Winnacunnet Hosts G.O.P. Hopefuls

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First G. W. Bush, then gubernatorial candidates speak to voters at Winnacunnet Community Auditorium

By Nancy Rineman

Atlantic News, September 7, 2000

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
PUTTING EMPHASIS ON EDUCATION -- Republican Presidential Candidate George W. Bush (above) addressed Winnacunnet High School juniors and seniors during his visit to the school last week. During his speech, Bush outlined his campaign proposals in a variety of areas that included education, free trade, and health care.
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- Winnacunnet High School continues to be an important venue for upcoming elections as Republican gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to participate in a live forum in the school auditorium on Thursday, September 7 from 7-8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by both the Hampton and the Rockingham County Republican Committees, the event will be moderated by Bernadette Malone Connolly of the Manchester Union Leader.

The public forum will give New Hampshire Republican candidates for governor an opportunity to answer questions and present their solutions to specific problems currently faced by the state.

This will be a second major Republican-centered event at the high school in as many weeks.

Last week, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush made a scheduled stop at the school while campaigning in the Granite State.

A capacity crowd of 750 people filled the high school auditorium for the early morning August 30 event, with 500 juniors and seniors claiming the student spots. The visit was restricted to Winnacunnet students, faculty and press, along with a number of invited town officials and state dignitaries, and was touted as a vehicle for Bush to reveal his platform for education reform.

"Make no mistake — I'm here asking for the vote," Bush told his student audience, after being introduced by Winnacunnet Student Body President Andrea Hadfield. "For those of you who are 18 by election day, I'd like your vote," he said.

Bush, who was joined by US Senators Bob Smith and Judd Gregg, as well as Congressmen John E. Sununu and Charles Bass, told students, "These four people show that politicians can be noble and worthy, with character, integrity and honesty for the offices which they hold."

In his speech, which ran just shy of 20 minutes, Bush outlined a litany of campaign proposals he said he hopes to enact if elected in November, most notably free trade, court reform, and tax relief, as well as available and affordable health care insurance. Bush also stressed the need for improving the country's military system.

"I want to keep the peace," Bush said. "I intend to rebuild the military power of the Unites States of America to keep the peace." Bush also made special mention of the need to keep prosperity high, especially that prosperity he attributed to the efforts of entrepreneurs and the people who run small businesses.

On the issue of education, Bush criticized the current administration for the achievement gap which he claims exists between those students who do well and those who fall behind. His education reform plans include requiring state tests every year for all public school students in grades 3-8 in reading and math, making sure that schools "meet the standard," thereby eliminating the current problem where some students are reaching high school without being able to read. Bush added that as far as schools in New Hampshire are concerned, local people should be trusted to control the schools.

"I will meet with Congress to trust teachers, parents and students to make the right decisions all across America," Bush said.

Bush unveiled his plan for affordable education, adding that he hoped the audience of students he was addressing would choose higher education as one of their goals. The Texas governor said that as president, he will fully fund the Pell grant program for first-year students by increasing the maximum grant amount from $3300 to $5100, a step he said will encourage 800,000 low-income students every year to enter and complete college.

In addition, Bush said he would "raise the bar" for students by establishing a $1.5 billion "College Challenge" grant to cover one-third of state costs to establish a merit scholarship program that rewards students to take an advanced or recommended curriculum in high school. To help families save for the higher costs of education, the Bush plan calls for expanding education savings accounts to allow families or individuals to contribute up to $5000 annually per child into education savings accounts, and withdrawing funds tax-free.

"It depends on you students to seize the moment, make the right choices, realize the American dream," Bush told Winnacunnet students. "The best of this great land lies in the souls and hearts of our citizens," he concluded to a standing ovation.

Following the event, WHS junior Jim Ellis of Hampton commented, "I thought he did a really good job — I hope he can do a great job for our country." Although Ellis will not have reached voting age by election time, he said that given the opportunity, he would vote for Bush.

Jason Buckley, a staff member of the Winnachronicle, the school newspaper, said he found it interesting to come into the school that day with all the excitement outside.

