Pelham-Windham News

Music Session at Nesmith Library Enjoyed by Toddlers

by Karen Plumley

A music session for toddlers led by certified Kindermusik specialist Rose Lemay was held at the Nesmith Library on Thursday morning, January 19.  A one-time preschool teacher, “Miss Rose” began to notice that there was a demand for more enrichment programs outside of school, so she got started with the program and has been running it at local preschools, libraries, and also at Barnes and Noble in Salem.  The children warmed to her immediately and enjoyed the music, stories, and activities during the hour-long session.  All in attendance learned a little something about music, had a great time, and got some exercise too!

Hannah, 4 months, of Methuen and her mommy, Jana, enjoy the music and story.

Will Kindergarten be Mandated by State?

The House Education Subcommittee on HB1241, sponsored by four state representatives, one from Chester, two from Merrimack and one from Nashua, would mandate that every school district provide kindergarten by 2007 even when the local community has decided against such a proposal.  Communities that do not currently have public kindergarten and would be directly affected by this bill include Auburn, Chester, Derry, Fremont, Hudson, Lyndeborough, Greenville, Mason, New Ipswich, Milford, Pelham, Salem, Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow, Sandown, and Windham.

As of October 2005, only two of the school districts not operating public kindergarten, Hampstead and Goffstown, have voted to implement public kindergarten and have funds for kindergarten construction grants already reserved for them by the state.  Others have voted not to fund kindergarten, and one, Litchfield, is in the middle with a town vote from last March to preserve Litchfield’s place in the kindergarten construction aid lineup.  Litchfield had a warrant article with a zero appropriation passed last year.

According to the fiscal note attached to the bill, “Based on first grade enrollments for 11 of the 12 remaining districts during the 2003 - 2004 school year, as well as the kindergarten construction grant request from Timberland Regional, the Department [of Education] states an additional 65 kindergarten classrooms would be needed.  The estimated cost to construct and provide the cost of initial equipment needed to operate a kindergarten classroom is $240,000.  Total kindergarten construction costs would total $15,600,000 (65 x $240,000), of which the state would pay 75 percent or $11,700,000, and the school districts would pay 25 percent or $3,900,000.  Currently, the state has $1,719,120 available for the 12 districts that have not yet voted to implement kindergarten, reducing the state’s share to $9,980,880 ($11,700,000 - $1,719,120).  The department assumes half the classrooms would be constructed and equipped in fiscal year 2007, and the other half in fiscal year 2008.  The estimated costs for the additional kindergarten construction (including equipping the classrooms) are as follows:

Kindergarten Construction FY 2007 FY 2008 Total (FY07/08)
State Share $4,990,440 $4,990,440 $9,980,880
Local Share $1,950,000 $1,950,000 $3,900,000

No opposing comments were heard during the public hearing for the bill on January 10.  The most notable comments were those from Salem residents, who want the state to force the town to provide and pay for public kindergarten even though Salem has voted down public kindergarten several times.  

Although the New Hampshire constitution prohibits unfunded mandates (Section 28A), it is clear from the fiscal note that this legislation will not provide 100 percent of the costs.

Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell estimates that Hudson would need to build 10 classrooms.  “At 1,000 square feet per classroom, and $150 per square foot construction cost, that would be one and a half million dollars.  Then we’d need to hire ten teachers.  At an average cost of $60,000 for salary and benefits that would cost $600,000 per year.  We’d have to have more buses, more bus drivers, furniture, supplies, books – lots.  It’s more than just getting 75 percent of the building construction costs.”

Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler, of Windham and Pelham, is also concerned about the effects of this legislation.  One member of the Pelham School Board wrote a letter about the funding impact for the school board’s review.

While no one denies the positive effect that kindergarten brings to students, Hudson Budget Chairman Howard Dilworth commented, “Kindergarten will come to Hudson when Hudson is ready for kindergarten,” and noted that the constitution requires funding for mandated programs.  “You still cannot override Article 28-A of the state constitution.  It was put in for exactly these types of things,” he concluded.

