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Wood: In-person education is going well
ODESSA, Oct. 9, 2020 -- With 21 school days under its belt, the Odessa-Montour school district has experienced many more positives than negatives, Superintendent Chris Wood told the O-M School Board Thursday night.
Photo in text: Superintendent Chris Wood (File photo)
School Board member Jessica Saks, left, attended the meeting remotely, shown on a screen near in-person district clerk Renee Angle.
School Board OKs conditioning program, eyes full week in-school for PK-2nd grade
WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 6, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen School Board, in a two-hour and forty minute meeting Monday night, took two significant steps in the face of the coronavirus.
Photos in text: From top: Superintendent Greg Kelahan; Athletic Director Rod Weeden; board members Theresa Butler, Kevin Rumsey and Craig Bianco, and Board President Gloria Brubaker.
Union, superintendent weigh in on lawsuit
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 23, 2020 -- Both sides have been heard from publicly in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the Watkins Glen Faculty Association against the Watkins Glen School Board, the school district and School Superintendent Greg Kelahan.
The lawsuit asserts that the district has adopted a policy contrary to executive orders and to the district's own reopening plan, effectively blocking teachers with vulnerable health conditions from working remotely during the pandemic. (See Lawsuit.)
Association President Jeannette Lasko told Spectrum News: "It's my hope that we can settle this quickly and easily. It's sort of a shame that we have to spend this amount of time and money going to these lengths to get things that people need just in order to stay safe at their own jobs."
Kelahan issued a statement saying: "We have every reason to believe that the district’s position will be vindicated in court. Please know that the safety and security of our staff and students remains our top priority at all times."
Watkins Glen School Board members Kris Clarkson and Theresa Butler.
Watkins School Board fields complaints about hybrid system, eyes open practices
WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 22, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen School Board heard Monday night from two parents and four teachers dissatisfied with the district's hybrid education plan, and edged tentatively toward an after-school sports open-practice policy for students in grades 7 through 12 currently lacking in school athletics of any kind.
Photos in text: From top: Board President Gloria Brubaker, Superintendent Greg Kelahan, board member Jessica Saks and board member Kevin Rumsey at the meeting.
School Board members Barbara Schimizzi and Craig Bianco at the meeting.
At WGHS, positive virus test leads to the quarantine of 38 students and 6 teachers
Students gather in front of Odessa-Montour High School Thursday prior to entering the building for the first day of school.
Odessa students return to class ... finally
Students entered the B.C Cate Elementary School in Montour Falls and the Hanlon Elementary School and Odessa-Montour Junior/Senior High School in Odessa starting at about 7:30 a.m. -- some coming on foot, some transported by parents, and some on school buses.
Entry was through various doors. Those on foot and brought by parents were given temperature checks at the door; those on buses had their temperature checked upon boarding the vehicles.
"Finally," said Superintendent Chris Wood, "the kids have a day approaching normalcy." His hope: that more such days follow, and that a rhythm is soon established that leads to a successful school year.
About 120 of the school's 700-plus students have opted to attend classes remotely. More than 80% selected the in-person option, which has them attending classes five days a week. A similar schedule was adopted in Dundee, while Watkins Glen opted for a hybrid schedule that has half of its in-person students attending Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays.
Photo in text: O-M high school students enter the building Thursday morning.
Odessa-Montour administrator Veronica Lewis (in blue) directed students to various school entry points.
Left: O-M Superintendent Chris Wood talks to a parent arriving with a student. Wood was distributing numbered cards to those parents also planning to pick up their kids at the end of the day. Right: Hugs and thumbs-up signs were much in evidence.
Two of the many O-M students who rode to school on buses Thursday morning.
Watkins Glen school district staff member Ralph Diliberto checks a student's temperature.
At long last, Watkins Glen students return to class ... with masks, temperature checks
Half of the students opting for in-person instruction attended Tuesday; the other half are scheduled for Friday under a hybrid scheduling plan adopted by the School Board. In coming weeks, the first group will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, and the second group on Thursdays and Fridays.
Students on hand Tuesday entered the school near the high school office and through the Field House, each getting their temperature checked before being permitted to attend classes.
If any had failed to fall within the parameters of temperature or were deemed potential infection risks, they would have been sent to a separate room for further consideration.
Superintendent Greg Kelahan reported that there were no notable first-day problems. He also observed how quiet the halls were with the limited number of students on hand, and with each wearing a mask -- a must if a student wishes to attend in-person.
About 15 percent of the student body has opted for on-line, remote instruction, with several others choosing home schooling that is not part of the district education plan.
Odessa-Montour schools open Thursday, with more than 600 of its 700-plus students set to attend in-person five days a week.
Photos in text:
Top: Watkins Glen School Superintendent Greg Kelahan welcomes a young student to school.
Left: An arriving student is directed toward the Field House doors, where temperatures were being checked. Right: Students Abby Gibson, left, and Carlie Baker.
SCCUDD to hold K-6 billboard contest
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Sept. 7, 2020 -- The Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking (SCCUDD) is holding a billboard contest for Schuyler County students from kindergarten through grade 6.
All students attending Odessa-Montour Central School, Watkins Glen Central School and Bradford Central School are eligible, including homeschool students residing in Schuyler County.
The contest is for substance abuse prevention messages with a “Seasonal” theme. The winning billboard will be displayed during the months of November and December 2020.
Billboards created must have a message that informs, persuades, or states facts about substance abuse. It can be about nicotine/tobacco/vaping, alcohol, and/or prescription drug abuse or illegal drug use and how it is harmful to youth. The message can be about one or all of these topics/substances.
Students are encouraged to look up facts and statistics and gain knowledge of why these substances are harmful to youth. Students are encouraged to be creative and think about a message that would reach youth. They are also encouraged to NOT use scare tactics.
Billboards need to be submitted between September 14 and September 18, 2020. Those Billboards that are accepted will be displayed on the SCCUDD Facebook page and be voted on by the public. Voting will start on September 21 and end September 27, 2020 at midnight. The Billboard with the most votes will be announced the following week.
“We are very much looking forward to the creativity of the youth of Schuyler County. The younger that we can get children excited about and involved with substance abuse prevention the better,” said SCCUDD Project Coordinator Ward Brower.
Information about contest rules or entry will be provided at each school’s main office, or people can contact SCCUDD directly at 607-535-8140.
SCCUDD is a group of dedicated community members, businesses, and agencies that work to prevent, reduce, and delay the onset of substance use among Schuyler County youth by collaborating with community partners, promoting prevention education and substance-free activities, and implementing environmental strategies. SCCUDD works to reduce youth use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs that can cause lifelong problems. SCCUDD’s vision, say its leaders, is a connected community where youth have education, resources and drug-free options to help them on their journey to become happy, healthy adults.
For more information, or to become involved with SCCUDD, visit SCCUDD online at www.schuylercounty.us/sccudd, or follow SCCUDD on Facebook and Twitter.
Wood on football move: It was joint decision
The two schools have been playing football and baseball jointly in recent years -- their teams being known as the Seneca Indians. Watkins Glen in other, separate sports is known as the Senecas, and O-M as the Indians.
In a prepared statement, Wood said:
Wood's reference to full-time applies to O-M, where more than 600 of the 700-plus students have opted to attend school in-person five days a week. Watkins has a hybrid plan that sees each student attending two days and spending the other days remote learning. And the $2 million is the expected shortfall at O-M if the state continues to withhold 20% of state aid each month. The possible Watkins Glen shortfall, it was announced Monday night, is $2.9 million.
Wood added, outside the statement, that school officials know the importance of extracurricular activities to the development of students -- whether athletics, music, theater or some other outlet.
But "safety is our top priority," he said. "Our first priority is bringing the kids back to school safely."
Meanwhile, the Seneca Indians football coach, Trevor Holland, when asked if he had expected the decision made by the Watkins School Board Monday night, said: "I knew that a decision was going to have to be made, but was hoping it wasn't going to be last night."
And looking down the road? "I'm not sure what the future holds," he said.
Photo in text: O-M Superintendent Chris Wood. (File photo)
From left: Board member Jessica Saks, board president Gloria Brubaker and board member Kevin Rumsey at Monday's meeting.
Watkins Glen School Board trims $710,000 from the budget, axing positions and football
The cuts, which also included a clerical position, three teaching aide jobs (already vacant), and one administrator position, could be reinstated should the fortunes of the state and, thus, of the district, suddenly change. But in a climate where the state is already withholding 20% of state aid payments -- and could make the cuts permanent -- the board felt it was time to start acting now.
By doing so, Superintendent Greg Kelahan said, the board would "communicate to the community that it is taking action" in a situation fraught with uncertainty.
The only thing the board seemed certain of was the unlikelihood that football would be a possibility. In fact, said Athletic Director Rod Weeden, with the fall sports season delayed until Sept. 21 and football limited at that point to non-contact practices, a football season simply "won't happen. There's no way it's going to happen with the restraints" imposed thus far by the state.
Besides, he added, "There's no way to put a schedule together" at this late date, even if the state were to clear football soon -- unlikely given the questions swirling around sports considered less of a risk. (Not mentioned: the possibility that any number of districts might opt out of sports until January. That was the position taken by Section VIII in Nassau County.)
Weeden's assessment convinced the board, after board member Theresa Butler had objected to the idea of canceling the sport that has long been the fall's crowd favorite.
Considering that the board had already agreed to cut the clerical position, three teacher aide positions and an administrator job, Gloria Brubaker wondered how it could cut academic jobs "but not sports?"
After Weeden's explanation, board member Craig Bianco set the tone of the agreement to follow by saying: "It pains me to say ... but saving money from sports right now so we don't have to cut academics later is the way to go."
The clerical position cut, Kelahan told the board, would save $50,000, the three teacher aide positions $60,000, the administrator job $110,000, conferences, field trips and contractual partnerships $100,000, cuts in transportation and maintenance purchases $100,000, cuts in material and supply purchases $250,000, and football and cheerleading $40,000.
Kelahan presented the list of potential cuts -- there were many more possibilities rejected for now by the board, including a couple of elementary teaching jobs, a music position, half of several other jobs, and participation in the New Visions program -- as options to consider, not as something he was recommending. "I'm not advocating," he said. "Not at all. I've identified $2 million in reductions for your consideration."
Also a possibility -- but not yet acted upon -- was the use of savings funds and of funds from reserve accounts. The latter would have to be repaid in five years with interest.
After the meeting, Kelahan said he recognized the hot-button nature of cutting football, but said he believed "the state has made that decision" by failing to clear the sport like it had soccer and cross country. "We're just freeing up the money."
Could football be reinstated? Well, Kelahan said, "If the Governor decided tomorrow that it was a viable option, we'd look at it. There is not a board member who wouldn't support football."
Photos in text: From top: Superintendent Greg Kelahan, and board members Craig Bianco and Theresa Butler at Monday's meeting.
Return of high school sports is good news, but financial issues abound at local districts
Odessa-Montour School Superintendent Chris Wood said he was cautiously optimistic, but still keeping an eye on various, often shifting state signals.
