by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — Heidi Sidwell, a teacher at the New Hampton Community School for more than two decades, will continue teaching kindergarten there, rather than being transferred to a Grade 1 position at Danbury Elementary School, as proposed by Superintendent Stacy Buckley.
The Newfound Area School Board on Oct. 14 authorized the superintendent to hire a new, full-time teacher for Danbury so Sidwell, who is full-time employee but now has only a single, half-day kindergarten class because of a reduced student population, can remain where she is.
A number of residents attending Tuesday's school board meeting came to voice opposition to the superintendent's solution to the crowding problem in Danbury's combined kindergarten-Grade 1 class. The class size had increased from a projected 18 students last spring to 24 at the start of the school year and 26 by the end of September.
Buckley wanted to create separate classrooms for kindergarten and Grade 1, retaining the current teacher at the kindergarten level and bringing Sidwell from New Hampton to teach Grade 1. Buckley said it made sense because decreasing class sizes in New Hampton and at the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School have resulted in only one section of kindergarten at each of those schools, with a full-time kindergarten teacher at each site. The change would allow the district to hire a part-time kindergarten teacher for New Hampton while seeing that Sidwell had a full day's work.
Parents supporting Sidwell had circulated an online petition that garnered 66 signatures, asking that she be retained in New Hampton. During the meeting, a young girl from New Hampton read a prepared plea asking the school board to find a different solution to avoid disrupting the kindergarten class there.
Megan McGraw of New Hampton also spoke, saying, "Parents definitely want our New Hampton teacher to stay." She also urged the board to consider providing all-day kindergarten, saying she knew of 20 families that send their children elsewhere because the district does not offer all-day kindergarten.
Prior to the public comment period, the school board already had voiced reservations about the superintendent's solution. Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury noted that the plan disrupts two sets of children and New Hampton's Christine Divol commented, "I don't think it's based on the students, but on convenience."
When the issue came to a vote, the school board went with the more expensive plan, which will keep Sidwell where she is. While board members also expressed an interest in looking into full-time kindergarten throughout the district, they said that would be a topic for a future meeting.
In supporting the motion for a new teacher in Danbury, Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater commented, "Based on the fact of this being early in year, and on what we always end up with at end of year, we've got plenty of dough for this."
The comment from fiscally conservative Migliore was a reference to Business Administrator Michael Limanni's announcement that the school district had ended fiscal year 2013-2014 with an unexpended fund balance of $1.458 million. He attributed the large figure to sound management, lower than expected special education costs, and unanticipated revenue from the health insurance trust which, under court order, had returned funds the N.H. Supreme Court had ruled to be illegally collected.
Migliore complained that the school district had been over-budgeting or "padding" the budget each year. Limanni responded that some of the money placed in the budget is required by law, and some was in contingency funds to protect against unexpected costs and areas of the budget that are hard to predict.
Limanni noted that the district is able to retain 2.5 percent of the fund balance, or $407,741, for use in the coming year, which would eliminate the need for contingency funds. The remaining $1,033,898 could be returned to the towns to reduce taxation.
Migliore maintained that it was absurd to have that much money left over at the end of the year and he proposed holding only $200,000 for the coming year and returning the rest to the towns. When he did not receive a second to his motion, Jeff Levesque of Groton moved to retain $400,000, but he also failed to receive a second to his motion.
In the end, Don Franklin of Hebron successfully moved to set aside the full amount available, as Limanni had proposed. Migliore and Ben LaRoche of Bristol voted against the motion, Migliore later saying it was because he wanted to return more of the money to the taxpayers.
Migliore also noted that, when a school district returns an unusually large amount of money to the towns one year, causing taxes to drop, it then appears to be a huge increase the following year when the tax rates return to normal.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 12:04
HAVERHILL — A Grafton County grand jury had indicted the same father and son team as has a Belknap County grand jury for various counts of theft by deception.
Joseph Bavis Sr., 47, is charged with allegedly taking money from a man in Campton and a man in Holderness in exchange for the false paperwork to a Caterpillar tractor that didn't exist during the months of July and August.
