February 05, 2007

Girls’ Day Out

Event opens doors

Climbing Wall

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
The YWCA held its annual Girls’ Day Out in collaboration with SUNY Cortland. The event celebrates girls and women in sports. SUNY Cortland student volunteers assist climber Bethany Ellis, of Cortland, during a wall-climbing exercise.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Jacquie Clark and more than 100 other girls participated Saturday in wall climbing, belly dancing, gymnastics, aerobics, broomball and received lacrosse instruction.
Jacquie, 13, was brushing up on her lacrosse skills for the upcoming season as she took part in the annual Girls’ Day Out at SUNY Cortland, which the college and the YWCA sponsor in conjunction with the annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
An eighth-grader at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, she is in her last year of eligibility for Girls’ Day Out, which is open to girls in grades five through eight.
“It was really fun just to be here,” she said. “I’ll be sad that I can’t come back next year.”
Bonni Hodges, co-chair of Girls’ Day Out, said the program is in its fifth year locally.
“The whole idea is to expose girls to non-traditional activities,” Hodges said. “What we were trying to do is something different — what we thought girls would enjoy, but are hesitant to try.”
The event also included a career fair with 32 professional women. Athletic trainers, bank managers, scientists, chiropractors and public safety workers were among the professions represented at the fair.
Sophia Convertini, 10, who attended the event for the first time Saturday, said she would be back next year.
“It’s good,” said Sophia, a fifth-grader at Parker Elementary School. “It’s fun for girls.”
Sophia said she liked the gymnastics event, but thought the belly dancing was “bizarre.”
Sophia said she heard of Girls’ Day Out from her mother, Kellyann O’Mara, who works at the HSBC bank on Main Street, Cortland.
Hodges said the career fair helped girls think differently about certain careers.
“They are exposed to some things that they never thought about before,” Hodges said.
Amber Ortolano, 23, volunteered at the event. The SUNY Cortland graduate is an assistant softball coach at the college and said the girls enjoy working with the college athletes.
“It is something nice to do for the community,” Ortolano said.
The program was a “hit” and shows girls they can do everything a guy can do, she said. “They look up to us,” said Ortolano.
The girls also were treated to a basketball game between the SUNY Cortland lady Red Dragons and the SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinals. At halftime they learned cheers and dances from the school’s cheerleaders and dancers.
Hodges said the program is marketed primarily to Cortland County youths, but information on it was sent as far as Tully and DeRuyter.



Homer seeks input on 2007-08 school budget proposal

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Board of Education is seeking input from parents, teachers and staff as it shapes the 2007-08 budget proposal.
The proposed budget will not be ready until March, but in the meantime people are encouraged to bring their concerns and recommendations to administrators and the school board, Board President Forrest Earl said.
“They can give comments before the meetings,” Earl said. “They’re welcome to contact the superintendent, me. They’re welcome to send letters. We keep all that.”
The Board of Education held a public budget input session after its regular board meeting on Jan. 23. No one attended the meeting, which was disappointing, Earl said.
“When no one gives us any input, I am always guessing,” he said.
Mike Delair, business director for the district, said if people want to give their opinions about the budget in front of the board or follow the budget process, they can attend regular board meetings or the special budget development sessions that take place Tuesday nights in March.
Those meetings will start at 7 p.m. and take place in the high school’s library.
The current $33 million budget set the tax rate at $20.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 2 percent increase over the previous year. The tax levy for this year is $12.9 million, a 5.8 percent increase over last year. The 2006-07 budget increased spending 6.8 percent.
Earl and Delair said they do not have enough information from the state, nor has the board discussed the budget enough, for them to know whether the tax rate will change, or by what percentage it will change for 2007-08.
Earl said he does not have an ideal percent increase or decrease in mind, as that is not the board’s only consideration.
“You have to look at (the budget) and say, ‘What do we need to give the kids a program they need to learn the skills and be successful in life and how does that impact the tax burden and make adjustments where you can,” he said.
Earl and Delair said they have some predictions for this year’s budget. They said the percent increase in utility costs will be much smaller than it was last year.
“The utilities not having a 20 percent increase is going to help us there,” Delair said. “We’re probably looking at a 1 or 2 percent increase.”
Earl said the smaller increase can be attributed to the school locking in some of its energy prices and the warm late half of fall and first half of winter.
“Obviously we had a little bit of savings like everyone on usage,” he said.
The district has not yet received figures for health insurance, but Earl predicted costs would increase at a rate similar to the private sector average.
“I know in the private sector the numbers you hear are something from 8 to 12 percent,” he said.