Shaker wants more students to graduate

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CANTERBURY — School adminstrators should look at different ways to help students who are close to dropping out, Belmont High School guidance director Lisa Ransom told the Shaker Regional School Board Tuesday.

Traditionally, Ransom said, if a student fails a class, he or she needs to repeat the entire class, and that's not the best approach.

"Often times, there is no need to repeat the entire course and (because of this) kids become overwhelmed," she said, adding that many students understand most aspects of a class but may struggle with one aspect and need only special instruction to get a passing grade.

As an example, she said there is no reason a student can't finish ninth-grade English and still take 10th-grade English at the same time, but said extra staff may be needed to do this to keep class sizes down.

Ransom made her statements in response to a board request that the school district address the fact that of the 96 students in the 2015-16 graduating class, only 84 of them got their diplomas in June.

Business Administrator Deb Thompson said that of the 12 who did not graduate, three students participated in summer school and are expected to graduate, and nine of them are scheduled to return this fall.

State Department of Education statistics indicate that Shaker Regional School District has a "0" dropout rate for 2014-15, which is the last year data is available on its website.

Ransom told the board that the school already knows who the struggling students are and should begin to address the issues in ninth and 10th grades and before it becomes a potential graduation problem in the later years of high school.

Ransom also said that summer programs add electives, noting this year there are 40 students in four core classes. She also said the school needs to provide more out-of-classroom support.

She told the board that there is no alternative program right now. She said struggling Belmont High School students used to attend the alternative program in Laconia but don't any longer.

"We cut our program because we didn't see a lot of success," she said. Noting that all students learn differently, she said the school district should be more aware of other programs like the Laconia Adult Education program.

"Don't go chasing a high school diploma," she said, addressing the idea that a high school diploma is more valuable than the former GEDs, or HiSets as they are called now. She said the equivalent degrees are far more rigorous than they used to be and allow some students to get on with their lives.

She also said that some very bright students get bored and allowing more of them to learn through the Lakes Region Community College and online programs could better suit some of their needs.

Bottom line, she said the entire district, including students and parents, should be more involved during the earlier stages of high school and begin seeking the best and most appropriate education in the earlier years rather than waiting until it is too late and the student is frustrated.

She said there should be a better flow between grade levels after freshman academy and students should learn to identify more with the classes they are taking and not the grade they are actually in.

Gilmanton Winery to continue operation despite unrecorded permit

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — There is no desire to hurt any business in town, Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni told Selectman Marshall Bishop Thursday night, including Bishop's business, the Gilmanton Winery & Vineyard and alpaca farm.

After reviewing a package prepared for the board regarding the various permits and permissions granted to the winery and farm since 2010, Ogni said it appears Bishop has town permission for a function hall and wine tasting, not a restaurant, but that the plans were never recorded.

"We want to get this straightened away for you," Ogni said.

Bishop, who was elected to be a selectman in March, has been under fire by a small cadre of detractors for not having the proper town permits, including the need for a special exception or a variance to operate a restaurant in a rural zone.

His meeting with the Planning Board on Thursday was to confirm with them that he is working with the Planning Department staff to bring all of his paperwork up to date.

Bishop told the board he had been operating for six years and wanted to know "Why now?" to which Ogni replied, "It was brought to our attention and we want to treat everyone fairly."

Bishop left, but Brett and Brenda Currier said they thought they were on the agenda that night and wanted to address the board.

Brenda Currier spoke regarding a directional sign for the Gilmanton Winery that had been on her mother's property. When she asked for the sign to be removed, she said it showed up on the property next to hers. In her opinion, a directional sign must have a permit from one of the town's land boards.

Ogni said the Planning Board is working with a land use attorney regarding the sign and all of the rest of the things the Curriers had brought to their attention.

Currier said Bishop's permit to operate the winery was granted by the Planning Board in June 9, 2011, but with the condition that the site plan be finalized and recorded, which Ogni agreed hadn't happened.

Brett Currier said he felt he and his wife have been "getting the runaround" for the past two months and that nothing is being done.
"The select(board) should have done its job and shut this down," Brett Currier continued. "We're letting a sitting selectman wait for months. I don't understand."

Things heated up a bit when former Selectman Nate Abbott, who served from 2000 to 2006, said the town traditionally gives leeway to residents who are trying to work with the town.

He said he recalled a resident who paved a road years ago when he shouldn't have, and the town worked with him to get the necessary permits.

Brett Currier stood and faced Abbott and said, "Are you talking about me?"

Abbott, also standing, said that all he was saying is that as long as someone acts in good faith the town should continue to work with them.

"If he's accusing me of that (unlawfully paving his driveway), it's a blatant lie," Currier continued while Ogni told him to calm down and sit down, which he did.

Records from 2003 show Currier went before the Board of Selectmen about paving a section of a road and that Abbott felt that he had not gone through the proper steps. A letter dated March 19, 2003, to Currier from former town administrator Tim Warren indicates selectmen granted Currier permission to pave a portion of the road.

Brenda Currier said she only wants Bishop to go to the ZBA and get whatever variances and/or special exceptions he needs to operate his business, to which board Vice Chairman Marty Martindale replied that those steps "had not been done.

"We are working with him." Martindale continued. "He will correct it or a cease-and-desist will be ordered."

"Good enough," said Brett Currier, while Brenda nodded in agreement.

Mark Sisti, the town moderator, said he's very glad to see cooler heads prevailing at the Planning Board and said that Brett and Brenda Currier had made some legitimate points.

Sisti also said that he is a lawyer, and as such, wouldn't recommend suddenly shutting down a business that had been operating for six years.

"That could be a problem," he said.

But, he said having working and thriving businesses in Gilmanton is something the town hasn't seen for a "number of decades" and the tax revenues from business enterprises should be the focus for all of the town's boards.

Belmont man faces nine charges of drugs sales within school zone

BELMONT — After a month-long investigation, the New Hampshire Drug Task Force with the assistance of local police, charged a Concord Street man with nine counts of sales of drugs from his apartment.

08-13 Jeffrey Thomas Davidson

Jeffrey T. Davidson, 32, of 58 Concord St. Apt 3 is charged with the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of the Belmont Middle School. Affidavits indicate all of the sales involved some combination of heroin/fentanyl and oxycodone – an opium-based pain reliever.

Davidson was asked to come to the Belmont Police Department where he was arrested without incident.

Affidavits said police learned of Davidson in early July and used a "cooperating informant" to make nine drug purchases between July 6 and Aug. 3. The purchases ranged in values between $250 and $575, all of which was provided to the informant by members of the task force.

Police said they had learned that allegedly Davidson typically had at least a "finger," or 10 grams, of heroin/fentanyl at all times and that they learned from the informant that they had purchased 30 mg pills of oxycodone from him in the past.

Most of the alleged contacts with Davidson and the informant, said police affidavits, took place in Davidson's driveway, however on at least one occasion, the Davidson allegedly sold the drugs through an open window in his apartment.

A member of the drug task force said that he calculated Davidson's apartment to be 718 feet from the Belmont Middle School using Google Maps. Bryant Field is also in the general area. If convicted, Davidson could face enhanced penalties because of his location.

Davidson waived his arraignment in Belknap County Superior Court Friday and entered a not guilty plea. He is being held on $50,000 cash only bail in the Belknap County House of Corrections. Should he post bail, the court will require a source of funds hearing to make sure the money didn't come from illegal activity.

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