Category Archives: Other News

City officials looking to boost neighborhood watch participation

By Matthew Reitz
Fulton Common Council President Larry Macner is hoping to boost participation in the city’s neighborhood watch groups.
Macner says the city’s neighborhood watch programs have proven to be useful over the years, but could serve the community better if more residents got more involved.
“It would be a better program if more people showed up (for the meetings),” Macner said.
The main function of neighborhood watch programs is to reduce crime by using basic prevention techniques and reporting suspicious activity to the police. Tips from residents often help police respond to crimes, and statistics show  increased attention from residents can help prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
“I’d just like to see more awareness so that people know what is going on in the neighborhood,” Macner said.
A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that in the majority of cases, neighborhood watch programs were “associated with a reduction in crime” and “appeared to be effective.”
The concept of a neighborhood watch is nothing new. Their roots can be traced back to the colonial era, when local militias and night watchmen kept watch over their communities in the absence of municipal police forces. Neighborhood watches as we know them today were established in the 1970s in response to law enforcement efforts to involve citizens and address rising crime rates.
The Fulton Police Department encourages local participation in the programs, too. Deputy Chief Thomas Abelgore said neighborhood watch programs give police “an extra set of eyes and ears,” and added that a dedicated group of people in a neighborhood allows police “to have a presence without actually being there.”
“We can’t be everywhere,” Abelgore stated.
The department welcomes the opportunity to talk with residents and share useful information. Abelgore said the department would like to see residents take ownership of their communities, and noted that the city has a tip line, 593-TIPS, that residents can call 24 hours a day to leave anonymous tips.
Macner believes the economy has played a role in driving up the crime rate, but noted Fulton residents can still do their part by participating in neighborhood watch programs to keep their streets safe. Areas with higher crime rates need increased attention, and Macner suggested residents could request increased patrols in certain areas.
Meetings for the Sixth Ward Neighborhood Watch take place on Monday nights at 7 p.m. and typically last for about an hour according to Macner. The meetings are held in the auditorium at the Fulton Education Center on South Fourth Street. The schedule for the Sixth Ward meetings is listed through June 2015 on the city’s website.
Daniel Knopp, Councilor for the Second Ward, also encourages all interested residents to attend meetings for the neighborhood watch. Second Ward Neighborhood Watch meetings take place on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Fulton War Memorial Cafeteria.

Elks lodge welcomes new officers

The Fulton Elks Lodge held its annual Installation of Officers lask weekend. Pictured in the front, from left, are the new officers: Bonnie Hoyt, Marlene Northrup, Ross Belfiore, Dean Salisbury, Debbie Caprin, Raymond Caprin, Ryan Wallace, Linda Hughes, Dawn Thomspons and Ted Stoughtenger. Standing, from left, are outgoing officers and regional Elks representatives: Michael Shinnick, Jim Phillips, Sheila O’Connor, Daniel Capella, Robert Young, Charlie Diefenbacher, Christine Hawksby and Pamela Allen. (Absent from the photo is William Shinnick.) Matthew Reitz photo
The Fulton Elks Lodge held its annual Installation of Officers lask weekend. Pictured in the front, from left, are the new officers: Bonnie Hoyt, Marlene Northrup, Ross Belfiore, Dean Salisbury, Debbie Caprin, Raymond Caprin, Ryan Wallace, Linda Hughes, Dawn Thomspons and Ted Stoughtenger. Standing, from left, are outgoing officers and regional Elks representatives: Michael Shinnick, Jim Phillips, Sheila O’Connor, Daniel Capella, Robert Young, Charlie Diefenbacher, Christine Hawksby and Pamela Allen. (Absent from the photo is William Shinnick.)
Matthew Reitz photo

