On Wednesday, September 2, the Pelham Elementary School (PES) PTA hosted its fifth annual Boo-Hoo Breakfast for parents of first graders at the school. Emotions and attendance were both running high at this year’s gathering. Parents watched apprehensively as their tiny ones embarked on the very first day of what will be a long and exciting journey in the public education system.
At 9:15 a.m. most of the students were already in their new classrooms, while approximately 40 parents and various younger siblings made their way to the student dining area for coffee, juice, fruit, and baked goods. Principal Alicia LaFrance, Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson, Assistant Principal Kathleen Turner, and School Board member Deb Ryan were just a few of the special guests in attendance; later on, Superintendent Frank Bass stopped by to mingle with parents as well.
PES PTA co-president Kristen Rodrigue was chairperson of the breakfast for the third year running, and president Mary Collins was also there to warmly welcome parents as well as introduce all of the special guests. New students in first grade received PES towels embossed with their graduating year: 2021. All attending parents received a blue carnation with a heartfelt boo-hoo poem.
This year is particularly bittersweet for president Mary Collins, whose youngest child, Patrick, is now attending his last year at PES, while Thomas, her oldest, is entering eighth grade. Offering her perspective, she stated, “Time really flies. I remember eight years ago Thomas walking from Sherburne to PES. His was the first class to enter those new doors. Here it is eight years later and Patrick will be finished in 2010.” Thus, so will Collins’ successful six-year reign, first as PTA co-president and then as the sole PTA president, leaving some mighty big shoes to fill.
Boo-hoo carnation inscription
Police Chief Gerald Lewis has presented plans to selectmen which, if ultimately approved by that board, would serve to restructure the Windham Police Department.
Chief Lewis met with town administrators during a workshop on August 31. Selectmen Galen Stearns (chairman), Bruce Breton (vice chairman), Roger Hohenberger, and Charles McMahon were in attendance. Selectman Ross McLeod did not attend the meeting.
According to Lewis, the purpose of restructuring the police department is to assure that it works as smoothly, efficiently, and productively as possible. Lewis said he wants to make the police department “even more responsive than it is at the current time,” something of which he is already duly proud. “Things are only going to get busier in Windham as time goes on,” Lewis said.
Currently the departmental structure includes the police chief, one captain, five sergeants, and a number of patrol officers who are answerable to each of the above. Under the restructuring, Lewis wants to have two captain’s positions rather than just the one current slot. Both captains’ jobs would have equal rank, he said. “My proposal is to have one sergeant become a captain,” Lewis said. “There would be no need to hire anyone. We would not be adding more bodies,” he added. This is a similar scenario to what is found in other area communities, Lewis told selectmen.
Lewis said that several current police department employees have the credentials and experience needed to become a captain and there appears to be interest among them in being promoted. Under the current pay scale, promoting one of the sergeants to a captain would mean about a $7,000 increase in salary. The captain’s position is non-union, as is the chief of police.
To provide backup information for his proposed changes, Chief Lewis detailed some of the statistics from the past year (as of July 31). According to this information, police department activity saw a substantial increase (30 percent) during the first seven months of 2009. As of the end of July 2008, there had been 10,371 calls for service. This compares with 13,437 at the same time this year.
More and more drug offenses are also being seen in the area, Lewis said. Referring to the tough economic times, Lewis said, “Desperate people make money any way they can.” Windham, although, is faring better than many surrounding towns, due largely to its bedroom community status and lack of large retail areas. “Officers are seeing things and deterring things,” Lewis explained. Crime-related offenses are down, while arrests are up. Traffic enforcement is up significantly as well, Lewis said. “And this is one issue that affects everybody.”
Officers are understanding of poor economic times, the Chief said, and therefore are giving more verbal warnings for first offenses than might have been the case in the past. Make the same mistake twice, though, and that might be a different story.
Driving While Under the Influence arrests are up again this year and Windham Police have a high rate of conviction, Lewis said.
“The officers are very diligent about this. There is zero tolerance,” he told town officials. Breathalyzers are no longer used to test for sobriety, the Chief said. Only blood tests are now taken as evidence. The person who is stopped for DUI must agree to take the test. Not only do the blood tests show the level of alcohol, but they also indicate whether or not the person being tested has used prescription or illegal drugs as well.