Windham Selectmen Look Ahead

by Lynn McNamara

At a recent meeting, selectmen set forth some items for future agendas.  These “New Year’s Resolutions,” as Selectman Alan Carpenter termed them, included the following:

  • Putting the town’s legal services out to bid.  According to Carpenter, based on the past two years, he believes the town may be better served elsewhere.  He cited the long turn-around time and the lack of clarity of some of the decisions received by the board as reasons to at least consider seeking other counsel.  Selectman Bruce Breton agreed that a change was in order.  Selectman Stearns objected, stating that overall he is satisfied with present counsel and is not looking to make a change.  Chairman Hohenberger clarified that he hoped current counsel would participate in the bid process, but that it could be beneficial for the town to go out to bid.
  • Taking a new look at the Recreation Committee Charter, last modified in 1998.  Carpenter noted that this should be updated with consideration from the Recreation Coordinator, Recreation Committee, and the board.
  • Revising the town policy regarding purchases over $5,000.  Carpenter suggested that the finance director be charged with executing all such bids in order to make the process more uniform and efficient.  Town Administrator David Sullivan informed the board that this is currently being worked on.
  • Reissuing the bid for the town’s gasoline purchases.  According to Carpenter, the original process eliminated most of the gas stations in town due to 24 hours requirement.
  • Discussing additional possibilities regarding the parking lot donation across from Griffin Park.  Chairman Roger Hohenberger noted that he had received a suggestion that made a lot of sense, to relocate the tennis courts across the street at the site of the proposed parking lot and use the space where the tennis courts are for additional parking.  This would mitigate the safety problem of crossing Range Road and alleviate the parking problem.  Selectman Carpenter noted that if more parking within Griffin Park were desired, the front field could be used.  Hohenberger noted that the donor, Mr. Mesiti, would have to be amenable to any changes and a new town vote would be necessary.
  • Reviewing the town’s septic ordinance, currently 20 years old.  The town requires septic systems to be set back 100 feet from a well, 25 feet further than required by the state.  Selectman Stearns noted that this should be reconsidered in light of new technologies and the fact that the board has a strong history of granting most waivers between 100 and 75 feet anyway.  He stated the board should either enforce the 100 feet rule, if still reasonable, or rewrite it to 75 feet, citing the many hours the board spends hearing requests for these waivers. 

Pelham Budgets Summarized

by Lynne Ober

Pelham Budget Committee Chairman John Lavallee summarized both the town and the school budgets at the recently held reconsideration budget session.

The school district budget has numerous fixed costs that cannot be cut.  According to Lavallee 63 plus percent goes to salaries and benefits, which have been previously approved by town vote.

On the town side, nearly 65 percent goes to salaries and benefits.

In addition, the town has a debt service amounting to another eight percent.

The town’s budget is up 9.9 percent over last year’s default budget after the Budget Committee made its recommended cuts.  Selectmen had submitted a budget that was up more than ten percent.

“So 73 percent of the town budget is fixed costs,” stated Lavallee.  “We can’t cut any of those fixed costs.”

Both town and school have experienced and, therefore, budgeted for higher utility costs and fuel costs.  The rise in fuel costs is especially difficult for the school district because school buses are not fuel-efficient vehicles.

Lavallee told the audience that the Budget Committee had made approximately two percent cuts across the school district budget.

The largest segment of the school district budget is the district-wide budget.  That budget has all the health and dental costs, the transportation costs for students, life insurance costs, social security costs and the entire special education budget.

“$556,685 is budgeted for out-of-district placement for 12 special education students,” stated Lavallee.  Altogether the special education budget is $2,126,613 and of that $368,370 goes just to special education transportation.

With the town-wide revaluation underway, no one is certain what the new tax rate will be per thousand.  That will depend upon the final evaluation figures.  At this point in time, the Budget Committee can provide an educated guess as to what the tax rate impacts will be of the budget requests, but cannot provide absolutely certain figures.

In fact, those final figures will not be available at the time of the town’s March vote, which may cause concern on the part of some voters.

Reflections Artisans Honored at Pelham Elementary

by Lynne Ober

At a reception held to honor all the Pelham Elementary School students who entered the PTA Reflections program, community members applauded, laughed, and enjoyed the evening.