By Matthew Reitz
Ten members of the Fulton Elks Lodge were sworn into new leadership positions last weekend during the organization’s annual Installation of Officers ceremony.
The ceremony, which is held each year in the spring, relieves the past year’s officers from their duties, congratulating them on their leadership and issuing awards, before swearing in the coming year’s leaders.
Linda Hughes, installed as Lecturing Knight, gave some insight into what she plans to accomplish from her leadership position in the coming year.
“I’m very community-minded, so this is a way of giving back,” Hughes said.
Hughes specifically mentioned working with children in the community, saying “the Elks do a lot of good things, especially with the kids. That’s my goal.”
Debbie Caprin, the lodge’s new Exalted Ruler, had similar goals for the organization, with an emphasis on giving back to this area’s veterans.
“I wanted to become an Elk because I believe in what it stands for,” Caprin said, “which is your youth, your veterans, and the community.”
Caprin said veterans are often underappreciated and she plans to continue the Elks’ efforts to remedy that.
“I don’t think they get appreciated enough,” Caprin said, adding “they deserve more for what they do for our country.

Fulton man helping launch minor league football team

Pictured here is the leadership for the Syracuse Strong minor league football team, which is co-owned by Fulton resident LeRoy Collins. Photo provided
Pictured here is the leadership for the Syracuse Strong minor league football team, which is co-owned by Fulton resident LeRoy Collins.
Photo provided

Staff Report
Syracuse is welcoming a new football organization, and a current Fulton resident is behind the team’s creation.
Leroy Collins Jr. is co-owner of the Syracuse Strong, a team that will compete in the Empire Football League.
According to a press release from the team, the Syracuse Strong is a non-profit football organization that prides itself on excellence, commitment, and dedication.
Collins said the team will be very much involved with the community and he’s set lofty goals for the future of the team.
“We want to be more than just football,” said Collins, who co-owns the team with Chris Gorman.
Included in the team’s community outreach will be football camps and leadership workshops for kids. Collins added that the team plans to work in the future with notable charities such as the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.
Along with helping the community, Collins said he wanted to get back into football for the love of the game and to give local players the opportunity to excel at it.
“These guys have a lot of talent. There’s a lot of people locally who don’t even know of their skill,” Collins said.
Currently, the team is looking to cut its roster from approximately 120 players to 55 by the season opener on July 11 at the league’s defending champion, the Plattsburgh North Stars.
Along with Plattsburgh, the EFL also includes the Glens Falls Greenjackets, Glove Cities Colonials, Sussex Stags, and the Watertown Red and Black.
The Strong’s home field will be at Nottingham High School, and the team’s home opener will be on July 18 against Glove Cities.
The regular season in the six-team league lasts through the end of September, followed by playoffs.
Collins has even bigger goals for his team, and they stem from his personal football background.
He attended Alfred State College. In two years, he gained 1,880 yards on 198 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Alfred State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
He transferred to Louisville and entered the 1999 NFL Draft but went undrafted as a running back. Collins eventually linked on with the Washington Redskins and then the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.
But after his time with those teams, Collins said he almost had nowhere to go for his career.
“When I went to Jacksonville it was like I had to start all over and get my legs back under me,” he said.
In 2014, the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) was founded. The league is attempting to be a professional minor football league for the NFL.
Collins said he’s hoping in the future, even in just a few years, the Syracuse Strong could be a potential market for an NFL minor league city, much like the Syracuse Chiefs and Syracuse Crunch are for baseball and hockey, respectively.
“That’s my vision and ultimate goal, to run one of those,” Collins said. “I always wished back then that there was a league that I could go to and play and stay in shape.
“Baseball has it. Hockey has it. Basketball has it. I always wondered why football doesn’t,” he added.
For more information about the team, sponsorships, or in-kind donations for the nonprofit organization, contact Leroy Collins at LCollins@SyracuseStrong. co m or at (315) 254-4799.
See www.empire-football-league.com for more details.

