Officers Graduate From Fire Academy
by Lynne Ober
New Hampshire’s Richard M. Flynn Fire Academy is a state-of-the-art training and educational facility dedicated to meeting the training needs of New Hampshire's emergency responders. It provides a wide variety of training opportunities from firefighting and rescue to hazardous materials and a driving school for all fire and emergency responder vehicles. The facilities which include: two "burn buildings," classrooms, an auditorium, dormitory, fire station, computer lab, and an exercise room.
The most recent graduating class graduated in April. A total of twenty-three men and women graduated from the 25th Fire Officer Program. They represented towns across New Hampshire.
Timothy Robinson, Coordinator for NH Fire Standards and Training, acted as Master of Ceremonies. After the march of the graduates, Hudson’s Deputy Chief, Charlie Chalk, offered the Invocation.
Commissioner David Duquette, Chairman of the NH Fire Standards and Training Commission offered congratulatory remarks.
The commencement speaker was David Duquette, Captain of the Dover Fire and Rescue.
Michael E. Nickerson from the Hampton Fire and Rescue was the Student Speaker.
Graduates were presented with certifications before Chalk offered the Benediction.
Legal Fees on the Rise for Pelham School District
by Diane Chubb
Pelham School District has spent more on fees for its legal counsel in 2006-06 than ever before.
Brian Gallagher, the Business Manager for the Pelham School District, provided his monthly report to the Pelham School Board. The budget line for legal fees is on its way to being over budget.
The district has already spent over $12,000 of the $17,000 allocated to legal fees. This does not include the March and April bills, which are expected to be approximately $5,000.
School Board Chair Mike Conrad requested an accounting of the legal fees to determine why the district will be over budget.
The school district retains the services of a local law firm in Salem to answer questions and provide opinions on issues that arise for the district. Counsel usually handles routine matters such as personnel issues, harassment claims, benefits, contract negotiation, and any other legal issues addressing school policies.
Until this most recent budget year, the district has had no problems staying within the budget for legal fees. Most of the costs for legal services are routine matters. These include over 11 hours of contract negotiations and bargaining, changes in school procedures, reviewing the voter guide, and considering legal issues for the possible acquisition of land for a new school.
However, many of the other fees seem to be in response to numerous issues raised by Pelham School Board member Linda Mahoney.
Shortly after Mahoney joined the Board in March 2005, she raised questions and requested legal opinions regarding the manner in which the district conducted business.
“Certainly as a member of the School Board, legal opinions or advise are important to solicit on an as needed basis. In the orientation period new board members are given an orientation on the budget and expenses during the year,” explained Gallagher.
“As Business Manager, I have reminded the board and Ms. Mahoney that each request for a legal advice comes with a monetary price and therefore each new request should be carefully considered as it will impact the bottom line budget. It should always be directed toward clarification of school board issues or policies and never be requested to satisfy an individual viewpoint, as the board's objective and duty is to speak as a whole."
Former Pelham School Board member Steven Tello served one year on the Board with Mahoney.
“When I first joined the Board, Linda wanted to tape record Non-public session,” Tello recalls. “Several Board members were concerned about the liability issues associated with recording everything said in Non-Public session along with the cost of sealing every taped session. Legal counsel suggested that this would be an expensive proposition, and since the tapes would need to be sealed, might actually limit the public's access further."
Tello also recalled several incidents over the past year when, dissatisfied with the outcome of a School Board vote, Mahoney would request an opinion on the legality of the Board's actions.
"Linda was upset over the hiring of an assistant superintendent for the district, a personnel action approved by a majority of the Board. She requested a legal opinion on this matter."
More recently, when the Board approved the purchase of a new budgeting and payroll system to replace the DOS-based accounting system on a 4-1 vote, Mahoney requested a legal opinion regarding the Board's ability to make this purchase.
"It did seem that if Linda was opposed to an expenditure or action on the Board's part, she would question the legality of our action, forcing us to pay legal counsel to review the matter. I don't recall any incident where legal counsel suggested the Board acted outside the law," states Tello.
In addition to her requests for review by legal counsel, several policy changes proposed by Mahoney required further external legal review.
In May/June 2005, in response to parental concerns about the Day of Silence held at Pelham High School, Mahoney presented a draft policy for review by the Board. The policy would govern what is and what is not allowed during school hours on school property regarding issues that are political or religious in nature. Mahoney drafted the policy without the input of other Board members or counsel.
It is Board policy that any changes to existing school policies must be reviewed by counsel prior to adoption. Although the Board did not request that Mahoney write this policy, the members took appropriate steps to have the proposed policy reviewed by counsel.
In addition, Mahoney raised her concerns regarding school and student sponsored clubs and organizations whose advisors receive stipends. It was her position that advisors of the student-sponsored activities should not receive stipends. This matter was also sent to counsel.
Counsel later returned its opinion regarding the policies for protests and demonstrations, stating that the school must offer “equal access” to school facilities during non-instructional time to all or none in a common place. The draft policy submitted by Mahoney was unconstitutional.
Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, substantial research was required by counsel. Over 16 hours of legal time were spent on this issue alone, costing over $3,100.
