The Big First Day for 4,200 Hudson Students
by Maureen Gillum
Let’s face it, summer in New Hampshire is always too long coming and too short when its here. With Hudson’s schools getting out late (June 23) and returning early (August 30), this year was even shorter. Nearly every parent has the same response to the annual bittersweet opening of school, “the summer flew by so fast, I just don’t know where it went!” While the less structured days of summer are still being mourned, many of us transition this week into the school routine and activities of the fall.
As always, school’s opening week is packed with things to do – everything from fighting your way through jam-packed isles for last minute school supplies, to meeting your new teacher and checking out the schools at open houses and orientations. For example, I found the 3 red-headed Albertson kids (see photo) stocking up on their gel pens at Hudson’s Wal-Mart. In stopping to take their picture for 15 seconds, I had inadvertently created a 12 cart back up and a lot of shopper stress. Amidst the chaos, Mary (Mom) Albertson didn’t seem to care too much, “Oh yeah, I’m big time ready to see those yellow school buses rolling this week,” she exclaimed with visible relief and a sly smile.
All the Hudson schools sponsored afternoon Open Houses or evening orientations this week. Stopping by Library Street School’s orientation on August 29, I bumped into Scott Baker, Principal, Library Street and Dr. H. O. Smith schools, who beamed, “We just hired our last para, so everyone, including our new Assistant Principal (Emily Carter) and Guidance Councilor (Melanie Curen), is ready to roll tomorrow!” Mr. Baker also excitedly reported his orientation went great with about 75% of his students dropping in. While there, I met Brennan French, and his buddy, Jacob Canelas, both incoming 1st graders, who were awed at the thought they’d be potentially “rich and famous,” by making it into the Hudson-Litchfield News. While the boy’s were most thrilled about the prospect of “picking out lunch without Mom,” the mother’s admitted they were “a little anxious about the bus thing.” Orientation is “all about seeing the classroom, meeting the teacher and reaching a comfort level,” shares Mrs. Linda Marques, Brennan’s 1st grade teacher, “and the staff loves it too!”
At the staff level, it takes a lot of investment of personal time and often money to get ready for the big opening day, especially at the elementary school level. “There is so much prep time for each student and things to do to get our classrooms ready,” admits one third grade veteran teacher, “it’s also increasingly harder to squeeze in all the required training like the NECAPs (New England Common Assessment Program, the new assessment tests coming to New Hampshire this October) and professional development workshops.” In fact, she estimated that each of her grade three team spent an average of 35 hours or more of their personal and unpaid time this summer, preparing for opening day. Despite the challenges and after more than 30 years of ‘1st days’, she enthusiastically laughs, “there’s really nothing like the excitement of the 1st day of school -- meeting everybody and starting off fresh – it’s just awesome!”
Don’t you remember? With built-up anticipation, hardly anyone actually sleeps well the night before the 1st day of school. But, ready or not for all, early this Tuesday morning, on August 30, about 4,200 Hudson pre-school to 12th grade public school students headed off for their ‘big first day of school.’ They donned new backpacks and squeaky clean shoes and felt the time-honored, queasy and mixed reactions of excitement and dread. And so, another 1st grader, Jackson Tarrant, with a little help from his family and fourth grade pal, Nick Masson, successfully got on bus #14 heading to Nottingham West this morning… and got off into the arms of his Mom and Dad. Yup, we’re off to another great school year in Hudson!
Ceremony Dedicates Albuquerque Avenue
by Lynne Ober
It started with a man with a dream and a vision for making Litchfield better. It took thirty plus years to complete, but today the dream is a reality.
Eduardo [Ed] Albuquerque, his wife, Rita, and their two sons, Matthew and Michael, moved to Litchfield. For Ed, it was his dream community and he spent many hours of his life trying to make Litchfield the best it could be.
Ed was an active member of the Litchfield community. He served for fifteen years as a part-time police officer and also served for many years on Litchfield’s Planning Board. While a member, he began campaigning for a road that would parallel Route 3A, run from one end of Litchfield to the other end, have a 75 foot wide right-of-way, have a bike path and would have no driveways on it, and as he proposed it, there would be no tax impact to the residents because he wanted the developers to bear the expense. That was a very impressive dream for the Litchfield of the early 1970s.
