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Joe Hempel is far from 'administrative only' fire chief for Gilmanton

To The Daily Sun,

Dear Gilmanton residents:

Beware of elected officials who write letters to the editor and presume to speak with such authority and command of the facts. Rep. Burchell, R-Gilmanton, again demonstrates he has no regard for the facts as demonstrated in his letter to The Sun on December 18th.

I shouldn't be surprised as I have watched him demonstrate the same bluster and disregard for facts as he presumes to represent Gilmanton as a member of the Belknap County Delegation. I appreciate being able to watch all of the delegation meetings on Channel 26. I have learned a lot.

I think it is time for our Gilmanton Board of Selectmen meetings to be televised so we can all see them in action. Apparently if a few citizens attend selectmen's meeting such behavior is considered bullying and intimidation by Rep. Burchell as he stated about the members of the Gilmanton Fireman's Association who attended the December 16th meeting. I suppose it was acceptable for Brenda Currier, wife of Selectmen Brett Currier, to challenge whether or not the members of our fireman's association, and also Gilmanton residents, had a right to express an opinion about our Fire Department. Let's be clear, they have every right to be concerned about this unjustified attack on our hard working Fire Chief Joe Hempel and the impact the selectmen's proposed change could have on public safety.

Rep. Burchell was wrong in his short letter to the editor. Here are the correct facts:

1. Meg Hempel was in attendance at the meeting and authored a letter to the editor in which she commented on the selectmen's conduct towards the Belknap County commissioner and administrator. She did not speak at the meeting nor did she comment on the issue regarding the fire chief. She has no requirement to disclose anything Rep. Burchell. But for the record, you are wrong. Meg Hempel is not the wife of Chief Hempel. If you must know she is the mom of Chief Hempel, but I suspect most us knew that already including everyone in the room except you.

2. You repeat that the selectmen want to "keep the fire chief's position as working chief" and "working as opposed to administrative only". Just because you repeat something does not make it true. The current fire chief is not an administrative position only, either in title or in how he performs his duties. No one has suggested he should be administrative only including him. We all know that. In fact, you fail to recite the undisputed fact put forth at the meeting that demonstrates that Chief Hempel has the second highest call response in the department only surpassed by one of our full-time career firefighters who lives in close proximity to the station. Doesn't sound like an "administrative only" fire chief to me! I listen to the scanner and hear our chief regularly respond to calls on days, nights and weekends. He is a salaried employee who puts in many extra hours for this town.

3. You state the position of the selectmen was "give us two shifts a week and we will be happy". You fail to state that the fire chief currently works a full schedule and shifts. You also fail to mention that the fire chief was present at the meeting and requested to see and discuss the warrant article he had heard about but never seen. The selectmen chose not to discuss this when he was present nor did they make the above statement in his presence so he could lay out the facts.
I attended this meeting because public safety matters.
Please — no more politics and incorrect facts when you talk about our public safety.

Bill Donovan

Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2013 12:05

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Thank you Hannaford for matching food donations made over holidays

To The Daily Sun,

I am writing to thank Hannaford Foods for helping their community help feed those in need this holiday season. Hannaford had offered to match donations purchased by customers over the holiday season. If you bought pasta, pasta sauce, or a can of vegetables for the food shelves, they would match your donation. This is not unique to Hannaford, or just the holiday season as most retail grocery store owners help feed those in need year round either through such promotions, or by giving past due labels, or ripe fresh vegetables and produce to the food shelves. In a time when it is hard to find good in the world, it is refreshing to see such generous giving.

My sincere thanks goes out to all the efforts made to help those in need. I have never had to "go without" in my life, and can't begin to imagine how it would feel to not be able to feed those I love and care for. Even if you don't have the means to donate to the food shelves, thank your favorite grocer for their unselfish gifts to those in need.
Terry Martin


Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2013 12:02

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Celebrate Laconia High School student achievement with us

