Category Archives: Other News

District officials discuss changes to comprehensive education plan

By Matthew Reitz

Officials in the Fulton City School District discussed changes to the Comprehensive District Education Plan  last week with a focus on closing achievement gaps.

FCSD Director of Instruction and Development Elizabeth Conners presented the adjusted plan to the school board last Tuesday.

The changes to the CDEP are geared toward utilizing data and monitoring district processes to help reach a number of goals and objectives. The CDEP aims to close achievement gaps that persist among economically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities. Conners told the board the process was lengthy, but informative.

“It gives us a chance to really look at our data and look at where we are going,” Conners said.

Conners said the main academic goal for the district was to achieve a 5 percent annual increase in rates of proficiency and college and career readiness.

“Goal number one is to increase college and career readiness,” Conners said. “That’s the same, it has not changed.”

The district also hopes to have 80 percent of students consistently meeting behavior expectations, and to engage all families in the education of their students. Conners said the CDEP changed “a bit” with regard to engaging families.

“It’s not about just communicating anymore, but how do we really engage people,” Conners said.

The importance of community engagement with economically disadvantaged students and their families will be a main focus. The district will continue to try to increase the participation of all families, but measuring that will be a new challenge.

“We don’t really have any concrete data that shows what is working and what isn’t,” Conners said.

The first step is for the district to establish baseline levels of participation and set measurable goals. The district previously trained teachers in data driven inquiry, and the changes to the CDEP will put that training into practice, Conners said. The new approach will help monitor the progress of all students and subgroups toward district goals, and in turn help the district identify ways to close its achievement gaps.

Dan Carroll, the district’s director of instructional support services, told the board the three-year plan would help the district address its most critical educational needs. He presented data concerning the district’s achievement gaps to the board.

Carroll said the district does not have major gaps in achievement across racial or ethnic lines, but does see gaps among students with disabilities and economic disadvantages.

“We see concerning wide gaps in achievement between our economically disadvantaged students and our students with disability versus our student population as a whole,” Carroll said.

He said it’s expected that these students will have a lower proficiency rate, but the district is not seeing the type of year-to-year improvement it sees with other students.

“Our students with disabilities and our economically disadvantaged students are just getting further and further behind in terms of reading level,” Carroll said.

He said this was especially concerning due to a “very clear demographic trend” in the district’s student population. In recent years, the number of economically disadvantaged students in the district has surpassed the number of non-economically disadvantaged students.

“That demographic tendency adds a lot of urgency to our needs,” Carroll said.

Volunteers, legislator give pier better access

By Colin Hogan

The pier at Bullhead Point now boasts a new wheelchair-accessible entry ramp thanks to the efforts of some volunteers and a donation from a county legislator.

Volunteers from Believers’ Chapel in Fulton recently built a new wooden entry ramp for the pier using materials donated by county Legislator Jim Karasek.

Karasek said the need for a new ramp was first brought up by Fulton city Councilor Tom Kenyon, who pitched the project to members of Oswego County ARISE — a nonprofit that helps provide ramps at the homes of individuals with disabilities. Karasek, who also works for ARISE, said because organization is geared towards serving the needs of disabled individuals at their homes, the pier project didn’t fall under its purview.

“The hurdle was that ARISE will use its resources to install a ramp at someone’s home, but it doesn’t do that for a public property like this, so we had to come up with something different,” Karasek said.

Recognizing that something still needed to be done, Karasek said he and his wife, Patricia, decided that they, personally, would donate the materials needed for the project.

“It’s something that needed to be done and we’re glad to be able to help out with it,” Karasek said.

Karasek said ARISE was still able to help coordinate the plans, and volunteers from Believer’s Chapel stepped up to do the installation.

A couple weeks ago, Fulton city employees removed the asphalt fill that previously led up to the pier. Then, on May 20,  volunteers Pat O’Leary, Earl Sixberry, Dave Williams and 10-year-old Co­­nnor Tassone installed the new wooden ramp in its place.

“The original ramp, in addition to being run down, just couldn’t support a wheelchair. Now it’s got a wooden ramp that extends to the sidewalk, which I think everyone will benefit from, especially those with mobility issues,” Karasek said.

