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SARATOGA SPRINGS – There have been new developments in the ongoing strain between the Saratoga Springs High School administration and local parents since the May 23rd edition of Saratoga TODAY, in which we covered the story of a local group of conservative women, the “Saratoga Conservative Chicks,” who took matters into their own hands when confronted with what they saw as severe bias in the Saratoga school system.

When a teacher gave an assignment comparing President Trump to both Hitler and Mussolini, matters rose quickly to the national spotlight. This led to two of the women, Marnie Messet and Julie Tellstone, appearing on “Fox and Friends.”

Subsequently, the Saratoga Springs City School District released an official statement, giving an account of the assignment, and an explanation, claiming that it did not violate any school policies. This provided no resolution to the parents involved, as the statement’s description of the homework assignment seemed to be at odds with the assignment itself.

As a result, the women involved met with school officials to discuss these and other matters. The first was their disappointment with the inaccuracy of the school's public statement regarding the assignment in question when compared to the assignment itself. The second was the unprofessional behavior of the teacher who gave the assignment, and allegedly used the classroom as a platform to refer to the parents who appeared on Fox News as “fascists,” even with the 10th grade child of one of those women present. Finally, while the school had released an official statement, the parents had never been responded to personally by the school, despite their attempts to reach out to the district about the high profile nature of the issue.

The aforementioned meeting was concluded with the school official’s assurances that the controversial assignment would not be included in next year’s curriculum, and that the instructor guidelines would be updated to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. When reached out to, a representative of the Saratoga school system confirmed that the assignment would see no future use. The representative also stated that the district's curriculum council had developed a guidance document for teaching controversial topics. However, nothing was mentioned of the teacher who had given the assignment and made accusations against the parents.

Published in Education

SCHUYLERVILLE – One local student will soon be off to D.C. for the opportunity of her high school career.

Freya Birkas-Dent, a junior at Schuylerville High School, will begin a three-week position in the competitive and prestigious United States Senate Page program on June 11, which will run until June 30. Birkas-Dent will be sponsored by N.Y. Senator Chuck Schumer, and was one of only 30 students from across the country selected for the program.

Her responsibilities during these three weeks will include administrative tasks, such as filing paperwork and delivering documents and mail between offices. The program will also involve time in the Senate Chamber, during which pages will be responsible for arranging papers at each seat and holding doors, according to Birkas-Dent. She will also be attending page school, to “l earn about parliamentary procedure and the legislative process,” according to the Schuylerville schools website.

Birkas-Dent first became aware of the Senate page position while reading a book written by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, in which he references pages as the people who perform various administrative tasks for the Senate. This interested her, and she began researching the position by visiting the websites of some of her Senators.

She first got in touch with the offices of N.Y. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, inquiring about page positions for the spring or fall, as she initially wanted to apply for one that would happen during the school year. Finding that neither Senator had available positions for those sessions, she applied to a number of Senators from different states, including Susan Collins of Maine and Claire McCaskill of Mo. This too failed to yield fruitful results, as she said that Senators prefer to sponsor pages from their own constituencies. Finally, Senator Schumer came through with a page position for the summer, which she accepted.

“I’m really interested in going into international relations or into government,” Birkas-Dent said about what inspired her to pursue a position like this. “We learn about this kind of stuff in the classroom, but you really don’t have a tangible experience with it. It’s kind of shrouded in secrecy what actually goes on there, so I don’t feel like I have a good understanding of exactly how it runs on a day-to-day basis.”

Birkas-Dent believes this position will give her the sort of understanding of the legislative process necessary for her to decide if it is a career path that she would like to follow. Some of the careers she has considered for herself include elected official, diplomat, or possibly working with a non-profit doing international relations work. Whatever career she ends up pursuing, she knows that she would like to go into the Peace Corps after college.

“I think the U.N. [United Nations] would be really interesting to be in,” Birkas-Dent said. “But I think it’s hard to get into as an American. So I’ve kind of branched out.”

