Homer grad gets jump on college life


maxBob Ellis/staff photographer
Max Livshits works in the lab Wednesday at Bowers Hall on the SUNYCortland campus. Livshits is graduating Saturday from Homer High School, but he has already accumulated 28 college credits after taking many college-level courses in high school.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Homer senior Max Livshits is passionate about chemistry.
The 18-year-old will graduate from Homer High School on Saturday, and will be eligible to enroll at SUNY Cortland in the fall as a sophomore because he’s amassed 28 college credits while attending high school.
Livshits has taken college courses in general chemistry at SUNY Cortland and pre-calculus at Tompkins Cortland Community College, as well as a dual credit course in elementary chemistry at Homer High School.
“I really, really got into chemistry last year. I was a physics/math person until I figured out how much physics and math go into chemistry,” Livshits said Tuesday.
His mother, Marina Gorelaya, said she noticed her son’s focus had changed.
“He was more of a mathematician at the time, and then he decided to take a chemistry class at the college — He met Dr. Zipp and he said he never met a person that was so knowledgeable and experienced,” Gorelaya said Wednesday, referring to chemistry department chairman Arden Zipp.
Livshits is working with Zipp in a research position this summer, performing experiments in inorganic chemistry that have potential applications in cancer research.
“We’re building new molecules that have never been built before. The best thing about it is that we don’t know what it’s supposed to look like,” Livshits said. “This is way beyond any chemistry class I’ve ever taken.”
As he answered questions about his experiments in the beaker- and pipette-filled lab in Bowers Hall, Livshits had a clear command of the processes and the chemistry involved in his research.
“When I was looking at different schools before I chose Cortland, everybody was telling me that they have research opportunities for undergraduates as well as graduates, but they said only juniors and seniors really get to participate in the research,” Livshits said. “(At SUNY Cortland), it’s all up to the professor, whether they will accept you or not.”
Gorelaya said she is not surprised by her son’s interest in chemistry.
“He has always liked being exact and precise. (When he was younger,) he liked engineering and always made bridges from juice boxes,” Gorelaya said. “He didn’t have a lot of regular toys; he preferred to make his own out of Legos or other pieces. He has a very creative brain, which is why I think he likes chemistry.”
Livshits is polite and soft-spoken with just a trace of an accent, having immigrated to the United States from Ukraine 11 years ago.
Gorelaya, a classically-trained pianist and teacher, has a doctorate in music, and Livshits said he also aspires to that level of learning.
“I started taking those (college-credit) classes to incorporate more into college, so I could have the expanded perspective that Ph.D. professors have,” Livshits said. “I’m going as a double-major — I also want to go for physics. At Cortland, you register for classes based on what classes you’ve already taken, and at what level. So it gets me into classes that would have been closed to me.”
Although he has the opportunity to enroll above freshman-level, Livshits does not plan on it. He said his schedule for next year includes beginner as well as more-advanced course work.
“He could have graduated high school a year ago … but he said, ‘No, everything comes in time,’” Gorelaya said.
“When I took my chemistry classes this year I made some really good friends,” Livshits said of his work at SUNY Cortland. “I just don’t really fit in with my high school class — but at SUNY Cortland, there were more people like me who are really into their majors.”

Local high schools students have more and more opportunities to earn college credit before they graduate, bringing more decisions about what to do with them once they enter college.
Lori Middendorf, guidance counselor for Cincinnatus High School, said that almost all of the students in this year’s graduating class have one or two college credits.
“We actually have a handful of kids who can be done a semester early — at least four or five who have a semester of college credits completed,” Middendorf said last week.
Like many schools in the county, Cincinnatus offers dual-credit courses, Middendorf said. Since every teacher is required to have a master’s degree, they can be certified by Tompkins Cortland Community College to teach a college-level course at the high school, which allows for credits at both the high school and college levels.
“They realize the benefits at the end of their senior year when they meet with their advisors and are doing their college schedules,” Middendorf said. “They’re excited about it as well, and it really helps promote it to the underclassmen.”
Fred Farah, principal at Homer High School, said the school offers many options for earning college credit, including dual credit courses.
Other avenues include taking Advanced Placement, or AP, classes, taking classes at SUNY Cortland, taking the foreign language CLEP exams, attending classes with BOCES/New Visions and enrolling in online courses.
“Because we are adding more and more dual credit, our kids are going into college as sophomores,” said Homer High School guidance counselor Darlene Latten. “We are seeing more and more colleges who are not taking them (college credits earned by high school students) unless they are taught by a college professor on campus — especially at private schools. But SUNY has to take TC3 credit.”
Farah said that many private schools take issue with incoming students transferring the credits they earned in high school.
“They want kids to have a common experience … from their freshman-year courses,” Farah said.
Latten said that jumping ahead might even harm students.
“If you transfer that credit in, you’re going to have to start off at the next level,” Latten said. “They’ve got to work that much harder to stay at the level their classes start at.”
Charlotte Richardson, the transfer/transcript services coordinator in the office of the registrar at Ithaca College, said the school accepts credits awarded by acceptable, accredited institutions. Ithaca requires a transcript from a college, but also accepts AP credits.
“They could come in with 60 or more credits, but it depends on their major and if those credits can be applied to their major,” Richardson said. “If they’re not, they’re just extra credits.”
Mark Yacavone is the director of admissions at SUNY Cortland, and said that the school accepts most dual-credit courses if they have been approved by another university, and that the academic departments usually review courses a student had taken for college credit.
“Any of those colleges that do this type of programming, have reviewed the course and said, ‘This would be acceptable as a college credit at our university,’” Yacavone said, adding that 436 of 1,110 incoming freshman students had college credits last year.
Yacavone said three students are entering SUNY Cortland next semester with enough credits to qualify as sophomores.
Students could graduate early, but they could also study abroad with less stress, add a second major or work in an internship, he said.
“Coming in with credits allows students more options than they would have if they came in without credits,” Yacavone said. “I don’t know if any student comes here with the mindset that, ‘I have so many college credits, now I can graduate within three years.’”



