November 30, 2010

Auburn district poised to cut ties with Manchester, send students to Pinkerton

NewHampshire Union Leader


Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY -- The Auburn School Board has approved a 20-year contract with Pinkerton Academy to send the town’s high
 school students to the Derry school.
If the contract is approved by Auburn residents at the annual school district meeting in March, the town will begin reducing the number of teens attending school in Manchester as early as the 2013-2014 school year.
SAU 15, which includes Auburn,
 Candia and Hooksett, pays tuition to send its high school students to Manchester. About 200 Auburn students attend Memorial High School, four attend Central High School and two are at West High School. For each student, the city’s school district gets $8,300. This means Manchester stands to lose about $1.7 million per year if Auburn sends its students elsewhere.
If voters accept the contract, Auburn would give the required two-year
 notice of termination. In September 2013, students entering their freshman year of high school would attend Pinkerton, while the upper classes would finish high school in Manchester — similar to the arrangement the district made when Bedford built a high school and moved its students from West.
Manchester School District was notifi ed of the decision via letter.
“Please understand the board and
 the people of Auburn believe the students in Auburn have been wellserved in Manchester and the board’s decision to pursue voter approval of this high school plan is not a reflection on Manchester’s efforts to educate Auburn students,” wrote SAU 15 Superintendent of Schools Charles Littlefield. “As the Auburn board looks to its long-term future, however, the board has simply decided to pursue the possibility of a longterm relationship with Pinkerton.” 
Taken by surprise 
The decision took the members of the Manchester Board of School Committee by surprise, especially because SAU 15 and Manchester have been meeting regularly to discuss changes and improvements to the city’s high schools. The Joint High School Committee met in April and the two districts discussed creating a charter or academy school at West High School. 
“I think Memorial is a wonderful high school. I’m wondering what precipitated this ,” At-Large School Committee member Debra Gagnon Langton said Monday. “Is it the citizens in Auburn or the school board in Auburn? I would like to find that out. ... I never thought they’d take action that quickly.” 
More than 150 parents attended a school board meeting about switching to Pinkerton in May. Parents said they supported the move because of more extensive course offerings at Pinkerton and worries over budget cuts in Manchester. 
“We added 12 more teachers, added an assistant superintendent and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave the city a $3.2 million loan for books,” School Committee Vice Chairman David Gelinas said. “Perception is always a problem. ... They obviously weren’t paying attention.” 
Hints that Auburn parents wanted to send their students elsewhere also emerged earlier this month. Mayor Ted Gatsas brought in legal counsel to the Nov. 8 school board meeting to discuss whether Auburn’s high number of petitions to move students to Pinkerton for a “special exception” was violating the contract between SAU 15 and Manchester. 
Attorney Brad Cook said it likely was, since exceptions are only to be granted on a caseby- case basis; more than 100 students from Auburn now go to Pinkerton. 
“If there are students being sent out of this district to other high schools and the sending towns are paying for them, that’s a loss of revenue for us,” Gatsas said. 
Resistance in Derry 
For the past several years, Pinkerton has asked boards to consider bringing select groups of Auburn students into the school, an idea that Derry School Board Chairman Kevin Gordon said has been met with some resistance in Derry. 
“The (Pinkerton) population a few years ago was right up there and we didn’t want to see our Derry kids not have access to sports or educational opportunities,” Gordon said. “We have to protect our Derry kids. That’s our job.” 
Pinkerton doesn’t need permission from its current sending schools to open a new contract, but each sending school board must sign off on requests to allow off-contract students to enroll. With assurances from Pinkerton officials that Derry students would not lose out, Gordon said the board voted to allow several dozen Auburn students to enroll this fall. 
“It’s a Catch-22 because we have to allow students to come in to PA to keep the tuition down,” he said. 
Derry has yet to be officially notified of the Auburn contract proposal, but Gordon said he’s open to the idea if it will bring down costs to Derry taxpayers. 
“It might benefit us in the future if they allow the town of Auburn to come in, so I’ll keep an open mind,” he said. “But it is what it is. They have to maintain a quota and we have no control over that.” 
Room for more 
Pinkerton officials have outlined a $34.9 million budget for next year that would cut nearly a dozen faculty positions and increase tuition by 3.65 percent to $9,712 per student. Total enrollment for next year is projected to reach 3,100 students, down 130 from the current year. Gordon said Pinkerton staff have said that 3,800 students is a more ideal target to fill out the school’s current infrastructure. And with a new freshman academy building coming online in August, Pinkerton could use the extra students, said Robin Perrin, who spoke on behalf of the school Monday. 
“It helps the school in the sense that we might not have to lay off as many teachers next year and we might save some courses,” he said. “And it helps the sending towns by bringing down tuition.” 


Laura Wolfer sets up some jams and jellies which will be on dale during Dec. 4 Christmas in the Village.
Ornaments made by local Cub Scouts will be on sale.
CHESTER -- A village is defined not so much by its geographical boundaries or its form of government, but rather by the people living together in one place.
Without the people, Saturday’s Christmas in the Village would just be another small-town craft fair.
Instead, it’s the big event here, an official kick-off to Christmas that for years has centered around
 the Chester Congregational Baptist Church cooperative of crafters. 
And once again the legion of church crafters, who go by the name Spirit Works, have stitched, sewn, knitted, crocheted, hot glued and compiled several loads of first-rate handicrafts, from ornaments and wreaths to hand-sewn “green” shopping bags that roll up neatly into a tiny package, along with bibs, prepackaged “Chester dried herbs,” preserves, lanyards, pillows, bookmarks and more. 
The event, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church vestry, also includes a “Tiffany’s of Chester” vintage jewelry table, and coincides with a Loaf and Ladle luncheon, across from the church at Stevens Memorial Hall, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
But that’s not all. 
Sensing a growing urge among people to shop local and support local businesses, resident Laura Wolfer and her neighbors are getting in on the annual holiday festivities, transforming Wolfer’s barn into a holiday warehouse so they can capitalize on the heavy traffic already coming for the annual town-wide event. 
“I think people are just overloaded with cheap stuff from China. They want something made locally, something meaningful, or beautiful, or one of a kind,” said Wolfer, a stay-at-home mom who gave up her day job as a biologist to raise her kids and explore the possibilities on the home front. 
So far she’s made it through her first successful season as a turkey farmer, which brought an unexpected demand for Thanksgiving birds this year — so much so that she’s going to expand her flock for next season. She also makes soaps, which will be available during Saturday’s barn sale. 
“There are about 10 of us, mostly neighbors and friends, who will come together for the sale,” said Wolfer. 
Also expected: homemade jams, jellies and salsa, a collection of birdhouses and ornaments contributed by Cub Scout Pack 163, pottery, cards, potpourri and assorted food items. 
“Actually the celebration used to be much larger in town — there was an open studio event and you could go from place to place. It’s a shame that stopped, but we thought this might be a good addition,” said Wolfer. 
Although it’s more about community building than making money, Wolfer said the practice of bartering with neighbors — trading a turkey for a half-pig — has been more than satisfying. 
It’s a way of revisiting the way small-town commerce used to be, neighbor helping neighbor to make ends meet by trading goods and services. 
“My neighbor traded maple syrup for a turkey, and helped us build our turkey coop,” said Wolfer. “It’s old school, but it works.” 
Shoppers can expect a handful of other businesses and residents to be participating in Christmas in Chester with in-store specials and craft sales, all of them advertised by way of signage posted outside the stores and homes. 
Chester Congregational Baptist Church is located at 4 Chester Street. The vestry is next to the church building. 
The Wolfers’ Farm barn sale is located at 540 Candia Road and will be held from 10 a.m. 
to 4 p.m. 

