Occhino-Pilawa says goodbye to Fulton

By Ashley M. Casey

School’s out forever for Rosemary Occhino-Pilawa.

After more than 40 years of living in Fulton and working with local schools, the former educator and school board member is bidding the city adieu as she prepares to move to Onondaga County with her new husband, engineer Donald Pilawa.

Occhino-Pilawa has resigned her position on the Fulton City School District board of education, where she has served since 2009.

She announced her resignation in a letter read aloud to her fellow board members at the March 11 school board meeting. She attended her final board meeting March 25, and her last day of service is March 31.

Occhino-Pilawa said her goals for her time on the board have been “to make a positive difference” and “to be transparent.”

“If I had just touched the life of one child (while) serving on the board, it will be positive,” Occhino-Pilawa told The Valley News.

Over her four decades in Fulton, Occhino-Pilawa has touched many lives. She taught at the now-defunct Erie Street and Phillips Street schools, Fairgrieve and Granby. She retired in 2003 after spending 19 years as a first-grade teacher at Granby. Her first husband was an educator as well.

Occhino-Pilawa said she ran for school board after her first husband, longtime teacher and the Hannibal district’s Fairley Elementary School principal Dr. Joseph Occhino, passed away in 2008.

“I needed to give back to the community that welcomed me and my husband and my children with open arms,” she said.

Originally from Gloversville, N.Y., Occhino-Pilawa was a reluctant transplant to Fulton in 1973.

“I was living a charmed life in Vermont, my first love,” she said of the state where she spent her college years. Occhino-Pilawa received her bachelor’s degree from Castleton State College in 1968 and did graduate work at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The late Dr. Occhino took a job at the Erie Street School in Fulton. The Occhinos agreed to give Fulton a try for three years and planned to return to Vermont.

“When the three years came to closure, he said, ‘We’ll put our house on the market,’ and I said, ‘If you want to leave, you’ll have to leave by yourself!’” Occhino-Pilawa recalled. “Those three years have turned into 41.”

Because New York state did not honor Occhino-Pilawa’s Vermont special education certification, she became a substitute teacher and eventually an elementary school teacher. Her husband built his career as an educator and spent 27 years as principal of Fairley in Hannibal.

Dr. Occhino had been a strong supporter of the Ronald McDonald House, so to honor his memory, Occhino-Pilawa coordinated a recyclable “pop tab” collection to benefit the charity.

“It was so phenomenal,” Occhino-Pilawa said of the student and community response.

That year, the Fulton district collected more than 1,000 pounds of tabs from soda cans and soup cans. The donation was worth more than $600. McDonald’s sent Ronald McDonald to the winning school — Fairgrieve, with more than 500 pounds of pop tabs — to present a program on bullying and safety.

“Helping others is really what life is about,” Occhino-Pilawa said.

The district’s teachers’ association presented Occhino-Pilawa with a community award at its banquet that year.

“It’s very dear to my heart because my late husband endorsed the McDonald foundation,” she said.

The Occhinos raised three sons: Martin, Alan and Jason. Martin now lives in Connecticut, but his two brothers remain in Oswego County.

“This is a great place to raise children,” Occhino-Pilawa said. “If you ask (my sons), ‘Where is home?’ they’ll say it’s Fulton.”

Upon her marriage to Donald Pilawa Nov. 9, 2013, Occhino-Pilawa chose her new last name to reflect her family pride, both old and new.

“I hyphenated the name because of my three sons and I have seven grandchildren who all carry the Occhino name, and I’m very proud of it,” she said.

“I have enormous anxieties about departing,” Occhino-Pilawa said of leaving the city she’s called home since 1970.

At her final board meeting, her colleagues expressed their sadness and well wishes too.

“You are an inspiration,” said Christine Plath, whose daughter worked with Occhino-Pilawa as a student teacher.

“She made her the teacher she is today in Hannibal,” Plath said of Occhino-Pilawa’s guidance.

“You added laughter, candor and a heart of full dedication,” David Carvey said. “You will be sorely missed.”

Fulton YMCA begins annual fundraising campaign

The Fulton Family YMCA has launched its annual campaign.