Despite the legal opinion regarding student protests and demonstrations previously received from counsel, Mahoney has continued to question this issue. She conducted her own research and wrote a letter challenging the opinion of counsel.
In March, counsel confirmed its initial position regarding the First Amendment rights of students. The bill for this additional legal response to Mahoney has not yet been received by the district, but is expected to be substantial.
In January, Mahoney raised questions regarding how non-school sponsored funds are handled. Non-school sponsored activities include events such as Prom, for which students raise a substantial amount of money to defray the cost. Currently, the school district holds these funds on behalf of the student groups. Mahoney believes that the district should not be responsible for this money. The matter was sent to legal counsel for an opinion. This opinion has not yet been sent to the Board, and thus, the final cost is not yet known.
Further, Mahoney drafted a petition warrant article regarding whether the SAU budget should be included on the ballot for voters. There were many who questioned whether Mahoney was acting as a private citizen in this matter, or as a Board member. Additional questions were raised when Mahoney voted against a majority decision of the Board when she represented the Board at a Budget Committee member.
The Board, very much aware that substantial legal fees had already been incurred during the year, ultimately chose not to investigate Mahoney's actions in these matters to avoid further legal costs.
Gallagher states that over $12,500 of the $17,000 budgeted for the 2005-06 year has been spent to date. He anticipates that the legal bills for March and April will be approximately $5,000. By June 30, the end of the budget yet, the district will be over budget for this line.
Earth Day Cleanup Gets Much Needed Help From Geocachers
by Karen Plumley
It was a sunny day on April 22, and members of the Land Stewardship Committee in conjunction with the Pelham Conservation Commission were finally able to hold a productive cleanup day at the Hinds Lane/Gumpus Pond Conservation Land. It is a stunning I50-acre parcel of property protected by the town from developers, but unfortunately it has seen its share of dumping. “People have been dumping their garbage out here for years,” said committee member Charlotte Moore. “It just makes me sick to think of all the items that were pulled out of the woods just because some Pelham residents were too lazy to get to the dump (or the incinerator/transfer station)”.
And indeed, all manners of dangerous materials were present: broken glass, bottles and cans, rusty, twisted metal, bedsprings, tires, even old car parts. “This is so much worse than I expected,” said volunteer Marilyn Harrison, who got right to work bagging the broken pieces of glass and toys that were scattered about the property. This was her first time volunteering for a cleanup of this magnitude.
Other members of the Stewardship Committee were busy cleaning up as well. Andrea Dube and her fiancé Ben Harrison were there to lend a helping hand, as were Charlotte and Richard Moore. Conservation Commission member Deb Waters was also there to help with the effort. "We wanted to put a focus on this particular event and increase the number of people involved. I give a great deal of credit to Ben and Andrea for getting it all organized and generating interest."
In fact, quite a bit of interest was generated when the Stewardship Committee extended an invitation for the cleanup day to Geocachers around the area. Over 30 Geocachers from New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts were in attendance to help out with the cleanup while searching for treasure. Some members of the Stewardship Committee are also Geocachers, and found a perfect group of people to enlist. Response was terrific.
Geocaching has grown as a sport over the last six years and is now popular in all 50 states as well as over 100 other countries. The idea for the sport started in May, 2000, when the civilian owned Global Positioning System (GPS) units normally used for camping and birding were allowed to give much more accurate information after a change in the law. Geocaching is a treasure hunt in which its participants use their GPS units to track down little boxes hidden in various places. They simply punch in the coordinates for the approximate area and track the treasure to within 10 to 20 feet of its location. Usually the boxes will contain a trinket and a log that the hunter can write in. The hunter must then trade the trinket for something of equal value-leaving the box there for the next person to find it. Every April, Geocachers get together and clean up their local parks as part of a worldwide effort to celebrate Earth Day. This effort has been dubbed "Cache In-Trash Out" and is a great way for conservation minded cachers to get involved. Since many of the treasures are hidden in these parks, it follows that they would want to help in their upkeep. For more information about the sport, visit their website at www.geocaching.com.
The effort to clean up the Gumpus Pond Conservation Area will be ongoing throughout the summer. The Stewardship Committee has established the third Saturday of every month as a cleanup day. For anyone who is interested in getting involved with the cleanup effort, the next cleanup day will be Saturday, May 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Pelham Elementary School Holds Early Dismissal Drill
by Diane Chubb
On Friday, April 22, Pelham Elementary School held its second annual test of its Early Dismissal Procedures.
Part of the school's emergency preparedness plan, the purpose of the drill is to simulate what would happen if students had to be released, but the usual procedures, such as buses, were not available.
A letter had been sent to parents requesting volunteers to participate in the drill. A parent had to be available to pick up his or her child prior to normal dismissal time.
Alicia LaFrance, principal at Pelham Elementary School, received an overwhelming response from parents willing to participate. Ultimately, the Safety Committee, which consists of school nurse, teachers, instructional assistants, office assistants and administration, randomly selected only seven students from each class to participate.
