Category Archives: Featured Stories

Big changes in store for Oswego County BOCES CTE program

By Ashley M. Casey

With a $35 million renovation of the Oswego County BOCES complex on the agenda for this summer and some new programs on the way, the Career and Technical Education branch of BOCES is undergoing some big changes for the 2014-15 school year.

CTE Principal Marla Berlin, who took the helm in September 2013, presented an update on the programs’ progress at the Feb. 11 Fulton Board of Education meeting. This academic year, 123 of the county’s 704 CTE students come from the Fulton district.

Berlin, who previously taught business at Mexico High School, said CTE is introducing a STEM academy, two business education programs and “Career Connections,” an effort aimed at disengaged 10th graders.

Career Connections is a half-day exploratory career program that lets 10th graders who are in danger of dropping out of high school experience the various programs CTE has to offer. Berlin said the program’s goal is to “try to hook them into learning” and “bring back that joy of learning.” Although enrollment numbers are not yet final, Berlin said she expects up to 40 students to participate.

Next year, CTE will also eliminate the Floral Design and Greenhouse Technology programs.

“It really was not self-sustaining and not supported by local labor markets,” Berlin told the Fulton school board.

Berlin told The Valley News that current 11th-graders in those programs can continue in different CTE programs next year. She said one student who is interested in opening a floral shop one day may take the new business program, and another botany-minded student may continue in the new STEM academy.

The STEM academy will use scientific inquiry to solve real world problems. Berlin said BOCES has acquired 3-D printers for use in the digital media, STEM and motor sports fabrication programs. Students are using the 3-D printers to design and create objects. She said one of BOCES’ non-3-D printers has a broken component that is no longer made by the printer’s manufacturer.

“Our students are working with CAD and 3-D printers to design … and replicate that part,” Berlin said.

She said BOCES is also looking into buying a 3-D printer that uses chocolate and hard candy for the culinary arts students to create their own confections.

“The kids here think out of the box,” Berlin said. She recalled one student who suggested that BOCES build a mini-fire station for CTE public safety students to practice. “It says a lot about the innovative and creative thinking that kids are inspired to do while they’re here.”

CTE’s programs align with New York state’s new Common Core Learning Standards, which have an emphasis on hands-on, project-based learning and real-world application.

“That’s how they learn, that’s what excites them, and that’s what keeps them in school so they graduate,” Berlin said.

Students in CTE programs are held to industry standards and participate in internships with local companies.

“The success of our internship placement really depends on community support,” Berlin said. “We have excellent rapport (and we’re) making sure our students are knowledgeable, prepared and appropriate for those placements.”

CTE works with Oswego County and the state Department of Labor to keep a finger on the pulse of the county’s job market and place students in fields in which they can find jobs upon graduation.

“It’s not just about placing students just to place them somewhere,” Berlin said. “We truly want to help them move forward in their career path.”

Recently, Oswego’s CTE students won 32 awards in the regional SkillsUSA competition at Morrisville State College. Oswego took the top three spots in collision repair. Many students will go on to the state conference in April at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

Despite the whirlwind five months of hard work her new position has brought, Berlin said it has been rewarding.

“It’s all about the kids, watching them learn and their experiences the instructors give them,” she said. “Whenever I get bogged down with paperwork, I walk through the programs. That just makes me smile. They’re looking at their future.”

Legislature OKs appeals lawyer; accepts snowmobile trail maintenance money

By Debra J. Groom

The Oswego County Legislature on Thursday approved hiring an outside lawyer to handle appeals.

District Attorney Gregory Oakes pitched this idea to the legislature during the December 2014 budget hearing. He said an assistant district attorney is his office was spending half of her work time on appeals instead of prosecuting county cases.

County officials have been trying to move cases through the court system quicker in hopes of alleviating overcrowding at the Oswego County jail.

Often, defendants in felony cases are held in jail waiting for their court dates when they can’t make bail, so Oakes and others came up with way to move people through the court system quicker.

The legislature hired Amy L. Hallenbeck, of Johnstown, at $2,600 per appeal. Oakes said during the past 10 years, the office has averaged 10 appeals a year.

Also Thursday, the legislature:

** Passed a resolution in support of allowing crossbow hunting in Oswego County.

** Approved spending $80,000 to replace turbine steam condenser tubes at the Energy Recovery Facility. The facility operates two steam turbine generators to produce electricity and the steam exiting the turbine is cooled by steam condenser that use river water as a cooling medium. The system has been in use for nearly 30 years and the tubes are wearing thin from normal wear and tear.

** Approved naming Dr. Michael S. Nupuf of Oswego to the Oswego County Board of Health. Nupuf is in private practice in internal medicine.

