The Buffalo News - City and Region Latest stories from The Buffalo News en-us Sun, 13 Jul 2014 07:09:32 -0400 Sun, 13 Jul 2014 07:09:32 -0400 <![CDATA[ Synthetic turf gaining ground at local high schools ]]>
A new wave of school districts, having seen their teams play at rival fields that don’t turn into muddy pits, are exploring new athletic projects that would include synthetic turf.

Sweet Home has a plan to build an artificial turf sports complex behind its high school. Niagara Falls is laying down 11 acres of turf on ten fields throughout the district. And Clarence, Kenmore-Tonawanda and Williamsville are exploring the possibility of asking residents to vote on athletic projects within the next year that would include artificial turf.

In the nearly 10 years since Amherst Central became one of the first high schools in Erie County to install faux turf, the idea is gaining ground in other districts hoping to cut back on maintenance and reduce play time lost to soggy weather.

“In Williamsville, we pride ourselves on being the best in everything, so why not carry that forward into the athletic realm?” Williamsville Superintendent Scott Martzloff told School Board members last week as he explained why the district is convening a task force to look into athletic upgrades that could include turf fields at each of its three high schools.

Natural grass is still the norm for the majority of high school sports fields. But a growing number of districts are moving toward fake grass after seeing the performance of artificial turf. While the projects are pricey and the fields can require replacement after a decade or more of a use, school districts see an advantage in their easy maintenance and all-weather resilience.

“In the early years, you always had your skeptics,” said Jim Dobmeier, president and founder of field builder A-Turf Inc. “Well, lo and behold, their teams go out and they play on these fields when they’re visitors on other people’s home fields and they see all the utility and they see they’re in the best condition at the most important times of the year.”

This is not the green, matted turf of the Kelly-era Rich Stadium days. Today’s fields mimic real grass with synthetic blades.

“These systems look natural, and because they have a rubber and sand granular in-fill on them, they actually play very naturally,” Dobmeier said. “So you don’t get the same abrasions. You don’t get the same wear and tear on the joints as the old ones did.”

Dobmeier’s company, Cheektowaga-based A-Turf, has installed synthetic fields at high schools across the country, including more than two dozen locally, and at professional venues that include Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The company’s projects include installing the turf fields at the new athletic complex under construction at Niagara Falls High School, which includes a main football, soccer and lacrosse field with a concussion pad, as well as a series of fields for other sports.

For Clarence and Williamsville, the idea to consider turf is rooted in maintenance and the ability to use one field for multiple sports.

Williamsville Central Schools had 385 sports cancellations during the spring season, largely due to weather-related problems on athletic fields, Martzloff said. The district sometimes pays for turf time at other venues when fields are unplayable. Wet conditions attract geese and gulls at one field. Grubs infested another, and a steady stream of cleats wear down the grass within a few weeks of the school year, the superintendent said.

“Our fields just can’t keep up,” Martzloff said. “They can’t recover. You could have the grounds crew from Augusta National golf course come and take care of our fields and not be able to do a better job than what our grounds crew does.”

Martzloff has appointed a working group to review the district’s athletic facilities and draw up a plan that could be brought to voters next year. Installation of artificial turf and replacing fitness equipment could top the list, Martzloff said during a Board of Education meeting.

“The plan has to be fiscally responsible,” Martzloff said.

Other school districts are also weighing their financial ability to pay for projects against what officials see as long-term benefits of athletic upgrades.

State reimbursement would help the Kenmore-Tonawanda district pay for a $19.5 million proposal to upgrade arts and athletic facilities, including adding synthetic turf at two sites. The projects would be tied to another series of upgrades that would address health, safety and compliance issues in school buildings. Kenmore-Tonawanda School Board officials are considering bringing the projects to a public vote in December.

In Clarence, board members are still deciding whether to move forward with a series of building and grounds projects. A community task force last month recommended projects totaling $30.9 million to replace roofs, update technology and make other building improvements throughout the district. It also recommended a second, $5 million athletic facilities project that would include synthetic turf that could be used by several teams. Both projects in Clarence would be eligible for up to 70 percent state reimbursement.

“Overuse is probably the largest issue,” Clarence Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said. “The fields don’t have a chance to recover, and the way the weather is in Western New York, it kind of exacerbates the problem.”

The largest local high school turf project, by far, is already under construction in Niagara Falls, where the district has committed money it receives as a host to the Niagara Power Project to build a sports complex. The district also received a grant from the National Football League for turf at a community football field.

Deputy Superintendent Mark Laurrie said the district insisted on adding a concussion pad to the football field and on getting a 12-year warranty for the turf. School officials from visiting districts, he said, have taken notice of the project’s scope.

“To a person,” Laurrie said, “they shake their head and say, ‘I can’t believe what you’re doing out here.’ ”

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Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:59:06 -0400 Denise Jewell Gee
<![CDATA[ Supporters show up for Keenan as he pleads not guilty in father’s death ]]>
The 21-year-old arrested in the slaying of his father, John P. Keenan, 70, bowed his head as he walked past several cameras. They captured his brown, uneven hair – closely shaved above the forehead and longer in the back. They also saw red and pinkish blemishes that dotted his face and a scruffy beard that had grown longer since his mugshot was taken Monday night.

But not only cameras followed the young man in a white jail suit and handcuffs as he made his way into the courtroom flanked by two Erie County sheriff’s deputies. Plenty of familiar faces greeted him, as well.

About 20 friends and former classmates turned out in support of Keenan, who has entered a not- guilty plea. A grand jury indicted Keenan on a charge of second-degree murder. He is still being held without bail in the Erie County Holding Center, and his case was adjourned to 5 p.m. July 24. There is a strong likelihood the case will be moved to a higher court by then.

Supporters sat together in the gallery during the hearing. When they left the courtroom, tears streamed from the eyes of a few young women. Some embraced others in distress.

Nikiya Garza, Keenan’s ex-girlfriend, who graduated with him from Orchard Park High School in 2011, said he lived in a “troubled home” but was a great person.

“We were all shocked to hear this,” Garza said. “We didn’t know what to think; we still don’t know what to think. It hurts people I care about and it hurts the family to hear people that don’t even know anything about the family or Sean to say things that they’ve been saying.”

Facebook posts have called Keenan a “monster,” but that isn’t the case, she said.

Said Shannon Robinson, a year behind Keenan in school: “They’re making assumptions without knowing, but everyone who’s friends with him and pretty much everyone from Orchard Park High School who knew him has had his back. We just want him to know that we love him, and that’s why we’re here.”

Authorities at the international Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls alerted local police Monday morning of a man they had stopped named Sean Keenan. He was acting strangely, disguised to appear older and using his father’s passport. Orchard Park police discovered the bludgeoned and stabbed body of John Keenan inside his upscale home at 2 Hillsboro Drive. The victim was the founder and president of the Institute for Leadership and Global Education.

Police said Sean Keenan struck his father with an end table before stabbing and killing him.

“That person wasn’t Sean,” said Josh Smyth, who said Keenan is one of his closest friends. “Sean is a great kid, a great friend and a great human being.”

Smyth dismissed speculation that drugs could have played a role.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty that Sean Keenan was not on any drugs of any kind,” he said. “When court happens, I think then more will come out and there will be a light to come at the end of the tunnel.”

