May 17, 2007

Moving from career in medicine to molding minds —

Ukrainian grandmother earns education degree from TC3


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Sima Krichevsky reads a book with Randall Elementary School second-grader Domonick Dellow Wednesday morning. Krichevsky is receiving her associate’s degree in early childhood education tonight from TC3.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A 1994 immigrant from the Ukraine, where she had been a medical doctor, Sima Krichevsky, 67, is graduating tonight from Tompkins Cortland Community College with an associate of science degree in early childhood education.
Around 580 students will receive certificate and associate degrees at the 38th commencement ceremony at 6 p.m., held for the last time in the gym in the academic building. Next year the new athletic facility will host the graduation.
Krichevsky started taking classes at TC3 in fall 1997 to improve her English and continued through the fall 1999 semester.
Krichevsky said she started working on the education degree in 2004, taking classes part time while working full time, for the most part. One semester she was able to take courses full time because she did not have a job. “That was good,” she said, noting it was difficult to work during the day and then go to school nights.
She worked at Randall School as a teacher’s aide starting in September for a few months, working initially with Mackenzie Updike, who suffered from a brain tumor, and other students in Tom Dovi’s kindergarten class. Dovi said after it was apparent Updike would not be coming back to class, Krichevsky became a substitute teacher’s aide. Krichevsky said this change allowed her to devote more time to her studies.
Krichevsky said the most difficult class for her was an online math class because she had no exposure to computers in the Ukraine. She said her husband, Yuri, who works as an inspector at Borg-Warner, helped her with math and computers. She said education courses were the easiest for her.
Dovi said Krichevsky helped all his students to adjust to the classroom environment and rules that were new to them. “Lots of kids come in uneasy about the whole school experience,” said Dovi, but Krichevsky’s “grandmotherly instincts” and gentle ways helped students. He said she also benefited from the interaction, improving her English skills and benefiting the students also.
Krichevsky said her family did not encourage her to go back to school, but she wanted something to do. “My daughter said, ‘Why you do this?’” she said. “When I want something, I will do (it).”
She said when she graduated from high school in the Ukraine, she received a gold medal, meaning she was not required to take an exam to get into college. She said she wanted to be either a teacher or a medical doctor, and her mother, a pharmacist and professor, advised her that being a doctor would be much better financially.
If she had wanted to continue being a doctor, she would have faced 10 years of additional study in the United States.
“All my life I wanted to be a teacher,” Krichevsky said, so she said her immigration gave her the chance at a career she had wanted when young.
“This is my best gown,” Krichevsky said, as she touched her black graduation robe, while being interviewed at her 51 Port Watson St. apartment.
Krichevsky has two children. Her son Alex, 41, immigrated first and sponsored his parents. Her daughter, Yelena, 36, immigrated two years after her parents. Her son now lives in California and her granddaughter, his daughter, is studying to become a doctor.
Krichevsky said when she came to Cortland she was surprised the city was so small. She said it has everything she needs, but she does like to go to New York City where she can see Russian concerts and purchase Russian food.
“Here I have nothing to do, so college is perfect,” she said.
But Krichevsky is looking forward to just working at least for a while. “It will be much easier — work, no school.”
She said she would like to take additional classes in teaching children with special needs, but was not sure she wanted to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree. “Who knows, I have to think about that.”



Girl dies after being held underwater

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A 2-year-old girl died Wednesday night at University Hospital in Syracuse after her aunt held her head under water in a bathtub in a Dryden apartment building, the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office said this morning.
An official from the District Attorney’s Office would not release any further information about the case. She said District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson and officials from the State Police are planning a press conference. It is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today at the State Police barracks in Dryden. State Police officials said they would not release any further information until the press conference.
The girl was in critical condition when she entered the hospital early Wednesday morning after her aunt, Marie Manos, 34, of 758 Ringwood Road, Apt. 2, held the child’s head under water in a partially filed bathtub at Manos’ home for an unknown amount of time, police said.
Police said Manos was babysitting her niece at the time of the incident and that the child had respiratory failure and brain swelling before she died.
Lt. James Barnes of the State Police said Wednesday that the girl’s mother called 911 at around 4:45 p.m. but declined to give any further information about the incident.
Two men who declined to identify themselves were at Manos’ apartment Wednesday afternoon. One said that the child was the daughter of Manos’ brother, but said he did not know any details about the incident.
Other residents of the apartment building as well as neighbors who live adjacent to the property said they did not know Manos, but that they saw several police cars at the house from the time the incident was reported until around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Manos was charged with first-degree assault, a felony and is being held in Tompkins County Jail without bail.
Authorities said Manos made voluntary admissions to the police officers about the crime, according to a felony complaint file with the Dryden Town Court. The confession was not filed with the court as of this morning.


