April 09, 2007

Greek Peak collects food donations

Canned food given to Virgil, McGraw food pantries


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Alec Parker, 15, of Cortland, waits for friends to suit up for a day of snow boarding and skiing at Greek Peak in Virgil. The ski resort had a ski and ride free day Friday and Saturday for individuals who donated nonperishable food items.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — While most area ski resorts had already closed their slopes for the season, Greek Peak invited skiers and snowboarders out for a final romp in the snow for free over the weekend.
On Friday and Saturday Greek Peak hosted Ski and Ride Free Days, offering free skiing for people who brought non-perishable food items for the Virgil and McGraw food pantries Skiers had to accompany a person with a season pass to receive a free lift ticket.
“Some of our shelves are pretty slim,” said Janet Lee, pastor of the Virgil United Methodist Church, which runs the Virgil food pantry. “This is going to be a great blessing.”
Kevin Morrin, executive director of snow sports and sales, said it was the first time Greek Peak held the free day.
“It just happened to come around Easter time,” Morrin said. “We just decided to do something good for the community. Greek Peak is very community oriented. If we can help out anybody in the Cortland County community, we’ll do it and the benefit outweighs the cost of our operation.”
Morrin said patrons brought items including beef sticks, corn, tuna fish, soup and pineapples. He said the response was more than organizers expected.
“We didn’t expect a huge, huge response, but we are definitely seeing a couple hundred people coming out,” Morrin said.
Although Alec Parker and Alexis Keeney, both 15, did not bring any food, they thought the food drive was a good idea.
“I think it is a sweet idea for the end of the season because not a lot of people came because it costs too much,” Keeney said. She said the people benefiting from the food drive would be pretty excited about the amount of food donated.
Lee said the food pantry is open from 10 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of every month. She said patrons are given three meals a day for three days.
Jeff Ehrlich, a member of the Ancient Radical Dudes Snowboarding Club, brought three cans of food, one for friend and fellow member of the club Larry Kabat.
Bruce Stenoff, another member of the club and a Labrador Mountain season pass holder, said that it was his first time at Greek Peak. He said it was great to be able to snowboard and donate to a good cause.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for people who may not otherwise give of themselves,” Lee said. “There is enough for all of us. There should never be a child going hungry.”
About 400 people were using eight of Greek Peak’s 32 trails on Friday and Saturday.
Morrin said although the season started off slow, approximately 200,000 people visited Greek Peak this season.
“The season this year was pretty much a wash,” Morrin said. “It started slow and ended pretty well. We basically covered our costs this year. We didn’t lose a lot of money and we didn’t make a lot of money.”
Peter Harris, owner of Song Mountain Resort in Tully, can relate to Morrin.
“The season started out awful and it ended great,” said Harris, who estimated 75,000 people visited his resort for the season. “We made a nice comeback, but I can’t say we made it all back.”
Harris said Song Mountain closed March 31.
“We have a enough snow to be open, but people are concentrating on their spring activities,” Harris said.
Like Song Mountain, Labrador Mountain in Truxton and Toggenburg Mountain in Fabius have also closed.
Officials of Toggenburg could not be reached for comment.
To close out his day Saturday at Greek Peak, Parker said he would build a jump to snowboard off.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Parker said of the ski season.



Educators support testing change for special ed. students

Federal change will allow schools to give alternative state assessments to account for students’ learning disabilities

Staff Reporter

Some area school administrators say they support a plan to allow states to ease testing requirements for special education students, which would address a key criticism of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“It makes no sense to give a special education student a test that they cannot even approach,” said Superintendent of Groton Schools Brenda Myers.
Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, special education and general education students take the same assessment tests. About 10 percent of special education students — those with the most serious cognitive disabilities — take simplified, alternative tests, with the results counting toward a school’s annual progress goals.
The No Child Left Behind law is up for renewal in Congress this year and lawmakers, educators and the public have pushed for changes.
The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that it will change its requirements and allow states to ease testing methods for more special education students. That means 3 percent of all children — or roughly 30 percent of all children with disabilities — will be allowed to be tested on standards geared for them.
The No Child Left Behind law requires that all students be tested in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. When enough students miss annual goals, their schools can face consequences such as having to overhaul their staff.
Schools can face penalties even when just one group of children, such as those with disabilities, fails to meet the benchmarks.
Director of Special Education for Moravia Schools Chris Fisher said alternative tests are more hands-on and performance based.
Superintendent of Cortland City Schools Larry Spring said a student classified as cognitively disabled has an IQ of 55 or lower.
The new tests will not be as easy as those given to the children already exempted from the regular tests. But the tests will not be as hard as those given to typical students.
The new tests are for children who are not severely disabled but who have been unable to work on grade level at the same pace as their peers because of disabilities, such as some forms of dyslexia.
Spring said provisions in the simplified testing could be made for students by giving them more time or reading the test to them.
The Education Department’s Web site says the new regulations permit states to develop an assessment that is appropriately challenging for students who have mild learning disabilities. The assessment is based on modified academic achievement standards that cover grade-level content.
In addition to ensuring that students with disabilities are appropriately assessed, these regulations also will give teachers and schools credit for the work that they do with these students to help them progress toward grade-level achievement.
The new regulations will take effect on May 9. The department will make available $21 million to help states design new tests.
No Child Left Behind was signed into law in January 2002 and it reauthorized the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
According to a document published by the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of the law is to have all students performing above grade level in math and English, closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged minority students and their peers.