Contra Dancing Gets Everyone to Smile

by Lauren Danzi

Smiling contra dancers at Windham Town Hall are about to dance the move “Left-Hand Star.”

Windham’s town hall was crowed with folks in their dancing shoes, ready to dance.  The Windham Recreation Committee sponsors the contra dance on the first Friday of each month.

Contra dancing is similar to square dancing, in that someone calls each move, partners switch and do-si-do.  The cost to dance your partner round and round is $6 and all ages are welcome. 

“It’s a good experience and a great group of people,” said Neil Harvey.

Contra dancing, believed to be native to New England, has thrived through the last few centuries.  This dance acquired its name from the French word contredanse, meaning a line dance, a fitting name because men and women line up in rows facing each other to start the dance.  

“Left hand star, circle right!” called Frank Woodward, as he danced among the crowd to Broken Sixpence.  In between dances, he explained that this group had a lot of beginners.  He spent much time teaching and began calling easy to progressively more challenging dances. 

“It’s a wonderful thing; we always have live music,” Woodward said, pointing to the band of drums, guitars, violins and woodwind instruments.  Anyone who plays an instrument can show up and play in the band.  Those who are more experienced will help teach others how to play this type of music.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Deb Harvey, while taking a break.  “Even the cold doesn’t keep people away.”  She said the dance was a chance to socialize and unlike modern dances it is considered rude to dance with only one partner. 

Though Friday night attracted a bit of an older crowd, this dance is open to everyone.  The people who attend are friendly and quick to include newcomers.

“Everyone is smiling,” said Woodward.  There are many reasons why people enjoy contra dancing.  Many feel that it is good exercise; some even break out into a sweat.  A big reason participants enjoy the dancing is the fun of meeting new people.

“It’s addictive,” said Tom from Hollis, who danced off before revealing his last name.  Another dancer asked, “Where else can you dance for $6 and hear live music?” 

Zane Knoy, 76, of Manchester, has been contra dancing for 15 years and said it has helped him stay in good health.

Many communities hold contra dances in old churches, mill buildings and town halls.  Any place with a wooden floor and a large space will work.  Cement floors are tough on the feet.

For more information: or visit the Windham town hall the first Friday of the month.

People come from different southern New Hampshire communities to participate in contra dancing at the Windham Town Hall.

Contra dancers swing their partners and do-si-do at the Windham Town Hall. 

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Proposed School Budget Up 13.39 percent

by Barbara O’Brien

With the exception of the housing market, prices are on the increase everywhere these days, or so it seems, and the proposed Windham school budget for 2008-2009 is no exception.

During his presentation on Tuesday, December 18, Tobey Eaton, administrator of SAU 28 (School Administrative Unit), told school board members that the current proposal shows an increase of 13.39% over the 2007-2008 school budget. The school districts annual budget runs from July 1 through June 30.

Eaton said the proposed 13.39 percent budget increase does not include any warrant articles being proposed for presentation in March.

The increase over this years allocation translates into approximately $4.4 million in additional expenses. While the approved 2007-2008 school budget totals $31,218,307, the proposal for 2008-2009 amounts to $35,630.699.

Included in the proposed and anticipated increases are salary hikes for staff, health insurance premiums and other benefits, as well as special education costs. Areas detailed by Eaton include an anticipated increase of $720,000 in regular tuition for Windham students attending Salem High School next year. Increases also are forecast for transportation costs, which include a four-percent escalation in the current contract, as well as money for an additional school bus. The bus is being proposed to cut down on the travel time some students are experiencing.

Fuel, heating costs and electricity also are expected to increase, Eaton said. While this year the school district was able to obtain heating oil at $2.19 per gallon, next years cost is anticipated to climb to about $3 per gallon. Therefore, fuel and electricity costs at Golden Brook are expected to increase by $34,700 next year; at Center School to rise by $38,600, and at Windham Middle School to increase by $45,500.

