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Contract gives county nursing home workers first raise in 2 years

LACONIA — Belknap County Nursing Home workers have voted to approve a tentative one-year collective bargaining agreement with the county which provides for a 1.5 percent pay increase.
The agreement, which would provide the first pay hike for nursing home workers in the last two years, was approved by a vast majority of workers Wednesday night according to Ricky Nedeau, a member of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining unit.
''We haven't had a cost of living increase in two years, while the cost of everything else increases, but it moves us in the right direction,'' said Nedeau.
The agreement also mandates that all nursing home workers will be required to participate in wellness activities designed to make them healthier and more informed about their personal health.
"It's become clear that we need to think outside the box to help lower health insurance costs,'' said Tanya Phillips, treasurer of the Nursing Home union chapter.
The contract will go next to the county commissioners for their approval. If they approve it the contract will then go the Belknap County Convention, where a supplemental appropriation for 2014 would be needed to cover its costs.
County Administrator Debra Shackett says that the commissioners will take up the contract when they hold their regularly scheduled meeting on April 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Belknap County complex.
''We understand that the delegation has been concerned with the administration of the budget,'' said Nedeau. ''We get that. But we don't want to get caught in the middle. With this supplemental appropriation the delegation has the opportunity to pinpoint the flow of funds to the lowest paid workers in the county.''
''We take care of one our county's most vulnerable populations. We care for them with full commitment and respect. We just want the delegation to show us the came consideration,'' said Phillips, who expressed hope that people in the community would make an expression of support for nursing home workers to their legislators.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 12:46

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Local man charged with failing to register as sex offender

LACONIA — A local man was ordered held on $15,000 cash-only bail after allegedly failing to register as a sex offender with the Police Department.

Michael D'Amore, 45, of 192 Union Ave. is also accused of failing to register a change of address with the Laconia Police, as it required of all Class III sex offenders.

In 1989, D'Amore was convicted on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault on a victim who was younger than 16-years-old. He is required to register his address with local police four times a year.

Police affidavits filed with the court said on March 5, Parole Officer Seifu Ragassa went to D'Amore's address and learned that he hadn't been living there since February.
Ragussa called the Laconia Police to see if D'Amore had registered a change of address with them and learned he hadn't.

Affidavits said D'Amore's wife said she hadn't seen him but told police that he wasn't "doing very well" and was likely using drugs again.

Ragassa said he and Laconia Police heard D'Amore was hiding out in a friend's apartment on Strafford Street and on Wednesday night Ragassa, members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Joint Task Force, and the Laconia Police went to that address and arrested him.

In court yesterday, D'Amore's attorney waived a bail argument reserving it for a date to be determined later.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 12:43

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Steen outlines new programs in ‘State of University’ address

PLYMOUTH — Noting this week that the "higher education landscape is shifting," Plymouth State University President Sara Jayne Steen asserted that the University is "nimble enough to make significant decisions" in order to deliver on the promise of its historic mission to New Hampshire. PSU has the talent and the resources to make innovative and enduring efforts in providing access to excellent educational opportunities, on campus and online, for a diverse population of students who seek to be successful in the global marketplace.

Steen's remarks came during her annual "State of the University" address on Wednesday afternoon.

"PSU offers outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs," she told an audience of faculty, staff, students and visitors. "That means hands-on learning with exciting research and creative opportunities that often involve service and engagement with our wider communities."

According to the National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE), a higher rate of PSU students have professional experiences as an element of their education compared with their peers (94 percent to 86 percent) as evidenced, Steen said, by the more than 800 PSU students who participated in internships or a program capstone experience last year with regional businesses and community agencies. She also noted that more than 560 course sections from across the University involve service learning. "The region should be better for PSU's presence."

Steen reminded the audience that PSU's regional impact is central to its mission, and that PSU has a direct impact on the economic health and cultural opportunities in the White Mountains and Lakes Region and throughout rural New Hampshire. She noted several strategic partnerships that leverage university resources to promote community growth and investment while at the same time providing increased engagement for students. These include joining with the Mount Washington Observatory to sponsor a professor who will lead Meteorology students in research projects using observatory data. Students in the Department of Language and Linguistics assisted local agencies in creating a Tourism Development toolkit to make them more welcoming and to entice Québécois visitors to stay longer in northern New Hampshire. The Enterprise Center at Plymouth is now open, with the College of Business Administration (COBA) students and the Grafton County Economic Development Council assisting 18 firms in the building and others through online programming. And the Museum of the White Mountains continues to attract visitors as its board and staff work with researchers and residents alike to preserve and promote the history, culture and legacy of the region.
New academic programs also reflect the region's priorities. A nursing program was added two years ago in response to a pressing need for health care professionals. The first Doctor of Education graduates from 2012 are now having an impact as leaders in local schools. And construction begins this spring on ALLWell-North, a multi-use health science facility that will provide much needed space for recreation and athletics as well as additional classroom and research space for several health and wellness disciplines.

"These initiatives sound diverse, but they are focused in mission," Steen said. "They reflect both short-term and long-term strategic thinking." Each contributes substantively to the future success and growth of the University. The future, however, is not without its challenges. Some of the shifts in the higher education landscape include increased financial pressures on students in a difficult economy, potential shifts in federal funding guidelines and a projected long-term demographic decline of high school graduates throughout New England, unlike other areas of the country and globe.
"Those institutions that will thrive by staying ahead of the confluence of these current challenges in higher education are thinking in focused, strategic ways with data-driven goals. Our PSU colleagues have been and are moving forward in an integrated manner to meet those challenges."

Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 12:36

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Hill School Board exempts two missed days - 411

by Thomas P. Caldwell

HILL — With two unexpected school closings adding to the four snow days the district has experienced so far this year, the Hill School Board last week elected to exempt those two emergency days from the makeup calendar.
Hill schools closed Dec. 18 when the fuel oil ran out and the school could not get an immediate delivery. The superintendent called off school again on Feb. 7 due to a frozen pipe. With the snow days that had occurred prior to the meeting, that left just two snow days on the calendar and, with a storm moving in that evening, officials were concerned about being able to hold to the June 19 final day of classes.
Dr. William Compton, who is serving as the interim superintendent for School Administrative Unit 18, said he would like to get Hill back in line with the Franklin School District, and he suggested a way to do that. He said that RSA 189.1, which requires 180 days of school, offers a choice of using school hours instead of days. The requirement for an elementary school is a minimum of 900 hours of instruction. He noted that Hill's calendar contained approximately 1,000 hours and, with the closings so far, the district still has 993 hours available within the existing calendar.
Dr. Compton recommended that the board vote to exempt the two emergency days which still leaves Hill "well beyond 900 hours" and allows the district to realign with Franklin, with four snow days still available.

Curriculum Coordinator Tracy Bricchi pointed out that making sure the district ends the same day as Franklin also allows the teachers to participate in a professional development day that Franklin holds the day after classes end.

The school board also discussed participation in Franklin's Class Day Parade, an annual, community-building end-of-school event in which the students and staff of all Franklin schools march up Central Street to a crowd of parents and friends. In a poll of Hill parents, 15 indicated support of the event, two were opposed, and five were undecided.
Chair Shelly Henry said that, when one looks at the cost of transportation to Franklin and the loss of class time, it did not make sense to her. She noted that Hill students already do a Halloween walk and other local events, and board member December Fortin suggested that they might do a town parade, perhaps on Memorial Day.
The board directed Principal Jay Lewis to look into the cost of participating in the Class Day Parade.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 March 2014 12:27

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