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Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:10:15 -0400 Shawn Campbell
<![CDATA[ Isaiah 61 Project finishes first home rehabilitation in Niagara Falls ]]>
A three-bedroom home at 2215 Whitney Ave. – which was purchased from the city for $500 – had been a dilapidated eyesore sitting off the tax rolls. After 18 months of work by program participants under the watchful eye of master plumbers and electricians, the house will be put up for sale in a few weeks, with open houses scheduled for July 25 and 27.

In total about 70 to 75 program participants had a hand in rehabilitating the structure.

“It needed to be totally gutted,” said Jim Haid, executive director of the organization.

After workers ripped out the broken and the unusable sections, the time came to rebuild the walls, windows, floors, furnace, trusses and a roof on the garage. The electrical wiring had to be completely redone. Workers also replaced doors, molding, light fixtures and kitchen cabinets.

The students obtained apprenticeship papers so they could perform the work under instructors from Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

About $40,000 worth of materials have been put into the home. If the work had been done by for-profit contractors, it would have cost about $80,000, Haid said.

Instead, the Isaiah 61 Project plans to seek a sale price of about $45,000.

The Isaiah 61 Project, which will graduate another 30 participants this month while bringing on a new class, has three more rehabilitation projects in the works in the city. It has partnered with the Highland Community Revitalization Committee on a yet-unidentified house in the North End.

To qualify to purchase the home, potential buyers must meet low- to moderate-income guidelines. Household assets may not exceed $30,000 and the income limits are: $35,600 for a one-person household; $40,650 for a two-person household; $45,750 for a three-person household; and $50,800 for a four-preson household.

The purchaser must also be the prime occupant of the house for five years, and must participate in a homebuyer education program.

Further detail is available on the Isaiah 61 Project’s website, at

Haid said he and the organization are thankful to all who have supported it so far and continue to do so, including the city, Orleans Niagara BOCES, as well as various banks and foundations.

Seth A. Piccirillo, director of the city’s Department of Community Development, noted that two years ago, nobody knew what the Isaiah 61 Project was. Piccirillo predicts it will continue to have a significant impact on the city’s future and credits the Oishei Foundation for providing grant funding to get the project started.

“Completion of the first Isaiah 61 house is proof that the idea works. A house is back on the tax roll, the block was improved and students received training,” Piccirillo said in an email.

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Wed, 9 Jul 2014 18:11:38 -0400 Aaron Besecker
<![CDATA[ Price doubles as county awaits bids for voting machine storage ]]>
Ulrich said last week he still may make an offer on the machine storage lease, but as of Aug. 1, he will be charging the county $14,400 a month instead of the former $7,200 for the current location.

Since it acquired electronic ballot scanners, the county has placed them in a 28,800-square-foot portion of the former Lockport Mattress Co. factory on Transit Road in Newfane, owned by Ulrich.

In late February, Ulrich gave the county notice that he was canceling the automatic lease renewal on Aug. 1. Either side had to give 120 days’ notice to do so.

The County Legislature considered seeking new bids last summer after its Democratic minority charged that the no-bid contract was a gift to Ulrich, a frequent large contributor to Republican candidates.

Since 2000, according to state Board of Elections records, Ulrich has donated $7,394 to individual Republican or GOP-endorsed candidates for offices in Niagara County.

In the same time period, Ulrich also has donated $27,500 to the Niagara County Republican Committee and $45,950 to State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, as well as making numerous contributions to Erie County and statewide GOP candidates.

In June 2013, Ulrich responded to the move to seek new bids by telling The Buffalo News in an email, “We will be looking for a new tenant, and this will most likely end up costing them a lot more money.”

However, no such tenant has signed up, although Ulrich said there are still “possibilities.” But for now, Ulrich said last week that he has informed the county that it can keep the machines where they are – for twice the price.

“We did write them and say that because they’re a holdover tenant, they can go on at $6 a (square) foot,” Ulrich said.

That’s twice the $3 a square foot Ulrich was charging under the lease about to expire, which is $7,200 a month or $86,400 a year. County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said the county has accepted that offer, while new proposals are due July 22.

Jennifer A. Fronczak, county GOP election commissioner, said that from a practical standpoint, the county can’t relocate the machines until after the November election. She said machine inspectors are working on the machines three to four weeks before each scheduled election, and the machines will next be used for the Sept. 9 primary.

Besides the new machines, the county stored used ballots at the former mattress factory, as well as the old voting machines with levers. Fronczak said the county request for proposals calls for at least 28,800 square feet, the same amount of space Ulrich has been leasing the county since 2009.

Ulrich said he might submit a new bid before the July 22 deadline. “We’re looking it over. We haven’t made a decision,” he said. Ulrich is leasing the county another 28,800 square feet in the same building for storage of old paper records that are being moved from Lockport.

That was a five-year lease, approved in October 2012, at $4.45 per square foot, which works out to $10,680 a month or $128,160 a year.

County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow said last week that county crews have almost emptied out the 13-year-old records storage building on Davison Road in Lockport, and in a couple of months, it can start on the other Davison Road storage site, which was originally a residence for nurses who worked at the long-defunct county infirmary.

Jagow said the county is using Public Works employees and can move up to 400 boxes at a time in a small U-Haul truck. Jagow says they do what they can, when they can.

Given work force availability, it might take two months to finish emptying that building, the clerk said. A covered vehicle must be used to haul the records, which state regulations say must be kept for decades or permanently.

“We had to have brand-new shelving set up (at the former mattress factory) so we could move things,” Jagow said. Kraftwerks a company from the Town of Tonawanda, supplied the shelves.

Some of the shelving in the current records building will be moved to Newfane, but some won’t.

As for records in the old nursing building, Jagow estimated they would take three to six months to move. He said the county would have needed to place a new heating and air-conditioning system in the former nurses’ building keep storing old papers there. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:36:56 -0400 Thomas Prohaska
<![CDATA[ Vacation Bible school offered in North Tonawanda ]]>
Classes will be held in St. Paul Church, 453 Old Falls St. Register online at and click on VBS Weird Animals. Or, all Barbara Seiler at 695-2630 for more information. ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 18:52:23 -0400
<![CDATA[ ]]>

Free music series offered on Sundays

LEWISTON – A new free series, “Music in the Woods,” is being offered at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons in Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, encouraging attendees to bring blankets, chairs and picnics.

The concerts feature musical ensembles in a setting overlooking the Niagara River. The series is sponsored by Calspan.

The Fredonia Faculty Percussion Ensemble will play at 4 p.m. today, followed by the Harmonica Chamber Singers next Sunday. The College Musical Ensemble will take the stage on July 27, followed y the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band Ensemble on Aug. 10. The Lexington String Quartet closes the series on Aug. 17.

A state parking fee of $5 per car will be charged.


Summerfest planned at Porter on the Lake

YOUNGSTOWN – Porter on the Lake Summerfest, a family event to benefit the park, is planned from 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday in the Dietz Road park off Route 18.

The festival will feature food, vendors, beer and wine, as well as local bands WhaTheFOLK, the Instigators and Rip and the Band Dogs. Pony rides, a petting zoo, face-painting and a bounce house will be available for children from 3 to 6 p.m. The evening will conclude with fireworks over Lake Ontario at dusk.

