Turnover at the top — Laconia has lost 6 school administrators since 2015


LACONIA — When David Bartlett announced last month that he was quitting after a year as principal of Laconia High School, he became at least the sixth school administrator to resign from the district since 2015.
Four of those six decided to go to Concord schools. Two went to Gilford.
Neither of those municipalities has a property tax cap. This allows them to provide more school funding, better employee compensation and more budget certainty than Laconia, which is subject to a tax cap that has forced cutbacks and led to compensation levels below that of many comparable districts.
The turnover is an area of concern to school officials, who believe that continuity in a school district’s administrative ranks can be an essential ingredient to success in the classroom.
Mike Persson, who chairs the Laconia School Board’s budget and personnel committee, said Thursday that having the right person as principal can make all the difference at a school like Laconia High.
Jim McCollum made immediate improvements after taking over as head of that school in 2012, Persson said.
“It’s incredibly important to have the right person, especially at the high school,” Persson said. “For a number of years before Jim, the culture at the school was just not what most of the community wanted it to be. Within one semester of his being there, there was a change. There was accountability and rigor.”
McCollum had said he would be retiring in 2017, but instead he left the school last summer to be interim principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord, which is where Bartlett will soon be assistant principal. McCollum was later selected as permanent principal. A posting for that job shows a salary range of $110,000 to $125,000.
Bartlett has said his decision to leave Laconia High School is not a reflection on its students or the community, but declined to elaborate further on the move or say what he would be making in his new job. He earns $103,000 a year in Laconia.
Just as Bartlett is working for his old boss, McCollum reports to Terri Forsten, who was the Laconia School District superintendent before taking the top job at the Concord School District.
When she announced her resignation in April 2015, she assured the public that the rest of the school district staff, including Assistant Superintendent Kirk Beitler and others would be in place and that she had every confidence in them.
The next year, Beitler left to become superintendent in Gilford and Steve Tucker, who was academic coordinator at Laconia High School, left to become director of curriculum in Gilford. Also, Jim Corkum, an assistant principal at Laconia Middle School, left to become an assistant principal at Concord High School.
Persson said it is not unusual for administrators to move to new schools and new districts to advance in their careers, but funding and compensation are factors as well. He said $1.6 million in school budget cuts were made in Laconia last year.
“There’s been that uncertainty and angst among staff,” he said.
Kent Hemingway, who retired last year as superintendent in Gilford, said compensation is a key in getting quality school administrators.
“There’s a free market system involved here,” he said. “The best talent is attracted to the best contracts.”
He also said there is a smaller pool of candidates for some of these jobs.
“There are very few people who want to be high school principals in this world,” he said. “Not a lot of people want that job.”

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say that Kirk Beitler left Laconia to become the superintendent in Gilford.


Laconia High Top 10

05-12 LHS Top 10 Karen Bobotas

Laconia High School’s Top Ten students are, from left on bench: Taylor Lovely, Lyndsey Paronto, Allyssa Miner and Teegan Stevens; middle row: Cheyanne Zappala, Gladiana Spitz, Colleen O’Brien and Simon Trieu; and back row: Sandro Bosnjak and Dalibor Kresovic. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Excellent students, better people, according to school officials about the best students in the Class of 2017


LACONIA — One wants to be an aerospace engineer, another a molecular geneticist, a third would like to be a physician.

The top 10 students in the graduating class at Laconia High School all have different goals, but at a banquet Tuesday night, social studies teacher Rick Crockford said one ambition is important above all others.

"You guys are all the crème de la crème and you're going to do great stuff and you're going to be really, really decent human beings, and that, if you ask your parents, and if they tell you the truth, is what they really want," said Crockford, who heads the school's humanities department. 

"They've spent 12, 13 years telling you, 'You've got to work a little harder. That A- just doesn't cut it.' Actually, when the chips are down, they really want you to be a good person."

Each of the students selected a teacher to join them in speaking at the banquet. Crockford was there at the request of No. 1-ranked Taylor Lovely, who will be going to Middlebury College in the fall. She plans to study neuroscience and become a medical doctor.

Crockford said Lovely has a trait shared by all 10 students, an ability to work hard for days on end.

"She reminds me of an old joke," he said. "A guy gets into a cab in Manhattan and says, 'Hey, how do I get to Carnegie Hall, and the cabbie looks at him and says, 'Practice, practice, practice.'"

Lovely's motivation came in part from a desire to meet Crockford's expectations.

"I spent hours studying at night, reading the text book, I think mostly because I didn't want him to be disappointed in me more than I didn't want to be disappointed in myself," she said.

Allyssa Miner will be studying occupational therapy at Quinnipiac University. She said Tate Aldrich, New Hampshire's teacher of the year, provided support far beyond academics.

"I've learned more about myself having him as a teacher than I ever imagined," she said. "I've learned my true value. I've learned what really matters. I've learned to surround myself with the positives. But most important, I've learned that no matter how heavy your past is, you will find a way to sculpt your life into what it was destined to be."

Dalibor Kresovic, who will be going to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study aerospace engineering, drew the biggest laugh of the night with a plug for his former teacher Chris Ulrich, now assistant principal at Newfound Regional High School.

"I know that there's a principal vacancy soon and Mr. Ulrich, I would highly recommend you if anyone on the school board is listening," he said, glancing at the table where several school board members were seated along with Laconia High School principal David Bartlett, who is resigning to be an assistant principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord.

"There's one condition," Kresovic told Ulrich. "You are not allowed to leave Laconia for a Concord middle school."