While acknowledging the physical and mental health benefits from athletics and the pride a school takes in its teams, Wood pointed out that without the full complement of state aid, and in light of stringent distancing requirements in Physical Education class and the Arts, the return makes little sense financially, physically or from a simple fairness standpoint.
"We have got to get guidance from NYSED (the State Education Department) on all of this," he said, adding that considering financial constraints, the constantly changing regulations emanating from the state -- from NYSED, the Department of Health and Governor Cuomo -- and the continuing uncertainty about whether Covid-19 will spring up after students start gathering in school, "I have to ask, Do we have sports (in the immediate future), or do we not have it? I'm not convinced we have it."
Consider, he said, the funding. The state has told districts it is releasing to them 80% of the promised state aid for the upcoming school year, but hasn't said whether or when the remaining 20% is coming. If it doesn't come for the entire fiscal year, that would mean a $2 million shortfall at Odessa-Montour.
"We can't get an answer on the 20%," he said, adding that if the delay drags on, "What am I supposed to do? Sit here hoping it will come in? When do we get the money? They've got to help us somewhere."
Overall, "It makes no sense," he said. "Kids in Phys Ed class have to stay 12 to 14 feet apart. But now they're saying it's okay to put a bunch of sweating athletes out on the field, often in close proximity. How safe is that?
"And I can't put a band in a band room" due to distancing guidelines, he added. Considering the congestion likely on an athletic field, "There's a huge discrepancy there. How is that fair?"
Down in Watkins Glen, the sports issue came up at a meeting of the School Board Monday evening. The board spent little time on the financial end of it, with Superintendent Greg Kelahan saying afterward that "we've budgeted for the programs."
The Board members discussed whether those students opting for remote learning would qualify to play athletics. Kelahan told them the state allows that to occur, but that the board could adopt its own, contrary, policy.
"We can't deprive sports from a kid," said Board member Kris Clarkson. "That would be awful." The Board agreed with Clarkson, but also specified that any student learning remotely would have to find his or her own way to and from sports practices. School-provided transportation would be far too expensive, the Board members agreed.
"This Board and community are very committed to athletics," said Kelahan after the meeting. As for the cost if the 20% of state aid is not forthcoming? "We'll just have to figure it out."
One annoying addition to the sports scene, he added, is a new dictum from the state that spectator attendance at sporting events will be limited to two people per athlete, with social distancing observed. "Every time we turn, there's something else coming at us," he said.
The matter of finances is, sports aside, an overall concern -- so much so that Kelahan suggested one immediate cost-cutting measure would be the elimination -- through layoff or furlough -- of personnel who, under the current, mandated pandemic rules, are perhaps not currently needed.
If the state does withhold 20% of state aid -- and Business Manager Amy Howell told the Board that it has already started doing so, beginning in June -- the district would face a shortfall in revenue of $1.8 million to $2 million across the full year.
The state, he said, announced Monday that districts can draw funds from certain reserve accounts they had previously been prevented from drawing down, but with repayment plus interest due within five years.
With that daunting option in front of them, and Kelahan's suggestion that the district "reconsider personnel and programs," the Board decided to meet next Monday, Aug. 31, to discuss the financial picture.
"We need an alternate revenue stream," Kelahan said.
Photos in text: O-M Superintendent Chris Wood (top) and Watkins Glen Superintendent Greg Kelahan. (File photos)
Watkins Glen School Superintendent Greg Kelahan motions at a power-point photo of a Watkins classroom with desks spaced to meet social distancing requirements.
Watkins, O-M districts conduct sessions, explain school reopening plans to parents
Proposed 3/2, 2/3 plan at WG is 'off the table at this point'
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Aug. 19, 2020 -- Meetings to explain to parents the hows and whys of reopening plans were conducted Tuesday night by the Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen school districts -- O-M’s second of three online sessions, and Watkins Glen’s first of three combination online and in-person sessions.
In a subsequent phone call, he said his administration team had taken the issue to teacher representatatives Tuesday, with the decision being made to stay with the 2+2 plan, leaving teachers the opportunity on Wednesdays to concentrate on students with special challenges and to interact with parents, as well as conducting remote learning (on an abridged schedule) for all of the students.
"So the 3/2, 2/3 plan has been removed from the table at this point," he said, adding that the entire reopening approach "is fluid, with adjustments undoubtedly ahead, whether coming from the Governor, the Health Department or the State Education Department."
Photos in text: Superintendents Greg Kelahan (top) and Chris Wood (File photos)
Rotary Club awards scholarships, grants
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 13, 2020 -- Three Schuyler County graduating high school seniors and 11 community organizations benefitted from 2019-20 fundraising efforts by the Watkins-Montour Rotary Club.
Odessa-Montour Central School graduate Derrick Lewis and Watkins Glen High School graduates Scott Brubaker and Adrienna Solomon were each awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
Nine organizations received donations for specific projects through the Rotary Club’s annual community grants program. The organizations were Catholic Charities, the Dutton Peterson Library, Habitat for Humanity, the Hometown Heroes Banner Program, the Humane Society, Labor of Love, the Montour Falls Public Library, the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department and the Watkins Glen Public Library.
Additionally, Head Start of Schuyler County and My Place, A Play and Learning Center received donations designated by the Rotary Club to purchase books.
Glen School Board leans toward 3/2, 2/3 reopening plan; parents' meetings set
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 17, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen School Board, in a marathon session Monday night, made clear its preference to change its plan so that students attend 3 days one week and 2 the next -- a 3/2, 2/3 schedule to replace a 2+2 plan adopted last week.
Superintendent Greg Kelahan said after the 3 1/2-hour online session that the board's preference would be relayed to teachers -- probably the next day -- with a decision imminent, possibly in time for the first of three meetings explaining the plan to parents. Those are set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- emanating from the high school auditorium, where a maximum of 50 people will be permitted, including the administration team and some board members.
That will leave about 35 in-person spots in the auditorium seating, with everyone else who wants to watch doing so online. Kelahan said those 35 slots would likely be reserved for parents with no internet access or with other special circumstances.
The School Board session Monday started with a 45-minute executive session that ran until 6:15 p.m. -- and was followed by an open meeting that didn't end until 9:45 p.m. It featured a lengthy explanation by Kelahan, and extensive accompanying board discussion, about the reopening.
The public-be-heard portion of the meeting saw one resident, Dr. Ben Saks, tell the board that he favored full-time attendance for elementary students -- which was part of a hybrid plan the board favored before voting for the plan last week that placed all grades into two groups, one to attend Mondays and Tuesdays and the other to attend Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesday reserved for disenfecting the school. What, Dr. Saks asked, is different in other similarly sized districts choosing to offer students in-person, full-time schooling?
It became clear at Monday's session that disinfecting takes place every day, and that reserving Wednesday for that reason held little sway. Board members, led by Dr. Saks' sister, board member Jessica Saks, discussed at length the merits of the 3/2, 2/3 schedule, which among other things offers in-person students an extra day -- greater social interaction -- with classmates every other week compared to the 2+2 plan.
As for the number of students who might decide on the in-person route, no numbers are yet available. E-mails and, where needed, letters, were to be sent out this week asking parents whether they wanted their children in school or learning remotely, with a response deadline of Friday. At the board's urging, however, the deadline was changed to Monday, Aug. 24, the date of the next scheduled board session. (Odessa-Montour has received responses from parents of 685 of its 770 students, wth 82% planning to attend school full-time, in-person, five days a week.)
Also discussed, at great length, was the use of masks and social distancing -- with the board deciding that masks need not be worn when students are seated in class, situated six feet from their nearest classmates. And that distance was determined to be six feet from the edge of the work place -- or desk -- to the edge of the work space. "So it's really more like seven feet," said Kelahan.
Also discussed: where, exactly, students would have their temperatures checked each day. The plan was to check the temperatures at entry points at the Field House, the high school and the elementary school. That still seems to be holding, after discussion about bus drivers or, possibly, added monitors taking temperatures before or as a student entered the bus in the morning.
If it were to be the driver, he or she would have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which would hamper the ability to drive. And if it were a monitor, that person would likely be an existing employee whose job, said Kelahan "would be repurposed." But as he also pointed out, "it would increase our cost, and we are so strapped right now." Besides, he added, "I don't want buses idling on the road while temperatures are being taken," thus holding up traffic.
"Nothing here is ideal or even desirable," Kelhan told the board more than once, stressing along the way that whatever plan is finalized, it can be altered as the school year progresses -- although students opting for remote learning must stay with it until the first semester is completed. Anyone attending school in-person can, however, opt for a change to remote learning at any time.
Among other matters raised was this: If a teacher gives a test to students in a Monday class that is identical to a test given to the other half of his or her students on Thursday, what is to prevent the Thursday test from being contaminated by information circulating from the Monday test? "Good question," answered Kelahan. "We'll figure it out."
Photos in text:
Top: One of the Watkins Glen classrooms with desks arranged with social distancing -- one of several such photos featured at Monday's meeting.
At O-M, high percentage plans to attend
ODESSA, Aug. 17, 2020 -- Odessa-Montour School Superintendent Chris Wood, in the first of three online presentations to the public on his district's planned reopening, said Monday night that 82% of responding parents will send their children to school for in-person, full-time instruction.
Wood, who in his report outlined the district's plan and answered questions submitted by parents to the district office, will present his report again Tuesday, Aug. 18 and Thursday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m.
The survey respondents, as of Monday, showed 564 of the district's 770 students planning to attend in-person, with 85 yet to be heard from. A total of 115 students plan to learn remotely, with five opting for independent home schooling. Those numbers are equal to 82%, 17% and 1% of the 685 respondents. Wood said he would have updated totals later in the week.
Photo in text: O-M Superintendent Chris Wood (File photo)
Watkins Glen School Board unanimously approves a hybrid 'A/B' reopening plan
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 12, 2020 --The Watkins Glen School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to adotpt a hybrid attendance plan for the coming school year in which all students will attend school on an alternating schedule: what is being called an A/B plan.
The board, which had originally leaned in favor of a plan that would have seen pre-K through 8th graders in school full time and 9th through 12th graders alternating, opted instead for a plan which Superintendent Greg Kelahan said means "we will never have more than 50% of the kids in school at one time."
According to the plan, Group A will attend on Mondays and Tuesdays while Group B learns remotely. Everyone will learn remotely on Wednesday, which will be reserved for maintenance staff to disinfect the school. Then Group B will attend on Thursdays and Fridays while Group A stays home, learning remotely.
Kelahan said the plan was adopted because "the most important thing is the health and wellness of our students and teachers."
The original plan, Board member Craig Bianco said during Wednesday's session, had classes in the younger grades packed to the point where "if a kid moved two inches, there would be a violation of social distancing rules. That's not the best way for a student to learn. It would be a prison-like setting instead of a learning setting."
Parents concerned about sending their children to school during the pandemic will have the option of keeping them home for remote learning -- an option that Kelahan said should keep home schooling -- education apart from the district's instruction -- at a minimum. Any commitment to Watkins Glen School District remote learning, the board said, has to last through the first semester. After that, a student can join the A/B schedule if desired.
