Archive for August, 2008

Just the facts, ma’am

Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

It was with a heavy heart that I wrote my Norwich City School articles for today’s paper. I penned first the Notice of Claim and then the Thomas Knapp interview before trying to get some sleep. I was fairly certain of the type of response these pieces would elicit and I’ll admit, it kept me up much of the night.

Because of legal constraints, the Norwich City School District was unable to respond to the allegations against them. My coverage is, therefor, decidedly one-sided. I don’t like that. It feels biased, even to me. I am glad that I have this forum to express my thoughts on the matter.

First, I’d like to thank Tom Knapp for granting me the opportunity for an interview. When he gave me his phone number at the August 19 board meeting, I thought I would be lucky to get a comment or two. I never dreamed that he would be willing to speak so candidly and at such length.

He was so open, in fact, that I was left wondering if his lawyer knew he was speaking to me. I think probably not.

But I was honored that this man, who is so well-loved and respected by the students and staff at Norwich High School, chose to speak with me. It was a gift, as Adrian Monk might say, but also a curse.

After reading the Notice of Claim (which I believe Jeff is planning to post on the site), I was left with a lot of questions. While my conversation with Knapp answered some of them, I hung up the phone with even more buzzing around my brain.

I have heard so many rumors as I’m sure have all of you. And I feel like it is my responsibility to help separate fact from myth for our readers. But that is difficult because of the very nature of a Notice of Claim.

As the first step in bringing litigation against a district, any and all allegations that may be named later have to be enumerated. The claims made are just that–claims. There is no proof or evidence attached. A read of the document yields references that the allegations made are based “upon information and belief” and what so-and-so said “in substance.” Remember if and when you read the document that none of the allegations have been substantiated at this point.

Despite his assertions, I just have a hard time believing that Tom Knapp has absolutely no idea what prompted the superintendent to call for a medical review under section 913 of the state education law.

Regardless of your personal feelings, if you have spoken to Gerard O’Sullivan you know he is an intelligent man. Legal counsel was present at the meeting in May where Knapp was suspended, so it can not be said that O’Sullivan acted alone.

I won’t sit here and poke holes in either Knapp’s story or the Notice of Claim. That is for the lawyers on both sides to work through. But I do ask that you remember there are two sides to this as there is to every story.

One of Tom Knapp’s claims is that the district has denied him the right of due process. If you read Knapp’s interview and the notice of claim and convict the district, the school board and O’Sullivan based on their contents alone; you are committing the same crime.

At this point, the matter is destined for the courts. Unfortunately, there is nothing to stop it from being tried in the forum of public opinion long before it ever sees a judge.

Actions speak louder than words

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
Patrick Newell

I read with interest a story about the LPGA tour requiring all of its membership to speak English beginning in 2009. Tour members have two years to learn the language and pass an oral evaluation of their English skills.
My initial reaction was, “Big Brother is watching over you.” It seemed like a personal infringement based on pressure from the tour’s public relations office. Dozens of women from the Far East, most notably Korea, have infused the LPGA Tour with talent. Along with playing the tournaments, part of the job for professional golfers is to play in the Wednesday pro-ams. Obviously it makes for a more enjoyable round for the amateurs when their professional speaks English. Couple that with the public relations aspect of the tour and promoting of the sport – which finds its home in the United States. Part in parcel with that is conducting intelligible interviews with the American media.
While the Tour has some valid points, it is also a clear case of micro-managing The PGA Tour does not have a English-speaking requirement, although the majority of non-American players are already fluent in English. No other professional sport has any similar rules in an effort to promote their sport.
Clearly the Olympics prove that understanding English is irrelevant to fan support. The Chinese love their native son, NBA player Yao Ming. They love NBA superstar Kobe Bryant nearly as much, and I would guess half a billion people in China speak little to no English.
Promoting a sport comes first from a player’s performance. Excellence on the field of play reels the fans in. With a touch of charisma or elan, you then have a superstar. Perhaps that next superstar is a Korean who speaks no English. In that event, her actions would speak much louder than any English words.

—–

There was a question in “30 Seconds” earlier this week in which a man asked why the New York Yankees are often given front-page coverage, while the New York Mets – who were in first place at the time the man called in – do not. The Yankees appear on the front page of our sports section for the same reason the New York Giants often get preferential NFL coverage over the Bills and Jets. In our readership area, there are simply more fans – and readers – of the Yankees and Giants than other New York teams. I am a lifelong Bills supporter and would love to supplant some Giants coverage. However, my first obligation is to our readership and their preferences.

