Archive for March, 2011

Editor’s Notebook: 3/23/11

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Oh, Spring, you are a fickle mistress, toying with our affections as you do …

• It’s Spirit Week at Norwich High School, and The Evening Sun is showing its Purple Pride with a dedicated full-page every day featuring messages of support and encouragement from local advertisers, as well as a daily recap of events by Brian Golden. Next up tomorrow night, the talent show. I heard last year’s was amazing, so I think I’ll head over to check it out.

• Speaking of amazing talent – our own Brian Golden is a member of Master Thieves, a Syracuse-based rock quintet with a new music video up on syracuse.com … check it out here.

• No blog yesterday because I was knee-deep in a special section coming out in tomorrow’s Evening Sun – our annual Bride’s Guide wedding planner. Chock full of useful information (not that I’ll ever use any of it), you can pick it up on newsstands Thursday.

• RIP, Elizabeth Taylor. Though dogged by tabloids in her later, unflattering years, Miss Taylor was a true silver screen siren – a rare combination of both beauty and talent that’s sorely lacking these days. Though most gravitate toward “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?” my favorite Taylor vehicle has to be 1956’s “Giant,” a kind of pre-Dallas sudser about the hot and tawdry goings-on at a sprawling Texas ranch. Also starring Rock Hudson and James Dean … yeah, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Once a Purple Tornado…

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Brian Golden

While this week has been a little on the hectic side, I must admit it’s been a lot of fun as well. And to be completely honest, when informed I would be covering Spirit Week at NHS I got pretty excited. It’s not often that I get a chance to roam the halls of my alma mater, not to mention it’s always great to see those former teachers of mine that are still there, imparting their knowledge to a whole new generation of kids (you haven’t changed a bit Mrs. Fertig).

And then there’s the music department at NHS, where I spent the majority of my time throughout high school. Time usually spent occupying my space in the hallway leading to the auditorium strumming away and trying to make that pesky guitar make the sounds I so badly wanted it to. It certainly doesn’t look the same, I can tell you that much, and I’ve gotten lost a time or two trying to find my way around. And the music students I’ve run into this week? I’ll let you in on a little secret – these kids are talented. Extremely talented.

On Monday, I had a chance to meet with music teacher Mary Mayo, who just happens to be my former choir instructor and musical educator. Mary and I go way back, and she was instrumental to my growth as a musician. Prior to her teachings, getting me to listen to anything other than Hendrix, Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan was, well, impossible. Mary, however, taught me the importance of being a better listener. Regardless, I must say I was completely unprepared for the Mixed Choir rehearsal she was conducting when I walked into the auditorium early this week.

These kids are fantastic. And by fantastic I mean talented beyond any expectation I could’ve ever had. It’s not like Mozart’s Requiem is a piece of cake for any group, no matter their age or level of ability, but the members of the NHS Mixed Choir have this stuff down cold. By far some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard in the NHS auditorium, and I’ve been a part of some pretty inspiring performances there myself, way back when.

My week so far has been an enlightening one to say the least. These days it seems you can’t go ten minutes without hearing someone moaning about how dreadful and disrespectful today’s kids are. And while I’m sure the Norwich High School, like any school, has its share of bad apples, I can tell you one thing – my experience covering Spirit Week has been nothing but positive. Every student I’ve spoken with, photographed or watched perform has been extremely gracious, polite and intelligent. These are good kids and it’s been inspiring to say the least.

With that, I’ll say good luck to both the seniors and freshmen of the Purple Team and the juniors and sophomores of the White Team. I’d part with the clichéd “may the best team win,” but that really doesn’t sum up my Spirit Week experience to date. Instead I’ll simply say “have fun and thanks for a great experience.”

Once a Tornado always a Tornado I guess.

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Taylor

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

This morning, the world learned of the death of one of Hollywood’s greatest legends. Oscar winning actress and legendary beauty Elizabeth Taylor passed away at the age of 79. She had been hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for several weeks prior to her death, where she was being treated for congestive heart failure.

