Harvest Fest a Fall Blast

by Lynne Ober

This year the skies were blue and the sun bright.  Hudson Historical Society member and event organizer, Terry Stewart, had a wide smile on her face.

Harvest Fest is a day long fun-filled event with something for everyone.  

Hills House tours were offered, but if you had already seen the house and just wanted to see the art show set up on the first floor, you were welcome to come inside.

Faith Renzullo set up her spinning wheel in the fall sunshine and spent lots of time talking to people who wanted to know how to spin.

All day long there was a steady stream of kids painting their pumpkins at the Pumpkin Painting Booth.  Stewart said that she bought 100 pumpkins for this and each and every one of them found a new home and was beautifully decorated.

There were two haystack scavenger hunts.  Straw flew through the air; prizes were found in the hay and giggles could be heard.

Caroline Tate brought ponies to the show.  Kids lined up to take a pony ride and have their photos taken by proud parents.  The ponies seemed to love the kids and the kids definitely loved the ponies.

Many people walked through the cars on display at the Mechanics Club Car Show.  Before the afternoon was over, awards were given.  Tyrel Gagon explained that the trophies were made from different engine parts.  “One year we made all the trophies from a 358 Mustang V8, but we always make them from engine parts.”

Bill Vaillancourt won the President’s Award with his Nissan 240SX that he described as “barely street legal for driving on the street.”  He said it was a work in progress and that he’d already spent two years working on it.  He proudly pointed to the other cars and ticked off each of his family member’s who had also been bitten by the restoration bug.

Alvirne’s award-winning Forestry Program gave logging demos throughout the day.  The FFA ran a food booth outside the Petting Zoo that was in the Alvirne Barn.

Pumpkins were also for sale at the barn and kids and parents were carefully examining them to see which was the perfect pumpkin for their Halloween decorations.

The Junior ROTC cadets were cooking hamburgers on the main fairgrounds.  Alvirne’s Culinary Program made 13 gallons of their world famous chick chili that they served in bread bowls.  It was a crowd pleaser and after lunch all of the chili had been sold.

Many vendors displayed their wares, including the Friends of the Hills Memorial Library who earned a total of $375 for the new library building fund with their weekend’s activities.  That amount included $125 donated by Pete Duquette who sold his beautiful t-shirts.

Akim and Officer Kevin Sullivan gave a demo of how they work a crime scene much to the delight of everyone. 

At 2:30 the Alvirne Band marched onto the fairgrounds and played a concert.  The band departed and was soon on their way to a Band Show.

By then the afternoon was waning; kids were beginning to tire and everyone agreed that they had had a wonderful day.

Brianna, 4, loves animals and was delighted to get to pet the chicken.

Kaylene celebrated her fourth birthday by painting a pumpkin.

Flags swirl through the air in time to the music.

Hudson’s SPED Reorganization Highlights Authority and Accountability

by Maureen Gillum

The Hudson~Litchfield News has been following Hudson’s Special Education reorganization plans since last May.  As expected, the primary reorganization process took until this September to fully implement. 

“The essence of the overall reorganization is to shift some of the SPED personnel, responsibilities, and titles to redirect resources to increase the direct face time and services to SPED children,” stated Superintendent Randy Bell at the onset of the proposed reorganization last May. 

Hudson’s Director of Special Services, Dr. Irene Sousa, shared last month she was “very pleased and excited about the changes.”  Though Sousa acknowledged earlier the reorganization “may not address 100 percent of our concerns,” it is a “big step forward” with many “improvements to the quality and services of special services.”  

Dr. Irene Sousa, Hudson’s Director of Special Services, outlines SPED changes at a recent school board meeting.

The budget-neutral reorganization of Hudson’s Special Services was designed largely in response to the school board’s action plan to address the key priorities or action items identified in the SPED report.  The complete two-part, $25,000 Special Education study, released August 2005, is still available at the district’s Website at www.hudsonnhschools.org/html/SPED/SPEDstudy.htm.

For example, to help lighten the overburdened case manager’s loads (priority 6), Sousa’s top role as Director of Special Services, has expanded to now include responsibilities for students placed out of district and management of all court-involved students and contract personnel.

