Second Annual PES Spelling Bee Crowns Winner

by Karen Plumley

Spelling bee champion Collin Loring is congratulated by Principal Alicia LaFrance after a tough head-to-head competition with runner up Amanda Barton.

Twenty-three PES students sat on the risers together, anxiously awaiting their opportunity to outshine opponents in the spelling challenge that took place on Friday morning, January 23.  This select group of students consisted of spelling winners from each classroom in grades three through five.

All other students in those grades trickled into the gymnasium to watch their classmates perform and spur them on.  This year, students in the audience really got into the spectacle, donning signs for their favorite spellers and cheering loudly.  Reading Specialist Michelle Viger, who has organized the event for two years, was the host and also announced the spelling words to each student.  Official judges were Principal Alicia LaFrance and Budget Committee member Angele Diack.  Title I Reading Specialist Susan Malloy handled the record keeping duties.

Words were taken from the official 2009 Spell-It Spelling Booklet and were quite challenging.  The participants plunged headlong into the spelling nevertheless, tackling words such as chinchilla, falsetto, reckless, and goatee.  In the final round, with four lone students left standing, fifth graders Amanda Barton and Collin Loring emerged victorious.  In a head-to-head battle, Amanda stumbled on the word ventilate, which opened the door for Collin.  He hesitated ever-so-briefly with the Hawaiian word poi, but spelled it correctly.  Then he followed up by spelling the word tundra without a mistake to become this year’s PES spelling champion.  Collin will be moving on to the regional spelling bee, with Amanda as his alternate.  Both received ribbons for their terrific efforts.

All other spelling bee participants received certificates of achievement for their outstanding spelling skills.  Students enjoyed the hour-long competition and will be looking forward to next year’s exciting spelling battle.

This year’s PES spelling bee participants await the start of the event.

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Christmas in January

by Karen Plumley

The seventh and eighth grade band of Pelham Memorial School, conducted by Instrumental Director Paul Santerre

For the first time ever, the Pelham Memorial School Music Department hosted its annual Holiday Concert in January instead of December.  The ‘Great Ice Storm of 2008’ and subsequent inclement weather days prevented the performance from happening on its originally scheduled date of December 16.  However, the show must go on!  Not discouraged by the postponement, and perhaps a little grateful for the extra time to practice, Choral Director Laura Prior and Instrumental Director Paul Santerre led their talented middle school musicians in a concert that was heartwarming and enjoyable.

The popularity of this traditionally well-run show was evident by the fact that there were no parking spaces left, and latecomers were forced to stand against the wall of the gymnasium which was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with spectators.

The concert featured the sixth grade concert band and chorus, the seventh and eighth grade concert band and chorus, and an eagerly anticipated performance by the PMS Jazz Band.

The seventh and eighth grade band opened up the show by playing The Star-Spangled Banner and then went on to perform several tunes, including the unexpected Korean Folk Rhapsody, Christmas at the Movies (from The Polar Express), and Pachelbel’s Christmas.

The seventh and eighth grade chorus followed with Blue Skies, Bless the Beasts and Children, and a bouncy tune called A Festive Fa La La.  The lovely singing group was conducted by new Choral Director Laura Prior, who came to the middle school directly out of Groves College in Londonderry.

The sixth grade band was next.  Santerre could not keep his enthusiasm for the sixth graders under his hat, and implored parents to “… keep these kids’ instruments in their hands.  It has been very exciting to lead this group!”  He went on to compliment the efforts of the Pelham Elementary School Music Department from whence these children’s musical skills blossomed.  They performed many songs, including the audience-pleasing Jingle Bells and Sea to Shining Sea.

The sixth grade chorus then performed God Bless America, May Joyful Music Fill the Air, Sing!, and Candle in the Window.

The talented Jazz Band was next with beautifully composed tunes, including The Kings of Swing and C-Jam Blues.

Select chorus members rounded out the performance with seasonally-appropriate songs, entitled The Bells, The Winter Snow, and Steppin’ Out With My Baby.

An exciting grand finale was performed by the combined choral efforts of all singers and was met with a standing ovation from suitably impressed audience members.