“A blood test gives us a more in-depth analysis,“ said Lewis.
Traffic accidents and injuries related to those accidents were down for the first seven months of 2009. A significant number of those accidents did occur along Route 111, Lewis said, but were not related to the construction work being done in that area. Any traffic accidents occurring on Route 93 are handled mostly by New Hampshire State Police.
Windham police assist State police when requested to do so.
Currently there are two vacant positions on the Windham Police Department, both of which are in the process of being filled. Lewis said he is pleased with the quality of the candidates, both certified and non-certified individuals who have participated in the testing and interview process thus far. Of those tested, 27 non-certified and 11 certified officers have passed the tests administered in Windham. Oral review boards are scheduled for the middle of this month. Lewis said he hopes to have two new officers on board prior to the end of the current year.
After hearing Lewis’ concerns and plans for restructuring the police department, selectmen decided they wanted additional time to review his proposal. They also said they thought it was important for the entire board to be present when a final vote on the issue is taken. Only four of the five selectmen were present for Lewis’ presentation on August 31.
It’s been a long time in the planning, but the Pelham High School Booster Club and the Harris family have finally achieved their goal of building a concession stand near Harris Family Track and Field at the elementary school. Complete with bathrooms and a snack bar, the building will open this season, just in time for PHS football. With fundraising efforts ongoing for the last two years by the Booster Club and generous support from the Harris family — owners of the century-old Harris Pelham Inn — the Field House will surely be a popular hot spot for local sports families, athletes, and out-of-town visitors as well.
In the plans for nearly six years, the Field House was design and construction was truly a team effort, starting with Roland Soucy and his daughter who initially designed the building, and Bob LaFontaine who acted as foreman of the construction project. The ground was prepared soon after the last frost this past winter by John Harris and many others who volunteered their time. PJ Keating & Co. provided the hundreds of tons of stone necessary for the structure.
The Field House will provide snacks, such as cold drinks, ice cream, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, and more to hungry event patrons. The Pelham High School Booster Club will manage and run the concession stand, which will only be open during sporting events. However, the bathrooms will be open daily.
“We’ve seen the kids out there working hard on the track, passionate about their sports. Sometimes there are five or six buses out there with kids from all over. We are so gratified that this stand will provide them with a cold beverage and a bathroom they can count on,” remarked George Harris, who is grateful for all the help and support they received on this project, starting with the town officials who provided inspections of the building, electrical, and septic systems; PHS Athletic Director Tim Powers; Gendron Electric; DEM Securities; Nyman Construction; Herbert & Associates; and all others who were able to contribute and/or donate materials, time, and resources.
The Harris family, who are avid sports fans themselves, will turn the building over to the Booster Club in hopes that it will open up for a “test run” within the week.
For more information about the Field House and its operation, contact Booster Club Chairman Peter Blake at 635-3590.
Rumors of mold infiltrating the new portable kindergarten classrooms in Windham are said to be false.
The issue was discussed during the school board meeting on September 1, just one day before the town’s very first public kindergarten program was scheduled to get underway. The portables are located on the grounds of Golden Brook Elementary School. They are being paid for by the State Department of Education for the first three years.
According to Business Administrator Donna Clairmont, the rumors of mold in the portables began after the remnants of Hurricane Bill brushed by New England a couple of weeks ago, bringing some rain and very high surf off the coast. Clairmont said there was a leak in one of the portables, which resulted in carpeting in one of the workrooms getting wet.
“The problem was remediated immediately,” Clairmont said, adding that the cleanup was done by Serv-Pro, a company which specializes in cleaning up after a disaster, such as fire or flooding.
In addition to cleaning the carpeting, Clairmont explained that the company also cleaned the air in the portable classroom of possible mold spores. The air quality tests done after the cleaning showed there was no mold present in the structure. None of the classrooms in the portable were affected, she explained.
“Students will not be experiencing any adverse health exposure,” Clairmont said.
School Superintendent Frank Bass said that anyone who has a question or concern about the issue is invited to contact him at the SAU office by calling 425-1976.
“Getting everything ready for the start of kindergarten for the first time has been a team effort,” Dr. Bass said. “And we’re ready to go.”
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