Hudson Owns Benson’s

submitted by Laurie Jasper

Governor Lynch, Esther McGraw, Ben Nadeau and NHDOT Commission George Campbell

Transition was the theme throughout last week, as the United States witnessed the transfer of power in a historic Presidential Inauguration and locally Hudson marked the transfer of ownership of the former Benson’s Wild Animal Farm property to the town in a statehouse ceremony hosted by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch. 

The Town of Hudson was well represented the morning of Friday, January 23, as nearly two dozen people were on hand at the NH Statehouse to witness the momentous occasion and share in the fulfillment of many years of planning and effort.  Hudson Selectmen Roger Coutu, Shawn Jasper and Kenneth Massey looked on as Selectmen Chairman Ben Nadeau and Benson’s Committee Chairwoman Esther McGraw presented Governor John Lynch and Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell with a poster-sized check for $188,000.  Included in the crowd were current members of the Benson’s Committee; Chairwoman Esther McGraw, Vice Chairman Duane King, Ken Dickinson, Ray Parker, Kenneth Matthews, Betsy Hahn.  Town Administrator Steve Malizia and former original committee members Curt Laffin and Laurie Jasper also attended. 

The Governor was impressed by the crowd and very interested to learn of the future plans for the land, as well as to hear several stories as people reminisced.  Governor Lynch offered words of encouragement and any further assistance the state may be to Hudson for this unique project.  Governor Lynch said he looks forward to a visit to the site, suggesting a future field trip with the Governor’s Counsel. 

The governor was presented with a Benson’s Park hat and t-shirt as well as a signed copy of Images of America-Hudson, NH by Laurie Jasper, which includes a chapter about Benson’s.

After seven years of patience, persistence, and effort, the State of New Hampshire and the Town of Hudson reached an agreement regarding details on the property deed to Benson’s.  The Town purchased Benson’s from NHDOT for $188,000, a figure significantly lower than the $4 million price tag the state purchased the land and buildings for from then owner Arthur Provencher in 1992.  The very reasonable price tag comes with very specific restrictions and regulations on land use and historic buildings maintenance.  Since the NHDOT will continue to use portions of the land for wetlands mitigation, the Town of Hudson had to agree not to develop the site and to ensure passive recreation use without disrupting the natural area. 

Benson’s Chairwoman Esther McGraw, who at one time worked at Benson’s, said of the transfer, “I’m excited we finally have it.  It was a long time in coming.  Now we have to get to work.”

Selectman Roger Coutu, Governor Lynch, Selectmen: Ben Nadeau, Shawn Jasper and Kenneth Massey

From Left: Duane King, Governor John Lynch, Ken Dickenson, Selectman Shawn Jasper, Betsy Hahn, Esther McGraw, Ken Matthews, Ray Parker, Joyce Hurd

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Award Winning Work at Campbell High School

The Scholastic Art Awards of New Hampshire is a statewide art recognition program open to middle and high school students across New Hampshire and administered by the New Hampshire Art Educators’ Association.  Scholastic’s mission is to foster creative expression and artistic achievement in students from grades seven through twelve.  Each year students across the state enter artwork in various categories ranging from drawing, painting, and photography to graphic design and computer art.

The Scholastic Art exhibit is taking place from January 20 through February 8.  The exhibit is located at The Stockbridge Theater (Pinkerton Academy), 5 Pinkerton Street in Derry.  Gallery Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. 

The gold, silver and honorable mention awards ceremonies are on Sunday, February 8, at 11 a.m. for grades seven through nine and noon for grades ten through twelve. 

A special thank you to the parents, CHS staff and the Litchfield community for their support in promoting the Arts.