Three remote sessions are being planned for next week which will serve as briefings for parents, while the plan will also be explained to teachers in another session. Board President Gloria Brubaker said she checked with Governor Andrew Cuomo's office and was told the meetings are not for debate from parents, but simply to inform them. Any questions they have must be submitted beforehand to the district office.
Brubaker prepared a statement, which reads as follows:
"I would like to start by saying we are in the middle of a pandemic. This is new territory for all of us. We have been handed down mandated guidelines from the New York State Education Department that must be followed. We as a board are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff.
"I also want everyone to know that we all want our students back in school. This includes the administration, the faculty, parents, students and the Board of Education, but we must do it in a responsible way. A way that keeps the health and safety of our entire school community first and foremost.
"As you have just heard, the board has decided that we will go with a blended hybrid model (A/B schedule) and a 100% virtual option that parents will have the option to choose from.
"For the hybrid model, the students will be placed in cohorts and the A cohort will be physically in school Monday and Tuesday while the B cohort will be at home and participate in live streaming.
"On Wednedsays, all students will be at home and live streamed. (This day may end a little differently so teachers could possibly have office hours for parents or students, upon request, or grade level/subject meetings to work through any kinks and to share what might be working well for some.)
"Thursdays and Fridays the B cohort will be physically in school while the A cohort will be home and participate in the live stream.
"Special Ed students who are in a self-contained classroom will go to school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
"With the A and B Cohort plan and parents still having the option to keep their children at home for virtual learning, and with some parents choosing to drop their children at school so they are not on the bus, this should take care of the proper social distancing, with masks, on our buses and in our classrooms.
"At the next board meeting (Monday, Aug. 17), Mr. Kelahan will go into detail about exactly how this plan will work. There will also be three separate parent meetings and one teacher meeting to answer any questions regarding our school reopening plan."
Photo: Superintendent Greg Kelahan and Board President Gloria Brubaker (File photo)
O-M proceeding with its in-school plan
ODESSA, Aug. 12, 2020 -- The Odessa-Montour School District is proceeding with its plan whereby students who wish to attend school will do so -- while parents who prefer remote learning for their kids can opt for that.
Superintedent Chris Wood said Wednesday night that O-M is "going with the in-person," while surveying parents for their preference. Thus far responses covering 430 students have been received, leaving 330 yet to be tabulated. He said he plans to contact those families for their responses.
After a final number of in-school students is determined, he said, then transportation and cafeteria plans can be finalized. If a significant number -- say 300 -- opted for remote learning, he said, then the plan might change. Those who do opt for remote learning must commit through the first semester so as not to disrupt carefully crafted in-school plans.
Informational sessions will be provided online next week for parents on three different evenings. Any questions posed beforehand to the district will be answered at that time.
Wood said all of the plans are made with staff input, and that he meets regularly with Health Department officials to make sure shifting state rules and regulations are being followed.
He said 95% of his staff "wants to be back badly, and 5% want to be back, but are cautious." No teachers have expressed a desire to stay out of the classroom, he added.
"I believe we can do this safely," he said, "as long as the kids do as we ask" regarding masks and social distancing. "The biggest thing is that we can get them back safely."
Photo in text: O-M Superintendent Chris Wood. (File photo)
Hospital Auxiliary awards scholarships
MONTOUR FALLS, Aug. 11, 2020 -- The Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary has awarded $1,000 scholarships to two high school graduates who are planning to enter the healthcare field.
Samantha Dudgeon, daughter of Ted and Caminda Dudgeon of Cayuta, graduated in June from Odessa-Montour Central School. She plans to attend Finger Lakes Community College to study nursing.
Collin Gaylord, son of Jill Gaylord of Beaver Dams, graduated from Watkins Glen Central School in June. He will attend the University at Buffalo to start his education toward becoming a doctor. Collin is also employed in the Schuyler Hospital Dietary Department.
Scholarship awards are presented each year to graduating high school seniors who live or attend school in Schuyler County and plan to enter careers in the healthcare field.
Awards are based on academic achievement, volunteerism, and personal essays. Previous recipients have been in such diverse fields as orthopedics, dentistry, physical therapy, optometry, speech therapy, and pharmacy.
The Auxiliary awarded its first scholarship of $250 in1990. Over the next 20 years it grew to $1,000 scholarships. Funds for the awards are raised through the Auxiliary’s hospital gift shop and other fundraising events.
For more information about the Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary, call (607) 535-7121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo in text: From left, Collin Gaylord; Auxiliary President Sharon Malick; Samantha Dudgeon. (Photo provided)
School Board, residents weigh in as they wait for Cuomo's decision on school year
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 4, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen School Board spent most of its 90-minute Zoom meeting Monday night discussing the possibilities for the upcoming school year, and heard from a half-dozen residents with a range of opinions -- some favoring in-school instruction, and one wishing to keep his daughters home rather than put them at risk in a pandemic.
Photos in text: From top: Superintendent Greg Kelahan, and board members Theresa Butler and Kris Clarkson during the meeting.
Options and uncertainty front and center as school districts offer reopening plans
SCHUYLER COUNTY, July 31, 2020 -- The Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen Central School Districts have prepared plans for New York State regarding the various options being considered for educaton in the coming school year.
The plans, for in-school instruction, a hybrid of in-school and online education, and strictly online teaching and learning, were mandated by the state by the end of July. The Watkins Glen administration presented its proposals to the School Board Wednesday night, while the O-M admnistrators unveiled theirs Thursday night.
Both districts want in-school instruction, and each has proposals that address that desire in different ways. But the Superinendents of the two districts -- Chris Wood at O-M and Greg Kelahan at Watkins Glen -- caution that everything is still pretty much up in the air, contingent on:
-- an upcoming decision by Governor Andrew Cuomo as to what styles of education will be permitted in the face of the pandemic;
How each school will proceed varies, shaped largely by committee input and surveys. (And each offers the cautionary note that everything is subject to change.) Watkins Glen's Kelahan said he "removed myself" from the planning, leaving much of it to a 26-member "decision-making" group, with input from teacher, student and parent advisory groups, along with a survey of 333 parents. O-M relied too on surveys, of faculty and community, the latter from 400 families..
The Watkins Glen district posted its detailed, multi-page plan on its website late Friday, while O-M posted a plan on its website as well as sending a comminique to parents and media after meeting with local Health Department officials Friday morning. As they currently stand, the plans include the following:
Odessa-Montour: The hope is to have all students on campus all day, five days a week -- with the exception of immunity compromised students, for whom safeguards have to be established. The Health Department officials, with minor suggestions, approved the O-M plans during their Friday visit to the high school and two elementary schools, at each of which maintenance staff has set up classrooms with social distancing, as well as various sanitizing stations.
In the event -- whether by changing pandemic circumstance or gubernatorial fiat -- that full-time, full occupancy plan becomes untenable, the administration has focused on a hybrid plan whereby the lower grades, up through Grade 6, would attend every day. Students in Grades 7-12 would attend on a 3-day-on, 2-day off pattern. This would work alphabetically by last name, with, say, names starting in A-L in school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday one week, and at home Thursday and Friday. The M-Z group would be at home those first three days, then in school the last two. The next week, they would flip, so that each student was in school every 5 of 10 days.
In either event, full school or hybrid, the older kids would start school earlier than in the past, perhaps at 7:30 a.m., with the younger kids starting later. The bus runs would be doubled, reducing the number of students on each bus in keeping with social distancing. Masks would also be required on the buses, as they would in the hallways on the way to class. Mask use in class was yet to be determined.
Also under consideration is whether any students would be using lockers, and how best to handle "specialty" classes such as art, music and physical education. In peril: interscholastic athletics, which Wood doubted would start in the fall (the current start date is Sept. 21), being pushed instead to three reduced seasons running from January to June. Concerts and assemblies are on hold, he added, as are semiformals and the prom, while field trips are unlikely.
When asked by a board member what might prevent any chosen plan from moving forward, the superintendent said an outbreak of Covid or a 20 percent reduction in state aid -- equivalent to roughly $2 million -- would send planners back to the drawing board.
The full O-M plan, 40 pages long, is available to download on the school district's website (click here). It contains feedback from surveys and advisory groups, instructional information for families, Return to School Protocols, and Campus Health & Safety Protocols.
Watkins Glen: Superintendent Kelahan, the morning after his board’s meeting, said districts had been told by Governor Cuomo that they should “structure to reopen” with in-school instruction if at all possible, and that that’s what the district is aiming for. What form that takes -- whether full attendance all day, every day, or a hybrid of in-school and remote learning -- remains to be determined. "I can't speak for the board on that," said Kelahan, "and I heard many different opinions from many staff, parents and students. I know that I don't have a preference. Much depends on what the Governor says."
Any in-school return raises many safety and logistical concerns, from transportation to food service to proper distancing to mask wearing to social distancing to how to respond in the event of a student or teacher showing a high temperature or falling ill. All of those variables and others are addressed in the published plan (Click here), which covers Health and Safety, Facilities, Child Nutrition, Transportation, Social Emotional Well-Being, School Schedules, Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism, Technology and Connectivity, Teaching and Learning, and Staffing. And each of those subjects is addressed in three different sections, whereby Everyone Returns (Plan A), Hybrid (Plan B), and All Virtual If Stay at Home Orders Go Into Effect (Plan C).
The board, after what Kelahan said was extensive discussion, decided at its meeting Wednesday not to increase the bus runs, one of many vexing considerations it will be facing as the school year nears and then unfolds. For instance, also closely studied was the right time at which to check each student's temperature daily: as he or she entered the school each morning, or earlier, at the bus stop. The decision: check temperatures at the school door.
The Health Department will conduct an on-site review of the district's current plan and preparations "once the Governor announces what is allowed," Kelahan said, adding in a letter on July 29 to parents: "Until the Governor announces how districts may open, we are not able to share which structure our district will use in September."
Photo in text: The rear of the Odessa-Montour High School, where fencing along the driveway has been removed. This driveway can be used for dropoffs and pickups by visitors who will thus not have to enter the building. With the fencing gone, there is room for both entering and exiting vehicles.
School boards weigh mascots' status as traditions give way to cultural changes
"The conversation has been renewed and is starting to build momentum," says Rod Weeden, athletic director in the Watkins Glen School District.
"The question has been on our minds, given recent national news," said Odessa-Montour School Superintendent Chris Wood, "and the Board of Education and I have had initial discussions regarding our mascot."
The O-M sports teams are the Indians; the Watkins Glen sports teams are the Senecas. In those sports in which they've combined -- football and baseball chief among them -- they are the Seneca Indians.
There are more such team nicknames, or mascots, in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which is -- like O-M and Watkins Glen -- turning its attention to the issue.
The statements by the two school officials came in response to emails seeking information on the fallout from national movements against traditional symbols and in the wake of the decision by the Washington football team to drop "Redskins" from its name and to exorcise its accompanying logo.
