Pelham Man Serving Second Tour of Duty Makes Ultimate Sacrifice

by Lynne Ober

Freedom isn’t free.  There’s always a cost and some, like Pelham’s Daniel Gionet, 24, pay the ultimate price.

Gionet died in Taji, Iraq, Sunday while patrolling with his unit.  What the military calls an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near his tank, killing him. 

This was Gionet’s second tour in a combat zone since joining the Army after his 2001 graduation from Pelham High School.  

Gionet, an aspiring chef who knew the comforting value of good food, decided to join the Army in order to earn money toward college.  He served a tour of duty in Afghanistan at Kandahar Air Field as a cook, providing food that helped keep his unit’s morale high.

His family was surprised when he re-enlisted when his tour of duty was up.  Gionet wanted to become a medic.  “He always wanted to help people,” said his mother, Denise Gionet, a Pelham resident.

After re-enlisting he trained as a medic at Fort Hood, Texas. 

Gionet was home last November for Thanksgiving, but was due home in just a couple of weeks for a 15-day leave.  “We were looking forward to having him home again,” said his mother, “but now …”After a pause, she said, “He was a true hero.  He was always helping someone.”

While at Pelham High School, Gionet was a good student who was well liked.  He was a student athlete who was a member of both the wrestling and baseball teams.

Denise Gionet praised the out-pouring of support that she has received since she received the horrendous news.  “People have been helping.”

Funeral details have not been finalized.  It is expected that Daniel Gionet’s body will be home within a week.

In addition to his mother, Daniel Gionet leaves behind his father, Daniel, in Lowell; his wife, Katrina; two siblings, Darren, 20, and Alycia, 18.

Les Brown once said, “A lot of people do not muster the courage to live their dreams because they are afraid to die.” 

Daniel Gionet had the courage to follow his dreams.  Although he made the ultimate sacrifice for defending America’s freedom, he will never be forgotten and will live on in hearts and memories.

The Grass may be Greener in the Pelham School District

by Diane Chubb

Look around the grounds of Pelham schools these days and you might notice that things look a little different.  This is because all groundskeeping for the schools has been contracted to Boyden's Landscaping. 

The town of Pelham went through a bidding and selection process to contract out landscaping work for the town a few years ago.  Boyden's Landscaping was awarded the contract.  Boyden's, a Pelham-based business that has been in operation since 1992, is fully licensed and insured, and has 12-14 employees year round. 

As part of this search for savings, in the fall of 2005, SAU Business Manager Brian Gallagher began discussions to contract Pelham school district’s landscaping work to Boyden's.  Because the town already had a contract, the school district was able to take advantage of the favorable terms.  Boyden's began work this past March.  

Until this year, all of the groundskeeping work had been done by the maintenance people who work for the school district.  As a result, the Pelham School District had to pay for all of the landscaping supplies and equipment, including some costly repairs for the equipment. 

“By going to a contracted services the district will be saving from repairs and maintenance on equipment used in this area,” said Gallagher.  “For example we have spent approximately $9,500 this past year on fixing our own equipment.  The contractor will provide equipment. In addition our previous costs of $2,100 on fuel and oil expenses will no longer be borne by the district but will be absorbed by the contractor.  The real benefit of contracted services is that the company will provide trucks, trailers, mowers, and many other types of additional equipment (trimmers, blowers, de-thatchers, etc.).”

Hiring Boyden's to handle the landscaping work for the school district is another step in the overall cost savings plan for Pelham taxpayers.  In addition, the district will no longer have to pay for supplies or maintain and repair expensive equipment. 

The school district is still considering what to do with the landscaping equipment it already owns. 

In addition to the long-term savings, many have commented that Boyden's has done a superior job on the actual landscaping work. 

Coaches have remarked about the quality of the athletic fields surrounding Pelham's schools.  The pitching mound at the high school, which previously did not meet regulation, has been corrected.  In addition, the grounds have shown improvement due to the continuous trash pickup and general maintenance.

Dr. Dorothy Mohr, Principal at Pelham High School, has also been impressed.  “I am extremely pleased with the work of Boyden's Landscaping.   The timeliness of response and attention to even the smallest details has created PHS athletic fields and grounds that Pelham can be proud of,” she said. 

According to Charlie Boyden, “Paying attention to details is what we do.” 