Volunteers from Believers’ Chapel in Fulton recently built a new entry ramp for the pier at Bullhead Point using materials donated by county Legislator Jim Karasek and his wife, Patricia. Pictured from left are Karasek (standing), Dave Williams, Earl Sixberry, 10-year-old Connor Tassone and Pat O'Leary. Plans for the ramp were coordinated by Oswego County ARISE. Colin Hogan photo
Volunteers from Believers’ Chapel in Fulton recently built a new entry ramp for the pier at Bullhead Point using materials donated by county Legislator Jim Karasek and his wife, Patricia. Pictured from left are Karasek (standing), Dave Williams, Earl Sixberry, 10-year-old Connor Tassone and Pat O’Leary. Plans for the ramp were coordinated by Oswego County ARISE.
Colin Hogan photo

Planning board OKs ATV track in Granby

By Matthew Reitz
The Town of Granby Planning Board approved a special use permit for an ATV track at 371 South Granby Road last week.
More than 20 people showed up to the planning board’s meeting last Thursday to discuss the project. Residents in that area had been voicing concerns over the potential noise and dust the  track could bring, and many of them questioned the property owner’s intentions.
Planning Board Chairman Jim Karasek began the meeting by clarifying the role of the planning board and the details of the project. Karasek said the planning board’s job was not to decide if it “liked” the project, but to verify that it follows local laws.
“It doesn’t matter what we think of it individually,” Karasek said. “When proposals come in front of the planning board, it is our job to make sure that the proposal does not break the laws of the zoning book.”
Karasek said he had received several phone calls about wetlands on the property. He specified that there were wetlands on the property, but they were not involved in the project.
“There are wetlands to the east of this project,” Karasek said. “They’re not disturbing the wetlands.”
Following his opening remarks, Karasek mediated a lengthy discussion that led to the inclusion of several restrictions on the property, the most prominent of which was that the track only be used by the property owner’s family and friends.
Veronica Elsworth, a homeowner in the area, voiced her concern about the property owner’s long-term intentions for the site and the noise that would be generated by the vehicles.
“I really don’t know what they are going to do with this property, but we are concerned,” Elsworth said.
Elsworth and other residents were concerned that the track could easily become a business in the future. Karasek stressed that the project they were reviewing was not a business. He said the owner would need to come back in front of the board to open a business or he would be in violation of the permit.
Peter Mott, the property’s owner, told residents the track would not be run as a business.
“The track is just for me, my family, and my friends,” Mott said.
Some residents questioned why he purchased the property under the name Granby Properties LLC if he had no intentions of starting a business.
“This is absolutely for personal use. I have no desire to run a business. The only reason I put it in an LLC is for liability reasons,” Mott said, “in case someone gets hurt.”
In light of residents’ noise concerns, the board imposed a limit on both the number of vehicles that can operate on the track, and the hours they would be allowed to do so. The board set the limit at six operating vehicles on the track at any given moment. The hours of operation are limited to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Mott assured his neighbors that vehicles would not be running on the track all day.
“It’s nothing that’s going to be every day, all day long,” Mott said.
Another stipulation made by the planning board was that all vehicles operating on the track be legally registered and, if necessary, insured.
Mott addressed the crowd after the public comment period was finished, fielding questions and thanking everyone for their feedback. He said he “didn’t understand the emotional reaction people would have.”
“What I should have done in retrospect is taken the time to meet everyone and told them my intentions clearly and concisely,” Mott said.
The planning board unanimously approved the project when it was brought to vote.
“We’re still concerned, but I just want to let Mr. Mott know if he comes to the neighborhood and he does what he’s saying we will be fine with it,” Elsworth said following the vote.