Born Elizabeth Rosamond Taylor, the London born star first achieved fame as a child actress. By the time of her death, the two-time Oscar winner had more than 70 film and television credits to her name.

There is no disputing the fact that – particularly in her youth – the raven-haired, violet-eyed beauty defined Hollywood glamor. She practically dripped with diamonds on most occasions. But despite her beauty and her wealth, there always seemed a certain sadness about her. Perhaps because of her rocky all-too-public private life.

But she had humor, too. My favorite quote is one about her numerous marriages. (She may very well hold the record – 8, I believe, to 7 different men.)

“I am a very committed wife. And I should be committed too – for being married so many times,” she once said.

She was fiercely loyal to her friends, as evidenced by the way she stuck by Michael Jackson through all his scandals and legal woes. And she had a good heart. Following the death of her friend Rock Hudson, she became one of Hollywood’s first AIDS activist, raising millions for the cause.

Of all her work, I prefer her earlier films. My favorites include Life with Father, Father of the Bride, Father’s Little Dividend and Elephant Walk.

In them, there was a wide-eyed innocence to her flawless beauty. That’s how I’ll always remember her.

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Taylor.

Follow me on Twitter… @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/18/11

Friday, March 18th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson. My thoughts turn to getting out of work early on Fridays, but here I go …

• Norwich had quite the turnout for the downtown Irish flag-raising on St. Patrick’s Day, but as you’ll see if you click on the Facebook video Brian Golden shot for us, those Irish eyes might have been smiling, but their ears …

• So I’m going to get my dry cleaning at Arrow Laundry after work last night, and I look across the street to see the corner of Silver and East Main pretty much obliterated. That was fast! Pretty soon, the old building that last housed Bruce Beadle’s real estate office will also be history. All making way for a new and improved Byrne Dairy – complete with gas station, which will be nice. Can’t say I’m equally enthused about the inclusion of a laundromat – the aforementioned Arrow is a local business with a long history in the Norwich economy. Seems redundant to place a similar service (minus the dry cleaning) right across the street, and give ‘em tax breaks to boot. But then again, these are the same master planners that put two nearly identical drug stores on opposing corners – and we all know how that turned out.

• Did you notice how I got through that little rant without mentioning my beloved Green House? I’m growing, I really am.

• Both Pat and Brian will be covering the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at Park Place Saturday night (though both will be keeping their hair). Stay tuned to this website and Facebook for photo and video updates – and check out Frank’s Photo Finish in Monday’s Evening Sun.

• Also in Monday’s Evening Sun – it’s the start of Purple Pride Week at Norwich High School! Every day, we’ll dedicate a page supported by local advertisers to all things Purple – and White – as the school marks its annual Spirit Week with a host of fun-filled events.

NCAA tournament upsets

Friday, March 18th, 2011
Patrick Newell

How does your NCAA men’s tournament bracket look after the first full day? How many people had Morehead State winning its intrastate matchup with Louisville? Not me. Did anyone have Richmond defeating Vanderbilt? Without fail, either a 13 or 12 seed beats a four or five seed in the first round. The 13 and 12 seeds happen to be in the same region and on the same half of that regional bracket. One team’s Cinderella run will end in a hurry.
We can make one local connection to Morehead State as former Norwich athlete, Brad Hagen, competed on the Morehead State men’s bowling team. Hagen, also an accomplished golfer, assumed the Sam Houston State women’s bowling head coaching duties in 2009. Hagen is surely smiling today, although majority of us – who picked Louisville – are probably scratching their heads, and probably cannot name the conference in which Morehead State plays.