By contracting out the landscaping work, the school district is also able to have athletic fields prepared for games, no matter what day of the week.  There are no overtime charges, no sick days, no vacation time to schedule around.  Boyden has the game schedules too, so his business is able to make sure the fields are ready for all of the games, even if it requires work on the weekends. 

“If there is a need to have someone there, then it is done, no question,” said Boyden.  Unfortunately, not everyone has been pleased with the changes being made by the school district.  Some residents have expressed their concerns about an outside contractor working in and around school grounds.  One comment from the Pelham~Windham News “Thumbs” section questioned, “Will they screen seasonal employees the same way the school district does to be sure they are safe enough to be around our children?  I doubt background checks and fingerprinting will be done.”

When asked about his employees, Boyden says that most of the employees live in Pelham, pay taxes here and support the local businesses.  They are people who have been with him for years.  When he does hire new employees, Boyden says he checks with the local police to make sure they do not have criminal records.  Further, the employees really don't come into contact with children in the schools. 

For the most part, the current district maintenance employees who take care of the Pelham schools will continue their employment, but in a different capacity. 

The SAU combined school boards, after reviewing SAU staff recommendations, chose not to renew the contract for the current Director of Maintenance.  That position will be posted shortly.  Because this is a personnel issue, no other information is currently available. 

Rain Doesn’t Dampen Strawberry Festival

by Lynne Ober and Diane Chubb

Justin, 6, made a pirate’s raft.

It’s been a spring for wet and soggy and as we head into the summer months, we are getting more of the same.  Never let it be said that a little rain can dampen high spirits.

With heavy rain in the forecast the Friends of the Library of Windham had to make alternative plans for the 23 Annual Strawberry Festival and Book Fair.

Using Yankee ingenuity and a little help from their friends, they moved the festival into Windham’s Center School.  According to festival organizer Annie Murphy it wasn’t the first time that it had been moved inside.  “We learned a lot about the logistics of holding it inside when we held it at the middle school.”

Inside the school tents had been set up lining the room.  It gave the feeling of a small village.  Tables were set up in the center in front of the stage and there was room for people to stroll among the “village shops.”

Although months in the planning, work really gets underway on Thursday when FLOW members picked up 84 flats of strawberries from Donabedian Brothers in Salem.  According to Murphy the strawberries are delivered to volunteers who slice them and bake the biscuits needed for FLOW’s famous strawberry shortcakes.  These volunteers start working on Thursday and don’t stop until they deliver their cut strawberries and fresh shortcakes to the festival Saturday morning.

The festival has something packed into every minute of the day.  Kicking off at 10:30 a.m. there was a planned demo by Karate International.  The games, bounce houses, raffles and food booths all opened at the same time.

Windham’s Concert Band played on the stage.  According to band member and flute player Donna Markham this year’s theme was favorites.  “We played pieces from Chicago, Rawhite, Summer of 42 and other favorites.” 

From left, Sarah Bowman, 8, Alana Hagerty, 8 and Emily Bowman, 8, got strawberry shortcakes as soon as they were finished dancing.

Because the entertainment ran a little late the planned presentation of the two FLOW scholarships was also late.  “Proceeds every year from the Strawberry Festival help fund the two scholarships,” said Murphy.

The FLOW scholarship is for $1,000 and is for anyone enrolled in any major in any secondary institution.  However, to win the FLOW Mary Long Scholarship the recipient must be enrolled in one of the following degree programs:  art, dance, drama/theater, music, creative writing, communications, broadcast journalism, history, art history, architecture, museum studies, art conservation, film, or graphic arts.

Dancers from Dance Impressions in Windham thrilled the audience.  The youngest ones started off with an intricate hip hop dance, and the teens ended the show with a well choreographed performance.  In between there were princesses, tap dances, modern dance, and something to please everyone in the audience.

The celebrity cooks staffed the grills, turning out hotdogs and hamburgers.  State Representative Mary Griffin took the early shift.  “I knew it was going to pour and I wanted to be inside watching the dancers when the rains came,” she grinned.  It was a plan that worked.  Windham State Representative and Republican candidate for Governor, Jim Coburn took his turn at the grill, but he had to cook with a large umbrella held in one hand and a spatula in the other.

