Sarah Gibson

Reporter

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on New Hampshire's southern tier.

Sarah came to New Hampshire from New York City, where she was a producer at WNYC. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, her stories have appeared on WBAI, Alaska Public Media, and in The Village Voice. Prior to journalism, Sarah worked with non-profits in North Carolina and studied History at Brown University. She grew up in rural Vermont.

Ways to Connect

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A school funding lawsuit filed last week against the state is getting some support. The Monadnock School District announced Tuesday it’s joining the ConVal School District’s efforts to sue the state over education funding. 

 

The lawsuit claims the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to pay for an adequate education and it seeks millions more in funding.

 

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The Town Meeting numbers are in: the electronic gambling game Keno is coming to at least 18 more towns this year, bumping the total of New Hampshire towns and cities allowing the game to 84.

Two more towns - Conway and Merrimack - will decide on Keno during local elections in April.

The state approved the game in 2017, but left it up to voters to decide whether to allow the game in their local bars and restaurants.

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The Suncook Valley Sun, a community newspaper serving the towns of Pittsfield, Barnstead, Chichester, Northwood, and Epsom, is shutting down later this month.

The free paper was delivered weekly to about 8,000 residents. It included press releases about community events and fundraisers, as well as articles, obituaries and letters to the editor from area residents.

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Towns in Southern New Hampshire are moving ahead with a major construction project to increase water supply to the region.

On Tuesday, voters in Salem approved a deal to buy over a million gallons of water per day from Manchester Water Works.

The water will be sold to residents in Salem and other nearby towns facing water shortages due to increasing population and limited local water sources.

John Phelan / Wikipedia Creative Commons

In a move that surprised many education funding advocates, the ConVal School District in southwestern New Hampshire filed a lawsuit today against the state, claiming lawmakers have failed to fund an adequate education.

The complaint names the state of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Department of Education, Governor Sununu and DOE Commissioner Frank Edelblut as defendants.

It says the "adequacy aid" that the state sends to districts needs to triple to meet basic requirements laid out in state law.

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School districts across New Hampshire are deciding on their annual budgets this month. Many are facing spending increases and tough decisions due in part to loss of funding from the state.

NHPR’s Sarah Gibson attended the annual school district meeting in Hopkinton this weekend to hear how people there are weighing big budget proposals against concerns over rising property taxes.

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Corinne Cascadden, the Superintendent of Schools in Berlin, is stepping down this June. Cascadden served for over 20 years as an elementary school principal and for 10 years as superintendent.

She was an often outspoken critic of lawmakers in Concord over the issue of state education aid, which pays for much of Berlin's school budget.

This aid is declining annually, which Cascadden blames for the district's recent decision to close Brown Elementary, its last stand-alone elementary school.

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Governor Sununu unveiled a website Thursday he's calling a "one-stop shop" for resources on school safety.

 

The website highlights the 59 recommendations from The School Safety Preparedness Task Force, which Sununu convened in the wake of the Parkland school shooting last year.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

 

Lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would require suicide prevention education for all New Hampshire public school staff and students.

At a hearing before the Senate Eduation and Workforce Development Committe on Monday, the bill's primary sponsor, Republican Jeb Bradley, said suicide is the second leading cause of death in the state for people ages 10 to 24, and he warned that rates are rising.

 

State senators will hear testimony Monday on a bill that would prohibit discrimination in New Hampshire's public schools.

 

Salem is considering a deal with Manchester Water Works to buy over a million gallons of water per day for residents in Salem and nearby towns.

The deal would be part of the proposed Southern New Hampshire Regional Water Interconnection Project, which would route water from Lake Massabesic, near Manchester, through a pipe that would be built with existing state money along Route 28.

Salem Selectman Robert Bryant says Salem's major local water source, Lake Canobie, has suffered from recent droughts and can't meet the demand of a growing population.

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Manchester's Amoskeag Fishways, the state’s largest urban environmental education center, is scaling down its operations next week.

The center is located at Amoskeag dam along the Merrimack River. For nearly 25 years, New Hampshire Audabon has run it, offering free environmental and marine education to around 25,000 people each year.

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Natacha Davis is juggling a lot these days. She’s living with her mom, raising her three kids, and training to become a recovery coach to help people overcome addiction.

On a recent evening, she was running out the door for an A.A. meeting in Nashua. As she grabbed her keys, she peered into a Puerto Rican plantain stew simmering on the stove.

“Mom is the food done yet?”

“Not yet!” Her mom answered.

“Alright Mom. I love you. I’ll be back,” Davis opened the door. “You heard me? I love you.”

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

Three major education funding bills cleared the House on Monday.

HB 177 stops the state from reducing aid to districts, called stabilization grants, and restores it to 2016 levels for the next two years.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rick Ladd of Haverhill, said this provides temporary relief while they figure out a longer-term funding plan.

Courtesy photo

 

Manchester Police Chief Carl Capano says he's rolling out a new way to grant paid days off to officers for exceptional service.

The policy, called "employee incentive days," will replace the practice of "chief days," which came under fire last year, when an internal audit revealed that police chiefs had rewarded officers with paid days off for nearly two decades without a clear system for doing so.

Cheryl Senter / NHPR

 

Inmates with substance use disorder will now have someone to help them get recovery services after they leave state prison.