He faces two Class B felonies because, according to the indictments, he has three prior felony convictions in Grafton County. On August 30, 2011 Bavis Sr. was convicted of theft by deception and on November 20, 2012 he was convicted of theft by deception and receiving stolen property.
Bavis Sr. was also indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for four felony counts of conspiracy to commit theft by deception and two counts of theft by deception.
He is allegedly to have conspired or committed a similar scam of selling equipment he didn't own in August.
On August 14, Bavis Sr, made a similar arrangement with an undercover Laconia police officer and was arrested. In the course of his arrest, police allegedly found heroin on him and he faces one count of possession of a narcotic drug.
The Grafton County grand jury also indicted Joseph Bavis Jr. for two misdemeanor counts of theft by deception and two felony counts of theft by deception for his role in the fraudulent sales in Campton and Holderness.
Bavis Jr. has convictions for theft by unauthorized taking in 2014 from the Plymouth District Court and shoplifting in 2008 from Plymouth District Court.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 01:08
GILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously last night to table a request from Lakes Region Public Access television to fund the station at the same amount as it did during last year — about $18,000.
Selectmen said they wanted to see a different business plan before they make a decision on funding.
On Monday, Belmont selectmen also voted to table a similar request from LRPA for about $15,000 — again the same amount the town authorized in 2013.
The Board of Directors of LRPA have said that the station does not have the money to continue to operate and the lights could be turned off as early as Thursday (October 23).
According to Chan Eddy, the chair of the board who spoke at at LRPA directors' meeting last week, the operating costs of the agency are about $130,000 annually. There are two full-time employees including the station manager, one part-time employee, and two contractors.
As part of the newly negotiated contract with cable service provider MetroCast that went in effect on July 1, local municipalities control content on Channels 24 and 26. LRPA is scheduled to operate Channel 25 and would air programming created by individuals and organizations within the member towns.
The board directors has been slow to execute a business plan that would sustain programming with a goal of generating about $300,000 annually from sponsorships from businesses and small contributions from the governments of the member communities.
The plan has never been put together or implemented and The Sun reported last week that Eddy said they needed an additional year to get the new plan off the ground.
LRPA was sustained by contributions from its six remaining member communities — Laconia, Gilford, Belmont, Meredith, Alton, and Northwood. Until the new contract, it also received a $30,000 annual grant from MetroCast.
In other business, selectmen voted unanimously to permanently remove the speed bumps from Cat Path.
Two weeks ago, about 100 residents submitted a petition to the town requesting it remove the speed bumps and re-allow two-way traffic.
About four residents said last night that Cat Path should be two ways because they have seen residents of the small route going the wrong way and think one rule should be in effect for all.
Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said he has stepped up patrols on Cat Path and said anyone caught going the wrong way would be ticketed — regardless of where they live.
Despite a direct request from two residents, none of the selectmen would make a motion to change the directionality.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:56
Rotarians to assist Belmont Police with purchase of lock-box for collection on unwated pharmaceuticals
BELMONT — The Belmont Police, Belmont Rotary Club and the CVS Pharmacy are teaming up to put a drug take-back box in the lobby of the Police Station.
Chief Mark Lewandoski told selectmen Monday night that having a permanent box — much like the ones at Laconia and Gilford police departments — would alleviate the need for people to hang on to unwanted medications for a year while waiting for the annual drug take-back day.
He said this is safer because the unwanted drugs are less likely to fall into the wrong hands and people are less likely to flush them down the toilet and into the water supply.
Lewandoski told the board that Belmont recently participated in the National DEA Drug Take Back Program and in four hours collected two industrial sized trash bags of unwanted pharmaceuticals. The drugs were taken to a collection site where they are collected by the DEA and destroyed at the government's expense.
Lewandoski said the box would be emptied only by authorized police personnel and the contents will be treated and store like evidence is the secure evidence room.
He estimated Belmont would collect about four to five medium-sized boxes annually and that there would be plenty of room for them in the evidence room.
The town maintenance department will complete the secure installation and the in-house camera will monitor its use.
Selectmen agreed it would be a good project and thanked Rotary and CVS for their efforts.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:29
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