Money raised will ensure that everyone in Greater Fulton has access to vital community programs and resources that support youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

“Throughout our community, most people know the Y, but there’s so much more to our Y than one might think.” said Fred Bulken, who is co-chairing the campaign with Jim Schreck. “The Y is more than a gym. It’s a cause.”

As a charity, the Y is dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the nation’s health and well-being, and giving back and providing support to our neighbors.

Every day, the Fulton Family YMCA works to support the people and neighborhoods that need it most by addressing community issues.

YMCA programs fight poverty, boost academic achievement, nurture creativity, reduce drowning deaths, prevent diabetes, and strengthen families.

Through the generosity of donors, the Y offers financial aid to ensure that everybody can belong to the Y, regardless of their financial situation.

To support these community-strengthening efforts, Fulton Family YMCA volunteers seek to raise $35,000 through their annual campaign.

To learn more about how you can support the Y’s cause, please contact Lisa Pachmayer, interim executive director of the Fulton Family YMCA, at 598-9622, or lpachmayer@syracuseymca.org.

OCO holding elections for board of directors position April 1, 2 and 3

Oswego County Opportunities is holding its annual election for open seats representing the low-income sector on its board of directors.

Election will take place at several OCO program sites on April 1, 2 and 3.

Five candidates are participating in this year’s election, said OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier. Voters may choose up to five candidates on the ballot.

“Our corporate structure requires one-third of our board to be composed of members who represent the low-income sector, either through economic eligibility or employment or volunteer activities that serve low-income populations,” she said.

All Oswego County residents, with the exception of OCO employees, who consider themselves to low-income residents, are eligible to vote for participant representation on the OCO board of directors.

“It is a requirement that the low-income representatives be elected by their peers,” Cooper-Currier said. “We encourage our program participants and members of the community to stop at one of the sites and (cast) a ballot.”

Here is some brief information about each candidate:

John Zanewych is the owner of Big John Sales, Inc.. He is very active in the community and is a board member for the Oswego County Child Advocacy Center, Oswego County Habitat for Humanity and the Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

He believes his involvement with the Child Advocacy Center and Habitat For Humanity is very connected to the work of OCO and as a board member on all three organizations, he can make a strong link between them and their service to  low income people and those who struggle for stability and safety in their lives.

Karen Paterniti is the chief financial officer at Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc. (NOCHSI).

NOCHSI is the county’s federally qualified health center focused on providing health care to the low income.

As an OCO board member, Paterniti would welcome the opportunity to better serve community members and look to strengthen the partnership between OCO and NOCHSI.

Carissa Seaton is a Head Start parent and has served on a Head Start Center Committee and the Head Start Policy council since September of 2012.

Seaton is an artist and has used her talents in this area to help others out through benefits and fundraisers.

She is interested in helping in the community and feels that serving on the OCO board of directors is a good way to do this.

Gidget Stevens is the director of assistance programs for the Oswego County Department of Social Services. This provides her with insight to the needs of the community, particularly the low income.

Stevens was in a low income environment and chose this line of work as a way to assist individuals to self-sufficiency.

She believes in the mission and vision of OCO and works with OCO on many committees and collaborations.

Jeanne Unger is the executive director for Farnham, Inc., responsible for overall operation and expansion of services related to chemical dependency treatment and prevention.

She serves on a number of professional committees and boards including the Governor’s Advisory Council on Alcoholism and several OCO advisory committees.

Unger has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in counseling and psychological services from SUNY Oswego. She resides in Oswego with her husband and children.

Voting dates are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, April 1 through April 3, 2014, at the following sites during normal program hours unless otherwise noted:

Oswego:

  • Oswego Reproductive Health, 10 George St. – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Crisis & Development – Midtown Plaza – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Oswego WIC, 10 George St., Suite 400 (April 3 only – 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.)

