Animals Go to Church

by Tom Tollefson

Pastor Lori Wiley blesses over “Kimo”

Last Sunday, at the Community Church of Hudson, you could even find dogs and cats at the morning service.   

The church held a special blessing for the animals as part of their weekly service, which was held outside the church last week.  A total of six dogs and two cats showed up. 

According to Pastor Lori Wiley, blessing animals originated from the early Christian church and is done to recognize animals as part of creation.  This blessing is traditionally done in October, but Wiley believed it was better to do it during the summer because of the cold autumn weather. 

The blessing consisted of a prayer of thanks for the animals and Wiley individually saying blessings over each individual animal while sprinkling water on them.  She then led the church in reading “A Prayer for Animals,” written by Albert Schweitzer. 

“We’re very excited to have all these animals here and their owners.  They added a lively element to the service,” Wiley said. 

The pet owners were glad to be able to bring their animals to church. 

Most of those in attendance had not been to a service where animals were blessed, but they all welcomed the change. 

“I have not been to one before, but I think it’s nice that Pastor Lori does something different during the summer,” Pat Parillo said.

Some members also looked at the blessing as being a way to bring new people to the service. 

“It’s meant to unite people.  They’re (animals) God’s creatures too.  It’s also an outreach, a way to bring people in who don’t normally come,” Cliff Jacob said. 

Jacqui Bateson, member of First Church of Nashua, attended the service to have her dog “Trey” blessed. 

“I saw they had a blessing of the animals so I came here today,” Bateson said.  “This is so exciting to be able to bring my dog to church.”

Pastor Lori Wiley blesses “Maggie” 

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Litchfield Fire Department Visits Kids

Kids having “Fun in the Sun”

The Litchfield Fire Department took time out this summer to visit the summer camp being held at St. Francis of Assisi School.  Known as Fun in the Sun, the camp runs each summer and offers students great experiences and lots of fun!  The Litchfield firefighters recently visited and talked to the campers about fire safety and showed them what they look and sound like with their full gear on.  After a tour around the fire truck, the children enjoyed a ride around the school and church grounds.  Not only did the campers get a chance to dress up as firefighters, they even got the chance to spray water from the hose!

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School District Sued Over Flyer

by Lynne Ober

Hudson School District and Superintendent Randy Bell have been named co-defendants in a lawsuit filed by Patricia Regan.  At issue is the district’s refusal to give every student a flyer about Vacation Bible School held at Calvary Baptist Church.

Interestingly enough, the legal brief and suit was filed by four attorneys.  Joshua B. Bolinger and David Cortman list an address in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  Both of these attorneys are allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.  The third attorney, Benjamin Bull has a Scottsdale, Arizona, address and is also affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund and John Anthony Simmons, Sr., Hampton, New Hampshire, who is also allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.

According to the suit filed by Regan’s attorneys, “Patricia Regan remains an outsider, unable to gain access to the Defendants’ flyer forum because of the religious content and viewpoint of her flyers and Vacation Bible School activities, another others, despite the fact that the flyers and activities promote similar educational, cultural, charitable, community and recreational undertakings.”

The brief accuses the district and Bell of denying Regan her “well-established First Amendment right to engage in free speech in a public forum.”  It also accused the school district of having a policy that prohibits Regan from freedom of “her religious speech.”

At the heart of the complaint is School District Policy 7.3 (b) – Advertising in the Schools.  This policy governs “distribution or display of printed informational materials and announcements sent home with students or displayed in school.”

In section II of the policy, it defines those who may send items home as “Nonprofit community organizations and organizations operating in the Town of Hudson that provide documentation of nonprofit status.  A community organization or business is a group or business that operates in Hudson.

According to the flyer that the school district refused to distribute, Calvary Baptist Church has a physical address in Derry, New Hampshire.  The Vacation Bible School was being held in Derry, and it is not noted on the flyer that Calvary Baptist Church has any Hudson address or operates in Hudson.

Bell said that this was the third in a line of yearly issues with Regan.  Two years ago, Regan wanted to put a bench with a religious quote at Nottingham West School after the playground was redone.  Bell said the district’s legal counsel said that would be ok if it had a disclaimer that said the religious quote was not from the district.  Last year Regan wanted to distribute party invitations to her child’s classroom with the Vacation Bible School information contained below the party information on the invitation.  Since other party invitations had gone home and the main thrust of the document was not Vacation Bible School, she was allowed to distribute the invitations.

