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Men involved in Charlestown aircraft crash identified
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CHARLESTOWN — One man died and another was injured late Saturday afternoon when a light aircraft they were riding in crashed at Morningside Flight Park, according to a news release from the Charlestown Police Department.

Paul Harrison, 54, of Ryegate, Vt., was found dead at the scene, according to police. The other occupant of the aircraft, identified as Ilya Rivkin, 47, of Windham, Maine, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police say.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause and circumstances of the crash, according to police.

At about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the town’s dispatch center was alerted to the crash of an ultra-light single-engine aircraft, which was carrying two men. First responders arrived at the scene to find Harrison dead. Rivkin was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Charlestown Police Chief Patrick Connors declined to provide further details of the incident.

In addition to Charlestown police and fire departments, N.H. State Police, Claremont Fire Department and Golden Cross Ambulance Service assisted on the scene, according to information provided by local police Saturday.


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Arch in Madame Sherri Forest stairway collapses

A local landmark took a hit over the weekend. The upper portion of the staircase at the ruins in Madame Sherri Forest collapsed, according to numerous reports from visitors who posted about the ruins on Facebook.

The collapse appears to have occurred sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, according to posts. The Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, which owns the property, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The site is the former home of Madame Antoinette Sherri, who was known for throwing lavish parties there, according to the Society’s website. When the property burned down in the early 1960s, the staircase, and a few other remnants of the structure, remained intact.


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Awaiting state guidance, teachers consider how ‘divisive concepts’ law will affect lessons

For a history teacher, Ryan Richman’s assignments are often firmly rooted in the present day.

Every week, students in Richman’s world history class at Timberlane Regional High School receive a simple assignment: find an event in the news, bring it to class, and be prepared to discuss its connections with the past.

The results vary, but a clear theme emerges.

“Nine times out of 10, they are stories about oppression,” Richman said. “They’re stories about exclusionism. They’re about the Rohingya genocide, they’re about the Uyghur genocide, which are going on right this second. They’re about Black Lives Matter.”

The class gets to work, connecting the conflicts of today to historical patterns of conquest, subjugation, and oppression.

It’s the kind of instruction that could now run into problems. A new update to the anti-discrimination laws in the state budget prohibits instruction that one race, gender, or class is inherently advantaged or superior to another, or that one group is consciously or unconsciously oppressive.

Richman has no idea whether it will affect his class, or that instruction. Many of his peers don’t either.

Meanwhile, teachers in New Hampshire are awaiting advice from the Department of Education on how to interpret the state’s new anti-discrimination law — and how they should be designing their curricula around it.

Guidance is expected soon. The department is planning to release a “technical advisory” to teachers sometime this week, Commissioner Frank Edelblut said in an interview last week.

That advisory will aim to delineate exactly how the new teaching prohibitions will apply in the classroom, Edelblut said. The Department of Education passed it over to the state Attorney General’s Office for final review last week, Edelblut said.

“My goal is that it’s going to be a useful technical advisory so that people can feel comfortable and there’s not some ambiguity around what somebody should or shouldn’t be talking about,” Edelblut said.

But some teachers wonder how helpful any guidance will be as they attempt to navigate a law that could have professional consequences if they misinterpret it.

Under the new law, any violation of one of the new requirements by a teacher “shall be considered a violation of the educator code of conduct that justifies disciplinary sanction by the State Board of Education.”

The upshot: Beyond sparking a lawsuit against a school, teachers in violation could land in personal trouble and have their credentials threatened.

The Department of Education does not plan to change the state’s educator code of conduct — which helps the Board of Education make disciplinary decisions — to meet the new law. “I don’t anticipate that we’ll need to update the code,” Edelblut said in the interview.

Without a change to that code, teachers are left to interpret the department’s guidance and the law itself.

The inquiry method

The new teaching law comes as social studies classes have embraced new teaching methods. Gone is the strategy of rote memorization of dates and battle names. In its place is a model by which students lead discussion of thorny historical issues, and use research to arrive at their own conclusions.

Known as the “inquiry method,” the approach means teachers veer away from providing direct answers to difficult questions, instead asking questions to help provoke suggestions from students themselves.