November 29, 2010

Tupelo to Host Rockin' Bella Tucker Fundraiser

Desiree Bassett, above, and Dan Lawson Band perform Dec. 4 at Tupelo Music Hall for Bella Tucker benefit.
Union Leader Correspondent
Dan Lawson
LONDONDERRY -- Organizers are hoping the healing power of music will help make this holiday a little brighter for 9-yearold Bella Tucker, who continues to recuperate at home following a radical, life-saving quadruple amputation in April.
On Dec. 4 Tupelo Music Hall owner Scott Hayward is hosting, “Power for Power: A Benefit for the Amazing and Powerful Bella Tucker,” featuring two powerful guitar-driven New England originals — Massachusetts- based Dan Lawson Band and Connecticut rising star, singer-songwriter Desiree Bassett.Hayward hopes the community will take the time from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enjoy a hard-rocking musical interlude for a great cause.
“Bella Tucker is a very brave and admirable person. We should all strive to be as courageous as she has been. The decision to try and help her
 through a fundraiser, to help pay for some of the expenses that her family has incurred, is just a small part of everything that so many great people have done and continue to do for Bella,” Hayward said. “I hope we get a great turnout for this event and raise a lot of money for her. I only wish there was more that we could do.” 
In April, Bella was stricken with a sudden illness, streptococcus pneumonia sepsis, a bacterial blood infection affecting her circulation. Although she recovered, the extent of tissue damage to her extremities left her doctors with no alternative but to amputate the lower portion of both her arms and legs. 
Since news of her illness, the community has rallied to her family’s aid, mounting a number of fundraisers. The outpouring has included the renovation of her home living space as she continues to recover and learn to navigate her world in a different way. 
Hayward said Saturday’s musical fundraiser will appeal to anyone who loves music — particular that of gifted guitarists. 
Dan Lawson Band has become a fixture at some of the country’s preeminent blues festivals and gigs in the Boston blues scene. 
Desiree Bassett, 18, was considered a guitar prodigy at 3 and has continued to build on her early foundations in music, having shared a stage with some rock greats, including Ted Nugent, Marshall Tucker Band and Sammy Hagar. 
She just released her third CD and continues to write and perform an impressive catalog of original music. 
Saturday’s show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available through the Tupelo Music Hall website, www.tupelohall. com. Proceeds will benefit the Bella Tucker Fund. For more information go to 

Parkland CEO Focused on Quality

Parkland Medical Center CEO Tina Legere consults with
Dr. Thomas Scott, Emergency Room Medical Director.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- After 10 months of getting settled in at the helm, Parkland Medical Center CEO Tina Legere is ready to put her hospital on the map.
Despite another year of top industry- wide ratings for patient care, Legere knows that her 86-bed hospital is easily obscured by its much larger counterparts in Manchester and Boston.
“We were the only hospital in the state last quarter to achieve the highest rating in core measures by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said Legere. “I’m proud of the fact that quality care is No. 1 at Parkland. It’s a message that goes down to every employee — I just don’t know if folks realize the quality organization they have right here in Parkland.”
One of her favorite statistics to quote is “door to balloon time,” which indicates the time it takes a patient arriving with a blocked artery to find relief with a balloon catheter.
“It’s 68 minutes — that’s well below the standard best practice of 90 minutes,”
 said Legere, noting that it is the shortest wait time in the state.
“If you’re having a heart attack, you don’t have to drive past Derry to get to Manchester or Boston,” said Legere.
Parkland, owned by Hospital Corp.
of America, operates hospitals around the country including Portsmouth Regional Hospital and outpatient centers in Portsmouth and Salem.
Legere is also proud of her hospital’s relationships with the New England Heart Institute and Lahey Clinic — providing what she calls
 “top-notch patient care,” all at a little community hospital just off the beaten path.
In speaking of the CMS core measure ratings, Legere said it’s important because the ratings are based on standards applied uniformly, regardless of a hospital’s size or patient base.
And while most hospitals in New Hampshire score well, it’s still an important and objective indicator that a hospital is doing its best in critical- care situations, said Dr. William Kassler, chief medical officer for the New England region of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates under the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
“Although New Hampshire as a whole does well when it comes to outcomes and quality of care, we know across the country the error rate is higher than what patients would demand, and we know we can all do better,” said Kassler.
Having a standardized set of measures becomes a way to increase public accountability while also helping hospitals promote what they do well, which is meaningful for both patients
 and staff, Kassler said. Legere came to Parkland after spending many years as chief quality officer for a competing Manchester hospital. But it is her roots in medical social work that have kept her grounded in what a hospital’s mission is all about.
“Being in the trenches helped me understand what it is that patients need. It’s given me a great appreciation for how all the various systems within a hospital work together to achieve that,” Legere said.
“I know that physicians have a choice about where they work and patients have a choice about where they seek treatment, which is why it’s important for me to keep my finger on the pulse of what both patients and staff are saying,” Legere said.
To that end, she goes on rounds with physicians as often as possible for direct feedback from both patients, doctors and support staff.
In addition, patients are invited back, post-treatment, to talk about what worked and what could have gone better.
“It’s important that we continually ask patients what can we do better,” Legere said. “At the end of the day, we want Parkland to be the hospital of choice for patients and staff.”

