Expertise Aided Multiple Organizations

Bob Gorman

Three years ago Watertown City Manager Sharon Addison called me about the fledgling backpack program at the Watertown City School District.

    Could the United Way, she asked, be the conduit for money so that people can make a tax deductible contribution to the United Way of NNY and designate the donation to the backpack program?

    Two things should be noted here: The United Way is the nation’s largest mover of money that connects donors and good works; and, food insecurity is one of the United Way’s national focal points.

    In other words, Addison had me at “could.”

    Soon after I found out that:

  • School districts collect money all sorts of ways, including booster club fundraisers and PTO membership drives. But the more money that comes and goes – other than taxes coming in and salaries, supplies and maintenance expenses going out – the more antsy school officials get. Creating new funding streams – such as backpack programs — makes it that much easier for some “helpful” outsider to quietly syphon off, i.e. embezzle, a little bit here and a little bit there.
  • To make a backpack program work, volunteers (usually administrators and teachers) spend their own time and gas money driving to various grocery stores to buy the least expensive food that meets minimum nutritional standards. The model often becomes unsustainable after creators of backpack programs discover that generating money to sustain a program is a lot harder than generating money to start one.

    In time Addison, Watertown School Superintendent Patti LaBarr and I were trying to figure out how to make the Watertown backpack program efficient and sustainable.

    Today, WCSD has a “Food 4 Families,” pantry that provides weekend food to around 100 students during the school year. The food is ordered online through the Food Bank of Central New York and delivered by an 18-wheeler every two weeks to the school district’s building on Massey Street. And more than $30,000 in donations has come to the United Way for our account at the Food Bank.

    During this same period of time, Addison played a quiet, behind-the-scene role in helping the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park remain viable as it retrofitted while in a chokehold world of increased animal care costs and a declining number of locally owned businesses available to sponsor educational programs.

    As a long-time Thompson Park Conservancy board member and former chair, I can tell you that over the years some city politicians have foisted agendas on the zoo that had more to do with their own election cycles rather than exhibit upkeep, animal health and procurement, and educational outreach.

    While the zoo is run independently from the city, the zoo is dependent on the city to pay for utility services, and provide upkeep of buildings that existed before the conservancy was created in the early 1990s. Addison always committed the city to fulfill its zoo obligations immediately – such as extensive improvements to the director’s house — rather than put the zoo at the end of the line for attention, as every city manager is tempted to do.

    I also worked with Addison on the $1 million Watertown Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI). While ESPRI Director Peter Schmitt deserves the credit for Watertown being the first city in the state to have its projects approved and funded, Schmitt in turn will tell you that Addison and Mayor Joe Butler set a tone and direction that greased the skids for success.

    To us, it is no wonder that Addison was recently honored by the Watertown Urban Mission and the Community Action Planning Council for her role in the success of the program “Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World.” The program, which will now be funded through ESPRI, helps participants identify what they need to do to resolve crises in their own lives, and gives them the tools to overcome barriers that keep them in poverty.

    And have you noticed the impressive growth of the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County, which now has programs in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties? The VAC’s board of directors is chaired by Sharon Addison.

    Addison’s time as city manager is over, and we’re all entitled to our opinions about whether the city council hit a home run or struck out in deciding to not extend her contract.

    However, I think there is one thing everyone should be able to agree on: Addison was a failure at self-promotion and developing street-fighting skills. She never bought a horn to toot. And she never embraced the governmental management axiom that success requires you to occasionally and cold-bloodedly do unto others before they do unto you.

    My opinion of Addison is limited to only working with her in the nonprofit world. So maybe I am wrong, but I think our community would be better served if more women were like Sharon Addison.

                Actually, I think our community would be even better served if more men were like Sharon Addison as well.

March 2016 Cover Story: Women in Public Service

Women answer the call for public service

Sharon A. Addison, 52, was appointed Watertown city manager in 2012 following a 27-year career with the National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.

Sharon A. Addison, 52, was appointed Watertown city manager in 2012 following a 27-year career with the National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.

From county and city managers to district attorneys, an assistant
attorney general, state lawmakers and the youngest woman ever
elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, north country women have blazed a progressive — and impressive — trail in public service.

By Norah Machia | Photos By Justin Sorensen

There are many women in the north country who provide invaluable leadership in the public sector as a result of their strategic skills, energy, knowledge and commitment. [Read more…]

Watertown school officials consider consolidation

Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry Fralick discusses upcoming changes for the district, while meeting with the Times editorial board. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry Fralick discusses upcoming changes for the district, while meeting with the Times editorial board. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

The Watertown City School District Board of Education and superintendent are taking the first steps toward considering consolidation of the district’s elementary schools. [Read more…]

STEM scholarship offers NNY students opportunity

CANTON – A full scholarship offered by New York state to attend college for science, technology, engineering and math related fields could be an important launch for north country students.