For more information on the event, visit:


Our Lady of Peace offers ‘Super Cruise’

LEWISTON – A “Super Cruise” fundraiser is planned for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Peace Nursing Care Residence, 5285 Lewiston Road.

Our Lady of Peace Cruisers Day will be held in conjunction with Cataract Cruisers of WNY.

“Our residents are excited for this event as it gives them the opportunity to reminisce about some of their favorite cars or those vehicles that they may have previously owned,” said Katey Dulak, the facility’s activities director.

The event will feature Dee Jay the DJ, along with plenty of great food. Other activities include; a 50/50 raffle, door prizes and silent auction. All proceeds benefit the facility’s residents. The first 70 car entries will receive a dash plaque. Cruise car pre-registration is $8, or $10 on the day of the show.

For more information, call Dulak at 298-2911. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 18:21:07 -0400
<![CDATA[ Niagara Wine Trail festival coming soon ]]>
The festival gives wine-lovers a chance to stroll from booth to booth, sampling and purchasing bottles of wine. Each festival ticket includes three tastings at each of the participating wineries, and tickets are valid for both days.

“Shane and Erik Gustafson (owners of A Gust of Sun Winery) are the organizers of this event this year and they have a beautiful, ambitious drive for this event,” said Ann Schulze, whom along with her husband, Martin, owns Schulze Vineyards and Winery, another event participant. “This is a beautiful venue. Academy Park is the perfect spot. Free parking surrounds the park, it’s tree-lined and it’s really comfortable. The ticket is a real deal, too, and it’s good for both days.”

Other participating wineries this year include: Arrowhead Spring Vineyards; Blackbird Cider Works; Vizcarra Vineyards; Niagara Landing Wine Cellars; Long Cliff Vineyards and Winery; Midnight Run Wine Cellars; Flight of Five Winery; Lake Ontario Winery; Leonard Oakes Estate Winery; The Winery at Marjim Manor; Spring Lake Winery; Victorianbourg Wine Estate; Eveningside Vineyards; Freedom Run Winery; and Chateau Niagara Winery.

Music will be provided by a deejay and free educational and cooking seminars also will be offered throughout the weekend.

“We’ll have demonstrations of cooking with wine and pairing wine with food,” said Shane Gustafson. “We’ll also have a ‘stump the wine expert’ and a wine trivia contest, where people can win some Niagara Wine Trail-related prizes.

“Something new this year is the ‘Culinary Court,’ where all of the food vendors will be located,” she added. “We’ll have them all in one place to make it easier for people to find them and to make their decisions. We’ll also have more covered seating and just more seating, in general.”

Gustafson said more food vendors have also signed on for this year’s event, including new restaurants and a handful of food trucks offering everything from seafood to “paleo” selections, which shun processed ingredients.

Items may be purchased directly from local vendors participating in the festival, offering everything from gourmet sauces and ribs to hand-crafted chocolates, and from olive oils and balsamic vinegars to nuts, along with heartier fare like burgers, seafood and wraps.

Advance tickets are available at $25 each, through 9 p.m. July 25 on-line, or for $30 at the gate during the event. Advance tickets include five $1 coupons off a bottle of wine at the festival. Those who don’t wish to taste wine or are under 21 are admitted free of charge. Festival ticket-holders will receive a keepsake wine glass.

Visit for more information. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:46:40 -0400 By Teresa Sharp

news niagara correspondent

<![CDATA[ NU Theatre to present play for young audiences ]]>
Steven Braddock, director of Niagara University Theatre said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to present ‘Devon’s Hurt,’ a free theatrical production for the whole family.”

“Devon’s Hurt” will be directed by Terri Filips Vaughan, associate professor, dance/choreographer, for Niagara University’s Department of Theatre and Fine Arts. The play by award-winning playwright Laurie Brooks tells a delightful story about dealing with feelings and conflict resolution, mirroring children’s everyday lives. The production is open to all ages, and is especially appropriate for elementary school age children.

Actors in this production include NU theatre performance students hailing from New York State, Arizona and Georgia. They include: Nathanial W. C. Higgins, Brett Klaczyk, Kathleen Macari, Clarissa Maloy, Mary Elizabeth Martin, Vanessa Shevat, Bradeen Walders and Preston Williams. Theatre design/ technology majors Marissa Allen (stage manager) and Nicholas W. Seres (set and lighting designer) are from Western New York. Associate professors Maureen T. Stevens and Marilyn Deighton will provide costumes.

“Devon’s Hurt” will be performed on the NU campus in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, Clet Hall. The play will be presented at 7 p.m. on July 24, 25 and 26, and on Aug. 1. Matinees will be presented at 1 p.m. on July 29 and Aug. 1. The production also will be staged at 10 a.m. on July 30 and Aug. 2.

Reservations are not required for this free production. Please contact the NU Theatre Box Office at 286-8685 for more information.

email: ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:44:29 -0400
<![CDATA[ Guided walk to celebrate Niagara Falls State Park’s 129th year ]]>
This walk celebrating the oldest state park in the United States is one of the many events the staff of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has in store for locals and tourists this summer.

Thursday, Tina Spencer, a state parks staffer and certified kayak instructor, will offer a beginner’s class on “Smart Paddling Orientation for Your Kayak” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. Participants must have their own kayaks and Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices. The same class continues at the same time and place on July 24 and 31 and on Aug. 7, 14, 21 and 28. She will also offer the same class from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 27 and Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park. For information and required registration, call 285-0516.

“You don’t need to go to every class – Tina will go over a lot of the basics each time, and if people see something along the way, she will offer interpretation, as well,” said Michael Drahms, a state parks naturalist. “At Wilson Tuscarora, for example, people often see painted turtles and Great Blue Herons.”

Also on Thursday, naturalists will lead Wellness Walks at Reservoir State Park in Lewiston, from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. They continue Aug. 1, 15 and 29. Staffers will engage participants in a leisurely walk and lead up to a brisk walk while enjoying the outdoors. The walks are offered regardless of participants’ level of exercise.

“There’s been a real commitment on the part of our commissioner [Rose Harvey] to get people outdoors,” he said. “We’re trying to promote better health. Not everyone likes to hike in the gorge, so they can come out to Reservoir, which has nice little trails. It will start with a casual walk and we’ll try and work the pace up a bit.”

On Friday, another popular Niagara River Ride has been planned for 6 to 8 p.m. along the Niagara Gorge. Bicyclists will ride from Niagara Falls State Park up to Devil’s Hole State Park and back in time to enjoy evening festivities on Old Falls Street and the 10 p.m. fireworks. Registration is required by calling 285-0516. The ride will be repeated Aug. 1, 15 and 29 at the same time and place.

“It’s about a six-mile round trip, on the closed portion of the Robert Moses Parkway,” Drahms said.

Staffers plan a leisurely stroll around Goat Island from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. July 25 and Aug. 8 and 22. Enjoy hearing of the history of Niagara Falls State Park while taking in the breathtaking sights.

An evening stroll along the Niagara Gorge rim is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 30, while naturalists point out scenic vistas and discuss the history, wildlife and vegetation of the gorge.

