February 29, 2008


Homer science fair has changing of guard

Fifth-grade teacher takes over for event’s longtime organizer who has retired

Science Fair

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
This year’s organizer of the Homer Intermediate Science Fair, fifth-grade teacher Katrina Fox, collects judging forms from ninth-grade judge Zach Blanden Thursday in the school gymnasium.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Fifth-grade teacher Katrina Fox acknowledges she has big shoes to fill, and she is OK with that.
Fox has taken over heading the school district’s annual science fair from retired fifth-grade teacher Janet Oechsle, who started the fair 15 year ago.
Oechsle helped increase the size of the fair over the years to about 130 participants, and capped off her career helping earn sixth-grader Erik Gustafson first place in the national Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge last year.
Fox, who successfully ran her first fair Thursday — the first J. Oechsle Science Fair — said more than anything she wants to use Oechsle’s success to inspire her.
“She has a picture of her from fourth grade, working on a science project with her dad, that she carried around with her all the time,” Fox said of Oechsle. “She got to spend a lot of time with her father, and that’s one of the reasons she did it for that long.”
Oechsle flew from her winter home in Florida to Syracuse this week to help Fox run her first science fair.
She already had mentored Fox last year, and given her all her paperwork in computer form. Oechsle’s guidance resulted in a science fair Thursday that strayed little from how she did it.
Gustafson, who was too busy this year to enter this year’s science fair, but helped some students out with their projects, said Fox put more projects against the wall than Oechsle ever did. But other than that, things were pretty similar.
Josh Sands, a sixth-grader whose project was making biodiesel, said the fair may be very similar to what it was last year but there’s always room for Fox to add new elements in the future.
Many of the science fair participants had worked on their project with their families, fulfilling the mission Oechsle started and Fox is continuing.
Mike Hrcek, a fifth-grader, said he enjoyed working on his magnetic crane project with his uncle. It was a more fulfilling experience than making a crane out of Legos in first grade, he said.
“I did more on it this time,” Hrcek said.




County to study attorney’s office

Staff Reporter

Cortland County will look into the possibility of revising the current county attorney system in order to remove politics from the appointment of the county attorney.
The Legislature decided Thursday night to hire local attorney and Cortlandville Town Justice Fran Casullo to conduct a needs assessment of the county’s use of attorneys, to recommend any possible revisions and research any possible legal barriers to an overhaul.
Casullo would be paid $90 an hour, not to exceed $5,000.
Legislator Tom Williams (R-Homer), who contacted Casullo about the project, said Casullo would not be interested in the position once it was created.
County Attorney Mark Suben told the Legislature that a lawyer should conduct the investigation because he would be interviewing other attorneys, and it takes a lawyer to understand certain legal nuances.
Legislators have said that they want to de-politicize the office, in which appointments at the beginning of each new term of the Legislature and has been used as a political tool.
Casullo will not be examining the offices of the district attorney office of the district attorney or public defender.
County Administrator Scott Schrader said the county regularly hires two law firms to handle personnel matters, a third law firm to handle workers’ compensation claims, and three full-time attorneys who work in the Department of Social Services. That department also has two paralegals.
The county attorney’s office consists of the county attorney and two assistants, and also employs a paralegal.
Also, Thursday night’s meeting, legislator Tom Williams pulled from consideration a resolution he had proposed that would have asked the state Legislature to enact legislation allowing counties to create the position of conflict attorney.



Homer student to attend national 4-H conference

Five New York State 4-H teens, including Emily Hopkins, 17, of Homer, will attend the 2008 National 4-H Conference, which will be held from March 29 to April 3 in Washington, D.C. Hopkins hopes to gain new skills and expand those skills she already has. The conference will provide a forum for cultural and conceptual diffusion.
To be a part of the conference will be an honor and an irreplaceable opportunity. Hopkins has been involved in Cortland County 4-H programs for eight years. She is currently a member of the 4-H Teen Ambassadors and 4-H Teen Council clubs and is a student at Homer High School. Other teens attending are: Claudette Martin, Rensselaer County; Katie Donnan, Saratoga County; Caroline Dunn, Dutchess County; and Christine Hilliard, Columbia County. Lauren Drum, extension educator in Dutchess County, will chaperone with another adult not selected yet.
The National 4-H Conference is the secretary of agriculture’s premier youth development opportunity to engage youth in developing recommendations for the 4-H Youth Development Program. This conference is a working conference in which youth and adults — at the invitation of the secretary of agriculture — assist in the development of recommendations to help guide 4-H Youth Development Programs nationally and in their communities.
This event brings together youth, volunteer leaders, and state and county extension staff members from across the United States, the U.S. territories, and the Canadian provinces.This year’s theme, Green A.I.D. (Acquire Inform Deliver)reflects the question, as society becomes more environmentally conscious, how can the 4-H Youth Development Program “aid” in enhancing socially significant and relevant programming to increase the environmental awareness of our clubs, our communities, our country, and our world.
For more information on opportunities within the 4-H Program, please contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County at (607) 753-5077.