All Aboard!  Hudson’s New Buses Make Mock Runs for First Graders

by Maureen Gillum


 Nottingham West Elementary School first graders happily “All Aboard“ their school bus orientation.

A week before school opening, the Hudson School District and the Goffstown School Bus Company (SAU 81’s new transportation provider), sponsored an “All-Aboard First Grade Bus Orientation” at all of Hudson’s elementary schools Tuesday afternoon and evening (8/22/06).  “We understand first graders may be excited about boarding the school bus and may not yet understand general bus safety,” explained Hudson Contract Manager, Jerry Sirois, of Goffstown Bus Services.  “Children and parents were able to get on the school bus and take a short ride,” details Hudson School District’s Kathy Vaillancourt “to help everyone get comfortable with transportation.”  Bus drivers also discussed bus rules, fielded questions, and gave out complimentary bus safety coloring books.

Moving from south to north – Nottingham West; Dr. H. O. Smith and Library Street; and Hills Garrison -- the building excitement of dozens of first graders, and many first-time parents, was electric.  Most agreed, they “can’t wait for school to start!”

“No matter how many years I do this, I’m crazy about the first day of school,” exuded Gloria Eno, NWES Guidance Counselor, while waiting for the bus, “This is the cutest first grade class we’ve ever had!”  (Didn’t she say that last year?)  “Every year is a fresh start and the kids are always so eager for school,” Mrs. Eno adds, “the trick is to sustain that enthusiasm all year.”  NWES incoming first graders, like Maygan Morin and Sara Linehan, both age six (and with a few teeth missing), echoed excitedly, “I’m ready for school!”

“Since this is a brand new bus,” Route 22’s bus driver, Melissa, says with a smile, “this is kind of a first day for everybody!”  Goffstown Bus’ entirely new bus fleet for Hudson, with expected savings (reduced breakdown time, lower maintenance, better mileage) was a major reason SAU 81 opted for the new bus company.

Moving north, the scene was much the same.  Principal Scott Baker and crew enthusiastically greeted all their new first grade students under a shade tree between Library and H. O. Smith Schools.  “Everything is ready to go,” reported Baker warmly, “our kids adore Mrs. O’Brien, who is both our bus driver and lunch monitor.”  Proudly claiming “I was five before, but now I am six,” Harvey Husted even gave Mrs. O’Brien a hand with the steering (no worries, Superintendent Bell, it was just a good photo op).  Entering first grader, Emily Moreau, adds, “I can’t wait to get to first grade!”

Mr. Baker also commended the new bus company and SAU 81 for their pro-active insight for doing a first grade mock bus run.  “Most of these kids have never ridden a bus before,” the Principal shared, “it’s great to address the key safety and comfort zone issues with their parents and without the butterflies of the real first day.” 

Last, but never least, at Hills Garrison’s afternoon bus orientation, Principal Marilyn Martellini and Assistant Principal Lois Connors expertly escorted many first graders and parents off the bus.  Climbing down bus steps and showing off his “ABC’s of School Bus Safety” coloring book, six-year-old Cameron Mooers, emphasized the big rule: “Always stay in your seat!”

Mrs. Martellini also reminded first grade parents to please join her and the Hills Garrison PTO in their annual “Boo Hoo Breakfast” in the café at 9:00 a.m. the first day of school, (Tuesday, August 29).  “We’ll be serving coffee, breakfast munchies, and softer issue tissues,” invites Mrs. Martellini warmly, “to help our parents ease first day transitions.”

NWES’ PTO Co-President, Laura Bisson, also confirmed, “Nottingham West PTO welcomes its incoming first grade parents to its fourth annual ‘Meet and Greet’ on the first day of school (8/29, 9:00 a.m., café).”  She also excitedly shared “NWES was generously awarded a $22,000 grant by Hillsborough County recently!”  Having reached their final goal, the new NWES playground installation is expected by this October.

Goffstown Bus and SAU 81 management were also on hand to ensure the grade one bus orientation went well and detail a smooth bus contract transition.  A former Hudson bus driver for nearly 25 years, Candy Paradise is now Goffstown School Bus Company’s Assistant Manager and Dispatcher.  Sitting at ease behind the wheel, Candy happily reports, “It’s a great company to work for,” and “I’m sure the level of bus service provided to Hudson will be significantly improved.”  Citing that the new school bus company already provided the Hudson Rotary buses gratis for Old Home Days 2006, Norm Sanborn, SAU 81’s Business Manager, calls Goffstown Bus “very responsive to Hudson.”  He concluded, “We look forward to working with them for many years.”


Cameron Mooers shares a big rule:  “Stay in your seat” with Hills Garrison School Principal Martellini.


Police K-9s Perform Administrative Drug Search Demonstration at Alvirne High School

by Doug Robinson

Police K-9 units from five area police agencies staged a simulated “Administrative” drug search at Alvirne High School for state senators, school board personnel, the press and the public.

K-9 units from the State Police, Auburn, Milford, and Hudson, New Hampshire participated in the administrative search.  Rosco, Lazer, Lucky, Gusta, Fearless, and Hudson’s Akim, demonstrated their skills as they located the different types of drugs which had been hidden in the lockers prior to the event.