Patricia A. Grant

Patricia A. Grant, 74, of Hannibal, passed away Sunday at home.
Mrs. Grant retired in 2003 from Nestles after working for 41 years from 1962 to 2003. She was pre-deceased by two infant sons, Kevin and Edward Grant, and two grandsons, Ian Woodridge and Kelsey Devenney. Mrs. Grant is survived by her husband of 53 years, Gerald Grant of Hannibal; two children, Eric (Lynn Burns) and Heidi (Ronald) Samson; four grandchildren, Jared Grant, Alex Grant, Lauren Samson and Morgan Samson.
A Graveside Service and Burial will be privately held in the spring at Mt. Adnah Cemetery, Fulton. The Sugar Funeral Home, Inc., 224 W. 2nd St. S. Fulton has care of the arrangements.

District looking for input on website changes

By Colin Hogan
The Fulton City School District is looking to make changes to its current website, and hopes parents and others in the community will offer some feedback.
In a school board meeting last week, district officials said they are in the process of revamping the design of the website, www.fulton.cnyric.org. Superintendent Bill Lynch said, after recently talking with people from Onondaga-Cortland-Madison (OCM) BOCES on plans for the redesign, district officials decided to post a survey on the website to collect input from the public.
“We’re in the process of continuing to work with (OCM BOCES), but what we’ve come up with right now is a survey that has been posted on our district website. And what we’ve done is we’ve communicated this out to parents, staff, principals and students in the district so they get the opportunity to offer input,” Lynch said.
The 13-question survey asks visitors things like how often they visit the  district’s website, what types of information they visit the site for, what they like or dislike about the  site,  which social media tools they tend to use and how they’d prefer to receive  school-to-home communications.
“To make the  website  as effective and beneficial as possible we really are looking for input from the community — parents, students, teachers, board members — we really want to make this a great communication tool for our schools,” said Stephanie Maturo, director of technology for the district.
Lynch said by receiving as much input as possible, the district can tailor the website to the needs of those who use it most.
The survey will remain available on the site until April 10. After all of the information collected has been processed, the district will meet again with OCM representatives to come up with a final design plan, which Lynch said will then be presented to the board of education for approval.

FCSD hoping for good turnout at upcoming Parent University

The Fulton City School District, as part of the Community Schools Grant, STLE3 Grant and the Title 1 Grant, will hold its first Parent University on Saturday, April 11.
“We’re inviting community organizations and teacher leaders to offer some insight into several areas, including academic, social and emotional,” said FCSD STLE3 Instructional Program Coordinator Mary Ann DeMar. “All these areas affect a child’s education, and by having parents, teachers and community leaders come together as partners, we are able to spend time communicating and learning together to better address the needs of our children.”
District officials hope that parents will take advantage of the opportunity to go to “school” while their child participates in learning activities simultaneously. Throughout the event, teachers will discuss learning strategies, Common Core Standards, best practices and ways to improve communication between child and parent. Community members will also have the opportunity to interact with board of education members. Additionally, representatives from Oswego County Opportunities, the Department of Social Services, Farnham Family Services and other local agencies will be on hand to discuss their specialty areas.
“Parents can choose which sessions they want to attend,” DeMar said. “There will be separate areas and different blocks of time that will allow parents to learn and collaborate around a variety of topics.”
Although the event is called Parent University, there are several activities planned for students, who are welcome to attend. Arts and crafts, age-specific learning activities, and other events will be held during the day for children.
The Parent University will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 11 at the Fulton Junior High School. The event is open to all parents, students and community members within the Fulton City School District.

County’s educators call for more local control of school districts

Roughly 350 people fill the cafeteria at Fulton Junior High School to take part in a countywide forum on education Monday evening.  Colin Hogan photo
Roughly 350 people fill the cafeteria at Fulton Junior High School to take part in a countywide forum on education Monday evening.
Colin Hogan photo

By Colin Hogan

Hundreds of teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and school board members from across the county gathered in Fulton Monday evening to send a unified message to their state leaders: leave educating to the educators.