“Instead of telling kids what caused the Civil War, you give students the evidence, and you say, ‘What do you think caused the Civil War?’ ” said Kelsie Eckert, a social studies teacher at Moltonborough Academy and the current board president of the N.H. Council for the Social Studies.

One approach used by many teachers is “four corners” debates. In her classes, Eckert might pose a provocative question — such as, “Should the United States have dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?” — and divide the classroom into four physical corners.

Corner one might adhere to popular history: Yes, dropping both bombs was the only way to win World War II. Corner two might have an alternate view: No, America should have stopped after the first bomb. Corner three: No, the country should have used diplomacy and invited Japanese diplomats to observe a controlled detonation. Corner four: No, the military should have resorted to a ground invasion.

Thrown into a thorny decision, students start by picking a corner. Members of each corner are given an opportunity to explain their position and entice others to join. By the end some classmates may end in different corners than they started through persuasion and interaction.

Facilitated well, the technique can be powerful, a way for students to hone analytical skills and connect the dots from previous readings and lessons to form arguments.

Richman uses it to teach world history, asking fundamental questions about power and government that students can answer using global examples.

But exactly how the new teaching prohibitions might affect an open discussion or debate is unclear.

Supporters of the law say it doesn’t prevent those debates or nuanced discussions, arguing the intentions of the law have been misinterpreted. So long as no student feels singled out as being an inherent oppressor due to their race, gender, or class, conversations can be freewheeling, they argue.

Opponents warn that teachers might steer clear of open-ended discussions to avoid student insinuations that indicate one race or class systemically oppresses another — or shut it down prematurely.

“My gut reaction is I don’t really like the law because it’s not promoting discussion of ideas,” said Eckert, who is leaving K-12 education this fall and taking a role as professor of social studies education at Plymouth State University. “... You’re promoting a whitewashed version of American history and American government.”

Sometimes, all students migrate to one corner of the classroom on a particular topic, Eckert says. On those days, Eckert might walk to an empty corner herself and argue the counter point to drum up discussion.

They aren’t her personal views — she may be playing devil’s advocate or presenting a hypothetical. But Eckert still worries about it. What if a teacher is misinterpreted?

Because classroom teaching styles — and school management — can vary from school to school, Eckert said she isn’t sure how the law might be uniformly enforced. Often there are no other adults in the classroom to witness instruction. Those interpretations could make a difference.

“Are my students going to be turning me in?” she said.

Bystanderism

To Richman, the new law is built on a fallacy that the past can be cleaved from the present.

In order to discuss the historical oppression of a particular group, the most effective launching point for a teacher can be the present day, he said. That’s where the current events assignments come in.

“You can’t understand the crisis in Gaza if you don’t understand the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “You can’t understand why paramilitary groups in Africa are active and using the tactics they use if you don’t understand imperialism in the 19th century. You can’t understand why Russia is so authoritarian if you don’t understand the history of Eastern Europe. And so you can’t understand the present day world, and your role in it, if you have no frame of reference.”

But talking about oppression in the past can at times come uncomfortably close to suggesting that certain groups are systemically advantaged over others in the present day. That kind of instruction is not allowed under the law, but it could come up organically from the students during their assignments, posing a test for instructors, Richman said.

As a final exam question, Richman often includes a passage from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s speech on bystanderism during his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, and asks the students to connect it to a present-day issue. Most of the students — even the conservative ones — draw on racial oppression in the United States.

“Bystanderism permitted the Nazis to do exactly what they’re doing, and bystanderism plays a role in all aspects of oppression,” Richman says. “They’re making those connections, and to pretend that our students aren’t smart enough to realize that, I think isn’t just a disservice. I think it is an insult.”

As they wait for the guidance, some teachers are evaluating how they teach. But Richman, who’s taught for 18 years, says he’s sticking to his current methods.

“I won’t be intimidated,” he said. “I won’t be badgered into whitewashing the experience that my students deserve. So if I get in trouble, I welcome it.”

Still, the new law could affect the behavior of younger or newer teachers with fewer protections, he added.

Under New Hampshire law, public school teachers have a five-year waiting period before they can achieve tenure. Before a teacher reaches that threshold, school districts can choose not to renew their contract without strongly stated reasons.