“We stay on the rim at the top of the gorge for this one, which gives a different perspective of the gorge,” said Drahms. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Hikers are encouraged to bring their cameras to a special series of guided walks in four different parks in August. Called “Picture This,” the series is offered at 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 2 at Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park in Lewiston, where participants will learn about the formation of Niagara Falls and visit scenic vistas. It will continue from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at Devil’s Hole State park, where participants will be asked to imagine a waterfall, trolley route, an uprising and much more during the naturalists’ presentation of the park’s colorful past.

This series continues from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 16 at Whirlpool State Park, where naturalists will discuss the history of the gorge. And the series’ final installment is planned for 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 23 at Niagara Falls State Park, with a great opportunity to photograph plants, rock layers, bridges, rapids, the falls and more. Historic photos of the area will be presented, as well.

“This is kind of a play on words, because we encourage people to bring their cameras, but we’re also asking them to ‘picture this’ or use their imaginations to picture things in their minds, like that the falls 12,000 years ago was where Artpark is now,” Drahms said. “You don’t have to have a camera to take these hikes. We modeled them after a series we did in the spring and we found people returning for the next hike as we broke the whole gorge down into sections for each hike.”

The special Beach and Woods Candle Lantern Walk is scheduled for 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Golden Hill State Park in Barker. A stroll along the Lake Ontario beach and a hike on a trail through the woods will be featured, with a return by candle lantern light. Bring your own lantern or borrow one of the staffers’.

An Old Growth Woods Candle Lantern Walk will be featured from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Sept. 19 at Wilson Tuscarora State Park. Participants will be led through fields and woods to see old growth trees and return by candle lantern light.

In addition, Artpark State Park offers Free Family Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. through July 26. Call the Artpark box office for more information at 754-4375. Four Mile State Park Campground offers free summer programming on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 31.

Interpretive centers are open until Sept. 1, unless otherwise noted, at the following parks: Beaver Island Nature Center, noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; Fort Niagara Nature Center, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday; Historic Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park, for fees and hours of operation, call 795-3885; Niagara Gorge Trailhead Building at Niagara Falls State Park, open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and the Niagara Gorge Natural History Room at Whirlpool State Park, open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

Call 285-0516 for more information or to register for any of these programs. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:40:25 -0400 By Teresa Sharp

niagara correspondent

<![CDATA[ Wheatfield woman honored for her work with the disabled ]]>
Butcher was nominated by the Residential Manager for Niagara Cerebral Palsy, Russ Polovino, who named Butcher for her work with families despite her own challenges. She has worked part-time as a respite care worker for caretakers of the disabled for the past 12 years.

Butcher is a graduate of LaSalle Senior High School in Niagara Falls and has a degree in social work from SUNY Buffalo State. Prior to her work in respite care, she worked full-time for 18 years for the United Cerebral Palsy Association. She had also been part of Volunteer in Service to America for three years, setting up a program for handicapped volunteers.

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that involve the brain and nervous system. It is caused by brain damage that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing, usually before birth, during birth or immediately after birth. It affects body movement and muscle control. It can impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

Butcher said there are different types of cerebral palsy, but she is diagnosed as spastic and has trouble walking, writing and speaking. But she is able to live on her own and is still able to drive.

Do you have to explain cerebral palsy to people?

Yes. Some people think I am mentally retarded, because of the physical aspects. They think I don’t have a thinking brain.

When were you first diagnosed?

I was three years old. Unfortunately, it has gotten worse. Now I walk with a walker. Fatigue is a problem.

What were you like as a child?

I was a ball of fire. I could go shopping two or three days in a row. Now I get tired, but maybe that’s my age. I don’t realize I am 61 years old.

You were honored in your work as a respite care worker. What do you do?

I go into homes of disabled people and I stay with them while their caretakers take a break. They do not all have cerebral palsy. There’s a number of disabilities.

How do they react to you – since you face some of the same issues?

It varies, depending on the person, but I have one young man – he’s 24 years old – and he tells his mom to go out and stay late. So I can come. That’s very nice.

There are some that expect you would ask to be cared for, rather that working to take care of others.

I wish sometimes, like all of us, someone would come in and do the housework, but really I can do anything I need to on my own. I may need some help hanging a picture – only because I don’t want a hundred pin marks in my wall [she laughs].

I guess you need a sense of humor sometimes.

I get very frustrated, but the frustration has decreased through the years. I think I have gained more patience with myself. In the future I will probably need more help, but you don’t know the future.

Have you made your career about caring for other people with disabilities?

When I graduated from high school I remember telling my parents I wanted to work with other people with disabilities and fortunately I have done that all my life.

Why was that important to you?

I felt I understood their frustrations. And I wanted to help. I get as much from my job as I give. It’s just a right fit. I also worked to pay the bills.

Were you surprised about the award?

Yes. My boss, Russ Polovino, called me and said, “I nominated you for an award and you won.” But I was thrilled. I want to stay with respite care as long as I can work. It’s the best job.


There’s not a lot of pressure. You probably don’t see it, but when you are out in the world things move so fast and I can’t move that fast. This gives me a chance to relax, stay with people and talk. Whatever they need.

Do you give others with disabilities some hope?

I don’t know, but I think so.

Can you relate to those who have faced bullying because of their disabilities?

I can relate to the bullying. Kids used to make fun of me. We need people to accept that there are people who are different than ourselves. We have to be a more accepting society.

How have you handled it?

I had a very positive upbringing. My parents always encouraged me to do my best. I have used what I learned. Humor is one of my big things. You can get a lot done if you joke around.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:10:17 -0400 Nancy Fischer
<![CDATA[ Rough and tumble in the scrum ]]>
The St. Peter’s team is on its first tour of North America, making stops in Toronto and New York City, in addition to Lewiston.

The match – which marked the first time a team from New Zealand played in Western New York, according to NU officials – was played on the university’s varsity soccer field behind the Kiernan Center. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:08:43 -0400
<![CDATA[ Sanger Farms in Lewiston is up to date ]]>
Bags of shiny apples, quarts of red berries and stalks of rhubarb vie for attention. They rest alongside an array of mouth-watering seasonal pies and other treats made with fruit grown right on the farm at 852 Youngstown-Lockport Road, widely appreciated by visitors from near and far for the past several decades.

And now, a large, refrigerated display case brims with a variety of gluten-free baked goods, as well.

How does a white almond cake pop dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crystallized sugar sound? Or a rich chocolate cake pop infused with coffee and encased in milk chocolate?

It started as a means to alleviate some common arthritis and joint pain for owner/baker Sandra Sanger Tuck, but blossomed into an additional line of offerings. It also has given her children a new avenue to help ensure the farm continues for years to come.

Tuck and her husband, Michael, bought the farm from her father, Glenn Sanger, last October. She had been encouraged by things she learned about forgoing wheat flour from daughter Lisa Posa, while Lisa was pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition at New York University.

“My kids have been involved all along,” she said. “I think they’d all like to eventually work here full time and be involved in the family business. They each bring their own individual talents to the table.”

Lisa, 31, just finished her master’s degree. Daughter Shari Posa, 30, has worked six years as a registered representative for Spectrum Wealth Management in Amherst. Her twin, Carly Lauzonis, is a teacher. Rogan Tuck, 20, is a biology major at the University at Buffalo, while Claiton Tuck, 18, studies business management at Niagara University. All still help on the farm when they can.