This year 11 students from Campbell High School received honors for their creative talents in the visual arts.  Front row (from left):  Josh Farnham (Honorable Mention, 10th grade), Phillip Houston (Gold Key, 12th grade), James McKenney Jr. (Gold Key, Honorable Mention, 10th grade); second row: Mrs. Freeman, Art Teacher, Alex Puchalski (Gold Key, 10th grade), Mrs. Barry, Art Teacher; third row: Alyssa Bean (Silver Key, 9th grade), Gregory Sherwin (Honorable Mention, 12th grade), James Orlando (Silver Key, 9th grade); fourth row: Wesley Fletcher (Silver Key, 11th grade), Errol Fuertes (Honorable Mention, 10th grade), Jenny Evans (Silver Key and two Honorable Mention, 12th grade), Karly Wilkins (Honorable Mention, 12th grade).

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Selectmen Change Stance on Teacher Contract

by Gina M. Votour

Over 20 Hudson school faculty members converged at the January 27 Board of Selectmen meeting, as a result of a previous decision made by the Board.

Back on January 6 during the Board of Selectmen workshop meeting, a motion passed 4-0 instructing Budget Committee Selectman Liaison Roger Coutu to vote against the approval of the teacher’s contract, Article 2 of the school district warrant.

This decision was made after Coutu reported that the salary increase amount would be a 4.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and that, after factoring in annual step increases, the percentage would climb up into the area of 6.8 percent.

During this time, Selectman Shawn Jasper acknowledged that although Hudson does have many hard working teachers, an increase of over 6 percent per year was just not prudent in the current economy.

Views changed, however, during the January 27 Board of Selectmen meeting, when Hudson School Superintendent Randy Bell appeared with School Board Vice Chairman Gary Rodgers and School Board Member/Budget Committee Representative Rich Nolan.  As the group of teachers anxiously looked on, Bell began by asking the selectmen for reconsideration of their Budget Committee vote.

Bell then went on to clarify the figures in question, revealing that the COLA increase amount within the contract is in reality 2.5 percent for the teachers’ schedule.  After step increases are added, this would mean a 4.37 percent increase in 2009-10 and a 4.69 percent increase in 2010-2011.  For the 2009-2010 year, the contract increase would therefore total $742,513, while in 2010-2011 this sum would be $748,194. 

The proposed percentage increases are lower than in past years.  In both 2007 and 2008, the overall increase was 6.8 percent and in 2009 the amount was 5.5 percent.

“Our teacher’s salaries are substantially lower than those of neighboring communities,” Bell continued, referencing his previous statements that this has been the case for several years. 

According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, for the Hudson public school district, the average teacher salary during the 2007-2008 year was $44,257.  In Salem, this figure for the same time period was $56,052, while in Litchfield the figure was $49,229.  Also, the state average during that school year was $48,310.

Bell also pointed out that the School Board’s overall goal, comparing this year to next, was to deliver a level funded budget, including all contracts.  Bell additionally reported that the operating budget was reduced by $41,000 and that next year’s revenues were predicted to be $490,000 higher than this year.  The overall impact, according to Bell, would be a one-half million dollar reduction on next year’s tax rate.

After Bell’s presentation, the Board of Selectmen passed a motion, 4-1, to recommend the contract’s approval during the Budget Committee’s final vote following the School Board’s Deliberative Session on January 31.

Selectmen Chairman Ben Nadeau was the lone dissenter.  His feeling was that a 4.37 percent increase was unfair to other town departments, such as the library, who were not approved for percentage increases of this level.

To Nadeau’s issue, Jasper and Coutu both later responded that a two and-a-half percent COLA is within the town’s parameters and that the percentage request for the teachers is comparable to what has been offered to town employees who are on a step scale.

Selectman Coutu apologized for providing the Board with misinformation.

“In the process of reviewing the contracts, I became somewhat confused between two contracts and the numbers that were before me.  I believe that I am the person who is fully responsible and should be the one apologizing to the school administration, the school committee, and indeed the teaching staff within our community for having provided you with misinformation that I believe led to the decision of this Board to instruct me to appear before the Budget Committee and to vote in opposition of this contract,” he stated. 

