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Meredith grants street number for vacant lot

MEREDITH — Reversing its earlier decision of a year ago, the Board of Selectmen yesterday agreed to grant Glen Feener, a resident of Chapman Island, on Lake Waukewan in New Hampton, a street number for his vacant lot on Sawmill Shores Road in Meredith.
A year ago Feener explained that the sole access to his seasonal island home is the southernmost lot on Sawmill Shores Road, where he parks his car. He likened it to a driveway. But, without a street number, he said that the Post Office, United Parcel Service and Federal Express will not deliver to him.
At the time Feener appealed to the Selectboard after Fire Chief Ken Jones, Police Chief Kevin Morrow and Director of Community Development John Edgar denied his request and were upheld by Town Manager Phil Warren. Their decision was endorsed by a three-to-two vote of selectmen.
Yesterday Jones reminded the Selectboard that 911 insists that only lots with buildings qualify for street numbers, but conceded that Feener's circumstances are "unique." He repeated that the Meredith Fire Department and Stewart's Ambulance Service would be the first to respond to an emergency at Feener's property. If an emergency call were made from a cell phone, he said that the GPS system would enable the emergency dispatcher to pin-point the location of the caller within 10 feet.
Feener said that because he only uses a cell phone the concerns of the emergency services are misplaced.
Last night, the board voted four-to-one to provide Feener with a street number. Selectman Lou Kahn, who championed Feener's cause on both occasions, cautioned others against taking the decision as a precedent while Selectman Peter Brothers, the lone dissenter, remarked "but they will."

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:41

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Insurance companies trying hard not to cover lawsuit against Humane Society

SUPERIOR COURT — The N.H. Humane Society finds itself in a classic Catch 22 situation with two insurance companies because each refuses to provide coverage needed to defend the agency against a wrongful termination suit filed by former director Mary DiMaria.

According to a petition for declaratory judgement, the Humane Society has petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to determine which of Liberty Insurance Underwriters, Inc or Philadelphia Insurance Companies should be the insuring party.

Each insurance company has provided insurance to the Humane Society at different time and claims the other is responsible because the dismissal occurred on the other's watch.

DiMaria was fired on December 11, 2013 and filed suit for wrongful termination in September of 2014.

Liberty Insurance further claims that when the Humane Society applied for Directors and Officers Insurance, it knew or should have known and disclosed the potential claim for wrongful termination.

In fact, it was Mary DiMaria in her capacity as executive director who applied for coverage at Liberty Insurance and the application was processed by her husband who is Liberty Insurance agent Mark F. Dietta.

The Humane Society claims it could not have known DiMaria was going to file suit against them at the time of the application to Liberty Insurance and that even if it did, the company would have had constructive knowledge through its own agent, Dietta.

The Humane Society is asking that under the terms of the insurance policy with Liberty it is responsible for providing coverage.

In the alternative, should the court determine that the alleged claim by DiMaria occurred arose when Liberty says it did and under the circumstances claimed by it, then the court should order Philadelphia Insurance to provide the coverage.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:32

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Newfound reveals details of new agreement with teachers' union

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board and Newfound Area Teachers Association on Oct. 21 jointly announced the terms of the collective bargaining agreement the two sides had signed the previous day. The two-year agreement that had been ratified a week earlier contains cost increases of $305,620 the first year and $319,543 the second.
Final adoption of the plan will not take place until the school district's annual meeting next March, and it would become effective on July 1, 2015, continuing until June 30, 2017.
Teachers have been working without a contract since their previous, one-year agreement expired at the end of June. They will continue working under the terms of that contract until the new one takes effect, providing the agreement passes in March.
For the last four years, teachers have worked under single-year agreements, receiving two raises during that time. Voters in March rejected a three-year teacher contract that would have provided senority step increases plus two-percent cost-of-living increases in the first two years and step plus 2.5 percent in the third year, as well as a two-percent increase in co-curricular stipends, in exchange for significant changes in the district's authorized leave policy.
With Newfound's pay rate being lower than many area school districts, teacher retention has become a problem, along with staff dissatisfaction over changes the administration was making in order to adjust to declining student enrollment. In order to boost retention and become more competitive with other school districts, the new contract increases starting salaries from $34,370 to $35,401 and top salaries from $62,985 to $66,431.
Teachers agreed to eliminate a cost differential designed to reward those who took a less expensive health package, resulting in their premiums increasing by two percent. As a result, the school district will pick up 85 percent of the cost while the teachers will pay 15 percent. Teacher co-payments had doubled two years ago.
The new agreement also calls for teachers and administrators to create a committee to study health insurance coverage options in anticipation of the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act two years from now.
The agreement also changes the authorized leave policy, replacing the 19 days of leave for any purpose allowed under the old agreement with the possibility of 21 days, allotted as 12 sick days, three personal days, two professional days, and five bereavement days.
Like the earlier agreement that voters rejected, the new contract provides a two-percent co-curricular stipend increase which, with FICA and retirement figured in, adds $4,099 to the cost in the first year.
The salaries and benefits are estimated at $332,961 the first year and $355,158 in the second but, with the savings in health insurance — $31,440 in the first year and $35,615 in the second — along with the co-curricular stipend, the total cost of the two-year agreement is estimated at $625,163. Actual costs may vary, depending upon staff changes.
"We are excited to have worked so collaboratively with the teachers to develop an agreement that works to retain our teaching staff and provides salaries that are competitive with those in the region," said School Board Chair Ruby Hill.
Deirdre Conway, president of the teachers' union, said, "After a failed contract, the teachers worked diligently with the board to ensure that we stay competitive with teacher wages while remaining fiscally responsible to the taxpayers within our seven communities."
The Newfound Area School District comprises the towns of Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol, Danbury, Hebron, Groton, and New Hampton.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:15