At O-M, though, the matter is not the top priority. "At this time," said Superintendent Wood, "we are focusing our time and efforts on developing a plan to safely bring students back to school in the fall." (The district must submit a reopening plan by the end of the month, after which Governor Andrew Cuomo will be announcing which regions in the state pass muster for fall in-person classes.)
"Once students return," said Wood, "our primary focus will be on meeting social-emotional needs and narrowing the academic gaps while addressing budget concerns.
"In short, yes we are aware of the concern with our mascot," said Wood, "but, like everything else we do, our students need to be a part of the decision-making process. Stay tuned."
At Watkins Glen, Weeden expanded.
"This is certainly not a new controversy for schools. With the current state of the nation, this topic is being brought to the forefront again. People are asking some hard questions and ... I think the conversation certainly has to happen.
"The school board has asked some questions and is looking for information. I'm sure they have been approached by members of the community, as well. We can not bury our heads in the sand and hope this goes away. We need to ask ourselves many basic questions about what we want our brand to be.
"What do we want to be known for? Is our mascot and the imagining associated with it perpetuating a negative impact toward a race? If we do nothing and are told by the state that all schools must drop any association of a school mascot with a race of people, are we financially prepared to make those changes? I believe the school board has a duty to ask many of these questions and more and make an educated decision.
"I believe we all have a duty to educate ourselves on this topic and not just dismiss it through hateful comments toward those who want to educate themselves. Discussing things like dignity and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes is not just reserved for those of a certain political party, I believe it is a basic part of humanity. ...
Photos in text: From top: The Indian on the O-M gym wall; O-M Superintendent Chris Wood and Watkins Glen Athletic Director Rod Weeden.
Afternoon Club awards 3 scholarships
SCHUYLER COUNTY, July 9, 2020 -- The Ladies Wednesday Afternoon Club has awarded its annual $150 scholarhsips this year to one graduated senior each from the Bradford, Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen high schools.
The Bradford honoree is Adrianna Padgett, who plans to study digital media arts in college.
The Ladies Wednesday Afternoon Club meets once a month. Its members, says a press release announcing the scholarships, "are very interested in obtaining knowledge, and staying current with everyday society ... Because they value learning so much, each year they are proud to present scholarships to Schuyler County High School graduates who have worked hard and shown that they can succeed, and also plan on attending a college or trade school."
Area lawmakers, education leaders urge state: Release school reopening guidelines
HORSEHEADS, July 8, 2020 -- U.S. Representative Tom Reed (R-NY), State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R,C-Caledonia) and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda) Wednesday joined regional education leaders to call on New York State to give area schools the go-ahead to begin implementing plans to reopen in September.
Also on hand were GST BOCES Superintendent James Frame, Bath Schools Superintendent Joe Rumsey, Hornell Superintendent Jeremy Palotti, Canaseraga Superintendent Chad Groof and other school representatives.
The New York State of Board of Regents and the State Education Department announced in late April the formation of a School Reopening Task Force to oversee school reopenings. In June, the task force held a series of virtual meetings with four Regional School Reopening Task Forces representing teachers, parents, administrators, school board members and non-instructional school personnel, among others, to gather input on the protocols that will then guide New York’s 700 local school districts in devising their reopening plans.
School administrators across the area are relying on state officials to follow the plan it outlined and release its guidance as soon as possible.
Despite the significant time, effort and professional input that has gone into the Regional School Reopening Task Forces, over the past week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has reiterated that he alone will have the final say. On Monday, he said that the state Department of Health (DOH) and his own, previously formed Reimagine Education Advisory Council, are also working to develop “forthcoming” guidance, but gave no definitive timetable.
During a news conference Wednesday at the GST BOCES Bush Campus in Horseheads, area leaders stressed that schools need to start planning now to be ready for reopening in September and called on the governor to quickly release the necessary guidelines.
In a joint statement, Reed, O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend, Byrnes and Giglio said, “Our local county leaders, health professionals, educators, teachers and communities have demonstrated enormous dedication, discipline and responsibility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our communities’ leaders have demonstrated they can be trusted with a careful and thorough reopening of schools that is focused on safety, first and foremost. No one cares more about the health and well-being of our students, families and school communities.
"What has been accomplished by administrators, teachers and parents to help students throughout this public health crisis has been remarkable. These efforts must continue to supplement ongoing instruction because in-person schooling is fundamentally important to the long-term health and well-being of our young people and their families. Nothing can replace our children being in school. It’s central to quality education, our ongoing economic recovery and the strength of our social fabric. Governor Cuomo needs to release the guidelines so that school administrators can get to work implementing a safe reopening for September. The governor can’t leave school districts, students, teachers and parents waiting until the final minute for guidance.”
The group highlighted the success of the regional COVID-19 response, praising the work of local officials and the ongoing cooperation of local citizens and communities to follow the safety guidelines recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus and demonstrate the feasibility of safe reopening. The group also noted that the knowledge and experience gained over the past several months leaves them confident about developing and implementing safe school reopening plans for September -- if, they stressed, the state releases the necessary protocols and gives school districts ample time to thoroughly prepare their facilities and staff.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara speaks at the press conference held Wednesday at GST BOCES Bush Campus in Horseheads. (Photo provided)
Rutledge, Brubaker win Lions scholarships
SCHUYLER COUNTY, July 2, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen-Montour Falls Lions Club has awarded Watkins Glen High School graduates Bethany Rutledge and Scott Brubaker $1,000 scholarships in recognition of their academic achievements, character, and community service.
The club's scholarship program is approved by the Lions Club Board of Directors and funded by the Watkins Glen-Montour Falls Foundation in remembrance of past High School Principals and Lions members John Cook and Bud Warner.
Scott Brubaker, winner of the Lions Club Outstanding Student Award, will be attending SUNY Oswego to study Broadcast and Mass Communication. Brubaker, son of Renee Riley and Brett Brubaker, has been an avid student of journalism and media and is pursuing a career in news reporting. The four-year Bachelor of Art degree qualifies graduates in media positions such as producer, news anchor, press secretary, reporter, editor, and media researcher.
Photos in text: Bethany Rutledge and Scott Brubaker (Photos provided)
Odessa-Montour unveils Academic Awards
WELLS COLLEGE 21ST CENTURY LEADERSHIP AWARD: Reagan Bishop, Brock Sgrecci
MATH DEPARTMENT AWARDS
ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY COMPUTING MEDAL: Emma Malnoske
Cars from the O-M school district traveled the WGI racetrack on Wednesday, June 24.
O-M seniors practice for graduation, circle the Watkins Glen International racetrack
SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 25, 2020 -- The graduating seniors in the Odessa-Montour High School Class of 2020 gathered Wednesday afternoon at the school athletic field for a practice run-through in preparation for their Friday graduation ceremony there, and then traveled caravan-style to the Watkins Glen International racetrack.
There, like their counterparts from Watkins Glen High School earlier this month, they were admitted to the track -- driving their cars, often with family members on board, four times around the famed circuit's long course.
They were led most of the way to WGI -- from the school grounds through the villages of Odessa and Montour Falls -- by siren-blaring fire trucks from the Odessa, Montour Falls, Watkins Glen and Burdett fire departments, and were greeted along the way by waving spectators, some bearing congratulatory signs.
It was all done under sunny skies and in moderate temperatures -- a beautiful day to help celebrate a class that has missed out on so much in this age of the pandemic.
Superintendent Chris Wood summed it up in the following statement.
"I wanted to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who have gone above and beyond to help an outstanding group of seniors this year. First, thank you to our seniors. They are the most resilient group of students in our storied Odessa-Montour history. They have continued to roll with the changes, no matter how difficult the times or how inconvenient the changes were.
"Second, the parents and community. They too have had to overcome drastic changes while wanting the best for the students. They have been extremely patient and understanding. And finally, school staff have gone above and beyond to try and be active in the students' lives, and many have done a great job thinking outside the box.
"Tonight we had our graduation dress rehearsal. The parents were, as expected, upbeat and positive. The students were all smiles. It was a shining moment in a not so shining time. The energy was fantastic. None of this would’ve been possible without our amazing fire departments. They provided a once-in-a-lifetime moment for our seniors, escorting them through the villages of Odessa and Montour as the seniors went to Watkins Glen International. Many of these volunteers are proud alumni, residents of the school district or the county. These are the first to rush into a building when needed; and were out in full force to do what was best for 52 students. To all of those courageous men and women: thank you.
"Thank you also to Watkins Glen International. WGI has partnered with the school district for seven years in various capacities. It has typically gone above and beyond for our Jr./Sr. Prom. This year, we were not able to have Prom. WGI was quick to reach out and ask if it could help us honor our seniors. Tonight, it allowed 60 to 70 cars onto the famed race track to allow us to do four laps. It is a world-class organization that went out of its way to help Odessa-Montour.
"Thank you to everyone who banded together to honor our students. On behalf of the Odessa-Montour District and Odessa-Montour family, your generosity, kindness and perseverance is truly appreciated."
Christopher J. Wood
Photos in text: From top: A student's car, senior JoLynn Minnier at the graduation practice, and Lisa Frost celebrating the passing parade on Main Street in Montour Falls.
At the graduation run-through, from left: Preston Harris, a senior's cap, and Kara Reese.
Schuyler Scholar honorees announced
SCHUYER COUNTY, June 23, 2020 -- Sixteen seniors from three school districts who finished in the top 10% of their class academically are being honored as Schuyler Scholars.
The annual designation -- this year without a traditional dinner celebration due to the pandemic -- is marked by the presentation to each honoree of a plaque.
The honorees, by school, include:
Watkins Glen: Scott Brubaker, Haley Dean, Aiden DiGregorio, Collin Gaylord, Travis Hill, Josiah Wysocki, Sarah Swinnerton and Enqi Lin.
Odessa-Montour: Tassia Garrison, Brett Walters, Derrick Lewis, Grace Vondracek and Brooke Sikora.
Bradford: Adrianna Padgett, Blaze Machuga and Joseph Miller.
O-M unveils Fine Arts Award winners
ODESSA, June 22, 2020 -- Odessa-Montour High School has announced its annual Fine Arts Award winners. They are:
Photo Enthusiast: Josiah Lynch
Most Artistic: Ava Zahuranec (8), Hannah Barr (8), Jade Madill (9), Tristan Harrington (9), Gabriel Grover (10), Camille Sgrecci (10), Mackenzie Dundas (11), Malia Mertens (11), Micah Brewster (12), Kaelyn Arnold (12), Ashley Monroe (12)
Artist of the Year: Gabriel Grover
Theater Award: Dylan Holton
Senior Musicians: Justin Andrews, Arron Arnold, Kaelyn Arnold, Shania Austin, Micah Brewster, Dylan Holton, Jacob Mayette, Julia Paulisczak, Brooke Sikora, Rhys Stermer, Jordan Thompson, Dylan VonNeida, Cheianne Webster
Semper Fidelis Marine Band Award: Micah Brewster
John Philip Sousa Award: Rhys Stermer
National Choral Award: Rhys Stermer
WGHS unveils its annual student awards
Watkins Glen High School
Watkins schools bid farewell to 10 retirees
WATKINS GLEN, June 17, 2020 -- The Watkins Glen School Board Monday night noted the retirement of 10 members of the school district staff.