November 26, 2010

March of the Librarians

Gayle Tudisco, front, lines up in formation with fellow book cart drill team members Lynne Mann and Meryle Zusman Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's Annual Holiday Parade

Union Leader Correspondent
Nancy Chase, left, teaches new choreography
 to the library book cart drill team.
DERRY -- This weekend, Derry Public Library staff will take their book carts to the streets to show patrons they can really mix things up.
“I think some people are afraid to come in and ask questions because maybe they feel embarrassed,” said Heather Weisen, a library page. “I hope
 that after seeing us doing something silly, they’ll know that we’re not all so serious.”
And with Dr. Seuss hats, embellished book carts and a drill team routine choreographed to music from The Grinch, library staff will march in their first-ever annual Holiday Parade on Saturday.
Though staff are new to the parade, Joy Cronin said they jumped at the chance to participate
 in this year’s theme of “Book Characters on Parade.”
“We’d never done it before, but when we saw the theme, it was one of those opportunities we couldn’t pass up,” said Cronin, who will be dressed as The Grinch for Saturday’s parade as she shouts out drill team commands.
Group members have been meeting after hours for two months to practice their three, 2-minute long choreographed routines, which include line 
formations, spins and shouted cadences.
And while the library drill team is new to Derry, organizer Nancy Chase said the phenomenon has been a big hit at library conferences for years. 
Chase said she had seen library drill teams on Internet videos, but never in person. To put together her routines, Chase turned to a book published on the subject — The Library Book Cart Precision Drill Team Manual. 
“I’ve never done anything like this ever and had never seen it in person, but the manual was so well written it made it easy,” said Chase. 
The library drill team will join numerous other floats for Saturday’s parade sponsored by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, which begins at 1 p.m. 
More than 80 floats, bands and marching units are expected to parade down West Broadway and ending at Hood Commons on Crystal Avenue. 
Directly following the parade, the town’s parks and recreation department will host its Very Derry Holiday Event at Veterans Memorial Hall on West Broadway, with children’s crafts and games beginning at 2 p.m. A tree-lighting ceremony and carol singing will begin at 5:15 p.m. outside the Adams Memorial Opera House.

DOT Officials to Towns: Rein in Salt Use

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- As state and town salt trucks hit the roads this winter, town officials say efforts are being made to rein in salt use, especially in sensitive watersheds.
But reducing the overall amount of salt on the roads is difficult, officials say, when the substance is still the best way to battle dangerous road conditions.
“Our problem as municipalities — and the state, too — is that until there’s an alternative for salt, we still have to maintain road conditions for public safety,” said Salem Public Works Director Rick Russell. “We’re all up against that.”
But in watershed areas along the expansion route of Interstate 93, state officials say towns have been asked to use less salt.
In particular, the state has requested reduced salt use in the Beaver Brook Watershed in Derry, Dinsmore Brook Watershed in Windham and Policy Brook Watershed in Salem, said state DOT Water Quality Program Manager Mark Hemmerlein.
About a quarter of Salem’s town-maintained roads fall into the Policy Brook Watershed area, where Russell said he focuses the efforts of salt trucks equipped with new technology.
Over the last four years, Salem has purchased five ground speed control censors that adjust the amount of salt a truck puts down based on how fast the vehicle is moving. But outfitting the town’s remaining 12 salt trucks will take time, he said, as the equipment costs about $6,500 a piece.
Further, Russell said he has stepped up education efforts with town employees and contracted drivers. In Derry, where more than two-thirds of town roads fall into the watershed, Superintendent of Highway Operations Alan Cote said he is following similar practices.
“We’re being more cognizant of making sure all our salters are well calibrated, and we’re spending a lot more time educating our employees and getting them to understand that more isn’t always better,” Cote said. “They’re professionals and they have to use their judgment on a regular basis because storms are all different.”
At the state level, Peter Stamnas, DOT project manager for the I-93 project, said supervisors have outlined “best management practices” for salt reduction. In recent seasons, Stamnas said those practices have reduced salt use by 20 percent in some areas.
“All of our focus is on maximizing efficiencies of maintenance operations without lowering our level of service,” Stamnas said.
Those efforts include pre-wetting salt so that it sticks better to roadways and turning to more advanced weather predicting software, he said. In the future, Stamnas said more sophisticated plows and salt spreaders will continue to make a difference.
But in towns like Salem, where Russell said that more than half of all pavement is in private parking lots, commercial contractors play a significant role in the amount of salt going into watersheds.
“It’s complicated because there’s just as much asphalt in commercial and industrial parking lots in Salem as on our town roads,” he said. “It’s not just on the town and state, but it’s getting the private sector to do their part.”
A salt certification bill held over from last year’s legislative session would institute a certification system for those applying salt statewide that would keep a closer eye on who is putting salt down on those private lots.
Further, the bill would introduce limited liability for businesses who might otherwise over-salt to protect against being sued for an accidental fall on their property.
And Hemmerlein said the bill could make a difference.
“The private sector is a very large chunk of the salt load, so a small change on their part means a very large change overall,” he said.
Russell said driver education is also essential because road conditions will change if further salt reductions are mandated down the line.
“It’s not something that’s going to be fixed by just educating the public and private sectors about salt application,” Russell said.“It’s a way of life that the motoring public is going to have to come to bear with.” “Reducing salt and reducing speed are two things that are going to have to work in combination, and that could take years to evolve,” he said.