“My daughters have mostly been bakers, since they were old enough to do it,” she said. “This freed me up to do other things, like the farm work.”

Tuck said she learned to bake from her mother, Helen Sanger, who started the baked goods end of the farm business after she and her husband bought the farm in the early 1970s, because, “She couldn’t let anything go to waste.”

“If fruit started getting too ripe, my Mom would make pies or jams,” Tuck recalled of her mother, who died in 1995.

“My Mom always said we could have pie for breakfast before we’d run off to school. It was better for us than a Pop-Tart – there were no chemicals, no additives. Our family still talks about that now.”

Using fruit and vegetables in season is a rule she passed along to her daughter.

“Apples and peaches are our biggest crops,” she said. “When they’re in season, that’s our boom-time. We have peach and apple everything – pies, muffins, tarts, etc.”

The move to include gluten-free items was so effective, that Tuck and Shari Posa knew they had to share it with everyone else.

“I was never diagnosed, but this worked for me,” Tuck said. “I was starting to feel old and I didn’t want to be like that. This has been really exciting to me.”

And she’s been happy to share more baking duties with her offspring.

“Shari just loves to experiment with baking – she’s a natural,” Tuck said. “Both twins are like that, and their brothers are the taste-testers (although Rogan helps in the kitchen as well).”

Shari found she had a growing list of friends who were gluten intolerant who sampled her new treats to rave reviews. But she said she didn’t expect her treats to be sought after by her non-gluten intolerant friends, as well.

“Everyone likes a little delectable – some little yummy,” she said. “Summer is a good time (to launch this), when we’re busiest. We hope this takes off.”

The enhanced baked goods section is just one sign of this family’s willingness to head in new directions in agri-tourism with this 50-plus-acre farm, while honoring its rich past.

“I think this is really needed,” said Shari. “We need people to come out and show their kids where their food comes from. The younger generation has no idea. Even my generation has no idea. We are losing this (knowledge) so quickly.

“I think it’s really important to support local farms – if they were lost, it would be tragic,” she added.

“I like growing things, healthy eating, I like how people are getting back to the basics by using minimal sprays on plants,” Tuck said. “People want their food straight from the earth, without processing.

“We want to go bigger with herbs, with our U-pick,” she said. “We have U-pick cherries, peaches, pears and apples. We want to get into more recreational activities. We have big plans.

“We have a fun place here,” Tuck said of the farm she’s called home since age 11.

“We want families to come and see where their food comes from and see Youngstown. They’ll love this farm, because I love it.”


Sanger Farms is open year-round and may be reached at 745-7297 or at ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:07:52 -0400 By Teresa Sharp

Niagara correspondent

<![CDATA[ Cruisin’ for Lewiston nursing care residence ]]>
Our Lady of Peace Cruisers Day will be held in conjunction with Cataract Cruisers of WNY.

“Our residents are excited for this event as it gives them the opportunity to reminisce about some of their favorite cars or those vehicles that they may have previously owned,” said Katey Dulak, the facility’s activities director. “We encourage the community to attend this wonderful event to support the residents of Our Lady of Peace.”

The event will feature Dee Jay the DJ, along with plenty of great food. Other activities include; a 50/50 raffle, door prizes, and silent auction. All proceeds benefit the facility’s residents. The first 70 car entries will receive a dash plaque. Cruise car pre-registration is $8, or $10 on the day of the show.

For more information, call Dulak at 298-2911. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 15:04:56 -0400
<![CDATA[ Free Sunday afternoon concerts at Artpark ]]>
The free concerts feature musical ensembles in a scenic setting overlooking the Niagara River. The series is sponsored by Calspan.

The Fredonia Faculty Percussion Ensemble will play at 4 p.m. today; followed by the Harmonica Chamber Singers next Sunday. The College Musical Ensemble will take the stage on July 27, followed y the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band Ensemble on Aug. 10. The Lexington String Quartet closes the series on Aug. 17.

A state parking fee of $5 per car will be charged. ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 14:50:29 -0400
<![CDATA[ Fishing tournament award winners named ]]>
The event was held during New York State’s Free Fishing Weekend on June 28-29. Anglers could compete in the adult division for $3000 in cash prizes or in the free kids division for trophies and merchandise prizes.

Officials called the haul to the scales “impressive” over just two days from the one mile stretch of eligible waters.

Winners in the adult division were: Anthony Henley of Lockport with a six pound pike; Matt Steffan of Williamsville with a 16 and one-half pound carp; Ernie Kielbasa of Niagara Falls with a three pound catfish; Robert Grant of Niagara Falls with a 2.3 pound smallmouth bass; and John Green of Tonawanda with a .73 pound perch.

Three juniors won trophies in the kids division including Tiffany Phelps of Buffalo with a 1.3 pound bass; Victoria Alciki of Clarence Center with a one pound bullhead; and Kalub Allen of North Tonawanda with a .36 pound perch.

Over thirty corporate sponsors supported the event.

Proceeds were donated to the Twin Cities Community Outreach, Inc.

Wed, 9 Jul 2014 14:45:52 -0400
<![CDATA[ Nixon’s grandson among four Pulaski Day Parade grand marshals ]]>
Christopher Nixon Cox, son of Edward Cox and Tricia Nixon Cox, will be one of the parade’s four honorary grand marshals. The others include Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, State Sen. Timothy Kennedy and Chief U.S. District Judge William Skretny.

The parade will be led by the Mummers String Band of Philadelphia and will march from the Thruway Plaza on Walden Avenue to Harlem Road and north to the Town of Cheektowaga Park.

To register a band, float, fire department, corporation, church or veteran’s unit, call Parade Chair Mira Szramel at 903-3242 or 681-6739. ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:47:53 -0400
<![CDATA[ Theft of furniture, screen doors, hot water tank tied to eviction friction ]]> Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:31:02 -0400 <![CDATA[ Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights offers a model for teaching immigrants ]]>
A quarter to a third of students in both schools had little formal education in their native countries and are often older than the traditional students for these grades. Some had never before picked up a pencil.

At the Buffalo school, 26 percent of the students graduate on time.

At the Brooklyn school, the graduation rate is 66 percent, rivaling many urban schools in the state and exceeding many Buffalo schools. The Brooklyn school’s six-year graduation rate climbs to 78 percent, compared with 37 percent at Lafayette.

The school at Prospect Heights answers a burning question for Buffalo: Can you fill a high school with immigrants and refugees – some illiterate in their own native language – and get a majority to graduate on time with a Regents diploma?

The answer is yes.

What’s happening in Brooklyn provides a road map for Buffalo schools as Erie County has welcomed more than 6,000 refugees over the past five years, many families coming as much for their children’s futures as for their own, experts say.

There are many reasons why the school at Prospect Heights, part of New York City’s network of international schools, works.

Students there don’t just learn, they also teach each other. Early grade levels are combined so that students can absorb information from kids who know more and feed information to those who know less.

Instructors work in tight-knit teams, modeling the same kind of collegial support they expect of their students. Long classroom lectures are nonexistent. English language skills are not taught separately, but incorporated into every subject.

And students work on theme-centered projects that run for weeks, even months.

“We don’t do drill-and-kill,” said Claire Sylvan, executive director of New York City’s Internationals Network for Public Schools.