It was a mild upset, and perhaps not even an upset at all. Gonzaga, featuring David Stockton (son of NBA legend John Stockton) upended St. John’s in a Southeast Regional game last night. The Red Storm entered as the higher seed, but without do-everything starting guard D.J. Kennedy, clearly were lacking. Kennedy tore his ACL against Syracuse in the Big East tournament, and most pundits agreed it would be tough for St. John’s to advance in the tournament.
Again, we can make a local connection, more apt, a personal connection to Gonzaga. My significant other, Aidamarie Rull, attended Gonzaga Preparatory in high school at the same time as John Stockton, and was best friends with Stockton’s first cousin, Lori Holthaus. “He was (and still is) a legend at the school,” Rull said of Stockton. “There is a shrine dedicated to him in the (school’s) main hall.”
John Stockton retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in assists, and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/17/11

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Thanks, Mom, for contributing a little Irish DNA into the Genung gene pool. Gives me a good excuse (as any) to drink some green beer and down some corned beef & cabbage today.

• Speaking of Erin Go Bragh, the Norwich Irish had quite a good turnout for their annual flag-raising ceremony in downtown’s West Side Park at noontime. Frank’s photos are up on our Facebook page now, and there’ll be more in Friday’s Evening Sun.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make me happy, like a brand-new, 27-inch iMac sitting on my desk this morning. Not little at all, really – in fact, it’s ridiculously huge. If they make them any bigger, I’m gonna need a larger office.

• I must have gotten too caught up in the reverie yesterday (note sarcasm; don’t step in it), because I forgot to mention in my blog (actually I “forgot” to blog entirely) that March 16 was the 120th anniversary of the black, white & read all over Evening Sun. Happy Birthday to Chenango County’s Hometown Daily! You don’t look a day over 100 (which was when I first met you).

Shocking statistics

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Brian Golden

Following any major earthquake, it’s certainly not unusual to hear a number of news reports on the aftershocks which typically follow such an event, including the 9.0 temblor that’s caused (and continues to cause) so much destruction in Japan. Obviously, my heart goes out to those who’ve been lost and those who are still suffering from this catastrophe, as well as my thoughts and prayers.

With that said, I must admit my curiosity was peaked. How many of these aftershocks can the people of Japan expect, I wondered? And how would these aftershocks effect rescue efforts, not to mention the ongoing problems (and problems is putting it mildly) at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

What I found out, however, left me stunned.

The estimated 9.0 earthquake on March 11 (and subsequent tsunami) was followed by no less than 117 other quakes which measured between 5.0 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, according to information I located on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website, www.earthquake.usgs.gov. And that’s just March 11.

March 12 saw 73 earthquakes off or near the coast of Honshu, Japan, all of which measured between 5.0 and 6.4. March 13? 41 quakes in all, between 5.0 and 6.2. The next three days saw a combined 63 earthquakes, all between 5.0 and 6.2, that continued to shake the island nation and – just today (so far) – the area around Honshu suffered from a dozen more quakes between 5.0 and 6.3.

And that’s not counting the hundreds of smaller quakes measuring between 2.5 and 5.0 on the Richter scale that have also occurred.

As I said, I was stunned. And while I was well aware that most large earthquakes are followed by the occasional aftershock, these numbers are unbelievable. It’s enough to make one wonder if the shaking has ever stopped since that first, extremely powerful quake.

All in all, that’s over 300 earthquakes measuring over 5.0 on the Richter scale in less than a week. All located geographically in a relatively small area. Again, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of those currently struggling in Japan and, if there’s anyone up there listening, please give these people a break.

Let’s just hope this latest disaster isn’t a harbinger of worse to come.

Luck o’ the Irish

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not exactly resplendent in emerald green and shamrocks today. My concessions to the tradition of wearing green on this most Irish of days are a scarf with splotches of the color and a small shamrock pin which says, “Luck o’ the Irish.”

I’m proud of my Irish heritage, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t have a lot of kelly green in my closet these days.

And let me tell you, I’m regretting it. Because the day’s promised good fortune has definitely passed me by.

