All posts by Debbie Groom

Hannibal school district updates website

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

Months of dedicated efforts among the Hannibal Central School District’s technology department, administrators and staff have culminated with the successful launch of a new website.

The site, which can still be found at www.hannibalcsd.org, experienced a significant overhaul and was unveiled recently.

It addresses some of the flaws that users ran into with the previous version. It also is much more user-friendly, said district director of technology, Matt Dean.

“From what I’ve gathered from the people who have provided feedback, (the new site provides) ease of access, it’s cleaner, all the information is centrally located,” Dean said.

In addition to being streamlined and easier to navigate, Dean said that instead of stock photos, the website creates a feeling of Purple Pride, as district students are featured prominently throughout the site.

“We’ll do what we can to make sure you have updated information and pictures right at your fingertips,” he said.

With access to information and school news at the top of the priority list, the district has also added a YouTube channel and joined Twitter as other communication tools.

To follow the district on Twitter, search for the handle “HannibalSchools,” or click on the Twitter icon at the top of the district’s home page.

Hannibal food services receives an A-plus grade

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

Students in the Hannibal Central School District are not the only ones who are subject to testing, as the Food Service Department recently passed its semiannual inspection.

The department, under the leadership of manager Debbie Richardson, receives a full examination from the Oswego County Health Department twice a year.

Each school undergoes a comprehensive inspection that checks for sanitation problems, safety violations, storage issues and a plethora of other potential hazards.

“They come in and they inspect Part 14 of the health code, which entails a little bit of everything,” Richardson said. “They check the temperatures of the foods and make sure everything is sanitary.”

Richardson said cold foods must be kept below 45 degrees while hot foods must be held at 140 degrees. Anything in between the 45 degree and 140 degree range is known as a danger zone and food can’t be in that zone for more than two hours.

“But we are stricter than that, we’re extra careful with what we do,” Richardson said. “We have a driver and we temp the food before the driver takes it and again when it arrives at the other site.”

For Richardson, the fact that the district received no major violations during its inspections speaks to the efficiency and commitment of her employees.

“We have a head cook in each building who ensures day-to-day operations run smoothly and on time. We have a driver and other food service employees who all work together and make our operations successful,” Richardson said.

“My staff here is so unique; yes they come for a paycheck, but that’s not the only reason,” she said. “They really care about the students. They want to make sure we are giving the students what they want within the regulations and that they are happy with it.

“We’ve got some good foundation as far as years of experience and dedication,” Richardson said.

The food service department is much more than workers dishing up meals to the district’s students each day, Richardson said. She noted the department is responsible for “anything and everything” that needs to be done with food service, from ordering and preparing food to ensuring sanitation guidelines are met on a daily basis.

Students and families learn how to be healthy

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

Fairley Elementary School transformed into a massive health fair on March 3 as dozens of local health care agencies, businesses and organizations set up shop in the gymnasium for the first-ever Healthy Family Night.

The event was a huge collaborative effort and a significant undertaking, according to organizer and school psychologist Geri Seward. However, Seward noted that months of planning paid off as hundreds of people packed the school’s two gymnasiums.

“It was a lot of work but really was a fabulous event and successful in every way,” Seward said. “The presenters were amazing; the donations were amazing; the families and kids were amazing.  The feedback from all participants was amazing. What else could you ask for?”

Vendors were on hand from Oswego Health to provide information about their services and display X-ray images of bones. Businesses like Ontario Orchards also participated and gave out free bottles of apple cider. Representatives from police and fire agencies were on hand as well, discussing safety and even issuing child identification tags. Even youth development organizations, such as Boy Scouts, provided demonstrations.

“It was such a great bridge-building (effort) between home and school and community and school,” Seward said. “We all had a chance to learn, have fun and be together.”

In addition to holding raffles and hosting different vendors, Healthy Family Night focused on physical fitness as well. Students had an opportunity to show their parents what they learned in physical education class by using some of the equipment in the small gym.

Although the inaugural event just wrapped up, organizers are already looking toward the future.

“We hope it will be the first of many Healthy Family Nights,” Seward said.

Kenney students behave, achieve good grades

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

At Hannibal’s Dennis M. Kenney Middle School, student achievement has soared this school year while disciplinary referrals have plummeted, creating a cause for celebration among faculty and pupils alike.