"I think it's a good idea bringing him to Hampton," Buckley said, as he waited to take a photo before Bush exited through a rear door of the building nearly an hour later. "What could be bigger than having a potential president at your school?" The junior from Hampton, who will not be of voting age this year, said if he were voting, he would vote for Bush because 'Bush has a lot of good issues' that are going to be beneficial to us down the road."

Junior Miranda Crowley of North Hampton said that while she agreed with much of what Bush said about education, she had doubts about his plans to achieve those goals. While other students polled were hesitant to officially comment on Bush or his political platform, most said they considered it a rare opportunity to be students at a high school visited by a presidential candidate.

Congressman John E. Sununu described the day as a "great event for the students."

"It's great for the students to interact with Bush," Sununu said. "He has put a tremendous emphasis on education." Sununu said Bush's plans will provide a firm foundation for good living and improving family life. "It's an investment that pays back over a person's life," Sununu added.

Winnacunnet administrators had nothing but praise for the juniors and seniors forming the audience that day.

"I thought it was wonderful," WHS Principal Judeanne Langlois said immediately following Bush's speech. "I'm so proud of the students of Winnacunnet High School." Langlois said she felt that everything went smoothly, due to the great efforts of Associate Principals Dick Ray and Fred Muscara, and Dean of Students Eric Peltz.

WHS gets high marks in preparation

By Nancy Rineman

Atlantic News, September 7, 2000

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HAMPTON -- When Winnacunnet High School Associate Principal Dick Ray first received word that Republican presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush might be making a stop here, he and other administrators as well as school officials had to weigh the pros and cons.

"We could see that it was going to be a big production," Ray said the day following the visit. But given the experience of the event, Ray said he and other decision makers knew they had to consider the students first.

The call initiated by Barbara Russell, New Hampshire co-chairman of the Bush camp, sparked a flurry of excitement and activity both inside and out, as the press advance people for Bush did a walk-through of the facility, mapping out areas for the press and the cameras. Ray described the entire procedure as a "group effort" on the part of a number of Winnacunnet individuals, especially Associate Principal Fred Muscara and Dean of Students Eric Peltz. Monday and Tuesday, the two days before Bush's visit, were particularly busy, Ray said.

"There were some inconveniences," Ray said. "There was a flexible tone throughout the day."

Ray said setting up for the CNN interactive interview held with Bush following his speech to students involved a whole other layer of preparation.

"They needed a room," Ray said, so CNN people used one of the dressing rooms off the stage, where a set was made for them. A bookcase usually located in Principal Judeann Langlois' office was brought in, as were furniture and curtains, according to Ray.

"The CNN people knew this was an inconvenience, and did all the legwork," Ray said. In addition, seven new phone lines were requested for CNN as well as another phone line which was requested by the secret service.

At 7:30 that Wednesday morning, one hour before Bush's scheduled entrance into the auditorium, members of the secret service cleared the auditorium and did a sweep with bomb-sniffing dogs. Following that, members of the press, students, faculty and invited guests entered through various assigned doors, as two classes, one a public speaking class and one an honors world literature, assembled on stage seating set up behind the speaker's podium.

"The kids responded marvelously," Ray said, adding that all students had been advised that the secret service were to be taken seriously, and no verbal "jokes" regarding Bush's visit would be taken lightly. Ray said teachers talking to their students prior to the event stressed the kids' need to "watch their comments."

As part of the greeting committee, Ray said he had a chance to wax nostalgic as he was introduced to Bush. Ray said 20 years earlier during the 1980 primary he had the opportunity to meet George Bush Sr., shaking hands with him not five feet from where he shook hands with George W. Bush last Wednesday. A third Bush, George P., nephew of George W., spoke to a Senior Seminar Class at Winnacunnet just last year.

Captain Jamie Sullivan of the Hampton Police Department, who was on site Wednesday, said everything went smoothly, and that the added police detail was just an expanded version of what was done every day, providing back-up for School Resource Officer Richard Sawyer. Sullivan said the Hampton patrol was there to assist with traffic enforcement, and to deal with those who were supposed to be on the grounds.

Peltz and Muscara described the entire proceedings as having gone "very smoothly," and joined Langlois and Ray in praise of Winnacunnet High students.

"The whole experience was a test of how we can stretch," Ray said. "Everyone arose to the occasion."

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