Santa and Friends Make Merry in Library Park

by R. Rodgers

Nicholas Myshrall lights the park.

Ho, ho, ho and Merry Christmas!  Who else would leave that indelible message, but you know who – Mr. Claus himself.  And so the merry man in the red suit swept into Hudson on November 23 for his annual kick-off to the holiday season by turning on the Christmas lights at Library Park. 

He stepped off Engine 4 driven by firefighter Kevin Blinn — who firmly established his place on the nice list — and was greeted with the wonderful sounds of the Alvirne Band playing his favorite Christmas songs.  He was accompanied by Nicholas Myshrall, this year’s winner of the coveted prize of riding along with Santa.  The adorable redhead had a blast with Santa.  He and his mom Jenn and dad Derek and little brother live in Hudson and were excited about Nicholas’ adventure.  Nick used some of his one-on-one time with Santa to give him his wish list of a police car and of course, Thomas the Tank engine. 

The weather was brisk but still a crowd gathered for the festivities.  The freshly painted soldiers, cheerful waving Santa and the Nativity surrounded the park all thanks to the Highway Department crew, which does such a wonderful job preparing for the monumental arrival.

Once Santa accomplished his important task at the park, he again boarded the fire truck with Nicholas and was escorted to the Community Center by Lt. Bill Avery.  There he was met by another large group of his friends.  Santa quickly started his visit with all the children, young and old.

While waiting for a turn to sit on Santa’s lap and share their requests, the children enjoyed making ornaments with the Hudson Seniors.  They also decorated and munched on gingerbread men with the help of the culinary department from Alvirne and stamped a holiday card with the Nottingham West PTO.  The Nottingham West Lions again provided cookies, pretzels and hot cocoa for all.  The young ladies from Alvirne’s childcare class helped the children make photo ornaments. 

After a busy afternoon, Hudson families returned home with goodie bags of treats and gifts provided by Senator Bob Clegg, his family and friends along with the Hudson~Litchfield News.  As the children, with their smiling, brightly painted faces done by Memorial School Student Activities Club, waved goodbye it was official that Christmas was very near. 

The AHS band entertained as everyone waited for Santa’s arrival.

Santa gives his reindeer a break and enjoys a fire truck ride to the Community Center.

Sabrina Campbell and mom, Leanne, at craft table.

Nine-month-old Jonah Neve meets Santa.

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Hudson Schools Propose 4.07% Budget Increase

by Doug Robinson

Dozens of budget books lined the conference table of Hudson School Superintendent, Randy Bell’s office, as he and the Hudson School Board prepared for the annual budget meetings with the Hudson Budget Committee.  Each year during the months of November, December, and January, school officials meet with the Hudson Budget Committee to request funds for salaries and benefits, instructional materials, professional development, facilities, special education, as well as review any specific warrant articles which may come before the voters during the spring elections.

“The Hudson School Board is pleased to present to you (Budget Committee) a carefully crafted budget proposal for 2008-2009,” writes Superintendent Bell.  “The budget addresses important needs identified in our Strategic Plan, fulfills contractual obligations, and continues the Board’s commitment to fiscal restraint.”

The proposed budget requests a 2.98% increase in wage and benefits for Hudson teachers, and an increase of 5.23% for “other funds”.  Combined, these requests would bring the total proposed budget request to 4.07%, or an increase of $1,629,350.  The Hudson School budget totals $41,633,761 for Hudson’s 5 schools and approximately 260 teachers.

Salaries and benefits comprised “most of the total budget increase of $1,629,350,” stated Bell.  “Salaries increase by $770,773 and benefits increase by $424,165.  The total increase in salaries and benefits is $1,194,938” or 2.98%.  “The remainder of the operating budget increases by $434,412 or 1.1%.

Windows at Alvirne High School, tile replacement at Memorial School, HVAC improvements at the Kimball Webster building, and bathroom renovations to the Alvirne High School boys and girls bathroom rooms will be presented to the Budget Committee for their blessing.  In addition, locker replacement at Memorial School and an upgrade to the security panel at the Hills Garrison School will also be presented.  Hudson School Board members voted down on the excavation and foundation sealing of Alvirne High School as well as the installation of fencing around the retention pond at he Hills Garrison School.  During this school year, facilities project totaled $111, 000 for the renovation of two bathrooms, replacement to the roof at the farm house, the painting of the barn, and other locker replacements. $254,901 will be requested from the Budget Committee for various school projects during the fiscal year 2009.  Included within this amount, is the cost of the first year’s repayment of the Honeywell (energy savings) project of $233,574.

“Each year we ask our teachers for their budget requests and their requests are reviewed by each one of the 5 school principals.  Everyone is involved with the process from maintenance, business, instructional materials and professional development,” continued Bell.  “Each year we try to bring new initiatives in terms of assessments and instructional materials as well as remain fiscally conservative.  Next year will be a real challenge as we will have many teachers who will be retiring.  This year the retirement rate increased from $800,000 to $1,200, 000.  We know that the economy is not in great shape and we wish to be stable this year.”

The proposed school budget also “dovetails with our curriculum review cycle, and is part of a long range plan to assure that our teachers and students have access to adequate and appropriate instructional resources,” said Bell.  As proposed, the budget will address those students with critical needs, as well as “intervention programs for those students who are struggling with mathematics, adoption of a powerful assessment program from the Northwest Assessment Association that will provide us with on-going assessments of student progress throughout the school year.”

The Hudson School District has also made a commitment to continued education for their professionals.  “Professional growth of our staff and that commitment continues.  The Board’s budget includes a contractual arrangement with Boston University to train our administrative staff in Project Management.”  Teacher professional development expenses have been proposed to increase from $75 to $125.

