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

3-26_HEIDIflyer

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. 

Group out to kill invasive species giant hogweed in Oswego County

Giant hogweed plant
Giant hogweed plant

Partners of the SLELO-PRISM (St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario – Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) will again be busy controlling giant hogweed plants in the eastern Lake Ontario region.

More than 61 sites spread across five counties — including Oswego County — are scheduled to be treated. Counties included in this effort are St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and cswego Counties.

“Giant Hogweed poses a serious threat to anyone who comes into contact with the sap from the plant,” said Rob Williams, PRISM coordinator. “The sap, combined with sunlight, creates a photosensitive reaction on human skin which can cause serious burns and blisters and eventual scarring.”

“Due to the biology of this plant, we believe it is still possible to eradicate local populations of Giant Hogweed,” Williams said. “Since the beginning of the program in 2011 we have achieved a 33 percent reduction in active hogweed sites.”

Techniques used to control this plant include cutting the root of the plant just below the ground surface, applying herbicides and removing the flowering seed head just before seed drop.

The main stem/stalk of the giant hogweed plant with identifying purple blotches and white hairs
The main stem/stalk of the giant hogweed plant with identifying purple blotches and white hairs

The group’s work takes place primarily on public property and rights-of-way. The most effective and “safe” way for landowners to control this plant on private property is to apply over-the-counter herbicides in accordance with their labels.

Invasive species of plants, animals, insects and microorganisms are among the most serious threats to native species, habitats and ecosystems within the five-county areas that define the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario (SLELO) region.

Invasive species interfere with many types of outdoor recreation. They reduce crop yields and interfere with harvest operations on local farms.

Along public roads and highways, invasive plants restrict visibility and create roadside hazards. Invasive insects and diseases kill trees in forested areas as well as along community streets.

The economic impact of invasive species in the United States alone has been estimated at 120 billion annually.

Local communities have been challenged with controlling invasive species or remediating their impacts at costs ranging from several thousand to millions of dollars.

For more information on Giant Hogweed, visit the SLELO website at sleloinvasives.org.

To report a sighting call the Giant Hogweed Hotline at 845-256-3111.

Cub Pack runs Pinewood Derby

Members of Cub Pack 809 pose with Oswego Speedway superstars. Back Row: Debbie Bond, Anthony “The Hawk” Losurdo, Steven Gioia III,  Danny Kapuscinski, Patrick Furlong, Brent Moody; Next row: Devin Enos, Kolbi Schute, Zach Kinney, Xander Strong, Rhiley Castaldo; Next row: Ayden Santiago, Freddy Pagan, Sage Moody, Preston Wilkinson, Corbin Hare; Next row: Max Steiger, Anthony Hillard, Cayden France, Hayden Castaldo
Members of Cub Pack 809 pose with Oswego Speedway superstars. Back Row: Debbie Bond, Anthony “The Hawk” Losurdo, Steven Gioia III, Danny Kapuscinski, Patrick Furlong, Brent Moody; Next row: Devin Enos, Kolbi Schute, Zach Kinney, Xander Strong, Rhiley Castaldo; Next row: Ayden Santiago, Freddy Pagan, Sage Moody, Preston Wilkinson, Corbin Hare; Next row: Max Steiger, Anthony Hillard, Cayden France, Hayden Castaldo.

Cub Pack 809 held its Pinewood Derby March 15 at Premier Living Suites in Oswego.

Along with the excitement of racing, the boys also got a visit from Oswego Speedway superstars: Anthony “The Hawk” Losurdo, Stephen Gioia III, Camden Proud, Mike Bruce and Rob Pullen. The drivers also provided the countdown to start the racing!

The Oswego Speedway donated racing simulators for use after racing was done.

Along with first-, second- and third-place awards, certificates were handed out for most creative, awarded to a car based on a cruise ship, most colorful for a car covered with glitter, best video gamed themed for a car with Legos and best Cub Scout themed.

This pack meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Fitzhugh Park Elementary School to learn about core values and character development through fun activities, games, crafts and field trips.

They learn about cooperation, respect, citizenship and positive attitude while abiding by the founders view that “Cub Scouts is a Game with a Purpose.”

Past events have included, bowling, camping at Jellystone, and an overnight at Midway Drive in theatre, an overnight at the MOST, roller skating and numerous camp outs.

Anyone interested in joining Cub Scout Pack 809 or volunteering, call Carrie Kinney, pack committee chair, at 297-3571.

SUNY Oswego students invited to enter War of 1812 writing contest

SUNY Oswego students are invited to participate in the War of 1812 research paper competition in conjunction with the fourth annual Oswego War of 1812 Symposium Friday, April 4 to Sunday, April 6.

The symposium will be held at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., Oswego.

The contest involves SUNY Oswego students writing and presenting their findings on any aspect of the War of 1812. All SUNY Oswego students are welcome to participate.

Students interested in competing must follow the requirements for the contest. The topic of the paper must be on some aspect of the War of 1812. There is no length requirement for the papers, but they must be able to be presented for at least 10 minutes.

All papers must be submitted by Monday, March 24 and several papers will be chosen to be presented Friday evening, April 4 at the symposium. Students whose papers are chosen to be presented at the symposium will have the chance to win up to $150.

SUNY Oswego students who register with Richard Weyhing of the History Department a week prior, will have the registration fee covered to the symposium.

Richard Weyhing, an assistant professor of history at SUNY Oswego, is coordinating the contest with SUNY Oswego students.

“This is going to be a great event that brings together SUNY Oswego students, the local community, and a slate of outside scholars to explore Oswego’s and New York’s place within the broader history of the War of 1812,” he said.

For more information regarding the contest or to submit your paper, please contact Weyhing at Richard.weyhing@oswego.edu.

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