Litchfield Fire Department Invites in Community
by Lynne Ober
Litchfield Fire Department invited the community to come on down and have a great day.
Hamburgers and hot dogs were cooked by Warren Adams. “We asked for a donation, but we just wanted to have a great day,” said Fire Chief Tom Schofield.
The Fire Fighters Association presented a plaque to the Litchfield Fire Department in honor of their 60 years of service to the community.
“We had a hands-on Jaws of Life demonstration,” grinned Schofield, “and we allowed some of the residents to help us with that demonstration. Everyone enjoyed that piece.”
All of the equipment was on-hand for inspection. People crawled through a fire engine and other fire apparatus. “We gave kids rides in the fire truck,” Schofield said.
Using some out-of-date fire foam, the firefighters mixed it with water and provided a huge mound of foam. Kids could touch it, jump in it, and try to throw it around. “For about three bucks of outdated foam, we had a really fun attraction for the kids,” said Schofield.
There were also bounce houses and fire demonstrations. The firefighters performed four separate firefighting demonstrations much to the enjoyment of the assembled crowd.
Anyone who missed this year’s open house should be sure to come to next year’s.
Following Safe Return Home, Marine Loses Life in Car Accident
by Lynne Ober
Hudson resident and former Marine Corporal, Anthony Kimungu, died in a car crash a week ago just as the rest of his life was opening before his eyes.
Kimungu, 24, had survived being shot in the head by a sniper while on duty in Iraq. After he recovered, he was again sent back to Iraq, but returned home safely.
He had only been discharged from the Marines and home for two weeks when the deadly accident occurred.
“I still can’t believe it,” said his mother, Penny Jones, in a hushed voice. “When he came home two weeks ago, he walked through the door and said ‘Ma, I’m finally home. I’ll be here and take care of you now.’“
The crash occurred on the F. E. Everett Turnpike early October 27 when the 2005 Mazda that Kimungu was driving swerved across three lanes of traffic and struck a left-side highway barrier and then veered across three lanes of interstate again before flipping onto its side. The two passengers, Anthony Dutton, 24, of Litchfield, and Keith Migneault, 24, of Nashua were treated for minor injuries at St. Joseph Hospital.
“I’ll never forget his smile,” his mother said. “He had a great smile.”
Friends and family recall Kimungu as someone who was genuinely liked by all and someone who would help anyone he met – young or old.
Kimungu wanted to go to college and had recently decided to enroll and study engineering. He was planning to apply to the University of Massachusetts. According to his mother he wanted to finish college, get a job, and raise a family. “He was very involved in our family.”
Kimungu, who came to America with his mother and sister when he was four, was not an American citizen. He was still a citizen of Kenya and hoped to return to Kenya some day.
Efforts are underway to expedite this and make him an American citizen. He fought bravely for America and was a model citizen.
“He was a good Marine,” said his mother. “He fought for America. He always did the best he could. It’s a tragedy to our family and I just can’t believe it happened.”
Messages can be left for the family at AskAboutMe.net.
Kimungu will be buried with honors today.
Donations to help pay for Anthony Kimungu’s funeral can be sent to: Raben Anthony Kimungu Memorial Fund, Digital Federal Credit Union, 257 Lowell Road, Hudson, NH 03051.
Keeping Our Kids Safe at School
Invaluable Partners in School Safety: SROs, Security Teams and Parents
Editor’s note: Given some recent scares close to home -- along with the latest rash of school shootings nationally -- student safety and school security have been anxiously elevated as top concerns by all.
In this two-part feature, which began two weeks ago, Keeping Our Kids Safe at School, the Hudson~Litchfield News looks at some of the policies, resources, and procedures already in place or being considered in Hudson and Litchfield schools. This week’s article assesses the role and importance of student resource officers, emergency response teams and parents.
by Maureen Gillum
Student resource officers – fully commissioned community police officers integrated into local schools -- are an increasingly important tool to school safety.
“We’ve worked extensively on keeping our youngsters safe through our SRO programs,” Hudson School Superintendent, Randy Bell, emphasized, “It is a real commitment and critical investment made by the town and community.” He also reported “excellent results” with SRO programs as “there has been a huge de-escalation of school violence in Hudson” since the program’s inception. “Our SROs are absolutely invaluable,” Bell ardently concluded.
“SRO programs are a collaborative community effort” to “reduce crime, drug abuse, violence, and provide a safe school environment,” according to the National Association of School Resource Officers’ mission statement. Since NASRO (www.nasro.org) began in 1990, it has grown to more than 9,000 members, primarily school-based police officers from every state in the nation.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Hudson Police Department, SAU 81, and the continued generous support of taxpayers, Hudson is extremely fortunate to have three full-time school resource officers. Many districts don’t have any SROs, have cut student resource officers, or only have part-time coverage.
