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Sarah Hall

Stories by Sarah

OCC child care faces cuts

Community college students may soon have a harder time finding child care while they go to school. In his 2014-15 executive budget proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting $653,000 from the state’s operating grant to the State University of New York’s child care centers. The cut would come in addition to a reduction in the federal Child Care Block Grant, which subsidizes care for children of needy student-parents. While the New York State Senate restored Cuomo’s cut in their budget proposal, advocates say the cuts faced by SUNY centers in the last several years are still devastating and need to be restored. And it’s community colleges that will likely see the most damaging consequences.

Liverpool voters approve Phase II construction referendum

Voters approved a Liverpool Central School District capital project referendum held March 20 by a margin of 959 to 641. The $39.7 million construction project represents Phase II of the Phase I to V Long Range Facilities Plan laid out for the 2010-20 decade. The project will take on several repairs throughout the district.

NSCSD settles suit over GRMS construction

The North Syracuse Central School District has reached a settlement with the company that improperly installed the walls at Gillette Road Middle School when the school was renovated in 2005.

Get rid of the GEA now

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York is looking at a $2 million budget surplus. Cuomo has talked a lot about the surplus and his plans for it. Unfortunately for him, it’s not his money to spend.

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NSCSD launches letter campaign to eliminate the GEA

In an effort to get rid of a state policy many school districts say is unfair to schools and taxpayers, the North Syracuse Central School District is asking residents to send letters to their legislators demanding the repeal of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

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Hallowrun organizer honored

Elizabeth Westfall has accomplished a lot — especially for a 15-year-old. Now, Westfall has received recognition for those efforts. She received a Certificate of Excellence from the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, as well as a President’s Volunteer Service Award granted by the program on behalf of President Barack Obama.

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Another truck hits Route 370 bridge

It’s become a familiar sight to those who regularly travel Onondaga Lake Parkway: a tractor-trailer wedged under the 10’9” CSX railroad bridge over Route 370 between Route 81 and the village of Liverpool. On Tuesday, March 4, a 13’9” truck driven by An B. Zhang, 40, of San Jose, struck the underside of the bridge, despite numerous signs alerting drivers to the low clearance, as well as a one-of-a-kind detection system installed in 2011 that sent out alarms alerting him to turn around. Zhang, who speaks Mandarin, said he didn’t understand the signs due to the language barrier. This isn’t the first accident since the system was installed. Another tractor-trailer hit the bridge in December of 2013. The driver, 33 year-old Waleed Sleit of Chicago, said he didn’t see the numerous signs regarding the bridge’s height.

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County DOT discusses Allen Road repaving project

About three dozen residents attended a public hearing on Onondaga County’s plans to repave Allen Road in North Syracuse on Thursday, March 6 at Allen Road Elementary. The county DOT hopes to complete the project, which involves repaving the entire 1.2-mile stretch of Allen Road from West Taft Road to Bear Road, by the fall of 2016. Representatives from Onondaga County DOT along with project managers from Popli Design Group were on hand to discuss the project with area residents.

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As testing regulations increase, more and more parents choose to homeschool their children

As controversies over Common Core and mandated standardized tests become more and more prevalent, many parents are choosing a new option in educating their children: homeschooling. Once the sole province of the very religious, homeschooling is becoming more popular every day, with a growth rate of 7 to 15 percent per year. Nationwide, about 2 million children learn at home instead of in a brick-and-mortar school, up from about 1 million in 2003. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 88 percent of U.S. homeschool parents express concern about the school environment, citing drugs, negative peer pressure and general safety.

Parents plead for NSCSD to reinstate parochial school nurse position

Parents of children attending the two parochial schools in the North Syracuse Central School District descended on the board of education Monday night to implore them to reconsider a decision they say could have fatal consequences. On Feb. 24, at its regular meeting, the NSCSD BOE voted to cut the full-time registered nurse position at St. Rose of Lima School in North Syracuse as well as the full-time registered nurse position at St. Margaret's School in Mattydale. The board then voted to create one full-time position and one part-time position to be shared between the two schools. The reduction would leave each school without a nurse for about two hours a day. The decision came about a month after St. Rose’s full-time nurse resigned from her position. The district has been paying a substitute. They opted to cut the position instead of hiring a new full-time nurse for St. Rose, which has many parents worried about their children’s health and safety.

