June 23, 2007

CHS grads set future course


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High senior Margaret Knight shares a moment of happiness with classmate Stephen Koltz as they begin their processional march Friday night during the school’s graduation ceremony.

Staff Reporter

Margaret A. Knight, 17, has never strayed from her desire to become an architect since she decided her career path in fourth grade. 
 “Everyone said I would change my mind,” the class of 2007 graduate said in an interview before graduation.
“I really like art and math. It’s a good way to combine it,” she said. She said although she applied to eight colleges, she decided to attend Cornell University.  
Many of her fellow graduates also, at least for now, have a career in mind. She said her boyfriend, Stephen K. Koltz also will attend Cornell as will valedictorian Benjamin Girtain Plowe. Both plan to major in engineering.  
That was not the case for Catherine Bertini, who graduated in 1967 from Cortland, as she told the 168 graduating seniors — all wearing purple robes and tasseled mortarboards — in the Park Center’s ice arena Friday night.
“When I was sitting in your seat, I knew I wanted to make a difference. But, I had no idea where, or what, or how,” she said. “I certainly didn’t sit in your seat and think that some day I would live in Rome, Italy, and lead an organization feeding 787 million starving people worldwide.” 
 She said under her senior picture in the yearbook was a quote form British philosopher Edmund Burke, who wrote, “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good people to do nothing.”
She said she learned five principles at Cortland High School she hoped the graduates had also learned: good friends are forever; do the right thing, even if it is difficult; go where you need to go and do what you need to do; work hard, stay focused, and you can succeed, even beyond your imagination; and speak up for others who are less fortunate.
Success is something this class has already accomplished. Steve Woodard, executive principal said 54 percent of the graduates had grade point averages of more than 85 percent and 85 percent of graduates plan to further their education in the fall. He also said 134 students, 80 percent of the graduating class, have earned college credits totaling 2,000 credits. One student Paul Novak earned 46 credits toward college already. “The sky’s the limit,” he said of the class. And, he said the class has a variety of talents, from academic to athletic.
Even before commencement, Knight received several awards, from athletic — John A. Gee Scholar-athlete award, outstanding runner and New York State scholar athlete award — to academic, for being in the top 10 percent of the class. She also received a New York State Lottery Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship.
At graduation Knight added a student council scholarship and one of 15 Emily A. DeCamp Memorial scholarships given to students exhibiting the following qualities, in order of importance: a strong desire for further education, scholarship, creativity, mature behavior and concern for others.
Kenneth A. Brafman, principal for 11th and 12th grades, said each student has struggled in some way, but rose above the dilemma. “We have the confidence that the class of 2007 will achieve greatness.”    
Born and raised in Cortland, Knight said with the help of family and friends her life didn’t change much when her mother, Marion, died suddenly of an aneurism 10 years ago. “I got closer with Dad,” she said.
“I really believe that African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” said her father, Mac Knight, now ninth and 10th grade principal at Cortland High School. He said Knight’s two older sisters “helped pave her journey,” and many friends, neighbors and teachers helped.
Knights said her sisters, Angela and Stephanie, 6 and 8 years older, respectively, were good role models to her. “They got to drive me around,” she said. She said often her father would show up after work to pick her up from events. “He’s really supportive of me,” she said, of her father.
At the ceremony, Mac Knight handed his daughter her diploma and gave her a big hug and a bouquet of red roses.    
Michele Hughes, her guidance counselor and ballet teacher, said Knight was always positive and always had a smile. She said because Knight was on a competitive dance team she was required to take classical ballet training.
 “She would come from a cross-country meet, dance with me for an hour, and then dance with Jill for another hour, and she was never short of energy,” said Hughes, who retired in May from teaching ballet.
“She’s as pleasant as can be. She’s Mary Poppins. She’s like that all the time,” added Hughes.
Knight said she was a member of the Baby Zontas, a high school service club modeled after the Zonta Club. As a member she said she has volunteered serving dinners at Loaves and Fishes, helping out at the SPCA and helping maintain the Zonta garden in Cortland.
“I don’t know of anything she can’t do,” said Hughes.
 “She’s practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins,” said Hughes. “But, Margaret is far more humble than Mary Poppins.”