Collectively, Hudson’s three SROs serve a student body of more than 4,100 and the community. SRO Jason Downey is now serving in his second year at Alvirne High School; while Bill Emmons, now in his third year, handles Hudson Memorial School. Since 1989, ‘NH’s grand daddy of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program,’ Officer Paul Balukonis has served Hudson’s public elementary schools and Presentation of Mary Academy. All have been trained in NASRO’s ‘TRIAD’ concept, which focuses on the SRO’s role as “Law Enforcement Officer, Teacher, and Counselor.” Emmons and Balukonis have also had extensive Drug Abuse Resistance Education training.
“Our first and foremost lines of defensive and proactive safety are our SROs,” confided Nottingham West Elementary School Principal, Peter Durso. “They are an integral part of our comprehensive guidance curriculums and a great resource to all.” Like most schools, Durso also explained NWES does about eight to 10 fire drills a year (scheduled and unscheduled) coordinated with the Hudson Fire Department, as well as avariety of other specific drills (lock-downs, shelter-in-place, drop and cover).
“A lot has changed in the 17 years I’ve been doing this,” shared ‘Officer Paul’ as he is affectionately known to the 1,600 kids he serves across his five Hudson schools (Nottingham West, Hills Garrison, PMA, Dr. H. O. Smith and Library Street), “Our awareness and vigilance to safety and security has greatly increased, especially since 9/11 five years ago.” Balukonis views his primary job is “to keep the kids safe” and “help guide them toward making good and healthy choices throughout life.” As a second grader aptly declared, “Officer Paul is really fun and he teaches us to choose good!”
“We’re very fortunate that our Hudson school systems have three excellent and full-time student resource officers,” reported Police Chief Richard Gendron “SROs are needed now more than ever.” The chief also cited SROs are “highly effective,” as violent activities, drug issues, bullying and overall crime sharply decrease in schools utilizing SROs. Gendron added, “We also meet regularly with the schools to review and update protocols, mock drills, and coordinate special response teams as part of our preventative school safety plans.”
Last but not least, Gendron, the primary architect and champion behind the recent formation of the Southern Hillsborough County CyberSafe Task Force, warned parents and students to be aware of and properly defend themselves against “the very real and increasing threat of crimes against children on the Internet.” The Hudson Police (www.hudsonpd.com) also offered free seminars on Protecting Children On-Line for parents at both PMA and HMS this month. “Educating and empowering our parents is another avenue on how we can work together as a community to improve school and student safety.”
Litchfield schools conduct very similar drills coordinated with local fire and police as those in Hudson, especially since many of those procedures were developed when the two towns operated as one district, SAU 27, prior to July of 2003. “Given all of our scheduled and unscheduled drills, we’re doing some kind of drill about every other week,” reported Griffin Memorial School’s Assistant Principal, Stacy Maghakian, who leads GMS’ Emergency Response Team. “We’re really not doing anything out of the ordinary; our staff and kids are well used to it and practice the drills frequently.” She also cited some specific challenges that GMS faces given their close proximity to the Manchester Airport. “The many GMS additions and expansions, from the 1930s to the latest in 1982” also sometimes present “some challenge in trying to retrofit newer security measures, like video monitoring, which is now being considered at GMS,” according to Maghakian.
Maghakian also realistically addressed the inherent limitations of security. “We all take serious safety precautions,” she candidly admitted, “but we can’t possibly anticipate every emergency.” For example, “if someone wants to get into this building (GMS) or any building, they are probably going to get in. We are all just doing the best we can.” Maghakian also proudly added, “Our teachers and staff are trained to address many safety issues and are careful to handle issues in an age appropriate way,” and cited, “GMS was considered the most prepared school in the district in a recent evaluation.”
Hudson’s Joint Loss Safety Committee, which operates at every Hudson school and meets district-wide as well, also constantly assesses safety. “JLSC safety issues can run the gamut from various emergency drills, to building issues like mold and proper ventilation, to investigating unsafe work practices,” explained one long-term Hudson committee Rep.
“We instituted reverse evacuations last year in response to a threat we had of a stranger being in our woods,” explained Bonnie Jean Kuras, NWES Assistant Principal and JLSC member. Essentially, with this technique, the NWES student body is trained to quickly head back into our building at the signal of three air horn blows. “It’s all about teaching our students to be more aware and more accountable,” explained Kuras with confidence.
“End-of-the-day dismissal time is especially hectic at most schools,” commented Durso, “This is when we need the full cooperation and understanding of parents to adhere to key security rules like signing in and out of the building at the front office and sending in notes for pick-up or dismissal.”
