, Derry, New Hampshire


February 17, 2011

St. Thomas Aquinas students test councilors' seats

DERRY — Vincent Villanueva took charge.

The St. Thomas Aquinas School second-grader grasped the wooden gavel and pounded on the desk to keep order.

The order of the day included touring Derry's municipal center with his classmates, part of their mission to learn as much about the community as they could.

Town Administrator John Anderson welcomed the St. Thomas students on Friday and showed them around. The visit was a piece of the school's "Know Your Community" project.

Anderson had met the young visitors before. A few days earlier, he had been a special guest at St. Thomas, participating in the project where the students got to choose a town job, dress up accordingly, then make a presentation on what they learned.

That learning brought them to town hall to cap off the week.

Students became postal workers, nurses, firemen, even a priest.

Vincent decided to be mayor.

"You hit the gavel," Anderson told his young charge. "That's how the chairman starts the meeting."

The students climbed into the chairs at the Town Council's desk in the main conference room. Anderson described how business is done and how the meetings are televised to the public through local cable.

"No, you're not on television yet," Anderson said to the students who were busy chatting into the microphones at the desk. "You have a few years to go."

For now, students were getting a close-up look at the inner working of Derry's municipal center, from the finance department to public works, and everyone in between.

When it was time to leave, St. Thomas teacher Roberta Giberti helped her students present the town administrator with a special shirt, signed by the students.

"This is so you'll never forget us," she told Anderson.

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