The General Court’s Joint Task Force for the Response to the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic in New Hampshire (yup, that’s the actual title) will hold its first meeting today. Given the agenda released by House Speaker Shawn Jasper’s Office yesterday, it looks like they’re diving right in.
After electing its Chair, Vice Chair and Clerk, the committee will hear from, among others, Governor Margaret Wood Hassan and Attorney General Joseph Foster. Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard, Melissa Crews, Cheryl Coletti and Holly Cekala from Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, Assistant Fire Chief Dan Goonan and E M S Officer Christopher Hickey from the Manchester Fire Department and Christopher Stawasz from A M R Ambulance will also present.
They’ve even scheduled remote appearances from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Sr. Policy Advisor. We’ve uploaded the agenda with this newscast at Girard at Large dot com, provided a link to the documents made available by the presenters and provided the link that will enable the public to stream the proceedings live.
The Speaker’s Office said that all task force sessions will be available via video stream on the General Court’s Web site. The link to each video stream will be posted on its front page on each meeting day. (Hm, I wonder if school boards and districts are allowed to make stuff like this available in advance of meetings. I’ll have to look into that.)
Bedford Police Chief John Bryfonski announced that the Bedford Police Department and the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s Division of Enforcement and Licensing conducted alcohol compliance checks at thirty two businesses and cited five employees for violations over the weekend. On Nov. 20, in an effort to ensure establishments are complying with the laws surrounding the sale of alcoholic beverages, especially with the holidays approaching, Bedford police, Liquor Enforcement officers and underage buyers performed the checks at restaurants, bars and stores that sell alcohol.
As a result, five employees at five businesses were issued a summons for Prohibited Sales. They are scheduled to appear in Merrimack District Court on Tuesday, Dec. twenty second. Among the establishments in which the offenders were the state’s own liquor store! (Oh, somebody’s so fired!) The Circle K Convenience Store, Pizza Bella, Pizza Mia and Castro’s Backroom also had cited employees.
Bryfonski said it was quote “unfortunate to see that employees of several businesses acted in direct violation of the law by serving or selling alcohol to a minor,” and reminded businesses to ensure their staffs were properly checking IDs. The Liquor Commission issued administrative summonses to the businesses employing the offending employees.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester Board of School Committee was in session last night and boy do they know how to eat the clock. It was a night of presentations and controversies.
Job Corps Center Director Tamer Koheil gave an update on that operation, saying that of the one hundred twenty students enrolled, forty were from the city and none were dually enrolled in the Manchester School District.
English Language Learner Director Wendy Perron gave a presentation regarding that program. She said the district had one thousand four hundred ninety eight students for whom English was not their native language. Of them, 9 8 3 kids speak Spanish, 2 0 7 Arabic, 1 6 5 Nepali and 1 2 6 Vietnamese. They’ve now grouped languages together per federal guidelines and say there are thirty three quote “Macro languages” in the schools.
The district, while saying it was doing a good job, has failed to meet certain testing performance requirements over the past four years, which is likely to lead to corrective action from the state and federal governments, which Perron said the district is looking forward to because it might mean more resources coming to the city to help teachers become more culturally aware educators. Oh, apparently there’s only one school district in the state that’s hitting the federal targets and there are very serious questions about the validity of the test. Guess such scrutiny doesn’t apply to regular kids and testing.
Perron also said that seventeen percent of the district’s students are special ed, which is over forty percent higher than the national average of twelve percent. Twenty two percent of the English Language Learner kids are coded for special education. Interestingly, she said that, because of the Manchester Academic Standards, they’re no longer taking a grammar based approach to teaching English, but a project based approach. (Why do I think that’s going to be as successful as ditching phonics and grammar for English speaking kids?)
By the way, just by chance, during the public participation session, Hillside teacher Patrick O’Neil said, among other things, that test scores and reading comprehension were better before the introduction of Whole Word Language, when the district focused on teaching phonics. Go figure!
Weston Elementary School Principal Liz MacDonald waxed eloquent in her presentation about Southern New Hampshire University’s partnership with her school. Upwards of seventy students from the college are getting two hours in the school’s classrooms each week, giving teachers a hand in the classroom and getting hands on experience in return. Sometimes SNHU’s own professors are teaching the cherubs in class so the school’s teachers can learn their methods.
It doesn’t look like transparency is taking any steps forward. Sent to the board after the agenda was released was a letter from the district’s legal counsel over the “free speech rights” of employees. Not only does nobody outside members of the board know what it says, but Superintendent Debra Livingston refused to say which board members asked her for an opinion and nobody admitted to asking after Mayor Ted Gatsas questioned how it could be that individual board members could get one.
Also not terribly transparent was the special public hearing called last night to get input on allowing video and audio recordings in class. Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry questioned how the public could know about the hearing when board members didn’t know it was happening until they got their packets on Friday. Gatsas said it was a special meeting called by the board’s Vice Chair, Sarah Ambrogi, who was not present at last night’s meeting. He, likewise, didn’t know it was coming.
Among the other highlights, and all I have time left to tell you about, is Police Chief Nick Willard was all but called a liar by Beaudry and M S T Principal Karen White Machado, over the whole question of who did what and when regarding the relocation of the school’s student resource officer and subsequent events.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!