The Thrill of the Trot

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY - Last Thanksgiving, Lisa Luz of Derry watched the sea of runners in the town’s annual turkey trot pass by the window of her Beaver Lake home, where she was recovering from a bilateral hip replacement surgery.
“I could barely walk, but I said I’m going to do that next year,” Luz,
 40, said of the race. And after a year of training, she did. 
Kendall Reynolds, 5, of Litchfield and her brother Keegan, 6,
 show their medals after finishing their first 5K race.
“It feels awesome,” Luz said at the finish line of Derry’s 37th Annual Turkey Trot Thursday morning. “I’d like to be faster, but you know, maybe next year.” 
Luz’s husband, Dave is also new to running this year, and said he wanted to come out to support his wife in reaching her goal. 
“I’m just so proud of her and I figured I’d try to do it with her,” he said. “And she beat me, but that’s all right.” 
Thursday’s 3.1-mile race attracted more than 1,700 runners to Beaver Lake in Derry, collecting canned goods for local food pantries and raising money to support Derry-area charities. 
And while racers say “turkey trots” are popping up all over the place in recent years, runner Sara Brandt of Worcester, Mass., said Derry’s event draws one of the biggest crowds. Brandt completed her second Derry Turkey Trot this year. 
“Turkey trots wake you up and make you feel not so bad about eating so much later on, and Derry’s has such a big crowd,” Brandt said. 
“I really like the big races because it gets you motivated and pumped up with everyone cheering.” 
Carol Ewell of Derry spent the morning serving up chili and potato casserole to runners after they completed the race. 
Ewell’s husband, Jim, is the race’s director and she has been involved for many years. 
“It used to be only 100 people every year and it just keeps growing,” Ewell said. “It makes us feel great to see this many people coming out to participate and to volunteer.” 
When Marge Olson of Lebanon was looking for a turkey trot for her family last year, she said Derry’s event provided a reasonable price and supported a good cause. 
“I like that they give food to the pantries because this can be a great fundraiser, and we can all be together,” said Olson, who ran Thursday’s race for the second time with her extended family from both Lebanon and Chester. 
The family of 10 all wear handmade turkey hats to set themselves apart. 
And while there were plenty of novice runners on scene Thursday, the race also attracts more seasoned athletes like 25-year-old Julia Huffman of Manchester, who was the first woman to cross the finish line with a time of 19:13. 
“I grew up in Derry and my little sister and husband also run this race. It’s become a tradition,” Huffman said Thursday. “I run all the time, but it’s still fun to do this on Thanksgiving with everyone.” 
Jennifer Connors of Derry brought her daughter, 9-yearold Emily, out for their first race Thursday after hearing about the event around town for several years. 
“I thought it would a fun something to do together on Thanksgiving morning, since we’re not hosting this year,” Connors said. “And now I can eat my pumpkin cheesecake guilt free.” 

November 25, 2010

Quick work needed to get charter vote on Mach ballot

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Town officials say that getting Derry's charter question back to voters in March will take some quick action at both the town and state level.
After the charter question was unexpectedly pulled from the September ballot after last-minute objections from the state, Town Clerk Denise Neale said a new version must be finalized by Feb. 1 in order to make it onto the March ballot.
Changes proposed by the town's now-disbanded charter commission include the creation of an ethics committee and mandated reporting of political campaign contributions of more than $1,000.
A first version of the proposed changes was sent to the state Attorney General's Office for review in January, Neale said, to which the state responded to with a signed receipt days later.
By law, the state is to respond to charter requests within 30 days to highlight any issues with state law compliance. And after those 30 days came and went with no word from the state, Derry Town Administrator John Anderson said town moved forward to prepare a final report and ballot question.
But after former Derry Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse asked the state for clarification of some issues with the changes in July, the Attorney General's Office said they never received the document. Neale said she was asked to resend the report shortly thereafter.
Then just one week before the Sept. 14 election, the Attorney General's Office sent the town an outline of several pieces of the proposed charter that would violate state law, including amendments it said restricted the authority of the town administrator. The charter question was then pulled from the September ballot.
Over the past few weeks, Anderson said town staff have been working with the Attorney General's Office to to draft a request of the New Hampshire Supreme Court to allow Derry's charter commission to reconvene and take another look at the charter report. By law, a charter commission must be disbanded within 60 days after the final report is written, he said.
Anderson said that court filing has been prepared and is set to be filed this week or next.
If the court allows Derry's commission to reconvene, O'Connor said they will likely make quick work of ironing out the kinks in the final report to be sent back to the state.
Anderson said he is optimistic things will move more quickly as soon an updated final report is filed.
"We've certainly got their attention," Anderson said Wednesday. "There had been a comedy of errors, but we're not placing blame. Now it's just about how to move forward."
After Derry taxpayers fronted more than $22,000 to cover special election costs and attorney fees associated with the charter changes, O'Connor said he hopes the question will move forward.
"It would be an awful waste of taxpayer's money not to let them vote on what's to be presented to them," he said. "In this economic time, it's not something we can afford to do."
And state Rep. Phyllis Katsakiores, R-Derry, said she hopes legislation she is putting forth next year will prevent such confusion down the line.
Under her proposal, which will soon be filed, Katsakiores said the state would be required to send a formal letter of receipt to the chair of a municipal charter commission within 14 days of receiving proposed changes.

