Alvirne Icon Kisses Cow

by Tom Tollefson


AHS head custodian Jerry Michaud kisses Alvirne cow.

Everyone’s heard of a princess kissing a frog, but what about a custodian kissing a cow? 

Alvirne High School’s head custodian Jerry Michaud was chosen to culminate spirit week last Friday by kissing one of the school cows. 

“It was an honor to do this for the senior class,” said Michaud, who has been at Alvirne for 27 years. 

Many of the other faculty members were supportive of Michaud’s nomination for the annual high honor. 

“To have an icon like Jerry kissing the cow seems so supportive,” American history teacher David Nesbitt said.  “How many schools have cow kissing as a climax to spirit week?  It makes it extra extraordinary.  To incorporate our agriculture and vocational programs as part of the whole spirit rally is really cool.”

Michaud also gave additional kissed to the cow to give students and faculty additional photo opportunities, as they stood on the front lawn of Alvirne clicking away with their digital and cell phone cameras. 

“Usually they only kiss the cow once, but Jerry was a good sport about it,” Case manager and special education teacher Debra Destefano said.  “It’s almost like a badge of honor in a backwards sort of way.”

“It was fun and exciting, and everyone was looking forward to it,” freshman Marissa Morin said. 

“I thought it was intense,” Sophomore Stephen Bosjile said.  

Every year, each class will nominate a faculty member as a candidate to be considered for the cow-kissing honor.  Each nominee will have a bucket with their name on it set up in the cafeteria during spirit week.  The students will put money in the bucket of the nominee they chose.  The person with the most money in their bucket is nominated as the cow kisser. 

The money collected will be given to a family in need chosen by the student council.

The other candidates this year were Sarah Conrad, Gerry Bastein and Eric Pascoal. 

Last year, recently retired English teacher Len Miller put on the cow horns, and puckered up for a kiss.  In 2007 it was John Conrad.


Jerry Michaud poses with a cow.

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Something for Everyone at Nesenkeag Farm Day

by Tom Tollefson


Mikelle, 9, and Ariel, 10

We remember the joys of playing in the sandbox as children, but what about playing in flour?  The Nesenkeag Farm Annual Farm Day had a little of everything for children, including a box filled with flour and toy trucks. 

I hardly play with trucks, but I like the feeling of it (flour).  It packs good too, Mikelle, 9, said as she packed together mounds of flour. 

In addition the trucks, the festival offered face painting, raffles for toys, crafts and live music for the children. 

When you hear this part of the music, youre suppose to jump, John Weaver, an amateur musician, who showed up to play the mandolin, said to the children, as they jumped while listening to the folk tunes of the freeze dance.  Sarah Nelson joined Weaver by playing flute and fiddle. 

Thats my favorite thing to do is get kids dancing, Weaver said, who plays contra dance music around the New Hampshire area. 

The farm festival has been held for the last decade, and has featured poetry readings and music for the last eight years. 

There were fresh foods for sale, complimentary Cambodian food made from the food produced on the farm, tours of Nesenkeag Farm. 

Poets Nancy Henry and Joe Torra provided a wide array of poetry readings.  Henrys poetry has been featured in the Writer’s Almanac, and published her poetry book Who You Are

Poet and novelist Torras novels include Gas Station, and his most recent poetry books are They Say Call Me Waiter, and After the Chinese.  Torra also teaches creative writing at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. 

Vincente Lebron, who plays congas, timbales and percussions, and saxophone player Russ Gershon provided the music for the adults.  Percussionists/vocalists Manolo Mairena and Jesus Andujar played jazz.

Nesenkeag Farm sold vegetables, while Alden Marshalls Beelinett Honey sold honey, and Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis brought fresh fruit. 

Farm manager Eero Ruutila gave a tour of the 40-acre farm, offering the visitors informed about the crops and challenges of Nesenkeag Farm. 

The following were just a few of the dozens of plants at the farm: sorrel, borage, rye, legumes, pea flowers, red clovers, treacles and turnips. 

These crops are sold to the following restaurants in southern New Hampshire area:  Villa Banca (Nashua), Michael Timothys (Nashua), Z Food and Drink (Manchester), Bedford Village Inn, CR Sparks (Manchester), and Brook Dale Food Farm in Hollis.  The farm also sells fresh produce to 20 restaurants in Boston, including at Fenway Park. 

Ruutila said that one of the biggest challenges to the farm came in the 2006 Mothers Day Flood, during which half of the fields felt the effects.

This field was 20 feet under water, Ruutila said as he took visitors through the farm. 

Ruutila also talked about irrigation, planting and fertilization of the agricultural life on the 40-acre farm, which is on rich soil, considered to be among the most fertile land in the United States.  The land to the east side of the Merrimack River received a soil potential index rating of 100. 

It was interesting because you learn about the topography and soil of Litchfield, Sheila Tierney, Litchfield resident, said about the tour.

The Nesenkeag Farm is the only farm in New Hampshire contracted to produce fresh produce for the New Hampshire food bank, which distributes the fruits and vegetables to more than 300 shelters and soup kitchens throughout the state.  Yhe local charter of the national organization Share Our Strength runs fundraisers to raise money to pay for this contract. 


John Weaver and Sarah Nelson put on a concert for the children.

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Litchfield’s Talent Hall Improved and Open

by Lynne Ober


New side steps and railing have been installed and connect to the recently paved path.