Barb Dedominick: Elementary. Hired in 1988.
O-M seniors get signs, caps and gowns
Said one official: "It was so much fun. We decorated our cars, played music, and made lots of noise to get the seniors out of their homes, all while socially distancing."
In a year lacking in so many school functions, this one served as a prelude to graduation week, which will include a trip by seniors to Watkins Glen International on Wednesday, June 24 for three laps in their cars around the famed racetrack. Then comes graduation at 6 p.m. Friday, June 26 on O-M's Charles Martin Field -- the school's football and soccer field.
Photo in text: Among the seniors visited Thursday were Justin Andrews, left, and Caleb Thomas. (Photo provided)
Posters of the WGHS seniors have been placed along both sides of Decatur Street.
With graduation in the air, Watkins Glen and O-M plan their outdoor ceremonies
Photos in text: From top, Sign at O-M school, O-M School Superintendent Chris Wood, sign at WGHS, and Watkins Glen School Superintendent Greg Kelahan.
One of the WGHS seniors travels the track after the First Turn, along a scenic stretch.
WGHS seniors tour WGI as graduation nears
Track president Michael Printup said similar events have been held successfully at a couple of other International Speedway Corp. tracks. When Watkins Glen School Superintendent Greg Kelahan was approached to see if he was interested, "he jumped at it," said Printup.
The Odessa-Montour school district has also signed on for time at the track, although a specific date has not been announced.
The Watkins Glen school administration had hoped initially to get a photo of the class in the grandstand at WGI -- socially distanced from one another -- but that was vetoed.
Instead, the students -- one student and his or her family per car -- drove around and around the track behind a pace car, finally stopping at the finish line where, one by one, a class T-shirt and other memorabilia was handed to each graduate. The honorees and their families had to stay in their vehicles.
Each vehicle was urged forward -- as the one ahead of its pulled away -- by Superintendent Kelahan standing atop the wall separating the track from the pit area, waving a checkered flag. The students, for the most part, seemed delighted as High School Principal Kai D'Alleva and Senior Advisor Sam Brubaker handed them their packets.
The event coincided with the placement of photo banners featuring each individual student, held in sign holders and affixed to the ground along Decatur Street in Watkins Glen, not far from the school.
Photos in text:
Top: Superintendent Greg Kelahan waves the next car to the finish line.
Left: Senior Drie Solomon. Right: Senior Scott Brubaker drove, accompanied by sister Maria, a WGHS junior
Two of the seniors' cars round the WGI track's First Turn. Most took the turn slowly.
Left: WGHS Principal Kai D'Alleva. Right: Senior Madeline Parker and her father.
Left: WGHS's Sam Brubaker starts the seniors' track laps. Right: Senior Karlee Meier lowers her mask for a photo.
The lights at Watkins Glen High School's Alumni Field were turned on Friday night as part of the school's distribution of graduation caps and gowns.
WGHS seniors pick up their caps and gowns
The students, whose daily school attendance ended back in March with the arrival in force of the coronavirus in the United States, showed up at the school one by one, staying in their cars -- some alone, some with a friend or two, and some with family --to collect the caps and gowns from masked WGHS personnel on hand for the event.
The distribution took place outside of the high school office entrance. The students, after being handed the items they came for, could then drive to the south end of the parking area and around its circle, and there get a look at the Alumni Field lights that have been darkened for so long but were bright on this night in honor of the graduates, and a look at the scoreboard, alight with numbers referencing the graduating class of 2020.
As for the graduation ceremony itself, plans are still being formulated.
Photo in text: WGHS senior Kelsey Kernan (at the wheel) and her parents sit in their car talking with faculty member Sam Brubaker.
From left: WGHS seniors Ali LaMoreaux, Gabe Planty and Isaac McIlroy.
Boxes with caps and gowns awaited the arrival of the students at WGHS Friday night.
The WGHS Allumni Field scoreboard as it appeared during the cap-and-gown pickup night.
WGHS's Valedictorian and Salutatorian
Watkins Glen High will graduate 84
Special to The Odessa File
WATKINS GLEN, May 27, 2020 -- Watkins Glen High School has released its list of 2020 graduates. It includes 84 students.
The district, meanwhile, is still looking at potential options for a ceremony that would be acceptable to state officials given the limitations created by the pandemic.
Watkins Glen High School
Odessa-Montour administration team members at a May 9 meeting included, from left: High School Principal Skip McCarty, Superintendent Chris Wood, and B.C. Cate Principal Jim Nolan.
Education in the Age of the Pandemic: budgets, remote learning and optimism
By Charlie Haeffner
No more classes. No sports seasons, not even shortened ones. No chance for seniors to enjoy their last year.
But while local school administrators remain upbeat -- optimistic about the future of education and, by extension, of the students -- there could be something else looming: a financial burden with a good deal more heft than a dropping shoe.
That burden is, for now, a specter. It is, specifically, a potential reduction of state aid. No district yet knows what kind of aid cut it might be facing, thanks to the drain on the state's coffers by the coronavirus pandemic, and because of the uncertainly of what, exactly, the federal government might do to help bail out the state's sinking hull.
Odessa-Montour Superintendent Chris Wood declines to put too heavy a spin on this threat. While laying out plans for various contingencies -- impossible to determine with any confidence, the situation in this country and state changing daily -- Wood points to times in the past when state aid was cut significantly, and yet the district managed to handle it; to adapt.
Part of that is the school staff, he said -- a "great" one "willing to work outside the box." And part of it is the community, which he lauds for its patience in this trying period. And part of it is just attitude. "We're gonna be optimistic," he said. "That's all we can do at this point."
Amid that backdrop, the O-M district and the Watkins Glen district School Boards adopted budgets this past week, not having any idea, really, what to expect from the federal government and the state. They are budgets with big what-ifs built in. And the boards approved them under a new edict: absentee balloting, with a deadline of June 9.
The Watkins Glen board approved a proposed budget Monday night totaling $26,478,877, representing a 0% increase in expenditures and a $0 increase in spending over the current year's spending plan.
"With the proposed budget," the district reports, "the tax levy would increase by the amount of $150,000 or 1.59%, which is below the maximum allowable limit by $192,669. The maximum would have been a 3.63% or $342,669 increase over prior year."
The O-M School Board, meanwhile, approved a spending plan Thursday night of $16,904,975 -- with a reduction of $400,000 in spending and with a good deal of discussion about the feared changes that might be wrought if the state aid reduction comes in at a significant level.
Once a budget is passed, it can't be increased -- only decreased. That leaves plenty to the imagination if a significant aid drop should occur. It is an unknown that gives pause, ranging in possibility from what O-M Board President Rob Halpin said was "anywhere from something we can deal with to something catastrophic."
About that vote:
Watkins Glen Superintendent Greg Kelahan voiced frustration at the order from the state that the public polling on the budget be done by write-in ballots -- creating a situation where the district (any district in the state, really) has to try and figure out who exactly, is out there with a potential vote. Anyone 18 and over residing in the district for 30 days can cast a ballot.
The vote is normally accomplished with legal notices and pamphlets sent out to known voters. But potential voters in the entirety are an oft-changing group for which no compenshesive list exists. This time, the state thinks, everyone out there who might vote should have a paper ballot that they can send back -- postage paid by the district.
"What was the governor thinking?" Kelahan asked. "We have to find everybody who votes. How am I going to do that?"
O-M Superintendent Chris Wood told the School Board Thursday that this new wrinkle poses a significant challenge. There might be one or two people in a household or apartment that the district is aware of, he said, but there could be two or three others they don't know about. And there are others it can not discover as easily -- folks new to the district, newly come of age, or never having voted.
O-M Board Clerk Mary Crippen said the district has a starting point with lists of past voters, but no lists of previous non-voters. "It's difficult," she said. "We're going to miss people."
And, it was noted at the O-M board meeting in passing, the new ballot process adds expense to the budget in the form of printing costs and mailings.
But Wood said it was just one of many challenges facing his administration. "It's one of those fun things we're going to be tackling," he told the School Board. "We'll do our best to get everyone the ballot," including posting notices urging anyone they missed to contact the district office.
The total number of potential votes our there? "Three to five thousand," Wood said -- a wide range reflective of the new, confusing reality.
Maybe the federal government will come through and provide a life preserver of funding for New York State. Maybe, then, the state aid shortfall won't be extreme. But so many things have gone so wrong in so short a time, it's easy to imagine dire consequences.
For instance, if there were a significant aid decrease, what would get cut from the budget? That would spark immediate discussion, said Wood, who indicated non-mandated courses would be likely targets, as well as athletics. "Yeah," he added, "we may be not allowed to have fall sports" if the financial picture darkens.
But it all hinges on that aid, which Wood said he understands -- through conversations with other officials -- might be coming in late June.
To which Halpin replied, with no disrespect to those officials: "I have a difficult time feeling comfortable about that."
The bottom line, said Board member Karen Rock, is this: "We have no way of knowing anything until we get a number" on state aid.
"Right," Wood answered.
A whole different concern is passage itself of the budgets. While such plans have passed with regularity in recent years, what will a public hurting economically think of school spending plans? Will hard times translate into negative votes?
As Wood said to the School Board: "There is a lot of negativity out there right now," especially in the realm of social media. But at the same time he commended the public and the students for "their patience" in these trying times.
He said at a meeting Friday morning of his administration team that a budget defeat would lead to either an austerity budget that would trim certain preferred items from the spending plan, or to a second vote. That latter might be especially difficult to conclude by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, given the need to get printed ballots out again into the hands of the potential voters in the period from June 9 to the end of the month.
One possibility that is developing is a graduation that is both physical and live-streaming in nature. As Wood outlined it to the O-M Board, the school's 52 graduates would -- if one potential plan comes together with the aid of health and law enforcement officials -- gather on O-M's Charles Martin Field, in front of vacant grandstands, the students spaced six feet apart. They would, one by one, walk along the track with their parents, in front of fellow graduates and the empty bleachers. The event would live stream for viewing by friends and relatives.
The achievements of each graduate would be enumerated on the PA system, and a diploma dispensed -- a photographer recording it for posterity. Possibly, Wood has indicated, trophies and other hardware earned by a graduate could be placed in a box for him or her to pick up.
Afterward, apparently, comes some icing. Watkins Glen International has invited the graduates to the racetrack, with students driving (behind a pace car) around the track two or three times. Then they would pose in a grandstand -- socially distant from one another -- for a group class photo.
The O-M board offered no objection to the WGI plan, which Wood said he would be finalizing the next day. Watkins' Superintendent Kelahan said his district was finalizing similar plans with WGI while also looking at various graduation ceremony "scenarios, both virtual and live."
1. O-M administrators, at their Friday morning meeting, echoed Assemblyman Phil Palmesano's misgivings (see Palmesano) about Governor Cuomo's idea to "reimagine" state education to make it more remote than face-to-face.