Although Windham High School wont open to students until September of 2009, money for staff needs to be allocated in advance. Therefore, salaries for Windham High Schools Planning Team is proposed at a total $751,000 for next year. The Planning Team includes the high school principal, dean of students, dean of fine arts, dean of humanities, dean of math and science, library media specialist, athletic director, and maintenance specialist (only for one-half of the 2008-2009 school year). According to Superintendent Frank Bass, the planning team will work to developing a baseline for what is needed to get the high school open in 2009.

This is Eatons first year as business administrator for Windham and Pelham, which jointly make up SAU 28. During Eatons presentation on December 18, Bass commended him on the performance he has exhibited thus far. Tobey has done an outstanding job, Bass said. This has been a first-rate effort on his part. Eaton replaced Brian Gallagher, who resigned at the end of the 2006-2007 school year, last June 30.

The Windham School Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2008-2009 school district budget on Friday, January 11, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Planning and Development Department, located next to Town Hall.

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Plans Expanded for Windham High School Curriculum

by Barbara O'Brien

While the construction of the building which will house Windham High School students in less than two years continues unabated, so, too, does the development of the curriculum and programs through which these same students will learn.

Amanda Lacaroz, Curriculum Coordinator for the future Windham High School, recently met with school board members to provide an update on the progress that is being made in anticipation of the September 2009 opening.

Currently, Windham high school students are tuitioned to Salem High School for grades nine through twelve.  While Salem High School does not employ team teaching techniques; that is the current proposal for Windham High School students who will be attending grades nine through eleven.  According to Lacaroz, teachers in related subjects at Windham High School will be teaming up with the goal of demonstrating to students the integral relationship between such courses as math and science, as well as various social studies courses. 

Salem High School does not have study halls, Lacaroz said, nor will Windham High School use this traditional block of time.  Instead, according to Lacaroz, the proposal is to have "learning centers" for students, where teachers will be available to provide additional assistance to students on an as-needed basis.  These learning centers would be individualized and/or small-group oriented.  The logistics of this plan, however, have not yet been determined, Lacaroz said.  Plans are to leave those specifics up to the person who is hired as the principal of Windham High School, as well as other administrative staff.

Also in the works are plans to make sure scheduling will be flexible enough for students to take elective courses, such as those within the fine arts program, without undue restrictions.

Vocational-Technical programs will remain available to Windham students through Salem High School, Lacaroz explained, due to the fact that the Salem program is a regional one.

Senior Seminars, programs proposed to be offered to twelfth-graders at Windham High School, are being planned to involve an emphasis on critical thinking, open-ended discussions, and the implementation of long-term projects and presentations for students, involving extensive individual research on their own.  These seminars, Lacaroz said, are intended to further prepare students for education beyond high school.  Plans are also to involve seniors in community-wide interaction.  "We have to let them go out on their own," Lacaroz said.  "It's better for them to make mistakes in high school, than to do so in their lives afterward," she said.  "These senior projects would be wide-open, as to what kids want to do," Windham/Pelham Superintendent Frank Bass added.

The proposed curriculum is also being designed to allow those students who qualify, the flexibility to take Advanced Placement classes, Lacaroz said.  Bass also said he hopes to include the Inter-National Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Windham High School.  According to Bass, if a student goes on to college, there are more credits, more dividends through the Inter-National Baccalaureate Diploma Program, than there are through Advanced Placement classes.  The Baccalaureate Diploma Program, established in 1968, is currently in place in 124 countries, Bass said.  It is intended for high school juniors and seniors and includes six subject areas, as well as three additional requirements, including Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and Creativity-Action Service.

As for Windham High School's eventual accreditation, Lacaroz explained that the school must be "up and running" for one full year before application to the Northeast Accreditation of Secondary Schools and Colleges can be made.  Once the application for accreditation is made, during the second year of operation, Windham High School will achieve the status of as "an accredited candidate."  Once that status is achieved, administrators at Windham High School will engage in a three-year self-study program, which culminates in a visiting team evaluation by representatives of the Northeast Accreditation of Secondary Schools and Colleges.  Following that evaluation, the team will either recommend or not recommend accreditation for Windham High School.

As the proposed curriculum continues to be developed, Lacaroz and Bass will be providing school board members with further updates.

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