During a recent school board meeting, DMK Principal Dee Froio, DMK counselor Meg Jaworski and school psychologist Meredith Furlong discussed the reinvigorated Character Education Program. The program has gained traction since the beginning of the school year, when members of the building leadership team first got together to discuss their goals for the year. That team has evolved into a separate subcommittee and developed various initiatives to help boost student achievement while also addressing student disciplinary issues.

“We are looking to infuse character education within the culture and climate of the school,” Froio said.

The principal noted that the eight-person character education subcommittee meets monthly to decide on a particular trait that they want to see reinforced in the school community. However, rather than simply expecting students to know what respect is, there is an educational process that teaches students exactly what respect looks like.

“The focus of the committee is to take those traits and make them a focus every month so students can see these things in action, being practiced. “We have different activities for each trait that really helps reinforce everything.”

Morning announcements typically incorporate a word of the day that correlates with that month’s character trait, which also helps emphasize the trait. Respect, citizenship, kindness, caring and other qualities have been the focus of the initiative so far this school year, with announcements, incentives and activities held in conjunction with each. Activities include a free breakfast pizza event, an ice cream social, prize drawings and other celebratory happenings.

“We are trying to couple each character trait with academics and expectations and help our kids grow into (well-rounded) individuals,” Furlong said.

So far, mission accomplished. Teachers, counselors and faculty members have reported a noticeable change among the students. According to Jaworski, students are going out of their way to exhibit the character trait of the month. In addition to positive feedback from staff members, disciplinary data also confirms the strides students have taken to exhibit good behavior.

“We’re holding the students accountable and we’re also asking the staff to enforce those expectations,” Froio said. “If you compare the total referrals from September to December last year, we had 529 for that period; this year we’re at 435. We are trending in the right direction.”

With the district placing an emphasis on character education, Froio said she expects that trend to continue into the next marking period, the next school year and beyond. Judging by the 20 percent increase in students who earned recognition during  a recent character education breakfast, the principal’s vision is becoming a reality.

People still remember disappearance of Heidi Allen after 20 years

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By Debra J. Groom

April 3, 1994.

It’s Easter Sunday. People in Oswego County are getting ready to celebrate this holiest of days on the Christian calendar.

It’s about 7:30 a.m. In New Haven, Town Justice Russell Sturtz is getting ready for church. Ditto Historian Marie Strong.

Over in Oswego, Undersheriff Reuel Todd is helping his wife with preparations for a family holiday feast later in the day.

Everything changes about 20 minutes later.

“I got a phone call about 7:50,” said Todd, who now is Oswego County sheriff. “They said one of our deputies was flagged down out in New Haven because the door to the D&W Convenience Store was unlocked but there was no one at the store.”

Sturtz got a similar call from his sister-in-law, who was Heidi’s mother. “She said Heidi wasn’t at the store,” he said.

Heidi Allen, then 18, was working at the D&W Convenience Store at the intersection of Route 104 and 104B that Easter morning. Some time after 7:30 a.m., she disappeared.

She has not been found in all these 20 years.

Heidi and her disappearance still affects people throughout New Haven and other parts of Oswego County to this day. Many will gather April 3 at the New Haven Fire Department to remember Heidi, share stories and light candles.

In those 20 years, two trials were held. Brothers Richard and Gary Thibodeau were arrested and charged with kidnapping Heidi. Separate trials were held – Richard was found not guilty, Gary was found guilty.

Gary, now 60, is serving 25 years to life in the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, Clinton County. His scheduled release date is May 19, 2020, according to state prison records.

While many cases this old may be set aside, especially after someone has been found guilty and sent to prison, that isn’t the case here.

Todd said the Heidi Allen case is still very active. The case is discussed once a month and rookies and trainees even get in on the action by checking all the information from the case to see what has been done.

And the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office still has a Heidi Allen page on its website.

“It is discussed here probably more than any case we’ve ever had,” Todd said. “We continually follow up leads as to where she is. If we get a teletype for remains that have been found, we follow it up. Our main interest is the family. If we could recover her, it would put an end to it for the family,”

Heidi’s older sister Lisa Buske, of New Haven, has written four books about the feelings one has when a loved one vanishes without a trace. She has met other people from all over who also have missing family members. She speaks to many groups across the country about her journey.