Nothing, they said, can replace teacher to student education, live in a brick-and-mortar setting. There have been benefits from remote education -- and those can be incorporated into future teaching, they said. One possible benefit, suggested one with a smile: the elimination of snow days. Students could instead spend those days learning remotely from home.
2. Administrator Veronica Lewis and a grant writer obtained a $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation to obtain goods needed by district families who have lost their jobs or had their lives otherwise disrupted by the pandemic.
Forty families were contacted; twenty eight responded, and Lewis and a group of teachers shopped for them and arranged pickup of the goods by the families at the Odessa-Montour and B.C. Cate campuses.
3. The lights at Charles Martin Field behind the O-M school were turned on in the dusk Friday night from 8:00 to 8:20 p.m. in honor of the school's seniors -- the 20 minutes representing 2020 as part of a "Be The Light" campaign. The scoreboard was also lit, with a 20-minute countdown and the score knotted at 20-20. Watkins Glen was expected to follow suit on the weekend.
4. The O-M district was still mulling ways to present year-end and graduation awards to students, as well as how it might proceed with athletic honors. Wood said the media would be sent lists of the various honorees.
Photos in text:
Top four: O-M administration team members on hand for a Friday meeting included, from top: Superintendent Chris Wood; Hanlon Elementary Principal Rob Francischelli; Director of Special Programs and Curriculum Veronica Lewis, and Assistant Director of Facilities Kelly Cain.
Bottom two: Goods purchased for families through a Community Foundation grant; and the scoreboard on Charles Martin Field, lit for 20 minutes Friday night in honor of the O-M senior class.
The lights at O-M's Charles Martin Field were turned on for 20 minutes Friday night in honor of the graduating Class of 2020.
Annual student plant sale beginning
Special to The Odessa File
ODESSA, April 30, 2020 -- The GST BOCES Bush Education Center’s FFA chapter will hold its annual Spring Plant Sale beginning on May 1.
This year’s event will be held at Sunset View Creamery, 4970 County Road 14, at Catharine Corners outside Odessa. Items available include a variety of hanging baskets and potted plants.
The hours of the sale are Monday-Friday from 3:00-7:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Hospital Auxiliary offering scholarships
Special to The Odessa FileMONTOUR FALLS, April 29, 2020 -- The Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary is offering scholarships to students who plan to enter the health care field.
$1,000 scholarships will be awarded to graduating high school students who are residents of Schuyler County, and to hospital employees wishing to further their education in the health care field.
Applications may be found on-line at www.schuylerhospital.org. Guidance counselors in Schuyler County schools also have applications available.
Applications must be postmarked by June 5, 2020.
For more information, email email@example.com, or contact Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary member Alice Learn at (607) 594-3401.
Rotary Club scholarship deadline extended
Special to The Odessa File
A $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior at Odessa-Montour Central School and at Watkins Glen High School. The scholarships are based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities, educational goals and a demonstration of “Service above Self,” the motto of Rotary International.
The application is available on the Club’s Facebook page at Watkins-Montour Rotary Club. The application and accompanying documents should be mailed to Watkins-Montour Rotary Club Scholarship, P.O. Box 384, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.
For more information, contact Rotarian Jim Somerville by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tables set up in the O-M gymnasium carried books and belongings of the district students. The items were picked up throughout Tuesday by parents.
Students, parents pick up books, belongings
SCHUYLER COUNTY, March 17, 2020 -- Students and their parents picked up the kids' belongings and books Tuesday in Schuyler County school districts and received assignments to pursue during the forced hiatus from school.
The Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen schools are closed until at least April 13 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
At O-M, parents of students visited the high school Tuesday to pick up belongings gathered by school staff and placed on about 80 tables lined up, row after row, in the main gymnasium. Superintendent Chris Wood reported a large turnout.
At Watkins Glen, students stopped by to empty their lockers and to pick up assignments and related textbooks set up by staff on tables in the high school cafeteria. Assignments were also being placed on the school website.
Nobody knows when the students might actually return to classes, although Watkins Glen Superintendent Greg Kelahan was upbeat Tuesday, insisting April 13 was a realistic target date. Wood, meeting with staff in the morning in the Fetter-Brown Auditorium at the high school, took a different tack, telling his audience that he wasn't sure if this was a "See ya later" situation or one that means "goodbye" for the duration of the school year.
Photo in text: Odessa-Montour Superintendent Chris Wood addresses teachers and other staff members Tuesday morning.
Left: Arrows in the O-M parking lot and approaching sidewalk pointed the way to the books and belongings being picked up by parents. Right: One of the tables with assignments set up in the Watkins Glen High School cafeteria.
O-M to offer meal pick-up for families
Special to The Odessa File
ODESSA, March 16, 2020 -- In an effort to ensure that no child is hungry during the unexpected school closures, the Odessa-Montour Central School District will offer curbside meal pick-up for district students and their siblings beginning on Wednesday, March 18.
One bagged breakfast and lunch for each child will be available for pick-up Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (as long as supplies for the day last) at the following locations:
--Odessa-Montour Jr./Sr. High School -- Bus Loop
--B.C. Cate Elementary School -- Bus Loop
Schuyler schools will close from March 18 to April 13
SCHUYLER COUNTY, March 14, 2020 -- Schuyler County schools will soon close their doors to students in response to fears of the Coronavirus pandemic.
A message sent out Saturday afternoon on a school all-call and on school websites and Twitter by the Superintendents of the three Schuyler school districts -- Odessa-Montour (Chris Wood), Watkins Glen (Greg Kelahan) and Bradford (John Marshall) -- announced the upcoming closure of schools.
"Thank you," the message said, "for your flexibility and patience as our response to COVID-19 has been rapidly evolving each day. As an education community, we continue to make the safety of our students and staff the main focus in our decision-making process. We have been working diligently with our community partners to plan and respond to this emerging issue. We have been in constant contact with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and County Public Health, while receiving updated guidance from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) regularly.
"Schools will be closed on Wednesday, March 18 and will remain closed until Monday, April 13.
While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that he would not close schools -- citing the domino effect that it can have in terms of families' daycare needs and the stress it will place on employee attendance, including that at much-needed hospitals -- Tompkins County announced that same day that it was closing its schools.
All seven Tompkins districts and its BOCES will be closed for at least four weeks. A state of emergency was also declared in Tompkins, where the first confirmed case of Coronavirus was announced late Saturday morning. A total of 52 people had been quarantined in that county, with 15 tests pending.
"These are some crazy times we live in," said one area school official, noting that online instruction was not feasible in Schuyler since many students in the rural parts of the county lack internet connectivity.
School closings were also announced Saturday afternoon in Chemung and Steuben Counties for roughly the same time period.
Odessa-Montour National Honor Society inductees (from left) Kaetlyn White, Delaney Paulisczak and Haley Albertsman.
National Honor Society inducts 9 at O-M
ODESSA, Jan. 15, 2020 -- Nine students were inducted into the Odessa-Montour High School chapter of the National Honor Society during a ceremony Wednesday night in the school's Fetter-Brown Auditorium.
Joining the NHS were Haley Albertsman, Annaleise Beckley, Mackenzie Cannon, Gabriel Grover, Emma Malnoske, Marissa Marsh, Delaney Paulisczak, Aidan Thurston and Kaetlyn White.
Emcee for the event was Shea Heffron, the chapter advisor, who led the inductees and other members of the NHS through a ceremony that included a candle-lighting symbolic of the four criteria for induction, or "pillars" of the organization: scholarship, leadership, service and character.
President of the chapter is senior Derrick Lewis. Madison Vogel serves as vice president and treasurer, and Samantha Dudgeon is the secretary.
Wednesday night's ceremony was followed by a social gathering in the school cafeteria, complete with congratulatory cake.
Photo in text: Chapter advisor Shea Heffron presented certificates to each inductee, here to Gabriel Grover.
From left: Inductees Aidan Thurston, Emma Malnoske and Annaleise Beckley.
From left: Inductees Mackenzie Cannon, Marissa Marsh and Gabriel Grover.
Members of the Watkins Glen High School varsity cross country team pose after receiving certificates recognizing their achievement of a Section 4 title.
WGHS Section 4 title teams honored
WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 17, 2019 -- Members of the Section IV champion Watkins Glen boys cross country and girls swim teams were presented certificates commemorating those titles at Monday night's meeting of the district School Board.
The teams, gathered in the school library adjacent to the Board meeting room, were presented the certificates -- athlete by athlete called forward to receive them -- while family members watched and applauded.
Cross country team members included Tim Clifford, Max Evans, Steven Gublo, Elliott Holland, Makenzie Kellogg, Breanna Carl, Lawrence Majors, Gabe Planty, Liam Smith, Ben Swinnerton and Sam Thorsland.
Swim team members included Kimberly Smith Brown, Maria Brubaker, Scott Brubaker (the manager), Sydney Brubaker, Malina Butler, Alannah Klemann, Ali LaMoreaux, Peighton Cervoni, Ellie Clarkson, Kendra Fish, Aislinn Klemann, Thalia Marquez, Faye Mooney, Madeline Parker, Kajsa Rolfes, Sarah Stolpinski, Sarah Swinnerton and Amanda Wilbur.
Photo in text: Watkins Glen senior Gabe Planty receives his cross-country certificate and a handshake from Athletic Director Rod Weeden.
Members of the Watkins Glen High School girls varsity swim team -- which has won the Section IV, Class C title for three straight years -- pose with the certificates presented to them at the School Board meeting.
Chorus, band offer winter concert at O-M
ODESSA, Dec. 12, 2019 -- 'Tis the season.
The Odessa-Montour High School Fetter-Brown Auditorium was the site Wednesday evening of a Senior High Winter Concert -- concerts being a staple of any year's run-up to Christmas.
Featured: The Senior High Choir (performing A la nanita nana, Earth Song and Sing, Sing Noel!) and the Senior High Band (pictured here, playing Battle Pavane, Marche Diabolique, Rest and Sleigh Ride).
The choir was directed by Ian MacDonald, with Alex MacDonald serving as accompanist. The band was directed by Jennifer Kraemer.
GST BOCES offers water exercise class
ODESSA, Nov. 9, 2019 -- An Aerobic Fun in the Water Class is planned for the Odessa-Montour High School pool on Monday nights beginning Nov. 18.
The class, which needs a minimum attendance of eight people, will consist of seven one-hour classes for a total of $56. Those over 62 should ask for a senior discount of 10%. All classes begin at 7 p.m.
Water aerobics is recommended for anyone with joint issues. Doctors often recommend water exercise to take the pressure off the joints while still raising the heart rate. Men and women of all ages are welcome. The phone number to sign up is 607-739-4296.
The Seneca Indians varsity football team listens to its coaches during a practice Monday.
Board rejects plea for athletic field honor following passing of former coach Bob Lee
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 26, 2019 -- A plea Monday evening to the Watkins Glen School Board to have Alumni Field renamed in honor of the late Robert H. Lee was immediately rejected as contrary to school district policy.
Lee, 74 -- a former Watkins Glen mayor and former football coach at Watkins Glen High School -- died about 5 a.m. Monday at his Watkins Glen home. He had been in declining health.
