Berlin implements three-year professional development plan for teachers

By Kirstan Knowlton

BERLIN — Geared towards improving teaching practice and skills, the Berlin School District has developed a Master Professional Development Plan designed to track progress and effectiveness of teachers and support staff.

The professional development plan took two years to create and received input from staff, administration and the teachers union. Teachers and support staff like paraprofessionals, nurses, guidance and specialists will all be subject to the new plan.

The plan includes a template that will help staff create definitive goals that cover five domains. The domains include student-learning, learners and learning, content knowledge, professional responsibilities and instructional practices.

“This is a radical change for teachers and it’s quite demanding,” said Superintendent Corrine Cascadden. “Some teachers might end up retiring early,” she added.

In addition to the plan, teachers will also have to complete job-embedded training. Job-embedded training requires teachers to bring back what they have learned, share it with the other staff and work on trying it within their classrooms. Teachers are required to complete 75 hours of professional development every three years and paraprofessionals are required to complete 30 hours.

“It appears very objective,” said School Board Chair Nicole Plourde.

After the three-year period, teachers will be required to complete a self-evaluation of how well they meet their goals. They will also be evaluated by administers, which will include several classroom walk-through observations. The evaluation process works like a rubric and staff will be rated based on how well they meet each goal.

“It generates good conversations,” said Berlin Middle School Principal Dan Record.

The professional development plan will also work as a tool to weed out teachers who are not committed to improving their teaching practices. Teachers who consistently fail to make noticeable improvements and are ranked as “needs improvement” over a period of time could be terminated for being an ineffective teacher.

The district will be holding a work session to complete the initial paperwork for the Master Professional Development Plan.

"Facing Heroin" forum draws big crowd

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN – Taking a first step toward addressing the city and valley’s heroin and opiate problem, over 200 people attended Wednesday’s “Facing Heroin” forum. The forum centered on prevention, treatment, and recovery with an emphasis on taking a holistic approach to a problem that plagues much of the country.
“This is a no judgment zone,” declared Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency in opening remarks.

Forest Society filed suit in latest bid to stop Northern Pass

COOS COUNTY — The Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, a long-time opponent of the Northern Pass transmission project, has filed suit in Coos County Superior Court in its latest move to stop the project.
The Forest Society argues Northern Pass does not have the legal right to bury a section of the line under conservation land the group owns in Clarksville, known as the Washburn Family Forest.
The property at issue is a 2,128-acre parcel near the confluence of the Connecticut River and Indian Stream. Route 3 runs through a section of the property. In its application to the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, Northern Pass proposes to bury a section of the 193-mile transmission line under the road there.
The lawsuit filed in Coos Superior Court Thursday argues Northern Pass needs permission from the Forest Society to bury the line there and asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the project’s application to SEC is unauthorized because it lacks that permission. The Forest Society is also seeking a permanent injunction preventing Northern Pass from taking any action on the Washburn property without the conservation organization’s permission.
Furthermore, the Forest Society has called on the SEC to declare Northern Pass Transmission’s application incomplete because the applicant cannot show that it has the property rights necessary to build the project and the SEC has no authorization to grant such rights.
"The Forest Society has a legal and ethical obligation to defend our conserved lands against commercial development such as Northern Pass," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society in a written release. "Northern Pass cannot show that it has the property rights it would need to build the facility it is looking to permit through the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Nor does Northern Pass, as a merchant transmission project, have the ability to use any form of eminent domain to acquire those rights,” she added.
In a response on its Project Journal, Northern Pass said it was disappointed but not surprised by the Forest Society’s actions. The project developer said it is confident its application meets legal requirements.
“We are confident that our SEC application meets the standards outlined in NH statutes and SEC rules, and that the Forest Society’s claims to the contrary have no basis in fact or law,” said the statement.
Northern Pass charged it is hypocritical of the Forest Society to oppose burying the line on the Washburn property after it has long advocated for burying the entire route.
Attorneys for the Forest Society said they do not believe Northern Pass, as a merchant transmission project, can use eminent domain to acquire property rights to the Clarksville land. And Difley indicated it is unlikely that the Forest Society will allow use of the Washburn Family Forest tract.
"And given that they are proposing to use our land to facilitate miles of overhead line where there are no transmission towers today, we aren’t likely to let them dig in our dirt,” she said.
Northern Pass released an updated plan in August that proposed to bury an additional 52-miles of the line along public roads to avoid the line passing through the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch. Adding in the eight miles in Clarksville, Northern Pass is proposing to bury 60 miles of the line.
The N.H. Business and Industry Association expressed concern about the Forest Society lawsuit, stressing that it is not taking sides on the project itself. In a release, the BIA said it is worried that the lawsuit is “designed simply to delay or thwart” the project.
“If so, this is an inappropriate attempt to circumvent laws already in place that govern the approval process for siting such projects. Energy infrastructure projects proposed in New Hampshire should succeed or fail by working their way through the open and transparent siting process overseen by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. They should not be needlessly hindered by lawsuits,” said the BIA release.