Despite unfounded rumors, Talent Hall has not been ordered closed and, is, in fact, open and much improved thanks to the work of Litchfield’s Recreation Commission.

Commission Chairman Tony Schaefer met with selectmen to discuss the current status of Talent Hall.  He also apologized for the rumors that swirled surrounding the potential closing of Talent Hall and acknowledged that neither the commission nor selectmen had voted to close Talent Hall.

Because Litchfield is having financial difficulties and selectmen are concerned there will not be enough money to pay bills through the end of the year, they are watching the budget closely.  When they saw the heating line item spent at 86 percent in August, they sent a letter to the Schaefer to inquire about plans.  Somehow a letter asking about plans became rumor fodder and, as rumors, there was expansion of the topic.  Before long people were talking about closing Talent Hall.  Nothing could be further from the facts.

Several improvements have been made at Talent Hall that should help reduce the heating bill, plus the commission has money in other budget lines that they can move into the heating line item.

The commission believes it is spending taxpayer dollars responsibly and in addition to safety improvements, it has made some weatherization improvements that should reduce the heating bill.

Weather stripping has been put around doors, sealing air leaks.  The heating system has been serviced and should run more efficiently.  A programmable thermostat has been installed and is secured behind a locking cover.  Ceiling fans have been replaced.  All of these items will help lower the heating costs.

There also has been a suggestion to insulate the ceiling and the commission is working with Public Service Company of New Hampshire on this and other efficiency items.  The estimated cost of insulating the ceiling is $33,000.

“PSNH did an energy audit for us,” said Schaefer.  “We don’t have the results back yet, but plan to continue to work in this area.”

Selectman George Lambert suggested that participants pay a small usage fee that could be used to fund additional improvements.

There have also been significant safety improvements at the hall.  A walkway that circles the hall has been paved to ensure safety if people use side or back doors for exits. 

New side steps and a railing have been installed.  The steps at the back have been inspected and are deemed safe.

Door closers have been fixed and all exit  doors work as expected. 

The basketball schedule is full and the hall will be used every day during the basketball season.

The commission indicated it intends to keep Talent Hall open and safe.  Selectmen thanked the commission for the report and the work it has accomplished.

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Tax Rate Increases in Litchfield

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield tax payers will be getting much larger tax bills again, and some of them are saying “enough is enough.”

Once again, the school portion is larger than the town portion, but the overall increase percentages are higher on the town side.

The previous school tax rate was $9.05 per thousand and the new rate is $1.27 per thousand higher, which equals $10.32 per thousand.  If your home is worth $250,000, you paid $2,262.50 previously, and with the new tax rate your school taxes will be $2,580.00 or an increase of $317.50.  For a home worth $300,000, the old tax was $2,715.00 and the new school tax rate will be $3,096.00.

Additionally, the state property tax for the schools was $2 per thousand and will increase to $2.04 per thousand.

On the town side, the old rate was $2.23 per thousand and the new rate is $2.71 per thousand.  On a $250,000 home, the old town tax rate was $557.50 and the new tax rate will be $677.50 or an increase of $120.  On a $300,000 home, the old town tax rate was $669 and the new town tax rate will be $813.00.

The one ray of light is the county tax rate.  The county budget is maintained by the state representatives in conjunction with county commissioners and county management.  There is no increase in the county tax rate this year.

As a result of the combined increases, the overall tax rate in Litchfield was previously $14.20 per thousand and the new rate if $15.99 or an increase of $1.79 per thousand.

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Litchfield School District to Participate in New Hampshire Scholars Initiative

Litchfield School District has been selected to participate in a state and national initiative designed to better prepare students for success in higher education and the work force through more rigorous academics in high school. 

Through the New Hampshire Scholars Initiative, Litchfield schools are partnering with area business leaders to encourage more students to complete the state’s rigorous core course curriculum.  Research has demonstrated that completing rigorous courses in high school is the strongest predictor of college and workplace success.

“The school-business partnership is a unique dynamic that will enrich the learning of our students. Business leaders clearly understand that today’s students are their future employees.  Our students can learn so much from them and New Hampshire Scholars is smart to utilize these resources,” said Dr. Elaine Cutler, Litchfield School District superintendent.

Litchfield School District is the 11th school community chosen to participate in the second year of the initiative because of its commitment to promoting rigorous academics and the strong partnership between the school system and local businesses.

The initiative and district are looking for strong community business leaders to participate in the program.  These business volunteers will be trained to deliver a presentation geared toward eighth-graders and their future success.

Beginning this fall, business volunteers will visit classes at Campbell High School.  This winter, business leaders will reach eighth-graders before students select their high school courses to explain the long-term benefits challenging academics play in future career opportunities.  Once students commit to being scholars, business and education partners will work together to develop incentives and academic supports to ensure these students complete the core course curriculum.

“Collaboration between a school and the business community demonstrates an increased support system for students.  When students hear local business professionals talk about the importance of gaining a high skill set, students listen,” says Tom Raffio, president, Northeast Delta Dental and New Hampshire Scholars business partner.

In January 2007, New Hampshire was among 25 states selected to participate in the State Scholars Initiative by the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for State Scholars.  The New Hampshire College and University Council is coordinating the New Hampshire Scholars Initiative in partnership with Campus Compact for New Hampshire, the Forum on the Future and the New Hampshire Department of Education.

For more information on the New Hampshire Scholars Initiative, visit www.NHscholars.org. 

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