Archive for December, 2008

Winter wonderland

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Last Sunday, while a mixture of icy sleet and freezing rain poured down over much of Chenango County, my family and I were in our vehicle, cautiously maneuvering over the slippery roads on a 40 mile trip.

No, it was no emergency. There were no injuries or sick relatives to see to. We hadn’t forgotten anyone at a far off location or ran out of some crucial household item. We were on our way to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Looking for a Christmas tree on a day when the weather is horrible has been a long standing family tradition for me. It’s not that we wait for the weather man to tell us a huge storm is coming to the area or hold out for a date when the wind chill is negative 30, it just always seems to work out that way.

This year was mild compared to many. For as long as I can remember, my family would trek out in search of our tree on a day when storms were raging and snow was flying. Several years we actually slid past the driveway of the Christmas tree farm where we were trying to go.

Despite the weather, we would take our time picking out a tree that was just right. We would travel up and down the hill searching out the perfect tree until our toes were frozen, and when we finally found it we would throw it on the roof of our car, pile back in and hurry back to our warm house.

The tradition has remained much the same today. The location has changed and the participants aren’t all the same, but the fun of the family outing will never change.

Public Misinformation

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I was disappointed by the turnout at last night’s Public Information Forum at the Oxford Middle School. With less than thirty community members and a smattering of school staff members in attendance, the school’s once grand auditorium was virtually empty.

Yes, I was disappointed. But not entirely surprised. Not because the public is not interested in the fate of the school, but rather because there was little notice of the meeting.

Superintendent Randy Squier was quick to place blame on The Evening Sun. I questioned his assertion that a press release had gone out two weeks ago. It turns out he was right, to an extent. My editor did receive a press release on Nov. 21. With an attachment that could not be opened. A new version was not received until the day before Thanksgiving. Which gave one week exactly as notice of the meeting.

But is lack of notice our fault? Are we the only avenue the district has for keeping residents and taxpayers informed? Absolutely not.

The district’s monthly newsletter, which sported notice of the meeting prominently on its back cover, did not arrive in mail boxes until yesterday afternoon. At least that’s when I, as a resident of the district, received mine.

It was only a few weeks ago that the Oxford School Board penned an eloquent letter to the editor, which was published in this paper, taking umbrage to our coverage of this issue and taking aim at community members who had supposedly misconstrued their intentions.

Last night, one board member spoke passionately about the fact that she and the others on the board had not made up their minds about which option would be right for the district and that they understood the concerns and sentiment of the community. She said that she felt they would be doing a disservice if they did not explore all the options open to them.

I don’t doubt that for a second. I do believe that the members of Oxford’s school board have the best interest of the students and the district at heart.

But does the school’s top administrator feel the same? About keeping all the options on the table, I mean.

Let me relate the  first line of the Capital Project Update in the December newsletter. “At the time this report went to print, the district was reviewing three potential capital project options.” Hmmm. Past tense.

I was particularly disturbed by one item included in both last night’s power point presentation and the printed material distributed at the forum.

Listed as one of the questions the school board is asking itself was the following: “In the face of declining enrollment, is it wise to invest $19 million in the 78 year old middle school when classroom usage in the building could drop by 50 percent in three years?”

Wow. Sounds convincing. Unfortunately it’s more than a little misleading, not to mention factually inaccurate.

The “question” seems to imply that Option 1 would pump $19 million into just the middle school. That is not the case. At their Nov. 6 workshop, the board of ed put the figure for remodeling and renovating the historic structure at around $11 million, with the remainder going to work at the Primary School/High School campus. When I asked, board president Robin DeBrita confirmed that the $19 million figure was for the entire option, not just work at the one school.

And classroom usage would drop in just the middle school by 50 percent? Squier stated more than once last night (and it was stressed back in November) that there would be empty space in all buildings with the continuing decline in enrollment.
As grades 5 through 8 are housed in the building, the classes that will be in the building in three years are currently in the primary school. Are half of those classrooms already empty? This figure is not possible unless they are already talking about shuffling grades.

I sat in close proximity to Mr. Squier during the presentation and the question and answer session which followed. I’m not sure all of his comments, especially the ones made under his breath, were heard by all.

When Tom Emerson, a prominent member of the Oxford Community, mentioned the petition signed by more than 600 district residents, Squier made a comment that “most” of those who signed had done so under false pretenses.

Even better was his comment, made after I raised a question about state aid for the middle school if it was no longer housed students, that demolishing the building’s ‘52 wing would be returning it to historical accuracy.

The district will hold one more public information session on the capital project plans. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 8 in the Middle School Auditorium. I would sincerely hope there will be a significantly higher turnout at that event.

Adopt a friend

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Tyler Murphy

Last week the Evening Sun posted two animals from the SPCA that were available for adoption in the paper’s Community section.

A few days later they both were adopted. Larry, the long haired and heavy house cat, and Madison, the shepherd puppy with large lovable paws, are both in new homes.

It makes me take a second to think about how much of an impact publishing can have. The puppy was a heart breaker no doubt about it but Larry was at the shelter for weeks and then a few days after the add ran he found a family.

All we need to do now is suspend all other news printing for a day and fill the paper with pictures of the 76 Pomeranians (and one bulldog) that were taken into custody by the shelter.

The shelter has nearly a full house and not just because of the abused Pomeranians but even without them the dog and cat kennels are filled with animals yearning for an owner. Keep an eye on the Community page for more available animals before the week is out.

Thanks you to who adopted Larry and Madison, I’m sure the SPCA appreciates it.

An Ode to Nyquil

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

There is nothing that throws a wrench in a family holiday gathering quite like a sick relative. This Thanksgiving, that infectious one was me.

For the last week, I have been what my editor so eloquently described as a “big ball of mucus.” And I assure you, he was being polite.

All of those family members I couldn’t wait to see? They couldn’t wait to see me either, until they realized whatever I had could very well be catching. Sniffling, sneezing, coughing, phlegmy and feverish – that was me.

Being sick is never a picnic. But it really adds insult to injury when are suddenly downgraded from beloved aunt and sister to germ-laden pariah.

Instead of “Look kids, it’s Aunt Melissa,” I got “No honey, don’t kiss HER.” If it hadn’t been for a startling lack of parental oversight, I probably never would have had a chance to hold the newest addition to the Stagnaro clan. But I did, and my tiny month-old niece Elizabeth Rose didn’t care that I was a bit sick. She was quiet and contented in my arms.

Instead of being downstairs in the mix of things, I was relegated (read: quarantined) to an upstairs bedroom. Too far from the action to enjoy any of it, but not far enough away to actually be able to rest fitfully.

I was considered well enough to undertake the prep work for Thursday’s big meal. You know, all that chopping, pealing and mashing no one ever wants to do? The fun stuff was all delegated to other healthier family members.

I can honestly say that I’ve never had quite so much elbow room at the Thanksgiving table. But I didn’t enjoy it. Even if I’d had an appetite, turkey just isn’t as appealing after you’ve been “enjoying” mentholated cough drops.

The evening did end on a high note. My Nyquil kicked in just in time to exempt me from clean-up duty and left-over patrol. Hmmm. Maybe I should remember that trick.
I wish I could say my symptoms left with my family members after the holiday. Unfortunately for me (and my co-workers), they’ve stuck around like that one relative that refuses to go home.

The only thing that is getting me through all the coughing and nose blowing is the hope that I’ll be in the pink of health again before the Christmas relative rush. 17 days and counting.