This year Regan wanted to send home flyers to all Nottingham West students just for Vacation Bible School at Calvary Baptist Church where she is the Assistant Director.  Bell said no.

Part III section 18 of the brief states, “Ms. Regan’s desire to distribute flyers through District schools promoting the church’s Vacation Bible School activities – as well as flyers promoting upcoming events and activities conducted by other nonprofit organizations throughout the year – is premised upon these sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Regan did put the required disclaimer (“These materials are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Hudson School District, Hudson School Board, the Superintendent, or this school.”) on the flyers and she separated them as instructed in the policy.

Despite the fact that the policy states that an organization or business must be a Hudson business, the brief contends that “The policy contains no guidelines to assist District officials in determining whether a flyer promoting a nonprofit organization’s event or activity should be approved or denied.”

The brief lists a number of sample flyers that had been sent home, including a flyer for Camp Invention, two flyers from Cub Scout Pack 20, a flyer from Southern New Hampshire Medical Center (who has an established branch in Hudson as well as in other towns), a flyer for Drama Kids International promoting activities held at Hudson schools, an Adventure Club and numerous flyers from Hudson Recreation.  All the cited flyers were from organizations based in Hudson or organizations offering activities at Hudson schools.  Only Regan’s Vacation Bible School flyers were from an organization located in a different town.

The brief, however, contends that Bell “denied Ms. Regan’s VBS [Vacation Bible School] flyer solely because of its religious content and viewpoint.  It does not address the location of Calvary Church.”  

When Bell was asked about this, he said that he couldn’t comment on an on-going legal suit.

School Board Chairman David Alukonis said that the suit had been filed on the day of the last school board meeting and that the board has not met since to discuss it.

When Alukonis was asked if the attorneys representing Regan probably had similar suits filed in other states, he stated that he couldn’t comment on the suit or on Regan’s attorneys.

The brief also outlines future activities that Regan wants to promote.  “In the future, Ms. Regan desires to submit flyers for distribution regarding upcoming events and activities conducted by religious nonprofit organizations, which she has authority to act on behalf of, including Calvary Baptist Church [CBC] and an affiliate chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Hampshire, without having the flyers denied by District officials based solely on their religious content or viewpoint.”

The brief specifies that Regan wants to send home, to all district children, weekly flyers for a Calvary Baptist Church program called AWANA, which “educates children in Biblical teachings regarding significant life skills and values…”, flyers for another church program called King’s Court, and weekly flyers for another program called Good News Club that is sponsored by a Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Hampshire.

“The decision to deny Ms. Regan access to the flyer forum is a direct result of policies, practices, customs and usages officially adopted and promulgated by the Defendants,” the brief continues.  As a result of this denial, the brief asks for all legal fees to be paid and for the court to “award damages for the violation of Ms. Regan’s constitutional rights.”  

The brief, although never acknowledging that the policy requirement that organizations have Hudson addresses, specifically asks the court to “issue a Preliminary and Permanent Injunction, restraining the Defendants, their officers, agents, employees and all other persons acting in active concert with them from enforcing District Policy 7.3 (b) to exclude Plaintiff Regan from distributing flyers.”  It also specifically asks that the court “render a Declaratory Judgment declaring as unconstitutional, both facially and as-applied district Policy 7.3 (b) …”

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Litchfield Mosquito Program

by Lynne Ober

It began as a citizen petitioned warrant article on Litchfield’s March, 2007 ballot.  At that time the request was to form a Mosquito Control District, with no dollars attached.  The warrant article passed with fewer than 800 residents approving it.

Today it has moved into a testing and larviciding program.  This past year, $29,670 was put into the budget at Deliberative Session for this program.  

“We are not spraying,” said Conservation Commission and Mosquito Control District member Joan McKibbon.  “Not spraying.  I can’t repeat that enough.”

Municipal Pest Management Services, Inc. has been hired by the Mosquito Control District.  Michael Morrison, Entomologist, is the driving force behind this company, and, does much of the mosquito control work in New Hampshire.  Morrison believes in controlling and not in wide-spread spraying.

Testing has begun in Litchfield and the Mosquito Control District has received the first results.  Larviciding around town manholes and in town drainage systems has also begun.

