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Private funding in the public schools?

   High school students can choose from a laundry list of sports teams to join, but there is something about football. Entire communities rally around the football team, more so than any other scholastic sport.

   Maybe that's why a group in Holland is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to see to it that the small, mostly rural district gets a program for the first time in its history. The Holland Football Club has said to anyone who would listen that it would pay for the program by raising money from outside sources. There would be no impact on taxes because it would not be part of the school budget.

  It's worth at least wondering if this is a trend that might continue, this idea that taxpayers have reached a tipping point and are so averse to paying for anything else that new programs will have to be funded some other way. Something similar is happening in Orchard Park, where residents are trying to raise money to install a new artificial turf field so that it doesn't affect the budget.

   Is this what the future will look like in Western New York?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Springville pupils get cyber savvy

 

   The goal: Increase reading, writing and technology skills, while trying to keep the interest of children.

   The assignment: Have them write and produce podcasts and vodcasts - audio and video on demand clips that can be uploaded to a web site, in this case, Springville Elementary School's web site.

   The outcome: Judge for yourself at www.springvillegi.wnyric.org/pods/Welcome.html

   It's not unique, having students prepare work for the Internet. But at Springville, the fifth-graders are operating the video cameras and interviewing classmates, then putting them together in a package that is posted on the school web site.

   And each of the 700 pupils should have the chance this year to write a story, record it and have that audio as well as artwork to go with placed on the website for Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa to see.

   "The individual classroom teacher decides what project they want to do. In most instances, it's a writing project, because ELA is what we're here for," said Principal Scott Tellgren.

   --- Barbara O'Brien

No winning in redistricting

   Redistricting elementary schools is a no-win issue, says former Lancaster Superintendent Joseph L. Girardi.

   That's what Orchard Park is finding out.

   Girardi says when Orchard Park Superintendent Joan Thomas told him her district's schools were out of whack and needed new attendance boundaries, he tried to warn her.

   "It's just not a pleasant thing to do," he said. "It's never, never going to be an accepted issue."

   He said the easiest way to redistrict is to draw a line around a school, and keep making it larger until the school is filled up. Then do that with the other schools. The children left outside the lines have to go to the least populated school.

   Lancaster has had some experience in redistricting. The district grandfathered fifth graders and their siblings in their current schools, and made sure the children from the same grade were kept together in the same classroom at their new school.

   If not redistricting, there's always portable classrooms and bond issues for renovations and additions, or the do-nothing option, he said.

   But really, it's a no-win for school administrators and school boards.

   "As soon as you draw the line in the sand,... then all hell breaks loose," he said.

You might be a suburbanite if ...

   My next-door-desk neighbor and onetime suburban resident Steve Watson suggested today's column idea about how to tell if you're a suburbanite. He also offered several lines, most of which were stereotypical and mean-spirited. (And funny.)

   Many of the ones in the column apply to me and to other suburbanites I know. For example, I have a refrigerator in my garage, but only because we couldn't get it in the house. My daughter and I counted the days until our Mighty Taco opened a drive-thru lane. And if you want to talk sump pumps, I'm your guy.

   But I sense that I just scratched the suburban surface with this topic. So how about it? What are some other ways to know if you're officially a suburbanite?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

   

The doughnut debate

  The doughnut war is raging and the new battle front is in Cheektowaga.

   Doughnut distributors are constantly scouting the best locations for new stores - which often means the busiest traffic intersections. And, when enough donut-hungry drivers spot the new store, it's not unusual to see a line of vehicles stretching out into the street and causing a traffic hazard, Cheektowaga officials say.

   The solution? Build more stores nearby says Bob Bender, a consultant to the Tim Hortons stores nearby company. The company now has more than 70 outlets in the locally, Bender says.

   When the company first entered the Buffalo area, "There was no way for us to know there would be this kind of success," he said.