Various parent forums are also an important vehicle to involve, educate, and empower the community. For example, in conjunction with HMS administration, the Hudson Memorial PTO a few years ago began monthly parent forums to address key topics, from safety issues to study skills. “We were delighted to invite the Hudson Police back to do their interactive demonstration on internet safety,” stated Kathy Nager, HMS PTO Co-President. “Internet safety is something every parent needs to make a priority today and review annually.”
Bell again reiterated safety as a primary goal and priority of SAU 81, from the individual classroom and across the district. “We do a lot of coordinated and comprehensive work with the Hudson Fire Department and Hudson Police on everything from mandated fire drills to SRO programs,” shared the superintendent. As part of the Hudson School Board’s new strategic plan, “dedicated to educational excellence” a “Safe and Secure Learning Environment” is identified as the second of three mission statements. The initial related safety goals are: “no child will be afraid to come to school” and “all children and staff will attend school facilities that are safe, up to date, and educationally appropriate,” as detailed in the district’s 2005 annual report and the district’s Website (www.hudsonnhschools.org).
Acknowledging the need to engage parents and the community to help achieve every aspect of the district’s new Strategic Plan, Bell recently emphasized, “We can’t do this alone, but we can take the lead in setting our goals and building the relationships needed to reach them.” Further, “I want to invite any of you who want to become part of that action to contact school board members, or my office (886-1235) and volunteer to join us,” Bell urged in his latest annual report, “This can be a wonderful adventure, and I am excited about the prospect of being part of it.”
Get Educated on Important Ballot Issues
by Lynne Ober
A few months ago there was public outrage at the U. S. Supreme Court when they ruled that people’s homes could be taken by eminent domain for commercial development. No one wanted to think about the possibility of their home being taken so a Dunkin’ Donuts could be built, but that’s exactly what the U. S. Supreme Court ruled could happen.
The New Hampshire Legislature took steps to prohibit that in this state and now it is up to every person to get to the polls and vote to support protection of their property.
The first article on this November 7 ballot reads, “Are you in favor of amending the first part of the constitution by inserting a new article 12-a to provide that property can only be taken as follows:
[Art.] 12-a [Power to Take Property Limited.] No part of a person’s property shall be taken by eminent domain and transferred, directly or indirectly, to another person if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property.”
If a voter votes yes at the polls on Tuesday, November 7 on this warrant article, that voter is voting to protect an individual’s property from being seized for commercial development.
Because of the U. S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that defined “public use” to permit the government to take private property for the purpose of promoting economic development through the resale of the property to private parties, a person’s property could be taken.
However, if this amendment (article 1) is adopted, it will preserve property owners’ rights and will expressly prohibit the government from taking a person’s property for either private development or any other private use of the property.
Following the eminent domain article, the second question on the ballot focuses on representation in the legislature. New Hampshire Supreme Court decided, in a past decision, that the method of providing representation in the legislature was “unconstitutional.” That left the legislature struggling to develop a different approach. The question proposes amending the constitution so that the Legislature can go back to the old way of representation.
The question reads, 2. “Are you in favor of amending the second part of the Constitution by amending article 11 to read as follows:
[Art.] 11. [Small Towns; Representation by Districts.]. When the population of any town or ward, according to the last federal census, is within a reasonable deviation from the ideal population for one or more representative seats the town or ward shall have its own district of one or more representative seats. The apportionment shall not deny any other town or ward membership in one non-floterial representative district. When any town, ward, or unincorporated place has fewer than the number of inhabitants necessary to entitle it to one representative, the legislature shall form those towns, wards, or unincorporated places into representative districts which contain a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle each district so formed to one or more representatives for the entire district. In forming the districts, the boundaries of towns, wards, and unincorporated places shall be preserved and contiguous. The excess number of inhabitants of a district may be added to the excess number of inhabitants of other districts to form at-large or floterial districts conforming to acceptable deviations. The legislature shall form the representative districts at the regular session following every decennial federal census.”
Currently, the New Hampshire Constitution does not guarantee that each town or ward having enough inhabitants to entitle it to one representative seat in the Legislature shall have its own district. This proposed amendment would overturn the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling.
The Constitution permits the Legislature to form multi-town and multi-ward districts for electing state representatives, but does not expressly permit or prohibit the Legislature to form so-called “floterial” or at-large districts using excess inhabitants from one district to create a representative seat in those towns and wards that do not have enough inhabitants to form a district. A floterial representative represents more than one town or ward.
Be sure to cast a vote on these important issues on Tuesday, November 7.