“When you review all of the numbers and you look at how Hudson compares, not only in terms of salary but the product that we deliver from our town, these teachers deserve the pay increase,” concluded Coutu, adding that he believed the contract was negotiated properly and in good faith.

At the discussion’s conclusion, school board member Rich Nolan offered his expression of appreciation for the manner in which this issue was handled.

“I think the big point is that everything got reconsidered and got aired properly and that’s what’s important.  Mistakes happen,” said Nolan.

With the Board of Selectmen’s previous stance against this contract, the Budget Committee vote currently stands at 5-5-1.  The selectmen’s new vote will break the tie and forward this warrant article to voters with a recommendation for approval from both the School Board and the Budget Committee.

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Hudson Girl Scouts YMCA Lock-In Rocked

by Maureen Gillum

Sixteen of Hudson’s 27 Girl Scout troops rocked the Nashua Y on Saturday, January 17.  The Hudson Girl Scouts 2009 YMCA Lock-In was a huge success, with more than 200 participants who enjoyed swimming, dancing, basketball, gymnastics, singing, parachutes, crafts, and games galore.

As one 6-year-old Daisy Scout simply reported, “This is awesome and fun just for girls!”

Perhaps most remarkable was the well-executed and action-packed 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. event — including dinner and breakfast for all — was organized and led by Laura DeAngelis, 14, a Senior Girl Scout of Hudson Troop 2070.

The determined Alvirne freshman selected the Lock-In as her Silver Award project, “to do something fun for younger Hudson Girl Scouts.”  Laura began the project in March 2007 and invested approximately 50 hours in the planning, coordinating, shopping, setting up, and execution of the Lock-In.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest achievement for Girl Scouts 11 to 14 years old.  It requires a Silver Project of at least 40 hours, along with many other prerequisites, including badge work, skill-building, self-assessment, volunteer hours, and interviews for career and college planning.  Girl Scouts has three award levels:  Bronze (ages 8-11), Silver (ages 11-14) and Gold (ages 14-18), all of which require a special project to benefit their community.

“Thanks to lots of help, the Lock-In was fantabulous!” shared Laura proudly.  While her biggest challenge was “all of the time-intensive craft preparations,” she admitted her favorite part was “setting everything up in the beginning — it was a real rush.”  Laura also “loved the sense of teamwork” as so many helped make it a success, including her Cadette and Senior Scout friends and many leader and parent volunteers who supported the event.

The Lock-In prominently featured the tenets of girl scouting — fun, friendship, and the power of girls together.  Roughly 140 younger Hudson Girl Scouts — Daisies, Brownies, Juniors — attended the Lock-In and had a great time.  Almost 25 older Scouts, primarily Cadettes of Troop 279 and Senior Girl Scouts of Troop 2070, helped run the event.  Nearly 50 leaders and parent volunteers assisted in the Lock-In as well.

“Laura did an amazing job planning all the details and running the event and it really showed in how smoothly everything went,” praised Rhonda O’Keefe, Troop 2070’s leader.  O’Keefe reflected, “I was most proud of Laura’s opening announcements.  She sounded confident and got everyone excited about the evening.”

Prior to this achievement, Laura earned the Girl Scout Bronze award in 2006, by making baby blankets, hats, and children’s activity books, which were donated to Southern New Hampshire Hospital.  She hopes to someday achieve the Girl Scout Gold Award, the ultimate Girl Scout achievement on par with the Boy Scout’s Eagle rank.  Currently about 5 percent of eligible Girls Scouts earn the Gold Award annually.

“It’s kind of come full-circle,” reflected Laura’s mother and Girl Scout leader Paula DeAngelis.  “Our girls always enjoyed and looked up to the older girls, and now they are the older ones.”

Founded in 1912 and currently touting 3.7 million girl and adult members worldwide, Girl Scouts is the unsurpassed leadership development organization for girls aged 5 (Daisy) to 18 (Ambassador).  According to their mission, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

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