   And it's not just Tim Hortons; the agenda for Tuesday's Cheektowaga Town Board work session also listed a proposal by Dunkin' Donuts to build a drive through facility at an existing store on William Street between Vern Lane and Raymond Avenue.

   No surprise, the location is so close to the William Street entrance ramp to the Thruway that you could hit it with a well-thrown doughnut hole.

   As the Tuesday night discussion heated up, one Cheektowaga official offered this critique: "Tim Hortons has better coffee, but the donuts are better at Dunkin' Donuts."

   Which do you prefer? And does either make a product that's worth risking traffic safety?

   --- Thomas J. Dolan

Hamburg sculptures

    Time is winding down on the competition to design and build two sculptures for the Village of Hamburg roundabouts.

   The sculptures are budgeted at about $50,000 each, with construction planned for roundabouts at Main and Buffalo streets and  Main and Prospect Avenue and Buffalo Street. Two others have already been commissioned for the village's other roundabouts.

  Meanwhile, the village’s committee is still deliberating between five finalists. Village residents have been invited all along to provide input.

  Here we’d like to find out what everybody has to say. You don’t have to be a Hamburg resident to post to this blog.

  Here's what they look like:

Growing

"Growing," by Thierry Bontridder

Thevillagers

"The Villagers" by Mark and Diane Weisbeck

Treatyofbigtree

"Treaty of Big Tree" by Ellen Steinfeld

Welcomehome

"Welcome Home" by Michael Hamby

Whitechainfountain

"White Chain Fountain" by Zipora Gendler

   

    If you'd like to see more of the finalists, click here

   

   Take a look and tell us:  Who are your winners?


   --- Elmer Ploetz

Parking ramped

  Years ago, I read an article about the New Trier school district in a wealthy Chicago suburb where pretty much every kid who had a license drove to school. The school didn't have enough room for all the cars and parking was limited in the adjacent neighborhood.

   So some parent with way too much money contacted a person who owned a home near the school and offered a ridiculous sum to the person to let the kid park in his driveway. The idea caught on and all the people on this street cleaned up.

   It hasn't gotten quite to that point in the 'burbs here, but if school districts keep making it difficult for students to park their vehicles on campus, some enterprising homeowner will soon see dollar signs in that 17-year-old's SUV.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

   

Going buggy with MRSA

   Any day Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony J. Billittier can get people to wash their hands is a good day at the office for him.

   And when he was met by an overflow crowd of school officials Wednesday eager to hear an update on the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Billittier warmed up the audience.

   "Nothing like a good bug to get people together … just don't breath on each other!" he joked.

   The commissioner tried to put things in perspective:  "The sky is not falling," he told them. "Many people are carriers (of MRSA) and never get sick."

   The best thing to do to ward off infection is to wash your hands frequently, and if soap and water aren't available, then hand sanitizer could be a good alternate, he said. But some of the sanitizers contain alcohol, he said, which can dry out skin, which then could become chapped and cracked, providing an entry for bacteria ...

   "We need to make sure the cure is not worse than the poison," Billittier concluded.

   --- Barbara O'Brien

Election dissection

  To sum up political season in the region's largest suburbs ...

   As of January, there will be no Republicans on the Tonawanda Town Board, completing a seismic power shift in what had been an historically Republican town.

   Democrats = Cheektowaga.

   Orchard Park voters liked Mary Travers Murphy enough to elect her supervisor two years ago, but not enough to give her even one supporter on the GOP-controlled Town Board.

   In Hamburg, Supervisor Steven Walters will have at least one ally to vote with him - and maybe two once the absentee ballots are countted - after voters put a non-Democrat on the Town Board for the first time in nearly 20 years.

  Amherst voters neither affirmed nor repudiated the always-interesting two-year tenure of Supervisor Satish Mohan. It's anybody's guess as to whether the reconfigured Town Board will back him. And also, given the chance to spend $15 million on open land and a golf course, the voters politely declined.

  --- Bruce Andriatch