Voters defeat CFD construction referendum

Voters last week rejected a $5.6 million referendum that would have reconstruction Cicero Fire Department Station No. 1 on Route 11. A total of 264 people in the Cicero Fire District turned out to vote on the proposal, with 180 voting against and 84 voting in favor. The project would have made significant repairs to Station No. 1, addressing significant structural issues as well as asbestos on the second floor and numerous safety concerns for the volunteer firefighters in the department. The reconstruction would have renovated the community hall, repaved the parking lot, expanded the apparatus bays and moved them behind the station hall and parking lot so that fire apparatus wouldn’t have to pull out directly onto Route 11. The proposal would have cost taxpayers within the fire district, which covers about a one-mile radius from Station 1, about $75 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Liverpool proposes 2.31 tax increase in 2014-15

In a very preliminary presentation, Liverpool Central School District Mark Potter gave the board of education some expectation of what the 2014-15 budget will look like. According to Potter’s presentation, the total budget for next year is $138,641,389, up 2.11 percent from last year. With revenues down about $359,795 and the expected use of $2,500,000 in money from the district’s fund balance, Potter anticipates a tax increase of 2.3089 percent for next year. But Potter stressed that these numbers are not final. He’s left some gaps as the district waits to hear the final numbers from the state budget, due April 1, as well as some of its own health insurance costs, which remain unknown.

North Syracuse proposes 1.4 percent budget increase

Taxpayers in North Syracuse are looking at a 2.25 percent increase for the 2014-15 school year, according to the initial budget presented to the North Syracuse Central School District Board of Education Monday, Feb. 24. According to the presentation, given by Assistant Superintendent for Management Donald Keegan, the district is facing a 3.6 percent decrease in building aid from New York state. That coupled with increased costs in salaries, benefits, equipment and BOCES shared services agreements have resulted in the need to increase the tax levy by $1,763,319, while cutting programs by $1,716,879. The total budget proposed for 2014-15 is $145,479,106, a 1.4 percent budget-to-budget increase from last year.

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The Common Core kerfuffle continues

The New York State Board of Regents has approved a plan to delay the full implementation of the state’s Common Core graduation requirements until the Class of 2022 — current fourth-graders — instead of the Class of 2017 — current ninth-graders — as had been originally intended. The shift means that those students currently in fourth grade across the state will have to take and pass five Common Core-aligned exams in order to graduate. Students now in ninth grade will have to take five Common Core exams, but they won’t have to meet what the state calls "college- and career-ready standards" in order to graduate; they’ll just have to pass the tests at a level similar to getting a 65 on current Regents exams.

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LHS junior to release debut EP at Sharkey’s on Valentine’s Day

Since childhood, Joey Esce has aspired to a career as a professional entertainer. This weekend, he’s taking the first steps toward making that happen. The 17-year-old Liverpool High School junior will be holding a release party for his debut EP, “Songs from the Heart,” from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at Sharkey’s Sports Bar and Restaurant, 7240 Oswego Road in Liverpool. There he’ll perform songs from the CD, along with friend Justin Bertolero, who will provide bass accompaniment. Admission is free.

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Pet therapy program at St. Joe’s gets to ‘the heart of healing’

Research has proven that companion animals can relieve stress, anxiety and loneliness, particularly among people in need of additional emotional support, like those in a hospital setting. That’s why St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center has introduced a pet therapy program, bringing in Pet Partners of Syracuse to visit patients, family members and staff to help alleviate some of the stresses of hospital life.

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Team Believe raises money for area charities through running

Running a 10-mile race is a tremendous challenge. But if you’ve got the right motivation, those 10 miles can feel like nothing at all. That’s the idea behind Team Believe, a grassroots organization that brings together local runners to help the Central New York community. The group, which got its start in 2009, asks participants to help raise money for local children’s charities while training for the Dunn Tire Mountain Goat Run in Syracuse in May.

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Benefit to be held Feb. 9 for Liverpool mom of seven fighting breast cancer

When Stacy Haley was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she felt like her world was “shattered.” “I had just lost my grandmother to breast cancer on Thanksgiving day in 2012,” Haley said. “Being told I had cancer was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with or explain to my children. It was surreal. I kept feeling like it was a bad dream and I would wake up from it soon.”

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CNY SBA to hold forum on schools’ fiscal crisis Feb. 4, 5

School districts in Central New York and beyond are in trouble, and it’s time we do something about it. That’s the message behind a pair of forums to be held Feb. 4 and 5 in Auburn and North Syracuse by the Central New York School Boards Association (CNY SBA) in conjunction with the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison, Cayuga-Onondaga, Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga and Oswego County BOCES. The forums, which will take place at Auburn West Middle School and North Syracuse Junior High School, respectively, will focus on the major factors causing those financial issues and how school administrators, teachers and community members can make a difference.

