Pelham Ice Garden Sees Incredible Opening Day Turnout

by Karen Plumley

Pelham residents and elementary school classmates Faith Jarek, 6, and Nathan Serrentino, 6, enjoy some down time while the rink is resurfaced on Saturday at Pelham Ice Garden. 

Over 100 skaters graced the outdoor skating rink at Lyons Park on Saturday morning between 11a.m. and noon, with even more trickling in throughout its’ grand opening day.  Cake, hot cocoa, and hot dogs were served up to the chilly crowd and a raffle was ongoing.

The ice skating park, completely constructed by town volunteers, was greeted with immense enthusiasm.  Donations and fundraisers paid for the rink, as well as equipment for its upkeep and maintenance.  A very useful, heated shed was erected nearby as a shelter from the cold.  A Zamboni lawnmower attachment was used to resurface the ice periodically.  Ice skaters were encouraged pick up the shovels and clear off surface shavings.  It was truly a community effort and a great Saturday family activity.

Pelham resident Chris Mader led the rink project efforts, and involved his entire family too.  Additionally, at least twenty other helpful volunteers worked on the ice without payment or assistance from town officials.  In a posting on the town website, Mader reminds residents who use the community ice park to help maintain it.  The simple rule, “you skate, you shovel” is one he is stressing to encourage what he calls, “good old-fashioned habits about park skating.”  Even so, volunteers will be checking on the park once per day, five days a week.

Mader gives a helpful remedy for large cracks that occasionally crop up and hinder skating quality.  Using snow, water, and a hockey puck he explains, “Mix the water and snow over the crack, and smooth it with the puck.  If that process is good enough for NHL ice, then it is good enough for the Pelham Ice Garden!”

On Saturday, the rink was segregated into two parts:  one for hockey players and the other for general public skaters.  Going forward, times will be assigned for the two types of users as follows:

Weather permitting the rink will be operational January 10 through March 14.  Volunteers will maintain the rink every night at 7 p.m.  Always check the signs at the rink for the official status of the rink, and stay off the rink when it’s marked “closed” or “private party.”

  • Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:
    • 9 a.m.-7 p.m. - Public skating
    • 7-9 p.m. - Pond Hockey league
  • Thursday and Friday:
    • 9 a.m.—9 p.m. - Family/Public skating
  • Saturday:
    • 7-10 a.m. - Kids Hockey (ages 12 and under)
    • 10 a.m.-4 p.m. - Public Skating
    • 4-6 p.m. - Kids Hockey (ages 12 and under)
    • 6-9 p.m. - Pick up hockey (ages 12-plus for advanced players, plus anyone over 18)
  • Sunday:
    • 7-10 a.m. - Kids Hockey (ages 12 and under)
    • 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Public Skating
    • 3-9 p.m. - Pick up Hockey (ages 12-plust for advanced players, plus anyone over 18)

For additional information, visit the Ice Garden Website at

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Windham School Board Chair Makes 20th Trip to Sister City in Russia

by Barbara O’Brien

Children at orphanage that received some of Windham’s donation.

School Board Chairman Barbara Coish has recently returned from her 20th trip to Windham’s “sister city,” Suzdal, Russia.  This most recent trip included a 10-day stay with many of the friends Coish has made during her multiple visits.  Coish’s first trip to Russia took place 17 years ago in 1992.

Also traveling on the recent trip was Windham resident John Breda, vice-chairman of the Sister City Committee and teacher at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.  This was Breda’s eighth trip to Suzdal, which is a small city similar in size to Windham and located about 120 miles northwest of Moscow.  Surprisingly, the weather in that section of Russia was warmer than it was here during Coish’s late December, early January visit.  There was not much snow in Suzdal while she was there, Coish said.

Coish talked about her recent journey during the Windham Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, January 5.  The enthusiasm and love she has for Suzdal and its’ residents was evident.

One of the projects Windham has been working on for the many years the two entities have been sister cities is to provide financial aid to the local orphanages and hospital.  While the facilities have improved vastly during the past decade, they are still very stark compared to what we have here in the United States, Coish said.

While in Suzdal last month, Coish presented a donation of $1,500 from the Town of Windham and the Windham Presbyterian Church.  This money will be used to aid Orphanage 3, as well as the maternity ward at the local hospital, which is in the process of being renovated.

Windham School Board Chairman Barbara Coish with Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and the snow maiden, taken on New Year’s Eve.

One positive note mentioned by Coish was the large improvement in tourist accommodations in the area.  Suzdal is considered one of the region’s tourist areas, with many cultural facilities to visit.  The people are warm and welcoming, she said, and love to have visitors from the United States, Windham in particular.

