Pelham-Windham News

Playing with Dolls Takes on New Meaning at Russian Doll Painting Workshop

by Lynne Ober

How about painting dolls, instead of playing with them?  That’s exactly what went on at a recent workshop at Nesmith Library.

“I was interested in nesting dolls,” smiled Sarah, who proudly said she was almost eight and almost in third grade.  “I wanted to paint some of them.”

“She really did,” said her mother, “and then I found out about this workshop at the library and here we are – painting.”

Friends of Windham Library, in conjunction with Nesmith Library, are sponsoring three family “Art at the Library” programs.  The first one was painting Russian nesting dolls.

Sarah, almost 8 and almost in third grade, starts to paint her nesting doll.

History says that the first Russian nesting doll set, also known as matryoshka, was made in 1890 in the workshop "Children's Education" situated in Abramtsevo estate new Moscow.  The owner of Abramtsevo was Sava Mamontov, who was an industrialist and a patron of the arts.  Russian wooden dolls with nested smaller dolls were called matryoshka.  In old Russia the name Matryona or Matriosha was a very popular female name among peasants.  Scholars say this name has a Latin root "mater" and means "Mother" so this name was associated with the image of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure and lots of smaller children (i.e. nested dolls).  Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in such a way that they could be taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.

Russian folklorist, lecturer, and artist Marina Forbes presented the workshop.  She used humor, stories, music and tips to teach her pupils how to paint traditional nesting dolls. 

Forbes has been teaching for more than 20 years and is a licensed guide of the Hermitage Museum in her native city of St. Petersburg (Russia) and leads several customized tours to Russia each year.  In June of each year she leads a tour back to her home city of St. Petersburg for small groups of travelers.

She is currently Director of International Programs at the New England Language Center in Rochester, New Hampshire.  The center offers language instruction of more than 16 foreign languages as well as intensive English as a Second Language program.

Forbes is listed on the New Hampshire Humanities Council Roster as well as the New Hampshire Arts Council Rosters for Traditional Arts, Arts in Education, and VSA.  She offers between 75 to 100 presentations and workshops each year on Russian art, life, history, and culture throughout the New England area.

In addition to her interest in folk lore, she is an active artist and art teacher, focusing on watercolors, traditional Russian icons, and Russian nesting dolls. 

Saturday she worked with family members to paint and create unique sets of Russian matryoshka dolls while telling stories and introducing the audience to Russian music and culture.

In her presentations, Forbes draws on her own personal experiences to paint a vivid, thought-provoking, and often humorous picture of both the old and new Russia.  

As her students worked on the nesting dolls, she drifted from student to student, showing them how to improve on their painting technique and offering tips.

Students learned about traditional Russian dress, and steps to Russian dances, but none of them lost sight of their goal to produce a painted set of five nesting dolls by the end of the workshop.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” grinned soon-to-be-eight Sarah.

Painted “mother” nesting doll.

Petitioned Warrant Article for High School Addition Not Supported

by Lynne Ober

Last week’s Pelham~Windham News detailed the petitioned warrant article for the addition at the high school.  Since the presentation made by the petitioners, a number of activities have taken place on their proposal.

They made a presentation to the school board, but the board did not support their proposal.

A bond hearing was held on their proposal.

The Budget Committee voted not to recommend their proposal.

School board members voted not to support by a vote of 4 – 1 with school board member Linda Mahoney voting to support.  There were a plethora of concerns voiced by Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler and school board members.

Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler chats with school board members prior to the bond hearing.

Cutler said that while it was a conceptual presentation, the real proof would be when an architect prepared schematic drawings.  “Until that time, you can’t really decide whether to support or not.  Without those schematics I would be reluctant to support because so much is unknown.”

Cutler cited two important issues.  One is the fact that when the septic system was replaced at the high school in 1996, it had to be put in front because the other land either held fields or was comprised of wetlands.  “You can’t put a septic system in a wetland,” she said, “so, it went back out front.”  There’s a question as to whether it could be expanded to service the growing high school population or not.  “That’s an issue that wasn’t even mentioned by the petitioners.”

Cutler is also concerned about staging for the proposed construction.  “It takes a lot of room to stage equipment and supplies during a construction project.”  Staging was not addressed by petitioners during their presentation.