LCSD moves kindergarten registration to March

The Liverpool Central School District is moving its district-wide kindergarten registration night from May to March 13.

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CNY SPCA raising money for new kennels

The Central New York SPCA is looking for the community’s help to raise the money to construct more than three dozen new kennels to improve the health and safety of their large dogs, accomplishing the second phase of a project they call Kennels for Canines.

OCM-BOCES to hold referendum on building purchase

On Thursday, Jan. 23, voters in 23 school districts across three counties will be asked to go to the polls to approve a building purchase that will have no impact on their wallets. Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES is looking to purchase the former Nationwide Insurance building, located at 110 Elwood Davis Road in the town of Salina. According to BOCES information officer Laurie Cook, the purchase would allow OCM-BOCES to relocate several programs now housed in leased space.

Cicero-North Syracuse forced to move graduation ceremony

Thanks to a mysterious booking change at the Onondaga County War Memorial, Cicero-North Syracuse High School has had to change the date and location of its 2014 graduation ceremony. The ceremony, originally scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 27, at the War Memorial, will now take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 28 at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College. The Onondaga County War Memorial notified the district that they were canceling all events during the weekend of June 27.

CFD asking for $5.6 million station renovation

The Cicero Fire Department held its fifth public information meeting Monday, Jan. 6, to advise taxpayers about its plans to renovate Station No. 1, located at the corner of Route 11 and Route 31 in Cicero. Though much of the information had been previously presented, this was the first time members of the Cicero fire district got the chance to hear how much the proposed reconstruction could cost. According to Cicero Fire Commissioner Jim Perrin, the department is looking at a total of $5.6 million to renovate the apparatus bays, rebuild the station and address the safety issues at the site. Perrin said that works out to about $74 a year for taxpayers within the fire district. A vote is expected some time in February.

NSCSD hosts information session on state curriculum

About 30 people attended a public listening session Thursday, Jan. 9, at Roxboro Road Middle School in Mattydale to learn more about Common Core. The informational session was one of several hosted throughout the year by the North Syracuse Central School District, though this one had a more specific focus than the others.

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Clay fifth-grader kicks off annual blanket drive for the Rescue Mission

Damon “DJ” Villnave is more concerned about the cold than your typical 10-year-old. DJ isn’t worried about himself, but the many men and women on the streets of Syracuse without a roof over their heads, stuck in the elements. That’s why he started his annual blanket drive, DJ’s Gift of Warmth, in 2010. The effort has collected more than 750 blankets for the Rescue Mission since its inception. This year’s drive kicked off Jan. 6 and continues until Jan. 31.

Services available for emergency personnel after traumatic incidents

They’re supposed to be made of tougher stuff than the rest of us. They’re the ones that rush headlong into burning buildings, face down masked villains, bring the dying back to life. But emergency responders, be they firefighters, police officers or emergency medical service personnel, aren’t immune to the stresses wrought by their jobs. When the trauma is too much for them to bear, who helps the helpers?

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2014: What’s to come in your hometown?

We all make New Year’s resolutions, even our elected leaders. But while most of us are trying to commit to more gym time or spending more time with family, our local municipal leaders are resolving to provide better services, more efficient government and more value for our tax dollars. Read on to find out what some of your newly-elected and reelected town and county leaders have to say about what they hope to accomplish in 2014.

2013: The year that was

What were the biggest stories of the last year in the north suburbs? Here are a few of our top picks:

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Cicero Fire Station No. 1 needs repairs

The Cicero Fire Department is asking for the public’s support as it prepares for a referendum to renovate Station No. 1 on Route 11. According to Cicero Fire Commissioner Jim Perrin, Station 1 is in need of significant repairs. Originally built in the 1950s with additional bays constructed in the 1980s, there are significant structural issues, along with asbestos on the second floor and numerous safety concerns.

Caregivers in crisis: New York ranks 48th in support for family caregivers

The lack of available help from senior care agencies is just one of the reasons New York state was ranked 48th in a 2011 national report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation out of 50 states with regard to support for its family caregivers. Caregivers also face extensive waiting lists for adult day care programs and rehab facilities, a lack of support for in the work environment, limited or no access to transportation and inadequate informational resources regarding care options for their loved ones. And with the Baby Boomer generation moving into their golden years, the problem is only going to get worse.