Although Ed, who died in 1999 at age 68, would not live to see the completion of his dream, his wife and sons did. When Rita Albuquerque spoke at the ceremony to dedicate Albuquerque Avenue, she said that Ed would be happy that it was completed. “This is a dream come true.”
Litchfield Selectmen hosted a ceremony to dedicate the completion of Albuquerque Avenue and to honor Ed for his dream. Selectman Pat Jewett organized the event, contacted the Albuquerque family, arranged for refreshments, and wrote invitations to residents and dignitaries.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams acted as Master of Ceremonies. Agreeing that this was a dream come true, he talked about all the effort that has gone into making the road complete. With the opening of this last phase, the road runs for 10 miles from one end of Litchfield to the other end and just as Ed envisioned, there are no driveways on the road.
Selectman Pat Jewett told the assembled audience about Ed and what he meant to Litchfield. She read a brief description of the project written by Ed for the 1974 Litchfield Town Report. He wrote about why Litchfield needed a road to connect the north and south ends of Litchfield.
Jewett described Ed as feisty and energetic and told the audience about her visits with him after he had suffered a series of strokes and had been moved to a nursing home. She recalled that she and her husband, Will, last saw him only two weeks before he died. “He told us that he wanted this project to continue and be completed and today it is.”
With the opening of the last phase, the avenue is now complete and the bike path that runs along the side of it is about eighty percent complete. “Ed wanted this bike path. He had such a vision,” smiled Jewett.
After Rita Albuquerque thanked the town and told them how pleased Ed would be, Matthew Albuquerque talked about his father and his dedication to Litchfield. “I remember asking him why he wasn’t home on Thursday nights. He told me you have to give up time to keep an eye on things you really care about. Today is truly a pleasure for our family and we thank you.”
Williams introduced Mary Pacheco who lives on Meadowbrook Lane. Pacheco talked about life on what she called Albuquerque Extension before the final phase of Albuquerque Avenue was opened. “This has given us our street back. Meadowbrook Lane has become what it was when we moved in – a quiet residential street.” Pacheco said that the extreme traffic that residents had been dealing with had totally gone away. “Some mornings it would take me five to ten minutes before I could back out of my own driveway. Now, it’s just a quick look and I can back out,” she smiled.
Williams and Jewett introduced a variety of state and town officials and talked about all the people who had worked on the project from the start until its completion.
This past March residents voted to allow Selectmen to use impact fees to complete the road, but voted down the less than $7,000 needed to complete the bike path.
Albuquerque Avenue has been open for approximately a month, the ribbon cutting took place where Liberty joins Albuquerque. As Rita cut the ribbon to formally dedicate the project, she looked up and said, “Ed, it’s open.”
Everyone chatted and enjoyed refreshments after the ribbon cutting.
Hudson’s Staff Opening Emphasizes Honors…and Challenges
by Maureen Gillum
Shortly after breakfast, Mr. Bryan Lane, Alvirne High School (AHS) Principal, led the introduction of staff opening day for the district on the morning of August 25 for a packed audience in the AHS gymnasium. Mr. Philip “Randy” Bell, Superintendent of Schools, then recognized half dozen staff who “earned the distinction and honor of serving the district” with their 25 year watches, including:
Following a standing ovation for their 150 collective years of service, School Board Chairman, David Alukonis, was then met with tepid applause as he stood to address the crowd. He first announced that a memorial bench will be placed at Library Street School in honor of its long-time Special Education teacher, Terry Wieber, who lost her battle with cancer last year. He then reiterated his ‘district roadmap’ theme with ‘three overarching goals: 1) academic rigor; 2) safe and secure environment; and 3) fiscal integrity.’ “Our plan, which I believe will be the most comprehensive in the state, is crucial to achieve our short and long term objectives,” stated Mr. Alukonis, “it will help us better plan our finances and more fully enable our students to succeed.”
Citing intensified job competition in a global economy and multiple statistics in eroding preparedness among U.S. high school graduates, Alukonis perceives serious educational challenges, within our district and across the U.S. “Within 10 years, the United States will no longer be number one in patent development and innovations,” stated Alukonis solemnly. He shared that while New Hampshire is at or near the top of U.S. educational performance statistics, half of all U.S. high school graduates are ill-prepared for college, as indicated by 35% of college freshmen need for remedial help. “I ask you to help us take the lead and shape our district’s goals and objectives and improve our benchmarks and academic standards,” declared Mr. Alukonis, “We have the opportunity to take this very good school district and make it into an excellent one. Let’s all come together to build this infrastructure.”