Bats in the Belfry

Monday, August 25th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

The August day dawned with nary a thunderstorm nor heat wave in sight. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. A temperate 70 something degrees with virtually no humidity, it appeared to be the perfect day for a wedding.

We can imagine the blushing bride, light hearted on this gorgeous day. She is anxious and excited as she arrives at the church early to prepare for her impending nuptials. She has dreamed about this day since she was a young girl.

Thoughts of her soon-to-be-husband fill her thoughts as she puts the finishing touches on makeup, hair and flowers. So consumed by details and daydreams, she is unprepared for the sudden appearance of a very  unwelcome, uninvited guest.

Peril strikes quickly with the beating of wings as razor sharp teeth pierce soft flesh.

That’s how my admittedly overactive imagination set the scene, like the opening sequence of an old horror movie starring Bela Lugosi, as I watched an ambulance pull up outside Greene’s Central Baptist Church on Saturday. I had learned just moments before that a bride-to-be had been bitten by a bat.

As a bystander, I can’t claim first hand knowledge of the circumstances that lead up to the bite or what transpired after. I didn’t feel it was right to start asking too many questions. I think those involved were probably scarred enough by the experience.

I do know that, once the emergency squad departed, the bride and groom went on with the ceremony as planned.

The bride is definitely made of sterner stuff than me. There is a distinct possibility that getting bitten by a bat may have “deterred” me from walking up that aisle, no matter who was waiting for me at the altar.

I usually have a healthy respect for bats. I thoroughly appreciate their mosquito munching efforts and think the whole echo-location thing is pretty cool. And while I’m not necessarily a superstitious person by nature, I probably still would have seen it as a sign.

Sure, maybe I’m a lily-livered pansy, but look at it this way: You don’t hear of many bat attacks outside of B-movies and supermarket tabloids.

Not wanting to jump to any conclusions about what this event could portend for the couple’s future, I turned to the internet for guidance.

After a quick search for ‘bats and brides’ yielded nothing but references to the Bride of Dracula, I started looking at the superstition angle. While my fears were initially confirmed by a mention on oldsuperstitions.com that the presence of a bat in a church during a wedding ceremony was a bad omen, not everything I found was quite as ominous.

According to globalpsychics.com, the animal symbolizes “coming away from the old” and “facing our fears.” That seems pretty wedding-ish to me. (I know that’s probably not a word, but you know what I mean.)

The Chinese apparently see bats as symbols of long life and happiness. At least that’s what shamanism.tribe.net has to say about it. The site also says that, according to the people of early America, “the bat is emblematic of shamanistic initiation and rebirth.”

I hope that the newlyweds aren’t superstitious. I hope they realize that they, not some winged rodent, determine their destiny. I sincerely wish them the best of luck as they start their life together.

Day of Caring

Friday, August 22nd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

When the Evening Sun staff left the YMCA last year to participate in the United Way’s first Day of Caring. I had no idea what to expect. I knew we were going to a children’s home in Greene, and I knew that we would be planting flowers, but beyond that, I had no idea what the day would hold.

After a few hours of digging, planting bulbs and visiting with a lot of the kids at the center, I think we all left feeling good about the work we did, not to mention the fact that we gained a new found knowledge of what the United Way really does.

This year’s Day of Caring is coming up on Sept. 27. I’m not sure what our crew will be doing this year or where we will be going, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help a good cause and learn a little more about the non-profit organizations in the area.

This year, non-profit groups are anticipating a lot of need in the community and they will probably have a harder time finding the funding they need as more and more people began to feel the economic pinch. But volunteering for the Day of Caring is an easy and inexpensive way to show your support for local non-profit organizations.

Life Expectancy

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I’ve racked up a lot of miles over the last few weeks. I’ve lost count of my trips up and down the highways and byways of Chenango County.  Unfortunately those miles have taken their toll.

I’m not talking about the wear and tear on my car, or the sizable dent in my bank account from countless fill-ups (despite the fact that gas is cheaper in some of my destinations).

I’m talking about getting stuck behind slow drivers. They are, I’m quite convinced, shaving years off my life.

Now, I’m not a speeder. I obey posted traffic signs. I don’t tailgate. But I do feel that, as an American, I have a God-given right to drive the speed limit.

I understand people are under the impression that they are saving gas. But have a heart! What do you think you are accomplishing by driving 40 in a 55?

Farm vehicles are, of course, an exception to this rule. I respect the agricultural heritage of our county. Well, as long as it isn’t dripping you-know-what all over the road in front of me.