My string of bad luck started last week, when I accidentally filed a 2-year old story in place of the one I spent Friday morning slaving over.

Since then, there have been far too many other mis-steps and mistakes to count. Quite the laundry list, really. I’ll spare you the gory details.

Today takes the cake, though. Or, Irish soda bread, to be more culturally correct.

Like the industrious, proactive staff writer I aspire to be, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon writing my column for today. I filed it in our Editorial queue before I left for the day.

This morning, I decided to give it another go over. I did a little rearranging, tightened some things up and really felt like I was able to tie it all together. The process took me about a half hour or so, and cut into the time I’d allotted for the story I was working on for today – on yesterday’s Good Morning, Chenango! breakfast.

I was further delayed by an unfortunate incident involving my hand and the bathroom door. How I managed to slam my poor little fingers in the door is beyond me. After all, I’ve successfully accomplished closing the door without pinching any appendages numerous times every day for the last 2 1/2 years. Heck, I’ve been closing doors my whole life without incident. But not today. And on deadline, no less!

I would have uttered a few choice words but, of course, I gave that up for Lent. So I made do with a bit of whingeing and wailing, and shook the whole thing off. Or at least I was trying to, when I became distracted by the swelling and discoloration. And did I mention that it really hurt?

Although not as much then as it did about an hour later, when I accidentally bumped the swollen digit against something. (I have no idea what!) That had me seeing stars.

So between that, and the column-induced time delay, I failed to meet deadline with my lengthy story about the breakfast. Lengthy because it entailed almost mini-Progress pieces for each of the four companies featured at the event. Anything less wouldn’t have done them justice.

I was still lamenting my missed deadline a little after 10, as Jeff was updating our website. That’s when I made another realization. Remember all that time I spent editing my column? It was all for naught. Because I never saved it in the editorial queue, so the unedited version ran.

That discovery cost me $1.25 to the swear jar.

Looking on the bright side, who needs leprechauns and rainbows. By the time Easter rolls around, that jar will be the Lenten equivalent of a pot of gold.

In case you’re wondering, next year I’ll be all decked out in green to make sure I get my share of that good old Irish luck.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa

Because I can’t bear the thought of my carefully edited version of today’s column never seeing the light of day, I’ve included it here with its working title.

Wanted: a few good school board candidates

Sure, I gripe about the sheer number of school board meetings I attend in the course of my duties here at Chenango County’s Hometown Daily. (Which I fully maintain is over and above what any human should be forced to endure.) But while I may moan and complain about the drudgery of attending frequent meetings in multiple districts, I don’t disdain the boards themselves.

Despite their drama and occasional dysfunction, they plan an important role in our public education system. They are an integral part of our schools, providing both policy and fiscal oversight for the district. But they also do something even more profound, because with their leadership they chart a course, not only for the district’s current and future students and our communities, but really our society as a whole.

The job isn’t without its challenges. And it can be thankless at times. Since they are the ones making tough decisions, and very much in the public eye, board members often take heat from different stakeholders.

So, why do they do it? Because they’re dedicated to the community. They care about our schools, our students. They recognize the need for committed community members, willing and able to serve, and they answer the call.

Some years not enough people – or not the right people – answer that call. Within the last three years, at least two of our local schools had fewer candidates on the ballot than they had positions open. In other cases, people may have run for the board without a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the position, or the time commitment required.

That is a scary thought when our schools are facing so many challenges. They’re getting the double whammy, really, when it comes to the budget. On the revenue side, there are staggering losses in state and federal aid to contend with, not to mention a proposed property tax cap. And on the expense side – well, lets just say pension contributions, health insurance premiums, energy costs and contractual wage increases are exacerbating those fiscal woes.

At the same time, schools are being held to even higher academic standards by the State Education Department, will need to comply with Race to the Top and dealing with myriad other issues.