Judge hears arguments in suit over Wal-Mart

Staff Reporter

BINGHAMTON — Attorneys involved in the lawsuit over the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 in Cortlandville had their first day in state Supreme Court on Friday, and debated whether the case should be heard.
Sixth Judicial District Supreme Court Judge Ferris Lebous heard arguments from the attorneys regarding motions to dismiss the Article 78 lawsuit based on the legal standing of the plaintiff, Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment, and also went over some of the particulars of the case.
Lebous told the attorneys that he had reviewed the documentation for the case as much as he “possibly could,” and that he would not be able to render a decision Friday and the next step might be fact-finding.
The attorneys in the case did not wish to speculate on a time frame for Lebous’ decision.
Mindy Zoghlin, of Rochester-based Bansbach, Zoghlin & Wahl, filed the lawsuit in April on behalf of Citizens For Aquifer Protection and Employment. The defendants are the town of Cortlandville and its Town Board, and Wal-Mart Stores East LP.
The lawsuit seeks to halt the development of the 205,000-square-foot Supercenter — which is undergoing site plan review with the town Planning Board — and revisit the State Environmental Quality Review process. It lasted more than a year and a half and concluded last November.
CAPE contends that the board’s approval of the State Environmental Quality Review process was flawed; that the board granted a Planned Unit Development zoning designation based on insufficient information; and that the Town Board usurped some of the powers granted to the town Planning Board by both town law and state law by approving the Planned Unit Development and an associated preliminary site plan.
Both Wal-Mart and the town filed motions to dismiss, alleging CAPE does not have any standing in the matter, and therefore no right to sue.


Courthouse work nears completion

Main park entrance to reopen sometime shortly after July 4

Staff Reporter

For years, entering the Cortland County Courthouse has meant coming in through a back entrance, making your way down a dimly lit, low-ceilinged hall in the basement, passing through security and hiking up a set of stairs before it’s finally apparent that you’re in one of the area’s most impressive buildings.
In a matter of weeks, that will all change.
Phase one of the extensive renovations to the Courthouse is nearly complete, county officials said Friday, with the most significant change the reopening of the historic front entrance of the building, which overlooks Courthouse Park.
While the exact opening date of the front entrance is still unsure — County Administrator Scott Schrader said that original plans to have it opened by July 4 may have to be pushed back until the following week — work on renovating the front entrance and preparing for the relocation of security is nearly complete.
When the entrance does open, visitors to the Courthouse will enter through the door furthest right atop the courthouse steps, pass through a small security room, and then find themselves in the first floor lobby, beneath the soaring, ornate domed roof, said Security Coordinator Maxine Ripley.
“It’s going to be really nice, definitely a lot different than it used to be,” Ripley said Friday, as she showed off much of the work that’s been done so far.
Schrader said that ultimately the opening of the main front entrance could allow for a separate employee entrance in the basement, and should allow for improved security.
“And frankly, it provides a more professional appearance,” he said.
Currently the only work remaining is a punch list of small issues for the contractors to iron out, Schrader said, details that may have been overlooked or not completed.



CHS requires driving course for student parking pass

Staff Reporter

Students at Cortland High School who want to continue to drive to school and park in the school lot will be required to take a new four-hour defensive driving course this summer.
School Resource Officer Rob Reyngoudt said the “Alive at 25” program is planned for 20 different dates in the summer and up to 20 students could take the class each time.
The national branch of Allstate Insurance will fund the entire $1,055 cost of the program, which includes the rights to show a DVD on safe driving and the cost of workbooks.
The program starts Monday and runs all week. Reyngoudt said the first three days of the class are filled. Additional weeks are those of July 16, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20. The July 16 session is also full, he said. The program runs from 8 a.m. to noon each day in these weeks. He noted that he might try to consolidate some days for which few students have registered.
Reyngoudt said 113 students have already signed up for the class. There were about 120 students who had parking permits the 2006-07 school year, he said. The permits are placed in the rearview mirror.
Reyngoudt warned the privilege could still be taken away, if, for example, the student was seen driving unsafely.
“That’s typically one of the first things to go,” he said of the parking privilege.
He said seniors are allowed to park in the upper lot, but underclassmen with licenses have to park in the lower lot across from the Kaufman Center.
The National Safety Council designed the course. Reyngoudt, also a member of Cortland’s police department, said he traveled to Syracuse to become a certified instructor for the class.