For Pelham bus schedules please go to the school district website.

For Windham bus schedules please go to the school district website.

Welcome Back to School

by Doug Robinson

Six-year-old twins, Peter and Nicholas, board the bus for their first day of school at Pelham Elementary.

“Welcome Back Staff and Students” stated the Pelham Elementary School sign posted in front of the building.  Hundreds of parents, with children in tow, attended the open house for incoming first grade students at Pelham Elementary School.

“This is a great event for the kids” commented Principal Alicia LaFrance.  “I hear the kids all day long saying ‘Wow, this place is big.’ ‘When’s lunch?’ ‘When’s recess?’ and my all time favorite, ‘I love my teacher.’”  Returning third-grade student, Thomas, commented that he “loves school, and this is a great time of year.”

However, for Nick Milano, today was his first day of school.  While Nick has a younger brother, Nick is the first in the family to attend elementary school.  And being that he is the older brother, Nick wanted to be close to the front of the line, so he could be one of the first to visit his new school.  “I want to learn about sharks” commented Nick.  Roberta Milano, Nick’s mom, stated, “While Nick is a little nervous, he is really excited to be coming to first grade.” She also has a 3-year-old daughter who was attending another school.

As the parents and children chatted, line became longer and longer, eventually extending across the roadway to the school.  Pelham’s finest were present to direct vehicles, assist parents with children, as well as answer any specific questions.

And then, from out of the sky, over the outdoor loudspeakers, came the announcement: “Welcome students to the Pelham Elementary School.  You may now proceed to your classroom for the 2007 – 2008 year.”

Nervous mothers and anxious children paraded down the beautiful hallways, across the sparkling floors as teachers instructed them on where to go.  Some teachers received students with open arms and hugs of joy stating: “Where have you been?” “You have grown so much of over the summer.” “Summer has gone by so fast, and I am so happy to see you again.” 

Within each classroom, teachers instructed students on where to locate their desks, their lockers, their cubbies, the restroom; on where to obtain supplies; and most importantly, on where to find the lunchroom. 

“My class has 19 kids this year.  This time of year is very exciting, and I just love all the excitement” stated first grade teacher Mrs. Masiello.

As part of the open house educational process, children were also invited to take a ride on the school bus.  While on the bus, Sergeant Anne Perriello of the Pelham Police Department spoke of bus safety.  “Be at the bus stop early, listen to the bus driver, use the handrail when you enter and exit the bus, take 10 giant steps beyond the front bumper before crossing in front of the bus, look both ways, take your seat right away, and stay seated at all times” were some of the key lessons of the bus ride.

“I never will forget my first day of school,” stated 22-year-old Kathryn Robinson.  “I remember everything about that day, including my brother who would not sit with me (on the bus).  That day was a very exciting day, and I remember it well.”

Jazz Group Razzle-Dazzles Pelham

by Lynette Cornell

Gerry Grimo and the East Bay Jazz Ensemble paid a visit to Pelham where they brought the sounds of smoky blues clubs and jazz halls to the Village Green.  About 150 people of all ages showed up to hear the music, which ranged from the soulful strands of saxophone solos to the uniquely toned notes of Grimo’s midi accordion.

John Franzosa plays a saxophone solo for Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies.

In attendance at the concert was the support group Mothers of Preschoolers, affectionately referred to as MOPS.  A few of the members ran a table selling hamburgers, hot dogs, snacks, and beverages, with the proceeds going toward scholarships for mothers who wished to join the group but could not afford the dues.  Three members of the Pelham Police Explorers tended to the grill for MOPS.

Some children enjoyed dancing in the grass to the sounds of Sing, Sing, Sing and Stompin’ at the Savoy, both major hits by the musical legend Benny Goodman.

Grimo’s band typically consists of about 10 - 13 musicians, although Grimo has a long list of musicians from along the east coast whom he can call if he needs to quickly fill an empty seat for a performance.  A banker by day, Grimo still manages to play four to five shows a week with the band.  Now into its 31st year, the band works like a well-run machine.

Grimo, who is originally from Rhode Island, lives in Windsor, Vermont, and will often travel hours for a show.  He began playing the accordion as a result of cultural influence from his Portuguese and Italian heritage.  Many other people in his neighborhood growing up also played the accordion.

“It’s kind of like everybody plays the accordion there,” Grimo said, when speaking of his hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Grimo said he used to play in clubs and bars but the nights eventually became too long.  Now he settles for weddings, corporate parties, and other events held earlier in the day.

Bandleader Gerry Grimo gets into the music as he sings and plays his accordion. 

Windham Needs a Police Chief

by Lynne Ober

With only slightly more than two years at the helm of the Windham Police Department, Police Chief Gerald Lewis resigned on August 16 and proposed that his last day as chief be August 31.

Lewis was chosen to lead the police department after former Police Chief Bruce Moeckel retired.  He took over in May 2005 and has worked diligently.  At Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Board of Selectmen Chairman Alan Carpenter said the board extended its appreciation to Lewis "for his short but productive years of service to the residents of Windham."

Lewis recently took a two week vacation in Connecticut and shortly thereafter he gave notice that he was resigning to become the Director of Campus Safety and Security at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.  When the Pelham-Windham News asked him if he interviewed for the job while on vacation, Lewis declined to answer.