To The Daily Sun,

Season's Greetings from Laconia High School.
At this time of the year, when both hope and thankfulness are mixed together in such a positive way, we wanted to share with you what is going on at the high school you support here in Laconia. We do this because we are thankful for the outstanding support this community consistently provides to this school, its staff and the students who come here each day. We are also filled with hope as there are many indicators that reinforce our belief that we are moving in a direction that supports the academic excellence we desire for our students.
Here are some reasons to celebrate our school and its students as they pursue academic excellence along with the Holiday Season:
There has been a 58 percent increase in the number of Honors/dual enrollment/Advanced Placement courses at Laconia High School over previous years. These are courses that require the school to meet the standards of the college that will award credit or the College Board that both approves the syllabus and offers the AP test at the end of the course. Our dual enrollment program, called Project Running Start, is a cooperative effort made possible through our relationship with the Lakes Region Community College. Due to this partnership, LHS and the Huot Career Technical Center now offer over 20 college credit bearing courses. Students taking these courses earn both high school and college credit at the successful completion of the class.
While it's great to offer these rigorous courses, we had to have students who were willing to take them. We are proud to announce that we saw a 72 percent increase in course enrollment in our higher level courses this year. This speaks well of our students and their college and career aspirations. It also speaks well of parents who desire the best for their children and realize a quality education will assist young men and women in having greater opportunity.
We also took time throughout last year and this fall to clarify what readings must be required at LHS. Through this process we developed and instituted the Laconia Canon. This listing includes 32 books that students will read while attending Laconia High School. It is the minimum an LHS student will read and students taking upper level courses will be involved in accessing more than these identified books.
This past fall, through the collaborative efforts of the high school and SAU leadership, we were able to find a way to ensure that any junior student who desired to take the PSAT could do so. This resulted in more students accessing this college preparatory assessment. The PSAT is an excellent source of data relating to current academic performance and offers critical information on areas that need improvement as students chart their course in life.
We are also instituting school-wide testing on Accuplacer. This college readiness assessment indicates a student's preparedness to access post-secondary course work without remediation. Students who succeed on these assessments, taken at the conclusion of Algebra II and American Studies, will know they will not need costly, non-credit bearing remediation when they enter the post-secondary program of their choice.
We have doubled the number of students who become New Hampshire Scholars since 2010 while adding the Laconia Scholars Program as well. This program includes requirements related to accessing Calculus and AP courses. Our goal is to offer students a clear direction or pathway to follow based on the goals they set.

Adding to this, the principal and ACTL at LHS have been asked to present at the National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (NASSP) in Dallas this February. The reason for this request relates to the implementation of quality Performance Based Assessments and substantial evidence that has been found in our instructional program that supports students being constantly pushed toward defining their futures based on their choices. This feedback came from the Center for Secondary School Redesign and UCLA's CenterX.
We also have seen students taking on much greater responsibility for their education in other ways. We have seen substantial decreases in truancy as reported over the past three years during the same time periods. From beginning of the year through the end of November, we have seen a 59 percent reduction in truancies when comparing the 2011–12 school year to the present. This is a clear indicator that students are recognizing the importance of being present in school. At the same time, we need to constantly work together with parents to reduce our level of excused absences. This data point appears high in both our school and in our district. Students not learning the "habit" of being at school on time daily is problematic, as this practice has been shown to negatively impact students' understanding of attendance at jobs and in college. This is an area we must all work together to improve.
And there is evidence that "we" are working together! LHS now has a meaningful PTA meeting every month where we discuss school issues, academic initiatives and upcoming events. Participation was also up at our Parent Conference Night this year. We also share community activities that support our students both in and out of school. In an effort to support our new AP Chemistry course, we are engaging parents in an effort to make this program successful for all. At a recent meeting, 100 percent of parents came to discuss the program.
Other indicators of enhanced performance include the highest scores ever recorded by LHS on state and federally mandated testing (NECAP) in reading (we tied our highest in math) and consistently improving NWEA scores over the last year and a half. These data points are broken down and serve to inform us on how to modify instruction to effectively address our deficit academic areas.
But wait; there is so much more! We couldn't be more proud of the Huot Career Technical Center. Not just the new facility this community committed to make happen but also the expansions that are happening due to student interest. We have a 10 percent increase in enrollment this year and we are preparing to expand two programs, Law Enforcement and Bio-Tech, while bringing on board a new program, Hospitality/Resort Management, in the upcoming school year. Additionally, the Health Occupations class posted a 100 percent pass rate on the LNA exam this past year, the highest percentage in the state of New Hampshire. The Huot has also built strong connections to area businesses and the developing 200 by 2020 effort is supporting both student learning and employer needs as we work together to prepare young people for employment opportunities in the Lakes Region and beyond.
Some additional "presents" that we can celebrate include these items:
WE have nine New Hampshire Scholar/Athletes. To be a NH Scholar Athlete, a student must be a high school senior, must have a 3.5 GPA, must "letter" and be currently active in at least two NHIAA recognized sports (this may include the spring sports season) and must be a positive role model who has participated in Community Service activities. This is the highest number of NH Scholar / Athletes LHS has had.

