EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 20, 2007

Gov. Lynch holds class in Derry

By Shelley J. Thompson , Staff writer

DERRY - South Range Elementary School students got an extra dose of homework yesterday, but what made it different was the person who assigned it - Gov. John Lynch.

Lynch visited the school to talk to students about New Hampshire history and government. But when students didn't know the state fruit of New Hampshire, he assigned them the task of looking it up.

Last year, the governor signed the state fruit bill into law after it was proposed by third- and fourth-graders in Harrisville.

The South Range students guessed apples, pineapples, grapes, kiwi, orange and pear. But that's not it.

"You'll be surprised," Lynch said. Some people might not think it's a fruit, he added.

But fourth- and fifth-graders didn't receive the assignment because fifth-grader Jacqueline Greazzo knew the answer - the pumpkin.

When Lynch arrived at the school, fourth-graders Amber McQuaid and Joey Campbell, along with school and district officials, greeted him. The two students gave him a tour, bringing him to several classrooms, the cafeteria where first-graders were having lunch and to the library where the fourth and fifth grades were waiting to meet him.

"I liked showing him to my old teachers," Joey said.

The school's hand bell choir played the Star Spangled Banner, Simple Gifts and Fanfare for Bells to kick off the meeting with the oldest students.

Throughout his tour he asked students what they would do if they were governor and could make a decision that would affect Derry or the state.

"Share food with poor people," said second-grader Avery Drouin.

And her classmates added they would give money and clothes to the poor.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students suggested giving police departments more money for equipment, helping charities, not allowing people to carry weapons unless they are the police, prohibiting pollution and building houses for people.

"You're a great group of future governors," Lynch said.

Before asking for students' questions, Lynch shared a story about a man who ran for Congress after failing with two businesses he started. When he did a terrible job in Congress, he decided not to run for re-election. A couple years later, he ran for the Senate and lost. Then newspapers thought he was a joke when he decided to run for president and was nominated by his party. That man was elected and turned out to be one of the best presidents in history - Abraham Lincoln, Lynch said.

Students asked questions about his pets, whether he gets to ride in a limo and what his days are like as governor. He told them about his family's five cats, one whose name is Harry Potter, said he uses a regular car rather than riding in a limousine and gave an itinerary starting with getting up at 5 a.m., meetings and press conferences throughout the day and finishing up by 10 p.m.

After his discussion with the students, Christine Bouchard, president of the Parent-Teacher Association, presented Lynch with a South Range coffee cup, T-shirt and sweatshirt. Fourth-grade teacher Sheila Cairns, who invited Lynch to the school, gave him a picture of her class. Cairns met Lynch at Derryfest last fall and invited him to visit the school.

"I can't believe this came true," she said when handing him her class picture.

Earlier in the morning, Lynch stopped into Atkinson Academy for the school's Monday morning meeting. There he spoke about New Hampshire government and history, but was also part of the school's celebration of student Olivia Marshall's citizenship.

Lynch said he showed Olivia, who was adopted by a local family from South Korea, her certificate of citizenship.

"That was very special," he said.

Lynch said first- and fourth-graders at Atkinson Academy sent him letters inviting him to the school. "I was really touched," he said, noting that's why he visited.

"They loved it," said Principal Heidi Webster of the students' reaction to the governor's visit.