“When we got our license to begin larviciding,” said Selectmen’s Liaison to the Mosquito Control District, Al Raccio, “we were required to notify the town and we have done that via newspaper ads as well as discussing this at selectmen’s meetings.”

According to Raccio, the larviciding program consists of the application of a genetically engineered pesticide that is aimed only at the few breeds of mosquitoes that are carriers of the West Nile Virus and EEE. 

“This pesticide does not wipe out all mosquitoes.  It is aimed specifically at the few species that are known carriers of these two hideous diseases,” said Raccio.

McKibbon echoed those statements and noted that there were only a few species of mosquitoes that are carriers, and the larviciding was aimed solely at those mosquitoes. 

“We will still have mosquitoes in Litchfield as the majority of the species do not carry those two diseases.”

Testing and larviciding will be continued through September.  The testing and monitoring will continue through October.

According to Raccio, the board of selectmen must approve any larviciding. 

“First the decision is made by the Mosquito Control District and then, if we wish to larvicide based on the testing, we will go to the selectmen as has recently been done.  Selectmen approved the limited application of the larvicide.”  Raccio said that no work will be done on private property without the owner’s written permission.  

McKibbon agreed, but noted that there are a number of important things that residents can do to help.

“Don’t leave water standing in any bucket or pot.  Mosquitoes can breed in very little water.”  McKibbon also said she hoped that people would clean their gutters as mosquitoes can breed in the standing water that gets trapped with leaves in gutters.  “It only takes a little water to host a mosquito breeding site.”

If you have a bird bath and don’t want to breed mosquitoes, it’s as simple as purchasing a water wiggler, which is a little battery run gadget that makes the water ripple, thus prohibiting the breeding of mosquitoes or cleaning and changing the water in your bird bath on a daily basis.

McKibbon stated that Mosquito Control District meetings are held on Thursdays and are open to the public.  “We list our meetings in the Hudson~Litchfield News and I hope people will come to the meetings and learn about the program.”

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Hudson School Board Explores Lawsuit Against State

by Lynne Ober

The Hudson School District has agreed to sue the state over recently passed kindergarten legislation and has asked their legal team to prepare such documents for their review.  It is expected that this review will occur around the middle of August.

“This isn’t about whether we support kindergarten or not,” said Hudson Superintendent Randy Bell.  “It’s about the state mandating a program and then not paying for it.  Section 28-A of the New Hampshire Constitution clearly states that mandated programs must be paid for by the state.”

When SB530 passed and was signed into law by Governor John Lynch, kindergarten became a state mandated program beginning with the school year in 2009.

“I’ve been a long kindergarten proponent,” said Bell.  “I’d love to have kindergarten in Hudson, but I don’t believe that this is the way to start the program.  In the past, Hudson voters have said no to kindergarten.”

What Bell is referring to is the portion of the bill that allows the school district to ignore voters, to ignore the No Means No portion of the Municipal Budget Act and to ignore the provision of spending no more than 10 percent over what the Budget Committee approved.  School districts will be allowed to proceed without voter consent.  However, where they will get the money remains a question as money is only allocated when voters vote in the affirmative.

“I want kindergarten, but how will the voters feel if we expend dollars that they don’t get to vote on?” asked Assistant Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond.  “I don’t believe that the voters would ever pass another one of our budgets and I couldn’t really blame them.  That portion of the law is outrageous.”

The Hudson School Board agrees and has decided to pursue a lawsuit over this constitutional issue.  Hudson School Board Chairman David Alukonis was a seven term State Representative and is well aware of the constitutional issues surrounding this hot topic.

Twelve school districts do not have public kindergarten, but as Bell notes, over 90 percent of Hudson students are currently attending a kindergarten program.  That’s a percentage that is higher than in some districts with public kindergarten.  When asked to hypothesize why, Bell notes that half day kindergarten is only 2.5 hours. 

“What arrangements must you struggle to make if both parents work or if the kindergarten child is part of a single parent family?  A kindergarten student cannot be left home alone for the rest of the day.”  Bell also noted that New Hampshire requires students to begin school at age 6.  “At that age, a student is entering first grade and not kindergarten.”