The state offers a full scholarship to the top 10 percent of graduating high school students to attend SUNY schools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and who pledge to work and live in New York for five years following graduation.

State Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, is encouraging area students to consider the STEM scholarship as a good step into their future.

“The north country is home to many high-tech industries and world-class universities,” Mrs. Russell said in a statement. “This scholarship is an excellent opportunity that I hope driven young people will take advantage of so they can write the next chapter of development in the region.”

Last year, statewide, there were 553 recipients for the scholarship totaling $2.796 million.

For the north country region, including Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties, there were 15 recipients totaling $84,208.

Students looking to receive the scholarship must graduate in the top 10 percent of their class; attend a SUNY, CUNY or statutory college including Cornell and Alfred Universities; and must maintain a 2.5 grade point average or higher each semester.

For a high poverty area like the north country region, going to college could be tough to picture for many students, but schools in the region are beginning to push these STEM fields early in students’ education which could set them up for opportunities like the state’s scholarship.

“Considering the high poverty level in the area this scholarship could be a great opportunity for students who may not have the ability to go to college,” said Lisa J. Blank, the new STEM director for the Watertown City School District. “You are talking saving kids around $30,000 a year.”

Thomas R. Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, agreed that the scholarship makes college more accessible for students.

“By providing a full SUNY tuition, the scholarship would increase the equity for student access to college,” Mr. Burns said.

Mrs. Blank has worked with several area school districts including Sackets Harbor, Lyme, General Brown and Belleville Henderson to set up programs in science, technology, engineering and math and apply for grants from the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Mrs. Blank recently helped Watertown schools secure a $1.25 million grant from DoDEA to set up STEM programming in the district.

The grant money will be used for teacher training in technology, implementation of video lessons on the computer that can be bought or developed by teachers and several technology-based extracurricular activities, including robotics clubs for elementary pupils and engineering clubs for middle and high school students.

The funding can be applied to 14 clubs.

The money also will buy two new laptop carts each for H.T. Wiley Intermediate School, Case Middle School and Watertown High School, as well as a new virtual learning system.

Mrs. Blank also put schools in touch with STEM programs including Project Lead the Way, which provides STEM curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Mrs. Blank also helped Lyme Central School District connect with the Full Option Science System program which provides hands-on learning science curricula for kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Seventy percent of the instruction is hands-on which increases kids’ interest in science,” Mrs. Blank said. “It is important to get kids interested in STEM at elementary school and middle school levels so they are on the right path for knowing what they want to do when they graduate high school.”

Stephen J. Todd, superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, said anything that encourages students to go to college to become STEM coordinators would be good for north country schools.

“There is a shortage of teachers in this area particularly in STEM related fields,” Mr. Todd said. “I think this scholarship is a wonderful thing for the state as a whole. It is a good incentive for students to go into STEM instruction which could benefit our schools.”

Mr. Burns said it is important that the scholarship requires commitment from students to stay in the state after graduation.

“Requiring the recipients to sign a service agreement to stay in New York in a STEM-related field not only promotes STEM-related careers but contributes to better economic development growth while helping to limit the out migration of young people to other parts of the state and country,” Mr. Burns said.

Both BOCES facilities offer career and technical classes for students attending member schools.

“We have been working on many career-focused programs at the BOCES, and again there are some possibilities with this scholarship to insure that students are both college and career ready when they leave high school and college,” Mr. Burns said.

Mrs. Blank said the only concern Mrs. Blank said she has heard from students was that there are not enough fields that apply as STEM-related under the scholarship guidelines.

According to the New York State Higher Educational Services Corporation, the agency that provides information on scholarship and financial aid options, some approved programs under the scholarship guidelines include computer science and programming, agricultural engineering, industrial and manufacturing engineering, solar technology and mathematics and statistics.

“In the long-run, this scholarship will benefit all New Yorkers as we encourage and cultivate tomorrow’s industry leaders and secure a bright economic future,” Mrs. Russell said.

According to the state Department of Labor the median wage for workers in STEM occupations in the north country region is $59,641.

The STEM occupation in the north country with the highest median wage is a physician’s assistant, $103,685, which employed 200 people in 2015.

The next highest median wage for the north country was earned by environmental engineers, $85,216, which employed 80 people in 2015.

The lowest median wage was earned by architectural and civil drafters, $31,250, which employed 80 people in 2015.

