FCSD officials break down grad rate figures

By Ryan Franklin

FULTON — Fulton City School District officials say they know there’s work to be done in improving the district’s graduation rate, but there are also things that are working well at the district.
Figures released by the state Education Department earlier this month showed that Fulton’s graduation rate had dipped to 69 percent in the 2015 academic year, down from 76 percent in 2014.
However, Elizabeth Conners, executive director of instruction and assessment for the district, said that there were mitigating factors within the data that show some bright spots.
“There are pockets of things that we’re not happy with, but there’s also some pockets where there’s some things where there’s some growth,” Conners said.
Board of education President David Cordone said the board was paying attention to the graduation issue and looking at what they could do to help the district improve.
“I think the message certainly that we would want the community to know is that we are paying attention to the grad rate,” Cordone said. “Everything is not where we want it to be, but we’re making progress is the message.”
One of the struggles the district faced was an increase in students classified as homeless or “unaccompanied youth,” defined as children not in the custody of a parent or guardian, under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Engaging these students was a problem for the district, and was reflective of the issues facing the community as a whole, Conners said.
‘We know we have a lot of work to do,” Conners said.
One of those factors mentioned by Conners was that students who took longer than the traditional four years to graduate were not included in the graduation rates released by the state.
For example, when accounting for students from the 2014 academic class that took an additional year to graduate, the graduation rate rises to 80 percent, which complies with the United States Department of Education goal, according to data provided by Conners.
Superintendent Bill Lynch agreed with Cordone, and said that it was a good sign that the district was able to get students who take extra time to stay in the program.
“We certainly agree that we continue to have a lot of work to continue to support all of our students. We’ve seen progress in some areas and some other areas that continue to be a challenge for us,” said Lynch. “The fact that kids are still connected with us and moving forward to meet the requirements, that’s a positive.”
The next step to keep improving graduation rates, Conners said, was to examine what measures the district could put in place to retain students who struggled in school. Approaching the issue from a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade perspective was essential, Conners said.
“We’re looking at graduation rate as a (pre-kindergarten-12th grade) issue, so we’re looking ultimately at where do we need to put more interventions in place in order to make all of our students successful,” Conners said.
For the younger grades, that meant continuing with programs like the community schools that offer fifth- through eighth-graders afterschool tutoring and activities.
In high school, struggling students were assigned individual teachers to connect with them and check on their progress. That might mean a teacher calls a students at home if they don’t come to school for a day, or checking in to offer extra help after a bad test.
Conners also said that compared to other demographically and economically similar cities, like Auburn, Cortland or Rome, Fulton was performing better in some areas like graduating students with disabilities or non-economically disadvantaged students.
Particularly, for the 2014 academic class, Fulton graduated 90 percent of students not from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to barely more than 80 percent for Auburn, and less than 60 percent for Amsterdam.
That isn’t meant to excuse performance issues in other areas, Lynch said. Rather, it helps to highlight that there’s still work to be done, like working to make sure economically disadvantaged students get the same support they need.

School board names Brian Pulvino as next superintendent

By Ryan Franklin

FULTON — Brian Pulvino, current director of special education at Syracuse City School District, will take over as Fulton City School District superintendent for the next academic year after district leader Bill Lynch retires.
Pulvino was chosen by the board of education after district leaders interviewed six candidates for the position since Lynch announced in August that he would be retiring after more than a decade leading Fulton district schools, according to board President David Cordone.
In addition to his current position, Pulvino has previously served as a principal, acting principal or vice principal at five different schools in the Syracuse district. Pulvino also has advanced education certificates from Boston College and Syracuse University, and completed a superintendent development program at SUNY Oswego.
Cordone said the criteria for the search had been based largely on a community survey that highlighted experience in building and district administration, as well as ethics, as important aspects for a new superintendent.
Pulvino’s experience with urban districts that face many similar challenges as Fulton was also a positive, said the board president.
“I think what attracted the board to him was obviously the 25 years as an educator,” Cordone said. “We also value his experience with an urban setting. That really attracted us to Brian.”
Fulton immediately made an impression on Pulvino during his first interviews and tours of the district, he said.
Not only was the school a good match for his skills and background, but he also said he was excited about the work the district has done recently and the way it approaches each child’s education.
“You could just see in each school there was this consistent theme around connections and relationships with kids, and that’s what I believe in,” Pulvino said. “Kids will do anything, they rise to the occasion if they know you believe in them. I believe it starts there.”
Lynch, who is retiring at the end of the academic year, said leaving was bittersweet, but he’s looking forward to putting the district in good hands and seeing Pulvino build on the district’s progress.
“We want to see everything continue to go well for our kids,” Lynch said. “It’s a great school district, it’s a great community. I wish him all the best and I hope he truly enjoys it.”
Lynch said he and the district were available to Pulvino to help with the transition and welcome him to the district.

Fulton’s future leaders welcomed into National Honor Society

Current members of the National Honor Society stand with newly inducted members of G. Ray Bodley High School.
Current members of the National Honor Society stand with newly inducted members of G. Ray Bodley High School.
Fulton NHS President David Tallents lights the first candle at the school’s 2016 National Honor Society Induction.
Fulton NHS President David Tallents lights the first candle at the school’s 2016 National Honor Society Induction.

