with the groins. After 25 years only a quarter of the additional sand would remain without the groins compared to nearly half with them.

The estimated cost of the five recommended measures ranges from $438,000 to $576,000, with the cost of adding sand to beach representing the largest single cost at $200,000 to $300,000.

Weirs Beach is not a natural beach, but was built between 1950 and 1960 with sand dredged from the nearby channel and trucked from Gilford. The beach was built in three stages, the northern section first, then the southern section and finally the middle section between, which was bounded by two jetties, or groins, fashioned of iron rails, railroad ties, rocks and sandbags. A third jetty was built along the channel.

By 1958 erosion had already taken its toll, washing away some 2,000-cubic-yards of sand. Although the sand was restored, erosion persisted, shaping a scalloped shoreline framed by the jetties. In 1975 a study concluded that the fine sand could not withstand stormwater and wave action and recommended removing the jetties, raising the elevation of the beach, improving the surrounding drainage and rebuilding the jetty lining the channel. Despite these steps, the beach continued to migrate, forming the crescent there today.

For years business owners at The Weirs longed to restore the beach, but were discouraged by the lack of sufficient funds and the stringency of environmental regulation. Nevertheless, in 2000 the city dedicated revenues from parking in excess of $25,000 a year for "dredging and reconstructing Endicott Rock Park Beach" and five years later created a "beach refurbishment fund," supported by beach fees, which has a balance of some $68,000.

After the boardwalk was damaged by a flash flood in August 2008 the Weirs Action Committee (WAC) suggested restoring the beach along with rebuilding the boardwalk, but the two projects could not be undertaken at once. However, in November 2009 the WAC voted to ask the city to address erosion of the beach and the following spring Robert Ames and Joe Driscoll of the WAC, together with Dunleavy and Luke Powell of the Department of Public, met with officials at DES.

Officials of the DES recognized the importance of the beach, both to the tourist economy of the city and the region and as a major source of public access to Lake Winnipesaukee. Moreover, the Army Corps of Engineers has assured city officials that the agency would not intervene on a project of three acres or less, but instead would follow the recommendations of DES.

Encouraged by the response, the city contracted with the Woods Hole Group in May, 2011 to undertake the study of the beach.

The completed study has been forwarded to DES for review and comment.