Lyndsey Paronto would like to be a forensic psychologist and will be going to Marist College in the fall. She is captain of the school's lacrosse team, which has won two state championships. Her father teaches Spanish at the high school, and she invited him to the banquet.

"Not only has he taught me how to walk, talk, eat solid foods," she said. "He has taught me how to dream big and dream with self-confidence. Somehow he has always known exactly what to say whenever I was lacking in spirit. Whenever I was upset about a game loss, or upset about myself, he has never failed to make me feel better."

Colleen O'Brien is a poised young woman who is an accomplished flute player and vocalist who would like to be a music teacher. She'll be attending Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Alison Witham, one of her teachers, explained that O'Brien's goal was to play the flute in the highly competitive All State Music Festival, but she was only able to get there through hard work.

"Throughout the years, Colleen worked hard and persevered," said Witham, who is also her private flute teacher. "She did not make it her sophomore year. She did not make it her junior year. She kept comments she would get from her audition. We would go over them. We would set goals and make plans for the next year, the next audition.

"In her senior year, she made it."

For her part, O'Brien said Witham is much more than a teacher to her.

"It's important to have the role model that sparks a fire to what you are going to be, what you really want to pursue in life," O'Brien said. "And that's why I have to thank Mrs. Witham. She gave me that spark. And I can't imagine what my high school experience would be like without her in it.

Gladiana Spitz will be going to the University of Rochester, where she will be studying molecular genetics. She would like to do research on treatments for cancer, a disease that has touched her family.

Her teacher and mentor is Ivy Leavitt-Carlson. Spitz said that Leavitt-Carlson supported her through tumultuous times.

"You were there for me every step of the way," Spitz said.

She said that when times were tough, "You nudged me and I would go back into place where I was supposed to be."

Teegan Stevens will be going to the University of Massachusetts in the fall, where she would like to begin working toward her goal of becoming a neonatal nurse.

She said she wants to be like her teacher and mentor, Crystal McDonough.

"Someone who never gives up, always sees the glass half full, shows passion with every move she makes and gives more than she takes," Stevens said.

Simon Trieu will be going to the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he plans to study computer engineering.
"I like technology, which is integrated with math, and my favorite subject is mathematics, so I feel like that's a great thing for me," he said.

"I'll miss the people here. Everybody is going their different ways, but I see college as a new beginning, a new life, a new way to make friends and develop life skills."

Cheyanne Zappala will be going to Clark University in Worcester, where she plans to study biology with a pre-med emphasis.

She said that it was through the study of literature in high school that she was able to examine life issues and grow as a person and a student.

Zappala talked about advice she received in her college search to "have a compass point."

"Something that has stayed with me is the advice that if I had an idea of what I want to do in my future, that if I have this compass point, that all the details will fall into place," Zappala said.

Sandro Bosnjak, the No. 10-ranked student, wants to be a police detective. He will be going to Plymouth State University to study criminal justice.

"I want to help people," he said. "I want a proactive job, where you're not sitting behind a desk. You're always out, interacting with people."

05-12 Taylor Lovely hug

Taylor Lovely, ranked No. 1 in her Laconia High School graduating class, hugs her teacher, Rick Crockford, at a banquet Monday honoring the school's top 10 students. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

Senate votes for State School redevelopment committee


LACONIA — The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill on Thursday which could lead to the redevelopment of the former Laconia State School property.
Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) said HB 340 includes a plan to establish the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission to re-evaluate the Laconia State School property and take action toward redevelopment.
The legislation also repeals the current statute requiring the state to sell the property, an effort which has long been unsuccessful.
“This bill is designed to redirect the future of Laconia State School property through the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning commission, a program based on the success of the former Pease Development Authority Commission,” said Morse.
“We watched as the Laconia State School property did not sell for many years, but along with the city of Laconia and other key stakeholders, we hope to bring in new ideas for the future use of property that will strengthen the economy, create jobs and grow the small business environment in Laconia and the state of New Hampshire.”
“I am proud of the Senate’s support of this legislation that will allow for a fresh perspective and new goals for a long-term solution for the Laconia State School property,” added Morse.
District 7 State Sen. Harold French (R-Franklin) also hailed the Senate’s action.
“It is one of my top priorities to ensure that the communities I represent have a strong economy and are able to create good jobs for my constituents,”, he said, “which is why I am proud to support the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission. This commission will allow for new ideas and proposals to be brought in for the Laconia State School property with the goal of providing greater economic development opportunities in Laconia and the surrounding towns.”
The nine-member commission established by HB340 would have three members with either real estate or business experience appointed by the governor and council, one member with business experience appointed by the Belknap County Commission, two members appointed by the mayor and City Council of Laconia, one member with business experience appointed by the Speaker of the House, one member with business experience appointed by the Senate president and a chairperson appointed by the governor.
The commission will be charged with conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the property and formulating a plan for potential alternative uses, including a possible change of ownership, as well as formulating recommendations regarding each existing building. It will also look at partnership models and agency structures, including a state authority similar to the Pease Development Authority.
The amendment empowers the commission to name a coordinator, who will be the chief executive officer of the commission. It also makes a capital appropriation of $115,000 for use in employing a consultant with real estate or business experience for the possible sale of the property and an appropriation of $250,000 for the commission to carry out its duties.
Laconia Mayor Ed Engler was not available for comment on Thursday. When the bill passed the Senate Finance Committee two weeks ago, Engler praised passage of the amendment. “I commend Senator Morse for leading the way to taking an economic development-centered approach to the future of the former State School property. Who actually owns the property is not as important as what the owner plans to do with it and the Senate president clearly sees its potential as an economic driver for Laconia, Belknap County and the state.”