The event, which was coordinated by the county’s teachers unions and held at Fulton Junior High School, was one of many being held in schools across the state recently. Speakers representing all the different stakeholders in public education discussed the many ways they’d like to see New York state release its grip on school curriculums and operations, and give more control back to local educators and school boards.

Among the most highly discussed topics were Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed teacher reforms, the Common Core curriculum, mandate relief and the state’s gap elimination adjustment on school budgets.

Teachers blasted the governor’s proposed reforms, which were outlined in his State of the State speech earlier this year, for being off the mark on influencing actual change, and condemned him for withholding aid from schools that don’t adopt them.

The reforms include changing accountability measures so that half of teachers’ evaluation ratings would be tied to how well their students perform on state exams. Currently only 20 percent of teachers’ ratings are based on that criteria. They also prohibit any teachers who have been rated ‘ineffective’ due to those test scores from getting an overall ‘effective’ rating, and extend the period for being granted tenure to five consecutive ‘effective’ years, up from three years currently.

Jeff Peneston of the Liverpool Central School District — who was named New York State Teacher of the Year in 2011 as well as one of Cuomo’s Master Teachers — said the governor’s plan is out of touch with the realities inside schools, and will only end up hurting students.

“Every one of the governor’s reform agenda suggestions is an experiment, and he’s suggesting that if we do this, this, this and this, and if we hold all these school boards hostage to budget issues, that somehow we’re going to solve the problem,” said Peneston. Like many of his colleagues, Peneston stressed that the decisions that determine how schools are run are being made by Albany lawmakers with no experience in the field.

He felt the proposed evaluation methods will not accurately assess an instructor’s effectiveness — an argument he said is too-easily discounted as teachers being afraid of scrutiny.

“I’m not here for the union. I’m not an angry teacher who’s afraid of losing his job. I’m not afraid of being evaluated — I don’t know anyone who’s afraid of being evaluated,” he said. “I’m afraid of being put on the bathroom scale when I know that bathroom scale’s not calibrated.”

Other speakers criticized the laying out of the Common Core Learning Standards for being a rushed process, too centered on standardized testing, and leaving little opportunity for teachers to take more creative approaches to their instruction.

“One of the biggest criticisms of the layout of the Common Core was how quickly it was rolled out,” said Barbara Hubbard, a former Fulton educator and current school board member. “The rush to implementation has impacted teaching and learning in our schools, and we must have a culture of trust and community in order to support change that is based on what will best serve our students.”

She said while standardized tests have been around for decades, the intensity of exams students now take, and the setting in which they take them, is far more daunting than it used to be.

Fulton City School District Superintendent Bill Lynch discusses the Gap Elimination Adjustment during the education forum Monday.  Colin Hogan photo
Fulton City School District Superintendent Bill Lynch discusses the Gap Elimination Adjustment during the education forum Monday.
Colin Hogan photo

“To be clear, testing is not new. I had to give New York state tests back in the ’70s and ’80s, but now students are taking tests over the course of many hours, over multiple days, and the tests are back-to-back on the weeks they’re given,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard said she’s been told stories of students “crying, having anxiety attacks and losing sleep over tests,” and of kids feeling “the responsibility for what might happen to their teacher because of that score,” something she called “a very unfortunate situation for our students.”

Kevin Caraccioli, a parent in the Oswego City School District, shared some of his children’s negative experiences with the Common Core, which he said “has turned our youngest generation into a bunch of nervous, self-doubting test takers.” He feels Common Core “places so much emphasis on testing and evaluation that it has lost sight of our proudest accomplishment: our children.”

Speakers’ concerns extended beyond the classroom, though, with many calling for the elimination of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) — a measure that was enacted in 2010-11 to help the state close its own budget gap by taking back from districts a certain portion of their state aid.

In the Fulton City School District, alone, the GEA has cost the district about $10 million in aid it would have otherwise received over the last five years, according to figures provided by Superintendent Bill Lynch.

“New York state, as we know, faced significant financial deficits (during the 2010-11 year) and in order to balance their books, they took money away from school districts. The more money they gave a school district, the more they took away,” Lynch said.