“Teachers that are newer, that are more concerned about making sure that they have their jobs and they have a livelihood, are going to feel the most pressure to kowtow to this political manipulation of curriculum,” Richman said. “Not talking about anything that could potentially ruffle any feathers at the expense of the students.”


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Women's sober homes lacking in the Monadnock Region
  • Updated

For 30 years, Renae deMello has abused alcohol.

The Keene resident sought out treatment for the first time recently, hoping to get a handle on her addiction.

“I didn’t enjoy it anymore,” said deMello, 42. “I didn’t get out of it what I used to. I have no job, I have no permanent residency, I’m kind of like couch surfing ... It was the next right step as far as starting new.”

She entered into a 28-day residential program at a women’s facility in Antrim on June 2. As soon as she was done, she headed to The Doorway — a referral service hub on Railroad Street in Keene — to figure out how to keep up with her sobriety.

For most, sober housing is the next step. But in the Monadnock Region, there are no women’s homes.

“There’s nothing like that available in this area,” deMello said. “My therapist is in Keene, my [primary-care provider] is in Keene, so I wanted to stay in this area. My life is kind of based here.”

The closest women’s homes in New Hampshire are at least an hour away, including facilities in Manchester or on the Seacoast. Even if she could swing being that far, deMello said her anxiety wouldn’t do well with city living.

Recently, a co-ed sober home opened in Bennington, only 30 minutes from Keene. And while deMello said she’d prefer a women’s home, it’s her only option.

“It is co-ed, so that’s the only part that’s a little intimidating to me, I guess,” she said. “I’ve had past trauma with men, so women’s facilities are a lot more comfortable, but if that’s what I can get, that’s what I’m going to take.”

Women’s sober homes in New Hampshire — and across the nation — are hard to come by. Only 35 percent of the available sober homes in the state are female, according to data provided by the N.H. Coalition of Recovery Residences.

They’re particularly scarce in the southwest region of the state, with only four homes — three for men in the Keene area, one co-ed in Bennington — available west of Interstate 93.

The reason? It’s complicated, state treatment providers say.

“It’s kind of a million-dollar question,” said Andrew West, director of business development for Sobriety Centers of New Hampshire. “... I don’t know why, but there are just less female homes.”

Sober homes offer people fresh in their recovery a safe space to live to maintain their sobriety after their treatment program, with staff helping clients transition back into every day life.

The homes are often gender-specific to limit distractions, and providers say most people do better in those settings.

“I’m a single woman, and I don’t plan on getting in a relationship any time soon, but I think that being with other women helps you focus on yourself. There isn’t an outside distraction,” deMello said.

While the need for women’s homes is recognized, women could be deterred from entering a sober-living facility — especially if it isn’t close to home — because they are often the sole caretakers of their children.

“Location is a big deal because if a woman has children and is trying to reunite with her family or if she is responsible for child care, recovery housing is out of the question,” said Kim Bock, founder and executive director of the N.H. Coalition of Recovery Residences.

There are a handful of women’s sober homes in New Hampshire that allow women to bring their children to remove this barrier, but again, they’re all on the other side of the state.

Women also tend to do better in smaller homes, with five to 10 beds, whereas men appear to be fine with 15- to 20-bed facilities. Financially, West said small-scale women’s homes are tough to swing.

“In order to really float a [small] program or make it worthwhile, you have to charge a lot, which a lot of women, or anyone, is not able to afford coming right off of treatment,” he said.

Ryan Gagne, executive director of Live Free Recovery Services in Keene and Manchester, said Live Free used to run a women’s sober home in Manchester, but the occupancy was “always up and down.”

Though the home has since closed, Gagne said there seems to be a greater need for it now.

“As of recently, when we’re trying to refer the women that called us that are looking for women-specific services, that’s getting harder,” he said. “And a lot of what we’ve been hearing is ‘Oh, I’ve been there and it’s not a good fit for me.’ ”

Suzanne Boisvert, former co-owner of Keene’s Prospect House sober-living facility on Water Street, had planned to open a sober home for women on Church Street in the near future.

But with the cost of materials skyrocketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she said it’s “not an option at this time.”

