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LHS Top 10 Dinner: Treasured teachers; treasured students

LACONIA — Amid the exhaustion and anxiety that comes with finishing four years of high school and staying at the top of your class, the top 10 graduating seniors at Laconia High School took a well deserved two-hour break Thursday night and honored themselves, their teachers and their families.

Held at the Meredith Village Savings Bank Culinary Arts dining room at the Huot Technical Center, the inaugural Top 10 dinner gave each student a chance to thank their favorite teacher and for each teacher to thank the student who chose them.

"They are the real deal, " said Laconia High School Principal Jim McCollum as he looked out in the room filled with tables, each seating a graduating senior, his or her key family member and his or her favorite teacher. "This is a demonstration of appreciation for their commitment."

For Merissa Conrad, health science teacher Gina McGuire's optimism, energy and caring was what led to her choice. "She genuinely cares for each of her students," said Conrad who is pursuing a career in salon and spa technology along with a business degree at Lakes Region Community College.

McGuire described Conrad as "the last person who would brag on herself" saying she was focused, composed and thoughtful.

"I love to talk, she loves to listen, said McGuire fighting back tears of pride. "I love to teach, she loves to learn."

For John Hannond, a senior with a list of drama credits that could impress Broadway, drama coach Bernie Campbell was his choice for favorite teacher.

Hammond, who is off to the Coast Guard Academy, said he acted in Middle School and Campbell knew who he was before he was in high school.

"He complimented me and I didn't know who he was," he said, going on to describe the long hours involved in theater and how Campbell gradually became "just another guy."

"He taught me how to be a man, when to be professional and when to just have fun," said Hammond.

Campbell clipped a line from "Casablanca" and said meeting Hammond was "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"I'm honored by John's choice," he said describing Hammond as his "go to guy" in the Drama Club.

Spanish and math teacher Amanda Stefanik was senior Nicole Bogert choice for her favorite teacher. Stefanik taught Bogert both Spanish and algebra when they were both at the middle school and said Bogert was part of a small but dedicated group of students in her algebra prep class.

Bogert said Stefanik gave her the foundations she needed to master algebra and helped her develop the "ability to push past any problem."

She also said she never conjugated as many verbs in her life as she did in Stafanik's class.

Kylee Powers chose biotechnology teacher Ivy Leavitt-Carlson as her favorite teacher, a choice that Leavitt-Carlson said surprised her.

"She would sit in the back of class and scowl at me," said Leavitt-Carlson, who said she came to realize that Powers's scowl was really the look of an intellectually curious student who was intent on learning what she was teaching.

When Powers took a second class from Leavitt-Carlson, the teacher said she was surprised to learn she was her favorite teacher.

Powers said when she first met Leavitt-Carlson she was ambivalent, describing her a "just another teachers whose job it was to teach me." She said Leavitt-Carlson "pushes her everyday" and helped her understand how things really work.

"She understands that I'm not a normal person," said Powers.

When English teacher Chuck Mathis met Rebecca Dragon and learned she was writing a novel, he said his first reaction was "Oh great. Another student novel."

He said he did read enough of it to realize it wasn't a novel but a memoir — one he described as "honest, edgy and brutal."

Dragon said she didn't know if Mathis even realizes how much he helped her. "He helped me take the bad things that happened in my life and make me understand," she said.

She said he forced her to write every week and she "wrote in an explosion of emotion."

"I feel I can go to him with anything," she said.

Music Teacher Deb Gibson and senior Mikayla Minor are both musicians. Dedicated to their craft both said it was friendship just waiting to happen.

Gibson described Minor's dedication to perfection in music with her parallel dedication to training her horse. She spoke about how well she handled the adult responsibilities that come with owning a horse.

"I'm so happy I taught her," said Gibson.

For Minor's part, she said Gibson is what she wants to be — a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.

"I don't know how we manage to fit anything in," Minor said laughing and saying Gibson's love of life was contagious and infected her and many of her other students.

Pre-engineering and manufacturing tech teacher Ken Martin said that when he met Garrett Guilmett he thought he was quiet, shy, and lacked confidence.

"Well not anymore," he said to laughter from those in the room, especially Guilmett's parents. Martin said he could see the pride that would emanate from Guilmett after he had designed and built something.

Guilmett, who will study mechanical engineering, said his time with Martin helped him realize his full potential.

He said he admires Martin for being someone who "knew what he wanted to do" from the start including his service in the military to working in industry to teaching.

Amila Hadzic chose business technology teacher Jannine Farrah as her favorite. For Hadzic, who wants to study accounting and become a CPA, Farrah's help in teaching her marketable business skills will help her realize her goals.

Farrah couldn't say enough about the school scribe who she said designed one of the best business plans one of her own community mentors ever saw.

Farrah said she also admired Hadzic for being on the ground floor of Stand Up Laconia and saying she wanted to make a change to better her community.

"I truly, truly admire her," said Farrah.

Class Salutatorian Brittany Pond brought social studies teacher Rick Crockford who said the first time he met Pond she was a "little red-headed girl with her nose in a book leaning on her locker."

He said he never has her in class until she took his AP Psychology class and then his AP American Studies class.