Windham’s Swing Band, started by director Bruce Lee in the spring of 1998, took the stage after the dancers.  WSB consists of dedicated musicians who love to play jazz, big band, and swing from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, up to the present day.  The majority of Swing Band members also play in the Windham Concert Band, but they were joined by other local musicians on bass, guitar, keyboard, drums, and vocals to create the full big band sound.  They played a dozen songs from their repertoire including those that paid tribute to the music and leaders of the Big Band Era, including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.

Those who hadn’t stuffed themselves on pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and strawberry shortcake could take part in the ever-favorite pie eating contest. 

More music was enjoyed when the Windham Flute Ensemble took the stage.  They played a variety of audience-pleasing favorites.

The kids’ area offered games, crafts, face painting, and bounce houses.  “What a great way for my munchkins to let off some energy,” laughed one parent as she watched her two toddlers bounce and giggle.

By the end of the day, everyone agreed that the rain had not dampened the festivities.

“We had over 200 volunteers help us this year,” said Murphy.  “When we were setting up Friday night, a group of Shaw’s employees came down and helped us.  They just volunteered.  It was great to see the community enjoy this event.”

Almost 3 years old, Katie Wimmer sits patiently as her face is painted.

FYI:  Windham High

submitted by the Communication Committee, a Sub- committee of the Windham School Board

Line and Location of Windham High School Access Road Approved:

On May 31, the Windham Planning Board approved the direction (line), location and objective of the access road to the Windham High School.  Planning Board approval of the line and location of the road is a necessary step under state law in proceeding with the building of the high school.

The School Board's professional team explained to the Planning Board that the access road, known as London Bridge Road, would measure approximately 4,000 feet from Route 111 and would align with Ledge Road.  The alignment would create a four-way intersection.  The New Hampshire Department of Transportation will determine whether a traffic light is necessary at the sight.  The line and location of London Bridge Road is consistent with the town’s Master Plan.  The Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the line and location.

The location of London Bridge Road does not cross the property lines in question from a recent survey.  Survey results on that separate issue will be communicated as soon as possible.  The access road will not be affected by the survey results.

The next step will be to appear before the selectmen for the road layout.  This will happen at least 30 days after all abutters and mortgage holders have been notified.  A site walk for the selectmen is scheduled for Saturday, July 8 and a public hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 10 where public input will be heard.

Windham High’s Construction Management Team is Hired:

Harvey Construction Company of Bedford, New Hampshire, has been selected as the construction management team for the Windham High School Building project.  With the successful completion of both Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, and Exeter Regional Cooperative High School this summer, Harvey is prepared to take on the Windham School District’s project and looks forward to the school’s grand opening in the summer of 2008. 

One of the many benefits of utilizing a construction management firm like Harvey Construction is their expertise in jump starting the building project by identifying and mobilizing site work subcontractors.  Site work subcontractor packages are currently being developed and are targeting a mid-summer construction start.

Harvey’s team is led by Bill Stevens, Vice President and Senior Project Manager; Anne Dodd, Project Manager; and Bill Conte, Site Superintendent.  Each member of the construction management team brings extensive experience working on high school construction and will lend their expertise gained from opening new schools in other parts of New Hampshire to the Windham School District.  “We are very pleased to be working with the Windham School District,” remarked John Zahr, President of Harvey.  “Based on our new high school construction experience, our ability to deliver quality staff to the project, and the team that the district has assembled, we anticipate great success building Windham High School.”

Harvey Construction is an Engineering and News Record “Top 400 Contractor,” and offers extensive school experience including construction of award-winning Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine; Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire; Prospect Mountain High School in Alton, New Hampshire; and Farmington High School in Farmington, New Hampshire.  Harvey also possesses experience on regional projects including expansions and new construction at Manchester Airport; Southern New Hampshire Medical Center; St. Joseph Hospital; Catholic Medical Center; Lawrence General Hospital; the Currier Museum of Art; Phillips Exeter Academy; and Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua.

Remembering a Friend with a Living Gift

by Lynne Ober

There are some people who touch our lives and when they are gone, need to be remembered forever.  Joanne Cormier was one of those special people.  She taught second grade at Sherburne School for 33 years and during those years touched young lives in a positive way.

Although she retired from teaching before Pelham Elementary School opened, a magnolia tree was planted in her memory.  The Sunshine Fund, which is a staff-sponsored organization that remembers both good and sad events, bought the beautiful tree that has been planted on the front lawn of the school.

Second graders and their teachers circled the tree while second grade teachers Susan Harden and Rita Borsa started the hole.