To provide ‘greater authority’ over both regular education and SPED staff to more fully implement Individual Education Plans or IEPs (priority 3), especially in the more complex middle and high school environments, two new ‘elevated’ assistant principal positions were created to replace vacant SPED department head positions at Hudson Memorial School and Alvirne High School.  As shown below, AHS Assistant Principal, Special Services, Mikel LaChapelle, who is new to the district, replaces Nancy Titley AHS SPED Department Head, who retired last June.  HMS’ new AP, Special Services, Donna Straight, was an internal promotion who replaced former Department Head, Jane Cummings.

Priority one of the SPED study – to correct the number Hudson’s late extensions (about 75%) needed for testing – was addressed with the increase from 1.5 to 4 school psychologists across the district and a shift to two learning disability consulting teachers.  As outlined by Bell, “this not only increases the district’s personnel that are capable of doing testing and to get our testing done faster, it also relieves our case managers for more direct instruction with students and reduces contracted testing by roughly $50,000.”  Again, additional school psychologists were funded through vacancies, while the LD consulting teachers were achieved by transitioning one case manager within both the middle and high school, into the newly defined position.

“This is a huge difference in functional roles; it is not just a job title change,” detailed Superintendent Bell in one of many summer school board meetings that addressed the SPED reorganization plans.  “It represents (our intended) shift from administration to more testing and direct service that will help off load case loads, alleviate testing bottle necks and address understaffing issues, especially at AHS.”

Emphasizing the enormous SPED resource investment testing takes annually, Dr. Sousa also confirmed “the district services 550 - 600 (coded) students” and “roughly one third of them are reassessed every year.”

Rich Nolan, the school board’s chief point man of the SPED study and response, called the new LD consulting teacher “the critical bridge between SPED and regular education” and “key resource” to enable teachers to more fully understand and implement IEP plans.

The newly defined positions were awarded to two Special Services veterans.  At Alvirne High School, Ellen Greenberg, former Case Coordinator and primary assistant to former Alvirne SPED Department Head’s (Nancy Titley), was appointed the LD Consulting Teacher.  Though Vickie Lizzie, former Case Coordinator, transitioned into Hudson Memorial School’s LD Consulting Teacher, she is currently on maternity leave.  Michele Giroux is the memorial school’s acting LD Consulting Teacher until Lizzie returns.

Nolan also re-emphasized while the SPED reorganization was “a major undertaking for the district,” it was achieved “essentially through reassignments, job shifts and replacements” with “no increases to existing head count or school budget.”  In its full scope, “We’re acting from the SPED study conducted nearly a year and half ago,” he concluded.  “We’re moving people to better serve the community of students.”

One of the most difficult things in this long SPED reorganization process was the uncertainty many SPED employees have felt since last spring.  Even as late as mid-August, just weeks before the opening of school, several longtime veterans anonymously shared, “we all felt very out of the loop” and “were very concerned.”  The district also appeared to have challenges attracting enough qualified candidates to apply and fill positions in the SPED reorganization.  For example, while the board initially targeted bringing in at least three candidates to select from for several key positions, in many cases only one candidate was considered.  While HMS promoted from within for its new Assistant Principal (Donna Straight), the favored Alvirne High insider (Ellen Greenberg), was surprisingly not considered by the board for the post. 

Another aspect of the SPED reorganization that the school board spent considerable time outlining this summer was a series of accompanying ‘performance metrics’ to ensure greater accountability and measurable progress.  “While these metrics are now being developed and used for SPED, the beauty is this model can extend to all programs,” stated Nolan.  “Metrics can become institutionalized as to how we do business, whether we’re looking at facilities projects or core curriculum goals.”  For example, he suggested having 50 percent of students complete Algebra I before high school as a goal to increase academic rigor in mathematics.

Giving Nolan credit at being “extremely helpful” in driving the metrics, Bell added, “This is a learning experience for us and we’re in the process of (determining) what metrics are and how we can best utilize them.”  In conclusion, “We’re pretty excited about this,” Bell shared enthusiastically.  “This (metrics) has great promise as it is an opportunity (for us) to make and measure progress.” 