Breaking tradition without losing it

Derry Ink Link Exclusive
A recent Gentle Thanksgiving at the Marion Gerrish Center focused on giving thanks without turkey,
 including a wheat-based dish, seitan, pictured here.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – As holiday traditions go, Thanksgiving is about as symbolic as it gets – copious amounts of food representing nature's bounty, families finding their way to one another with magnet force just to sit around a table together and give thanks like modern-day Pilgrims for another year of more ups than downs, all enhanced by a constant loop of televised football.
And then there's the turkey.
For more than 400 years this poultry dish has been a persistent presence at the center of the feast. Dumb luck, really, considering wild turkeys were simply prolific enough to be plentiful in 17th-century America, and not terrific at flying away at the sight of a loaded musket.
The Murphys, from left, Emily, Melissa, RJ and Mary,
enjoy a "Gentle Thanksgiving together.
However, times have changed. America has never had so much information about what it eats, how many grams of fiber, fat and cholesterol our food contains, and how corporate farming works. Critics will point to how a monopoly on mass production contributes to resource depletion, and have documented the way animals intended for consumption are propagated, handled and slaughtered, none of it pretty.
Locally, the New Hampshire Animal Rights League is urging the public to rethink what it brings to the table this year, and they are leading by example, having recently hosted a Gentle Thanksgiving feast with all the traditional trimmings – sans turkey.
The spread at the Marion Gerrish Center featured seitan (pronounced say-tahn) roll – the other wheat meat – a food product made from wheat protein and prepared in various ways to mimic the texture and flavor of meat.
About 30 dinner guests contributed dishes, all vegan, from pumpkin soup and several incarnations of sweet potato, to cornbread, stuffing and a number of non-traditional but savory sides.
Emily Murphy of Dover broke gluten-free bread with three of her four other family members during the veganfest, her mom Mary, sister Melissa and brother RJ. Only her dad Ray, the family's hold-out meat eater, abstained.
“He's open to how we eat and trying the food, but he still eats meat,” said Mary Murphy of Bedford. She traditionally serves up a dual Thanksgiving dinner concentrating on the vegan dishes her three children prefer with a side order of poultry, for her favorite meat eater.
“Last year I cooked a local turkey from Twist of Fate, a farm in Dunbarton. But it closed over the summer. I was pretty upset about it. At least I knew they raised their animals with heart,” Mary Murphy said.
Her daughter Emily was the first to eliminate meat from her diet. Her first awakening was back in high school, after learning about veal production. But it wasn't until she watched a 2004 documentary called “Peaceable Kingdom” several years ago that she was able to go meat free without remorse.
NHARL board member Linda Dionne said that while their organization appreciates the more humane treatment of animals on small-scale family farms, their mission is protecting all animals all the time, which means they promote a vegan diet as the most cruelty-free lifestyle.
“We work for animals, and we don't think they want to die or be eaten. Yes, we want people to be vegan, but we also appreciate that it's a gradual process,” said Dionne. “A lot of people start off trying free range chickens and as they learn more about how food is manufactured and processed, it becomes easier to make bigger changes.”
When she gave up meat in 1973 the world was just learning about some of the hazards of factory farming. Thirty years later interest in being better stewards of our food supply have gone mainstream, with tightening up of USDA standards and documentary films such as the 2008 “Food, Inc,” which is bringing more people into the meatless fold, not just on principle, but also because of America's ever-present concern over food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E.coli.
And now, as baby boomers set the pace in lifestyle trending once again, the fullness of mantras like “you are what you eat,” have expanded the market for going green while eating more greens as a lifestyle, turning the traditional food pyramid on its side and relegating proteins and saturated animal fats to a minimized corner, making more room for whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Franklin veterinarian Dr. Barry Taylor attended the vegan dinner with his family, and offered up the pre-meal blessing, which he qualified as more of a rant, touching on a year's worth of local, national political and social ills and shortcomings.
“... So this year when giving thanks, take a second to be grateful for the fact that here in America you can complain – it sets us apart, makes us better; it makes us right. Amen,” said Taylor, who went on to talk about his personal commitment to animals.
“Why am I here? For a vet, that should be fairly obvious. I'd like to convince people not to eat my patients. Animal suffering in modern animal agriculture exists, and if people had to confront that there'd be a lot more vegetarians in this world. Unfortunately, we've become more isolated from the process of how we get our food,” Taylor said.
Kathy Jacques of Londonderry has attended other Gentle Thanksgiving feasts. She likes them because they are a festive way of extending a new idea to people who may otherwise not realize how easy it is to eliminate the turkey while retaining all the goodness and tradition the holiday implies.
“Gentle Thanksgiving doesn't limit what people value – just animal fat. But it's sure hard changing people's habits,” said Jacques.

November 24, 2010

School Board outlines plan for teacher cuts

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- While grant funding is set to save some Derry teaching jobs next year, an updated budget plan has outlined from which grades a remaining 46 teaching positions could be pulled.
In a plan presented to the Derry School Board on Tuesday night, Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said that position cuts, while difficult, have brought the budget into line with a school board directive to cut $4.5 million over the cur
rent budget. 
“This is definitely the place that we need to be reaching,” Hannon said. 
Currently, students at West Running Brook Middle School are organized into two teaching teams per grade of the four core subjects — math, science, social studies and language arts — and a fifth “interventionist” teacher specializing in various subjects. 
Under the proposal, West Running Brook would move to four-teacher teams, with the reduction of three literacy interventionist positions and four unified arts positions. 
But those three literacy positions would be transferred to Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, which would move from a current organization of three four-subject teams per grade level to a setup with two five-subject teams, Hannon said. 
As it stands, Hood would see a reduction of nine core subject teachers, three special education staff members and a unified arts teacher, according to Tuesday’s presentation. 
At the elementary school level, Hannon said she removed classrooms from her proposal based on the enrollment of each grade level for the individual schools. 
Classroom cuts from grades one through four under proposal are as follows: four classrooms at Grinnell Elementary School, two at Derry Village School, two at Ernest P. Barka Elementary School and one at South Range Elementary School. 
The proposal would not remove any regular education classrooms from East Derry Memorial Elementary School, but would cut one special education classroom. Another five special education classrooms would be removed across the elementary education level. 
But Hannon has also proposed the addition of a feebased, full-day kindergarten program, which she said could add around $350,000 in additional revenue. Other changes at the elementary level would include sharing PACE program teachers between elementary schools, combining PACE math classes for grades four and five and moving the DEEP program from Hood to Grinnell to consolidate services. Hannon also proposed a number of districtwide cutbacks, including the elimination of numerous contracted services to be picked up by district staff and the reduction of a special education admin-istrative position at the high school.
But among the widespread cuts proposed this fall, Hannon said a bit of good news has come in the form of a federal one-year education jobs grant administered through the state. 
Derry is set to receive about $725,000 to supplement school building-level positions, which Hannon said will add 14 positions back into the district. 
But that still leave 60 professional staff positions set to be cut next year under the current proposal, including 46 teachers, as Derry continues to brace for the anticipated loss of $7.1 million in state adequacy funding. 
The school board has not made any final budget decisions and will continue to meet with its fiscal advisory committee in the coming weeks. 

Pinkerton Graduation will move to the Verizon

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- After finding widespread student support for the proposal, Pinkerton Academy officials have approved moving this year’s graduation ceremony to the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
“It was a very difficult decision because graduation is so traditional,” said
 Pinkerton Headmaster Mary Anderson on Tuesday. “And we’re going to try to personalize this as much as we possibly can because graduation is extremely important, and we want to make sure it’s a great experience for the kids and their parents.” 
In years past, the ceremony was held on the lawn in front of the Pinkerton Building with graduates marching down the notorious “senior steps.” But after space constraints forced a move to the school’s Memorial Field last year, Anderson said attendees were subjected to excessive heat and glaring sun. 
“It was nice and it was beautiful, but it’s hard for the elderly to get up there and it was hot and just very uncomfortable,” she said. 
With a new location, Anderson said inclement weather will have no effect on the ceremony, and students will be able to invite as many guests as they like. Further, there will be plenty of comfortable seating and handicapped access, she said, and holding an evening ceremony will accommodate the schedules of working families. 
The ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 16. 
But Anderson said she understands those who will miss the custom of a ceremony on campus. 
“I know there are going to be some people who are not happy with a change of tradition like this, but I have to think of safety and I have to think of all the parents and students,” she said. 
Anderson said she hopes to bring a painted facade of the school building as a background for pictures and include red and white balloons and other school symbols to bring a taste of Pinkerton to Manchester. 
In a survey this fall, about three-quarters of Pinkerton seniors voted in favor of moving the ceremony, Anderson said. Several years ago, a similar survey found the opposite result. 
“I was shocked,” she said. “I think that kids have just experienced it through siblings or parents and see how difficult it is.” 
The one hitch in the new plan, she said, is that Verizon Wireless Arena staff withhold the right to reschedule the ceremony to make room for another event up to 60 days before the event. Anderson said that school officials from Manchester and Londonderry, who each hold their graduations at the arena, said their ceremonies have never been rescheduled. 
After this year, Anderson said she will check in with students and families to evaluate the move before deciding whether to continue with the Manchester venue into the future. 