Last week I drove to Bainbridge to attend the town board meeting. The trip should have taken just over 30 minutes. I gave myself 45 so I could get a good seat. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.

On Route 206, right outside of Greene, I hit what we’ll call “congestion.” I was the fourth in a line of cars behind one going 15 miles UNDER the speed limit.

After about a mile, I could feel my blood pressure start to rise. After five, I developed a twitch in my left eye. By ten, I had used every colorful word I could find in the English language and several others. (I would have gotten the “no daughter of mine” speech if my mother was in the car. But that’s a topic for another blog.)

I wasn’t the only one feeling the frustration, but apparently my patience level was higher than others in our little wagon train.

On what appeared to be a clear straight away, the third vehicle in line pulled out to pass both the car immediately in front of it and the inconsiderate lout in the “lead car.” A risky move at best, it was made considerably more dangerous when not one, but two cars pulled out from adjoining roads.

It could have been a mess, but lucky for everyone involved it didn’t end with the screeching of brakes or crunching of metal. Everyone seemed to have made it through OK.

With the exception of me. My heart is still racing and my life expectancy had dropped by at least 3.7 years.

Please. For the love of all mankind. I beseach you. Help me live to a ripe old age. Drive the speed limit.

I was a ‘Dinosaur kid’

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Tyler Murphy

I was a dinosaur kid. I could name any plastic figure in the class room since kindergarten. My favorite was Triceratops. (Three horns, plated skull and walked on all fours)

My silly childhood story.

When I was young, maybe 10, I remember being in the yard chasing one of our puppies. I playfully crawled on top of the dog house to tease him when I caught a glimpse of a large shape above me. So large and unlike anything I’d ever seen that it startled me. It was a pterodactyl. (Giant flying dinosaur, beak, crest in the back of its head and a long deviled tail.)

It flew right above me, only 30 or 40 feet from the ground. I remember wondering if maybe I should seek shelter or risk being carrier off, but I just couldn’t pull myself away.

It had the largest wing span I’d even seen and what I thought was a long tail. I was paralyzed with amazement and imagination as I watched it pass out of sight. I ran shouting and crawling with excitement into the house.

I found my mother and after expending every last gasp of breath in my little body in telling my mother about seeing a live dinosaur I finally paused to breathe.

That’s when she explained to me that what I saw was a blue heron. With a lean body, large wing span and long stocky feet that when in flight drags behind the bird, giving it an appearance of a tail. My mind slowed down to ponder the reasonable explanation while my heart instantly collapsed into denial. After a moment, I converted back over to reality and laughed at myself.

Nearly two decades later I still remember those few minutes I truly believed I saw a real dinosaur. At that instance in time, dinosaurs really existed (again). I wouldn’t trade the foolish experience for anything in the world because it’s helped to keep my imagination young.

Can’t we all just get along?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I know that I’m not the only one that has ever had a bad break-up. One only has to turn on daytime television to see a deluge of tales of relationship horror and woe. Thankfully, I’ve never had a break-up worthy of sullying the air waves or being made into a full-length feature film.

After examining these often stunning portrayals of human drama, I’ve made a few observations.

Sometimes we think we know people. We spend years in a relationship under the misconception that we actually “know” the one we’re with.

It isn’t until after the breakup that we learn their true nature. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson often learned the hard way. The gloves come off, the mud starts flying and it all goes down hill from there. If we’re lucky, it stops somewhere short of all-out war.

That once rational, loving person you were fully prepared to spend the rest of your born days with, suddenly shows their true colors. The layers of care and concern peal away to reveal something else entirely. Whispered sweet nothings turn into threats and accusations.

That is the saddest point, I think. When love decays to the point where we see nothing that we once valued and respected in the former object of our affection.

Things come to an end. Sometimes things just don’t work out no matter the efforts made by the parties involved. Change is a part of the human experience. And part of being an adult is dealing with that. It certainly doesn’t make dealing with the change any easier when we allow cooled passions to be replaced with boiling hot hatred.

When the credits roll in life and on TV, I am left wondering (like Rodney King) – Why can’t we all just get along?

Blogging love-hate

Monday, August 18th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

Our editor is constantly urging the Evening Sun staff to blog more. Creative writing can be wonderful, but I loathe participating in the slow de-evolution of the English language vis-a-vis the Internet.

 

The word ‘blog’ sounds like something a toilet does when it’s been clogged and overflowing onto the bathroom floor, but it originally stood for “weblog.” (Pronounced web-log, not we-blog). The first two letters however became too weary and were dropped because people were, literally, too lazy to lift a finger.