FULTON — The Fulton City School District (FCSD) welcomed 46 students into the National Honor Society recently.
The evening began with the singing of the National Anthem and the school’s Alma Mater by G. Ray Bodley chorus members.
Elizabeth Conners, Fulton executive director of instruction and assessment, and G. Ray Bodley Principal Donna Parkhurst were asked to be the guest speakers at the ceremony.
“Each of you is a fine example of the very best at GRB, and I am confident you will carry this honor with integrity and pride,” said Parkhurst. “I am pleased to be amongst a room full of young leaders.”
Parkhurst extended her assistance to the students as they move on to college and career endeavors, insisting that the qualities of leadership and character that they were being recognized for that night will be the same traits that will pave the road to future successes.
The 2016 National Honor Society Inductees were: Donna Aiken, Trey LaRock, Aryelle Barbagallo, Carissa Lee, Frank Barbagallo, Michael Mankiewicz, Evan Beckwith, Ryan Morehouse, Trent Berry, Deirdre Murphy, Amanda Blake, Megan Nicholson, Miwa Burdic, Kyle Perry, Emily Bush, Miranda Prosser, Marshall Carvey, Sarah Rice, Catherine Cianfarano, Alysa Rosenbarker, Shawna Cooper, Cole Rothrock, Kenneth Deloff, Paige Rowlee, Stephanie Fowler, Nathan Shaw, Emily Gerth, Dakota Stoutenger, Sydney Gilmore, Sarah Tallents, Nicole Hansen, Sydney Tetro, Sydnie Harrington, Sabrina Verdoliva, Mallory Harter, Makhali Voss, Jeremy Herlowski, Emma Warren, Daniel Hotaling, Malcolm Wettering Jr., David Houck, Ethan Wright, Victoria Izyk, Andrew Yankowsky, Karly Kearns and Abbey Zych.
The ceremony concluded with a pledge from the new inductees and the traditional candle lighting.

Nestlé demolition underway

The demolition of Fulton’s historic Nestlé factory has begun. Last week, workers began removing piles of debris that were stacked behind the facility. Parts of the site have already been sold to new developers, while other parcels within the campus are still up for grabs. So far, future plans for the property include an ALDI supermarket, a warehouse and a U-haul rental location.­­


Police nab pair for criminal trespass at Nestlé site

Christopher D. Wood
Christopher D. Wood
Douglas W. Hemphill
Douglas W. Hemphill

By Matthew Reitz


FULTON—Fulton police arrested two men last week and charged them with criminal trespassing and possession of burglary tools in what officers say was an attempt to burglarize the former Nestlé plant.

The two men, Douglas W. Hemphill, 36, of Oswego, and Christopher D. Wood, 30, of Syracuse, were found inside the locked and fenced-in property located at 555 S. Fourth St. in Fulton. Both men were charged with third degree criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor, and possession of burglar’s tools, a class A misdemeanor.

Police say the men had numerous tools in their possession, including a screwdriver, pipe wrench, crescent wrench, work gloves, a multi-tool, wire cutters, flashlight, asbestos respirators, folding knife, vice grips, pliers and scissors.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Jan.20, an officer on patrol found Hemphill and Wood inside a fenced-in area at the site, according to Fulton police.

Lt. Jason Delano said, because of the state of the building—which is partially torn down and contains asbestos—officers have been keeping a close eye on the property when they’re out on patrol.

“All the officers have been checking the property just because it is abandoned, and people have been found on the property before,” Delano said. “An officer was on patrol and approached the area and found two people inside a fenced-in area where they shouldn’t have been.”

Delano said the two males were found inside fence,  but not any building. He said it appeared that they had “just gotten there.”

“It looked like they hadn’t been there very long,” Delano said.

Fresh snow allowed the officer to follow the two men’s tracks, Delano said.  While nothing had been taken from the building, the men were in possession of equipment that police say could be used in a robbery.

“They did have tools with them that would facilitate the removal of some of the things inside the property,” Delano said.

Police said there’s no indication that this incident is connected with the recent vandalism of a different building at the former Nestle campus.

Survey to measure homeless population in county

By Matthew Reitz


A survey that measures the number of people experiencing or at risk of homeless will take place in Oswego County today.

The Point-in-Time survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will take place through the evening and into tomorrow. Each year, the survey aims to determine a count of the sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a given day, or within the last 24 hours.

“It’s very specific to that time,” Gidget Stevens, director of assistance programs for the Oswego County Department of Social Services, said of the survey.

Stevens said the survey is conducted in partnership with Oswego County Opportunities each year.

Kristin LaBarge is OCO’s point person on the survey. She said each year the survey is conducted by COACH (County of Oswego Advocates Challenging Homelessness), a coalition “made up of stakeholders in our community that have a common goal of eliminating homelessness.”  

The agencies that make up COACH “come together and discuss the best practices” for combatting homelessness, according to LaBarge. She said they work together to decrease the overlap of services from different organizations.  

“We go out and survey people on the 27th, and sometimes the 28th, in order to talk about what happened on the night of the 27th,” LaBarge said. “We’re looking for people that are, by HUD definition, on the streets or in a place not meant for human habitation.”

HUD doesn’t require the Point-in-Time survey to count individuals staying with family and friends, or those in substandard housing, but LaBarge said the organization tries to ascertain those numbers, as well.

“In Oswego County, homelessness looks different than every other county in New York because we’re so rural,” LaBarge said. “We don’t see people on the streets often, but we see people doubled up with family members in a temporary situation.”

LaBarge said the survey tries to count people at multiple sites throughout the county that provide services. She said it’s hard to reach all of those places, though, because they simply don’t have the man-power.

Results of the survey will be compiled sometime in late February or March, LaBarge said. Last year, the survey counted six people as unsheltered (a place not meant for human habitation), 39 people in some type of shelter (but still homeless under the HUD definition), and 257 people at risk of homelessness or on the brink of losing housing.

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