Teachers' contracts among Alton's top 2010 issues


January 05, 2011
ALTON — Contracts, fires and a selectman's personal ordeal were just a number of the stories that made the news in Alton in 2010.

In January, the Alton Budget Committee recommended a total budget of $5,988,808. This number was presented before the voters at the polls in March.

Alton Central School Superintendent Kathy Holt responded to a request by Steve Miller asking for Holt's resignation.

Miller's request was based on Alton Central School's failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on last year's NECAP exams.

Holt said that teachers and administrators had reviewed data and developed plans for their own classes that are designed to improve instruction. Holt also said that opportunities for professional development were and will continue to provided.

In February, the deliberative session brought about lively debate amongst the townspeople. One of the more debated issues was Article VI, a three-year contract at Alton Central School that would raise $85,942 to cover increases in salaries and benefits during the first year (2010-2011). The total increase in salaries and benefits totaled $334,282 and was supported by Chairwoman Terri Noyes.

Miller, speaking on behalf of the budget committee, said that given the current economic climate, it wasn't the right time for the proposed increases.

Miller also suggested that the teachers shouldn't be rewarded despite not making AYP on last year's exam. Miller also claimed that the only concession that the teachers had given was a half percent increase in health care co-pay

Feedback from the public was mixed, with people showing support for the raises and also opposition based purely on financial grounds.

Selectman Peter Bolster voiced his opinion in support of the contract. Bolster said it was "the best contract I've seen a teachers' union negotiate." Bolster commented that the Alton Teacher's Association agreed to no more than a two percent cost of living increase over three-year contract, but the actual cost of living was likely to rise by four or five percent. Bolster also asked the public to look beyond the results of testing, which was one reason why Miller opposed the contract.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Karen Painter said the contract wasn't fair to the taxpayers or the teachers, who would be tied down to a three-year agreement in the midst of a recession.

Noyes concluded the debate by reading a quote from a former school board member.

"Money does not make a good teacher," she said. "It merely decides where the good teachers go."

The State Police launched a probe in February that targeted former building inspector and health officer Brian Boyers.

In March, Alton voters rejected a pair of teachers' contracts at the elementary and high schools. Taxpayers voted down a proposed three-year agreement at Alton Central School and a proposed two-year agreement at Prospect Mountain High School. The voters did give both teachers' associations an opportunity to renegotiate. Voters also rejected an article that would have created an exploratory committee at the high school to study the feasibility of partnering with Barnstead on a joint middle school.

During the March election, Loring Carr and Peter Bolster returned to their seats on the Alton Board of Selectmen.

Ray Howard was elected as cemetery trustee, while Mal Simonds was elected to the two-year position of water commissioner.

The only other contested race was for a three-year seat as a library trustee, and H. John Pohas, Jr., won.

The remainder of the races were uncontested: Nancy Merrill, three years as trustee of the trusts; Mark Northridge, two years as moderator; Tom Hoopes and Tim Roy, returned to the planning board for three more years; David Collier, a two-year seat on the same board; Tim Morgan, three years on the zoning board; Lou LaCourse, three years on the zoning board; and Miller, two-year seat on the zoning board.

Jeff St. Cyr earned another three years on the Alton School Board and was joined by Krista Argiropolis. The remainder of the positions up for election were uncontested races. Northridge was selected as moderator and Linda Roy was selected as school district clerk once again.

Alton firefighter Stark Liedtke was charged with five counts of arson in March. Liedtke was caught by Alton Police and confessed to setting multiple fires in town. In November, he was sentenced to three to sever years in State Prison. He was also sentenced to one to four years in prison with the minimum suspended, to be served consecutive to the three- to seven-year sentence. The court also recommended victim impact counseling and mental health counseling. He will also be required to make restitution payments in excess of a half-million dollars.

The board of selectmen signed an agreement with Industrial Communication and Electronic, Inc. (ICE) that vacated a previous zoning board decision to deny the plaintiffs a variance for a 120-foot cell phone tower at 486 East Side Drive (Miramichie Hill) in March.

Since that agreement was signed, the proposed height of the pole was changed to 100 feet, but the case still is unsettled. Most recently, abutter David Slade has asked the board to hold off ruling on the case because he claims there still could be rulings on the case coming from the federal or state level.

Joan Rees, a pre-school special education teacher at ACS, was named the Special Education Teacher of the Year by The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Rees has been a fixture at ACS for nearly 10 years.

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter made a visit to Alton and was greeted by an openly hostile crowd in early April. Shea-Porter fielded questions from a packed audience focusing on the healthcare reform bill that she supported.

In early April, Cyr was selected as Chairman of the Alton School Board, with Noyes accepting the position of vice-chair.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced plans to improve the intersection of Route 28 and Stockbridge Corner Road. Part of the plans included widening the road to make it safer to residents.

AYP results from the fall's statewide NECAP exams brought mixed news for local schools. A score of below 88 in math was considered a failure and a score below 91 on reading is considered a failure.

Alton Central School was the only school in the area to make AYP in both reading and math, a marked improvement over last year's results.

Pat Fuller, a member of the Alton Board of Selectmen, told her story to The Baysider, and how she planned on turning a traumatic assault at her home into triumph.

Fuller took a three-month sabbatical to recover from her ordeal and returned to the board later in the year.