N.H. bobcat season open for discussion

By Daymond Steer
The Conway Daily Sun

Should there be a modest bobcat hunt in New Hampshire? Both biologists and trappers say there are plenty of bobcats to support a limited season, but animal rights activists say a hunt would be unnecessary and cruel.

Last month, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission voted to move forward with the creation of a limited bobcat hunt that could involve a lottery-type system for 50 licenses. The number of licenses and other details are subject to change. But the rules under consideration would allow sportspeople to take bobcats by hunting or trapping. Bobcat hunting/trapping has been banned in New Hampshire since 1989 but surrounding states have seasons.

"It would be much like the moose lottery," said David Patch, Carroll County's Fish and Game commissioner, who noted there is a bobcat season in all the surrounding states. "Nobody is going to get more than one bobcat."

Fish and Game is holding two biennial public hearings in December that involve general concerns about Fish and Game. The first meeting is Dec. 9 in Concord and the second is Dec. 17 in Lancaster.The proposed bobcat hunt will likely be brought up by members of the public.

Public hearings dedicated to the bobcat hunt have yet to be scheduled but are likely to occur next year. Patch said he voted in favor of moving the rule forward last month so public input coan be gathered. The vote was 7-3.

"My job is to listen to my constituents and take their concerns to Concord," said Patch, adding he will keep an open mind up to the conclusion of the public process.

The rule-making process begins with a proposal from the department divisions and the commission. Then a public comment period lasts about a month. After reviewing public comments, the commission may amend the proposal. The final proposal is sent to a joint committee of state senators and representatives. After that, a proposed rule is sent back to the Fish and Game director for signature. This process takes between six to nine months.

If approved as now envisioned, bobcat trapping would take place in December and hunting season in January.

Bobcats reach about 35 pounds and 49 inches in length. Their coat can range between yellow brown and gray. Their coat has spots and streaks. Bobcats' ears are tufted. They have stubby tails, hence the name. A study of bobcats, conducted between 1951 and 1962, shows bobcats eat rabbits, deer, hares, squirrels, voles, shrews, porcupines and birds.

Fish and Game says there are somewhere between 1,400 and 2,200 bobcats in New Hampshire and that the population has rebounded after the ban went into effect. Based on research conducted with the University of New Hampshire, Fish and Game believes the bobcat population could support a harvest of 77 cats per year.

Even if 50 licenses were to be awarded, that doesn't mean 50 cats will be killed, as some hunters and trappers will surely come up empty-handed, Patch said.

There were bounties for bobcats, on again, off again, in New Hampshire from 1809 to 1973. Bounties would range from $1 per bobcat from 1832-95 to up to $20 from 1929 through 1973.

New Hampshire Trappers Association President Paul DeBow of Plymouth agrees there is a good number of bobcats in the state. "We have bobcats pouring out of our woods," said DeBow.

The association released this statement:

"The N.H. Trappers Association supports the NH Fish and Game Department's proposed bobcat season as it is based on sound biological principles. Recent scientific studies by the University of N.H. have shown that the bobcat population in N.H. is healthy enough to sustain an annual harvest. NHTA believes that the sportsmen and woman of the Granite State should be able to make use of wildlife resources, and we turn to Fish and Game to continue its commitment in providing access and sound management of those resources."