Yes, these are trying times indeed. Jobs, programs, services, the tax burden born by district residents and, ultimately, students, hang in the balance. That makes it more important than ever to have qualified candidates to fill school board vacancies at each of Chenango’s nine school districts.

And let me tell you, there are a lot of seats open – 21 in all countywide.

New York State’s requirements for serving on a school board are pretty straight forward. A candidate must be over 18, able to read and write, qualified to vote and live in the district which they wish to represent. (Specific residency requirements vary from 30 days to 1 year depending on the district.) In general, they cannot be employed by the board on which they wish to serve; reside in the same household with a family member who is also a member of the same school board; nor can they simultaneously hold another incompatible public office. To be on the ballot, each prospective candidate must also collect signatures during a specified period in April. (25, with the exception of Norwich which requires 100.)

Just meeting those requirements doesn’t guarantee a person is qualified for the position, however. According to the New York State School Board Association, the best and most effective school board members are those who communicate effectively, build consensus, participate in the community, aren’t afraid to make decisions, can process information, are able to work as part of a team and exhibit leadership skills.

They should also be comfortable wearing a cape, in my opinion. Because someone with all of those skills and qualities, willing to step forward and run for school board is a hero in my book.

I’ve been told by both current and former school board members that there is one moment which makes all the time and effort of their board service worthwhile. It’s the moment when they watch a graduating senior walk across the stage to receive their diploma, and know they had a part in the process.

So, as Harry Callahan likes to say, you have to ask yourself one question: Are you up for the challenges of such an important role? If you care about our community, our schools and our students and feel you are up for the task, I hope you will consider it. Because Chenango County’s schools – and students – need you.

If you are contemplating a run for your district’s school board, I would encourage you to attend one of two forums being held this weekend.

The sessions, called “School Board Service: What community members & leaders should know,” are a program of the Chenango Foundation. They will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Greene High School auditorium; and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday at the DCMO BOCES Chenango Campus Dining Room.

The sessions are designed as a prep course of sorts for potential school board members, and will feature a panel discussion. The panel will consist of Linda Bakst from the New York State School Boards Association; William Tammaro, Superintendent, DCMO BOCES; and (fingers crossed) former Norwich City school board member and Leadership Chenango facilitator Judie Wright.

Each panelist has extensive knowledge of public education in New York State and experience working on or with school boards. During the two hour session they will discuss the roles and responsibilities of school boards, the time commitment involved, basic information on budgets and the planning process and many other topics relevant to school board service. There will also be time for questions, and packets of information from NYSSBA for participants to take home. Not to mention refreshments. What’s a forum without refreshments, right?

This is the first time the Chenango Foundation has offered the program, which is free and open to the public. If you’re considering a run for school board, it’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss. For more information, or to register, contact Jennifer Tavares at 334-5532 or via email at jtavares@chenangony.org.

Remember: Chenango County schools need you.

On chaos, competition and the ES subscription drive

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

It’s only Wednesday morning and I’m already longing for this week to be over. While at the same time wishing I could hit the pause button and prolong the next day or so indefinitely.

I know, it doesn’t make much sense does it? But I’ve had a pretty crazy week so far. By noon on Monday, I already felt like I was playing catch up. So I’m fighting twin urges. On one hand, I just want it all over. If only I had (I Dream of) Jeanie’s ability to blink it all away. Or, alternately, to have time stand still long enough for me to actually catch my breath.

My typical work week is speckled with meetings – some during the day, others in the evening. They tend to slot in around my morning deadline and the rest of my day – which I spend tapping away at my keyboard, doing phone interviews and scheduling more of the same. It’s kind of organized chaos, and I love it. There’s a definitely balance to having a couple of articles ready to write, with others waiting in the wings so you never have to scramble for something to write on deadline. (Which for me is definitely the worst case scenario. I don’t need that added pressure before my second cup of coffee.)