This was the first time that Coish visited Suzdal during their New Year’s celebration, which she described as much more of a family event than it is here in this country.  There are gifts given out to each member of the family, similar to what we do on Christmas, with the addition of the person presenting the gift saying something meaningful about the recipient.  Coish said she felt privileged to be part of the charming ceremony.

On New Year’s Eve, after midnight, the house where Coish was staying was visited by Ded Moroz, also known as Grandfather Frost, as well as the white-clad Snow Maiden.  During his visit, Ded carries a wooden staff which he allows participants to hold on to and make a New Year’s wish.  Although Coish wouldn’t say what her wish was (bad luck to tell, you know), she did say it referred to something positive for everyone, everywhere!

Coish plans to make another trip to Suzdal this coming April, and perhaps again during the summer of 2009.  Anyone who might like to join the group should contact Coish as soon as possible.  Rumor has it that Town Administrator David Sullivan is being encouraged to make his first trip to Windham’s sister city during the coming months.

There is a photo of Pinkerton Academy teacher John Breda with a boy at the orphanage.  John, who is vice-chair of the Sister City Committee, is sharing a view of a photo he has just taken.

John Breda, shares a view of a photo with a boy at the orphanage.

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Agreement Reached on Second Access Road to New High School

by Barbara O’Brien

After months of turbulence among town and school district officials, plus the added defeat of two similar warrant articles, the majority of selectmen and school board members have agreed to build a second access to the new Windham High School, one that meets town standards for road construction.

On Monday, January 12, selectmen announced that they had signed an agreement that would solve the second access dilemma.  The vote on that agreement was 3 to 2.  Chairman Dennis Senibaldi, Vice Chairman Bruce Breton, and Charles McMahon all voted in favor.  Galen Stearns and Roger Hohenberger voted in opposition.

Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson had been saying for months that the new high school would not open to students this coming August without a second access being provided.  He also said he was willing to work with all town and school officials to see that happen, and that he had no desire to have the anticipated opening delayed.  McPherson stated repeatedly that the second access was of the utmost importance in the event of an emergency, one where the only other road was blocked.

On Tuesday, January 13, following a non-public session, it was announced that the school board had also voted 3 to 2 to sign the proposed agreement.  Voting in favor were Beverly Donovan, Bruce Anderson and Mike Hatem.  Opposed to the agreement were Mark Brockmeier and Chairman Barbara Coish.

According to the agreement, although some school board members and selectmen are in variance over the interpretation and application of state and federal fire regulations requiring an additional access, both boards agree that it would be in the best interest of the Windham School District to provide additional access/egress to the high school site and thereby allay any safety-related issues.

Based on this agreement, the school board will contribute $500,000 toward the construction of a secondary access road, this amount representing the approximate net cost of building a 20-foot wide gated and gravel access road, which meets minimum fire protection association standards.  This one-half million dollars is to be taken from the high school contingency fund.  The second access road will be a continuation of London Bridge Road.

Secondly, the selectmen have agreed to contribute $150,000 toward upgrading the secondary access road to a full Class V road (24-foot wide and paved) as laid out this past summer.  The town’s portion of this money is to come from the proposed 2009 road improvement budget.

Furthermore, the Logan family, abutting property owners, agreed to donate portions of the land needed to construct the road and have further agreed to donate $250,000 toward that project.

Likewise, the McKenna family has agreed to donate other portions of land needed for road construction.

After the announcement by the school board on January 13, Chairman Barbara Coish made the following comments regarding the agreement:  “My problem with the document is not really with any wording of responsibility or law.  My reasons for not approving this document are, first, from the school side, I will not potentially devastate the budget by voting to remove $500,000 to be used toward additional road construction the district may or may not need, and, second, from my point of view, in relation to my position as a voter, I shall not contribute any funds to a project that will ultimately enable the building of a Class V road without a vote of the electorate.  The electorate has spoken negatively twice on this issue and going around this step is ignoring the voters, in my opinion.”

School Board member Mark Brockmeier essentially agreed with Coish, stating that he did not like the fact that money was being taken from the high school contingency fund to build a road, when, in his opinion, it could be better used for educational programs for students who will be attending the new Windham High School.

School Board member Bruce Anderson said this was not a decision which was made easily, but that the agreement will assure there will be no delay in the opening of the high school for the 2009-2010 school year.  He also said the construction of a Class V road fulfills a segment of the town’s Master Plan, one intended to provide better access for residents living in the southwest section of Windham.

Selectmen’s Chairman Dennis Senibaldi said he believes the agreement shows that people can have various opinions and still manage to work together and come to a resolution.  Senibaldi also said he is glad the issue of a second access is now settled.  Plans are to have the road completed prior to the opening of school late next summer, he said.

Chief McPherson said he still looks at the need for a second access as a safety issue, for everyone who needs to spend time at the new high school, whether students, staff or visitors.  McPherson said he hopes residents will look at the agreement as something positive.  “I’m looking forward to August, when we can all stand together and open the doors to the new Windham High School,” McPherson said.