A September 22 confirmation memo sent to the Hudson~Litchfield News, from Superintendent Bell and drafted by Dr. Irene Sousa, outlines the key staff changes due to the recent special education reorganization in Hudson as follows:

Alvirne High School

  • Assistant Principal – Mikel LaChapelle
  • LD Consulting Teacher – Ellen Greenberg
  • School Psychologist – Jane Coleman Williams
  • Teacher Behavior Program – Kerry Welch

Hudson Memorial Middle School

  • Assistant Principal – Donna Straight
  • LD Consulting Teacher – Vicki Lizzie
  • School Psychologist – Sara Rondeau

Nottingham West School

  • School Psychologist – Amy Bahan (transferred from HMS)

While this week’s article provides a brief overview of SAU 81’s SPED reorganization, stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on the specific changes, implications, and directions of Special Services at the middle and high school, where the reorganization primarily impacts.  At that time, the Hudson~Litchfield News will also spotlight the two new Assistant Principals, Straight and LaChapelle, who respectively head up special services at Hudson Memorial and Alvirne High School.

Hudson School Board’s Rich Nolan served as the board’s key point person in the original SPED study and action plan response.

Hudson Special Services Top Administrative Structure
Former (6-06) Current (9-6)
Director of Special Services
Dr. Irene Sousa
Director of Special Services
(OOD, Court, Contracted Service Personnel)
Dr. Irene Sousa
High School Department Head-Case Coordinator
Nancy Titley (retired 6-06)
High School Assistant Principal (New)
Mikel LaChapelle (new to SAU 81)
Middle School Department Head-Case Coordinator
Jane Cummings (left 6-06)
Middle School Assistant Principal (New)
Donna Straight (former HMS Case Mgr., 2 Masters, SPED & Administration)
Elementary Department Head
Karen Cassidy, NWES
Elementary Department Head
Karen Cassidy, NWES
Elementary Department Head
Deborah O’Sullivan, HGS, Library & H.O. Smith
(Resigned 8-06; went to Londonderry)
Elementary Department Head
Karen Frisbee, HGS, Library & H.O. Smith
(new- Bedford, Salem; BA Dowling College, Masters, Plymouth)

Hudson Gunman Raises Student Safety Concerns

by Maureen Gillum

Last Friday was a long day for Hudson Police and the team from the Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit that assisted them in a day-long search for a man who entered the woods with a rifle off Bush Hill Road. 

“We were faced with trying to find and safely contain an individual whose family told us they feared may cause harm to himself last Friday,” stated Hudson Police Chief, Richard Gendron.  After a six and half hour manhunt involving the Hudson Police, more than a half dozen regional police forces, the State Police’s helicopter and police dogs, the armed man was taken into custody without event about 3:00 p.m., near the power lines adjacent to Bush Hill Road.  The chief also cited there weren’t “a whole lot of details” he could provide, due to the “sensitive nature of the incident and in respect to the man and his family.”

Related to this incident, the Hudson~Litchfield News, received a phone call from an upset parent quite concerned how officials handled things and how it impacted his middle school daughter and 15 - 20 other Hudson students in the area.  About mid-day last Friday, Hudson resident and father, Dominic Jarry, of Sir Isaac Way, called the Hudson Police to check on the status of the gunman search, which began around 8:30 a.m. “Police told me they were still looking for the armed man, (were) in lock-down and the road blocks were still up around 1:00 p.m.,” reported Jarry.  Thinking of his daughter’s imminent return from school, Jarry also put a call into Hudson Memorial Friday afternoon and spoke to Assistant Principal, Lori Robicheau.  He surprisingly found, “She knew nothing of the situation.”  Jarry also claimed in frustration, “Robicheau never called me back as she promised.”

“When Mr. Jarry first called into HMS after 2:15 p.m. our kids were already on board the buses,” reported Robicheau, who also leads HMS’ safety committee, “We then immediately went into action to contact the superintendent’s office and bus company to determine safe transport arrangements.”  She also commented, “HMS was not alerted to the situation as things were in process” and given the critical time factor of minutes “it was already being handled more directly between police, the superintendent’s office, and the school bus company.”