This week is another matter all together. I’ve been swamped with meetings and events all week. Monday it was the Board of Supervisors meeting during the day and a lengthy Norwich school board meeting at night. Yesterday, the National Ag Day luncheon at the Silo and another school board meeting, this time at Oxford. And bright and early this morning, Commerce Chenango’s quarterly Good Morning, Chenango breakfast.

I’m not begrudging any of these meetings. There were great discussions, great presenters and I know the topics discussed will make great stories. And that’s stories in the plural, since I know I’ll be penning a good 2 or 3 at minimum from each.

Which is really the crux of my problem since, running around and in between all of these events, I’ve had little time to sit down and do any actual writing.

It’s a good problem to have, I suppose. It means there is a lot going on in our little corner of the world. All right, so it would be nice if it was a little more spread out, but we’ve got to take it where we can get it.

After all, it’s kind of job security. Not just for me, but for our whole business. Because as long as there are local events, businesses, etc. making news, we’ll be here to report it. I’m proud to be a cog in that wheel, particularly today, which is The Evening Sun’s 120th anniversary. That’s right, 120 years of being Chenango County’s hometown daily newspaper.

And, proudly, still going strong.

Hopefully even stronger by the end of our subscription drive. It’s not too late to take advantage of our special “120” deal. New print subscribers get 4 weeks free with a paid 13 week subscription. (That’s 17 weeks for $46.15 for those living in the City of Norwich; $47.45 for motor routes.)

There is a deal for online subscribers as well: six months for $50 or one year for $99.

To make it a bit more interesting, Jeff’s turned the subscription drive into a bit of a contest for our editorial staff. We reporters get credit for each person we sign up (or who signs up as a result of our efforts.)

It’s no secret that I’ve got a competitive streak (a mile or so wide…), so I’m going to sweeten the deal: I’ll donate $5 to Relay for Life for each person who mentions me when they purchase their new subscription. Not only will you get home delivery and/or online access to our county’s best local news source, but you’ll also be helping out a great cause. (Don’t forget you have to mention me when signing up!)

The offers “sunset” (and our little competition ends) on March 31, so call our Circulation Department at 334-9086 to get started. Or, you can email me at mstagnaro@evesun.com and I’ll help make that connection for you.

Happy 120th Anniversary to the Evening Sun!

Here’s to 120 more!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 3/15/11

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Beware the Ides of March, indeed. Where’s a Soothsayer when you need one, anyway?

• Did you vote yet? Polls are open until 9 p.m.! That is, if you live in the villages of Earlville, Greene, New Berlin or Sherburne – they’re the only ones having elections today. Greene and Sherburne? Not terribly interesting. Earlville, however, has two candidates vying for the spot vacated by disgraced Mayor Toni Campbell last year – her successor, former Trustee Mark Doeberl, and newcomer Vito Bolognone. New Berlin’s the real nail-biter though – no one’s officially on the ballot, so it will all come down to write-ins for mayor. Current Mayor Wade Schrag mounted a write-in campaign along with Trustee Terry Potter (who is on the ballot for his trustee spot, adding to the confusion). Schrag bailed last week, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still win tonight. Never know how a write-in vote will end up. Hopefully we won’t wake up to find that Bugs Bunny is the mayor of New Berlin.

• This Saturday is the 7th annual St. Baldrick’s in Norwich – this year it’s at Park Place. That’s the one where people gather pledges and shave their heads in an event designed to raise money for – and awareness of – children’s cancer research. It’s grown from one of those “What the heck is that?” things to a much-anticipated annual event. Good times, good cause. And some scary looking heads, I might add.

• My fave ‘30 Seconds’ call of the day:

“Why no word on the 46 year old Norwich man arrested for having child porn?”

Man from Norwich

Well, Man, there was a story (and photo) on Page 3 of today’s print edition. It was also on our website under “Top Stories.” Do I really have to start posting the news on ‘30 Seconds’ to get you to pay attention? Because I won’t.