Garden Club Decorates Pelham Common

by Lynne Ober

John Moore, perched on a ladder to hammer in a pole that will support one of the trees.  Walter Remeis steadied the pole as it was driven into the frozen ground.

Neither rain, wind, sleet nor snow can keep Pelham Garden Club members from morphing into Christmas elves intent on decorating Pelham Common for the holiday season.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving found wind chills hovering around zero and the wind strong enough to blow unattended decorations across the Common, but that didn’t stop those hardy Garden Club members.  Approximately 20 people were scattered around the Common.  Working in groups, they assembled the vignettes that grace the Common during the holiday season. 

“If today’s winds don’t blow these decorations down, nothing will,” smiled Mary Collins.  “If we get the decorations up and secure, they will definitely stand throughout the season.”

Theresa Ferullo was the artist who cut out the wooden skater figures and then painted them.  Every year she sets them up on the ice-skating rink.  “These are my family,” she smiled.  “You can see that I got better as I went along.”  Ferullo, an artist and also a teacher, said that she had tools from her grandfather, who had been a carpenter, and decided to create the skating figures.  Today the whole family is represented on the Common.  Ferullo and her son, Brian, a Boy Scout, were creating the ice-skating vignette.  “We are at a stopping point.  We get the leftover snow so we are waiting for the others to finish.”

On the other side of the Common, the snowmen were up and glistening in the pale winter sun.  Poles that will hold the trees were being hammered into the frozen ground.  Others were unwrapping lights and preparing to string them over the trees.  The carolers were up, and trees were being installed behind them.

“I think I’ll go for coffee,” said Glennie Edwards.  “I believe everyone here would like something warm to drink.”

Before noon, the Common was dressed in holiday finery, and Edwards was right ­– coffee helped warm those who had been braving the elements.

Teresa Ferullo and her son Brian stand with some of the ice-skating figures that she crafted.

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Knights of Columbus Hosts Popular Turkey Dinner

by Karen Plumley

Smiles and full bellies greet guests at the crowded turkey dinner.  Peter Brodie, 9, and his little brother Eric, 6, wait patiently with their parents and grandmother for dessert and the announcement of raffle winners.

John Costa and Chuck Curtis, co-chairmen of this year’s Knights of Columbus Turkey Dinner and Raffle, were very busy on Saturday evening, November 22.  Over 300 guests attended the popular event, and St. Patrick’s Hall was full to the brim with Thanksgiving cheer that only a tight-knit community like Pelham can offer.

“We usually raise a couple of thousand dollars, but this year we expect that figure to be higher.  It seems like when times are tough, people pull together more,” enthused Costa.  All the money raised from this year’s event will be portioned to three organizations:  the Pelham Food Pantry, the Pelham Good Neighbor Fund, and a Nashua shelter for battered women.

Some impressive prizes were on display around the hall.  The grand prize was a golf package worth $2,000.  Raffle tickets were $10 apiece.  For a $5 raffle ticket, one could win a TV/DVD player combo prize package, and there were also at least 100 other prizes available, plus a door prize.  Costa noted that about half of the prizes were donated by local businesses.

But the event wasn’t all about the prizes.  Community members enjoyed a fabulous turkey feast and the company of friends, neighbors, and, in some cases, many generations of family, while reveling in the thought that their generosity would be going to some great local causes.  Newly-appointed St. Patrick’s pastor Father Paul Ruzzo made his way around the hall to greet guests warmly and received an equally warm welcome in return.

The St. Patrick’s Knights of Columbus (Council #6902) was established over 30 years ago, in 1977, by charter members and headed by Grand Knight Paul Soucy.  They work closely with St. Patrick’s Parish in their efforts to support charitable projects in the community.  This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the turkey dinner event.  For more information or to get involved, e-mail the group at

Busy selling raffle tickets at the Knights of Columbus Turkey Dinner on Saturday evening, volunteers pause to smile. From left:  James Roche Jr. and James Roche Sr., with granddaughter Makenzie, 3, Donna Roche, Joan Sullivan, and Mary Ann Roche.