The Brooklyn school doesn’t have longer school days, smaller class sizes or lower graduation standards than Lafayette. In fact, it enrolls an even higher percentage of beginner students with limited formal education.

The school’s only admissions standard is that students must have been in the United States four years or less.

Some Buffalo educators dismiss the comparisons with Prospect Heights, citing demographic differences.

Sylvan concedes that Buffalo educates a higher proportion of refugees than New York City. It’s also true that not all 15 schools in the Internationals Network do as well as Prospect Heights.

But none do as poorly as Lafayette, either.

All students learn together

The formidable, beige brick structure once known as Prospect Heights High School fades to a washed-out gray under an overcast sky. It is a 1920s landmark in this trending but still too-poor-to-be-chic neighborhood of Brooklyn. The school has metal detectors and an X-ray machine in the lobby.

But a few floors above, students vibrating with noisy energy and colorful garb trample patches of royal blue floor tile. Animated chatter spills from nearly every classroom.

Sylvan, 63, leads the tour with an expert air. The diminutive but unflinching Brooklyn native founded the Internationals Network for Public Schools in 2003, and the Prospect Heights school was one of the first the network opened.

On this particular day, she walks gingerly. She twisted her foot on a sidewalk – a hazard of being a New Yorker, she says – and it still hurt.

Her assistant offers to go back and grab her cane, but Sylvan says it isn’t worth the trouble and gamely makes her way up and down the stairs that connect the 1½ floors the school occupies.

As she enters every classroom, she stands long enough to point out the obvious: Students are teachers here.

Kids lean in shoulder-to-shoulder, marking up and exchanging papers, smudging their shared laptop screens. They translate for their peers. They heatedly debate topics, sometimes with thick accents and halting, simple English. The self-consciousness of September has long since disappeared.

There are no classrooms with desks set up in even, tidy rows. Instead, during many class changes, scraping sounds vibrate into the hallways as teachers ask their students to regroup their desks based on the lesson plan.

To capitalize on the group learning, all ninth- and 10th-graders learn together. Regardless of differences in their academic backgrounds and English language skills, all take the same two-year curriculum.

Students with poorer English language or academic skills are grouped with stronger peers who help tutor and translate for them.

One ninth/10th-grade biology class resembles an art class, with students clustering around sheets of cut-up construction paper, glue sticks and boxes of markers as they paste down descriptive panels about various diseases of the body.

Snippets of Haitian-Creole, Spanish, Chinese, French, Uzbek and Arabic add to the classroom din. But with the fall semester behind these children, English is clearly the cross-cultural language for everyone.

Their research of body-destroying diseases, from diabetes to emphysema, hangs on the walls in posters.

In this classroom, the biology teacher repeatedly breaks up students into different groups so that all kids are forced to share what they learned from the last group with the next group.

That is the only way every classmate gains a complete understanding of the human body and the only way they can complete their final projects.

“Grouping is a big part of the skill for teaching this way,” Sylvan says.

On this particular day, students are finishing informational pamphlets on a disease they each chose to focus on. Each brochure must describe a disease, its symptoms, its causes and its effect on a body system.

One girl creates a folded, purple pamphlet on sickle cell anemia because she has two friends who inherited the condition. Another unfurls a long, fan-folded flier on diabetes, because that was her grandfather’s diagnosis.

The temptation for teachers faced with teaching low-level students speaking limited English and high-level students speaking fluent English is to assign different lessons and different homework to the two groups.

Not here. All students cover the same material and work on the same projects, and every student must complete the same assignment. But teachers tailor their expectations and provide extra support and materials based on each student’s abilities.

In this class, for instance, beginner students can create pamphlets on a disease already studied thoroughly in class while intermediate students select a disease covered only superficially in class. Advanced students choose a disease that wasn’t covered in class at all and requires outside research.

When they complete their work, they must present it to a panel of adults.

“The main thing that’s happening in class is that the kids are actively using language,” Sylvan says.

From blood to beauty

This school has come a long way in 10 short years. The walls tell the story. Every shade of beige, tan and brown covers a long stretch of hallway in tidy squares from floor to ceiling. The year the school opened, students had their exact skin tone matched as a paint color. The result was a unified mosaic that left most students unable to pinpoint which color square was theirs.

Stenciled poetic lines float above doorways and lockers, words that inform visitors of students’ physical and emotional journeys to this safe haven.

Respect peaceful far far away

“Peaceful” is the last word that would have been associated with this place a decade ago. In 2002-03, Prospect Heights High School wasn’t just one of New York City’s most dangerous high schools. It was No. 1.

The crime rate for students committing major offenses was higher than any of the other 250 or so high schools in the city. The school had abysmal academic stats and was better known as a training ground for gangsters than graduates.

But under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reform agenda, the 3,000-seat Prospect Heights High School was broken like a graham cracker into four smaller schools. The building now offers a school of music and theater, one for science and the environment, and another for global citizenship.

The international school joined the trio in 2004, part of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network that continues to grow and expand into other states every year.

Sylvan, now the network’s executive director, founded the international schools network almost by accident.

She had spent 11 years working as a junior high bilingual education teacher when she mused at a retirement party one night that she was ready for a change of scenery. The next morning, she saw a posting for the International High School at LaGuardia Community College.

“I went there,” she said, “and my head was blown off.”

In every room, she witnessed students of different races and nationalities mixing together, speaking different languages. In a cramped basement, students had turned garbage cans into hallway work stations so they could develop their team projects. Sylvan was so enraptured by what she saw that she had to be dragged out of classrooms on her interview day.

It was a recipe for success, one that deserved to be copied.

In 2003, Sylvan applied for school start-up money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization that eventually contributed $8 million over the years to dramatically expand international schools in New York City.

To tap that money, Sylvan belatedly discovered she needed to create a nonprofit organization. So she did. The Internationals Network for Public Schools was born.

The learning model at LaGuardia eventually became the foundation of the Prospect Heights international school and 17 others like it.

‘Everybody’s equal here’

Students at Prospect Heights spend more classroom time on subjects than students in some other immigrant-heavy schools because they don’t take special classes to learn English.

Class periods run 65 minutes, compared with 40 to 45 minutes in many other high schools. The Brooklyn school compensates by not offering English-as-a-second-language classes, which are booked in double blocks at Buffalo’s Lafayette High School.

Sylvan points out that students receive no high school credits for taking ESL classes. At Prospect Heights, every teacher is considered an English language teacher. So are many of the students.

They turn borrowed MacBook laptops into all-purpose electronic tools for translation, research and classroom reporting. In every classroom, translation dictionaries also line the shelves in help-yourself fashion.

In one 12th-grade English class, students cluster around wide, group tables topped with dull-edged paperbacks. Dictionaries still dot a few work spaces, but the seniors rely much less on translation aids than they did as freshmen.

They had finished “Macbeth” and were preparing to tackle African-American vernacular English while reading Zora Neal Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” No easy job.

The teacher draws some parallels by asking about their own knowledge of local dialects. The names of unrecognized, exotic languages punctuate the air.

“Garifuna,” says one student, referring to the language spoken by indigenous people from northern parts of South America.

Finally, everyone gets a worksheet filled with lines from Hurston’s book.