** Approved the transfer of $38,000 for the recruitment and retention of nurses for the Oswego County Health Department’s Certified Home Health Agency and Long Term Home Health Care Program.

** Appointed John FitzGibbons to another term on the Oswego County Board of Ethics. His term will run through Feb. 1, 2017.

** Authorized Chairman Kevin Gardner to enter into agreements in relation to the Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Program and accept $218,365 for use in the 2012-14 snowmobile trail season. The money will be split between 10 county snowmobile clubs who maintain the hundreds of miles of trails in the county.

** Awarded a contract to Miller Consulting Services and Miller Engineers, of Manlius, for $35,020 for consulting work needed prior to the demolition of the old jail on Route 481 across from the current Oswego County Correctional Facility.

** Approved urging New York state to extend or make permanent Real Property Tax Law Section 485, which would allow municipalities to negotiate tax agreements with the owners of nuclear power plants.

** Approved urging New York state to review and amend the taxable status of spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.

‘Rigoletto — the Oswego Story’ comes to the stage Feb. 21 and 23

Oswego Opera Theatre’s reimagined “Rigoletto,” Feb. 21 and 23 at SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre, shows the many ties of college and community, from plot to people.

“Rigoletto — The Oswego Story,” a rewrite of Verdi’s classic opera by SUNY Oswego adjunct instructor Mack Richardson of the music department, will take the Tyler Hall stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23.

“I was inspired by two things,” said Richardson, artistic director and conductor of Oswego Opera Theatre since 2008.

“First, I was interested in how the Metropolitan Opera reset ‘Rigoletto’ in Las Vegas in the 1960s. I like how it worked — they updated it quite reasonably. Of course, it takes on timeless ideas,” he said.

“And I wanted to try an audience-building marketing idea. Apparently, it has worked because it’s gotten a lot of attention,” he said.

Rather than the original Mantua, Italy, Richardson sets his adaptation of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1851 opera “Rigoletto” in 1920s Oswego, where workarounds to Prohibition are in full bloom and the womanizing Duke of Mantua becomes Duke, the womanizing and personally and politically connected owner of a speakeasy.

In this reimagining, Duke pretends to be a SUNY Oswego college student to woo love interests on campus.

‘Great fun’

While Duke (Jonathan Howell) headlines at his own club, Verdi’s tragic court jester becomes, in the adaptation, Rigoletto the Don Rickles-like comic (Jimi James), hated by everyone for his vicious insult-jokes.

While sung in Italian, the opera will offer a projected image of Richardson’s translation of the lyrics to English. The orchestra features members of Syracuse’s Symphoria.

Richardson said stage director Fred Willard and the cast have embraced the remake of “Rigoletto,” which began life in the mid-19th century as an initially censored and then wildly popular opera.

“Fred very willingly agreed to take on the idea and is having great fun with it,” said Richardson, who is teaching “Introduction to the Worlds of Music” and “The Business of Music” at the college this semester.

Richardson said he came up with the idea for the “Rigoletto” adaptation about a year ago, but has been familiar with the opera since high school.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and master’s in orchestral conducting and arts administration from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, he has led productions of Mozart’s “The Impresario,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” Bizet’s “Carmen,” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” and “Carousel,” among others.

As with many community productions, town and gown members work together in the cast and crew.

Jonathan Powers, a recent SUNY Oswego graduate, will sing the part of Ceprano, one of the men loyal to Duke. Oswego graduate Dan Williams will serve as chorus director.

Suzayn MacKenzie-Roy, an alumna who is facilities manager for Waterman Theatre, will deploy the crew for “Rigoletto — The Oswego Story,” Richardson said.

Other key roles include Gilda (Tatiana Poletskaya) and Maddalena (Danan Tsan).

Tickets for “Rigoletto — The Oswego Story” are $25 ($20 for educators and for seniors over 60; $5 for students) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 312-2141.

Parking for these performances is included in the ticket price, and is available in the lot in front of Culkin Hall, the rear half of the lot behind Hart and Funnelle halls or in the adjacent commuter lot.

Patrons with disabilities should call 312-2141 for assistance in advance of the performances.

Flood watch in effect through Saturday

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for late Thursday through late Friday for Oswego County.

Meteorologists say the significant warm up with rain expected Thursday through Friday should result in greatly increased runoff and rising 
waterways. Runoff from rain falling on frozen ground may cause flooding of streets and in areas of poor drainage.

They said plenty of ice also is still in place in creeks so there will be an enhanced risk for ice jams and subsequent flooding. 


2 teens charged in Byrne Dairy robbery

Two Hastings teens have been charged with robbery in connection with a theft at the Byrne Dairy on Route 11 in the town of Hastings on Sunday (today).