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Proposed School Budget Up 14 Percent

by Barbara O’Brien

It’s never good news when costs increase, but the idea of a higher school budget is particularly hard to handle in the current recessive economy.

During the school board meeting on Tuesday, November 18, Superintendent Frank Bass was the bearer of such news.  As it stands now, the proposed 2009-2010 Windham School District budget shows a 14 percent increase over the current year’s allocation.

This year’s school district budget was set at $34,916,691.  Next year’s proposal is currently set at $39,739,286, an increase of $4,822,595 in one year.

Dr. Bass prefaced his presentation by saying that the school administration is “acutely aware” of the current economic situation and of a tax rate which is steadily rising.  Despite these economic indicators, however, there are certain elements which must be fulfilled, he explained, including the implementation of a public kindergarten program, the start-up of a new high school, as well as various contractual agreements.

Aside from these factors, Bass said every attempt has been made to keep costs down as much as possible.  Bass commended Donna Clairmont, the district’s new business administrator, for the outstanding job she has done in preparing next year’s school budget for Windham.  Clairmont took on the job this past July 1.

As for those costs which allow little budgeting flexibility, Bass said the proposed operating budget for the new high school for the 2009-2010 school year totals $5,280,335.  2009-2010 will be the first year of operation for the new Windham High School.

In addition to educating students at the new high school in Windham (freshmen and sophomores), those who will be juniors and seniors next fall will continue going to classes at Salem High School on a tuition basis.  The total tuition cost for juniors and seniors next year will be $2,844,523, a decrease from this year’s tuition expense, which presently totals $5,910,807 for all four grade levels.

Overall, the high school budget for next year, as currently proposed, shows a five percent increase ($1,714,584) over the current year’s allocation.

Implementing the new kindergarten program, a substantial portion that will be paid by the State of New Hampshire Department of Education, will add a 2.4 percent increase ($822,700) to the overall 2009-2010 budget.

Contractual agreements for next year, including pre-approved salary increases for teachers and support staff, as well as increases in the cost of health insurance, school bus transportation, and SAU 28 assessments account for an increase next year of 3.7 percent ($1,270,917).

Based on information presented by Dr. Bass, if the proposed budget is adopted as presented, it would mean an estimated tax increase of approximately $1.60 per $1,000 assessed valuation.  On an average home in Windham of $400,000, this could mean an increase of taxes on that property for 2009 of $640.

According to school administrators, they are not anticipating any additional state revenue above that currently being received by Windham next year, due to the financial situation at the state level.

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Two Options Being Considered for Kindergarten

by Barbara O’Brien

There are currently two options being considered for public kindergarten programs in the Town of Windham.  The first is a five day, half-day program; the second is a two full-day and one half-day offering.  The pros and cons of those two scenarios are still being weighed, with a final recommendation to be considered by school board members during their Tuesday, December 2 meeting.

Windham is one of only a very few towns in the United States which does not currently offer public kindergarten for their five year olds.  That is all about to change.  Offering a public kindergarten program was mandated by the State of New Hampshire a couple of years ago, resulting in most school districts complying.  When several towns did not meet the original deadline, however, the New Hampshire Department of Education extended the date of compliance until the start of the 2009-2010 school year.  The plans for those upcoming kindergarten programs must be sent to the Department of Education by December 1 of this year.

Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson talked about Windham’s proposed plans during the school board’s Tuesday, November 18 meeting.

The projected enrollment for next year’s very first public kindergarten program is 278 students.  Parents are not required by law to send their five-year-old children to kindergarten, but under the new legislation, towns must make it available.