After reading “De Lawd will provide,” Dominican Republic native Manuel Ventura, 17, tests out the words phonetically.

“I think it’s ‘The Lord,’ ” he finally announces to his classmates around the table.

Though Manuel started school in New York as an eighth-grade bilingual education student, he didn’t really learn English until he entered Prospect Heights a year later.

As a ninth-grader, he felt self-conscious speaking out loud. But he eventually realized that getting through his classes required him to talk and that his peers weren’t going to judge.

“Everybody’s equal here,” he says.

Manuel has been accepted at Union College in Schenectedy, where he plans to major in computer science and minor in French and Portuguese, two languages he doesn’t currently speak. But at a school where all his friends speak two or three languages, Manuel says he decided to study more languages in college so he can easily work abroad.

“Here, I got inspired,” he says.

Teacher teamwork

The teachers at Prospect Heights take collective responsibility for their students’ learning. If this sounds logical and simple, it isn’t.

It requires a lot of teamwork across all subject areas, which is why administrators don’t do the hiring at this school – the teachers do, as a committee.

“That took a little legal finessing,” Sylvan says.

Once part of the faculty, teachers join a specific teaching team. Not a social studies team or a math team, but a cross-subject teaching team that meets twice a week.

Because each classroom of students stays together all year long, so do the teachers who teach them. A social studies teacher, English teacher, math teacher and science teacher sit together, armed with academic files and personal observations.

They trade stories on how the same kid doing well in English struggles in social studies. They also discuss emotional and health-related problems that routinely mark this vulnerable group.

Like a hospital triage unit, they figure out which of the teachers among them is best equipped to intervene.

And when possible, they follow their students from one year to the next.

Science teacher Adam Lammers is one example. Moving from table to table with his side-cropped hair, multi-pierced ears and old-school glasses, he reigns over the chaos of an 11th-grade class finishing up final presentations.

The prior two school years, he taught a ninth/10th-grade class. Now, he grins as he looks over his current crop of students and realizes he previously taught all of the kids in the room except three.

He reflects with satisfaction on what his 11th-graders know now.

“You get to see the deeper understanding that you laid the groundwork for in ninth and 10th grades,” he said.

In-depth learning

One of the biggest challenges teachers face at the International School at Prospect Heights is developing theme-based projects in every subject area. These projects are designed to cover all the academic ground high school students need to learn.

That’s difficult work – projects sometimes span months – but these efforts promote cooperative learning and the kind of critical thinking skills the Common Core demands.

In a 12th-grade science class, teacher Rachel Huang stands back in her bright pink cardigan and watches her students work together like a well-oiled machine.

It wasn’t always this way. When she joined the school a year after it opened, she struggled with the concept of teaching English through the lens of science and spent a lot of time running to her school mentor and principal for advice.

“I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It was very hard.”

None of that is evident now.

At one table, 17-year-old Temur Amriev attacks a classroom laptop. Wearing a stray rubber band around his left wrist, he finds a Web page with blood-type information and reaches behind him to hand the MacBook back to classmate Doumbia Matadje.

He reclaims his own laptop, shares his screen with the classmate to his right and offers a critique of the DNA report by a Chinese classmate sitting two seats over.

Then he launches into a fluent and detailed explanation of his class assignment: using DNA clues to help identify the father of a boy named Mike.

“We only know he was B+ homozygous,” said Temur, a native of Uzbekistan, a former Soviet country.

Temur is the same kid who arrived in the United States five years ago knowing barely three words of English. Now a junior, he complains that his assignments have gotten much harder.

Great educational disparity

Temur’s background highlights the great educational disparity among immigrant students who enter Prospect Heights. Though he came to this country speaking no English, he was not illiterate. In fact, when he entered ninth grade here, he was shocked at how easy the math was. It was knowledge he had learned two years earlier in his native country.

Now he serves as a guiding light for his peers, many of whom came to New York with a much more limited education than he had. It is a role he accepts without question. “If they’re struggling,” he said, “then I help.”

He helps classmates like Doumbia, the student who had asked him to find the blood typing Web page she needed to work with that day.

Doumbia went to school in West Africa until she was 12. She wasn’t doing well in school there, so her parents considered it a waste of money for her to continue her education. Though she attended a public school, her family still had to pay for all her books and supplies. So for two years, her parents kept her home.

In 2008, Doumbia left behind three brothers and a sister and came to the United States with her stepmother. She enrolled in public schools in Denver. Because she spoke and understood so little English, she said, she sat quietly and tried not to attract attention.

The following year, her stepmother took her to New York City, then returned home to West Africa, leaving Doumbia on her own.

She’s in foster care now, with no family here except her school family. She tries to call home, but it has been difficult to reach relatives there. The last time she spoke with her parents was before Christmas, she said. Her mother was sick.

Doumbia still struggles with reading and spelling, but she speaks English fluently now and is a member of the school’s National Honor Society.

Questioning the model

It would be a lie to suggest that international schools like Prospect Heights succeed without difficulty. Not all are so successful. Sylvan admits that no school in the international schools network has opened without hardship, or even rebellion.

“There will always be pushback,” Sylvan says. “We know it’s going to happen – 18 schools and it’s happened 18 times.”

Administrators would get bombarded with questions like: How do we know what kids are learning? How do we assess it? Grade it?

It got to the point where the Internationals Network started issuing a handbook to new schools that featured a chapter specifically to address this. It was titled, “Oh, they really don’t speak English.”

“People can’t imagine when they see a kid who comes in and doesn’t speak a word of English, what a graduate can look like,” she says. “So we show them.”

The Internationals Network for Public Schools provides opportunities for principals to meet and share ideas and organizes summer institutes, fall teacher training sessions, annual leadership retreats and other targeted school assistance.

But just as important, they provide a culture of peer support among teachers at each school.

That kind of support is necessary all year long, not just when schools like the one at Prospect Heights first open. Teachers run into problems with the school’s model regularly.

In one empty classroom dotted with U.S. maps, social studies teacher Bob Van Pelt ignores his mug of tea as he vents his frustrations to literacy coach Joanna Yip. He alternates between stretching his legs out under the table and folding them back under his seat as he outlines his concerns with heated candor.

Themed instruction can’t always trump chronological teaching, he argues. It’s fine to develop a social studies project on the “Meaning of Freedom,” he says, but the course of American history doesn’t always follow a project outline.

“I did something that no one’s done before,” he says, tapping his index finger against the table as if daring Yip to object. “I did U.S. history from start to finish.”

Van Pelt had purchased a set of sixth-grade U.S. history textbooks that he figured his students could follow and took all his students through it to ensure they could pass the U.S. history Regents exam.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough textbooks for every kid,” he said, “so I made a lot of photocopies.”

Yip listens. She neither approves nor disapproves of Van Pelt’s methods or point of view. Instead, she asks questions about what worked well for him, what didn’t and asks what might help him in the future.

It is the same model of support teachers provide their students, Sylvan points out. Teachers need it, too.

She adds that Van Pelt’s objections are natural and fair, worth discussing with peers. But the school doesn’t teach to the test overall, she says.

Many schools with high immigrant populations curse the Common Core learning standards as yet another burden for a school already facing tremendous needs.

But Sylvan only shrugs. She considers the International School at Prospect Heights a testament to the in-depth learning and critical thinking skills demanded by the Common Core every day.