Back at home, Birkas-Dent is involved with a number of groups and programs focused on environmental preservation. She is the president of the high school’s Environmental Club, and works with the Hudson River Community Advisory Group, which works on various things including dredging and floodplain sampling. She is also the captain of her school’s Climate Leadership Team, and with that group recently attended the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. While environmental issues are important to her, she said that were she to get involved with politics in the future, they would likely be a side issue for her and not a core part of her hypothetical platform, given the divisive conversation surrounding such issues.

“I’m very excited,” Birkas-Dent said about beginning her new position. “I’m excited to meet people from all over the country. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking cause we don’t know yet what we’ll be doing exactly, but I think it’ll be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Published in Education
Thursday, 01 June 2017 13:29

R U Tuff eNuff? These BOCES Students Are

SARATOGA SPRINGS – This Saturday, June 3, will bring the sixth annual TUFF eNUFF obstacle course challenge to Saratoga Springs, providing local families and fitness enthusiasts with a day of high-energy, muddy fun on the reconstituted fields near the F. Donald Myers Education Center.  Prior to the big day, the course itself has to be planned and constructed, and for the last six years these tasks have fallen into the hands of local BOCES students who learn their crafts at the Henning Road campus.

Each September, The Prevention Council gets in touch with Greg Hammond and Ken Brooks, instructors at the Henning Road BOCES in the Heavy Equipment Program, to work out a date for the following year’s TUFF eNUFF challenge.  From there, according to Hammond, the instructors and their students will begin the process of putting together the course about three weeks in advance, beginning first with the planning stages.  The actual construction portion of the build takes up the last week or so before the event takes place.  Every BOCES student in the Heavy Equipment program works on the project, which Hammond estimates to be around 80 students in a given year.

According to some of the students who have worked on this year’s course, the equipment used to prepare the TUFF eNUFF course are the typical vehicles that one would expect on a construction site: excavators, backhoes, bulldozers, wheel loaders, and more.

“A little bit of everything,” Hammond said.

This equipment is used to create the primary facets of the TUFF eNUFF course, including trenches to be filled with muddy water, and giant mounds of dirt to be scaled by runners.  After these elements are in place, Hammond says that a number of other elements are brought in to spice things up, including logs, tires, ropes, and a number of other things to make the course more challenging.

Aaron Lohaus, a student in the Heavy Equipment program, also noted the importance of safety in designing and constructing the course.  He said that different considerations have to be made for the children’s course versus the normal course, including the depth of the trenches, to avoid potential drowning hazards for the smaller competitors.  Furthermore, safety checks for the whole project are needed to ensure that nothing is left in place that might be too sharp or that might trip up participants in a bad way.

All the tasks that go into creating these courses tie back into the lessons the students learn in the Heavy Equipment program.  Unsurprisingly, proper operation techniques are an important part of the program, but the students also learn how perform maintenance on the various vehicles and pieces of equipment they work with.  Additionally, as Lohaus highlighted, safety is a major part of what they learn about, especially when it comes to being aware of their fellow workers on the project site.

In recent years, the Prevention Council has also brought in students from other BOCES programs to improve the overall TUFF eNUFF experience.  This includes students from the culinary program, who help put together a barbeque for the event, as well as student from the criminal justice program, who help to police the course and direct the flow of participants on the course.

The Sixth Annual TUFF eNUFF challenge will take place at the Henning Road BOCES on June 3.  The Kids 1 Mile Run will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Teens/Adults 5K at 9:15 a.m.  Anyone interested can register at www.finishright.com, and more information can be found by calling 518-581-1230. 

Published in Education

SARATOGA SPRINGS – History came alive recently for students at Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS).

In the intimate setting of the SSHS teaching auditorium, a little over three classes worth of local students gathered for an assembly on May 24 where seven members of the Adirondack Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association came to share stories from their times serving their country. In attendance to share their stories were Bruce Blackie, Roger Calkins, Eugene Slavin, Paul O’Keefe, Edward Bushey, William Reid, and Robert Garland. After each speaker rose to give the audience a salute, Blackie spoke first, introducing the group’s intention to shed a light on what many have termed the “Forgotten War.”

