Up on the News
Along At OCS
Many noted how Onteora’s string players placed number
six in the nation two years ago at a Lincoln Center competition.
Students who spoke also said that none of it could have happened
had they not been taught in their earlier years.
High School Student Brendan Dibbel explained that he began strings
in third grade.
“People who don’t start early don’t start
at all,” he said.
Before people had the opportunity to speak, Superintendent Leslie
Ford wanted to clear up the district’s intent.
“There has been no discussion about cutting a program,
or cutting a program like the whole strings program,”
she said, explaining that there is a process the district is
using in these difficult financial times, “in how we can
sustain things over time.”
She added that the administration is reviewing whole departments
and are currently looking at the needs of children in the music
department. She noted that orchestra teacher Winnie Paetow is
“Now that we have a retirement we can actually begin to
work on those things,” Ford said in a letter she posted
on the district’s website. “I can see through my
phone calls and emails alone that rumor and misinformation has
leaped ahead of fact, so I thought you might be interested.”
She went on, at the meeting, to explain the Consumer Price Index,
and how it is a template for the contingent budget and provided
a table showing that it is at a 20 year low, thus affecting
the school budget.
During public be heard, however, Paetow argued with the details
of Ford’s statement on cutting the strings program.
“In answer to a statement made by our superintendent yesterday-to
two of our department members,” Paetow said, “She
noted that she would be looking into the feasibility of cutting
back our strings program at the Elementary level.”
Additionally, Pateow noted that the budget for 2010 approved
by voters already had her salary included. Paetow said that
even if they did hire a new strings teacher for the elementary
schools, that the district would save approximately $50,000.
“Instead of cutting our school’s program infrastructure,
how about focusing on facilities efficiency… or calling
a moratorium on the hiring of additional central administration
staff” she added, listing the fact that the district has
two assistant superintendents and an increase in legal costs.
Parents also spoke in protest of the district’s plan to
combine two grade five classes at Phoenicia elementary into
one. The classroom size is projected to have 27 or more students.
Later, Ford spoke about classroom size.
“We’re always looking at how we are using our district
resources, and which are using our people and our programs in
the best way,” she said.
Some ideas Ford suggested were the possibility of opening up
a district variance in the affected grade to alleviate crowding
issues, or the use of an additional teaching assistant in the
Trustee Anne MacGillicuddy said that administrative regulations
indicated that 27 students in a classroom was very high. Trustee
Laurie Osmond mentioned that the night was late and everyone
had gone home.
“In interest of fairness and transparency, this board
can continue the class size discussion,” she said. “And
as Dr. Ford indicated, this is not a process that they are done
talking about either.”
Plaques of appreciation were given to district retirees and
school board president Maxanne Resnick, whose last meeting it
Reading from a statement Resnick said, “It has been an
interesting experience, a challenging one, with its accomplishments
and its frustrations.”
the classes, I began by explaining: “In order to participate
in this workshop, we each require a ‘secret name.’
And here’s how we’ll get one. Choose a book in this
room, then close your eyes, open it at random, and place your
finger down. Whatever word or phrase you land on becomes your
secret name. We’ll use these names for the course of our
The students were receptive — I was surprised that no
one cheated — and they came up with wonderful words. “Ukraine”
was one, and another was “Kill Zone.” Sometimes
a hapless boy would end up with “And.” (The first
one I chose was “Babysitter.”)
One of my exercises was entitled “Silent Writing, Noisy
Writing.” We began by descending into deep silence, then
writing poems. Afterwards, I asked students to stand before
the class and recite them as softly as possible. In the third
period, one boy stood up and said nothing.
“I’m thinking my poem,” he explained.
“All right,” I agreed. Then I instructed him to
try again, and told the class: “See if you can hear his
After the second trial, one boy explained: “I couldn’t
hear them, because Leslie was thinking too loud!” He pointed
to a girl across the aisle.
Here was one of my exercises:
1) Write your middle name.
2) Choose one of its letters.
3) Use that letter to write a word.
4) Think of an article of clothing.
5) Write down a color.
6) Use those three words in a sentence.
7) Choose a title.
Following these directions, Breanna Jacob wrote:
The boy in his hot pink dress
The boy was sewing his
hot pink dress when he
sewed over his fat stubby
For the fifth workshop, I attempted one of the most daring projects
of my life — teaching sonnets to eighth graders. We read
Keats’ “Last Sonnet,” which begins:
Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night...