The initiative was piloted in 2018 in the women's prison in Concord and is now expanding to the men's prison in Berlin.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Helen Hanks says re-entry coordinators are needed because so many people in prison are struggling with addiction and many are in recovery. They face a high chance of recidivism or overdosing post release.

C. Hanchey via Flickr CC

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess says the city needs to focus on housing, green energy, and infrastructure to attract more young people.

In his State of the City address on Tuesday night, Donchess said his office is helping to convert the former railyard downtown into the 'Rail Yard District' with 150 housing units.

He said the 500-700 seat performing arts center in downtown Nashua should be up and running within two years.

Bedford School District

 

A threat of violence at Bedford Middle and High School lead to an early dismissal of both schools  Monday.

 

Administrators and police learned about the threat in a note during the morning and decided to dismiss students bus by bus, with police standing guard. 

 

The early dismissal did not affect other schools in the district.

 

The incident is currently under investigation, but officials say there is no ongoing threat, and school resumed Tuesday.

 

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The State Board of Education is getting public feedback on proposed Learn Everywhere rules that would make it easier for students to get high school credit for extracurricular activities.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut helped develop Learn Everywhere in response to legislation passed in Spring 2018. 

joycecraig.org

 

In her State of the City address, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig says her office will focus this year on tackling education and homelessness and encouraging economic develpment.

 

"In the last 10 years, cuts in state aid have cost Manchester more than $50 million," she said Wednesday. "And with a state surplus of over $128 million for this year alone, it’s unacceptable for the state to not restore state aid for education."

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu is back from a five-day trip to city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The trip revolved around a gathering of leaders called the World Government Summit.

According to the governor's office, Sununu spent the first part of his Dubai trip working on New Hampshire issues, notably the state budget, which he will announce this Thursday.

He then joined New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen and Energy Secretary Rick Perry for a retreat at the Prince of Dubai’s desert camp. There, Sununu led a session on supporting “individualized pathways” for students.

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Latino immigrants in Manchester now have a place to go for free referral services. 

The Centro Latino de Hospitalidad, located at the Catholic parish St. Anne-St. Augustin, aims to become the central place for Latinos to get help figuring out where to go for things like housing and legal services.

The center will be open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and be staffed by volunteers from Sisters of Mercy and local colleges, with help from the Granite State Organizing Project.

Credit Johannes Thiel via Flickr cc

 

The ConVal School District is deciding whether to push the start time for middle and high school from 7:35 to 8:35 to give students more time to sleep.

Board member Janine Lesser says research shows adolescents need 10-12 hours of sleep each night.

“When they get that sleep there are all kinds of positive outcomes, from their academics to their health to their social well-being,” she says.

Portsmouth, Oyster River, and Keene have opted for later school start times.

https://www.facebook.com/firstchurchrochester/

The First Church Congregational of Rochester and a recovery center that operates in it are suing the city of Rochester for trying to shut the center down. 

The SOS Recovery Community Center, a program of Goodwin Community Health, uses a wing of the church to offer services to hundreds of people seeking help with addiction each month.

N.H. Department of Education

New Hampshire has approved the state’s first new university in six years - and it’s not your typical college.

Signum University offers online classes on sci-fi and fantasy literature, with topics ranging from Anglo-Saxon language to J.R.R. Tolkien.

It currently has 85 students in the MA program. The students pay tuition per course, with each course costing $650.

Paige Sutherland / NHPR

For the second year in a row, Lebanon City Council has voted against putting the electronic gambling game Keno in front of voters.

 

After a lengthy debate on Wednesday night, the City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal from the American Legion to put Keno on the ballot.

 

Lebanon would have joined over 20 New Hampshire towns deciding next month whether to allow Keno at local bars and restaurants.

N.H. Department of Safety Website

New Hampshire's Department of Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes is retiring after 12 years on the job and 43 years in public safety.

Barthelmes oversees one of the state's largest agencies, which includes State Police, the DMV, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the Division of Fire Safety.

 

He says one of his main accomplishments was overseeing the 2008 merger of the State Police and Highway Patrol and overhaul of the State Police Officer recruitment process.

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More than 5,000 visitors and dozens of farm animals are descending on the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Manchester for this weekend's New Hampshire Farm and Forest Expo.

The annual event features workshops and trade booths on the state’s farming and forestry industry, as well as kid-friendly booths with farm animals and craft demonstrations.

Gesturing toward a crowd gazing at goats, organizer and state forester A.J. Dupere says visitors come from a mix of backgrounds.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Amanda Cordier has been thinking about moving her kids out of the Manchester school district, but after a "Save our Schools" forum at Memorial High School on Thursday, she's worried school funding woes will follow her.

 

"I knew that Manchester definitely has funding problems, but it was a big eye-opener for me that the whole state is impacted," Cordier said. "It’s not just us and our little community. It’s a problem statewide.”

 

Via Concord High School website

 

Statehouse lawmakers heard over two hours of testimony today on a bill to overhaul the state's current school discipline law.

HB 677 would limit the length of out-of-school suspensions for theft, destruction, violence or possessing a firearm to ten consecutive days.

If students were suspended for more than a total of ten days per school year, their school would be required to provide them with an assessment and services.

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