The Chairman ended his speech by fervently and surprisingly addressing the district’s contract negotiation status. “It’s not a good thing we don’t have contracts. I’m not happy that without a contract no one in this room gets a raise this year,” Alukonis said brandishing a “Got Contract?” badge, “and it’s unfortunate, we’re going to fact finding, after two years.” Chairman Alukonis then pledged that within one week, he’d have a costing out of the Board’s offer of a 22% salary increase over the next four year contract (0% first year; 22% over last three years), as well as the same health insurance as in the last offer. He ended his address by extending an open invitation to staff and the public to contact him with district questions, comments and concerns at 882-0017 or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With noticeably heightened tensions, this year’s abbreviated opening staff session also didn’t have its typical key note speaker or Power Point presentations. Following Chairman Alukonis, Superintendent Bell skipped those, citing a ‘short summer’ and what teachers need most is to ‘get back to their classrooms to prep.’ After a few staff updates and pledges (e.g., school air quality), Bell also addressed what he called “the elephant in the room” (staff contracts). “After these latest four days of negotiations, we’re all disappointed we haven’t reached a contract settlement yet,” candidly admitted Superintendent Bell. However, he added “negotiations are continuing in good faith and with civility” and cited “we still have 3.5 months to settle negotiations for next year.” He also stated he believed everyone within the unions, Board, and SAU 81 is dedicated to create a ‘fair, reasonable and acceptable settlement.’
Mr. Bell concluded, “Come next Tuesday, when students come through our doors, I have absolute faith our district will come together to provide Hudson high quality instruction, services and support, just as we’ve always done.” The crowd filed out of Alvirne’s gym shortly before 10:00 a.m. to return to their classrooms and site meetings.
As an editorial note, the Hudson-Litchfield News welcomes the entire SAU 81 staff to the 2005 - 2006 school year and gratefully thanks them for their continued dedication to Hudson’s students, families and schools. We hope that a ‘fair, reasonable and acceptable settlement’ is reached quickly, so that our community – our students, teachers, paras, administration, unions, school board, parents and citizens -- can together move forward to define and implement our district’s key goals and objectives. For more on the SAU 81 attendees’ reaction to this meeting, see the accompanying article, HFT Union Alleges Unfair Labor Practices and More Staff Response, on page X.
Nick Iannaco Served Lunch by Hudson Firemen
by Doug Robinson
The Hudson Fire Department raises awareness for their organization with the use of Firefighter trading cards. The purpose of these trading cards is for our youth to become involved with our firemen, and get to know each of these talented professionals. Our area youth are encouraged to meet each and every Firefighter and personally ask for each Firefighter’s trading card, with the ultimate goal to collect every card of every Fireman in the Town of Hudson.
For nearly a year, Nick Iannaco, 9 year old Nottingham West student, went to the firehouse, in efforts to collect all the cards offered by the Hudson Fire Department. “Dave Cormier was the hardest” admits Nick. “His wife was having a baby.” “Eric Weeks was the funniest. He told me to put a ‘star’ next to his name, not a check mark, because he said he was the best firefighter.”
Nick was the first to obtain all of the cards offered by the Hudson Fire Department personnel. In appreciation, Nick’s efforts were celebrated by the Hudson Fire Department as the Firemen served up a “firehouse lunch” of American Chop Suey, salad, and best of all, brownies in Nick’s honor. As the celebrated guest, Nick was first in line, ahead of the 30 or so Firemen, and invited guests to load his dish and eat first.
As they ate lunch, Nick had some prepared questions for the firemen which he had given to Chief Murray. Chief Murray answered all of Nick’s questions directly with some help from the surrounding firefighters. “What’s it like in a smokey room?” “Really dark,” was the answer from the firemen. “We use special cameras to detect heat,” answered the firemen.
“What’s it like to ride in a fire truck” asked Nick. And with that, he hopped into a truck, and off they went. “It was really loud, and they keep the windows open” admits Nick.
“While I didn’t slide down the pole, I did get to see the whole firehouse” continues Nick. “I got to go into an ambulance and see lots of medical things. Monitors that check your heart and things that keep you alive filled the ambulance. They showed me the kitchen, the bathroom, and even the bedrooms. They were clean, too. I even got to set off the fire alarm at the fire station!”