The police hid four different types of drugs:  marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.  Various drugs were paced in lockers, behind fire extinguishers, and were also hidden near the ceiling panels covering two floors of Alvirne High School.


Hudson Officer, Kevin Sullivan, with Akim.

“We are using just one gram of cocaine and heroine,” commented Sergeant Patrick Palmer, State Police K-9 instructor, “and my dog was certified finding just stems and seed for marijuana.”  All of the police dogs have been certified by the United States Police Canine Association.

Administrative drug searches are performed in joint cooperation with the school board, school principal, and the police resource officer within the school system.  Administrative drug searches differ from criminal drug searches as the results are handled within the confines of the school.  In the school system, students “do not have a right to privacy as the lockers are owned by the school system,” stated Officer Kevin Sullivan, Hudson Police.

Hudson School Superintendent, Randy Bell stated, “If you do the search in the way we are suggesting, the police cannot touch anything which comes out of the (locker).  The search is an administrative search.  The lockers are private property and belong to the school system.  The only time you would bring the police dogs in for a specific area or person, you have to have probable cause.  There are two very different pieces and approaches.  We are looking for this to be a deterrent for kids to engage or bring drugs to school”

Hudson’s K-9 Patrol Officer, Kevin Sullivan, stated that the mock school search was in cooperation with the school administration and that the police department and the school system were working together to form a policy for K-9 searches of the schools.  “When we do these school searches, there is absolutely no contact with the students.  There is a misconception that the kids are searched and that there is a violation of rights.  No, we come in, we search the schools, while the classes are in session and we get out.  This is a surprise for the kids.  No kids will be touched by a dog or come close to a dog.  The main issue to get clear is that these searches are scheduled with the school board, and we do not let the kids know when we are coming.”

During the demonstration, police officers demonstrated their dog’s skills as each dog walked the hallways of Alvirne High School, “running the lockers” as their dogs searched attempting to get “hit” for the hidden drugs.  Of the eight dogs that participated, seven of the dogs found every packet of hidden drugs.

Police dogs are trained to react in two different methods when they find the location of the drugs.  The dogs are referred to as having been trained “passive” and “aggressive.”

Upon finding the drugs, every dog would snap their heads and turn their head to the location of the drugs.  The passive K-9 would then sniff the locker and sit, pointing in the direction of the drugs.  The “aggressive” search dogs upon finding the drugs, would bark, claw at the locker or fire extinguisher, jump, and snarl.  

Superintendent Bell stated that, “It can be a useful exercise in my mind.  When I was Superintendent in Merrimack Valley, we had an assembly, and showed all the kids an actual demonstration for themselves.  We wrote letters to all the parents, explaining the purpose of the program, and frankly it was well received.  It was informational, educational, and hopefully a deterrent.”

State Senator Robert Clegg stated, “For the dogs, this is fun.  These dogs are cross trained.  In the private sector you would have dogs trained for search and rescue, or just drugs.  Our dogs do it all.  They do search and rescue, drug searches, and are multi-trained.”


St. Kathryn’s Rejoices with First Seminarian in 38 Year History

by Maureen Gillum

As the Hudson~Litchfield News covered in January, the shortage (and aging) of Roman Catholic priests in New Hampshire, and across the country, isn’t new.  While the U. S. Catholic population has grown to almost 70 million, there are roughly 15,000 less Catholic priests in America (43,000) than in 1965.  Nearly 30 percent of U. S. parishes don’t have a resident priest.  Further, more priests are over age 90, than under 30; the average age of a newly ordained priest has risen ten years (to age 36) in the last fifty years.  Locally, the Catholic Diocese of Manchester expects their number of priests in 2005 (109) to decrease by one-third by 2012 (70 - 75); almost two-thirds of those are over age 50.


Left to right, St Kathryn’s Mike Sartori, Brian Shook, Father Gary, Mike Z , and Keith Lelievre.  Kicking up his heels with the crew, Father Gary shares, “Radiating joy is imperative in the priesthood!”

With such somber trends, the number of young men discerning “priestly vocations” at Saint Kathryn Catholic Church (www.stkathryns.org) in Hudson are bordering miraculous.  As its Pastor, Father Gary Belliveau, heralded in last Sunday’s special Rite of Sending, “This is the first time in our 38 year history that one of our own, Mike Zgonc, opens the door to the seminary to further discern the call of the Lord -- and he’s kicked those doors open for others in our parish to follow.”

Father Gary also openly addressed the challenges of attracting new priests in a time when the church has been “rocked, shaken, and weakened by human frailty and sin.”  Citing the height of the church’s sexual abuse scandals, he recalled, “six years ago, I stood before you and asked you to be a people of hope, to lead your lives with love and hope, and not fear.”  Admitting he wasn’t sure he would have the strength and courage to enter the seminary today, the forty-something pastor called today’s new seminarians, “his heroes.”

With an exuberant standing-room-only crowd, the vibrancy of the parish could be seen and felt as St. Kathryn’s came to “praise and rejoice” Mike’s departure this Wednesday to begin at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.  Quite moved, Zgonc opened his address, “Wow – you really filled this church!”  The “St. K’s” pews were packed with all ages and many left standing at the 10:30 a.m. High Mass on August 20. 


