Laconia superintendent search narrows; school trips abroad spur policy question

LACONIA — The consultant for the 13-member superintendent's search committee will be making his recommendations as to who the School Board should interview on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
School Board Chairman Stacie Sirois said last night at the regular school board meeting that the search committee is finishing up its interviews over the next few days and will meet with the consultant as to who the finalists are.
She said after the consultant's meeting with board, visits to the final applicants' schools will be scheduled, if the board determines they are necessary.
When asked directly how many people were interviewed and if they were candidates from New Hampshire or other states, Sirois decline to answer saying that information is current protected by non-public personnel status. She said she didn't know how many finalists there would be.
School trips
In other business, Superintendent Dr. Phil McCormack questioned the board about whether or not it had a policy about board approval of field trips, especially those that are out of the country. He said a trip request to Spain in 2017 triggered his interest and the other schools where he served as superintendent required School Board approval.
"I felt I had a responsibility to bring this to your attention, especially with all the turmoil in Europe," he said.
Member Scott Vachon said he can recall having approved trips as a school board member in the past but said he doesn't recall approving any in the past three or so years. He said the board was made aware of them.
McCormack mentioned that not only is he concerned for student safety, he said there is a trip scheduled for France next year.
Sirois said that in her experience the trips are planned by education companies who are very much in touch with what is happening globally. She said that one of the school trips to Egypt was changed to Greece because of civil unrest at the time in that country.
McCormack said he isn't looking for a vote to approve the 2017 trip to Spain but suggested the newly formed Policy Committee led by Chris Guilmett may want to address the lack of a policy.

The Children’s Auction kicks off next week

LACONIA — The 33rd annual Children's Auction, which runs from Tuesday through Saturday next week, will be the first under the direction of the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children, a nonprofit corporation which earlier this year took sole ownership of the "Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction."
Since the first auction in 1982, which was conducted singlehandedly by Warren Bailey of WLNH, the auction has been effectively owned and operated by the radio station and its owners. Earlier this year, volunteers who devoted their time and energy to the success of the event reassessed the relationship with the station and chose to vest ownership of the auction in a nonprofit corporation — the Greater Lakes Region Charitable Fund for Children.
Mike Seymour, chairman of the board of trustees, said yesterday that despite the change of ownership and leadership the 33rd auction will resemble its 32 forerunners in virtually all essential respects.
"There will be very little change," he said.
Above all, he stressed that the proceeds from the auction will be distributed among organizations within the communities whose members, both individuals and businesses, volunteer and donate to the auction.
Seymour explained that by tracking the source of donors and participants, the auction can define the local community it serves, which he said roughly corresponds to an area bounded by Franklin, Bristol, Plymouth, Alton and Belmont with Laconia at its center.
"It's a moving target," he said. "We will continue to expand as as our participants grow."
This year, the auction will be broadcast from on two FM stations, 104.9 The Hawk and WZEI 101.5 and telecast by Lakes Region Public Access TV Channel 25 Metrocast and Channel 12 Metrocast.
Seymour assured those who have followed the auction over the years will "find a lot of the same players and faces they've seen in the past, like Warren Bailey, Pat Kelly and Chris Ialuna along with a mix of less familiar personalities and celebrities, perhaps even presidential candidates.
Seymour said 61 local charities, the most on record, have applied for support from the auction totaling $580,000.
"That is the most funding ever requested," he said, "but we have set no predetermined goal for the year."
He noted that since the auction began in 1982, it has raised approximately $4.1 million, almost half of that in the past five years. Recently, he said the auction has become a hub with a number of spokes, like Pubmania, the Parade of Homes, Pumpkin 5K and other fundraising events that donate their proceeds to the auction. Altogether, he said, the spokes represent more than half the $486,575 raised last year, when Pubmania alone contributed $235,595.
The auction will run from Tuesday, Dec. 8, through Saturday Dec. 12; from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Lake Opechee Conference Center in Lakeport. For more information, visit the auction's website at www.childrensauction.com.

Weddings and Farm-to-Table events still on hold after Zoning Board upholds ruling

GILFORD — The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously yesterday to uphold its decision to not enforce a cease-and-desist order against Timber Hill Farm Road for hosting farm-to-table events on the 250-acre property.
The decision came after town attorney Laura Spector-Morgan advised the three members who were there and eligible to vote how they should word their motion.
Andy and Martina Howe's attorney objected to the introduction of new evidence by Timber Hill Farm and Chairman Scott Davis said he would take his objection under advisement. No additional public comment was heard by the Zoning Board.
After a complaint filed by Twomey regarding outdoor farm-to-table events like weddings held at the farm last year and learning about similar events planned for 2016, the town code enforcement officer had ordered owners Andy and Martina Howe to immediately stop all agri-tourism activities, which meant no more outdoor weddings or other events. Twomey suggested they host the events at Beans and Greens Farm on Intervale Road, which the Howes also own.
Zoning board member Ann Montminy said yesterday that she believes the decision to continue not to enforce the cease-and-desist order means agri-tourism is allowed in Gilford. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the wording in the new state definition of agriculture does not include agri-tourism, a deliberate act of the legislature.
The Howes must also get site plan approval from the Planning Board, which is scheduled to meet on Monday, Dec. 7. There has been one meeting after a site visit but no decision was reached.
The Planning Board is scheduled to revisit Timber Hill Farm's site plan review at the Gilford Town Offices at 7 p.m.

 

Note: This story has been updated to correct the farm's location and the objection made by the Howes to introducing new evidence.