Upon asking the firemen what their biggest fire was, they responded, “a four building fire in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts.”
The firemen’s special celebration for Nick’s efforts was capped off with special gifts for him. He was presented with a special Hudson Fire Department baseball cap, a tee shirt, and a poster of the complete set of Firemen trading cards.
“They really did it up for him, they treated him special” says Carol Iannaco, Nick’s mom. “They really took the time…allowed him to fulfill every boy’s dream. They clapped and cheered for him. I also feel we should mention Lieutenant Dave Morin. He is the one who organized the whole event, and did all the cooking.”
Special thanks go to the Hudson-Litchfield News, Presstek, and the Firefighters union for their support of this special event.
On Duty Hudson Police Officer Involved in Motor Vehicle Accident
On August 26, at approximately 4:45 p.m., a Hudson Police Officer was responding to the intersection of Central Street and Fulton Street for a motorcycle accident with reported injuries. While responding to the accident with lights and siren activated, Officer Michael Davis was involved in a four vehicle accident at the Intersection of Ferry Street and Chase Street. Officer Davis received a minor injury to his right hand. He was treated and released from St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The operators of the vehicle are identified as:
Jean Russell, 58, Hudson and her passenger was Margaret French, 83, of Hudson. Russell was operating a 1995 Volkswagen Cabriolet. Both Russell and French were transported to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
After the police cruiser and the Cabriolet collided, the cruiser spun and struck a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta. The Jetta was being operated by Robin Campion, 51, of Nashua. Campion was stopped on Chase Street awaiting the light to turn green before proceeding on to Ferry Street. Campion received a minor injury to her leg, however, refused to be transported to the hospital.
Campion’s vehicle was pushed back into a fourth vehicle being operated by Paul Moore, 44, of Nashua. Moore was operating a 1993 Toyota Tercel, and he was stopped behind Campion’s vehicle. Moore was not injured.
The accident is under investigation by the New Hampshire State Police.
What are the Hudson Teachers Union negotiators holding out for, and is the Union Leadership representing the thoughts and feelings of all the educators? A Twenty-two percent raise over three years would bring a minimum starting salary from $29,053 ranked 56th in the state (down from 38th in 2001) to $35,444.66, a rate which is higher than Merrimack’s current minimum starting salary ranking 17th in New Hampshire. All or most of the other unions in the town including the Highway Department, Police Department, and the Library received only a 3% increase in their contracts last year. So, again, why are the negotiators opting to go to a Fact Finder, costing the District more money to allow them to give the teachers a raise? It seems preposterous to think that they are holding out for more money than is already being offered. If the School Board thinks they can sell this to the voter in the March Election, why wouldn’t the Teachers Union stand with them? Even if there are “other” issues they are unhappy with, certainly those things could be worked out without such a large number in the salary line. Healthcare being on those “other” issues is also being fairly offered at the industry standard. Even factoring in a high healthcare cost, the 22% will not be reduced to less that 14-15% in pay increase.
It is a well known fact that teachers do not go into their profession to get rich. One of our principals was quoted as saying “We don’t go into it [teaching] to get rich, we go into it for the riches we reap.” Teachers want to share themselves and their knowledge with children and watch them grow and learn. This is the greatest reward for most teachers we know. But, it is also realistic for them to ask to be paid what they are worth. Years ago teachers were a rooted part of communities and typically lived in town, they didn’t just “work” for the school department, and they were embedded in the background of the town and could be seen volunteering, taking part-time jobs, and steering the undercurrent of life in their “home town.” People today don’t necessarily want nor need that type of lifestyle; they will readily move for a few extra dollars in their pay check.
It is outrageous that most of the teachers at the Back-to-School Breakfast didn’t know what the School Board’s offer was. The School Board Chairman was chastised when he told them what was offered, and a gasp could be heard from the floor. He is now being charged with an unfair labor practice. Even though the gag order was lifted when they went to the Fact-Finder, the Teacher negotiators feel the School Board Chairman over stepped his bounds. Is this large increase an attempt to bring the teachers salaries up to parody with surrounding towns? Go to the ballot with what you really want, if you hold out too long the votes will be cast and you may end up with “No.”