Solon crash kills two men

Staff Reporter

SOLON — Two Cortland men were killed in a one-car accident Wednesday evening on Lapp Hill Road, according to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
The men were in a red 1990 Volkswagen Jetta traveling south on Lapp Hill Road, police said.
Christopher G. Wood, 33, of 4 1/2 South Ave., Apt. 2, was driving the car and Matthew A. Meade, 31, of 47 Pomeroy St., Apt. 212, was the only passenger.
Police said Wood lost control of the car coming down the hill, about 300 feet from the intersection with Route 41. The hill section of the road is about 350 feet long, police said.
There is a stop sign at the intersection of the two roads, and Wood tried slamming on the brakes when he saw it, according to Capt. Marty Coolidge of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
“He definitely lost control coming down the hill,” Coolidge said. “They were moving pretty quickly. They were definitely probably not making the stop sign.”
Wood was driving on the right side of the road, Coolidge said, and skid marks showed he arched across to the left side of the road, then back over to the right, where the car bounced into a ditch.
After hitting the ditch, the car spun counterclockwise on the right side of the road and the passenger side of the car crashed into a tree. The tree was several feet from the ditch, police said.
The stop sign was about 15 feet from where the car landed, Coolidge said.



Marietta Corp. looking to expand its Cortland plants

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A planned $3 million to $6 million expansion at Marietta Corp. will bring roughly 70 new jobs to the city.
Marietta is looking to expand its operations to include the production of retail health and beauty products for consumers, according to Marietta Vice President of Human Resources James Gallagher Jr.
The company is negotiating with potential buyers to become a third-party manufacturer of retail health and beauty products, Gallagher said, adding he would have more information on the timeframe of the expansion within a month.
The expansion would create 100 jobs throughout the corporation, with 70 created in Cortland and the rest going to the company’s facility in Los Angeles.
Marietta employs about 1,500 people nationwide, and about 700 in Cortland, according to Gallagher. It produces such personal care products as soap and shampoo for hotels.
The company makes retail-size products at the former Rubbermaid factory on Central Avenue, and trial and sample-size products at its Huntington Street factory.
The expansion would involve adding production lines to both the building on Huntington Street and the building on Central Avenue, Gallagher said.
The Huntington Street building will also see the return of Marietta’s corporate headquarters, which moved to Encino, Calif., in October.



City plans nearly $3 million in sewer work

Staff Reporter

The city plans to begin nearly $3 million in needed repairs to its sewer system sometime next year.
Groundwater that leaks into sewer pipes has caused the sewage treatment plant to exceed its daily sewage levels set by the state, Craig Smithgall, an engineer hired by the city, told the Common Council Tuesday.
Numerous city manholes are also in need of significant repairs, and the city needs to build storm water sewers in a handful of areas throughout the city, Smithgall said.
Smithgall estimated the total cost of the work that needs to be done at about $2.9 million.
The city hired Smithgall and the firm he was then working for, Cazenovia-based Stearns and Wheler, to study infiltration problems over a two-year period between 2003 and 2005.
The study was funded with a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The council was supportive of the work, which is a necessity for the city, according to Andy Damiano, director of administration and finance.
“The reality is that we’re being ordered to do this,” Damiano said, noting that the state Department of Environmental Conservation had requested that the city mitigate its infiltration problems.
The city’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit allows its treatment center, which is located on the south side of Port Watson Street along the Tioughnioga River, to treat 9 million gallons of sewage per day, Smithgall said. However, because ground water and storm water are infiltrating the system through sewer pipes, that capacity has been exceeded, one month reaching an average flow of 14 million gallons per day.
“When you have a series of months over that capacity, the DEC gets cantankerous,” Smithgall said at the meeting.



Code of conduct OK’d in McGraw

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — After a public hearing Wednesday, the Board of Education passed a revised code of conduct that included a suggestion from the public to inform parents of an in-school suspension the day it happens.
The code of conduct has sections that apply to students, staff and visitors.
High School Principal Trish Plata clarified that parents would not necessarily be notified that day of an in-school suspension. A sentence was added that parents would be notified, but it did not say how. Sometimes parents will be contacted by letter when they can’t be reached by telephone, Plata said. Parents and residents in the audience questioned this.
“How effective can a parent be in backing up the school?” asked McGraw resident Barb Closson, who was concerned that children would not bother to tell parents of the suspension and it could be a few days before the letter is received.
Superintendent of Schools Maria S. Fragnoli-Ryan said there is a phone in the room so the student or teacher could call parents. Plata said the phone could not dial outside the school district. Fragnoli-Ryan said that could be changed so outgoing calls could be made. She said the student could make the call.
Plata said most changes made since last year were minor, such as taking out the stick figure that showed what would be appropriate attire in the dress code.
Plata also said the district has not strictly enforced the dress code, specifically the rule that shirts must be three inches below the tops of pants or skirts. “We’re trying to be reasonable and not go around with a tape measure,” she said.