 

In suit with such monumental laziness and disregard for class and style follows a slew of recreated pseudo-words that tumble forward like dominos – lol, brb, afk, b4, cya, ic, idk, jk, lmao, ne1, nm, np, obtw, omg … and it never stops. I hate it. I feel like I fell through a time warp and found myself text messaging with a cave man who just vomited on a dictionary. Seriously, there are well trained monkeys who can communicate with a few carefully selected letters … I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of such a category.

 

That being said, one barreling constraint that strangles both imagination and integrity at the same time is censorship. Imagine if one could really just write … nothing else, no filter, nothing. Brutal directness, made for a grateful audience who’s getting sick of shifting through the daily media who-ha that crams up our airwaves. Pulling out that stubborn string of politically correct half truth smothered in a rope of persuasion yanking its benign audience towards this cause or that product. Telling the truth for its own sake would be like running naked through the middle of town, but far more taboo. And that’s why I appreciate blogging.

 

I admire bloggers for this one great reason, the Internet is a child of the digital revolution and near enough to the edge of that frontier to allow freedom of expression to thrive. A frontier without social pressures or corporate control (yet), a place where anyone can remain anonymous for better or worse. Blogs may be a lot of things, but many represent one of the few places left were we can turn the page to that of an open, honest (and often crazy) thought. 

 

Would it really kill us though if we wrote ‘I’m laughing out loud’ instead of ‘lol’? Technology is supposed to make us smarter not dumber.

The country at heart

Friday, August 15th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

Out of all the things I’ve wanted or tried to be in my life, the country boy calm still finds me at the core. I remember so many intimate moments with the natural world that surrounded my childhood. It’s a place where I discovered my only true sense of spirituality. I love the little things.

 

Moon

 

I see the moon and imagine its pull over some distant shore. The tide reaches to meet the stars and falls in a peaceful lullaby. The silver reflections of light shatter like stretched glass across the glistening moonlight dunes.

 

Wind

 

To watch the wind that never stops traveling pass through my small corner of the world. An eerie calm laced with the chatter of leaves as the trees become entangled by the restless air. Nature’s serenade played since the dawn of man puts me at ease with its endless tune. Her tall shaken instruments rustle with each breathe and their trunks creak in chorus.

 

Rain

 

Air so tense that at any moment it could shatter. A shadow cast across the valley as if god himself peered from behind the hill. The deafening calm peeled away by a shock wave of thunder so loud it shakes loose the heart. A sudden strike of ghostly light illuminates miles of countryside in a pale reflection.

My first experience with an angry mob

Friday, August 15th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Sure they didn’t have torches or pitchforks, but after hearing a few choice comments from the members of the public gathered at the Guernsey Memorial Library on Thursday night, it wasn’t difficult to imagine them as the angry mob that always seems to form at the end of a classic horror movie. 

 

The crowd of approximately 40 people was gathered for last night’s library board meeting. I understand their anger. The State Comptroller’s office released the results of an audit that found Director Melanie Battoe had $15,000 in questionable purchases, many of which she tried to justify at Thursday night’s  meeting, however her explanations did little to appease the angry crowd. I expected to hear some tough questions. I expected to hear some people demanding to know whether or not the director would be fired. I did not however expect to see a police presence on hand to control some rowdy individuals. The shouting and angry accusations didn’t quite seem to fit in a building where I was always taught to use my indoor voice. 

 

Actually, I heard a lot of choice items I didn’t expect. I definitely didn’t expect to hear people shouting that the library director should be taken away in shackles or lynched, but I heard both suggestions. Personally, if I had been on the board, I probably would have thrown some people out, but the board did their best to listen to all of the shouting, questions and complaints. They even listened to one complaint so out of place that I thought it must be a practical joke. The gentleman who was speaking however seemed anything but jovial. 

 

Yes there were some questions about where some money was spent, and about conflicts of interest with Battoe’s husband handling the library’s computer service and there were comments on the status of employer-employee issues that have been going on for some time. But when one member of the community became irate because Battoe had barred him from the computers for looking at obscene web sites, I have to say, I’m not the only one who seemed a bit surprised. 

 

I guess everyone has their own priorities, and in this instance, everyone is going to form their own opinions, but I hope we as a community will be intelligent enough to drop the mentality of an angry mob, put down the pitchforks and start looking for ways to ensure this type of oversight doesn’t happen again.