Fulton:

  • OCO Administrative Office, 239 Oneida St. – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Fulton Reproductive Health, Lee Medical Office Building-Suite 400
  • Fulton Senior Meal Site, Municipal Building – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Backstreet Books & Bistro, 201-203 Oneida St. – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Fulton WIC Site, Believers Chapel, 614 S. Fourth St. across from McDonald’s (April 1 only, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Phoenix:

  • Discovery Day Care/Head Start – County Route 59 (off Route 481)

Other Locations:

  • Senior Dining and Activity Center sites are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Constantia Senior Meal Site, St. Bernadette’s –County Route 49 (April 2 and 3)
  • Mexico Senior Meal Site, Presbyterian Church – (April 2)
  • Parish Senior Meal Site, Presbyterian Church – (April 3)
  • Phoenix Senior Meal Site, Congregational Church (April 2)
  • Hannibal Senior Meal Site, Community Library (April 2)
  • Sandy Creek Senior Meal Site, United Methodist Church – (April 2 and 3)

For more information, visit OCO’s website at oco.org.

Fulton police participate in Operation Safe Stop

The Fulton Police Department, along with law enforcement officers around the state, will participate April 3 in an Operation Safe Stop day.

During “Safe Stop,” police officers are in marked patrol units enforcing the New York State Traffic Law, which requires all vehicles to stop for stopped school buses with their red lights flashing.

Communication between the Fulton Police Department and the transportation department of the Fulton City School District has identified the times and locations where vehicles passing school buses have been found to be the most frequent. These times and areas will be the focus of enforcement efforts.

Operation Safe Stop seeks to promote school bus safety not only through enforcement efforts but also through educational efforts.

It needs to be reinforced to motorists that it is dangerous and illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing.

Flashing red lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students.

You must stop whether you are approaching the school bus from the front or overtaking it from the rear.

You must always stop for flashing red lights, this applies even on divided and multilane highways and on school grounds.

The first time fine for illegally passing a school bus is a $250 to $400 fine, 5 points on your license, and/or possibly 30 days in jail.

Operation Safe Stop is a cooperative project supported by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the New York State Education Department, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, the New York State School Bus Contractors Association.

Oswego County health clinics set for week of March 31

The Oswego County Health Department offers a variety of services to all residents of Oswego County, including preventive health services, certified home health care, long-term home health care, certified hospice, and a maternal and child health program.

Walk-in influenza clinics are held weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego for people age 19 and older.

No appointment is needed; walk-ins are welcome.

Children’s flu vaccine is now available every Tuesday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Oswego, and the third Tuesday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse, Pulaski.

The children’s flu vaccine is available at no cost to all children who qualify for the Vaccines for Children Program provided by the New York State Department of Health. For those who do not qualify, the cost is $37 for the inactivated vaccine.

Patients with private insurance, Managed Medicaid, Managed Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare, and Medicare Part B should bring their benefit cards with them to the immunization clinic.  No one will be turned away due to inability to pay.

The following services will be offered during the week of March 31 at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego.

OSWEGO:

** Adult Influenza Clinic: Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., walk-in clinic.

** Immunization Clinic: Tuesday, April 1, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., walk-in clinic.

** Pregnancy Testing: Free pregnancy testing is available. Call 349-3391 to schedule an appointment.

** Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing and Treatment Services: Call 349-3547 to schedule an appointment.

** HIV Counseling and Testing Service:  Call 349-3547 to schedule an appointment.

Immunization clinics are held every Tuesday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at 70 Bunner St., Oswego, and the third Tuesday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m. at H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse, Pulaski.

For more information about public health services, contact the County Health Department, weekdays, phone 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

Wheelock obtains developer designation

Austin Wheelock, economic development specialist and property manager for Operation Oswego County, recently earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer.

This designation is a national recognition that denotes a mastery of principal skills in economic development, professional attainment and a commitment to personal and professional growth.

The exam for the designation was administered by the International Economic Development Council March 22 and 23 in Alexandria, Va.

“With eight years of economic development experience at Operation Oswego County, Austin has been a major team player in helping to attract companies and expand businesses, encouraging entrepreneurism and providing oversight over the many properties that OOC and the County of Oswego IDA have developed to promote and encourage economic development and job creation,” said L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County and chief executive officer of the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency.

“Some examples include the attraction of K&N’s Foods USA, Champlain Valley Specialties and SAM North America, spearheading the Next Great Idea Business Plan Competition, coordinating activities at the Oswego County Business Expansion Center and the former Oswego County Start-Up Facility (small business incubators) and the development of a series of comprehensive site profiles for critical industrial sites in the county,” Treadwell said.