On her way to Holy Cross, Crockford said Pond was going to find out she really is one of the smartest people in the room.

Pond said Crockford initially intimidated her because she had heard his classes were very demanding but she wanted a challenge so she signed up for psychology.
What she found was a teacher who was demanding but one who also understood that she was easily stressed and who taught her how to overcome it.

"He transformed me from a scared freshman to a confident senior," said Pond.

Valedictorian Danielle Cote wept as her favorite instructor Chris Ulrich, a social studies teacher, described how gifted she was in science and math but how he grew to admire her for her tenacity in learning history and world studies.

"She sets standards she can't possibly meet, and she tries, tries, and tries again," said Ulrich.

He said he admires her because she believes there is good in everyone and works to bring those good qualities from everyone.

Cote, who rushed to the dinner in her lacrosse uniform, wept as she talked about how Ulrich taught her to have confidence in herself and to believe in her own instincts.

She lightened up as she told the audience how Ulrich was also one to lighten the mood.

"I just never realized that outside of academics a teacher could have so much effect," Cote said.

And that, said McCollum, was what the top 10 dinner was all about.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 01:29

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Loon found shot in Gilford

CONCORD — New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers are seeking help from the public in identifying suspects who were involved with shooting loons in two separate incidents this week.

On May 20 a loon was found dead on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford near Varney Point. I was later confirmed that the loon had been shot and killed.

The same day Fish and Game officials were given information that a loon was found wounded in a field near the Cocheco River in Dover. The loon was taken to an emergency veterinary hospital, where X-rays revealed that the bird had been shot. Currently, the loon is being cared for and expected to be released back into the wild.

Conservation Officers and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officer are currently investigating both shootings. It has not been determined whether these two incidents are connected in any manner.

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is protected by both state and federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In New Hampshire, the Common Loon is listed as a threatened species, making it a misdemeanor if someone were to injure or shoot a loon; even to attempt to do so would violate the law.

Anyone with information that may be relevant to these cases is asked to call N.H. Fish and Game's Dispatch at 603-271-3361 (Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), OR contact Operation Game Thief (anytime) at 1-800-344-4262 or via the Operation Game Thief website, http://www.huntnh.com/OGT. Callers may choose to remain anonymous, and all information is welcome.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 May 2014 01:11

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City manager puts forward wage & benefits plan for non-union employees

LACONIA — While contracts negotiations with the four unions representing city employees are still ongoing, City Manager Scott Myers has recommended adjusting the compensation and benefits of non-union employees.

Generally the package of compensation and benefits provided to non-union employees matches that offered to their union counterparts in the collective bargaining process.

Myers recommends granting three successive annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) as of July 1 of 2-percent in 2014, 2.25-percent in 2015 and 2.5-percent in 2016.

Myers proposes to change the health insurance plans by eliminating the so-called HMO "high" plan at the end of the current fiscal year. Employees enrolled in the HMO 'low" plan, who currently contribute 9 percent of the total premium, will contribute 8 percent beginning on July 1 2014, 8 percent on July 1, 2015 and  10 percent on July 1, 2015. The wages of each employee enrolled in the HMO "low" plan will be supplemented by an annual payment of $250 in each of the next three years.

Furthermore, for the next three years, beginning on July 1, 2014, the city will contribute $1,000 to the Health Reimbursement Account of each employee enrolled in the HMO "low" plan to be applied against the deductible. Any unused funds may be carried forward to subsequent years.

The City Charter stipulates that unless the recommended changes to the Classification and Compensation Plan are vetoes by the City Council, they take effect within 30 days. Nevertheless, Myers said he will ask the council for an affirmative vote on the recommendations when it meets on Tuesday, May 27.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 12:14

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Three men indicted in both Bristol and Northfield robberies - 267

BRISTOL — A Grafton County grand jury has indicted three men for conspiracy to commit robbery for allegedly entering a Summer Street home during the evening of February 24, 2014.

Chance Griffin, 20, formerly of Winchester, Jeremy Jewell, 18, formerly of Baldwin Street in Laconia, and Edward Esty, 19, formerly of Northfield allegedly drove to the home equipped with masks, bandanas, and a pellet gun with the intent of robbing the man who lived there.

Lt. Kris Bean of the Bristol Police said the three were interrupted once by two other men and reported that one of the three pointed the pellet gun at them. He said they apparently made three additional attempts at entering the home but fed after being spotted by a man taking out his garbage.

Police recovered the pellet gun in a nearly snow bank.

The three were also indicted by a Merrimack County grand jury for their roles in the armed robbery of a Northfield man who was walking to work on Granite Street when they allegedly robbed him.

Griffin was indicted for armed robbery while Jewell and Esty were both indicted for one count each of armed robbery, criminal threatening, conspiracy to commit robbery, and reckless conduct.

The Northfield victim was not injured but reported to police that the three were in a sports car and allegedly stopped when they saw him. He reported that one of them put a gun to his head and demanded he empty his pockets.

Esty and Griffin are being held in the Grafton County Department of Corrections on high cash bail while Jewell is being held in a different county jail.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 02:17

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