At the time that Lewis was hired, he was one of two finalists – the other came from the Salem Police Department.  At the time, selectmen had discussed whether it was better to hire someone locally or someone from out of state.  They ultimately hired Lewis who has been credited with his excellent leadership.

Two weeks notice is very short, and some selectmen are not pleased that Lewis gave such short notice.  Compounding the issue, Town Administrator Dave Sullivan has been on vacation and selectmen wanted him to be part of the process to select a new chief.

“Chief Lewis has been a tremendous asset to the town and will be greatly missed,” said Selectman Margaret Crisler.

Lewis called the new opportunity a benefit for his family when he resigned, but also declined to elaborate on this statement.  He had previously served in the Windsor, Connecticut Police Department.  New London is approximately an hour south of Windsor.

Selectmen unanimously appointed Captain Patrick Yatsevich as acting chief.  He will serve in that capacity during the hiring process for a new chief.  Selectmen will not start advertising the chief's vacancy for at least the next two weeks, while Dave Sullivan checks out the estimated cost of the hiring process.  During that time, Sullivan will also be checking into ideas to streamline the process they used two and a half years ago when they hired Lewis.

According to Crisler, Yatsevich had been acting as chief in the chief’s absence.  Yatsevich will assume the duties of Acting Chief on September 1.

Philosophic Differences Result in Heated Words

by Lynne Ober

Budget season is always a stressful time.  Department heads look 18 months out as they estimate their needs.  Once a budget is submitted, there’s a long and arduous review process as first the town administrators, then the governing boards, and finally budget committees review and try to cut budgets in an effort to provide residents with a cost-effective government that still provides adequate services.

In Pelham, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) are not in agreement on the budget process, and this philosophical disagreement led to sharp words and accusations during the review of the fire department budget.

Fire Chief Michael Walker is completing his first budget cycle year.  In March, voters passed a warrant article authorizing an additional four firefighters.  Funding was provided for the first year via the warrant article vote, and then it was approved for addition to the operating budget in future years.

Walker said he asked his men for budget input beginning last May and submitted his budget in July per the request of Town Administrator Tom Gaydos. The first review of his budget and his department’s default budget with Gaydos was towards the end of July.

“My goal, as I stated during the televised meeting, is to produce a budget that meets requirements, but to also alert selectmen about areas that are underfunded and explain how and why that underfunding may impact services.  I want to be part of this team, and I believe it is my duty to keep within guidelines but also provide backup for decision making.”

When the budget review started, BOS Chairman Ed Gleason gave a lengthy speech about the fire department’s budget during which he noted a number of times that “I only got this budget the Friday before our review.”  He talked about doing a line-by-line over the weekend and finding a number of errors in the default budget and requesting updates and changes to the budget.

In an e-mail that he sent to the BOS, at 7:42 a.m., on the day of the review, Gleason wrote, “Tom and Janet, with my limited participation, had a lengthy review with the fire chief and Maureen yesterday which resulted in major modifications to the PFD Budget.  It is being restructured and should be resubmitted this AM.  We probably won’t see it until late today or this evening.”

Selectman Hal Lynde took exception to the way the budgets are being handled and sharply criticized Gleason, who, in turn, responded in kind.  Words were hot.  Lynde said he believed that Gleason was over-stepping his bounds, and that budget reviews should be done by all selectmen and not just one selectman behind closed doors.  Gleason strongly disagreed with Lynde’s characterization.

Underlying the words is a strong philosophical difference in budget reviews.  Lynde believes that department heads should bring forth budgets that represent their department’s needs, document those needs, and work with selectmen on crafting a budget that will go to the Budget Committee.

Gleason strongly disagrees to this approach.  He set a 3 percent increase, got selectmen consensus for the 3 percent, and, in his speech, clearly wanted that based on the previous year’s budget and not the budget plus added items approved by voters. 

During the exchange, Gleason asked Lynde when he had ever made a budget cut.  Gleason also talked about providing reasonable value at a reasonable price to residents.

Gleason is reportedly meeting one-on-one with Budget Committee member John Lavallee to get his input on needed cuts.

Gleason strongly disagreed that he had overstepped his bounds, and he also pointed out that he was trying to help get budgets as correct as possible.  Although Gleason didn’t directly mention it, the last time the town ran under a default budget, said default budget had significant errors. Selectmen struggled to pay bills and meet ends because of errors and omissions made when the default budget was calculated.  Since then, Gleason has worked diligently to ensure that all default budgets are as correct as possible.

Throughout the budget review, Gaydos never contradicted Gleason’s comments that the budget had been received the Friday prior to the review.  Neither did Gaydos indicate that he and Walker had previously met on the budget.

However, when the Pelham~Windham News asked Gleason, Gaydos, and Walker what date the budget had been turned into the town administrator, Gaydos declined to respond.  Walker said it had been give to the town administrator in July, and Gleason reiterated that it hadn’t been given to him prior to the weekend before the review.

By the time the budget reached selectmen on the night of the review, the errors that Gleason had identified in the default budget had been corrected, and the requested budget increase was 3.2 percent. Both Walker and Maureen McNamara, however, talked about monies that were cut to reach this goal, and how those cuts would negatively impact the fire department.

During the review, Walker discussed the backup he had provided, including a statistical analysis of fire department calls and budget.  He’s started keeping statistics on types of calls, growth of calls, usage of overtime, and plans to be able to provide trend analysis in future years.  He also discussed department goals and the cuts that he made.

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