I wanted them to perceive the shape of a sonnet, its rhythm
and interior stresses.
“How many syllables are in a line?” I asked.
“10,” one boy immediately responded.
“How did you know that?” I wondered.
“I could just tell,” he replied. Rarely does one
meet a youth with a Poet’s Mind, but here was one.
I set the goal: to write a sonnet together, in the next 40 minutes.
First, we must choose a topic. Being a believer in democracy,
I asked for nominations, and everyone voted. The winner was
“Paige,” one of the members of the class —
a merry, athletic and freckled girl. She beat out “chicken
wings” and four other topics.
Line by line, the students wrote a first stanza. I found myself
in the role of editor, choosing among the suggestions. (One
of my major goals was to prevent Paige from being ridiculed.)
Paige’s last name is Green, which led to numerous puns.
Instinctively, the kids used the same strategy as Shakespeare.
The need for 10 syllables to a line struck the student as reasonable,
like the rules of blackjack. I didn’t emphasize meter,
but English is basically iambic, so the lines had a nice shape.
At the 11th line, we began to get stuck. How would we finish
this poem? Our project became like a basketball game where the
home team must “beat the clock.” We only had six
minutes! But in a sudden burst of literary power, we produced
the last three lines. Now only one decision remained. What should
the title be? “Paige Unseen,” one boy suggested.
Then a girl offered, “Paige Green Unseen.” Perfect!
We even had time to read the entire work off the blackboard
together. (“Choral speaking,” which was taught when
I was a boy, has nearly vanished in the modern world —
which is unfortunate, to my sometimes-conservative mind.) Here
is our completed sonnet:
Paige Green Unseen
Page can eat a lot of food during l
Owen always flirts with Paige at dinner.
Page video-chats with friends while she dines;
She does not think about getting thinner.
After eating, Paige begins secreting
Tears from her eyelids — there is no more food!
Paige’s freckles can be so deceiving.
She watches Juno in her green bedroom.
Paige always leaves her homework
Inside her room she flies on her green broom.
She then takes a seat and looks at her feet.
She goes to sleep in her black-covered bed,
Her Hello Kitty alarm by her head.
What’s happened instead is that air quality regulations
developed under the Bush administration and currently proposed
for adoption by the US EPA have become increasingly stringent.
And while they haven’t been adopted yet, county and state
regulators we’ve spoken with do expect that they will
be. What those standards are hasn’t been released publicly,
but according to Department of Environmental Conservation Region
3 Director Willie Janeway, “there is a process unfolding
which is likely to lead to a tightening of the air quality standards...We’ve
sent information in to the Feds, and they will make the determination.”
According to Spokesman Lori Severino of the agency’s Press
Office, DEC sent a letter in March of this year to EPA, reporting
on air quality monitoring data from 2006 to 2008, and recommending
Ulster County’s designation of Non-Attainment. She said
that EPA has until March of next year to make its determination,
but that they’re scheduled to release their list of newly
designated counties by November or December.
When EPA will release its new regs is uncertain, but most regulators
expect the tightening to be significant. Standards for example,
which currently measure allowable pollutant thresholds over
a 1-hour period may soon require similar thresholds to be met
over an 8-hour period.
Although in counties further downstate those pollutants include
such things as carbon monoxide and particulates, in Ulster County
it’s the ozone level that’s ex pected to trigger
the shift into Non-Attainment. Usually associated with automobile
emissions and combustion from heating systems and manufacturing,
there are also natural sources which may contribute to the problem.
Trees, which produce huge amounts of oxygen and have a highly
positive effect on air quality also release oxides of nitrogen
which are chemical precursors of ozone and may ultimately effect
its atmospheric levels.
Assuming that new regs go into effect this year, Ulster County
is expected to be joined with Dutchess, Orange, and Putnam counties
as part of the federally designated “Poughkeepsie-Orange
Non-Attainment Area.” According to Rich Peters, Regional
Planning & Program Manager for NYS Department of Transportation
Region 8, that designation would significantly impact any proposed
transportation project that used federal funds.
