August 03 , 2007

New education dean takes helm

Former SUNY Oswego assistant dean says he will focus on diversity


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Gerald Porter at his desk Thursday. Porter became the new dean of SUNY Cortland’s School of Education on July 7.

Staff Reporter

Serving a diverse community and putting more of an international focus on education are visions that Gerald Porter, 56, has for SUNY Cortland’s School of Education.
He started July 9 as dean of the school, replacing Edward Caffarella, who will return to teaching after serving as dean since 2003 of the newly created School of Education.
Porter, who served as assistant dean in the School of Education at SUNY Oswego from 2000 to 2005, had also been an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at Oswego since 1998.
Porter said two groups of young people are having difficulty in school — the poor and those of color. He said schools of education need to be responsible for determining what works in educating these groups. He said the Cortland Urban Recruitment of Teachers is one way to serve diverse groups of students. “I’d love to do everything we can to support that,” he said of the organization. “To expand that would be great.”
Porter said with the world becoming more global, teachers need to have skills to deal with the international scene — learning foreign languages and becoming familiar with other cultures. “Ideally that should be an actual experience (abroad),” he said, noting he would like to see more students go abroad and more international students study at SUNY Cortland. 
Porter said his vision of teaching is that the whole person needs to be educated, from the emotional to interpersonal relationships. “It’s bigger than the three R’s,” he said.
Porter has taught in higher education since 1991, but began his educational career as a school psychologist.
“The unifying piece of all my work in education is looking at how teachers, education can serve the larger issue of social justice,” said Porter.
Porter said he was impressed by the work done at SUNY Cortland in the School of Education. He expects to “refine” that work, rather than make radical changes.
One large change that will be occurring is the construction of the new $13 million School of Education building in front of Van Hoesen Hall. It will house the college’s day care facility and will have education offices, a conference room and two classrooms, adding a total of 30,000 square feet of academic space. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Sept. 25, according to the Public Relations department.
Porter said he has seen the blueprints for the building. “It’s wonderful,” he said, noting it would be good to have the school under one roof.
Porter received a doctorate and master’s degree in educational psychology, in 1990 and 1979, respectively, and also a certificate of advanced studies in school psychology in 1984, all from State University of New York in Albany. He also has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Regent’s College (Excelsior) in Albany.
Before obtaining his college degrees, Porter had been a reporter at the Troy Record and also in the Virgin Islands, where he worked in newspaper and radio.
“It gave me motivation to want to go to school,” said Porter, who said he also worked in direct care at mental hospitals.
Born in Buffalo and raised in the Albany area, Porter lives in Syracuse, with his wife of 27 years, Gail Bering-Porter, who is a teacher and is currently studying graphics art. Porter is also an artist and has three of his paintings in his office, all painted in bright colors and all folk art.
Porter said he would like to dispel myths the larger community has about education, such as the myth that teachers are in education because they can’t do anything else. He said at Cortland, students in the School of Education have Scholastic Aptitude Test scores 50 to 70 points above the national average and more than 99 percent of students graduating pass the teacher competency test.
“I think we have talented, capable students, a rigorous program” which, he noted, is certified by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. 
Porter said SUNY Cortland is one of the 10 largest schools of education in the nation. “I will be working at making sure it’s not only one of the biggest, but one of the best.”