Her Job is a Kick

Kerry Margolin
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Becoming a Radio City Rockette was the fulfillment of a childhood dream for Kerry Margolin, a Londonderry native who is touring with the Boston troupe of the worldfamous precision dancers, her third Christmas season as a Rockette.
“I always knew this is what
 I wanted to do, from the time I was 6 and I saw the Rockettes in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” said Margolin.
She started out a reluctant dancer at age 4, said Margolin’s mom, Linda Margolin, who encouraged her daughter to find her inner dancer. After a brief hiatus, she enrolled her at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center, where she found her
“I think becoming a Rockette, for Kerry, was a marriage of destiny and circumstance. You can’t be a Rockette unless you’re tall, and she’s 5-foot-9,” said Linda Margolin. 
Her daughter danced competitively throughout high school, earning the Dance Masters Miss Dance New England title in 2003. 
“That’s when I think she began to think about the possibilities for her future,” said her mom. 
Finding her calling 
In 2006, Margolin caught the Rockettes’ Christmas show in Boston, and her childhood dream of being a Rockette manifested. 
She applied for the Rockettes’ summer internship program and earned a scholarship to train like a Rockette, solidifying her feeling that this was her calling. 
Radio City Christmas Spectacular will be landing at the Wang Theater in Boston for a three-week run starting Dec. 3. Being part of the show connects Margolin to a proud lineage of professional dancers that started in the United States in 1925, said Margolin. 
“It’s not unusual for a former Rockette to come up to you following a show and tell you their own experience with the troupe,” said Margolin. “It’s like a sisterhood, and part of what’s so rewarding about the job.” 
In 1994 the popular New York version of the Christmas Spectacular was expanded to include traveling troupes that perform simultaneously around the country. In her two previous seasons, Margolin performed in Buffalo, N.Y., and Seattle, Wash. It is a treat to be close to home this Christmas, performing with the Providence/Boston troupe, she said. 
Margolin graduated from Londonderry High School in 2004, and went on to the University of Arizona, where she earned a degree in dance with a minor in psychology. 
She auditioned for the Rockettes in the fall of 2008 and landed a spot in the coveted troupe, which features 55 singers and dancers — including the 18-member dance line. 
Margolin has also taught dance in New Hampshire, Arizona and to aspiring young dancers in Namibia, Africa, as part of an HIV/ AIDS awareness project. 
A little understanding 
Understanding what makes the Rockettes such a phenomenon requires a lesson in dance troupe history. The concept of chorus line dancing began in earnest in late 19th-century England, where the idea of bringing together dancers of similar height to perform steps in straight lines that extended into geometric configurations was born. 
Entrepreneur John Tiller introduced his troupe to a Paris audience where the trademark high “pony kicks” associated with chorus lines debuted. 
Around the turn of the century, Tiller’s dancers came to the United States and were recruited for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1925, a 16-member dance line debuted at the Roxy in New York City as the Roxyettes. 
By 1932, the Roxyettes performed for opening night of the new Radio City Music Hall, and the following year staged a Christmas Spectacular. Two particular routines from the original 1933 show, the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” and “The Living Nativity,” have endured to this day and are still part of the annual show, Margolin said. 
Her heart’s still here 
Although she recently relocated to Arizona fulltime, her heart remains in New Hampshire, said Margolin. 
“The first time I stepped on the stage as a Rockette, it took my breath away. 
It’s everything you think it will be, but there’s really no way to describe the exhilaration of it, or the rush you get the first time you look out at the audience and see the pure joy on their faces,” said Margolin. “I will never forget my first time on stage, during the final kick line, and snow started falling down around us. It was like being in a snow globe.” 
Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are on sale to the public at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theater box office, online at www.citicenter. 
org or by calling 866-348-9738. Groups of 10 or more may reserve tickets now by contacting Citi Performing Arts Center Group Sales at 617-532-1116 or at groupsales@ 
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Hundreds of road-racers are expected to turn out for the 37th annual Turkey Trot on Thursday morning, before filling their bellies with Thanksgiving treats.
“It’s the rationale that you can come out and run and then take that extra piece of pie later,” said race director Jim Ewell on Tuesday. “It may not exactly work out that way, but at least you feel good about it.”
The race, which is facilitated each year by the Greater Derry Track Club, will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday at Galliens Town Beach at the corner of Route
 102 and Pond Road.
The nearly 2,000 anticipated participants will follow a 3.1-mile course around Beaver Lake in Derry, finishing back at the beach with an awards ceremony to follow at 9:30 a.m.
But Ewell said the race is for runners and walkers of all abilities.
“Some people have always been ap
prehensive about doing a road race because they think you have to be a good runner to do this, and we want to dispel that myth completely,” Ewell said. “We want to introduce families to running and for a lot of people, this is the only race they run the whole year.”
And as the race enters its 37th year, Ewell said many of the original young racers are now sharing the event with their own children.
“It’s all about tradition, and it’s a family thing,” Ewell said. “We’ve got kids and grandkids coming now because every Thanksgiving morning they say, ‘Let’s get dressed and go to Derry to run the race.’” Registration fees for adults are $13, or $17 to include a Tshirt and $3 for children under
 11 years old.
Participants are also asked to bring canned goods to donate to local food pantries. All profits above and beyond the cost of putting on the race are donated to selected Derry area charities, Ewell said.
On-site registration and race packet pickup opens the night before the race, from 4 to 8 p.m. tonight at Galliens Town 
Beach. Ewell said he encourages local residents to swing by tonight to make it easier to process the large crowd on Thursday morning.
Parking is available on site, but buses will also be running from Pinkerton Academy lots to the race site from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday.
For more information, visit

