December 11, 2007


Dryden Middle School in giving mood


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Dryden Middle School seventh-graders count children’s books that they are sending to Iraq as part of a books for troops program. Soldiers will be taped reading the books for children to listen to.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A goat, laptop computers, cleaning supplies and books all have one thing in common at the middle school.
They are all Dryden teacher or student “gifts” to charities or nonprofit organizations.
Donna Atwood, who teaches eighth-grade science at Dryden and leads the Dryden Faculty Association’s Community Action Team, said while her team led the effort to get other teachers to donate to charities instead of exchanging gifts for Christmas, the whole middle school, from sixth to eighth grade, has been focusing on community service this year and each team of teachers is leading their students in a project.
“It’s not for our recognition,” Donna Atwood said of the various individual teacher projects. “We want to help others become aware there are alternatives to giving gifts to people who already have gifts.”
Derrick Virgo, the eighth-grade social studies teacher, and Atwood both purchased laptops for children in developing countries through the program One Laptop per Child. The organization is offering a program in which a giver can purchase two XO laptops — donating one and keeping the other one through its Web site
 “I saw the thing on 60 Minutes and wanted to do it,” Atwood said. “I also donated to the orphanage where my kids are from,” said Atwood, whose adopted children are from the Philippines.
Sandra Barry, who teaches eighth-grade French, chose the Tompkins County SPCA for her gift of cleaning and laundry supplies after a search online of items the nonprofits needed. She said she also donates to the Christian Relief Fund.
Atwood said one teacher has donated a goat to an African village through
Ciccoricco said she volunteers for the Cortland County SPCA and Erslev noted she gives to a lot of different charities. These are ongoing gifts and volunteer work, just as the student projects are ongoing.
“We are promoting community service learning in the school this year,” said Atwood.
For example, a seventh-grade team raised money by walking around the track and getting sponsors for each mile walked, said Tyler Dehaan, a seventh-grader. He said they then spent $230 on books at Borders with the money raised and those books will be mailed to soldiers in Iraq for their Books for Troops project. Monday they were determining the age range for each book.
“They’re going to read them on videotape and send them home for Christmas,” said Dehaan, explaining that each soldier will get a book to read, videotape and then send back to their children.
“All team teachers have been helping,” said Lynne Mattingly, the seventh-grade science teacher. She said seventh-graders wrote letters for Jessica Caputo’s seventh-grade English teacher and a letter will be sent with each book.
She said the books would be sent this week to Washington, D.C., and then shipped to Iraq. Some students have not brought in their letters because they have been absent, said Mattingly. She said the students raised $771 to do this project, of which the Ithaca VFW donated $300.
Carole Erslev said her students in seventh and eighth grades voted to help children with chronic diseases and will soon vote on a local, regional and national and international beneficiary of the $1,300 profit they earned by selling Acorn Design stationery.
Sixth-grade science teacher Trudi Ciccoricco said her students are reading Scholastic books and for every 100 read, Scholastic donates 100 books to the needy. Sixth graders on Kathy Lawson’s team are pairing up with second graders at Dryden Elementary School for the Big Buddy Program. She said they read to the younger students.
And Atwood’s team makes quilts to raise money to help children with cancer. She said the students did the project last year raising $800 from a quilt they raffled and then also give a quilt to a Dryden sixth-grader school student with cancer. Both quilts were of students’  hands and were called the Healing Hands quilts. 
The service learning projects are spreading into other Dryden schools. Jill Knout and other teachers on her team are leading a project for fourth-graders who are making and stuffing stockings for soldiers in Iraq. The high school band and chorus are adopting a family through the Salvation Army and providing groceries for it.
“It becomes infectious,” Atwood said about giving.




County will not help fund city library

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — County officials have rejected a proposal to shift city library costs to the county as the city searches for ways to save money.
The Cortland Free Library might not be the place for the city to save some money in next year’s budget, and officials seem to be leaning toward asking the library to pay its own way a bit more this year.
However, the Common Council could always cut its funding for the year, which could force either the county or the library to make up the difference.
Library officials met with the county’s Budget and Finance Committee and city officials midday Monday and described the funding for the library and the vagaries of library charters as granted by the state.
It was concluded that a countywide library system would not likely present any significant cost-saving benefits, making county officials wary of picking up the just over $200,000 in funding that the city provides to the Cortland Free Library each year.
The library’s annual budget is about $400,000, said Diane Ames, president of the library’s Board of Trustees.
In addition to the city, the town of Cortlandville has appropriated $79,000 in its 2008 budget for library funding, and next year Truxton will provide $400 and Virgil will contribute about $1,500.
The Finger Lakes Library System is funneling $10,500 of state money to the Cortland Free Library each year, said Finger Lakes Library System Executive Director Karen Creenan.
These monies represent the total operating budget of the library for the year, at about $300,000. The operating budget pays for improvements to the facilities as well as wages, utilities and supplies.
Interest on the library endowment, donations and gifts, as well as collected fines, make up the rest of the budget. These monies are used mainly for improving the library’s catalogue, which includes purchasing books, magazines, audiobooks, and other materials, and preparing them for use.
The interest on the library’s $2.3 million endowment contributes between $65,000 and $75,000 to the budget each year.
The majority of that endowment is donor-restricted, Ames said, meaning that it can only go toward certain expenses. Most library donors specify that their donations be used to purchase books, she added. Only about 20 percent of the endowment is not donor directed.
The endowment earns as much as 10 percent interest a year and much of that interest is returned to the endowment so it is actually growing, by about $100,000 a year.