Derek Pappaceno, a fifth grade science teacher at ACS, received a New Hampshire Excellence in Education Award (or EDie) as the Science/Engineering Teacher of the Year on April 22. Pappaceno was presented the award at the school's gymnasium in front of the entire student body.

A trio of Alton police officers were honored for their efforts to keep the community safe. Lt. Richard Vanderhoof, Sgt. Tim Sullivan and Officer Brett Murray were recognized in late May with Looking Beyond the Traffic Ticket Awards. The honors are given out each year by the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council.

Murray received the Outstanding State and Municipal Teamwork Award, Sullivan was given the Dedicated Traffic Enforcement Award and Vanderhoof was recognized with the Traffic Enforcement Inspirational Award.

Tyler King, a resident of Alton who graduated from the University of New Hampshire in May, was one of four students selected as a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. King traveled to Norway in August, where he studied the Norwegian government's efforts to integrate hydropower into the country's national grid.

Dave Vachon, who had worked at Alton Central School since 1996, announced his retirement in June. In 14 years at ACS, Vachon cooked most of the meals from scratch.

In late June, the Alton Planning Board accepted a proposal by local developer Bob Bahre to construct two new commercial buildings at the Hannaford plaza on Route 28.

In late June, the Alton School Board reached an agreement with the Alton Teachers' Association (ATA) for a one-year contract. The contract reduced the initial proposal brought to the board in March from $85,942 to $44,695. Teachers would continue on the same step they were on during the 2009-2010 school and receive a one-time payment of $550. The contract would run from July 1, 2010, until June 30, 2011.

Fiddlehead Farms hosted its grand opening on July 3. Vendors from various local shops offer cheese, pasta, wine, fish, vegetables and many other options at Fiddlehead Farms.

In early July, firefighters across the state worked together to extinguish a fire that threatened large portions of Mount Major's forest.

Firefighters from many of the surrounding communities battled the seven-acre fire and 90-degree temperatures for three days before extinguishing the blaze.

In mid-July the Alton Building and Ground Committee met to approve the concept for updating, renovating and restoring the existing Alton Central School.

Renovations that were discussed included: adding another floor to the wing off of the patio, replacing several windows throughout the school and the construction of a new gymnasium.

In late July, Alton firefighters quickly found two lost children on Mount Major by using global positioning system (GPS) technology.

The return of the parade highlighted the 2010 Alton Old Home Day. The mile-long parade was the town's main event during the day-and-a-half celebration, which was sponsored by Alton Parks and Recreation and the Alton Business Association.

In late August, the Alton Budget Committee voted against the approval of the Alton Central School's teachers' contract by a vote of six to one.

The Alton cell phone tower case continued in front of the Alton Planning Board in late August. Slade came before the board again, asking that they stop the tower from being constructed.

The public was given the opportunity to take a tour of Alton Central School in late August to check in on the summer improvements that were worked during the summer months.

These improvements included new bathrooms, new windows and various upgrades in the plumbing at ACS.

In late August, the Alton Board of Selectmen was accused of failing to fulfill its town obligations.

Cydney Johnson criticized the board for supposedly dodging her request to meet about what she saw as the police's botched handling of an instance of alleged road harassment.

Johnson was followed by an unidentified white van one afternoon after pulling out of a gravel road. The van continued to follow her. Johnson eventually drove back to the Alton Police Station. The unidentified man claimed that Johnson's car had kicked a rock into the van's windshield.

The man wanted her information to file an insurance claim, but she refused. The police recommended that they exchange information, but Johnson again refused.

The board responded to Johnson's claim by saying that coming to the board wasn't the proper way to address the issue.

In September, the Alton Board of Selectmen questioned member and State Rep. Peter Bolster over the possible misuse of the town fire boat in June.

Bolster went with John Dever to inspect a water fence near Barndoor Island.

Judy E. Fry was chosen as the Alton 2010 Citizen of the Year.

In October, the B&M Railroad Park displayed improvements that were seven years in the making. Some of the improvements were a new porch and new paint on several structures.

In late October, the Alton School Board approved the 2011-2012 budget totaling $9,746,206.

The Alton Planning Board looked at the issue of Lake Knoll Farm in October.

Kathy and Mike Currier came before the board after abutter (and planning board member) Cindy Balcius filed a complaint against the property for noncompliance with the building code.

The case has been reviewed several times by the planning board, but is still unresolved.

The Curriers were given permission to run a corn maze and came before the board to apply for zoning to hold functions like weddings and receptions.

The Curriers submitted a site plan, but after a meeting in December they asked the board for more time and will be coming to the board with an updated site plan.

Patrick J. Holcomb, of Dover, was arrested for stalking in late October. Holcomb turned himself into the Alton Police Department after trying to avoid the charges by faking his own death.

The Alton Central teachers' contract failed to gain approval by the taxpayers in the November election.

In late November, the Alton Board of Selectmen accepted new regulations that deal with waivers on septic designs.

In early December, the Capital Improvement Committee presented its 2011 recommendations to the Alton Board of Selectmen.

Chairman Tim Roy presented the board with a bottom line of $1,995,738.

The Alton School Board heard from members of the public, who questioned the school's new policy restricting sixth grade students from playing on the middle school baseball and softball teams.

The board will address the topic later this year after receiving lots of support to allow sixth grade students to play.

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