Oswego County Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers responded to a robbery at the store and revealed a strong-armed robbery had just been committed by two suspects who fled the scene on foot.

Officers followed footprints in the snow to 166 Roxbury Estates.  Both suspects were arrested and property stolen from the store was recovered.

Those arrested are, Frank J. Burt, 17, and Jeremy L. Champney, 17.

Each is charged with one count of robbery in the 1st degree, a felony,  one count of robbery in the second degree, a  felony, one count of conspiracy in the 4th degree, a felony and Jeremy was charged with an additional count of resisting arrest.

Both men will be arraigned in town court.

Oswego County organizations receive CNY Arts Decentralization Awards

A number of Oswego County organizations are receiving 2014 CNY Arts Decentralization Awards.

The awards are given through the New York State Council on the Arts to to help localities support their own funding for arts events and programs.

Community Arts Grants partially fund community-based arts projects featuring dance, theater, film, music, and folk, literary, digital and visual arts.

Those receiving awards are:

Art Association of Oswego Inc., $1,700, Outreach Program

ARTSwego (through the Oswego College Foundation), $2,100, The Acting Coming: Coming to a Theater in Your Community

Cleveland Historical Society, $2,400, Children’s Glassworks Theatre

The Children’s Museum of Oswego, $710, Bash the Trash Environmental Arts Concert

Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, $1,400, Nature Inspires

Fulton Community Theatre, $1,900, for 2014 season

Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, $2,300, 014 Fulton Jazz Festival

H. Lee White Marine Museum, $2,700, War of 1812 — The Great Rope Play

Oswego Players Inc., $2,391, Gypsy

Pulaski Congregational Church, $2,200, Rhea LaVeck Memorial Concert Series

Salmon River Fine Arts Center, $2,460, Drawing Families into Art

Town of Schroeppel, $1,180, Music in the Park

Village of Lacona, $510, Lacona Music at the Market Concert Series

Village of Phoenix, $1,000, Friday Nights of Fun Concert Series

 

February is Black History Month

It is Black History Month, so The Valley News thought it would be good to share some stories of African-American history right here in Oswego County.

Here are a few vignettes:

‘Harlem Hellfighters’ at Fort Ontario.

The Harlem Hellfighters were an all-black military infantry unit during World War I, a group that received high recognition for its heroism and fighting ability.

By the time World War II rolled around, the group from Harlem in New York City now was called the 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment. And before shipping out to take on the Japanese in the Pacific, these 1,800 black soldiers did their training at Fort Ontario.

Sure, fighting the Germans would be rough. But the soldiers also got a taste of rough when they arrived in Oswego for training in January 1941. One soldier said he remembers getting off the train in Oswego and they immediately lost a soldier in a mound of snow.

Even though the United States was not yet in the war, training of troops was taking place as President Franklin D. Roosevelt prepared for the worse. The men with the 369th spent eight months at Fort Ontario, practicing anti-artillery drills at the Johnson Farm, an abandoned area east of the fort, where nine Mile Point One is now located.

A history student at SUNY Oswego wrote in 1972 that the men of the 369th often went into Oswego or Syracuse when they were off duty. They would hang out at the Dunbar Social Center in Syracuse and play basketball. They would shop in Oswego and eat at local restaurants.

Adding nearly 1,800 black soldiers to the population changed the demographic makeup of Oswego. In a county of more than 71,000 residents, 55 were black before the soldiers arrived, according to the U.S. Census in 1940. By contrast, Harlem — where most of the men were from — had an 89 percent black population, the 1940 Census shows.

“Outside of Harlem, the issue of race became more immediate for the 369th,” a 1993 article in the Journal of Social History says. “Oswego was, in the words of one member of the 369th, ‘lily white.’

The most famous of the 369th soldiers at Fort Ontario was Lt. John Woodruff, also known as “Long John” Woodruff. He had won the gold medal in the 800 meters at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

The 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment was at Fort Ontario from Jan. 15 through September, when they shipped out to Massachusetts and then to Hawaii.

During World War II, they engaged in defensive and tactical operations on new Georgia Island, Emirau, Los Negros Island, Admiralty Island, Biak Island, Sansapor New Guinea, Middleburg Island and Morotai Island, all in the Papua New Guinea area of southeast Asia.

Starr Clark Tin Shop

Starr Clark had a business in Mexico in the 1850s – a tin shop making stove pipes and other pieces of tin wear.

But in addition to the tin work, Clark and his family also used their house to shelter runaway slaves as they made their way north to freedom in Canada.

The tin shop building, on Main Street (Route 104), still exists and has since been renovated into a museum to mark Mexico’s importance along the Underground Railroad.