Companies to come off Empire list

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A handful of companies on the state’s list of Empire Zone companies that did not meet job or investment projections in 2005 are coming off the list.
Two of those companies will be removed from the list because the state erred, said Karen Niday, the county’s Empire Zone coordinator.
Three more will be coming off the list because they met their projections in 2006, she said, and seven more will be coming off because they voluntarily gave up their Empire Zone status.
Another four probably will come off the list because the companies did not provide the correct information about their investment or jobs, Niday said.
The state erroneously recorded that Graph-Tex started off with 77 jobs when it applied for Empire Zone status in 2001, projected three new jobs and ended up with 40 jobs total. The company actually started off with 27 jobs, projected five and ended up with 40, Niday said.
Northeast Transformer Services was the victim of a similar error.
The state reported the company started with 38 jobs, projected six and ended up with 12. In reality, Northeast Transformer had eight jobs when it applied for the Empire Zone program in 2001, projected creating six jobs and ended up with 12 jobs, meeting its projection by more than 60 percent, Niday said.
Niday and Linda Hartsock, the county’s Empire Zone certifying officer, blamed the state for the errors.
“Sadly a number of very fine businesses suffered damage to reputation because of this,” said Hartsock.
Stephanie Zakowicz, vice president of communications for Upstate Empire State Development, said this morning the state might have made some errors, but that she could not say that for sure.
“I don’t’ know what they’re referring to,” she said. “We’re not going to get into a ‘he said-she said’ kind of thing.”
She said the list of companies is supposed to provoke dialogue between the state, Empire Zone coordinators and companies, and that the state appreciates any errors being brought to its attention.
Niday said she sent state Empire Zone representatives corrections July 19 after she received from the state a list of companies it believed had not made 60 percent or more of their projections.
The list did not include numbers, she said, but she knew Graph-Tex, Northeast Transformer Services and five other companies had been placed on the list in error.
The state removed the five other companies from the list before it went public, but it did not remove Graph-Tex and Northeast Transformer Services, she said.]
Niday said she was disappointed the state did not send her a finalized list before making the list available to the media.
“As of last Friday, the 27th, my Empire Zone office asked if there was a revised list and they told me they didn’t know and had nothing more to say,” she said.
The state on Monday made available a list of approximately 3,000 companies statewide that did not make their projections, including about 40 in Cortland County.
Niday said that since the list was released, she has received calls from J.E. Management Group, JFJ Properties, Cortland Hardware, Resource Associates and Hugh Keegan Associates, saying they underreported their 2005 investments to her office.
“They realized they had not completed their reports correctly,” Niday said.
She said those companies are looking through paperwork to submit correct information.
Three companies will be coming off the state’s list because they met their job and investment projects in 2006, Niday said. Those companies are Geon and Vin Inc., Gallagher Construction and Hugh Keegan Associates, which also is coming off the list because it apparently invested enough in 2005.
Zakowicz said the state’s next step is looking at the companies’ total jobs and investments in 2006 to see which companies can came off the list. She said she doesn’t know when that will be completed.
Seven companies will be coming off the state’s list because they have asked to leave the Empire Zone program, became decertified after moving or were sold, Niday said.
Those companies are HMD, Gonda Real Estate, The Wilkins Company, Jack Danielson’s, now Gilda’s, Odyssey Networks Inc., Diva’s and Cortland Tire.
Niday and Hartsock said they believe the remaining companies on the list will not be penalized by the state.
The businesses all have achieved a good balance of job creation, investment and other contributions to the local economy over the years, Hartsock said.
“We look at those numbers on an ongoing basis. We’ve tried to be very proactive,” she said.


DA loses appeal in Homer BB gun case

Staff Reporter

After being charged with 28 total counts from two different arrests for the same incident, two Homer teens accused of shooting five other students with an Airsoft BB gun now appear to have been exonerated of all criminal wrongdoing.
Cortland County Court Judge Julie Campbell dismissed an appeal Monday that stemmed from the May 2006 incident where the boys shot five other classmates with the gun while in the Homer High School.
Zachary Walter and Terry Elwood, both 18, were charged with multiple counts of second-degree harassment and possession of a weapon on school grounds, both violations, in December, but Homer Town Justice Gary Shiffer dismissed those cases in February.
The teens were originally charged with multiple counts of felony and misdemeanor assault but Campbell also dismissed those charges in November after finding that none of the students shot were injured.
Campbell dismissed the appeal filed by District Attorney David Hartnett and Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin because the original paperwork was submitted too late.
Hartnett and Franklin should have filed the paperwork within 30-days of when Shiffer’s decision was filed, she said.
“Today our kids have finally been vindicated,” Terry Elwood’s father Chip Elwood said in a written statement about the recent dismissal. “We can only hope and pray that District Attorney David Hartnett will finally quit trying to ruin our kid’s lives and accept the ruling of Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell.”
“Everyone in this County is still wondering why he went this far with this and hurt these boys by putting them through so much mental turmoil,” he added.
Hartnett said this morning that his office will not pursue the case any further. He said he prosecuted the charges against the teens the same as he would any other case, calling their actions dangerous.
“If we were aggressive in this case, we are aggressive in every case we prosecute,” he said. “I don’t think we were over zealous… if people want to hold grudges so be it.”
In addition to dismissing the appeal as untimely, Campbell also said Shiffer was correct in throwing out the charges originally. She said she would have dismissed the appeal even if the paperwork had been filed on time. Shiffer dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds because it had already been moved to county Court through the indictment on the assault charges.
He also said in his decision that he would not set a precedent where the District Attorney’s Office was able to recharge a person for the same incident after losing the case in a higher court. He said the actions of the District Attorney’s Office were “the same conduct dressed up in a different guise for another prosecutorial attempt.”
Campbell said in her decision that although the second set of charges did not qualify as “double jeopardy” under the law, it did create “multiple prosecutions” of the “same conduct.”
In addition to the formal appeal of in the case, Hartnett also wrote on Nov. 9 a letter to Campbell before recharging the teens with the violations, asking her to reconsider her dismissal of the assault charges, or to consider any lesser charges that might apply to the issue. Campbell denied his request on Nov. 16.
Walter was acquitted on the only one of the 28 total counts that was not dismissed by a judge — one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child — during a jury trial in June.
That charge was the only part of the original indictment that Campbell did not dismiss in November and was related to one student who Walter shot with the gun who was under the age of 16.
During the trial Randolph Kruman, Walter’s attorney, argued that Walter shot the other student with the gun as a prank between friends. He claimed that the gun was a toy and that Walter had no intent of injuring the boy when he shot him.
Franklin, who prosecuted the case, argued that the gun was a dangerous weapon and that Walter put the other student in harm when he shot them in the cheek. Several jurors said they thought the incident did not merit criminal charges and one juror called the shooting “child’s play.”