December 15, 2006

A chance to excel

Additional state aid boosts Cincy school project


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cincinnatus reading recovery teacher Mary Wright works with first-grader Austin Knapp in the school’s very small reading recovery room, believed originally to have been a storage closet. Adding classrooms is among objectives the school district hopes to accomplish with its proposed EXCEL project.

Staff Reporter

It’s safe to say that officials at Cincinnatus Central Schools were frustrated.So many cuts had been made to the district’s capital project — which is six years in the making — that the school was looking at spending more than $14 million just to maintain the status quo; providing no new technology and no new teaching and learning tools.
Even improvements on necessities such as fire alarms, toilets and heating systems were cut from the original plan due to budgetary restrictions.
Despite the setbacks, Superintendent of Schools Steven Hubbard now believes that what had become a disappointment may evolve into a great success.
“I believe that this district has a model EXCEL project proposal,” he said, referring to the state’s Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning aid, which was made available this year.
“One of the reasons we are doing this now is because we have to get state approval within two years,” Hubbard said. “If we can get this done simultaneously with the other project we can save money because we might, depending on the bidding process, get some of the same contractors doing some of the same work.”
Although the school is still going through with the scaled down capital project, which is still pending state approval, Hubbard hopes that the district will receive additional state aide through the EXCEL program that would restore the cuts made to the original plan as well as providing funds for other improvements.
“We have three reading recovery teachers in closet spaces,” Hubbard said, listing one of several areas that will not be improved under the capital project but will receive money under the proposed EXCEL project. “We would like to take those three teachers and put them in a classroom. We would like to take those children and put them in a classroom. We’re not asking for a classroom for every one of them, we are asking for one classroom for three teachers.”
“We also have teachers on carts,” he added. “Some teachers have to go from room to room to room. We think that it’s appropriate for each teacher to have their own classroom.”
The EXCEL program has provided $2.6 billion to New York state schools, $1.8 billion of which has gone to New York City, Hubbard said.
He explained that if the Cincinnatus district receives the expected $512,486 from EXCEL, which will then be matched with state aide, and coupled with interest from borrowed money and approximately $50,000 to $60,000 of the school’s capital reserve, the district will be able to begin a second $2.7-million project.
Hubbard said if all goes as planned the project will be entirely funded through the state and the school’s capital reserves and come at no cost to the local taxpayers.
“I just believe that Cincinnatus school children deserve what other schools are offering to their children,” Hubbard said. “I think that our science department can use an infusion of technology. When our children are done with their learning here and move on, I want them to be as well equipped as anyone else from any other school.”
The Cincinnatus district hopes to accomplish four objectives with the new project: restore the cuts to the capital project; expand space, including four new classrooms; provide technology improvements that include lab materials for science classes; and create a master floor plan that will be a “systematic design” to clearly separate elementary, middle and high school students.
After meeting with representatives from the EXCEL program on Dec. 7, Hubbard said he intends to submit a final proposal for preliminary approval today.
“If we can get their blessing (New York state) we will then put together an aggressive public campaign out of my office and we would be looking to go to vote in March or April,” he said. “The hard part is getting the information out to the public. I want to have an informed public when it goes to the polls.”
With several approval steps still pending, Hubbard is deeply excited about the possibilities of the new project.
“In my judgment, if we can get this done with their support, it won’t be grandiose by any stretch of the meaning, but it will be what it should be and what these children deserve,” he said. “There is a reason for this…. This could be a Cinderella story.”



Mack gets state post

Former Cortland Mayor Marty Mack, of Cortlandville, will serve as deputy secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in Eliot Spitzer’s administration, the governor-elect announced this morning.
Mack will be responsible for overseeing offices that coordinate with the federal government, the state Legislature and county governments on Spitzer’s behalf, he said in a brief telephone interview today.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mack said of his appointment. “What we do in the next four years will depend in large part on relations with Congress, with the Legislature in Albany and with local governments.”
Mack, who served as mayor of Cortland from 1988 through 1992, has served as a deputy attorney general under Spitzer the last eight years, coordinating the attorney general’s regional offices.




Police: Moravia meth lab found

Cayuga County police announced Thursday that they have made two arrests in relation to a suspected methamphetamine lab found in Moravia last week.
The Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release they arrested Jan E. Ripley, 48, of 5426 Murphy Hill Road, Moravia, on Monday and Michael C. Hagin, 44, of 1253 Route 38 Moravia, on Tuesday, charging both with multiple felony counts in connection to the alleged meth lab found on Dec. 7.
Police said they found 120 gallons of anhydrous ammonia along with various other chemical and laboratory equipment commonly used to make methamphetamine at Ripley’s home.
Environment Products and Services removed a 200-gallon tank from the scene where the anhydrous ammonia was being kept, police said.
Ripley was charged with second-degree unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine, third-degree unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine, and criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine, all felonies. Hagin was charged with third-degree unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine and criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine, felonies.
Ripley and Hagin are being held in Cayuga County Jail on $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.



Arcuri makes plans for 24th District

Staff Reporter

With his inauguration in Washington just three weeks away, Congressman-elect Michael Arcuri and his staff are determining what his role will be, both in Washington and in the 24th District.
Arcuri is working on establishing district offices in several communities, including Cortland, his chief of staff Haylee Rumback said Wednesday, although the congressman-elect does not intend to take over the Church Street office space of Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, the man he’ll replace.
“It won’t be in the same location, but we definitely plan on having a district office in Cortland,” Rumback said. “We’re still in the process of working that out.”
Although the retiring Boehlert will be moving out, State Sen. Jim Seward, who currently shares the building on 45 Church St., will maintain the office, according to his local representative Luanne King.
“We’ve been getting calls, people have been getting worried, but we will be staying,” King said.
Arcuri will inherit Boehlert’s primary district office in Utica, Rumback said, and is looking at establishing offices in Auburn, where Boehlert also has an office, and a handful of other communities.
Meanwhile in Washington, Arcuri, who will officially be sworn in Jan. 4, announced this week that he has been appointed by the new Democratic majority to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a committee on which Boehlert has served for 22 years.
“That’s an assignment we had definitely sought,” Rumback said. “With the size of this district being what it is, obviously transportation — good roads, good infrastructure — is critical to economic development in the district.”
Arcuri will likely be appointed to another committee prior to being sworn in, and each committee assignment will come with a handful of subcommittee assignments, but Rumback was unsure what sort of appointments he would receive.