Judith Wellman, a professor emerita at the State University College at Oswego and expert on U.S. African-American history, researched the building’s role in the Underground Railroad. Her work produced enough evidence to have the tin shop named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. She said it is one of the best documented Underground Railroad sites.

Oswego Public Library

Gerrit Smith, the famous abolitionist who lived in Peterboro, Madison County, provided the money for construction of  the Oswego Public Library.

But he had two conditions to providing the money. One was that the library must be on the east side of the Oswego River. And the second is that the library should be open to everyone, regardless of his or her race or complexion.

According to the library’s history on its website, the library has had “African-American patrons including prominent members of the Underground Railroad and the local community.” Records kept on who was borrowing books from the library show that many African-American families used the library during its first years, the history states.

Grant – dentist, patented golf tee 

The Tudor E. Grant family was a well-known African-American family in Oswego. Tudor Grant’s son, George Franklin, who was born in Oswego, made a name for himself in later life, becoming the second African American to graduate from Harvard’s dental college. He later became a faculty member of his alma mater and was a leader in the treatment of cleft palates.

But he also is renowned in the sports world. He received the first patent for the wooden golf tee.

Bristol Hill Church, Volney

This church on Route 3 had many white and African-American members dating to the early and mid-1800s. The church was built in the 1830s and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Case House in Fulton

The Case House on South First Street in Fulton was well known for the Underground Railroad activity that took place there. It is at the site where the old Elks Lodge was located.

Interracial Couple in Fulton

In a book titled “the American Prejudice Against Color,” William Allen, a college professor who says he was one-quarter African American, tells the story of how he fell in love with a white girl in Fulton, became engaged to marry her and the prejudice they encountered due to their engagement.

In fact, an angry mob of Fulton-area residents who did not want this marriage to take place went after Allen.

“Tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails had been prepared for my especial benefit; and, so far as I was concerned, it must be escape or death,” Allen wrote in his book.

He wrote that a mob of 400 to 500 people came looking for him after they learned of his engagement to Miss King. He wrote “Reader, the life of a colored man in America, save as a slave, is regarded as far less sacred than that of a dog. There is no exaggeration in this statement—I am not writing of exceptions.”

Allen and King were eventually married in New York City and then left for Europe.

There are many other stories about African Americans in Oswego County at http://visitoswegocounty.com/historical-info/underground-railroad/ . The county had its own Anti-Slavery Society and was known as a hotbed of abolitionist action.

Springside resident takes special interest in NY Yankees

There isn’t anyone looking forward to the opening day of the New York Yankee’s 2014 season more than Springside’s Mille McCann.

When the snow finally melts this spring and baseball becomes the nation’s pastime once again, she will be watching her grandson, catcher Brian McCann, who recently signed a multi-million dollar contract with baseball’s most famous team.

Brian McCann had previously played for the Atlanta Braves for eight years. His catching skills have earned him five silver slugger awards and all-star honors for seven years, with one of those years having the added designation as All Star Most Valuable Player.

As Millie waits for winter to blossom into spring and her grandson to take his position behind home plate, she certainly won’t need to brush up on her baseball knowledge.

Millie, who is a youthful 89, is known at Springside as ‘Baseball Grandmother.” She rarely misses one of Brian’s games and most nights can be found in front of her television watching a game through a major league baseball package on cable television.

She began following baseball when Brian’s father, Howie, who grew up in Oswego, took the sport up as a young boy.

“I think it was baseball that kept me young,” Millie said. “I drove all over to attend games.”

Howie would go on to both play and coach college baseball. Today, he operates the Windward Baseball Academy, in Georgia, which assists players develop their skills.

In fact, Howie and his wife, Sherry (Brown), were both inducted into the Oswego High School Hall of Fame in 2013.

It was just a natural fit that Brian and his brother, Brad, who now works at Windward, became involved in baseball.

In 2013, when Brian’s contract was up, Millie said, it was an opportunity for him to explore some options.

“The Yankees brought him to New York, where they wined and dined him,” Millie said. “I agree with his decision, it was time to move on. The time was right for another challenge.”

Millie says her grandson is kind hearted and that she is most proud of his baseball accomplishments.

Later this year, Millie hopes to trade in her Springside chair in front of her television for a real seat at a Yankee’s game. She’s never seen her grandson play professionally and with the Bronx within driving distance (as Millie doesn’t fly), it’s a possibility.

Millie said her daughter, Sue Fox and husband, Dick, are seeing what arrangements can be made.

One thing is for sure, the residents of Springside are sure to be supporting the Yankees this year.

Springside at Seneca Hill is a retirement community for active seniors age 62 and older, located between Oswego and Fulton. Springside is an affiliate of Oswego Health.

To learn more about Springside, call 343-5658 or visit oswegohealth.org