Special Education for the Hudson School District has a proposed budget of $6, 864,825 for services and additional funding request of $582,954 to support administrative budgets, transportation budges and indirect costs form grants.  The total Special Education budget is projected to be $7,700,511.  While the transportation costs are projected to increase 3.9%, or $53,117, the cost of fuel is projected to increase from $16,250 to $31,374, or 93.07% during the 2009 school year.

The school department will be requesting several warrant articles, in addition to their request for school funding of $41, 663,761 for voter approval.  Monies for a maintenance facility, a 3.9% increase for non bargaining personnel salary increases, $25,000 for Hudson Memorial’s After School Tutorial program, $100,000 from possible Fund Balance to be “appropriated for the Building Capital Reserve Funds for the purpose of installing a new boiler at Alvirne High School, and the proposal to merge two capital reserve funds as recommended by the Trustees of the Trust Fund.

“The budget is a guiding light for what we do.  It should reflect what we are trying to accomplish.  While there are fixed costs, we try to relate the budget to what we think are important.  We attempt to support our new initiatives and our initiatives are tied to student achievement, assessment, and instruction,” said Superintendent Bell.

Caption:  Hudson School Budget Books

Budget books line the conference table in preparation for upcoming meeting with the Hudson Budget Committee.

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It Does a Heart Good

From left to right: Alicia Harville, Denise Jackson, Megan Sevey, Carol Lowell, Patricia Fickett, Paula Goduti, and Tyler Harville stock stuffings for the troops.

What’s a mom to do when her young son is away fighting a war across the world?  One Hudson mom is not sitting at home just worrying and wringing her hands; she is motivating herself and many others to make a difference.  Patricia Fickett, the very proud mom of Lance Corporal Sean Mcaskill, who is deployed in Iraq in the 1/8 Bravo Company.  She along with another Marines’ moms have been stuffing homemade Christmas stockings to send to the entire 1/8 company. 

“I feel very fortunate after living in New Hampshire for only three years to have the support of not only some Massachusetts businesses, but New Hampshire businesses and so many hard working volunteers.  It is important for the troops and their families that love them to be supported.  It does a heart good,” said Fickett. 

On Saturday 80 Christmas stockings were stuffed with another 100 to be done during the coming weekend.  Aside from Fickett’s work, another girlfriend and her mother of the Weapons Company, part of the 1/8 Bravo, also have been stuffing an additional 129.  When finished with this project each member of Mcaskill’s oufit will get a “Gift of Love” from home this holiday!

If you would like to lend a hand or make a contribution to this effort, contact Fickett at 598-1317.

Corporal Lowell, Lance Corporal Sean McAskill and Lieutenant David Borden.

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Merit Pay Discussion Leads to Interesting Findings

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield Selectmen have been discussing the potential implementation of a merit pay based performance evaluation system and that discussion turned antagonistic at the last board of selectmen’s meeting.  The discussion began several weeks ago when selectmen authorized Selectman Al Raccio to look into a possible merit pay system and to report back to the board.

Raccio has now produced a confidential 2.5 page document that he’s given to his fellow board members, but has not released to the public.  At the last board meeting, Raccio reminded his fellow board members that he was looking for their feedback and said that he wanted to know if the decision would be made to move to the next step, i.e. involve the department heads in on-going discussion or not.

Selectman George Lambert immediately said that he wanted to involve the department heads and wanted to do that before the board made any adjustments to Raccio’s document.  

With Board of Selectmen Chairman Raymond Peeples out of town on business and Selectman Andrew Santom absent, only Raccio, Lambert and Selectman Pat Jewett were at the meeting.  

Raccio noted that he wanted to get feedback, see if the board wished to pursue or drop, make modifications that fellow board members requested and then present to the department heads and make the document public.

Lambert reiterated his desire to move the document directly to department heads without selectmen input.

Selectman Pat Jewett announced that she hadn’t read the document, didn’t intend to read the document and had made up her mind that she didn’t like the idea and nothing was going to change her mind.  She said that she had worked under a merit review at one time and then as a teacher had worked where everyone got a raise, regardless of performance and she preferred that method to the merit pay system, which she characterized as unfair because some people got bigger raises than other people.

When she announced that she wanted to stay with the system that they had, Raccio calmly announced that Jewett was the only current selectman who had been sitting on the board in 1999 when a merit based system had been adopted by selectmen.  

The following discussion was very confused until Raccio calmly read from the Employee Handbook.  “An employee evaluation is the measure of an employee's actual performance, and does not mean that he/she automatically receives an increase.  An employee's performance on the job is the most important factor in determining whether a step increase is to be made.  Other factors to be measured are the employee's skills, attitude, loyalty, teamwork, willingness to learn and accept increasing responsibility, etc...  This was adopted in October, 1999,” Raccio said.

That led Lambert to immediately move to write a letter of reprimand and put it into selectmen’s files because they had not been doing their job per this section of the employee handbook.  Raccio seconded “for discussion.”

Jewett asked if she’d get 24 letters since she’s been on the board 24 years and then called for the vote on the motion.

Raccio immediately asked for a discussion period and Jewett called upon Raccio to discuss.

Raccio pointed out that selectmen had adopted a merit pay system before his time and his document was merely a tool to implement that already adopted program.  Then he noted that when “we meet with an employee and a corrective action is needed, we write a letter of reprimand, but we include the needed plan for corrective action.  We need a corrective action in this motion.”  Raccio then moved to amend the motion to accept this merit pay document as is because there were no modifications.

At that point Lambert withdrew his motion and selectmen agreed to table further discussion.  Raccio concluded the discussion in the manner in which he started by once again asking his fellow selectmen for feedback on his document. 

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