The next scheduled public town performance including the full band and chorus will be their spring concert on May 19 at 7 p.m.  Other important dates, rehearsals, select performances, competitions, and the like can be found on the PMS Website under “Band” ( or by calling the Music Department at 635-2321.

The seventh and eighth grade chorus of Pelham Memorial School, directed by new Choral Director Laura Prior

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Firm Contracted for High School Access Road

by Barbara O’Brien

Based on a mutual signed agreement between the Town of Windham and the Windham School District to construct a second access road for the new Windham High School; that being a paved road which will be built to town standards, selectmen have awarded the contract to American Excavating at a cost of $728,510.  The vote to award the contract was made during the selectmen’s meeting on Monday, January 19.  American Excavating is located in Derry, New Hampshire.

According to Town Administrator David Sullivan, a layout design of the road must be done again, because the previous one was tied to a warrant article defeated by voters both last March and this past September, during a special town meeting.  Approximately $14,000 was spent on layout and design costs for the access road during 2008.  That money came from the town budget.  The road construction project will not be taken back to voters for a third time.

It is anticipated that the new layout of the access road will be completed by the end of February.  Peter Zohdi of Herbert Engineering, is doing the work for the town.  Appledore Engineering is representing the school district for the high school construction project.  Windham High School will open its doors to students this coming August and it is anticipated that the second access road will be completed prior to opening day.

It had been just the previous week, on Monday, January 12, that selectmen announced 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 to building a Class V paved road.

On Tuesday, January 13, 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, the majority of both boards concur 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.  Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson has been adamant that the new high school will not open to students this coming August without a second access being provided.  McPherson stated repeatedly that the second access was of the utmost importance in the event of an emergency, one in which the only other road was blocked.

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 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).  The town’s portion of this money is to come from the proposed 2009 road improvement budget.

Furthermore, the Logan family, abutting property owners, have agreed to donate portions of the land needed to construct the road and have further agreed to donate $250,000 toward that project.  Additionally, the McKenna family, also an abutting landowner, has agreed to donate other portions of the property which is  needed for road construction.

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Windham Applying for Community Development Grant

by Barbara O’Brien

Windham town officials have hopes of moving a proposed elderly housing project a little closer to reality by applying for a federal Community Development Block Grant.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are available to municipalities through the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority.  Up to $500,000 is made available on an annual and competitive basis for economic development, public facility and housing projects and emergency activities that directly benefit those with low or moderate income.  Up to $12,000 is also available annually for conducting feasibility studies for such proposed projects.

The first step in attempting to acquire the federal money is to hold a public hearing.  Windham held three such consecutive hearings on Monday, January 19, during the weekly selectmen’s meeting.

The first hearing was to implement an application to the Community Development Finance Authority for up to a half-million dollars in CDBG money.  The majority of such funds would be sub-granted to the Windham Housing Authority (WHA) to finance a portion of the site-work related to the construction of the proposed “Windham Senior Apartments.”  The proposed elderly housing development would be located off Fellows Road, approximately 1,100 feet beyond the Windham Fire Department.  According to Selectman Charles McMahon, who chairs the WHA, the proposed development would include 20 units and cost a total of approximately $4.5 million.

The second public hearing related to the establishment of a “Housing and Community Development Plan,” a document required of any town applying for a CDBG grant.  Donna Lane, who represented the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority during the hearings, provided a generic plan to be used by Windham, one similar to that used by many other municipalities statewide.  In order to be eligible for a CDBG, the community development plan must encourage a variety of safe, sanitary, decent and affordable housing for people of all ages and levels of income.

According to selectmen, the plan unanimously adopted on January 19 encourages specific goals, but it does not specifically obligate the town to these short and long-term aspirations.  These recommended goals include: encouraging economic development activities to increase quality industrial and commercial development; encourage the expansion and retention of employment opportunities for residents; encourage municipal and private water and wastewater systems that are safe, sanitary and that meet Department of Environmental Services regulations; preserves and promotes the town’s historically and culturally significant structures; and promotes activities that protect the health and safety of both residents and visitors to the town. In addition, as a matter of policy, Windham officials will minimize the involuntary displacement of households from their neighborhoods.  These goals are all consistent with Windham’s Master Plan and Ordinances.

