May 14, 2007

Rot-in-Groton turns students green

School kicks off composting program to raise environmental awareness

Compost Program

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Groton seventh-graders Courtney Ward and Erica Slater show how to turn compost in a wood and metal compost bin Saturday at an initiation of a school-wide composting program. The two say that a good compost pile has layers like lasagna.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Never underestimate those table scraps left behind after breakfast. The milk jug isn’t the only thing that can be recycled — banana peels, coffee grounds, and maybe even a bread crust or two can be turned into plant-friendly compost, instead of being trucked to a landfill.
The Groton High School science club showed off the second life of food on Saturday at the kick off for the Rot-in-Groton school-wide composting program behind the Middle School-High School on Peru Road.
The Middle School Compost Club is now going to be in charge of collecting food scraps from the cafeterias of the schools, said seventh-grade life science teacher Chad Devoe.
The high school science club — Generation Z — and eighth-grade technology class built the row of bins lining the woods behind the school, which have already begun to collect the beginnings of nutrient-rich compost.
“We’re putting buckets all around the school, especially in the cafeteria, and they’re going to put in every kind of food scrap but meat and dairy,” said seventh-grader Erica Slater, 13, as she filled in attendees near the compost bins during the three-hour event.
Lab projects, posters and reports, a small menagerie of classroom pets, demonstrations and activities sat under tents in the sun, while a track meet nearby provided a busy backdrop and customers for the Groton Outing Club’s chicken barbecue fundraiser across the street from the school.
“Ozzy doesn’t get much sun,” said biology teacher Dave Syracuse, referring to the school’s bearded dragon relaxing on the teacher’s palm.
Attendees at the event even got to pick the names for a gaggle of 5-inch-long Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches hiding in a toilet paper roll in a terrarium.
Making a compost heap is a good way to raise “pet actinomycetes,” said Senior Myranda Gillow, the co-president of Generation Z, who watched over an activity to make models of the bacteria (not to scale, Devoe pointed out) out of the bottoms of egg cartons, markers and googlie eyes.
“They are the bacteria that are the main decomposers in a compost pile,” Devoe said, looking over a picture of augur plates growing the actinomycetes.
The total collected compost was weighed at the end of the event, and whomever bought a ticket and came the closest to guessing the weight got to take home a one-year family pass to the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca.
“First we’re going to weigh, and after that, we’re going to bring it out here and put it in the composting bins,” Slater said, adding that some of the compost is going to include straw, newspaper and grass clippings, and rabbit bedding for “Priscilla,” the class bunny.
These are part of the “brown” layer, said senior Adam Davis, 18.
It’s important to layer the different types of compost so that everything can stay ventilated properly.
“There’s carbon and there’s nitrogen in compost, and it comes together to form good dirt,” Davis said. “All the ‘greens’ are the food stuff — lettuce, apples … anything that’s, like, plants. Some breads are OK.”
Phil King, a master composter with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, ran an informational booth to sign up students for the six-month master composter program.
He showed off a Styrofoam container filled with shredded paper for its occupants.
“This is our worm bin,” King said. “It’s a cold compost, because there’s no heat. The worms break it down.
Eighth-grade students displayed their global warming presentation; Vanessa Quints, 14, explained that she did not know about the effect of rising carbon dioxide levels until her class watched “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Meanwhile, ninth-grade earth science teacher Paul Wiech handed out Global Positioning System hand-held units to help students find geocaches hidden in the woods behind the school.
A new, tech and nature savvy fad, geocaching in Groton meant that Wiech hid some coupons in plastic containers and marked their position using a GPS unit; those coordinates were then tracked down by the students.
Jerrie Gavalchin, a Cornell University professor who has worked with the science club, said she was excited by the teachers “energizing science.”
“And the students are excited,” Gavalchin said. “The hands-on science is what gets the kids excited about it. It’s fun, it’s not work.”



School budgets, boards up for votes Tuesday

From staff reports
Voters in area school districts will cast ballots Tuesday on proposed 2007-08 spending plans and select those who will fill seats on their local school boards.

Voting: Noon to 8 p.m., in new gym foyer.
Budget: $11,359,954 proposal, up 8.7 percent
Tax levy: $2,867,395, up nearly 10 percent
Reasons for budget increase: Added staff for disabled students, $37,000; restoration of a part-time business manager position, $55,385; contractual raises and benefits for employees.
Candidates (two seats): RayeLynn Kurtz, of 5753 Deer Path Lane, Cincinnatus, current vice president, and newcomer Charles Winters, 809 Route 41, Smithville Flats.

Voting: Noon to 9 p.m. There are three polling places in the district. Cortland residents vote at the Kaufman Center on Valley View Drive. Virgil, Harford, and Lapeer residents vote at Virgil Elementary School and Cortlandville residents vote at the Town Hall on Terrace Road.
Budget: $38,448,817, up 6.4 percent
Tax levy: $13,350,461, up 2.6 percent
Reason for budget increase: Increased health care and energy costs.
Candidates (two seats): Incumbent Lisa Hoeschele, of 53 Prospect Terrace, Cortland.
Propositions: Purchasing or leasing and financing two 65-passenger buses and one five- to seven-passenger school bus at a cost not to exceed $216,000.