Scholarship requirements

Be a legal resident of the state and reside here for 12 months.

Be a high school senior/recent high school graduate who will be enrolled full-time at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University, beginning in the fall term following his or her high school graduation.

Be ranked in the top 10 percent of his/her high school graduating class of a New York state high school.

Be matriculated in an undergraduate program leading to a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Earn a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher each term after the first semester.

Execute a service contract agreeing to reside and work in the state for five years in the field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

By Richard Moody, Times Staff Writer

November 2015 Cover Story: Gifts of Giving

Gifts of giving brighten the region

Margot C. Jacoby, with her daughter, Martha Papworth O’Neill. Martha died in 2010 after a fight against renal cell carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer. Mrs. Jacoby and her husband, Douglas, have established the Martha Papworth O’Neill Scholarship at the JCC Foundation. The scholarship in Martha’s name is given each year to a non-traditional student enrolled in humanities and social sciences. A scholarship fund was also set up in Martha’s name at Cazenovia College, where she had served on the Alumni Board of Directors.

Margot C. Jacoby, with her daughter, Martha Papworth O’Neill. Martha died in 2010 after a fight against renal cell carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer. Mrs. Jacoby and her husband, Douglas, have established the Martha Papworth O’Neill Scholarship at the JCC Foundation. The scholarship in Martha’s name is given each year to a non-traditional student enrolled in humanities and social sciences. A scholarship fund was also set up in Martha’s name at Cazenovia College, where she had served on the Alumni Board of Directors.

Across Northern New York, philanthropy large and small aids causes and honors memories while building legacies that leave the north country a better place

By Norah Machia, NNY Business [Read more…]

October 2015 Cover Story: Leadership

The formula for lasting success

Kevin Richardson, president of North Country Farms, stands beside pallets of flour ready for shipment to Mannhatten. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business

Kevin Richardson, president of North Country Farms, stands beside pallets of flour ready for shipment to Mannhatten. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Leadership delivers results for three north country businesses where owners say Perseverance, patience and a willingness to take risks are keys

By Lorna Oppedisano, NNY Business [Read more…]

All but one Northern New York school budget approved

Voters participate in the Watertown City School District Budget vote at the former National Guard building that was recently purchased by the district. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Voters participate in the Watertown City School District Budget vote at the former National Guard building that was recently purchased by the district. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Despite an 88-79 vote to approve their spending plan, Parishville-Hopkinton Central School voters were the only ones in the north country to reject their district’s proposed budget Tuesday, failing to reach the necessary supermajority approval rate of 60 percent. [Read more…]

Watertown school district shows off newly acquired South Massey Street building

Visitors tour the old vault for weaponry at the former Leso-Leano Army Reserve Center on South Massey Street. The building was recently acquired by the Watertown City School District for $1. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Visitors tour the old vault for weaponry at the former Leso-Leano Army Reserve Center on South Massey Street. The building was recently acquired by the Watertown City School District for $1. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

WATERTOWN — Slowly but surely, the Watertown City School District is crafting the former Leso-Leano Army Reserve Center in its own image. [Read more…]

School district urges city to solve traffic problems at Knickerbocker School

City Councilman Stephen A. Jennings is convinced that a hazardous situation exists in front of Knickerbocker Elementary School whenever parents drop off or pick up their children from school.

Traffic gets congested with vehicles stopping, children crossing Knickerbocker Drive and school buses entering and leaving school property along the narrow two-way street, he said.

“It’s a hazard every morning and afternoon,” Mr. Jennings said.

At the request of Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry N. Fralick, the City Council informally agreed Monday night to have the city Engineering Office conduct a traffic study of the area. The school district would like the city either to make Knickerbocker Drive a one-way street or determine whether establishing a one-way private road on school property would be a better solution.

Though the concerns are not new, school officials met about two weeks ago to discuss the situation with representatives from the city. Mr. Jennings, whose children attend the school for children in kindergarten through fourth grade, was asked to participate after a school board member approached him to ask if the city would look into the matter,

City Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes recalled that the city studied the issue in 2006, but a single resident in that neighborhood complained it would be inconvenient for neighbors if the street were made a one-way road. Nothing happened after that, he said.

Much of the problem is caused by the narrow width of the street and so much vehicular and pedestrian traffic coming all at once, Mr. Hayes said.

On Monday night, the other council members were surprised to hear that the issue was coming up again. They also did not realize that City Manager Sharon A. Addison, interim City Engineer Justin Wood, Mr. Hayes and Mr. Jennings met with the school board’s Public Relation/Transportation Committee about it.