Seminarian Mike Zgonc hugs a St. K pal (9-year-old Tristan) good bye on his final day.

Mike also shared his story with sincerity, humor and surprising poise.  “If anyone told me even a year ago that I’d be up here talking about the priesthood,” admitted the handsome 23-year-old with a laugh, “I’d tell you that you were crazy!”  Born and raised in Kent, Ohio, he described his family as “a good Catholic family” that provided him a strong foundation.  He later “discovered his personal faith” and earned his undergraduate at the University of Toledo.  Post graduation, Mike came to Nashua for “a great job offer” (BAE Systems) in early 2005 and started his MBA.  After “church shopping” throughout Nashua, a friend finally recommended he try “the church on the hill across the river.”  Ironically, it wasn’t until Father Gary helped him move this spring, that he realized he could see St. Kathryn’s steeple from his Nashua condo all along.

A major part of the Zgonc family from Ohio – Dad (Tom), Mom (Phyllis) and one of his younger brothers (Eddie) -- attended Mike’s special mass with great pride.  His parents emphasized, “We very excited for him,” but Mom also conceded, “We just wish he were closer to home.”  Dad shared, “Mike always did well in school and his jobs, like BAE or even selling computers during college at Best Buy.”  But both parents agreed, “It became clear this year, Mike’s heart wasn’t in the business world,” and he’s found his true calling.  Mom adds smiling, “He’s really grown a lot over the year; he used to be a shy and bashful guy.” 

Mike credits St. Kathryn’s and Father Gary with inspiring him in his recent transformation.  “I was first struck by St. Kathryn’s immediate sense of welcoming and home,” declared Mike with a broad smile.  “Secondly, there was a special reverence here, especially in celebrating the Eucharist; people really prayed here; church wasn’t some weekly check list item.”  He last cited, “Father Gary’s constant challenge to all; he often slaps us in the face and demands:  What are you doing in this world?  How are you using your talents?”  Through Gary’s inquiries, “it finally hit me like a ton of bricks last fall,” affirmed Mike, “I just knew then I needed to be a priest.”

Others also acknowledge Father Gary’s special gifts and successful focus in stressing vocation.  “Father Gary clearly loves his job and has a special charisma that shines through,” shared Lynne Poegel, a long-time parishioner.  “He also challenges and encourages people to live out their faith in vocation, wherever the Holy Spirit may lead them.”  “Watching Father Gary live in his priesthood has been a gift,” confided Jonathan White, a visiting summer seminarian, in his closing  letter to the parish, “I have learned more through that experience than anything I could study in a book at the seminary.”  He also added, “Life in the rectory this summer (with Gary and Mike) has been a blast– a truly joyful experience.”


St. Kathryn’s Father Gary, left, considers Mike, “his hero,” Seminarian Mike Zgonc, right, calls Father Gary, “his blessing and inspiration.”

“Walking in the (seminary’s) front door doesn’t make priesthood a done deal,” Father Gary realistically points out, “It is an act of faith and courage to stand before the Lord and, in trust, ask, Is it I, Lord?”  Belliveau considers it a time of “deep discernment and possibilities” and that, no matter the outcome, will bring grace.  He also stresses the need for new priests to “radiate joy.”

Quite remarkably, a half dozen more from St. Kathryn’s may enter seminary.  “There are six affiliates who have begun their journey of discussing the Lord’s call,” offers Father Gary, beaming.  Mike Sartori, Brian Shook and Keith Lelievre are the three of the six who have made public intentions.  Belliveau concludes, “I pray today’s celebration will be an occasion to ‘fan into flame’ any sparks of priestly vocation that may be in the hearts of others in our parish at this time.”

As for Mike Zgonc, he leaves Hudson this week for his seminary studies in Baltimore with great joy, deep appreciation, a little fear, and the sadness of leaving those he’s grown to love.  “Most of all, I’m excited to explore the nudge in my life that’s been deep in my heart,” shares Mike sincerely, “I’m finally taking the next step that I need to beyond my life in a parish.”  With thanks, he also admits, Father Gary and St. Kathryn’s have been “a real blessing in my life” and “it’s a very special place.”  The rousing 20-second standing ovation that Mike received from his St. K’s family at his farewell blessing evidenced that clearly.

In the broader horizon, the Manchester Diocese continues its aggressive campaigns to alleviate or reverse the priest shortage as well.  Vocation Awareness and Visitation weeks, ads, lively web sites like www.liveinblackandwhite.com, and the launch of monthly Seventh Trumpet Mass this year, all aim to support and encourage an increase in vocations to the priesthood.  As Monsignor Anthony Frontiero, the Diocese’s Vocations Director, stated in an NPR radio interview (1/10/06), “if we could ordain five to ten new priests a year, we’d be in pretty good shape.”  Tucked away on a knoll in Southern Hudson, New Hampshire, is one vibrant Catholic parish -- with Father Gary Belliveau at the helm and up to six vocational prospects – that may just help lead the way.

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