Assistant Principal Kathleen Sullivan spoke to the group about Joanne Cormier and what she had meant to the children of Pelham.  “It is our hope that this tree will forever remind us of a very special teacher, Miss Cornier, who used her knowledge, talents and great sense of humor to inspire and nurture her second grade students for 33 years here in Pelham, New Hampshire.  I’m sure all of you can think of someone special in your life.  A person who listens – someone who wants you to succeed and helps you grow.  This person is missed when they’re not around.  Today as we plant this tree, feed it water, and nourish it with food, we’ll be forever reminded of someone special.”

Second grader Samantha LaBreque thought that it was nice to be a part of the celebration.

“When you see this tree bloom next spring, thing of Miss Cormier,” concluded Sullivan.

Second graders circle the tree as teachers Susan Harden and Rita Borsa start digging the hole.

To Each His/Her Own Book

by Diane Chubb

Starting with the next school year, every student in fifth grade will have his or her own science book.  Further, the seventh and eighth grade students will have more dictionaries and thesauruses available for their use. 

The Pelham School Board has approved the purchase of these and other books, despite the default budget this past school year. 

At a recent curriculum presentation, it was brought to the board's attention that fifth graders were sharing science books.  Because of the “phase-in” agreement with the Budget Committee for replacement books, only a limited number of new books had been purchased.  However, all students have had access to the text via the Internet.

School Board Chairman Mike Conrad had asked the SAU office to review the budget for the current year to determine whether there might be sufficient funds left to purchase the remaining books.  The cost to purchase the remaining books for the fifth grade is $5,000.

At the May 24 meeting, Superintendent Elaine Cutler indicated that because the board has been careful with the budget, it is expected that there will be a balance at the end of the year to cover the cost of the science books. 

Vice-Chairman Cindy Kyzer also requested that the board reinstate the funds for the purchase of dictionaries and thesauruses for the seventh and eighth grade students.  The money for these books had been cut last year because of the default budget. 

“The difficult part of a default budget, is you have to make cuts to get to that default number at the beginning of the year.  Throughout the year, there are ways to save money which gives you a balance at the end of the year.  A typical balance could be between 1 – 2 percent of the budget,” said Conrad.  “There is good indication that we will have money left at the end of the year.  So with that being said the School Board voted to buy some of the books that were cut at the beginning of the year.”

Another $2,000 for other books is also being made available to Pelham Elementary School. 

Pelham Choir and Bands Perform with Distinction

On Saturday, June 3, the Pelham Memorial School Music Department competed in the Music in the Parks Festival in Agawam, Massachusetts.  The Pelham Memorial School sixth, seventh, and eighth grade Treble Choir received an “excellent” rating and second place in the rating division.  The Pelham Memorial School seventh and eighth grade Concert Band and Jazz Band both received “excellent” ratings and captured second place in their respective categories and competition divisions.  Also, the sixth grade Pelham Memorial School Concert Band received a “good” rating.

Many other instrumental, choral, and string ensembles from all over New England, New York and Virginia performed and competed in this festival including several elementary, middle school and high school groups.

In addition to the scored performance awards, all the music directors of the different schools, the host school and representative from Music in the Parks voted the Pelham Memorial School to be the recipient of the Espri de Corps Award which is awarded for best overall sportsmanship at the festival.

The chorus, under the direction of Kelly Sullivan, competed in the competition division for the first time and performed very well.  The bands, under the direction of Paul A. Santerre and Michael A. Seckla, performed exceptionally well.  After their performance the Pelham Memorial School Music Department spent a few hours at Six Flags New England Amusement Park before attending the awards ceremony to receive their scores and trophies.

Pelham Baseball Coach Resigns Following Suspension

by Diane Chubb

The Pelham School District will not release details of personnel issues.  It is apparent there was a personnel issue of some sort involving Pelham High School baseball coach.

Dr. Dorothy Mohr, Principal, confirmed that there had been an issue, and that it had been handled by Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler.

Although details are not known, it was confirmed that the coach had been suspended.  After being suspended for three days as a result of a personnel matter, Pelham High School baseball coach Joe Connors announced at the end of the last season game that he had coached his final PHS baseball game.

Superintendent Cutler stated, "Mr. Connor has served the Pelham School District for a number of years and has been a positive influence in the lives of many students.  We wish him well in his new endeavors."

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