“What we wanna do is put a personal face on what you read in the history books,” Blackie said. He continued, noting the historically significant facets of the Korean War: it was the first war in American history with no formal congressional declaration to mark the country’s entrance into it, and it ended not with a victory on either side, but with a ceasefire that holds to this day.

Calkins spoke next, first noting how each speaker had lived through WWII, which ended just five years before the start of the Korean War, and how at the time the feeling of peace was such that few thought that it would ever end, let alone so soon after. He then took students through the shape of the lands controlled by the North and the South over the course of three years, starting with the divisions of the country made by the United States and the Soviet Union after WWII, see-sawing back and forth from Northern to Southern control, before finally ending with the current dividing line at the 38th Parallel, currently known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“It all happened very fast,” Calkins said.

O’Keefe spoke next, bringing a much more personal angle to his talk, telling the story of how he came to be involved in the war, and how things went for himself and his friends afterwards. O’Keefe graduated from Mechanicville High School only four days before the war began. Alongside himself, a good friend of his from school, Raymond Waldron, was also drafted, and he told the audience to remember that name, as he would be coming back to it. Before basic training, O’Keefe had never held any sort of weapon before.

“Not even a BB gun,” O’Keefe said.

Speaking of his time on the battlefield, he noted how the life of a soldier felt like being an animal.

“Your home is now a hole in the ground,” he said, telling the students about foxholes.

Coming back to his friend Waldron, O’Keefe told the story of how surprised he was to see a friend from home in the army with himself. Later on, he told students about how Waldron went on to attend Ithaca College, and eventually became a coach and respected athletic director at SSHS, despite at one time being among their bitter rivals on the sports team in Mechanicville. Waldron’s esteem within the community was so great that a street was named after him, Coach Waldron Way, just off of Washington Street in Saratoga Springs.

O’Keefe concluded his portion by highlighting the some of the graduating Blue Streaks who would be going on to attend military academies in the fall, including student athletes Hunter Choy and Will Navin, who were in attendance.

After each speaker had told their stories, they opened up the floor for student questions. Choy and Navin each came with the kinds of specific questions befitting soon-to-be members of the Armed Forces. Choy asked about the tactics employed by the forces they interacted with in Korea, to which many of the men recalled the overwhelming numbers mobilized by the Chinese, who fought on the side of North Korea alongside the Soviet Union. Navin wanted to know about the public’s perceptions of the war at the time, which according to the men was something like ignorance, as many people seemed unaware of the war. Upon returning home from combat, a few speakers recalled how many people at home were not aware that they had been gone for so long on account of the war.

Along with sharing stories from their times in the service, the speakers also stressed how important it is to honor those servicemen and women who were not lucky enough to come back, an appropriate message so close to Memorial Day.

“It is a day to remember those who never got to take their uniforms off,” O’Keefe said about the upcoming day of remembrance.

All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com

Published in Education
Friday, 19 May 2017 10:16

School Budgets Pass Across the Board

SARATOGA COUNTY – Voters across New York State took to the polls at their local schools to vote on proposed budgets, board of education elections, and the odd proposition. Across the board in Saratoga County, budgets were passed and propositions were approved. Here are some of things that area voters decided to approve:

Saratoga Springs City School District:
-$122,712,342 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Purchase of six 66-passenger school buses, four 30-passenger buses, one 23-passenger wheelchair bus and one SUV: Passed
-Establishment of Capital Reserves Fund to ““finance future construction, general improvements, reconstruction and renovations”: Passed

Ballston Spa Central School District:
-$90,340,742 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Purchase of buses and vehicles, $907,000: Passed
-Public library funding, $55,650: Passed
-Creation of Ballston Area Recreation Commission, $30,000: Passed