The law, as passed, will put a burden on taxpayers to fund portions of kindergarten.  What the law will now provide is:

“(a) A construction grant to cover 75 percent of the actual cost of construction of kindergarten facilities, exclusive of site acquisition and core facilities[.] ; or

(b) A construction grant to cover 100 percent of the actual cost of the design and construction of a basic code compliant kindergarten facility, but shall not include site acquisition and core facilities.  In this subparagraph, ‘basic code compliant kindergarten facility’ means a new building or an addition to an existing building that the commissioner of the department of education determines satisfies the minimum standards for school approval for a kindergarten program and all applicable building code standards.  The commissioner shall establish specifications pursuant RSA 198:15-s, IV for such a basic code compliant facility.”

The problem with the “code compliant” building is not easily understood, but when you ask experts at NHDOE about this, they point out that land is not included, nor are core facilities.  Digging further one discovers that core facilities include a heating system, a septic system, bathrooms and other items deemed to be “core” to a building.  When asked how a building will get an occupancy permit without a heating system or bathrooms, these “experts” shrug their shoulders and say that’s up to local taxpayers to fund.

Then, these same experts quickly point out that a “code compliant” building isn’t needed because a district can get building aid if “a school district that displaces pupils from an existing classroom space in order to use such space to provide a kindergarten program …” 

These grants will also cover the cost of initial furniture, fixtures, and equipment needed to operate a kindergarten program.  They do not cover teacher’s salaries or benefits.  It is left undefined if “equipment” also means books, supplies and paper.

They do not cover buses – state law does not require busing for kindergarten students so a school district could, in theory, start kindergarten and require the parents to drive the students to school. 

“That’s just ridiculous,” said Bell.  “If you are busing first graders, you should be busing kindergarten students.”

Another option is to have the state “cover 100 percent of the actual cost of leasing and set up of temporary classrooms, including but not limited to portable classrooms or privately-owned space, for a single lease period with a maximum term of three years.”

After Pelham attorney and mother, Diane Chubb, testified about concerns of having kindergarten students is portables, the bill was amended to say, “the temporary classrooms may be used for grades other than kindergarten to the extent that those grades are displaced in order to make room for kindergarten classes.  Classroom transition grants shall also cover the cost of initial furniture, fixtures, and equipment needed to operate a kindergarten program.  Classroom transition grants shall be limited to an amount that, in the discretion of the commissioner of the department of education, is not excessive or unreasonable.”

One of the hard fought for amendments to the bill allows for private contracting.  “A school district that currently does not operate a public kindergarten program may, for a period not to exceed three years, contract with a private entity to provide a kindergarten program in accordance with RSA 198:48-a, provided that the kindergarten program meets or exceeds the minimum standards for school approval as adopted by the department of education.”

The final amendment to the bill allows district to spend money on kindergarten without voter approval.

“Over-riding the No Means No Law for one special program is not responsible,” said Bell.  “Every school district that ends up ignoring the voters will face the wrath of the voters on other issues.  This isn’t a good way to do business.”

State Representative Russ Ober called that provision “the tyranny of the majority,” and noted that writing legislation that made it legal to ignore other laws was not the way to approach any additional piece of legislation. 

“It just makes this bill look like it was slapped together and I know how much time was spent on crafting and trying to modify this legislation.  I ended up voting against it because I felt that local voters and local budget committees should have control of expenditures.”

Bell estimates that a total of nine classrooms are needed to house Hudson’s expected kindergarten population.

The school board will meet on August 18 and Bell expects to have legal documents available at that meeting for the board’s review.

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Longer School Day in Hudson!

The Hudson School District has adjusted school start and end times for the 2008 - 2009 school year.  Making changes to the school day will increase instructional time by 20 minutes at the elementary schools and 30 minutes at the middle school.  The Hudson School Board finalized these adjustments, as part of the district’s Strategic Plan, during their Board meeting Monday, July 7.

School Drop-Off/First Bell Start Time End Time
Alvirne High School 7:10 AM 7:25 AM 2:09 PM
Hudson Memorial School 7:30 AM 7:50 AM 2:17 PM
Dr. H. O. Smith School 8:20 AM 8:45 AM 3:05 PM
Library Street School 8:20 AM 8:45 AM 3:05 PM
Nottingham West School 8:20 AM 8:45 AM 3:05 PM
Hills Garrison School 8:20 AM 8:45 AM 3:05 PM
Note:  There will be a slight adjustment to the bussing schedule relted to the time changes.  All bus schedules will be posted shortly.
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