North Syracuse appoints Speach permanent superintendent

The North Syracuse Central School District has appointed Annette Speach as its permanent superintendent, cementing the role she has held in an interim capacity since Kim Dyce Faucette left the district last July. The NSCSD Board of Education voted at its Dec. 16 meeting to enter into a three-year contract with Speach, appointing her superintendent. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2013 and runs through June 30, 2016.

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North Syracuse third-, ninth-graders collaborate on art and literacy project

Students in Kara Cook’s ninth grade Studio Art classes at North Syracuse Junior High School have teamed up with Jill Welsh’s third-graders at Allen Road Elementary for a creative experience now on display at NOPL @ Cicero. The project, inspired by the work of contemporary artist Mica Angela Hendricks, combines the realistic artwork of the ninth-graders with the childlike creativity of the younger children.

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Going to bat for Team Bonnie: Fundraiser for mom of C-NS athlete is this Saturday

Bonnie Dunay knows exactly how many shutouts daughter Chelsea has as goalie for the Hobart and William Smith College soccer team (17 and counting). She didn’t miss a single one of her son Mitch’s Cicero-North Syracuse High School football games, even if she had to watch from the car because it was too cold. Bonnie Dunay is her kids’ number one fan. Now she needs the community to help cheer her on.

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Give local: Help a local charity this holiday season

’Tis the season of giving, and you needn’t look too far to find a worthy recipient for your time and financial donations. Central New York has a wealth of deserving organizations doing good, and they’re all in need of your support. To get you started, here’s an A-to-Z primer (minus X), complete with a description of each along with websites, contact information and basic needs. Remember, these are just a few of the many deserving nonprofits in Central New York, and the introductions offered barely scratch the surface of the services they offer. Check out the websites of these organizations for more information. Got your own favorites? Feel free to share at Facebook.com/eaglestarreview.

LHS is a Grammy Signature Schools semifinalist

Stephanie Suarez remembers the very moment she received the news. “It was a Saturday night at 9:28 p.m.,” the Liverpool High School choral teacher recalled. “My email thing on my phone went ‘bleep’ and it was the email from the Grammy Foundation saying we were a semifinalist. I was very happy about that.” The email was to notify Suarez that LHS was a semifinalist in the foundation’s Signature Schools competition, which recognizes public high schools across the U.S. making “an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year.” Created in 1998, the Signature Schools program draws from more than 20,000 schools nationwide. Those are culled down to 123 semifinalists, of which LHS is one. According to a release from the foundation, those semifinalists are then narrowed down to a smaller number of finalists, who will receive a custom award and a monetary grant ranging from $1,000 to $15,0000 to benefit its music program. The top programs are designated Gold recipients. The best of the Gold recipients is designated the National Grammy Signature School. The remaining schools are designated Grammy Signature Schools.

NSBC presents annual Christmas musical

Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you: a baby changes everything. And no more for an unwed teenage mother carrying the child of God. That’s the message behind the musical the North Syracuse Baptist Church (NSBC) is putting on this year as it annual Christmas pageant. “A Baby Changes Everything” is based on the popular Faith Hill song, which came out in late 2008.

Liverpool woman conducting drive for Humane Association, CNY SPCA

Helping others around the holidays doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. It can be as simple as cleaning out your linen closet or picking up some extra pet food. Joelle Litz of Liverpool is conducting a donation drive for the Humane Association of CNY and the CNY SPCA from now until Dec. 22. Both shelters are always in need of supplies (see the sidebar for their wish lists), and Litz said every little bit counts.

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Cicero youth get to ‘Shop with a Cop’

Ethan Bramoff went into the Target in Cicero the morning of Sunday, Dec. 1, with a $100 gift card, a list and a mission: to purchase Christmas gifts for everyone in his family. “Usually I go with my mom and dad,” said Ethan, 6, a first-grader in Mrs. McAvoy’s class at Cicero Elementary, “and I get everything with them.” But this year, Ethan had a different shopping buddy: Cicero Police Officer John Fortino.

Liverpool BOE approves redistricting

In a couple of years, about a quarter of Liverpool’s students will attend a different school than they do now. At its Dec. 2 meeting, the Liverpool Central School District Board of Education voted to go ahead with redistricting. However, it won’t happen as soon as originally planned. “The board talked at length about the implementation date of September of 2014,” BOE President Patricia DeBona-Rosier said. “That date is fast approaching. Because we want to make sure this is done thoroughly and done well and we want to have sufficient time to make everyone informed, the board has come to a consensus. That consensus is that we will hold off on implementing this until the fall of 2015.”