According to Wilson, state regulations call for 20 or fewer students in each kindergarten class, which would mean Windham would need 14 sessions and seven new classrooms to house these students.  The first proposal Wilson discussed was the traditional half-day session, with separate classes attending in the morning and afternoon, five days per week.  These sessions would likely run from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 to 3 p.m.  There would be no outdoor recess offered, due to time constraints, nor would lunch be offered.  The second proposal Wilson discussed was the alternate two full days and one half-day program.  For example, one group of kindergarteners would attend classes for a full day on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a half-day on Mondays, while another group would come to school for a full day on Wednesdays and Fridays and a half-day on Mondays.  Kindergarten hours would likely run from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the full days.

The benefits of the alternating full day schedule include an easier transition for students when they move on to first grade, more time for in-depth instruction, and less expense for parents needing to use a daycare program when their children aren’t at kindergarten.  A full-day kindergarten would include morning and afternoon recess periods, as well as lunch time.

Based on state regulations, public kindergarten programs require a certified teacher, as well as an instructional assistant in each classroom.  In Windham’s case, this would mean the hiring of seven new teachers, as well as seven new instructional aides.  Wilson said that one new custodian would also be required when a kindergarten program is implemented.

Current plans include placing portable classrooms on the site of Golden Brook Elementary School.  Those portables will be paid for totally by state funds, for a temporary period of up to three years.  The Department of Education does not require, however, that kindergarten classes be housed in these portables.  It might be more advisable to place second-graders in the portables and put the kindergarteners in the school building, Wilson said.  If the kindergarten program is to be housed at Golden Brook Elementary School, the administration is recommending that an assistant principal be hired.  Currently, there is only a principal at Golden Brook.  Assistant principals are recommended by state standards once a school exceeds 500 students.  Currently, there are 481 students at Golden Brook.  If the kindergarten is housed there next year, there will be a total of 812 students at Golden Brook School.

Other options being considered include putting the portable classrooms on the new high school site off London Bridge Road, putting a portable at Center School and another at Golden Brook, or leasing property located next to Golden Brook School.

The purpose of Windham’s kindergarten program will be to take each student where he or she is when he or she enters school, and to prepare each of them individually for first grade the following year.  The program will offer an integrated curriculum, including reading, writing, arts, social studies, science and motor development.

It is undecided, at this point, whether or not school bus transportation will be offered for those attending the kindergarten program.  One problem that could develop if school bus transportation is not offered is the additional traffic congestion that is likely to take place.  Wilson said that another 139 cars could be pulling in and out of the driveway during drop-off and pick-up times.  Offering bus transportation would raise costs even higher, though, Wilson explained.  The Department of Education does not require that transportation be provided for a public kindergarten program.

In order to be eligible for next year’s kindergarten program, a child must be five years of age on or before September 30, 2009.  As for whether or not a student would be placed in the morning or afternoon session, should the school district choose to go with a traditional half-day program, Wilson said she is recommending that students be assigned randomly, in order to be more equitable, and that any exceptions be made on a case-by-case basis.  It is anticipated that registration for next year’s kindergarten program will be scheduled some time this coming January or February.  Registrations will be held at Golden Brook School and online, Wilson said.

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Vieira Tallies His Last Three TD’s to Send Python Gridders to Another Unbeaten Title

by Tommy Gates

The mighty wind and bitter cold temperatures didn’t seem to phase Pelham senior running back, Bruce Vieira, in the least last Saturday as he laced up his cleats for the last time in a Python football uniform.  It also didn’t seem to phase the crowd of over 1,000 people that came down to Harris Field in Pelham to cheer their Pythons on to their 22nd victory in a row too.  Coach Tom Babaian and his 22 Pelham players had to knock off New England’s winningest coach in Rod Wooton (331-69-3) and the Saint Thomas Saints, in order to earn their second Division V championship.  Vieira pranced nine yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game that went 80 yards in 19 plays and took ten minutes off the clock and Pelham held that 6-0 lead into the third quarter.  The Python’s defense came up with three second half turnovers and Vieira turned them into second half touchdown runs from five and six yards out and he ran in both two point conversions to lead the Pythons to their 22nd consecutive victory in their 22-0 beating of Saint Thomas.  It’s also kind of ironic that this game was played on November 22nd, and Vieira’s three scores had him wind up the season with 22 touchdowns to take first place in the Merrimack Valley scoring race.