But parents started approaching Mr. Jennings about the traffic congestion as soon as he was elected last fall, he told council members.

He said he has heard that children have actually been hit by vehicles, but fortunately not injured because the vehicles were moving slowly, he said.

“Children run out in front of cars,” he said.

School officials indicated they want to work with the city on solving the problem, Mr. Hayes said. But council members expressed concerns about getting too involved in the issue when neighbors may end up not wanting Knickerbocker Drive turned into a one-way street.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham also warned it could be an expensive project if the city has to turn Knickerbocker Drive into a one-way street. He also stressed the city Planning Board would have to get involved and neighbors must have a say.

Ultimately, it would be a City Council decision, he said.

“For most of us, it’s a problem only because we get a letter,” he said.

The letter was sent from Mr. Fralick to the city on the advice of city staff. He was told to make a formal request for the city to look into the matter, Mr. Hayes said.

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

As winter approaches, schools ponder e-learning to make use of snow days

Last winter, it was a coin toss nearly every day as to whether north country schools would be open, be closed, close early or be delayed. With winter just around the corner, north country superintendents were asked about e-learning instead of snow days.

“It would be nice to not have to bus kids some days when the weather report keeps changing,” Carthage Superintendent Peter J. Turner said. “I think it’s an interesting concept, but nothing we have explored.”

Pennsylvania schools now have the option in the event of inclement weather and other unusual circumstances to use “nontraditional educational delivery methods,” such as cyber school. No discussions are underway about offering e-learning on snow days in the state Education Department.

“When a student is out of school because they are sick, a lot of them can look online and see what work they would be working on that day,” Indian River Central School Superintendent James Kettrick said.

Mr. Kettrick said most teachers make class assignments available online so students can access them from home. He said if a student is sick for more than a few days, a tutor will be assigned to make sure the student keeps up to speed in class. “On snow days we don’t advance school work,” he said.

According to an article in Education Weekly, “E-Learning on Snow Days Now an Option for Pennsylvania Schools,” Pennsylvania schools will be able to use up to five such days beginning this school year, as long as they receive prior approval from the state education department. That approval will be contingent upon districts showing satisfactory plans for reaching students with disabilities, those without Internet access or home computers and those with other special circumstances.

Michigan and Ohio public schools have a similar policy.

The state Education Department requires public schools to be open a minimum of 180 days. Six days are allotted for snow days or other unexpected school closures.

Mr. Kettrick said with the exception of this past winter, the only time he can remember the school being closed for a long period was after the ice storm of 1998.

Mr. Turner said that during the ice storm, the Black River community was out of power much longer than other areas in his district. He said if the students who were out of school had no power or Internet service, it would still be impossible for them to complete their work from home.

Mr. Turner also said he doesn’t know if every student in the district would have access to the Internet or a computer at home.

Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Stephen J. Todd said that as members of the school community use the Internet with increasing frequency in the classroom, it is a “natural succession” for online lessons when students cannot make it to school.

“Right now I don’t think we’re in a place for kids to continue their education from home on a snow day,” Mr. Todd said. “But I think it’s just natural for kids and teachers to be able to continue their work outside the classroom.”

Sackets Harbor Central School Superintendent Frederick E. Hall Jr. said for the north country, the need is a little greater than in other parts of the state, including the Capital Region.

“The state could look at either doing something like this by region or statewide,” Mr. Hall said. “We tend to be looking in our own backyard more than the state as a whole.”

Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said as the temperatures dropped this past weekend, people started to remember that winter is not far behind.

“I think it was on everyone’s minds,” Mr. Fralick said. “We’re in a unique place — between the lake-effect snow and the nor’easter, we get a wicked pounding of snow.”

Mr. Fralick said it can be an awful mess getting students home on the bus or making the decision not to open school because of weather conditions.

“We’re interested in learning about anything we can do to address a real problem,” Mr. Fralick said.

Mr. Hall said though the school did close, delay or have early dismissals several days over the 2013-14 school year, the school was open for 180 days, as required by the state, and students were able to do all required classwork. He said missing school was more of a “nuisance” than a barrier preventing students from learning.

“I think we were able to accomplish everything we needed to last year,” Mr. Hall said. “If we have another winter like that this year, though, we might want to discuss other options.”

Mr. Hall said e-learning is an interesting idea but not one he has heard discussed by any other school administrators.

“Our calendars are always subject to change,” Mr. Hall said, “because you never know when we will need to take off.”

He said the people who live in the north country are typically understanding of the often quick changes because of the weather.

 

By Katherine Clark Ross, Times Staff Writer