County leaders to be decided

With a slim Democratic majority in the county Legislature, it is unclear who will fill leadership positions

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — There’s plenty of wheeling and dealing left before the county Legislature picks its leadership positions for 2008-09 at the beginning of January.
The Democrats have a slim 10-9 majority, and whether they can all rally behind a single member of their party for the chairmanship will determine how the Republicans play their hand.
The organizational meeting to vote on the leadership positions — including the chairman, majority and minority leaders, clerk of the Legislature and county attorney — has been scheduled for Jan. 3.
Two Democrats, Carol Tytler (3rd Ward) and John Daniels (Cortlandville) are actively pursuing the chairmanship while a third, Sandy Price (Harford and Virgil), hopes for a leadership position as chair or majority leader.
Last week, Daniels said he had spoken with both Democratic and Republican legislators and said they had been “supportive.”
Daniels said he believes Republicans would be willing to support his bid.
“I think I can work better with both parties,” than Tytler could, Daniels said. “I believe that you have to listen to all parties before you can make a decisions … I know a lot of the Republicans have ideas that they’ve brought forth, and I think that we should be looking at those.”
While Tytler chose not to respond directly, she did say she thinks she has demonstrated strong leadership skills on the ad hoc land use committee and the planning sub-committee on flooding, and that she worked within a bipartisan framework in both instances.
“I would say my hat is in the ring,” Tytler said Monday. “I have been talking with my fellow legislators, as well as the legislators that are going to be coming in.”
Her energies are focused on the chairman position, and Tytler said she has talked with both new and returning legislators about goals for the next Legislature.
The Democrats have yet to hold a caucus to discuss the leadership positions, Price said, and that will dictate her actions in the future.
No caucus dates for the Democrats have been set.




ZBA OKs revised Tim Hortons plan

Staff Reporter

A coffee and sandwich shop chain has revised plans for a store on Clinton Avenue in response to concerns from neighbors and planning officials.
The city Zoning Board of Appeals approved area variances for the proposed Tim Hortons restaurant on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Cleveland Street at a regular meeting Monday evening.
The construction of the 2,400-square-foot store would require the demolition of two duplex homes fronting Clinton Avenue.
There would be two entrances and exits to the store — one off Clinton Avenue and one off Cleveland Street.
Neighbors had objected to the store’s impact on traffic on Cleveland Street, a narrow street with a right-angle curve that connects Clinton Avenue to Pomeroy Street.
In response, project engineer Joe Durand of TDK Engineering & Associates said the exit onto Cleveland Street would be signed as right-turn only, meaning that customers exiting the store at Cleveland Street would then have to turn onto Clinton Avenue and turn either right or left.
Both the city Department of Public Works and the state Department of Transportation have given very preliminary approval of this change, but Durand said they would not know for sure until the project received its site plan approval from the city Planning Commission and the DOT and DPW were forwarded the application. The DOT and DPW can then approve or demand changes.
Other changes included the elimination of illuminated signs from the eastern side of the building, which is where the drive-thru window would be located.
The drive-thru would be able to accommodate 11 cars within the dedicated lane, and Jack Krisanda, real estate manager for Tim Hortons USA, said the company tries to maintain the stacking of cars for the drive-thru within the property boundaries.
Other concerns related to the proximity of the drive-thru to its neighbors and were raised by both the county Planning Department and the city Planning Commission.
The project had to receive ZBA variances for the setback of the building. The city’s code requires 30 feet between a building and the property line, but the Tim Hortons would only be 26 feet from the residential property to the south.
Another variance was necessary for the drive-thru lane, which is only 4 feet from the neighboring property line to the south. The city requires a 10-foot buffer strip.



Groton to participate in Upward Bound program

Staff Reporter

Next year, students from the Groton High School will have the chance to participate in a federal program through Cornell University.
The program, Upward Bound, is used to increase the number of students who enroll and graduate from colleges, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Cornell University received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct the program, in which Cornell will work with approximately 50 students from Groton Central School and Elmira City School District in grades nine through 12, offering college-preparatory classes throughout the summer and school year.
Cornell University students will tutor the high school students and special class sections will be set up for the participants in Upward Bound.
“Cornell has been working on ways in which we can better serve low-income youth and create opportunities before they come to college,” Steve Hamilton, associate provost for outreach and professor of human development at Cornell University, said of the program.
The Upward Bound program will provide academic instruction in mathematics, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, and foreign languages. Tutoring, counseling, mentoring, cultural enrichment, and work-study programs also are supported.
The program will be operated through the Office of the Associate Provost for Outreach and the Cornell Public Service Center at Cornell University.
Hamilton said there will not be 25 students from Groton and 25 from Elmira because Elmira is much larger and consequently will have more students participate than Groton. Cornell will receive $250,000 annually for the program for four years, he added.
Hamilton said Groton and Elmira districts were chosen because they met federal district-wide income guidelines and were in the vicinity of the university.
Brenda Myers, superintendent for Groton Central Schools, said educators are in the planning phase and will start implementation in the 2008-09 school year, as early as next summer.
“This program will increase the likeliness that children at Groton will attend a secondary school,” she said.