By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, September 2, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
SNIP! -- A long- anticipated ribbon cutting took place at last week's dedication ceremony of Winnacunnet High School's new athletic facility. School board members taking part in the milestone event were (from left), Robert Phillips, Chris Singleton, Chairman Sue Kepner, Brenda Quackenbush and Maria Brown. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- Sincere words of appreciation, gratitude and pride were expressed last Friday evening as members of the Winnacunnet community dedicated the school’s brand new physical education facility.
About 100 people gathered by the front doors of the stately brick building — located just steps away from the school’s new math and science wing construction site — to hear comments offered by individuals involved in the project, prior to the ceremonial cutting of a white ribbon marking the momentous occasion.
"It’s my privilege to be up here to say 'thank you’ from the students at Winnacunnet for this marvelous, marvelous building," said SAU21 Superintendent Jim Gaylord as he addressed the crowd, which included parents, students, teachers, government officials, coaches and many others from across the community.
Gaylord reflected upon how it was "a five year process to get the [$26.85 million] bond [approved] and a six-year process to get to here." Acknowledging the support of those taxpayers who approved the building project, Gaylord said, "I have never seen a vote of quite that magnitude. For the kids, I thank you."
Also speaking at the event was Architect Frank Marinace, who commented, "I think this building is going to be the best building we’ve ever done. I hope the only thing we’ve done [wrong] is make your trophy cases too small!" Dan Mercier of ProCon said that in 70 years of his company constructing schools, "This is one of the most functional and attractive buildings we’ve ever worked on. Congratulations; it’s a beautiful building."
WHS Principal Randy Zito recalled how, when the town "first plopped down a school building" on the site of the Johnson family farm more than 30 years ago, it was sized for 400 students. When the first game was played in the gymnasium, it didn’t take long to discover there was not enough room for everyone in there.
Expectations that the student population would increase to 450 materialized but, said Zito, "the gym did not grow." The 70s brought increased participation on the part of the girls’ sports program and double sessions were scheduled, "but the gym didn’t grow." In the 80s, a tech building was added to the Winnacunnet campus; "but the gym did not grow," Zito reiterated. In the 90s, an auditorium was added to the existing school building, but again, he said, "the gym did not grow."
The pressing necessity of finally having the gym (and other areas of the school) grow was presented to the taxpayers in the four towns of Hampton, North Hampton, Seabrook, and Hampton Falls. The message was clear: "It’s time for us to have a phys ed facility for our children and grandchildren," said Zito.
Zito went on to say he wanted to dedicate the new athletic facility "to all phys ed teachers who taught at Winnacunnet High School. This is for them."
During her remarks, Athletic Director Carol Dozibrin recalled how when she was hired by the SAU six and a half years ago, she was asked by the superintendent at the time what she thought about becoming involved in a building project.
"I was really thrilled to get right into it," she said, observing how the number of students has since increased to "the over 1350 who will be taking phys ed classes" in this "state of the art building."
Dozibrin assured "all the voters in the four towns" that they would "all be pleased. It was well worth waiting for. We will be able to take advantage of some fabulous things that will be happening at Winnacunnet High School."
Also acknowledging the four Winnacunnet towns, School Board Chairman Sue Kepner commented, "This is what we are — working in concert for our students." She compared efforts to get the project really rolling as "the little engine that could," with three successive years’ worth of tries. After taking "a year off" to regroup, "that Outreach Committee went gangbusters."
BUY A BRICK --Friends of Winnacunnet Foundation members invited the community to make an important investment in the future of WHS by taking part in their current "Buy a Brick" fundraising campaign. Alongside corresponding order forms, three different brick sizes available for engraving were on display at last week's athletic facility dedication and ribbon cutting event. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
Kepner noted that WHS Facilities Manager "Dick White and crew have done a Herculean task to help us get ready," and that "it took a lot of people working together to get this done." She said the facility is "dedicated to the community, without which we wouldn’t be here."
The proceedings continued with the ribbon cutting, plenty of applause, and tours of the facility by those in attendance. School board members also unveiled a plaque situated on a wall opposite the entrance to the facility’s gymnasium.
To promote their current "Buy a Brick" campaign, the Friends of Winnacunnet Foundation had set up a table in the lobby displaying several examples of the engraved bricks that can be purchased through the fundraising project. The bricks and granite benches will eventually be installed at the flagpole island across from the main entrance to the school.
Perhaps teacher and 31-year veteran Coach Jack Ford summed up the overall occasion best when he said, "We labored in an undersized facility from Day One. It’s so satisfying to see a first class facility as a result of four communities working together. It’s virtually a whole new school." He concluded, "I’m very happy to be seeing this thing happen. I think the kids are going to feel so much better about their school — bright, clean, new, under crowded. It could not have been done without the cooperative efforts of all four communities."
Now that school is officially back in session, some adjustments are being made on the part of staff and students to accommodate the ongoing construction on the math and science wing until it is completed. The new athletic facility, though, is now open and ready for business — and for this year’s basketball season.
Comments from the Community:
"We are very proud to have this building here. We thank the community for its generosity."
"This is a celebration of Phase One of a community effort — underline 'community’ — the Phase One of a tireless group of people … who kept working until the bond passed for the kids."
WHS School Board Chairman
"It’s absolutely breathtaking. I’m very excited for the kids, and the staff, and the community."
WHS School Board member
"It’s been a long time coming. I’m glad to finally have it done for everybody."
WHS School Board member
"Like the rest of the board, I am very excited about the opening of the new physical education building. This represents a great first step in the project. I am looking forward to completion of the remaining elements of the project which will provide an excellent educational facility for our students."
WHS School board member
Robert E. Phillips
"It’s just a great day for all the kids in SAU21 with the opening of this new athletic facility here. It’s due to the generosity of the entire community — that’s the bottom line."
WHS School Board member-at-large Chris Singleton
"I think this is a great day. It just goes to show you what the people of Hampton can do when they put their minds to it."
NH Rep. Tom Gillick
"It’s been a long time coming, but it’s been worth every [bit] of the effort that was put in by this group. There’s a common thread going through here — it’s for the benefit of these kids."
Legion Post 35 Commander
Ralph G. Fatello
"It’s fabulous. It’s something we needed. It’s good for the kids; the kids deserve this."
Long-time school board member
"I’m so impressed; it’s 40 years overdue. I can’t wait to start coming to events [here]. It’s a great feeling."
Former WHS Coach
"I just think the kids are really lucky to have community support for a state of the art building. [They] think it’s pretty cool. [Being part of the process] has been quite a learning experience, but also a lot of fun. I’ve been lucky enough to be here from Day One."
WHS Athletic Director
"After 32 years it’s wonderful. It’s an exciting time for the Winnacunnet community."
WHS Director of Student Affairs and Continuing Education
"It’s a fabulous building — it’s beautiful. Very impressive. I think the kids will enjoy using it."