Lynch said the GEA, coupled with the state’s cap on local tax levy increases, has left school districts — particularly high-need, low-wealth districts like Fulton — with considerable budgetary challenges. He called the tax cap “a backdoor way of limiting local control” — an issue many attendance felt would be the silver bullet is alleviating many districts’ problems.

“All kids need is a little more local control. Local school district control in decision making — within state guidelines, yes. We need to be accountable, but within guidelines, not with unfunded mandates and being held hostage for money if we don’t do what we’re told,” said Gerry Hudson, a former Altmar-Parish-Williamstown superintendent who moderated the event. “We know what needs to be done for our children.”

Attendees were asked to fill out petitions that will be mailed to each of the county’s state representatives. The petitions ask those lawmakers to “advocate strongly for equitable school funding this legislative season.”

David Derouchie, a Fulton teacher who helped coordinate the event, estimated that nearly all of the roughly 350 people in attendance filled out the petitions.

FCSD budgeting with cautious optimism in lieu of state aid figures

By Colin Hogan

With roughly two-thirds of its budget provided through state aid, the Fulton City School District is left waiting for the New York state to finalize its own budget before it can really plan financially for the next school year.

“We’re at the point, still, of waiting for the state legislature and governor to come to agreement on the budget for the state, which would then direct education aid to school districts across the state,” Superintendent Bill Lynch told the school board Tuesday.

Right now, after completing a second preliminary budget draft without state figures, the district is looking at an estimated $69.2 million in expenditures for the 2015-16 school year — a 2.69 percent increase from this year’s projected operating costs of $67,357,685. Current estimates have the district receiving $43,350,051 in general state aid for the 2015-16 year — about a half-million more than it received last year. However, concrete figures won’t be available until after the state budget passes, the deadline for which is March 31.

The district hopes to use less from its reserves than it did last year. Early budget projections have it using $1.5 million of its fund balance, as opposed to last year’s $2 million. Lynch explained that it was the use of so much fund balance in last year’s budget that prompted the state comptroller’s office to give the district a “moderate” fiscal stress rating.

“That’s a figure ($1.5 million) we really need to find a way to live within, because last year we weren’t really able to replenish our reserves, which led to us being designated as under fiscal stress by the comptroller,” Lynch said.

In their current calculations, district officials are accounting for a 2 percent local tax levy increase, though Lynch told the board Tuesday the goal is to keep it less than that.

“Once we get our state aid that may be able to come down a little bit, and it would certainly not be any higher than that,” Lynch said. “We’re working to keep that down. We want to be sensitive to our local taxpayers and obviously the impact the draining local economy has had on them over the last six to seven years.”

Some on the board, however, felt 2 percent is still asking too much.

“I just don’t think the households in Fulton can afford a 2 percent increase,” said board member Christine Plath.”Again, we don’t know what the state aid is going to be, but I think maybe we need to start looking at some reductions because I don’t think Fulton can support this.”

Lynch mentioned that if reductions were to be made, the district would first look at areas that won’t cut jobs.

“If we have to make reductions, we are willing to look at areas where we can reduce our spending that don’t affect current staff,” Lynch said.

He noted, though, that there might be some retirements in grade levels that are staffed as such “that we could look at some consolidation,” and also said the district could look at ways of reducing its substitute teacher costs.

With those estimates in place, the district would still need to find another $1.4 million to meet its expenses. Lynch hopes that this will be achieved through additional state aid and changes to the district’s Gap Elimination Adjustment — two items state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are currently working out (see related article).

“Those two areas are primarily what we’re looking at to close that $1.4 million gap,” Lynch said. Lynch also said Tuesday that, based on the most recent budget status report, the district is on target to underspend by about $1.15 million during the current school year.

He said, at this point, anticipated revenues are expected to fall short by about $300,000, which would leave the district about $850,000 under budget by the end of the year, barring no major changes.