She said “it is more common than you think” that someone can remain missing for 20 years. She has met people with family members missing for 30-plus years.
The use of DNA to make matches with discovered remains has helped solve many cases.

“There are a lot of cold cases out there,” she said.

Todd talked of the searches held from the moment Heidi was discovered missing.

“I gathered up the things we would need, pens, county maps, yellow pads, and headed to New Haven,” he said. “Our initial thought was ‘oh, she ran home for something and forgot to lock the (store) door.’ Or ‘we’re going to get a call — she’s going to call and say ‘I’ll be back shortly.’”

But those calls never came. Todd and scores of others spent much of the next two weeks at the New Haven fire hall, putting together search parties, tracking down leads, talking to witnesses.

Strong, the historian, heard about the case when Sturtz showed up at her house to get her son to help with the search. She also worked at the fire hall registering people who were helping out.

“This just seemed impossible,” she said. “It didn’t seem like this could happen around here – it’s a small town, a quiet town.”

Many members of the public showed up to help search. Todd said searches actually were made easier by the heavy wet snow that fell that Easter morning. If the snow in an area was pristine and untouched, everyone knew Heidi couldn’t be there.

“There were guys all over searching,” said Alan Downing, who was New Haven supervisor at that time. “I volunteered for searches.”

To date, the Heidi search has taken sheriff’s office officials to many different states. Buske said Todd is always sure to let the family know when remains are found that are being checked to see if they could be Heidi.

In fact, the case was publicized in many parts of the country. Downing, who took a trip to the Canadian Rockies a number of years after the kidnapping, said he was traveling back into Washington state from Canada and saw a 3-foot square sign “Have You Seen Heidi?” with her photo as he entered the U.S.

Todd said not finding Heidi is the matter that bothers him the most in his nearly 40-year law enforcement career.

“I would like to think we left no stone unturned,” he said last week. “I’m a parent and I can’t figure out what they’re (Heidi’s parents Ken and Sue) going through. I think because we got so close, it’s more troublesome. When you have something like this you like to see a finality.”

Todd recently announced he is running for another four-year term as sheriff. That will give him another four years to try to find Heidi.

“If I could find her, I would retire a very, very happy man,” he said.

John Spotswood, of Oswego, newest Oswego County lottery winner

John Spotswood of Oswego recently celebrated his 50th birthday with the usual flurry of phone calls and cards from family and friends.

He also got three scratch-off New York Lottery tickets from his sister.

The first one won him $25, he said. The second — zilch.

The third was the charm. It was worth $1 million.

Spotswood, who works as a nuclear power plant technician, is taking the cash option and will net $555, 912. Spotswood said the money will allow him to retire at a decent age, take a trip next year and buy some new shoes. 

If it’s spring, then Rudy’s is open

Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-In opened for the season Wednesday March 19 with a full house of patrons. Cars were parked in both lots and across the front and sides of the building at lunchtime. The stand, famous for its seafood and hot sauce, has spring hours of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The eatery uses 200 gallons of ketchup every week  and cooks 2,000 pounds of fish every week — a total of 60,000 pounds of fish a season. Rudy’s rice pudding, macaroni salad, cole slaw and tzatziki are all proprietary recipes prepared fresh daily. And local butcher, Boscos, has supplied beef to Rudy’s for more than 50 years and fresh produce comes daily from Ontario Orchards, which is right down the road. For more info on Rudy’s, go to 222.rudyshot.com
Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-In opened for the season Wednesday March 19 with a full house of patrons. Cars were parked in both lots and across the front and sides of the building at lunchtime. The stand, famous for its seafood and hot sauce, has spring hours of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The eatery uses 200 gallons of ketchup every week and cooks 2,000 pounds of fish every week — a total of 60,000 pounds of fish a season. Rudy’s rice pudding, macaroni salad, cole slaw and tzatziki are all proprietary recipes prepared fresh daily. And local butcher, Boscos, has supplied beef to Rudy’s for more than 50 years and fresh produce comes daily from Ontario Orchards, which is right down the road.
For more info on Rudy’s, go to 222.rudyshot.com