Coach Tom Babaian wasn’t going to do anything fancy against St. Thomas, after they had just beaten the Saints 17-3 in Dover last month.  Babaian called his troops together on the sidelines just after learning that they’d receive the opening kickoff and said, “Line …let’s go out there and stuff this ball down their throats.  Bruce you’re getting the rock all day buddy, so go nuts.”  That’s exactly what the Pelham offensive line and Bruce Vieira did for the first 10 minutes of the game, as they picked up four to seven yards at a whack and combined with a nifty 26 yard pass from Joe DeAngelo to Wayne Parisi, followed by a nice 12-yard catch from DeAngelo to Josh Luciano.  Bruce Vieira carried the last nine yards into the end zone, but the kick was wide.  Pelham led 6-0 with just two minutes left in the first quarter, and Vieira was just starting to heat up on the ground.  On the other side of the ledger, Saints quarterback, Jack MacNevin was finding out that Pelham was very tough to run against as their star back Zach Merrigan would be held to just seven yards on five carries and after his second carry of the game, Merrigan was completely blown up by Pelham linebackers Mike Lombard and Conor McColgan, and Merrigan was helped off the field and did return until late in the third quarter.  St. Thomas only had a little luck throwing the short 10-12 yard passes underneath the Pelham defense, but when they got close to scoring, Bill Helliwell, Dave Wesson, and Warren Greenhalgh always seemed to have a way to upset the applecart.  Josh Luciano would pick off two St. Thomas passes and Andy Keegan continued to own St. Thomas as he picked off a pass midway through the second half, almost like the one he stole up in Dover last month that eventually won the game for Pelham.  Mike Lombard also recovered a big fumble in the end zone that stopped another Saints scoring drive, and warren Greenhalgh, Bill Helliwell, and Dave Wesson were all starting to tee off on the Saints quarterback.  In the third quarter, these three chased MacDevin for a 25-yard loss and stripped him of the ball and Wayne Parisi pounced on the loose pigskin at the Saints 15 yard line.  A few plays later Bruce Vieira found his way to pay-dirt from five yards out and he rushed in the two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead with just over a minute left in the third quarter.

Pelham senior R. J. Riddinger suffered a bad knee injury back in early September and had been out, but he rehabbed his way back to health for the last two games and had two tackles on Pelham’s four kickoffs in this game.  Vieira would pick up his last 70 yards on the ground at the midway point of the final quarter and would score from five yards out again, and rush for the two points that put Pelham up 22-zip.  Pelham junior Cam Rodidoux had a couple of nice carries, but he, Josh Luciano, Bruce Vieira and Joe DeAngelo were simply coming up with some serious kisses on the Saints backs and ends that you’d never give your mother.  Juniors Peter Chanelle and Sean Sweeney were the only two substitutions that coach Babaian made on offense or defense during the entire game, so with these 13 kids going against the 35-40 that St, Thomas used, you might have guessed that they were alit gassed by the end.  Vieira ended up with 138 yards on 28 carries to put him over the 1200 mark for rushing yards in only eight games.  Vieira’s three scores also gave him 78 touchdowns for his career and that’s a Merrimack Valley area record that was held by Pinkerton’s Matt Jordan back in the 1990’s.  After being presented with the Division V championship plaque by NHIAA chairman, Pat Corbett, coach Tom Babaian said, “This is right where we wanted to be.  I told our lineman we’re using Bruce all day long and Bruce said that’s fine with him.  The line was fantastic, our defense was immense, Joe DeAngelo did a great job running the offense, and of course then we had Bruce Vieira.  I’ll miss the last four years I’ve had with Bruce, because I doubt I’ll ever see another one like him.”

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