Northern towns pass 2014 budgets

With little fanfare, the towns of Cicero, Salina and Clay have passed their 2014 budgets. All include minimal tax increases, and none include cuts to programming or resident services. Read on for specifics for your town budget.

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Childhood friend launches fundraiser for family of woman killed in Liverpool crash

A childhood friend of the woman killed Sunday afternoon on Route 57 has launched a fundraiser to help her family pay their medical expenses and funeral costs.

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The common core conundrum: Are the new standards the best thing to happen in education, or are they setting the bar too high for teachers and students?

Laura Leitch kept her daughter home from Nate Perry Elementary School last Monday. Leitch’s daughter wasn’t sick, nor was there a family emergency. She wasn’t playing hooky. No, Leitch kept her daughter home in protest of New York state’s Common Core education standards. “I have to say, the school is great and her teachers are wonderful,” Leitch said. “The reason I kept her home on Monday was strictly in protest of Common Core.”

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LHS junior conducting toy drive for Rescue Mission

Amanda Hebblethwaite was literally woken from a sound sleep one night by a drive to help others. “I woke up in the middle of the night one night and thought about how awful it would be not to be able to have your parents be able to give you gifts for Christmas,” Hebblethwaite said. “The next morning I talked to my mom about it, and she suggested I start a donation drive for some place like the Rescue Mission.” Hebblethwaite ended doing just that. The Liverpool High School junior is conducting a toy drive for the Rescue Mission, collecting new and gently used toys for children in need.

Final redistricting report presented to LCSD BOE

At the Liverpool Central School District’s Board of Education meeting Monday, Nov. 18, the Redistricting Committee gave its final presentation to the board, offering recommendations on how to redraw the district’s lines for the first time in decades.

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Facebook campaign encourages random acts of kindness in memory of Liverpool dancer

In order to commemorate her life, Frieda Weeks has organized a social media campaign on the anniversary of her daughter Heather’s death. She created an event, “Random Acts of Kindness in Memory of Heather Weeks,” on Facebook that, as of Wednesday evening, had more than 1,200 people attending from as close as Liverpool and as far away as Nigeria.

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Becoming Drew: CNY family discusses coming to terms with son’s transgender journey

For 15 years, Terri and Vince Cook thought they had a daughter. But as they watched their child change from the vibrant, happy kid they’d always known to a withdrawn, depressed and ultimately suicidal teen, they knew something was very wrong. “We’d been through the hard teenage years with [our older son], and we’d seen this,” Terri Cook said. “This was different. This was someone who was just struggling and nobody could figure out why.” It took years of turmoil before the Cooks could determine the root of the problem: Drew Cook was transgender, which meant that although he was physically female, he identified mentally and emotionally as a male.

North Syracuse releases goals for the 2013-14 school year

Last year, the North Syracuse Central School District released a strategic plan outlining the district’s goals for the next three years. However, according to Superintendent Annette Speach, many people felt the plan wasn’t working for the district. “The comments that I’ve gotten, the general feeling was that it encompassed too much and we weren’t able to prioritize,” Speach said. “We wanted something we could focus on for this year, something we could give everyone in the community — teachers, students, parents — as a common focus, at least for this year.” At its Nov. 4 meeting, the NSCSD Board of Education approved a new list of goals for the 2013-14 school year.

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LHS to present ‘The Laramie Project’

Liverpool High School’s Casting Hall will stage "The Laramie Project" at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 14, and Friday, November 15, at 7 p.m. in the LHS Auditorium. General admission tickets cost $8 and will be available at the door. Some people may find the subject matter and some of the specific language of the play unsuitable for children under the age of 13.

Fleet Feet opens Clay store

When you’re named the top running store in America, it would seem there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s exactly where Fleet Feet Sports went — well, north, anyway. Fleet Feet, a locally owned and operated store “dedicated to creating an inclusive environment in which all types of people receive outstanding service in the fitting of running, walking and cross training shoes as well as accessories and apparel for the active lifestyle” (according to its website) opened a second location in Market Fair North Plaza at 4136 Route 31, Clay, across from Great Northern Mall Friday, Nov. 1. The expansion was a result of expanding business in the original location in DeWitt, as well as a growing customer base in the north suburbs.

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