County faces second lawsuit over land deal

Staff Reporter

A second lawsuit related to Cortland County’s ill-fated south Main Street land deal was filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court, coming as county attorneys prepare arguments for the first such suit.
Syracuse attorney Dirk Oudemool, representing the owners of Robbins Vending — who had agreed to sell property at 159 Main St. and 7 Williams St. to the county for $300,000 before the county backed out of the deal — filed a complaint asking that the county either be compelled to move forward with the purchase as agreed, or pay $120,000 in damages.
“That’s the estimate my clients came up with, based on the loss of the benefit of the deal,” Oudemool said of the requested damages. “We’ve hired an appraiser and we’ll have a formal appraisal in hand (when the case goes to court), but that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
The Legislature voted to purchase the Robbins Vending property, owned by Charles and Michael Wood, along with properties from four other landowners for a total of $894,000 in December.
In January the Legislature revoked that decision, prompting a lengthy debate and the threat of legal challenges.
To date, the Moose Lodge and Robbins Vending are the only landowners to file suit, both saying that the county’s original vote in December represented a binding contract.
“When the county reconsidered, that was nothing more than changing one’s mind, and you can’t change your mind with a contract unless the other party agrees,” Oudemool said. “Quite simply, they breached, they unilaterally decided to officiate this contract.”
Oudemool said his argument will likely not differ much from the argument being offered by Russell Ruthig, attorney for the Moose Lodge, but he did include in the suit Cinquanti Real Estate broker Susan Briggs, who brokered the deal.
“The realtor was responsible for putting all of this together, as an agent for the county, so we believe they’re equally responsible,” Oudemool said. “It’s unbelievable, they paid the Realtor for negotiating these deals, but then didn’t close with us.”


Local trooper recognized for ‘heroic’ actions aiding motorist

Staff Reporter

State Trooper Christopher Berg was just three weeks from graduating from the police academy on Oct. 6 when he saw a woman drive a Jeep Cherokee off the Thruway, drive across several lanes of traffic and into a ravine.
Berg and two other off-duty troopers who were also at the scene in the city of Albany acted quickly, running over to the car and jumping into a stream, rescuing the unconscious woman from her car.
Berg, 24, an officer assigned to the State Police barracks in Homer, was recognized Wednesday for his heroism in October as a recruit when he received the Superintendent’s Commendation Award at the department’s 31st annual Awards Day Ceremony and Memorial Service in Albany.
Berg said he was traveling west on Interstate 90 when he saw the accident. He said the car came to a rest on the driver’s side in several feet of fast moving water when he and Trooper Susan Buckley, along with Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Barrera — who was also off duty at the scene in a separate vehicle — quickly jumped into the stream where the woman was unconscious and almost completely under water.
The three pulled her to safety before rescue personnel arrived at the scene.
“I ran down the driver’s side and opened the passenger door,” Berg said this morning. “She was almost completely submerged and I unbuckled her seat belt and the other off-duty trooper helped me pull her out of the car.”
Buckley and Barrera also received the same award at Wednesday’s ceremonies.
The Superintendent’s Commendation Award is given annually to officers who perform heroic acts during the year. The group is chosen from a larger group of officers who received letters of recognition from the superintendent of the State Police for their outstanding actions.


Northwoods at work on improving image

New staff is making changes at facility tarnished by patient neglect investigation, financial woes

Staff Reporter

Northwoods Extended Care and Rehabilitation Facility has a new administrator who hopes to provide better patient care at the facility, improve the facility’s image and boost employee morale.
Ed Weeks, 55, of Cortlandville, started his new job at the Kellogg Road facility on May 7, after having been hired by the Long Hill Alliance Co., a Connecticut-based company serving as Northwoods’ receiver. He replaces Dorothy Zegarelli.
Long Hill Alliance was named receiver under a court order in December after Northwoods could not make its mortgage payments.
Northwoods’ troubles have been compounded by a state Attorney General’s Office investigation that accused five Northwoods employees of neglecting a patient and falsifying records. It is also facing a lawsuit by its lawyers for not paying them sufficiently.
Mike Myers, vice president of marketing for Long Hill Alliance, said Wednesday that Long Hill Alliance sought out Weeks largely because of his connection to the community. Unlike someone from out of town, he has a big incentive to turn Northwoods around.
“‘Cause he’s going to see people at the grocery store and the drycleaners and that type of thing,” Myers said.
Weeks, a Long Island native, holds a bachelor’s degree in health education from SUNY Cortland and a master’s degree in health care management from the New School of Social Research in New York City.
He started his career as a certified nursing assistant at Highgate Nursing Home, now Northwoods, in 1975, before becoming the facility’s associate administrator. He later helped administer a variety of facilities, including Birchwood Healthcare Center in the Syracuse area, Bellevue Manor in Syracuse and Walden Place in Cortlandville.
Weeks said one of the first things he has done since becoming administrator at Northwoods is hire Traci Niederhofer as a full-time public relations person to help restore a positive image.
Weeks said he has also hired new administrators at the facility, whose ethics, knowledge and compassion should carry over to the facility’s employees and boost morale.