Plans finalized for Recreation Park upgrade; Class of ’75 members join in fundraising efforts

By Matthew Reitz
Upgrades to Fulton’s Recreation Park, including a new boat launch, playground equipment and restored pavilion, will move forward this summer.
Officials with Friends of Fulton Parks, the nonprofit that has been coordinating the endeavor, say the first phase of the project is fully funded and set to begin this summer with the installation of strength and conditioning equipment designed for teenagers.
The equipment was selected with help from students at Fulton Junior High School, who were asked to choose items that are of particular interest to their age group.
The second phase, also expected to begin this year, will restore the existing pavilion structure and add a cement floor with a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The existing slide and swing set at the park are still functional and will remain in place, FOFP officials say.
A third phase of the project, currently scheduled for 2016, would install ropes and other climbing equipment geared toward helping children improve their agility.
Kelley Weaver of Friends of Fulton Parks said the estimated cost for all three phases of the project is $375,000.
The project is being funded mostly through state funds acquired by state Sen. Patricia Ritchie’s office and Friends of Fulton Parks. Weaver said “a significant portion” of the second and third phases are covered, but FOFP is still looking to make up the difference.
The organization still needs to raise $87,000 for the project, according to Weaver. She said the group has been able to collect over $40,000 to date with contributions from local businesses and residents.
“Support from service organizations, the Fulton YMCA, local businesses, residents and former residents of all ages, and the city council and parks department has been overwhelmingly positive,” Weaver said.
Several community groups and businesses have been working hand-in-hand with FOFP in efforts to both raise money for park upgrades and clean the parks for the season. The latest to join the efforts is the GRB Class of 1975, which will be celebrating its 40th class reunion this summer. As part of their reunion, class members have been raising funds to contribute to the Recreation Park restoration project.
“Their goal was $2,000,” Weaver said, “and they may surpass that goal.”
Collen Madigan, a Class of ’75 member, said she felt “very fortunate” to have grown up in Fulton, and thought donating to the restoration of Recreation Park was a way to give back to the community. Madigan said she “enjoyed the simple joys of childhood” in Fulton’s parks.
“My classmates and I enjoyed Recreation Park, Stevenson Beach, swimming at Lake Neatahwanta, family picnics, baseball games, roller skating, and even our graduation at the War Memorial,” Madigan said.
Anyone who would like to help with the project or fundraising can contact Friends of Fulton Parks at FriendsofFultonParks@gmail.com.

Plans finalized for War Memorial project

By Colin Hogan
City officials awarded the bid for the floor replacement at the Fulon War Memorial Tuesday — a project they now hope can begin by the end of the month.
The 19-year-old gymnasium floor has deteriorated so much in recent years that it has begun interfering with some of the facility’s events. As one of the city’s bigger venues, the War Memorial plays host to several major events each year, including the Fulton Home Show (which was on hiatus this year), train shows, circuses and concerts. The facility also accommodates several community sports programs, such as the men’s and youth basketball leagues and volleyball matches.
Over the last few years, expanding rebar in the concrete compound beneath the floor’s surface has caused the material to spall, and a study commissioned by the city last year revealed that the floor contains a presence of mercury, as well.
On Tuesday, the Common Council awarded a bid for the work to Genessee Environmental LLC of Rochester. Genessee was one of two companies vying for the project. Their bid came in at $363,471, with a possible credit of $7,530 — nearly $30,000 less than the other bidder.
City officials said Tuesday that the bids were first reviewed by Liverpool-based engineering firm Barton & Loguidice, which recommended the council go with Genessee. Last fall, the city secured a $400,000 bond to finance the project.
Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said he still hopes the project can begin by the end of the month.
“They’ll have to come in and do some sampling, which should take about a week, and then they could start any time after that,” Woodward said. “We want to get them in there so we can get this done.”
City officials previously estimated that it would take three to four weeks to remove the rubber floor layer, another two to three weeks to remove the concrete, and about four weeks for the new concrete to cure.