“It’s something I think our area definitely is in great need of,” Boisvert said. When “I owned Prospect House ... I would frequently get requests and calls for women, so I just felt that it was a big gap in our area.”

Nelson Hayden, executive director of The Doorway in Keene, said he has about two women per week come in asking to be put in sober housing.

Of those, he said “sometimes” they are comfortable with going to a women’s home out of town, but having a facility in the region would be helpful.

“This is a huge disservice to women trying to get into these homes,” he said.

He added that without these local homes available, it can be difficult for someone to maintain sobriety.

“They often say if somebody makes it to a year, then they have a good chance at sustaining abstinence,” Hayden said, “but getting to that year is a tough situation. And without sober supports, peer supports, it makes it harder.”

Bock, of N.H. Coalition of Recovery Residences, said the coalition — in collaboration with other organizations statewide — is working to best identify the underserved populations, including women and those that live on the west side of New Hampshire.

“Once we can determine the needs ... I think we will find people develop some more women’s homes,” she said.

Because for women like deMello, the problem isn’t going away.

“We’ve got plenty of abandoned buildings in Keene ... I don’t see what the big deal is and why there isn’t one. It would be so helpful,” she said. “I’m already doing all that I can.”

For immediate assistance, Cheshire County residents can visit The Doorway — a referral hub for people to get help with substance use disorders — at 24 Railroad St. in Keene. The Doorway is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Support through the state’s 24/7 hotline is available at 211.

This article has been changed to correct the spelling of Suzanne Boisvert's first name.


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Delay in US Census data creating redistricting headaches
  • Updated

Keene will follow the lead of another New Hampshire community as it looks to adjust its redistricting process following news that data from the U.S. Census Bureau would be significantly delayed.

Last month, City Clerk Patty Little asked the council to consider an amendment to the city charter that would allow Keene to accommodate the late delivery of the census information, which isn’t expected until Sept. 30. The change would involve removing ward boundaries from the city charter and enabling the council to make decisions about boundary changes, rather than leaving it to the voters.

On Thursday, during a meeting of the council’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee, Little said she shared charters from Lebanon, Concord and Nashua — which have already made this change — with City Attorney Tom Mullins for him to consider.

“He reviewed all of those documents, and he indicated that the model from Nashua really ... was succinct,” she said. “It said everything it needed to say and would be a good model for us to use.”

However, Little noted that the city plans to leave out some of the provisions in the Nashua model, including one that enables the council to initiate a redistricting effort outside of the 10-year federal requirement.

Little also expressed concern with Nashua’s 30-day notice requirement for public hearings related to redistricting — instead supporting Keene’s existing seven-day notice requirement — and with Nashua’s requirement that informational sessions be held in each ward, which she said could create logistical challenges in Keene.

Every 10 years, municipalities across the country are legally required to complete a redistricting process, informed by updated census information that is used by municipalities to determine where to set boundaries. Keene usually completes this process by August, more than a month before the this year’s census information is expected.

“This is a remedy that every New Hampshire city is going to face that currently has its voters adopting ward lines,” she said. “We are all going to have to shift away from having our ward line descriptions in the charter and move it to the city council, just to give us this opportunity to respond to the delay of the census data.”

In addition to removing the ward boundaries from the city charter and designating the council as the authority for approving ward changes, the amendment would establish a process for redistricting that would be outlined in the city code, rather than the charter. It would also include a provision that says ward councilors whose homes end up in a new district would be allowed to serve out the remainder of their terms.

While in the past ward-line changes have been put to a vote in the form of a ballot question, this year voters will instead be asked whether to give that authority to the council.

“Our objective is to have the ballot question on November 2021 municipal ballot,” Little said.

The redistricting process will affect Keene’s five wards, each of which is represented by two city councilors. Each ward also has various election officers, whom voters select during the city’s annual elections.

Redistricting at the city level also affects the process at the state level, with each ward representing a different legislative district under the current map.

Little has said that in the past that having ward lines and state district lines not match up has resulted in some people being required to vote for certain offices at one polling place and other offices at another. Getting the city’s redistricting process done in time for it to be used during the state redistricting process is one of the major reasons for the proposed charter amendment, she said.

The Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the proposed charter amendment for Aug. 19.


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