November 23, 2010

Frost Road Crash Victim Mourned

A note and some flowers are tied to a tree where 17-year-old Korey Traficante was killed Saturday night. 
Union Leader Correspondent
Korey Traficante
DERRY -- Police are still investigating what caused a vehicle to swerve off the road and into a tree on Saturday night, killing a Derry teen who was riding as a passenger in the car and injuring the teenaged driver.
Derry police say 17-yearold Korey Traficante of 158 Fordway St. Extension was killed when he was partially ejected from a 1998 Saturn after the vehicle crashed into a tree just before 11 p.m. on Saturday.
 according to Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas. 
The vehicle’s driver, 17year-old Cameron Dearborn of 5 Frost Road, was airlifted to Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center in Boston after the crash with reports of a back injury, Thomas said. Dearborn was also not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash, he said. 
The first officer to arrive on scene Saturday night reported finding the vehicle sitting on its right side in the yard at 20 Frost Road. Traficante had been partially ejected from the vehicle and was unresponsive, Thomas said. Dearborn was found conscious, but trapped inside the car.
After being extricated from the vehicle, Dearborn was taken to West Running Brook Middle School where he was airlifted to the Boston hospital. 
Hospital staff had no information on Dearborn’s condition on Monday afternoon. 
Jack Goterch, who lives at 20 Frost Road, said investigators remained at the scene early into Sunday morning and returned on Monday afternoon, when investigators spent several hours recreating skid marks on the stretch of Frost Road, he said. 
It was Goterch who first called 911 to report the crash just before 11 p.m., after hearing a screech and thump. 
Friends and family returned to the scene Sunday and Monday, laying flowers, candles and notes in Traficante’s memory on a tree in front of the 20 Frost Road home. 
“He had a heart of gold and was just a good kid,” said Traficante’s father, Kevin Traficante of Derry, at the scene of the crashMonday.“Koreywould’ve been a great contributor to society.” 
And friends say the Pinkerton Academy student was upbeat and popular among his classmates. 
“He’s one of those kids that doesn’t get mad. He’s just goofy and wicked nice and caring,” said 16-year-old Nick Ritcey, who said he’s been friends with Traficante for five years. “He was always looking for the positive and was friends with everyone.” 
Ritcey said Traficante and Dearborn were good friends who bonded over a shared love of cars. 
“(Dearborn) is a real redneck, you could say. He likes off-roading with his truck, and he’s always at the gym,” Ritcey said. “He’s a tough kid, and he’s going to pull through this.” 
A woman answering the door at Dearborn’s address Monday evening declined to comment on Dearborn’s condition. 
Both Traficante and Dearborn are enrolled at Pinkerton Academy through the school’s Alternative Learning Center, which offers independent study courses on a separate campus to help students who have struggled in a traditional classroom setting. According to school staff, Traficante was a senior and Dearborn a junior. Grief counselors were on hand Monday at Pinkerton Academy to help students deal with the loss and a moment of silence was held at the beginning of the day, said Robin Perrin, who spoke on behalf of the school on Monday. 
“It’s always difficult to face the death of a student and today the entire Pinkerton community is in mourning for the loss of one in our community,” Perrin said on Monday. 
Sara White, a former art teacher of Traficante’s, described the teen as a passionate student who was always quick to help. 
“He cared deeply about graduating from Pinkerton and being able to make his parents proud,” White said Monday. “When Korey completed something he was proud of, his smile and energy could be felt by everyone. 
That was always a reminder to me of why I became a teacher.” 
And 15-year-old Stefan Burnett said he and his friends will try to keep Traficante’s positive spirit alive in the difficult days to come. 
“He’s not a sad kind of kid, so I don’t think that’s what he’d want,” Burnett said while visiting the Frost Road site Monday. 
Calling hours for Traficante will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Peabody Funeral Homes and Crematorium at 15 Birch St. in Derry. Funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home, with a burial to follow in Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry. 
Derry police are continuing to investigate the incident. Anyone with information about the crash or Dearborn and Traficante’s whereabouts earlier on Saturday evening is asked to call the Derry Police Accident Investigation Unit at 432-6111. 

Click here to link to Korey Traficante's obituary and information about services at Peabody Funeral Home. 

A Natural Shift

Growing interest in alternative health care is changing the way patients,
 insurers and lawmakers view naturopathic doctors. 

Dr. Cora Rivard, left, a Derry-based naturopathic physician, helped patient Catherine Turgeon of Meredith unravel a series of ailments that had plagued her for years without a diagnosis from traditional physicians. 
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- For eight years Catherine Turgeon of Meredith lived on antihistamines, the closest she could come to finding relief from chronic sinus infections and allergy symptoms.
In an act of desperation, she sought the help of Dr. Cora Rivard, a naturopathic doctor in Derry, who wanted to review Turgeon’s blood test results over the
 eight years she’d been chronically ill. Rivard came up with a prognosis that required one more lab test, confirming Turgeon had hyperthyroidism caused by two tumors growing on her parathyroid gland. 
Since having the tumors removed surgically, Turgeon is finally feeling like her old self again. 
“I feel like I owe my life to Dr. Rivard. She helped diagnose something that was eluding the regular medical practitioners. They were treating my symptoms without looking for the problem. 
If not for her, I don’t think I would have had an answer, or any relief,” said Turgeon. 
Although it’s difficult to put a price on good health, Turgeon said opting to see Rivard was the best investment in her health she could have made, despite the fact that Rivard's services — and most alternative treatments offered by naturopathic physicians — are not covered by medical insurance. 
That may soon be changing. 
In New Hampshire, the growing interest in alternative care and in particular, the trend toward naturopathic physicians, has prompted a call for legislation that would allow their services to be covered by insurance premiums. 
State Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford, is the primary sponsor of a bill in the works that would bring parity to health care by including naturopathic physicians, said Cebrowski. 
“This is one of those bills that shouldn’t be contentious. There will be a lot of questions associated with costs, but not with the medicine side of it — everyone understands that this is something consumers want, and in our conversations with the state’s six major insurance carriers, there has been no push back,” said Cebrowski. 
“There is no question in terms of qualifications. This is an honorable and growing field here in New Hampshire, but as we know, it’s all private pay, which doesn’t give consumers a choice — and many consumers are looking for alternatives,” said Cebrowski. 
According to Dr. Jaclyn Chasse, a naturopathic doctor with Northeast Center for Holistic Medicine in Bedford, and president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors, there is huge public demand for holistic services, which include clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine and counseling. 
“We’re constantly being asked if our services are covered, and now the answer is that we’re working on that,” said Chasse. 
She explained that 15 years ago the state hammered out a law governing the licensing of naturopathic physicians, which says that only practitioners who have gone through the proper accreditation from a four-year medical school, passed their national boards and attended 3,000 supervised hours of patient care training with both medical and naturopathic physicians can be licensed. 
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about naturopathic doctors, and rightfully so. A lot of people in other states aren’t licensed but still call themselves naturopathic practitioners — even in Massachusetts, being a naturopath doesn’t mean the same as it does here in New Hampshire,” Chasse said. 
Because naturopathy centers on nutrition, and nutrition plays a pivotal role in many chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, depression and heart disease, there is a growing body of evidence that combining naturopathy with traditional medicine can actually be a cost-effective way for patients to regain their health, Chasse said. 
“Naturopathy provides about a 30 percent cost savings in the treatment of those diseases, which is a huge number when you’re talking about medical costs in the millions and trillions of dollars,” Chasse said. 
Just 15 years ago there were about 10 naturopaths in New Hampshire; now there are 70 licensed naturopathic doctors, and the number is growing. 
Chasse stresses that naturopathic doctors have a place within the matrix of medical care. Ideally, in the near future there will be a health care system in which crossreferrals can be made based on what a patient needs, and the care provided will be accepted for coverage by insurance companies, even if that treatment includes nutritional supplements or medicinal herbs. 
“With the national health care crisis, we’re hearing more of a shift toward wellness and prevention — and we’re the only primary care doctors trained in that. We’re more educated in nutrition than someone with a master’s degree in nutrition, that’s training we do on top of our primary care training,” said Chasse. 
Many people don’t realize that the first four years of training for your state ND license mirror that of a medical doctor, with identical training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, coupled with a variety of natural therapies, all based in basic nutritional principles. 
Turgeon said in working with Dr. Rivard to maintain her good health, she’s made drastic changes to her diet. 
Giving up pasta and sugar were tough — but they were changes warranted based on her blood work and symptoms, changes that have also drastically improved her quality of life. 
“Yes, I wish this kind of care was covered by my medical insurance, but until it is, I view it as an investment in my future health. I can either spend the money now to get my body in control, or I can spend it in the future on expensive medicines and procedures,” Turgeon said. 