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District:
-$64,492,019 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Creation of student-held school board position: Authorized

Schuylerville Central School District:
-$34,849,537 2017-18 budget: Passed
-Bus leasing proposition: Passed
-Schuylerville Public Library funding: Passed

South Glens Falls Central School District:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         -$57,842,074 2017-18 budget: Passed -Purchase of five buses, one with wheelchair option, and one vehicle: Passed

Galway Central School District:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -$21,058,918 2017-18 budget: Passed                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Proposition to purchase four school buses: Passed

Mechanicville City School District:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -$25,480,499 2017-18 budget: Passed                                                                                                                                                                                                              -Proposition to purchase school bus: Passed                                                                                                                                                                                               -Sale of 0.44 acres of land on Elizabeth St. to Saratoga County for $1,000 for expansion of the Zim Smith trail: Approved 

 

Published in Education

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Officially known as MB 360, the Saratoga-Skidmore Consulting Partnership (SSCP) offers invaluable benefits to both Skidmore College students and local businesses. Headed by Colleen Burke, SSCP gives students from a variety of degree paths hands-on experience working as consultants for local businesses.

For the businesses themselves, they gain insights from a diverse and often international pool of young minds. Students in the program come from degree paths as varied as business management, English, psychology, and more, as well from countries all over the world, like Japan, Swaziland, Haiti, Germany, and Brazil.

As a manager in the program, Maya Reyes has been with SSCP for two semesters. During her time, she worked with Saratoga TODAY to help the publication stream-line its visual identity, as before, the design would vary significantly from page to page. Reyes and her team helped the paper develop its “blue box” strategy, making it cohesive across the whole publication.

“We undertake a lot of market research, including extensive focus groups and group surveys, so we learn how to do those things at a professional level,” Reyes said about the academic benefits of the program.

Robert Pierce is another student who has been with the program for the last two semesters. Among the projects he has been a part of, perhaps the biggest was with Death Wish Coffee. After the local extra-strength coffee company landed a commercial during Super Bowl L in 2016, the company’s national profile grew exponentially. Pierce and his group helped the company scale its practices to help meet higher demand while staying as efficient as before.

Pierce also worked with Battenkill Valley Creamery – run by Skidmore alum Seth McEachron – to help the company develop new growth strategies that focused on telling the company’s history.

“This course has been everything for me,” Pierce said. “It’s all I talk about in job interviews, it’s all employers ask about, and... I can talk about this course for hours on end. Professor Colleen Burke has been the most supportive figure in my life, in regards to job hunting, motivating me, and helping me find my true skills.”

Published in Education

SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a talk full of warmth, humanity, and disarming humor, Holocaust survivor Hedi McKinley spoke to an audience of Saratoga Springs High School students about the horrors she escaped and about the things she hoped people would take away from her story.

The school’s Loewenburg Auditorium was packed for the assembly on May 16. According to Ron Schorpp, a teacher who helped bring McKinley to the school, eight classes had confirmed that they would be coming beforehand, with an estimated 12 showing up in total. In addition, students had permission to leave their classes to attend if they wished.

McKinley was 18-years-old in Austria when she remembers the Nazis arriving in her hometown, noting that November 1938 had been the coldest month for the country in 20 years. Around 10 p.m. one night, she answered the door to find two boys, about 16, ordering them to get out. While they were told not to bring any of their possessions, McKinley managed to hide the house keys in her bra, which she credits with saving her life. With the help of her then-boyfriend Max – being half Jewish and half Catholic, he was permitted to wear a Nazi armband and stay safe on the streets – she fled to England, where she had been able to secure a travel visa by writing letters to names in a phone book asking for a job as a scullery maid. While she made it safely out of the country, she would lose at least 12 family members to the Holocaust.

In one of her moments of unexpected humor, McKinley noted how she had a rough time making it as a maid at first.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “I couldn’t even boil and egg.”