The designation would also appear to require some level of new
impact analysis for any transportation project or development
capable of impacting air quality at the county level. In this
county our Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Ulster County
Transportation Council, would need to demonstrate to state regula
tors that proposed projects not only wouldn’t negatively
affect air quality, but would actually help improve it.
The county might also be compelled under the designation, to
consider air quality mitigation measures that aren’t currently
required here, such as extra nozzles on fuel dispensers, and
limits on certain air discharge permits. On the brighter side
however, Non-Attainment does make the County eligible for some
federal aid through a program called CMAC, short for ‘Congestion
Mitigation Air Quality.” Most CMAC funds do go to more
densely populated areas but modest funding, generally for transit
projects, would likely become available.
If the new regs go into effect this year, few in government
expect serious problems as a result. “It’s a manageable
situation” said Hector Rodriguez, Chairman of the County
Legislature’s Economic Development, Planning, Housing,
and Transit Committee. “But we will have to supply additional
documentation and support for when we do major transportation
There is a reason for the regs however, and DEC’s Janeway
seemed to sum it up: “We do have air quality issues, health
issues, and as the standards are improved to better protect
the public health, we all benefit.”
Burn Laws Return
effort to reduce the impacts of pollutants such as dioxins,
particulate matter and carbon monoxide and to limit the risks
of wildfires, DEC announced its plans in early 2008 to extend
a ban on open burning statewide beyond the current ban for any
municipality with a population of 20,000, a law in effect since
“This is a public health and safety issue,” said
DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “The trash we are burning
has become more complicated and damaging to air quality over
the decades. From dioxins to furans to arsenic, numerous toxic
chemicals can be released by open burning - worries we didn’t
have several decades ago. Moreover, wildfires occur regularly
from badly tended open fires. This proposal will reduce the
chances of that happening.”
Critics of the plan said that such a ban would also prevent
current lot clearing practices where contractors burn brush
as they cut away the property, forcing contractors to pay to
remove the brush. It would also prevent the typical clean ups
done after winter weather wreaks it’s usual havoc on property.
Often felled branches and blow downs are collected and burned
The DEC countered that wood chippers could be used to help fuel
a new energy source. But opponents cried foul, noting the cost
of such equipment.
Now, the proposal has changed… although not hugely
“The only change is that the the proposed rule has been
revised to allow some brush burning,” said DEC Media Relations
Officer Lori Severino of the recent shift in an e-mail this
past week. “Specifically, the change allows for on-site
burning in any town with a total population less than 20,000
of downed limbs and branches (including branches with attached
leaves or needles) less than six inches in diameter and eight
feet in length between May 15th and the following March 15th.
Severino added that there is currently a comment period open
on the revised version of the rule, with written comments to
be accepted through 5 pm on Friday, June 26.
Under the proposed regulations, all outdoor burning would be
banned on residential property in smaller municipalities under
20,000 in population between March 16 and May 14.
Once considered harmless, DEC has reported that open burning
has been found to release more dangerous chemicals into the
air than thought generations ago. They cite a recent study by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, undertaken in conjunction
with DEC and the State Department of Health, that found that
emissions of dioxins and furans from backyard burning alone
were greater than all other sources combined for the years 2002-04.
The study also found that burning trash emits arsenic, carbon
monoxide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, lead, hydrogen cyanide
and other harmful chemicals. Trash containing plastics, polystyrene,
pressure-treated and painted wood and bleached or colored papers
can produce harmful chemicals when burned.
In addition to releasing pollutants, it was found that open
burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York
State such as that which destroyed a large chunk of the Minnewaska
area last year. Data from DEC’s Forest Protection Division
show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires
between 1986 and 2006 - more than twice the next most-cited
The proposed rule does allow for a number of exceptions, including
3 foot radius camp fires, celebratory bonfires (where allowed),
fire training exercises, specialized burning to protect crops
from frostbite and burning of agricultural wastes (though not
“The DEC believes that the private sector will solve the
technical problems,” DEC Region Three Director Willie
Janeway said last year when told of difficulties people were
having with the DEC’s suggestion that local landfills
incinerate local woods trash. “They will in time produce
outdoor boilers that pass clean air standards. The old polluting
units will age out over a predetermined time period. They will
not be grandfathered forever.”
In the laws themselves, the state has proposed that eventual
benefits will outweigh immediate expenses.