While the Seneca Indians varsity football team was practicing Monday at WGHS, four members of the team -- its captains -- visited the School Board at its scheduled meeting in a room next to the school library.
Dominick Fazzary spoke for the quartet, which included Cameron Holland, Gage Arcangeli and Boyd Barber. Fazzary, reading from text on his phone prepared by his father, team Assistant Coach Jeff Fazzary, explained that his father was too emotional to present the plea to the board himself. The senior Fazzary viewed Lee as a mentor.
"We request the new field be named after Bob Lee," the message said -- reference to the artificial turf unveiled on Alumni Field last school year. Fazzary added that Lee had impacted "hundreds upon hundreds" of student athletes at Watkins Glen, Odessa-Montour, Bradford and Elmira Notre Dame high schools -- each a stop on his long coaching career.
Fazzary's note urged the board to go into executive session "and take into consideration how much Bob Lee meant to the school." He urged action "so we can get this going before the first game." The team opens its season Sept. 6 at Susquehanna Valley, and plays at O-M against Bainbridge-Guilford on Sept. 13. The Seneca Indians team is composed of players from both the WGHS and O-M schools.
The four players, their mission complete, turned to leave, but School Board President Gloria Brubaker said she could give them an answer right away.
"We've been through this in the past," she said, explaining that many such requests -- to rename athletic facilities, school buildings and classrooms -- had been made over the years. But it is "against school practice" to do so, she added, explaining that had the board honored all those requests, there would be no more facilities left to name.
"This doesn't diminish our respect," she said. "It's the way it's always been handled." But she said alternative modes of honoring Lee might be acceptable. "Get your thinking caps on," she told the players, adding a personal note on Lee: "He was my daughter's favorite coach, ever."
After the players filed out, Superintendent Greg Kelahan said he "truly appreciates the athletes talking from their hearts. I know it's difficult for the school to contend with these very emotional issues."
Outside, as the varsity football squad was jogging from a sled session on a practice field to workouts on Alumni Field, head coach Trevor Holland -- who played football on Lee teams during his high school career -- said Lee "was all about people."
While the kids on the current team "didn't get to know him like I did," Holland said, those who played last year experienced Lee's brand of encouragement as he served an assistant's role on the sidelines at games, calling out to them as he leaned on his walker.
"They respected him," aaid Holland, adding that Lee's presence "resonated."
A name change of the field aside, he said, the team plans to honor Lee in some fashion "for all that he did" for the kids at multiple schools. "He wanted kids to play sports ... to stay out of trouble."
Photos in text:
Top: School Board President Gloria Brubaker at Monday's meeting.
Hospital Auxiliary awards 3 scholarships
MONTOUR FALLS, July 23, 2019 -- The Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary has awarded $1,000 scholarships to two high school graduates who are planning to enter the healthcare field, and one Schuyler Hospital employee furthering her healthcare education. They are:
--Kennedey Heichel, daughter of Ryan and Jeffrey Heichel of Odessa, who graduated in June from Odessa-Montour Central School. She plans to attend Ithaca College in pursuit of a healthcare career.
--Cierra Barber, daughter of Brad and Sheila Barber of Hector, who graduated from Watkins Glen Central School in June. She will attend Mercyhurst Northeast to start her education toward becoming an athletic trainer.
--Cindy Durfey, of Alpine, Unit Clerk for Schuyler Hospital’s Emergency Department since 2013, who is pursuing her Associate’s Degree in Applied Science for Nursing at Corning Community College.
Scholarship awards are presented each year to graduating high school seniors who live or attend school in Schuyler County and plan to enter careers in the healthcare field, as well as Schuyler Hospital employees looking to continue their education in healthcare.
Awards are based on academic achievement, volunteerism, and personal essays. Previous recipients have been in such diverse fields as orthopedics, dentistry, physical therapy, optometry, speech therapy, and pharmacy.
The Auxiliary awarded its first scholarship of $250 in 1990. Over the next 20 years it grew to three $1,000 scholarships. Funds for the awards are raised through the Auxiliary’s hospital gift shop and other fundraising events.
For more information about the Schuyler Hospital Auxiliary, call (607) 535-7121 or email email@example.com
Photo in text: Seated: Kennedey Heichel. Standing from left: Cindy Durfey and Cierra Barber. (Photo provided)
3 earn scholarships from Afternoon Club
SCHUYLER COUNTY, July 3, 2019 -- The Ladies Wednesday Afternoon Club is presenting three $150 scholarships to graduating seniors -- one student from each of three schools.
The Ladies Wednesday Afternoon Club meets once a month and is interested in obtaining knowledge and staying current with everyday society. The scholarships are annual.
Maria Antonio wins $1,000 Arc Scholarship
Photo in text: Maria Antonio (Photo provided)
Alumni Association scholarship recipients included five Watkins Glen High School graduating seniors. From left: H Nathaniel Rose, Danielle Leszyk, Nancy Jackson, Julie Liu and Annika Wickham.
Rondinaro honored at Alumni Banquet
Honored this year as a Distinguished Alumnus was broadcaster Steve Rondinaro, who spoke about some pranks he pulled as a WGHS student -- one involving putting dead frogs in lockers -- and said: "Thank you for forgiving and forgetting."
Rondinaro has, in his long career, interviewed many historic figures, including Paul McCartney, Ronald Reagan and Ted Williams.
He has also demonstrated a lifelong devotion to Drum and Bugle Corps competitions, starting with the local Squires Drum and Bugle Corps -- which was a winner of multiple state championships. Among those present Saturday was Chuck Calhoun, one of the founders of the Squires, and a member of the WGHS Class of 1949.
Rondinaro, in fact, is a member of the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame -- inducted in 2013 after involvement as the face and voice of DCI television and movie theater broadcasts since the late 1970s.
The large gathering -- with the meal catered by Bleachers Sports Bar & Grill of Watkins Glen -- also saw five graduating seniors honored with scholarships. Receiving plaques were Nancy Jackson, Danielle Leszyk, H Nathaniel Rose, Annika Wickham and Julie Liu. A total of $7,000 was distributed.
Photos in text: Steve Rondinaro delivers his keynote address; and banquet workers Brienna Solomon (Class of 2017), Amber Benjamin (2018) and Olivia Paradiso (2009).
Members of the Class of 1979 celebrate after being announced as part of the Roll Call of Classes at the Alumni Banquet.
Watkins Glen School Superintendent Greg Kelahan, left, talks with WGHS alumni, from left, Steve Rondinaro, Dennis Morris and Jud Spena.
Left: WGHS student Maria Brubaker, one of several students introduced who represent talent in the fine arts at WGHS. She had the lead in the recent school musical production of "Once Upon a Mattress." Right: Chuck Calhoun, Class of 1949, one of the founders of the Squires Drum and Bugle Corps.
Barb Warner Deane, Class of 1979 and the author of several novels, including the new "And Then There Was You," in which a lead character (in the words of a book promo) was "born in the back of a VW microbus during the 1973 Summer Jam rock concert in the small town of Watkins Glen."
Watkins Glen High School seniors pose in the school gymnasium (Photo provided)
Watkins Glen seniors march in robes;
WATKINS GLEN, June 18, 2019 -- Members of the Watkins Glen High School Class of 2019 marched the halls of the WG Elementary School Tuesday in an annual rite.
Donning the caps and gowns they will wear at their graduation Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. in the high school auditorium), the seniors were applauded by elementary school students as they passed by.
Afterward, the graduates-to-be gathered in the high school gymnasium for a group photo (shown above).
Note: The graduation list provided by the school shows 85 seniors receiving diplomas. The valedictorian is Joe Chedzoy. The salutatorian is Kathleen Clifford.
Odessa-Montour High School, meanwhile, has 65 seniors on its graduation list. The O-M commencement ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, June 28 in the school's Fetter-Brown Auditorium. Kennedey Heichel is the valedictorian, while Noah Burton Brewster is the salutatorian.
Meanwhile: O-M senior Dylan Houseknecht (pictured at right) -- the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division 2 wrestling champion at 285 pounds and a member of the Top Drawer 24 team of outstanding student-athletes in the area -- was named the GST BOCES Student of the Year at the BOCES graduation Tuesday night.
The honor goes to one of the recipients of a BOCES Student of the Month Award given in his or her junior or senior year. Says BOCES: "It is given to the student who best embraces the principles of our GST BOCES values, which are integrity, collaboration, leadership, and service." The winner receives a check for $1,500.
O-M presents its Fine Arts Awards
ODESSA, June 14, 2019 -- Odessa-Montour High School honored its Fine Arts students recently with an awards night at the school.
"Our Fine Arts had another outstanding year," said O-M Superintendent Chris Wood. "Our students and staff go above and beyond the norm. Our students and staff are some of the best, if not the best, in the region. I am truly amazed at what they can do and what they have accomplished."
Among the awards and recognitions were the following:
Most Outstanding Artist:
Excellence in Art Awards: Mackenzie Dundas, Allison and Molly Heichel, Manu Tripoloni, Haley Albertsman.
U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Award: Hailey Ferguson
NYSSMA Solo Medals:
Level IV voice, excellent rating -- Felisha Cook
NYSSMA Area All State Medals:
Casey Underdown, voice
NYSSMA Conference All State Certificates:
Casey Underdown, voice
NAfME Conference All East recognition:
Casey Underdown, voice
Senior Recognition: N. Burton Brewster, Hailey Ferguson, Kayla Gokey, Emily Holton, Pixie Kinner, Jacy Knapp, McKennah Lott, Hannah Rosier, Maria Scata, Casey Underdown
Illustration in text: Art by Mackenzie Dundas.
O-M Board honors Westervelt, Houseknecht; approves new roles for Lewis and Nolan
ODESSA, June 14, 2019 -- The Odessa-Montour School Board Thursday night honored two people who are leaving: longtime Board member Scott Westervelt, who was attending his final regular Board session, and student Dylan Houseknecht, who will soon graduate on his way to college at SUNY Cortland.
Westervelt was lauded by Superintendent Chris Wood and Board President Rob Halpin, both extolling Westervelt's long career as a teacher and multi-sport coach -- from 1970 to his retirement in 2003, after which he "jumped right into subbing," Wood said --and as a Board member. Westervelt was first elected in 2008.
Houseknecht -- who was present in the Board meeting room for a celebratory signing anticipating his participation in football at SUNY Cortland -- was lauded, too, with Wood saying he had been a fine representative for the district in the humble way he handled his success this year on the wrestling mats.
As a mark of its appreciation, the district presented Houseknecht with a jacket with OMCS and Wrestling NYS Champ emblazoned on its back.
During the meeting the Board, among other things, approved James Nolan as the new principal of B.C. Cate Elementary School in addition to his role as Director of Instructional Technical Education. His new position takes effect on July 1.
He succeeds Veronica Lewis at B.C. Cate. She will be the district's Curriculum Coordinator and Special Programs Director.
Photos in text: Board member Scott Westervelt (top) and new B.C. Cate principal James Nolan at Thursday's Board session.