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Windham Residents Question Laptop Program at High School

by Barbara O’Brien

A group of Windham residents and parents, who said they traditionally support quality education, is questioning the advisability of implementing a one-to-one laptop program at the new Windham High School, a facility slated to open this coming August.

The one-to-one laptop program was studied by administrators this past summer and, subsequently, recommended to school board members, who then voted unanimously to proceed with the concept as long as the initial cost would be covered by the existing furniture, fixtures and equipment budget for the new high school.

“No one doubts that students need to be computer literate,” these parents wrote in a handout provided to school board members.  “The question is whether a one-to-one student/computer ratio is necessary to accomplish that AND, if not, what system will accomplish the goal of computer accessibility for every student and for every teacher/classroom.”

According to this group of residents, their discussions and research have raised many questions about the program.  “Our research has shown that laptop programs have achieved mixed results,” they said.  “Some districts/states are adopting (laptop) programs, while others are dropping (laptop) programs.”

Beth Rencon, who represented this group of parents during the Tuesday, January 6 school board meeting, said there is no definitive proof that a one-to-one laptop program improves learning.  Rencon also said she and the other parents in the group feel there is a better way to spend taxpayer dollars for educational purposes.

Rencon also said some parents feel laptops isolate students from one another, rather than encouraging social interaction.  The most important skills for students are to become lifelong learners, self-advocators, and adults who are capable of collaboration, she said.  The best way to accomplish these goals is through the employment of excellent teachers, she said, not through the use of laptops.

As a result of these concerns, the parents’ group asked school board members to undertake further investigation into laptop initiatives, as well as feasible alternatives.  Rencon said she and her fellow group members feel the school board’s approval of the laptop program was “premature.”

As a portion of that research, the parents’ group suggested that school administrators look into computer and internet access at each student’s home.  Rencon referred to a program at schools in Brunswick, Maine, where students take home information stored on flash drives/memory sticks to be plugged into their computers at home.

Parent Jim Harrison expressed financial concerns about initiating the one-to-one laptop program, saying that the annual commitment to keep the program going would be significant, including the need to train teachers and other staff members regarding the program.  Harrison said he feels options to the program need to be clearly delineated before a final decision is reached.

Referring to the school board’s decision to pursue an agreement with Apple Computer, Harrison asked if competitive bids with other vendors are being sought.  “We need to know all aspects have been seriously considered,” Harrison said.

Harrison also mentioned comments made previously by school board members stating that laptop availability would allow for less need to purchase textbooks and other reading materials.  “It’s not a very satisfying experience to read a book on a laptop,” he said.

School Superintendent Frank Bass said he appreciates input from the community and feels that many of the points made by this group were well-taken.

“It’s over simplified to say laptops are a magic bullet,” Bass said.  “They are a tool like any other technology that aids us.”

In addition to the laptop program, Bass explained, there will also be five computer labs in the new high school, some of which will be personal computers (pc).

“Our goal is to engage students in world affairs,” Bass said.  “That will happen however it is done.”  Bass said he agreed 100 percent that classroom teachers are the most important factor in a student’s education.  “Laptops are not a panacea, after all,” Bass said.  “There are school districts that have used them and didn’t like them.  There are others that used them and like them.”

Bass said he feels that the local administration needs to be clearer in explaining the reasons it is supporting the one-to-one laptop program.  “It is incumbent on us to demonstrate why we’re so excited about this program,” he said.

School board member Bruce Anderson said he feels the factors questioned by this group of parents have been adequately researched already.  “This program is very beneficial to learning critical thinking skills,” Anderson said.  “Critical thinking is an incredible skill to teach in high school…under the guidance of expert teachers, of course,” he added.

Bass is encouraging any parent or Windham resident who has questions regarding the one-to-one laptop program to contact a member of the school board, himself, or Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson.  Another public presentation on the topic will be held at a future school board meeting.

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Money Received Toward Bridge Repairs

by Barbara O’Brien

Starting 2009 out with the announcement of some good news — Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan said a portion of the money intended to rebuild the Castle Hill Road Bridge has been received from state coffers.

According to the previous agreement, the State of New Hampshire will be paying 80 percent of the reconstruction cost, while Windham will be picking up the tab for the other 20 percent.  The first check received totaled $185,000 or 40 percent of the expected state aid.  In addition, Sullivan said a check to cover $90,000 for engineering costs is expected to be received by the town within the next couple of weeks.  The remainder of the money for construction costs is expected to be received at a later date.

The actual construction work is anticipated to begin sometime this coming spring, Sullivan said.  Although the bridge was already slated for reconstruction, it was damaged further during the spring flooding in 2006.  Castle Hill Road Bridge is located on the Windham/Pelham town line.

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