“Due to the potential increase in the amount of household
waste, brush, and land clearing debris, communities may need
to upgrade their transfer facilities. Upgrades would primarily
consist of large trash compactors for household refuse, and
wood chippers or tub grinders for brush and land clearing debris,”
the proposed law states. “Societal savings of health related
costs in affected rural areas should more than make up for the
increased costs of solid waste disposal. A single hospitalization
for asthma outside of New York City costs over $8,900 and the
total cost for asthma hospitalizations amounted to over $284
million in 2002.”
“Hopefully, this is being responsive to a lot of the comments
that we received,” Severino said of the changes her department’s
For more information on the proposal check DEC’s website
or call DEC at 518-402-8545.
Comments can be sent to the New York state Department of Environmental
Conservation, Division of Air Resources, 625 Broadway - 2nd
Floor, Albany, NY 12233-3254.
A Jar Of Olives...
Gene Gormley once said that there are no Brinks Armored Cars
in a funeral procession— just the people who loved, liked
or respected us. Our money is only there for us to spend or
share. Among my mother’s treasures was a check she wrote
to herself. The date was “Always.” The check was
made out to her for the amount of “Abundance.” It
was signed, “The Universe.” She believed that the
world and all spiritual forces would provide “Enough”
if we shared and gave. She was not necessarily a “churchy”
woman, but she was a good person who gave freely of her talents
and her love. Perhaps she learned this lesson from Nana, my
father’s mother. Nana was a “churchy” woman
who once gave all her food money to a radio evangelist. She
just sent it away in the mail when she could ill afford to do
so. She endured lots of lectures and many tongue-cluckings until
notification came that she had won a trip for two to Norway,
her native country. Coincidence or catalyst? Hmmmm.
My father was a man who only attended church at weddings and
funerals although he would drop us three kids off at Sunday
school and pick us up. Without the religious component, he would
get a kick out of giving something away. Once he paid his toll
on the Jones Beach Expressway and gave the toll collector another
fare. “Tell the car behind us that it’s Oldsmobile
Day.” Random acts of kindness are like magnets and boomerangs.
They both send and receive joy.
You don’t always have to give money. You can share in
many ways. Lois Ostapczuk and Cheryl Kosarek have “other
men” in their life that their husbands approve of. Lois
has Earl who is learning to read through The Literacy Association.
Cheryl delivers home made soup to Ralph each week. Peter Grandia,
Mr. Occhi, the Parete’s, Steve Blakely, and many other
local businesses contribute, oh so often, to each and every
charitable event in town. There are the great volunteers who
deliver Meals on Wheels and spend a few moments visiting and
brightening the day of those who may not be able to get out
and about. There are the firemen and first responders who are
so compassionate that Terry Elmendorf and Yvonne Fuller administered
oxygen to a smoke-overpowered cat.
Jack Molloy received his Father’s Day present early this
year. Jack’s five children, Meghan, Chris, Kevin, Terry,
and Mary Pat organized a family reunion along with twenty-six
other family members. They, and a hundred or so guests, celebrated
at a Brooks Barbecue at West Shokan Park. Jack, accompanied
by his son and grandson, walked proudly in the Memorial Day
The Fiftieth Celebration of the Olive Free Library brought so
many neighbors together. We got to see our Deerfield Road neighbors,
Kay and Lloyd Humphrey. At the silent auction, I won the Hoppy
Quick cutting board, which is soon to be put into action as
I create bacon, lettuce, and fresh tomato (from Al Higley’s
Farm Stand) sandwiches for dinner. A light dinner is just the
thing after snacking and enjoying cake at the Library reception.
Rosie Burgher, Lois Wiedner, and Ruth Ann Muller gave us the
history and behind the scenes information on the library’s
creation. Don Bishop, son of the library’s benefactors
Don and Edna Bishop, was there to visit with old friends. Do
you know that Chubby Checker, the famous fifties recording star,
and the Olive Free Library have in common? Chubby Checker, famous
for the dance craze, The Twist, hated olives with a passion.
Someone sent him a picture of the Olive Free (Get it?) Library.
I challenge you to do one good deed, share a compliment or give
one gift for no reason at all. If you’re not into the
“Goody Two Shoes” mood, then at least smile or wave
at a stranger. That person will either catch your good will
or spend the rest of the day trying to figure out who you were.