O-M bestows its Academic Awards
ODESSA, June 11, 2019 -- Odessa-Montour High School honored a number of its students with Academic Awards at an assembly on Monday, June 10 in the high school auditorium.
They included the following:
Odessa-Montour honorees are, from left: Jackie Kinner, Kennedey Heichel, Mckenzie Barrett, Madison Randall, Kacie Wood, Noah Brewster and Maria Scata.
18 students honored as Schuyler Scholars
Two students from Bradford High School, seven from Odessa-Montour and nine from Watkins Glen were honored.
The awards were preceded by a dinner and then speeches by two men: former Schuyler Scholar Matt Gill, a WGHS alum who recently earned his Masters degeree in Electrical Engineering from Binghamton University; and Tom Phillips, retired Watkins Glen School Superintendent and co-founder of the Schuyler Scholars program.
The Schuyler Scholars awards were initiated after Schuyler County was dropped from the Twain Scholars program in Chemung County a dozen years ago. It traditionally features a keynote speaker and a former Schuyler Scholar.
Honored Thursday night were:
Bradford High School: Micah Gallagher and Maria Antonio.
In his speech, Gill said there are four markers to achieve for success: Be Happy, Be Kind to Others, Be Curious and Find Your Why (your passion).
Phillips told the honorees to "embrace" their success, but to also understand that they are embarking on a new beginning -- and that "it's not where you start; it's where you finish.... Hold tight to your dreams."
Present on the dais were Superintendents John Marshall (Bradford), Chris Wood (O-M) and Greg Kelahan (Watkins Glen). Announcing the honorees and handing out plaques were principals Katheryn Ellison (Bradford), Skip McCarty (O-M) and Kai D'Alleva (Watkins Glen).
Photos in text:
Top: Watkins Glen honorees include: Standing from left, Casen Weeden, Austin Voorheis, Emilee Stephani, Kishan Patel, Joe Chedzoy and Kathleen Clifford; and front from left: Kai Sutterby and Isabella Fazzary.
Middle: Former Schuyler Scholar Matt Gill presents a speech at Thursday's dinner.
Bottom: Former Watkins Glen School Superintendent Tom Phillips delivers his speech.
Left: Superintendents (from left) Greg Kelahan (Watkins Glen), Chris Wood (O-M) and John Marshall (Bradford). Right: Bradford Valedictorian Micah Gallagher gets a hug from Superintendent John Marshall.
From left: Watkins Glen's Isabella Fazzary and Kai Sutterby; O-M's Kennedey Heichel and Watkins Glen's Joe Chedzoy; and Bradford Salutatorian Maria Antonio.
From left: Inductees Kayla Palmer, Enqi Lin, Josiah Wysocki and Bryce Kelly.
From left: Inductees Briana Hayes, Aislinn Klemann, Isaac McIlroy.
From left: Inductees Shannon Ervay, Maria Brubaker, Nancy Jackson.
From left: Inductees Travis Hill, Enkang Lin, Aidan DiGregorio.
13 join WGHS National Honor Society
Joining the Society were Kayla Palmer, Enqi Lin, Josiah Wysocki, Bryce Kelly, Briana Hayes, Aislinn Klemann, Isaac McIlroy, Shannon Ervay, Maria Brubaker, Nancy Jackson, Travis Hill, Enkang Lin and Aidan DiGregorio.
Each was introduced in a speech by an existing NHS member. The speeches were preceded by a candle-lighting ceremony, the four candles lit representing Scholarship, Service, Leadership and Character. The entire ceremony was overseen by the chapter president, Kathleen Clifford.
After the introductory speeches, the inductees marched from the rear of the auditorium to the stage, where they were administered the NHS Oath.
Existing members include Sara Benedict Augustine, Wrett Brower, Wyatt Brower, Scott Brubaker, Peighton Cervoni, Joe Chedzoy, Ellie Clarkson, Kathleen Clifford, Haley Dean, Abigail Donelson, Isabella Fazzary, Collin Gaylord, Allie Gibson, Matthew Herold, Danielle Leszyk, Dylan Markley, Hannah Morse, Kishan Patel, Gabe Planty, H Nathaniel Rose, Emilee Stephani, Kai Sutterby, Sarah Swinnerton, Casen Weeden, Annika Wickham and Grace Wickham.
Photo in text: Kathleen Clifford
Students in the Odessa-Montour CDOS (Career Development and Occupational Studies) classroom, as part of their work-based learning requirements, planted seeds in order to grow plants to sell for the classroom club.
They will be "selling" plants (donations are accepted) at the O-M bus garage on Mondays through Wednesdays (11:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m., weather permitting) or at the high school from 8:45 a.m.-1:20 p.m. Monday through Friday until the plants are gone. There are a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
The sales end June 12.
Grace Wickham wins church scholarship
HECTOR, May 24, 2019 -- Watkins Glen High School senior Grace Wickham has been named recipient of the Hector Presbyterian Church's annual Memorial Fund Scholarship.
She will be awarded the $1,500 upon completon of her first semester of college. She will be studying communications and political science at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.
This is the 17th year in which the Memorial Fund Committee has offered scholarships to qualified students from the Odessa-Montour, South Seneca, Trumansburg and Watkins Glen high schools.
The church welcomes contributions to the fund. Donations may be sent to Hector Presbyterian Church, Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 96, Hector NY 14841.
BOCES students win at Conservation event
Special to The Odessa File
HORSEHEADS, May 24, 2019 -- Students from the GST BOCES Bush Education Center Conservation program competed against other students from across the state at the New York State Conservation Competition at SUNY Cobleskill on May 16.
More than 300 students from 16 Conservation programs participated in the event. Results included the following:
1st place, Bulldozer Log Roll: Griffin Bennett (Horseheads)
O-M's Foote honored as Student of Month
ODESSA, May 23, 2019 -- Isabel Foote, an Odessa-Montour High School senior in the Cosmetology program, has been selected as a Career and Technical Education Program Student of the Month at the GST BOCES Bush Education Center.
Foote was the April honoree, while Takota Chilson, a Spencer-Van Etten senior in the Diesel Equipment Technology, Maintenance and Repair program, is the May selection.
“Isabel has an excellent work ethic and is always looking out for others,” said Instructor Kara Sheehan. “She has participated every time we’ve offered free services to patients during events at the Faulk Cancer Center.” Foote plans to attend Eastern Gateway Community College online while working at Infinity Hair Salon in Watkins Glen.
“Takota is focused and driven,” said Instructor Raphael Tanzini. “He is honest and dependable and sets a great example for the class.” Chilson hopes to enlist in the United States Army in the future.
The Student of the Month is selected by a committee of CTE staff based on nominations.
Photo in text: Isabel Foote (holding certificate), a senior in the Cosmetology program, accepts the Student of the Month award from Instructor Kara Sheehan (left) and
Robotics open house and recruitment set
WATKINS GLEN, May 19, 2019 -- Schuyler County’s youth robotics team, Mechanical Meltdown, will be hosting an Open House on Thursday, May 30 from 5-8 p.m. at its meeting location at 435 S. Franklin St. in Watkins Glen.
The community is invited to see demonstrations, learn more about what the team offers area youth, and to hear about its recent trip to the World Championship in Detroit.
The team is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 season now through Monday, June 3 at noon. Interviews and tryouts will be held June 4-5 to select up to six youths to join the team. It welcomes students in grades 7-12 attending any school in the region or home-schooled.
The program allows students to explore their interests in various STEM- and business-related careers, as they design, build, and program a robot to compete with other FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) teams. Youth will have opportunities to develop skills in technical areas like engineering, programming, CAD, technical documentation, Microsoft Office applications, and 3D printing, as well as general life skills such as teamwork, problem solving, leadership, and marketing.
Mechanical Meltdown is part of FLARE -- Finger Lakes Area Robotics Education. The group meets regularly in Watkins Glen. For more information, call Kathy at (607) 546-2207 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
BOCES taps Houseknecht for award
HORSEHEADS, May 16, 2019 -- Dylan Houseknecht, an Odessa-Montour High School senior in the Criminal Justice program, has been selected as the Career and Technical Education Program Student of the Month for March at the GST BOCES Bush Education Center.
“Dylan is polite, respectful and always willing to help a peer,” said Instructor Tammy Lotocky. “He is well-respected and trusted by staff and peers. His attendance is outstanding and his grades are excellent.”
Houseknecht plans to attend SUNY Cortland to study criminology after graduation. The New York State Divison 2 wrestling champion also will wrestle and play football at Cortland.
The Student of the Month is selected by a committee of CTE staff based on nominations.
Photo in text: Dylan Houseknecht, a senior in the Criminal Justice program, accepts the Student of the Month award. From left: Teacher Aide Eileen Doppel, Houseknecht, Instructor Tammy Lotocky and CTE Assistant Principal Erin Schiavone. (Photo provided)
WGHS awards presented at assembly
WATKINS GLEN, May 9, 2019 -- The following awards were presented Wednesday evening at a 9th-12th Grade Academic, Athletic & Top Ten Percent Recognition Ceremony for Watkins Glen High School students held in the school auditorium.
Erin Gruwell talks with WGHS students at a luncheon meeting after the assemblies.
'Freedom Writers' teacher Erin Gruwell offers Watkins students inspiring stories
WATKINS GLEN, May 7, 2019 -- Erin Gruwell -- an award-winning teacher who inspired her students to chronicle their lives and problems 20 years ago in what became a collection of essays titled The Freedom Writers Diary that led to a 2007 movie, Freedom Writers -- offered inspiring stories at two assemblies Tuesday morning in the Watkins Glen High School auditorium.
Gruwell told stories about some of the students who contributed to the Diary -- subtitled "How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" -- and to the movie, which starred Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank as Gruwell. She interspersed her talk with clips from the movie, its trailer, and a related documentary.
The first assembly was for 5th through 9th graders, and the second one was for 10th through 12th graders.
Gruwell, who distributed signed copies of The Freedom Writers Diary to each of a dozen students at a luncheon in the School Board meeting room that followed the assemblies, has also writen a memoir titled Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers, published about the time of the movie.
Her appearance at Watkins Glen followed one the night before at Corning Community College, part of that school's Education Summit designed to address a shrinking enrollment nationwide in teacher prep programs. Gruwell was the keynote speaker at the Summit.
On hand at the Tuesday luncheon at WGHS were officers of three school clubs: the National Honor Society, the Diversity Club and the Wellness Club. Various officers discussed with Gruwell their roles and those of their clubs.
Said Superintendent Greg Kelahan of Gruwell's visit -- part of a district Speaker Series: "She was an outstanding teacher" in California, where she "used Journal writing as a way out, an escape, a key to unlocking success" for her students. The Watkins student, he noted, "really appreciated" the visit.
Photos in text:
Top: Erin Gruwell with WGHS senior Joe Chedzoy at the luncheon that followed the assemblies.
Erin Gruwell, standing right of center, met with officers of the school's National Honor Society, Diversity Club and Wellness Club in the School Baord meeting room.
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