Granby officials to make a decision on proposed ATV trail

By Matthew Reitz
The Town of Granby Planning Board will be determining the fate of a proposed ATV trail on South Granby Road that some residents in that area are opposing.
The proposed ATV trail would be created at 371 South Granby Road; a 43-acre parcel a few hundred feet west of county Route 14.
According to Town Supervisor Ed Williamson, a public hearing was held last week for members of the community with questions or comments regarding the project. Williamson said about 15 people attended the hearing and “there were some skeptics.”
“There are always people that are a little skeptical, but they seemed to answer everyone’s questions,” Williamson said.
A few concerned residents were circulating a flyer encouraging people to attend a planning board work session on Thursday, May 21. The same residents wrote a letter to the planning board urging it to deny a special use permit for the trail. The letter questions the intent of the property owner and suggests that the owner misled neighbors “by telling them they intended to reside” at the location.
Doug MacEwan, a resident of Granby who was unaware of the proposal until he was presented with the flyer, said he was a bit uneasy about the possibility of the trail generating noise and disturbing the community, but noted that noise in a farming community like Granby can be inescapable.
“It’s a rural farming community,” MacEwan said. “We put up with noise and tractors, the animals, the smells — that comes with the territory.”
MacEwan expressed concern about the potential for loud parties at the trail, and he also was uncomfortable with the owners not being a part of the community.
“What was a little troubling is that the owner is not local,” MacEwan said. “It seems a little odd.”
According to Oswego County’s Real Property Database, the owner of the property is Granby Properties LLC.  The address listed for Granby Properties is in Baldwinsville; about a 20-minute drive from the Granby site.
Jim Karasek, chairman of the Town of Granby Planning Board, said the property owner was “going through the process of approval” and had “gone above and beyond what is required” during the application process.  The application calls for the development of a sand track for personal use, according to Karasek.
“These people (the residents opposing the project) aren’t representing what this man has asked for,” Karasek said in reference to the flyer.
Karasek said he sympathized with people who have legitimate concerns, but added that the planning board has to look at the application and local zoning laws to determine whether or not to approve the project.
“We can only go by what’s on the application and what’s in the zoning book,” Karasek said.
He noted that the application is not for a business, and that Granby is a “rural community” with “no noise, dust, or land use ordinances” to restrict property owners.
“There’s not a lot we can do to stop them,” Karasek said.
Karasek noted that the property owner is willing to make some concessions, and said if the property is misused, the owner would be ticketed for code violations and have to appear in court.
The public hearing regarding the proposed trail was held last week, but the planning board would be listening to residents at its work session on May 21, according to Karasek.
“We will listen. We’ve always heard what people have to say,” Karasek said.
Williamson said it was possible the planning board could make a decision as early as May 21.

Voters pass budgets in Fulton, Hannibal schools

By Colin Hogan
Voters in the Fulton City School District approved a $68.6 million budget for the 2015-16 school year and re-elected two sitting board members Tuesday.
The budget, which reflects a 1.91 percent increase in spending and a 1.75 percent hike in the tax levy, passed 368-262.
With fewer than 800 votes counted Tuesday evening, Superintendent Bill Lynch said voter turnout was down compared to most years, but he was still pleased to see the public supporting all of the proposals in this year’s referendum.
“It was an okay turnout, but we usually have more votes — often around 1,000 or 1,200. We always hope for a big turnout, because then we know that we’re getting the will of the people,” Lynch said.
In addition to next year’s budget, voters also approved a proposal for two wheelchair-accessible buses and a small funding increase to the Fulton School District Public Library, which last year changed its charter to become a school district tax levy-funded entity. The bus proposal, which passed 347-179, is projected to cost no more than $160,000, and Lynch said most of that could be covered by state aid. The library will now see its tax levy funding increase from $350,000 to $357,344, with that proposal passing 366-155.
Two sitting board of education members, Tim Crandell and Daniel Pawlewicz, were re-elected after running unopposed. Crandell was re-elected with 396 votes. Pawlewicz, the board’s vice president, was re-elected with 391 votes.
“We’re very pleased with the support of the budget, the transportation proposal and that both our current board members are returning,” Lunch said. “We’re also very pleased for the library. It’s good to see they’re getting the support they need through all of the their changes.”
Voters in the Hannibal area also approved their school district’s $30.7 million budget with a count of 235-106.
The referendum also included three propositions: one for the purchase of three school buses, which passed 259-79; one to increase the maximum amount held in the district’s reserve fund, which passed 171-167; and one to establish a transportation reserve fund, which passed 189-147.
HCSD voters also elected three unopposed board members: Jessica McNeil with 227 votes, K. Michael LaFurney with 227 votes, and Marlow Cuyler with 221 votes.