A Fish and Game study of bobcat mortality from 2007-14 shows the leading cause of bobcat mortality is moter vehicle accidents. In 2012, nearly 40 bobcats were killed by cars. In 2013, that number was 30. Back in 2007, fewer than 10 bobcats were killed by cars and slightly more were killed in traps.

Patch said Fish and Game is trying to craft a fair compromise between those who believe the animals shouldn't be hunted and those who say they can.

Lindsay Hamrick of the Humane Society of the United States is following the issue closely. Her organization opposes lifting the ban. She said the commission may approve more specific language at a meeting (not a public hearing) on Dec. 9.

"From there, the rules outlining a season will be made public and the public hearing/public comment period will be triggered," said Hamrick.

"They have to wait at least 20 days once the rules are published to schedule a hearing so we are probably looking at early or mid January."
Hamrick said Fish and Game has been at a deficit for years. She said a requirement of sitting on the 11-member Fish and Game Commission is an active hunting, fishing or trapping license for the last five years. She said there have been moves in the legislature to allow for a 12th commissioner with a conservation or biology background but not necessarily a sporting license. These commissioners are appointed by the governor.

Unsurprisingly, longtime animal rights activist Laura Slitt of Bartlett opposes the proposal. According to Slitt, there aren't that many bobcats in New Hampshire and that their numbers are self- regulating and will not overpopulate.

"The best argument against the bobcat hunt is that there is no good reason to do so," said Slitt. "The director of the N.H. Fish and Game Department stated the reason for doing it is to provide opportunities to hunters and trappers, a minute portion of N.H. citizens. That is not a good enough reason to kill a valuable predator that we need more of and not less."

She said predators help reduce problems with parasitic diseases.

Non-profits Voices of Wildlife opposes the hunt for similar reasons.

"Many Granite Staters said they would be thrilled to be able to see a bobcat," said Helen Tam-Semmens of Stoddard. "Over 10,000 Granite Staters have signed the petition to Save the Bobcat in N.H. and oppose to killing bobcats."

Patch said of all the states in the Northeast, New Hampshire has done the most research on bobcats.

Anyone trying to find out if they have any bobcats nearby would be advised to search for tracks, say UNH's bobcat research website (

The rear pad of a bobcat's paw is M-shaped, while a coyote paw's rear pad resembles and upside-down "Y."

A bobcat siting map on the UNH website shows bobcats have been spotted all over the state since 1990. The most range from Nashua to Concord. There were 411 sightings from 2010-12. There were also sightings in Madison, Tamworth and Bartlett. Sightings north of Conway tended to be on the western side of the state and thin out in the far north.

Dwight Pennell, 61, of Tuftonboro, is one of the Trapping Association's Directors from Carroll County. The other is his wife, Bonnie. Dwight has been trapping since he was 14 years old. He says the local bobcats' coat has less spots than the western bobcats. People generally either mount the trophies or make wall rugs.

An Internet search shows pelts also are made into hats and vests.

When caught in coyote traps, bobcats can be released unharmed. However, they would be mortally wounded if taken in tree traps designed for fishers. When that happens, the bobcat's carcass has to be turned over to New Hampshire Fish and Game.

"We can't keep bobcats right now," said Pennell.

Releasing a bobcat takes a little patience. Coyotes and foxes can only bite, but bobcats can bite and scratch with sharp claws. So, says Pennell, one has to wait till a bobcat gets tired before going to release them.

"I'd rather releases a bobcat any day than let a raccoon go," said Pennell adding that raccoons are like little bears with a lot of endurance.

Trappers use .22-caliber firearms to dispatch coyotes with a shot to the head. Pennell said trappers would do the same for bobcats if a season were legalized.

Contrary to popular belief, leg traps don't break the animals' legs, and trapped animals don't attempt to chew their legs off, but they may bite at the trap. The traps merely restrain the animal. Generally, traps must be checked every 24 hours. It would take 48 hours for an animal to lose circulation or feeling in their leg. In fact, leg traps are designed with offset jaws to prevent loss of circulation, he said. 

"Every trapper I know has been caught several times, and they still have all their hands and fingers," said Pennell.