November 22, 2010

The Dog Necessities

Chris Mechalides of Tyngsborough, Mass.,
works with her rescued doberman, Charlie.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Like their human counterparts, young dogs need discipline, consistency and a bit of practice if they’re going to fit in socially.
“It’s a drop-in class, like yoga for dogs,” said Donna Lind,
 who when not working in the office at Fortunate K-9 Dog and Owner Training School, is working one-on-one with her own German shepherd, Siren, who was developing some bad habits.
Yesterday’s drop-in middle school obedience class is meant for dogs who, like Siren,
 got the basics down but need to play well with others. Downward- facing dog was a given — the rest of their hour-long session included exercises that tested their ability to connect with and respond to their owners. 
Dogs and owners work on commands during the weekly drop-in “middle school”
obedience classes at Fortunate K-9, for dogs who are
beyond the puppy stage but still need to work on the finer points of obedience.
“She’ll be 3 in January, and we started coming because she started nipping me. By the time she was 1 she was a real brat. She wouldn’t listen, so I came to find my voice as a trainer,” said Lind. “What I’ve learned is the importance of more consistency and less cuddly cute.” 
Instructor Liz Cleaves stands in the center of the training room, like the sun to a small universe of revolving dogs who, along with their masters, are put through the paces. 
After doing several laps in regular and then double time, Cleaves has the dogs sit in place. Then, one by one, each dog must walk a serpentine route around the others, without being distracted. 
“OK Charles-No-Longer-In-Charge, your turn,” says Cleaves, which prompts a handsome Doberman pinscher and his human, Chris Mechalides of Tyngsborough, Mass., to walk the walk past his peers, including four German shepherds, another doberman, a pit bull, a sheltie and a Weimaraner mix. 
“Without the help of Fortunate K-9, Charles wouldn’t be able to do what he’s doing,” said Mechalides. She rescued the 2-year-old dog from the Lowell (Mass.) Humane Society when he was just 9 months old. 
“He’d never been inside — he was kept outside at all times, in all conditions, for protection,” said Mechalides. “When I got him he feared men from whatever had happened to him as a puppy. I had to be tough with him — just like you have to be sometimes with teenagers who haven’t been taught how to behave. Now, he’s a wonderful pet.” 
Kristal Tremblay of Chester said she sought out a group class for her pit bull, Jessie, a retired show dog who has earned his Canine Good Citizen award, which means a dog is a “contributing member of society,” according to the American Kennel Club. 
While the 10-item checklist of tasks needed to be earn your dog citizenship award is rigorous, it is a particularly proud achievement for a pit bull owner, given the bad rap pit bulls generally get from the general public, said Tremblay. 
“Most people don’t understand that they were bred to fight other dogs, but not people. Back then, if they did bite a human, they were shot. 
What’s changed is that people want tough dogs, they want them to be intimidating to people, and they’re bred to be that way,” said Tremblay. 
During a short break in the action, Tremblay’s pit bull finds a comfortable spot to recline on the mat, next to two German shepherds and a doberman. For a bunch of adolescent dogs, they are civilized — paying little attention to the newbie, a 9-month-old Sheltie named Riley who at about 12 pounds weighs about a tenth of what the shepherds weigh. 
“He’s still a typical puppy — he was pulling me around and nipping at my heels, but he’s doing great on his first day of class,” said Riley’s owner, Andrea Schneebaum of Derry. 
Jackie Ouellette of Salem said her German shepherd, Zach, was a loveable puppy but became aggressive after being hit by a car at about 8 months of age. 
“He has really come around,” said Ouellette, an experienced dog trainer herself, who said the classes reinforced for her the importance of being in control. 
“Last week there was a small, aggressive dog who came to class and under other circumstances, Zach would not have behaved himself. 
But because of his training, he just sat there like he was supposed to and didn’t go after the dog,” said Ouellette. 
Joanne Collins of Hampstead said her 9-month-old German shepherd, Ryker, is as well behaved as a full-sized dog with a puppy brain can be. 
“I’ve had shepherds before, but this is the first time I’ve been to a training class. I just wanted to make sure he would listen to me, so I would be able to get him out of a bad situation if needed,” said Collins. “The way I look at it, if a dog doesn’t behave it’s not the dog’s fault; it’s the owner’s fault.”