School Board Member Dr. Steven Tello was concerned about acquiring wetland permitting.  He talked about a presentation that the board had received from environmental departments on those issues.  When he brought this up at Monday night’s bond hearing, Mahoney told him that permits wouldn’t be needed.

However, Tello reminded her that the conceptual drawing showed using a small wetland area and that would have to be mitigated and permitting would be required.  Petitioners did not mention the permitting process or the affect this might have on their conceptual proposal or the cost of their proposal. 

There’s also a concern among school board members as to whether this is a long term solution or not.  “Why build a short-term solution?” wondered School Board Chairman Mike Conrad.

Vice Chairman Cindy Kyzer concurred and also was concerned about the other schools.  “Pelham Elementary School is already crowded and that age population is projected to grow in Pelham.  The middle school is crowded, and we have already determined that we will need four schools.  Is building an addition a wise long-term decision for the town and the taxpayers?”

The school board has been examining renovating the current high school after a new one had been built.  The old high school would become a school for seventh and eighth grades and would relieve the crowded conditions at both the middle and elementary school.  The current middle school would then house grades 4, 5, and 6 or some combination of those grades.

Nevertheless the school board posted and held a bond hearing on the proposal.  The hearing was held on the Martin Luther King holiday.  “It’s not a work day for me,” said Cutler, “but with the posting requirements and hearing requirements, we had little choice.  The last day to hold a hearing is Tuesday and what if it snowed?”  The petitioned warrant article wouldn’t go to the ballot without the required bond hearing so the hearing was held on the Monday.

The bond hearing presented residents with questions the first opportunity to ask the petitioners questions about their proposal. 

Unfortunately, Lorraine Dube, who introduced the proposal at the Budget Hearing and the School Board, was the only petitioner in the audience.  She declined to speak to the proposal or to answer resident questions.

Two residents did ask questions.  Adele Cerri wondered what would happen if voters passed the petitioned warrant article and then an architect determined that $16 million was not enough money. 

Business Administrator Brian Gallagher told her that the board would have to live within the allotted money or scale down the project, but that could be a problem, too.

Conrad pointed out that the warrant article specifies an addition of 50,000 square feet.  “If we didn’t have enough money, we couldn’t scale back because the size of the addition is in the warrant.  That’s just one of several things that worry me about the wording of the warrant article.”

Cerri then said that the rest of her questions could only be answered by the petitioners and she wouldn’t ask them of the board since no petitioners were available to answer.

Ron Walsh was confused about if there was enough land or not. 

Kyzer talked about the need to build an addition on both the elementary and middle schools if the high school could not be converted to house seventh and eighth grade.  “We don’t have enough total land for a high school addition and an addition at one or both of the other schools.”

As the march toward the March ballot continues, residents will again have an opportunity to ask questions.

Pelham School Board Member Marches to a Different Drummer

by Karen Plumley

Pelham School Board member Linda Mahoney organized a petition that will place a warrant article on the ballot to put the SAU operating budget on a separate line item from the school district budget.  The citizen’s petition was received by both the Windham and Pelham school boards at their most recent meetings that took place last week. 

“Having a separate line item for the SAU operating budget will allow voters the right to have more of a say, similar to how the school district budget is,” said Mahoney.  As a private citizen, Mahoney has the right to organize a petition.  However, things are never as simple as they appear.

During a meeting on November 9, the Pelham School Board discussed the possibility of itemizing the SAU budget, but upon further examination decided to meet with the Windham School Board before placing the article on the ballot.  Linda Mahoney was present during this discussion. 

“Linda organized a petition warrant article without telling either of the boards,” described Pelham School Board Chairman Mike Conrad.  According to Conrad, the move almost caused Windham to put a question on their ballot to dissolve the SAU with Pelham.  Although the separation of the SAU may be something that eventually will happen, Conrad believes that Pelham is not yet ready for the change.  “We would need to build another SAU, hire a superintendent and other personnel such as human resources.  Pelham cannot afford this right now,” he stated.  “There is an entire process that a town would have to go through to address the withdrawal of a town from an SAU.”

“This item is on the SAU meeting agenda for May of this year at the request of the Windham School Board,” described Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler.