Laconia came in third out of 27 schools in Division III in the area of Sportsmanship this year.
The LHS Field Hockey Team came in first in Sportsmanship for the division.
The mean student-athlete numerical average was 82 for the combined sports program this fall.
Two-thirds of this year's Freshman Class participated in our student orientation day.
LHS clubs provide significant community service each year; literally 1000s of hours are completed by LHS students as we work together to make the community a better place for everyone.
We continue to send students to the best colleges in the country and we continue to send a high percentage of students on to two and four year programs, the military and technical programs across the country.
Four students were selected to attend St. Paul's Summer Advanced Summer Studies Program this past year. This is consistent with Laconia's strong tradition of supporting students toward academic excellence.
We needed 10 sections of chemistry to meet student demand this year, including AP for the first time ever. (We are so thankful for the new Dearborn Science Wing!)
Our Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) Program continues to be recognized around both the state and the nation as a model for how to do it right!
Laconia High School is where this year's state winner of the U.S. Constitution Essay Contest, sponsored by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, attends school!

For these reasons, and so many more that are not included in this letter, we, the staff and faculty of LHS have so much to be thankful for. It is my hope that you, the citizens of Laconia can celebrate student achievement with us as we work together to help continue to make Laconia High School a great place for students to learn and grow!
Jim McCollum
Laconia High School Principal

Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2013 11:58

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Good folks up in this neck of the woods & I have story to prove it

To The Daily Sun,

On December 9, I spun out on a slick Route 3, just south of Plymouth, forcefully interfacing with a guard rail, which kept me out of the river.

I didn't have the Plymouth PD's non-emergency number, my cell phone's 411 is a joke, so I very reluctantly called 911. Those wonderful people immediately passed on my info to the PPD, who responded expeditiously and who skillfully kept traffic moving. I cannot quite praise enough the lieutenant and the patrol officer; the young lady checked on my welfare and was very polite during the gather of information for the accident report. She and the lieutenant were both upbeat towards me.

AAA had already dispatched Bailey Hill Recovery, and the young driver was a genius, lifting the front end over the guardrail and preparing for the lift onto his rap. On the trip to the repair shop, he was polite and very friendly. Can't praise George Kirk enough for hiring driver Jeremy. God was good to me that day, as always.

Good folks up in this neck of the woods, including those who stopped to help.

Bill Carberry


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 09:42

Hits: 201

Gilmanton tempest over chief's schedule can be traced to 2003 letter

To The Daily Sun,

As we prepare for contentious budget sessions and hearings surrounding a new jail, which would add an estimated 5.5 million dollars annually to the county budget, I would like to thank Mr. Donovan (12/20) for publicizing that they can be viewed on a local public channel. Anything which results in an informed and engaged public can only be a good thing: tune in and come to a county meeting if you can.

As to the tempest about what constitutes a working fire chief, the Gilmanton Selectboard traced its history to a letter in 2003 and an agreement between the town and the then chief. In seeking to uphold that definition, it is not my observation that the Selectboard acted in any other than a professional manner.

I apologize for identifying Ms. Hempel as the current chief's wife when in fact she is his mother. Especially at this time of the year, we all need the support of our loved ones. It does seem to me that when the selectmen are misrepresented as being rude to county officialdom that residents of the county should know that the writer may have a biased position.

Rep. Richard B. Burchell
Belknap 5 - Gilmanton

Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2013 11:44

Hits: 233

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