Karlee Erickson with her award-winning artwork, “I wonder why there are so many kinds of fish for different waters?”

This annual program, held at many schools across the country, is designed to promote the arts.  Students are given a topic and then produce an original piece of work that can be a story, a poem, a photo, or a piece of artwork.  This year’s theme, “I Wonder Why,” inspired the students in many different ways.

A top piece of original work is chosen from each category and sent onto the regional competition held on Wednesday, February 22 from 6:30 – 8:30 at Mont Vernon Village School in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire.  (bad weather date is February 23).

Blue Ribbon Winners
Literature – first grade Patrick Collins
Visual Arts – first grade Alyssa Levine
Literature – second grade Skyler Goss
Visual Arts – second grade Nicholar Jarek
Literature – third grade Tia Floyd
Visual Arts – third grade Karlee Erickson
Photography – fourth grade Jordan Parece
Visual Arts – fourth grade Austin Croatti
Literature – fifth grade Ashley Cloutier
Visual Arts – fifth grade Erica Pantaleo
Photography – fifth grade Alexandra Craven
Honorable Mention
Literature – third grade Layne Phillipson
Pantaleo Karwacki
Visual Arts – third grade Holly Kathios
Morgan Pinksten
Visual Arts – fourth grade Taylor Bastian
Thomas Collins
Visual Arts – fifth grade Rebekah Lonett Day
Tiffany Latour
Autumn Faucher
Literature – fifth grade Kaileigh Stelmack

By Patrick Collins, Grade 1

  • I wonder why I love my mom and dad
  • Because they are never mad
  • I wonder why I love my grandmas and grandpa
  • Because they are always glad
  • I wonder why I love my aunts and uncles
  • Because they are never sad
  • They all love me
  • Because I am never bad

By Tia Floyd, Grade 3

  • I wonder why birds can fly
  • Way up high in the sky.
  • Or why an eagle is soaring high
  • Or if God just made them fly.
  • I still don’t know why birds fly
  • I’ll maybe see you in the sky, so
  • Bye, bye.

All of the artisans are shown together after receiving their awards.  Andrea Dube, who coordinated the event, is shown in the back row on the left.

Learning to Make Books

by Lynne Ober

Families enjoyed learning to make books at Nesmith Library.  In the morning 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children worked on books and in the afternoon a session was held for older children and their parents.

Both sessions were taught by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord who began making books in 1987 when her first child was just two years old.  Today she’s turned her love of homemade books into an art form and teaches others how to enjoy making books. 

“Books are intimate objects,” Gaylord told her students.  “Books have spirits.  They are dwelling places for our thoughts and dreams.”

Aidan, 3 ½, and Casie, 3, intently watch Gaylord explain the next step.  “This is exciting,” said Aidan.

The bookmaking sessions were second in a series of three offered by Friends of Windham Library.  “We wanted something that families could do together.  So often we just have programs for children.”

Gaylord has taught more than 10,000 students since 1990 how to make books.  She told her students that “books are something you can make with your children or for your children and I hope that you do both.”

Although Gaylord’s books are frequently exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York, at Yale University Library, and Wellesley College Library, she has a unique and enthusiastic manner that soon had all of her students raptly listening and watching. 

With materials spread on the table in front of them, Gaylord slowly and clearly walked them through the various stages of making a book.

She passed out a detailed handout that showed how to make nearly a dozen different books.  Each one described in detailed steps and little sketches.  “We can easily do this at home,” said one entranced mom.

Students first learned how to make their book and then they moved into the challenging and fun part – making their books unique and interesting.  Gaylord had stamps and other materials that students could use to adorn their books.

“This is so much fun,” grinned Jody.  “I want to make more books.”

“I have a bow on my top and I’m going to put a bow on my book,” said three-year-old Casie.

In addition to making books and sharing her love for making books, Gaylord is an accomplished author who has written Hands-on History, Middle Ages, Super Pop-up Reports for American History and multicultural books to make and share.  All of her books are available from Scholastic Professional Books.

Gaylord displays a number of handmade books and encourags her students to look at them.

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