In a letter addressed to the Pelham School Board by Windham School Board Chairman Bruce Anderson, he expressed bewilderment and concern, stating that “the submission of this warrant article by a board member without discussion at an SAU meeting is perhaps the most unprofessional act I have seen ... in my whole career.”  He went on to affirm that both school boards “realize that in the future, it may be beneficial to dissolve or reorganize SAU 28.  However, the Windham School Board believes that this is a step that must be approached cautiously and cooperatively…”  Anderson has been unavailable for further comment.

The warrant article to place the SAU budget on a separate line item for voters will appear on the ballot in March.  Neither school board voted to recommend the article.

Mahoney seems to be tangled up in another web as well.  A petitioned warrant article to expand Pelham High School has been brought forth by concerned citizens of Pelham.  It was presented to the Pelham School Board, who voted 4 - 1 not to recommend it with Linda Mahoney voting in favor.  The petitioned warrant article was then presented on January 12 to the Budget Committee.  Although it was voted 4 - 3 against, Linda Mahoney voted in favor.  “Ms. Mahoney was appointed [to the Budget Committee] by the school board to represent it,” described Conrad, who feels that it was Mahoney’s duty to vote against the article at the Budget Committee meeting. 

Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich concurs with Conrad.  In a post on the Pelham message board, he wrote, “The ex-officio position on the Budget Committee, Planning Board, or any other board is supposed to represent the board they are sitting in for.  With respect to the school board ex-officio position on the Bud Com … it’s a different story.”

“It is my duty as an elected official to represent the petitioners and citizens of Pelham,” stated Mahoney, who felt that because citizens of Pelham presented the article instead of the school board, she could vote her conscience.  “I’ve always represented the school board on issues that it brings to the committee,” explained Mahoney.  As far as the current petition to raise $16 million for the expansion of Pelham High School, she stated, “I do support the expansion of the high school, but was not personally involved with the petitioned warrant article.”  In response to her claim that she could vote opposite to the school board in this case, Conrad explained that although the petitioners did not have to present their warrant article to the school board, the school board was obligated to vote whether or not to recommend it.  “Therefore,” said Conrad, “Ms. Mahoney should have represented the school board in this matter.” 

Dr. Elaine Cutler stated that although the Pelham School Board was “taken aback” by Mahoney’s vote, “Mahoney did not act in an illegal manner by voting against the majority of the school board.”

London Bridge Deemed Historical by Expert

by Lynne Ober

Windham School District has received the report on the historical value of the property where the new high school will be built.  It characterizes London Bridge as a historic 18th century bridge. 

The report written by Kathleen Wheeler, Ph. D., Independent Archaeological Consulting, LLC of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was commissioned by the school district’s engineering firm, Appledore Engineering, Inc. of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Calling the bridge a late 18th century bridge, Wheeler wrote in her report, “We found the old bridge a potentially significant resource, and can enlighten on late 18th century transportation/bridging technology.”

Wheeler recommends further study and field documentation, including photography of the bridge.  “Additional fieldwork will include clearing of vegetation to permit photography, scaled drawings of the stonework, and continuous photography from one end of each of the two sides of the bride.  The recordation of the bride should require two additional days of fieldwork, plus time in the lab to render drawings, label photos, and compose a report on our findings.”

This report appears to support the claims of the Windham Historic Commission that this is a resource that should be considered valuable to the town.

At a recent Conservation Commission meeting, an Appledore Engineering representative did admit that it was still not clear what the historic value of the bridge was.  Previously Appledore representatives had talked about no value and about the need to cover the bridge or tear down the bridge to make a road to the high school.

Members of the Historic Commission wish to find a way to preserve the bridge and have suggested by-passing it when the new road is built.

The Windham School Board, however, has approved a plan that will place the new road over the existing bridge and will bury it.

Importance of Community Emergency Response Teams Apparent Following Hurricanes

by Lynne Ober

If there were an important lesson to be learned from Hurricane Katrina, it was that each and every community needs to be prepared to take care of itself in the first few days after a disaster.  Blame aside, America is a big country.  Moving resources takes time.  Help will be needed immediately and, as Katrina showed everyone, emergency services can be overwhelmed during a disaster.

That help may come in the form of a Community Emergency Response Teams or CERT, which is a Federal Emergency Management Agency program aimed at educating citizens about hazards and training them in lifesaving skills so that they are better prepared to respond to emergencies.

Pelham Fire Chief Dave Fisher instructs the class in oxygen therapy.