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Former state school board chair pitches 'competency-based learning' in Franklin

by Thomas P. Caldwell

FRANKLIN — The former chair of the N.H. State Board of Education brought his 10,000 Mentors program to Franklin on Oct. 20, but the principal of Franklin High School said the city already is on board.
Fred Bramante told the Franklin School Board about his initiative as president of the National Center for Competency-Based Learning, which he founded after leaving the state board. The program seeks out local mentors who will be able to assist in bringing meaningful and appropriate academic experiences to students who might not do well in traditional classroom settings.
Bramante spoke of his own failed education in which he placed 206 out of 212 students and got rejection letters from every college he initially applied to. He finally managed to get into Keene State College where he studied science which led to a job as a science teacher; but his real love was music, so he opened a record store. It grew into the Daddy's Junky Music Store chain, one of the largest such chains in the country. But when people came to him for interviews, he could not understand why they were interested in someone he still viewed as "not too bright".
He finally realized that the problem might be with the schools themselves and that, with a different approach, people like himself might excel or at least would be able to complete their education, rather than dropping out. Figuring out the problem became an obsession for him and he got Craig Benson's ear when Benson was running for governor. (Bramante himself was Republican candidate for governor in 2000.) Once he was elected, Benson named Bramante to be the chair of the Board of Education with the charge of questioning everything.
The board first took up the school calendar, with Bramante asking why it was based on 180 days of school. He learned that 180 days was set in 1906 after a Carnegie-sponsored symposium at Harvard University determined that the way to standardize teacher pay was to base a full-time position on 180 days of service, with students earning credit for completing 120 to 150 days of instruction.
"It's not about time, it's about learning," Bramante said. "Instead of time and place being the constants and learning being the variable, we decided to hold the kids to a higher standard of learning, and that would be the constant. The amount of time, and the place — the school — should be the variables. So since 2005, New Hampshire has said you don't have to go to school 180 days. If you can demonstrate competency, you can get the credits for graduation."
Bramante also said the old grading system, using A, B, C, D, and F, is not appropriate. "This being able to pass with a C or a D has got to go," he said. "If it's a required competency, that is the level we should be holding the kids to. We don't care how you get it done; if you want to learn geometry by building a house, that's okay. You just need to show mastery of the required competency."
The 10,000 Mentors program offers help to school districts electing to seek out local talent to help students reach those competencies. "We clarify the mentors' role and provide examples of what will demonstrate mastery," Bramante said, noting that Manchester was the first school district to sign on and Monadnock has followed.
Franklin High School Principal Richard Towne said he has had several conversations with Bramante over the past 15 years and "We're on a par with what he's talking about. We're one of the leading schools in the state when it comes to offering extended learning opportunities. We're developing not only additional arts programs, but in a bigger sense, we're creating connections with businesses. There is a lot of interest in this small city, and people are willing to donate time, money, and resources to work with our kids. It's part of our mission to provide opportunities outside of the school walls."
Towne noted that many Franklin students reach the 20 credits needed for graduation in their junior years and, through a cooperative agreement with Lakes Region Community College, they are able to spend their senior year earning college credits, at a reduced fee.
"If we do this right," Bramante agreed, "we can make college cheaper for a lot of kids. They might be able to get their high school credits by their sophomore year, and embed college courses into the high school so they graduate with an associate's degree. All of that is possible."
Schools working with the NCCBL 10,000 Mentors project provide funding through direct appropriations, title funding, grants, and fundraising efforts. "We are having conversations with others, similar to our conversation with Franklin, with no strings attached," Bramante said. "If districts are interested in having us help them, we are happy to have the conversation."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 11:59

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