When HMS’ Robicheau called Jarry back about 2:45 p.m., she reported “students were already on the bus and were meeting at Burger King” where they would be “escorted by police home,” according to the plan coordinated by the district, police and Goffstown Bus.  She also confirmed she had spoken to Jarry on three occasions last Friday – shortly after 2:15 p.m. when he first called; at about 2:45 p.m. when she called him back; and again around 4:15 p.m. when he called again.  Robicheau and Keith Bowen, another HMS Assistant Principal, also allegedly stayed quite late on the Friday before the three-day holiday weekend “just to be available for any further follow-up or phone calls from parents or students.”

In the interim, unfortunately, Jarry went to the wrong Burger King (near Market Basket instead of near Nan King) and missed his daughter’s bus.  “Given the man was still not apprehended and I couldn’t get through the road blocks to check on her, this was an even scarier scenario,” shared the worried father.  The kids were dropped off at the corners of Wason and Bush Hill roads to walk home the remaining way, which was a considerable distance, according to Jarry.  As he was driving up Bush Hill Road around 3:15 - 3:30 p.m., Jarry saw his daughter walking home and picked her up, just as the road block had been lifted.  “Thankfully, a good neighbor let the other kids into their home to call home parents,” he added.

While Jarry was “very thankful everything turned out OK,” he voiced concerns “better guidelines and safety procedures need to be put in place” and “more proactive communication needs to come from the school system.”  He inquired, why weren’t the schools alerted earlier to a potentially critical situation that began at 8:30 a.m. and would obviously impact school buses in the afternoon?  He also stressed, “Those kids should have been bused right back to school as a ‘safe haven’ and parents should have been called to come pick them up.”

“We actually offered to have students bussed back to Memorial, but the coordinated plan (between police, district, and Goffstown Bus) was already in motion,” HMS Principal, Susan Nadeau, countered, “Everyone was doing whatever they possibly could to safely and quickly address a time-critical issue,” along with fielding parent phone calls and concerns.  “I’m proud of how our HMS staff, especially Assistant Principal Robicheau, handled the incident,” Nadeau added.  She also shared several other “grateful parents had commended Lori on her professionalism and timely and caring responsiveness.”  

“Hudson school children were not put in any danger whatsoever during the incident,” Police Chief Gendron emphasized assuredly, “Students were not dropped off any place near the location of the incident and police cruisers were there to escort buses and students home.”  The armed man was also already in custody by the time school buses came into the Bush Hill area.

“We were already en route when the radio call came in,” confirmed Goffstown Bus Service’s, Assistant Manager and Dispatcher, Candy Paradise, “most of us were parked to pick up students at Alvirne and Hudson Memorial.” 

“After conferring with police and SAU 81,” Jerry Sirois, GBS’ Hudson Manager, stated, “We followed the recommended police protocol on this code and our drivers did a great job at executing the plan.”

“This is all part of the emergency and safety training our drivers go through and review to ensure the safe transport of our students,” Paradise added matter-of-factly, “We have to deal with whatever comes up on a daily basis.”

Given incidents close to home, like last Friday’s gunman in the woods and the recent false Student Missing Alert -- along with the rash of school shootings in the last few weeks in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wisconsin -- student safety and school security are high on everyone’s priority list these days.  Stay tuned for next week’s important Hudson~Litchfield News’ feature article, Keeping Our Kids Safe at School for more on what Hudson and Litchfield’s administration, staff, emergency response teams, parents and students are doing about this critical issue.

Also as a reminder, don’t forget the Hudson Police Department’s interactive Internet Safety demonstration at Hudson Memorial School’s PTO Parent Forum (Wednesday, October 18, 7: 00 - 8:30 p.m., HMS Library), which all area parents are welcome to attend. 

“We’ll be discussing instant messaging, chat rooms, myspace.com, internet predators, and the precautions, guidelines and tools parents should consider regarding their children’s Internet usage,” stated Hudson Police Sergeant, Chuck Dyac, who is leading the forum.  “We’re also creating a more visual presentation on Internet safety geared to students and building ‘Internet stranger danger’ into our student resource officer’s curriculums to raise awareness and safety even in the younger grades.”

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