“We’re not that freaked out about it,” she says, “because the Common Core is fundamentally what we’re doing.”

Tuesday: The challenges Buffalo’s Lafayette High School faces

For more information on this story, visit the School Zone blog at ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:29:56 -0400 Sandra Tan
<![CDATA[ Golisano-Congel joint bid for Bills off, sources say ]]>
Golisano still wants to bid on the team, but by himself, the sources told The News. One of the sources, who is also familiar with the discussions, said Congel might pursue the team on his own.

In May, The News reported that Congel, a succesful shopping mall developer, was considering working with billionaire Golisano to purchase the Buffalo Bills in conjunction with a $700 million development of a long-dormant West Seneca plaza. Sources familiar with the situation at the time said that development could include a new stadium for the team on nearby land.

One of the sources also said that if Golisano buys the Bills, then he still would have interest in the West Seneca site and would not rule out selling a minority stake in the team to Congel.

Congel, whose family has long run the Pyramid Cos. that built and manages the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, declined to comment in May when asked if he sought to buy part of the team, as did Golisano.

While the sources indicated that Congel and Golisano are no longer pursuing a possible partnership to buy the Bills, Congel appears to be moving forward with a plan to develop the former Seneca Mall site in West Seneca, according to town officials.

West Seneca Town Councilman Eugene P. Hart said Congel and his team met individually with town officials in late June to present his latest plan for the vacant mall site and has told them he would return with a revised proposal. The vacant land is located near Ridge Road and the Thruway.

Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said Saturday that Congel is still in discussions with town officials over developing the former Seneca mall site. Whether or not he has interest in buying the Bills, she said, has no bearing on that project.

Congel’s proposal unveiled in May for the mall site included a massive development with hotels, housing, a theater and parking.

“The conversations have been extremely positive,” Meegan said of Congel’s meetings with the town over the Seneca mall site.

During the June meetings, Congel showed off the latest revisions to his proposal for the vacant mall site, as well as conceptual designs for a stadium that could be built nearby, Hart said. Hart called the proposal for a stadium in West Seneca a “pretty remote possibility.”

News Staff Reporter Denise Jewell Gee contributed to this report. email: ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:08:33 -0400 Tim Graham
<![CDATA[ Lockport Board of Education re-examines transportation policies ]]>
Proposed policies on transportation and bus scheduling and routing were presented to the board at Wednesday’s meeting, but were not publicly released.

Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley pledged in January that the district would re-examine its policy on bus pickups after a flap over a decision to stop picking up children at each driveway on Young Road, a dead-end street off Sunset Drive.

Instead, the district directed Ridge Road Express, the bus company, to collect and drop off all the Young Road children near the intersection with Sunset. Parents on the road protested that was unsafe.

The board hired Kevin Love, transportation director for the West Seneca district, to go over Lockport’s bus route structure.

Bradley said she doesn’t expect any changes to be instituted in time for the opening of school in September. “If we have to make necessary changes midyear, we’ll do it,” she said.

Jonathan May, one of the Young Road parents, was unimpressed with news of the consultant.

“Why will this review not be done by the beginning of the school year? What have they been waiting for? This has been an issue for almost a year already,” May wrote in an email to The Buffalo News.

Bradley said a revision is overdue because of the district’s recent consolidation of elementary schools and its shift from two middle schools to one intermediate school and one junior high school.

According to statements in January by another Young Road parent, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. James K. Hildreth, the revised plan shortened the time on the bus for Sebastian Drive children by 15 to 20 minutes a day, while one Young Road child faced a 45-minute longer ride home.

May asked, “How is there no one within our own district capable of reviewing the bus routes? And if there is no one with that qualification, why was our bus route summarily changed by someone unqualified to make that judgment?”

email: ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:07:11 -0400 Thomas Prohaska
<![CDATA[ Events for people with disabilities ]]>

National Alliance on Mental Illness family support groups meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at two locations: Abbott Corners, Lake Shore Behavioral Health, 3176 Abbott Road, Orchard Park; and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 4007 Main St., Amherst. Meetings are open to all in the community and offered at no charge. For information, call 226-6264 or visit:


Western New York Independent Living is hosting its annual ADA Consumer Picnic with food, fun and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 25 at Sheridan Park, (Shelter No. 2) on Sheridan Drive and Grand Island Boulevard, adjacent to the Sheridan Park Golf Course, in the Town of Tonawanda. The picnic commemorates the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law passed on July 26, 1990, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. Transportation is available. For reservations, call Courtney Torgalski at 836-0822, Ext. 181.


Goodwill Industries of Western New York provides comprehensive job training, placement and follow-up services to adults with a wide range of disabilities, disadvantages and other special needs. Goodwill’s approach is holistic and person-centered, with all services individualized to achieve goals consistent with the client’s employment preferences. Services include vocational assessment, case management, work-readiness training, job seeking and job placement assistance. Alternative in-house work opportunities are provided for individuals who require a more supportive, less pressured work environment. Ancillary services include a Board of Education-sponsored GED program and an urban food pantry. For additional information, contact Dawn Cody, manager for Goodwill Career Evaluation Center at 854-3494, Ext. 3010, or email


Community Services for Developmentally Disabled offers an individual retirement experience program, a fun alternative to traditional senior services for people with disabilities older than 50. The small social group meets at community centers and senior centers in your neighborhood. Activities include trips, volunteering, parties, bingo, arts, crafts and more. For more information, call 883-8002.


Neighborhood Legal Services Inc., a nonprofit civil legal services agency, is providing adult cancer patients and families of pediatric cancer patients access to free civil legal services ranging from assistance with denial of public benefits, family law matters, disability law, housing issues, preparation of advance directives and permanency planning. For more information, call 847-0650, Ext. 420.


OAHiiO (The Good Path) part of Western New York Independent Living Inc. families of agencies, offers a holistic approach that includes independent living skills, peer support, advocacy, information and referral resources for Native Americans and their families in Erie County and surrounding territories with mental or physical disabilities and/or chemical dependencies. Services assist with the ability to live independently while respecting their cultural diversity. For more information, call 836-0822 or visit

Items of timely events may be submitted by fax, 856-5150 or by mail to City Desk, Events for People with Disabilities, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 21:56:10 -0400
<![CDATA[ Firefighters battle two-alarm fire at Tonawanda chemical plant ]]>
About6 p.m., chemical oxidizers at FMC Corp. on Sawyer Avenue either reacted or ignited and started a fire in warehouse area of the plant. Firefighters from nine companies contained the fire and put out the blaze within 45 to 50 minutes, according to Ellwood Fire Chief Gary Stuff.

“Basically the stuff that was burning, it’s a dust-skin irritant,” Stuff said. “Obviously, any off-gassing or burning is a respiratory irritant. ... Once you start putting water on it, it’s fairly easy to control. It’s not really a big explosion hazard, but it takes a lot – a lot of water to get it out. That’s basically why we had so many crews.”

Plant personnel were in the building when the fire started, Stuff said. A sprinkler system was activated and a fire door closed.

Damage was estimated at $10,000 – mainly to cover cleanup and sprinkler replacement costs, Stuff said. ]]>
Sat, 12 Jul 2014 21:34:37 -0400