Later, thanks to an American uncle, McKinley was able to come to America, albeit without Max, who deemed the country “fascist.”

After finishing her story, McKinley took questions from the audience, most of which were about her life since making it to America as a refugee. She talked about returning to Austria and her hometown, a painful trip which she nonetheless makes frequently. Since she now receives sums of money from the Austrian government as recompense, she prefers to give the money back to the people of Austria. On these return trips, she spends the money on “whipped cream and chocolate cake,” as well as Austrian white wine, which she recommended heartily. She also told her story of visiting Max years after leaving him to go to America, humorously noting that he married a woman who “looked just like” her. Ultimately, she was glad not to have married him. One of the biggest eruptions of laughter from the assembly came when she recounted first seeing Adolf Hitler in a procession through her hometown.

“He was not a very good looking man,” she said.

Photo header by Thomas Kika.

Published in Education

SARATOGA COUNTY – On May 16, residents across New York State will be able to vote on the proposed budget for their local school districts. In the interest of helping potential voters in the Saratoga County area make an informed decision, we have gathered together information about what will be on the ballots for a number of major local school districts.

Saratoga Springs City School District residents will be voting on four major things: the 2017-18 budget, the Board of Education election, and two propositions. This year’s proposed budget amounts to $122,712,342, which calls for a 3.64-percent spending increase over last year. According to the district’s website, this proposed budget was designed to “preserve the outstanding quality of education for students within the district.” On the Board of Education election ballot are three candidates running for three-year terms: Anjeanette Emeka, who works in academic affairs at SUNY Empire State College, Jennifer Leidig, President and CEO of Ambiance Commerical Systems and Vice President of Ambiance, and Dr. Stephan Verral, a Board Certified Dermatologist in private practice at Gateway Dermatology in Glens Falls and Malta.

Proposition Two will authorize the district to spend $1,075,000 on six 66-passenger school buses, four 30-passenger buses, one 23-passenger wheelchair bus and one SUV. Proposition Three will authorize the creation of a “Capital Reserve Fund” to, according to the district website, “finance future construction, general improvements, reconstruction and renovations.” The fund would pull from existing funds and would not result in a tax increase.

Ballston Spa Central School District residents will be voting on a proposed 2017-18 budget, to fill three Board of Education seats, and on additional propositions. This year’s proposed budget is $90,340,742, and represents a 2.1-percent spending increase, which would result in a 0.6-percent tax increase across the district. On the Board of Education ballot, voters will chose between candidates Michael O’Donnell, Katie Thimineur, Lillian McCarthy, and Jeanne Obermayer to fill three seats. Propositions on the ballot this year include a “School Vehicle Replacement Proposition” that allows the district to spend up to $907,000 to purchase and replace buses and vehicles, permission to collect $55,650 for public library funding, and $30,000 for the Ballston Area Recreation Commission.

Schuylerville Central School District residents will vote on a proposed 2017-18 budget, to fill two Board of Education seats, and on a few propositions. This year’s proposed budget is $34,849,537, representing a spending increase of 2.1-percent. The district’s website claims that this budget will allow for the continuation of programs and services for students, and for the continued “investment in literacy and technology with the continuation of a literacy coach and technology integration specialist.” On the Board of Education ballot, voters will choose from Stanley Barber, Michael Bodnar, and Veronica Wood to fill two seats. Additional propositions will include a proposition for bus leasing and another for the Schuylerville Public Library budget.

Finally, voters in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District will vote on a 2017-18 budget, on three Board of Education candidates, and on an additional proposition. This year’s proposed budget is $64,492,019, which will represent a 2.48-percent spending increase. The Board of Education ballot will include candidates Peter Sawyer, John Blowers, and Don Marshall. Proposition Two would authorize the district to create a new Board of Education position to be held by a student from the high school.

The state-wide school budget vote will take place on May 16, from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Visit your district’s website to find out where your polling place will be this year.