Pelham has started a CERT program and the trained members have already been active within the community.  CERT members, just like firefighters or police officers, must engage in training on a yearly basis in order to keep their skills current and also to allow them to gain new skills.  The purpose is to provide residents with basic skills required to respond to their community’s needs in the aftermath of a disaster.

CERT is described as a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens may initially be on their own and their actions can make a difference.  While people will respond to others in need, one goal of the CERT program is to help them do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.  In the CERT training, citizens learn to:

  • Manage utilities and put out small fires.
  • Provide basic medical aid.
  • Search for and rescue victims safely.
  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.
  • Collect disaster intelligence to support first-responder efforts.”

Pelham Fire Chief Dave Fisher, a proponent of CERT programs, characterizes them as assistance for communities in taking care of themselves in the aftermath of a major disaster when first responders are overwhelmed or unable to respond because of communication or transportation difficulties.  “We think of the CERT members as able to work alongside of the first responders and that’s an important part of any disaster recovery.”

As the CERT concept has grown, CERTs have become much more than originally envisioned.  Members of CERT have proven to be an active and vital part of their community’s preparedness and response capability.

Fisher was the instructor in the recently held Train the Trainer training in Pelham.  Members were recertified in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators. 

In addition Fisher taught a class in oxygen therapy.  Members learned how to use oxygen tanks, masks, and other equipment.  Fisher did caution members about the use of oxygen with some medical conditions and told some funny stories about oxygen used on some patients. 

Members learned how they can supplement the care given by first responders and how and why their role is important in any disaster.  Fisher used both humor and experience to make points during training.

Attending the training and learning how to lead similar training were Tim Monette, CERT Team Leader; Anthony Chianca, CERT Assistant Team Leader; Diane Burnelle, CERT Liaison; Cathy Pinette, CERT Administrative Recorder; George Davis; Scott Bowden; Richard Liardo; and Barbara Gindi.

Damage to Veterans’ Park Area Reported by Anonymous Caller

by Karen Plumley

The lawn around the Veterans’ Memorial area at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Pelham has recently been torn up by recreational vehicles. 

“It could be ATVs or snowmobiles.  At this point we can’t really tell,” explained Recreation Director Darren McCarthy.  The recreation department received an anonymous tip over the phone last week that damage was inflicted at the park.  After the phone call was received, McCarthy drove out to the site to inspect the damage.  According to McCarthy, the damage looks as if it were a deliberate act.  “The lawn was torn up in a donut-like pattern,” he described.  Normally the Recreation Department will check all the parks in town on a weekly basis, but McCarthy was grateful for the phone call.  “I hope that more people in town report any damage to us if they see it.  It does save the taxpayers some money,” he said. 

It is estimated that the repairs will cost hundreds of dollars.  “The money will come from our budget, but will be taken away from other things.  It’s frustrating,” explained McCarthy.  He will be working with the town administrator to hire a repair crew, and there is a definite deadline.  “We have to get it done before Memorial Day,” he said. 

Editor’s note:  This article is Part 1 of a two-part series on PowerSchool’s Parent Portal.  .  This article is an overview of Parent Portal.  The next article will review the training process and parents’ reactions to the new software.

Parent Portal Tracking Arrives at Pelham Schools

by Karen Plumley

PowerSchool’s Parent Portal will be rolled out in Pelham for use by parents and guardians of middle and high school students on January 24.  Training will be provided on the day before to parents.  During the training sessions, parents will receive their usernames and passwords, which will allow them to log on to the system at any time as often as they like to check on academic progress and attendance records of their children. 

The software program has many features.  Because teachers electronically record assignments and results of every student, parents can easily obtain an overview of how their children are performing in school, and also can delve deeper into the reason or reasons behind a low grade.  According to the software tutorial, learning more details about the student can aid parents in helping their children master their topics of study.  A parent can also look at a child’s history and determine his or her overall grade point average.  In addition to academic progress, parents can also obtain information on their children’s attendance by period, and therefore will see any tardiness or patterns of absence. 

This software, in theory, will be able to change the focus of parent-teacher conferences from a discussion of grades, homework, and quizzes to strategies for academic improvement.  But it will only work if parents find the time to get involved, log on to the system, and diligently follow their children’s’ progress.  Will it be a success?  To learn more, stay tuned for Part 2 of the Parent Portal series.  For more information on the software or training, contact Pelham School District Technology Director Adam Steel at 635-8875 or e-mail him at

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