Any federal CDBG money awarded to a municipality shall be used to provide improved housing in accordance with federal (Section 8) standards, be used for public facility projects, employment opportunities or feasibility studies.  All CDBG funded projects shall primarily benefit low and moderate income individuals or households and shall not benefit moderate income individuals or households to the exclusion of those with low income.

The third hearing conducted on January 19 was in regard to the residential anti-displacement and relocation assistance plan.  McMahon said this is not an issue with the proposed elderly housing development in Windham, as the displacement of individuals or households will not occur as a result of the project.

Should Windham receive CDBG money, town officials would have 18 months in which to use the funds.  This is a 100% federal grant, with no matching money required from the town.  CDBG money can only be used for site-work, but other grant programs might be available for other portions of the  project.  Due to the fact that federal money is involved in the grant program, those who live in the apartments cannot be restricted to Windham residents only.  Lane did say, however, that, generally speaking, local residents do attend to apply first.  “It’s first come, first served, as long as any applicants qualify,” Lane said.

McMahon, who also serves as one of Windham’s representatives to the state legislature, said building plans for the proposed project are already in the process of being developed.  McMahon also expressed appreciation to Lane for all the assistance she has provided to Windham in preparing for the submission of the CDBG application, a process which was expected to be implemented by early February.

Lane did explain, during the hearings, that Community Development Block Grants are only funded if all other funding lines up and it is clear that the proposed project will move forward.  She also said that “it is not unusual for a community to be denied the first time.”  “I don’t want everybody to be disappointed if the money isn’t made available this time,” Lane said, encouraging town officials to “keep trying” if the money isn’t forthcoming this time around.

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Second Gym for High School Taken Off Warrant

by Barbara O’Brien

School board members have reversed their previous decision to ask voters for the money to build a second gymnasium at the new Windham High School, a facility set to begin operation this coming August.

During a brief meeting on Thursday, January 22, the three school board members in attendance voted unanimously to remove Article 3 from the school district warrant.

Article 3 asked voters to raise and appropriate the sum of $1,500,000 for the construction of a gymnasium at Windham High School, with $500,000 of that amount to come from the June 30,2009 unreserved fund balance derived from the interest earned on the investment of bond proceeds (high school construction bond) and to authorize the issuance of not more than $1,000,000 of bonds or notes.  Voting to remove Article 3 from the March warrant were Chairman Barbara Coish, Beverly Donovan and Mike Hatem.  Neither Bruce Anderson or Mark Brockmeier attended the meeting, although they were in contact by phone at various times during the meeting.

Chairman Coish said that the reasoning behind the removal of Article 3 was to give Article 2, which asks voters to approve building a track and field at the high school, a better chance of passage.  Coish said board members feel the track is “the missing link” at the new high school.  “We need that to make the project complete,” she said.

Beverly Donovan said, while she feels a second gymnasium would be a big benefit to both the school district and the town recreation department, this is not a good year to ask for the money to build it.  “A second gym would be a great asset, but it’s not necessary to have it right away,” Donovan said.  “With the economy in its present state, we just can’t afford everything right now.”

During the original school board vote to include a second gym on the warrant, Article 3 had been recommended 4 to 0.  Coish was the only board member to originally vote against including a second gymnasium on this year’s warrant.

Article 2, which will remain unchanged from its original version, asks voters to raise and appropriate $2,658,942 for the construction of a track and (artificial turf) athletic field at Windham High School with $500,000 of that amount to come from the June 30, 2009 unreserved fund balance derived from the interest earned on the investment of (high school construction) bond proceeds and authorize the issuance of not more than $2,158,942 in bonds or notes.

During the January 22 meeting, there was some discussion of putting all $1,000,000 in accrued high school construction bond interest toward the proposed track and field (Article 2), but school board members decided to leave the proposed warrant article as originally proposed, with only $500,000 of the interest being applied to the cost of constructing a track and artificial turf athletic field at the new high school.  The remaining accrued interest can either be used for other purposes or returned to the general fund to offset the tax rate.

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