Published in Education
Thursday, 20 April 2017 13:30

Schuylerville Honor Society Induction

SCHUYLERVILLE – The Schuylerville branch of the National Honor Society inducted 45 new members in ceremony held on April 12.  Inductees were chosen based on several criteria, including scholarship, character, leadership, and community service.  Students and other attendees were also treated to words from guest speaker Khamel Abdulai, the director of training and talent management at Excelsior College and adjunct professor at the College of Saint Rose.  

The inductees are as follows:

  • Hailey Abruscato
  • Cameron Alber
  • Brandon Aschauer
  • Grace Beaulac
  • Freya Birkas-Dent
  • Kassandra Brennan
  • Alison Burnham
  • Amanda Carlstrom
  • Emily Carlstrom
  • Lillian Claus
  • Cassaundra Darrah
  • Thomas Donovan
  • Ryan Durie
  • Samantha Ellis
  • Hannah Eustis
  • Elizabeth Fordyce
  • Zachary Galcik
  • Aidan Garry
  • Sidney Gregorek
  • Morgan Gunter
  • Mikhail Hailu
  • Grace Hanehan
  • Nathan Hefner
  • Jack Hemingway
  • Jessica Hinners
  • Devynn Hough
  • Caitlin Kelleher
  • Johnathan King
  • Kadon Lane
  • Jessica Melita
  • Amy Moreau
  • Teghan Murray
  • Cassie Patrick
  • Matthew Peck
  • Lyndsey Prince
  • Christine Putman
  • Casey Renner
  • Trent Thomas
  • Tristan Turner
  • Emily Vallee
  • Dominic Vito
  • Alice Voell-White
  • Emily Warmt
  • Katelyn Weed
  • Derek Willson
Published in Education
Thursday, 13 April 2017 14:08

Saratoga Independent School Celebrates 25 Years

SARATOGA SPRINGS – What began with six kindergarteners in the basement of the Trinity Methodist Church in Gansevoort has now, 25 years and change later, grown to include 132 K-6 students in its own building, tucked away amongst the trees on 60-acres of land.

The Saratoga Independent School (SIS) has been celebrating 25 years of operation since the beginning of the current school year back in Sept. 2016.  From humble beginnings, the school has grown in both scope and vision, with its enrollment numbers swelling by well over 100, and the amount of classes and programs on offer growing at the same pace.  Looking to the immediate future, the growth seems likely to continue.

Back in Sept. 1991, the parents of six local preschool students on their way to kindergarten found that there were not any schools in the area that would offer their children the same style of education that they had gotten in preschool.  Specifically, they wanted a school that would not group them with other children strictly by date of birth, and that would teach them thematically, weaving different subjects around a common idea to give them a better sense of how their lessons reflected the world around them.

“So, these five parents did everything from getting the charter from State Ed,” Felice Karlitz, Director of School, said.  “Finding a place, and [they] started the school in the basement of the Methodist church in Gansevoort with their own five kids.”

From the start, the growth of enrollment at SIS was strong.  In three years, the school had outgrown the basement and moved to the warehouse area behind a Shoe Depot on Division St. in Saratoga Springs.  In 2003, after “exponential” enrollment and staffing increases, the school raised $850,000 in land, gifts, and pledges to begin the construction of their current location, the Anderson Campus, named in honor of Gail Anderson and her late husband, Willard. 

[CORRECTION: In the print version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Gail Anderson was deceased.  This is incorrect, and the online version has been corrected to reflect this information.]

In 2010, the school added an east wing, adding space for new computer and science labs, as well as a dedicated art room. A year later, in 2011, SIS achieved one its biggest milestones by earning accreditation from the New York State Association of Independent Schools, which involved “a two year introspective self study, a four day visit by a review committee, and a full NYSAIS review of the findings by the committee and the school.”

Currently, construction is underway on the second floor of the school’s east wing, which the school intends to use to add grade 7-8 middle school level programs to their offerings.  They estimate that this new middle school will be up and running in 2019.

All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.

 

Published in Education
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