“We are trying to simulate a true emergency, knowing that most children's parents would not be able to pick them up because of their work and we have selected a sampling to give us an opportunity to check our procedures,” said Alicia LaFrance, principal at PES. Approximately 290 students took part in the drill, which provided a realistic idea of how an emergency dismissal would occur.
Parents entered the front of the building beginning at 1:45 in three alphabetical lines. They were stopped at a table where they identified themselves, when necessary with a photo ID, and were given a blue card which contained the name and classroom of their child. They took the blue card to the next set of tables set up at each wing where a checker handed their card to a "runner" who went to the classroom to get the student. Parents were not allowed beyond this point.
The runner would return with the student and hand the blue card to the checker who would hand off the student. Parent and child would exit the building across from the media center and walk around to where they had parked. Two police officers were present, one controlling traffic, and Detective Anne Perriello monitoring dismissal procedures inside.
At 2:30, the drill was finished with a third of the student population dismissed. It took each parent approximately seven to 10 minutes to dismiss their child.
“The drill went very smoothly,” said LaFrance after the practice session.
Following the drill, Detective Perriello recommended that staff “runners” wear vests to better identify them. She also suggested stationing staff in front of the media center tables to direct parents in order to keep them from congregating in one area.
This is the second year practicing early dismissal drills. LaFrance had brought the model from Windham as part of the safety planning that occurred after the September 11 terrorist attacks. LaFrance was the assistant principal at Windham Center School prior to becoming principal at PES.
“The model addresses what to do if we had a local or national emergency and we had a large number of dismissals that the office could not manage efficiently or safely,” says LaFrance. “If we needed to evacuate the school to either the ball field or Memorial School gym, we would follow similar procedures.”
The Safety Committee will meet on Friday, April 29 to review the procedures.
Community Enjoys First Ever “Night of Chamber Music”
by Karen Plumley
On Tuesday, April 18, the cafeteria at Pelham Memorial School was bustling with music students and residents eager to hear their children perform. It was the first time the music department put on this type of performance, and the casual, community-oriented atmosphere was refreshing. Tables were set up “café style” which encouraged friendly banter, and refreshments were provided to the audience. The show began at 6:30 p.m. with a performance of the National Anthem.
Ensembles including flute, clarinet, brass, and saxophone performed a wide range of enjoyable music. Music Director Paul Santerre hosted the evening, with Choir Director Miss Sullivan providing her skills on the piano. The flute ensemble treated the audience with a version of “Yankee Doodle Dandies” that earned an “A” at a recent competition.
Soloists performed some wonderful selections as well. Abby Blais and Brendan Sullivan sang “Homeward Bound” in beautiful harmony while Lauren Mitchell and Molly Smith lulled the audience with a lovely rendition of “Once Upon a December.” A very brave Katelyn Goupil performed alone on the song “Camptown Races,” and an equally brave Tiffany Costa sang “My Immortal.” “Ave Maria” performed by Shelby Jutras and Maureen Menard, “A Whole New World” by Marissa Daigle and Brendan Sullivan, and “I Gave My Love a Red, Red Rose” by Karima Brahim, Brittany DiPrizio, and Xiomarah Ramos finished out the evening of vocal selections.
The clarinet ensemble rounded out the event with their perky interpretation of “Scott Joplin: Portrait.” Overall, the evening was a rousing success. The next performance at home for these middle school musicians will be their upcoming spring concert, which is set for Wednesday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m. in the PMS gymnasium. Do not miss the opportunity to see these wonderfully talented and devoted local students perform.
VFW Fundraising Concern
by Lynne Ober
Pelham VFW Post Commander Charlie Mooskian was concerned about a reported VFW fundraiser being held in Pelham. He knew that Pelham’s John H. Hargreaves Memorial Post 10722 had not yet started their proposed spring fundraiser, but he also knew that people were being called about a VFW fundraiser.
When Pelham resident Anne Hargreaves was called, Mooskian said that she asked about the specifics and then he found out that it was a Rochester VFW fundraiser.
“I knew the by-laws said that a VFW post could not fundraise in another post’s territory,” Mooskian said. So he called VFW District Commander, John Cesana, a member of Hudson’s VFW. He also tried to call the Rochester VFW, but got no answer.
Finally he discovered that Dana Hussey of the George J. Maxfield Post in Rochester had started the fundraiser. However, because Hussey and other members of the Rochester VFW post were attending a VFW convention in Germany, he was unable to speak to them directly.
Eugene Pawlik, a state coordinator for the VFW, called Hussey in Europe and found out that he had hired a Bay State fundraising company to raise funds for the Rochester post’s Family Support Center, which is active in helping military families. This group did not know that they should not go across territory lines.
Mooskian was concerned because he had not been notified about the drive and although the state VFW Commander, Richard Young, said that these drives are statewide and do not follow regular rules, Mooskian felt that he should have been notified.
“Our post needs donations and if people give once, they may not give a second time in the same year,” he pointed out.
Pawlik said that the group would cease its fundraising efforts in Pelham and also commented that he should have been notified about the drive before it started so that he was prepared to answer questions.
Mooskian said that the Pelham VFW Post will be holding a fundraiser this year and hopes that residents will support them.