“We want to congratulate Austin on achieving the CEcD designation,” Treadwell said. “It adds tremendously to the professional credibility that OOC demonstrates in the economic development arena.”

The Certified Economic Developer designation recognizes qualified and dedicated practitioners in the economic development field and sets the standard of excellence within the profession.

Candidates must pass a rigorous and comprehensive three-part, two-day examination, which tests a practitioner’s knowledge, proficiency and judgment in the key areas of economic development, including  business retention and expansion, marketing, finance, workforce development, community development, real estate, strategic planning, tech-led economic development, and management.

As highly competent economic development practitioners, Certified Economic Developers work with public officials, business leaders and community members to create leadership to build upon and maximize the economic development sector.

Excellence in the economic development profession improves the well being, quality of life and opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities.  There are 1,046 active
Certified Economic Developers in the United States.

Nuke plant employees help Hospice

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, owned and operated by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, is once again sponsoring the 15th annual Oswego County Hospice Cup Regatta & Walk/Run for Hope, which takes place Saturday, June 7 at the Oswego Yacht Club/International Marina.

The Friends of Oswego County Hospice is a nonprofit organization that provides financial support and relief to hospice patients at a time when they need it most.

In 2013, the organization raised nearly $27,000 and during the past 14 years, the Regatta has raised more than $275,000 to defray costs of non-medical expenses for patients and families, supported the hospice volunteer program and allowed for continued operation of Camp Rainbow of Hope, a free bereavement program for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

“Nine Mile Point is proud of our many employees who volunteer as firefighters and sports coaches, in parent-teacher organizations and a host of other capacities unaffiliated with the company,” said Nine Mile Point Site Vice President Chris Costanzo.

“Volunteerism and contributing to worthy causes are an integral part of the culture at Nine Mile Point,” Costanzo said.

The Nine Mile Community Council evaluates and responds to requests for aid from our surrounding community, focusing primarily on local needs.

Oswego school superintendent discusses budget

Submitted by Oswego schools

Oswego City School District Superintendent of Schools Ben Halsey addressed the 2014-15 budget situation during the Tuesday night Board of Education meeting.

He reinforced his comments of an earlier meeting as he indicated there could be a tremendous personnel impact as the result of current revenue and expenditure estimates.

During the past two weeks Halsey, with the cooperation of Business Administrator Nancy Squairs, have met with principals and department heads in an effort to reduce spending and review staffing of each area.

“There has been a significant amount of work done to get to the next level,” he said and there has been about $3.8 million in proposed reductions.

About $329,000 in reductions is not “people related.”

He explained the magnitude of the $3 million gap. Halsey said the common educational formula would provide $1 million for every 15 positions. The reductions from the past two weeks of work amounted to 54 positions.

“Am I asking for 54 positions? No! But that is the magnitude of what we are looking at,” he said.

“This would be fully comprehensive and would run across the district. We are building a budget that benefits everyone,” he said.

Halsey indicated he was aware of the “sky is falling” feeling in the past and is aware this has taken place in the Oswego City School District.

“I am confident in our numbers and the $3 million deficit is real. The revenues have not reached the level that had been projected in a while,” he said.

During the March 25 meeting, Halsey would not release the list of potential reductions. He indicated he promised the various district union officials he would meet with them prior to making the public announcement in order for affected employees to receive the information first.

The budgetary numbers could change depending upon further information about the governor’s budget and final state aid.

Future discussion and research will be conducted on the budget. On April 8, the school board will have its committee meetings followed by an extensive budget workshop.

Those meetings, which are open to the public, will be conducted at the Oswego High School cafeteria beginning at 5 p.m.

The regular Oswego school board meeting on March 25 was brief.

The board:

** Accepted the resignation of Leighton Principal Julie Burger, who is retiring.  She has served as the principal for the school since 2007. She began teaching career at Riley Elementary in 1982 and was also a Teacher on Special Assignment for five years as she was involved with the implementation of the technology program.

** Approved Nancy Simmons-Henderson and Brenda Getman as teaching assistants in Minetto

** Approved Winter Guard Consultants Michael Tierney, Ryan Bronner, Alexandria Sivers and Shannon DeSantis.

** Approved a probationary appointment for School Lunch Manager Jane Wagoner.

** Approved a probationary appointment for custodian David Jonson.

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