Voting: Noon to 9 p.m., DeRuyter Central School in front lobby
Budget: $8,660,220, up 7.6 _percent
Tax levy: $2,976,886, up 2.8 percent
Reason for budget increase: Salary and benefit costs for employees
Candidates (two seats): Incumbent Michael Skeele, of 768 Utica St., DeRuyter, and newcomer Michael Cizenski, of 457 Camp Crone Road.
Propositions: Adding $50,000 for technology equipment for classroom use; adding $50,000 to provide summer school for elementary students from kindergarten through sixth grade; purchase of a 72-passenger school bus and a truck with a snowplow, not to exceed $92,000 for the bus and $30,000 for the truck/snowplow; increase the library funding from $21,300 a year to $22,450 a year; $12,000 for district-wide summer swim and baseball programs, administered by the village of DeRuyter.

Voting: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Budget: $30,157,227, up 5.2 percent
Tax levy: $13,426,502, up 3.9 percent
Reason for budget increase: Salaries and benefits for employees
Candidates (four seats): Russell Kowalksi, of 5 Kimberly Drive, Dryden; Kathy Zahler, of 639 Midline Road, Dryden; Anderson Young, of 561 Lime Hollow Road, Cortlandville; and Perry T. Dewey, of 713 McLean Road, Cortlandville.

Voting: Noon to 9 p.m., district office
Budget: $15,256,195, up 4.2 percent
Tax levy: $4,408,051, up 3.7 percent
Reason for budget increase: Increase of 4 percent or $589,000 for employee salaries, health benefits, social security and retirement, increase of $225,000 for special education costs
Candidates (two seats): Incumbent Linda Competillo and newcomer Robert Miller
Proposition: Purchase of two buses and a van for $200,525, which will be reimbursed 85 percent by state aid.

Voting: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Room 58, Homer Senior High School
Budget: $36,162,815, up 8.7 percent
Tax levy: $12,927,370, up 3.8 percent
Reason for budget increase: Increases of 9 percent or $400,000 for special education, 11 percent increase or $800,000 in employee benefits and 10 percent or $200,000 in bond payments.
Candidates (three seats): Incumbent Forrest Earl, of 4028 McCloy Road, Cortlandville, incumbent Nicole Albro-Sprouse, of 3920 Bells Mill Road, Truxton, and incumbent Mary Beth Mathey, of 1296 Bell Drive, Cortlandville.
Proposition: Purchase of five new buses and two new vans for $575,000, to be paid over five years with 90-percent of cost reimbursed by state aid.

Voting: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Home Economics Room, Marathon High School
Budget: $15,000,185, up 8.2 percent
Tax levy: $3,551,709, down 1.2 percent
Reason for budget increase: Adding $150,000 for 100 laptop computers and four portable computer carts holding 25 computers each, and $50,000 for an intensive reading program for junior high school students
Candidates (two seats): Newcomer Kathi Bush, of 2425 Clarks Corners Road, Marathon; newcomer Glenn Gates, of 766 Lockwood Road.
Propositions: Proposal to purchase three new school buses for $300,000; proposal to raise $10,000 for Peck Memorial Library.

Voting: Noon to 9 p.m., high school auditorium lobby
Budget: $9,281,306, up 3.7 percent
Tax levy: $2,518,668, up 2.3 percent
Reason for budget increase: Increases in health insurance costs and upgrades in computer equipment.
Candidates (two seats): Incumbent Virginia “Ginny” Mott, of 4095 Telephone Road, Solon; newcomers Kimberly Morse, of 2163 Ames Road, Cortlandville; and Leann Everts, of 2120 Blodgett Mills Road, Cortlandville

Voting: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Middle School/High School, Board Conference Room
Budget: $17,569,719, up 3.9 percent
Tax levy: $5,893,162, up 5.5 percent
Reason for increase: $86,000 for a bus purchase; $133,000 more for health insurance costs; and almost $100,000 for additional retirement costs
Candidates (three seats): Incumbents Anne M. Haessner, Douglas Hart and Joseph Lorah, and newcomers Sherri Bancroft, Steven Fland and Leigh Hess.
Proposition: $15,500 for Powers Library


Homer youths traveling to Mexico to aid villagers

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Music and coffee houses have always been socially conscious. So it’s no surprise the combination paid off Saturday night at the Homer Congregational Church during the Perk-U-Later Coffeehouse fundraiser that will help to send 11 members of the church to Olinala, Mexico, this summer.
Almost 50 people packed the activity room of the church, which had a stage set up in the front of the room and was filled with tables and chairs borrowed from congregants. About 10 acts entertained the crowd as they sat sipping their mugs of coffee. CoffeeMania had donated the coffee.
Seven teens and four adult chaperones will be repeating a trip taken last year by Tina Stavenhagen-Helgren and her husband, John Helgren, who visited Olinala to do volunteer work and will be returning this year.
Helgren, an engineer, was working as a consultant and helping small farmers deal with water issues.
“I’m a cultural anthropologist, so I came along for the ride. There are also a lot of indigenous people there,” Stavenhagen-Helgren said.
“It’s about a 12-hour bus ride (south) from Mexico City into the mountains, so you’re pretty far out there.”