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Inergy or Gas Free: LPG storage on Seneca Lake

20 Jun

By Ashley Gardner

Students walked in the rain, holding up signs and chanting. The reason for the protest…… a LPG storage unit on Seneca Lake

 Sam Gill secretary general of the model UN class at the WatkinsGlenHigh School said that for the class’s finial project they voted to do the issue of LPG storage unit. The ideas for the final were the LPG Storage unit gun control and raising money for the Boston bombing victims. They  decided to inform the school about it, practiced debates for and against LPG Storage, and they even planned  a peaceful protect for May 22, and May 23, for everyone in the community, even if you are pro-LPG or just don’t know what to be. The 1st day protest was lead by Sam Gill and had gotten some students including one who was Pro-LPG who marched to the state park from the pier and back. On the 2nd day the protest was lead by Rachael Miller and despite the rain and cold weather, 25 students showed up doubling the numbers from the first day. Joining them also was some members from the community, including Gas Free Seneca. The students enjoyed being loud and proud, gaining much support with the honks from cars, with a few negative “birds” here and there but that did not get them down. Students are not the only people protesting the LPG unit but many in the community are also.

On March 8th, 2013 twelve people (The Seneca 12) blocked the gate to Inergy’s facility and all twelve were arrested. Some of the people refused to pay the fine saying Inergy has broken the law by violating the Clean Water Act, by dumping excess effluent discharge into the lake every day, even after getting a permit to dump 44,000 pounds of sodium chloride (salt) into the lake every day. The protestors also say that Inergy has had two equipment failures that resulted in dead and dying vegetation along the lake.

Inergy is planning on storing LPG or liquefied petroleum gas in the abandoned salt caverns on Seneca Lake and members of the community are not happy about it.

“They feel that Inergy is the true criminal, not the citizens trying to protect their homes and way of life.” said Yvonne Taylor from Gas Free Seneca.

The people who refused to pay are Melissa Chipman, a businesswoman from Hector, Michael Dineen an organic farmer who waters his farm with Seneca lake water, and Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a cancer survivor, author, and biologist who has won the Heinz Award for her environmental work, and has been educating people about the connection between industry and its impact on public health. Dr. Steingraber’s son Elijah was also born at SeptemberHillBirthing Center in Seneca Lake Water giving here a bigger reason to fight for this cause.

Yvonne Taylor Co-Founder of Gas Free Seneca (http://gasfreeseneca.com/)  a group fighting to stop the LPG facility while having nothing to do with these arrests , understands why it happened, and supports those who now feel they now have not other choice than to commit acts of civil disobedience as a last resort.  They have  attended the Schuyler County legislature meetings, Village of Watkins Glen Board of Trustees meetings, met with Senator Gillbrand and Schumer’s staffers, met with Tom O’Mara, and Senator Michael Nozzlio, wrote letters to all of the above and to congressmen Tom Reed, sent written comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), commented during the two public hearings held by the DEC, held a public forum on the issue at the Watkins Glen High School, had a petition drive gaining over 5,000 signatures from area residents and tourists who oppose this facility, along with much more to try and stop Inergy.  Blocking the gate was the last resort after citizens felt a growing sense of desperation and realized that none of all the work they did had any real impact on stopping Inergy.

 Yvonne Taylor states “It is extremely frustrating to know that while other surrounding counties along Seneca Lake see what a threat this type of industrialization poses to our region, yet our own decision-makers do not seem equipped to come to that same conclusion.” 

When asked about the Seneca 12 getting arrested Yvonne says “I think it is sad that people feel as though they must perform acts of civil disobedience as a last resort, after all other conventional means have failed, in order to protect their homes. However, civil disobedience is as American as apple pie.” No one can forget the women’s suffrage movement to get the right to vote or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her sit on the bus. Acts like this help change things in the world throughout history and will probable continue all over the world.  Remember Gas Free Seneca did not participate in the civil disobedience but supports their neighbors who put their bodies on the line to defend this region.  Gas Free Seneca says that the air emissions from the storage facility, and from the additional diesel trucks needed for transportation of the gas, emit Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s that have been linked to increased asthma, pre-term birth, cancer, and learning disabilities. The VOC’s emitted also are harmful to crops, particularly grapes. They also say that they live across the lake from the facility and the noise goes on 24/7. It rattles the windows and vibrates the entire house and the lights from the facility already create unwanted light pollution. Although some people may think it is not as bad as people say it is.

Inergy’s Matt McCormick, Lab Director/Compliance Coordinator in Savona, New York and Barry Moon, Director of Safety here at the Watkins Glen facility said that the additional trucks would be four trucks an hour and it would not add much more then a diesel pick up going through ten times an hour compared to the four. The facility also would not emit the VOC but will run on electricity. Only their one flare tower that runs on propane would emit the VOC’s and that it probable won’t put out as much as your furnace does. VOCs are harmful to crops they said but they are really not going to increase the VOC’s around here more than normal recreational activity. They later said that the facility will be manly serviced by pipe line through the enterprise products facility, so during summer from April to September when it is tourist season it will come in by pipe line and rail so truck traffic will be very minimal with some trucks coming in and out for customers. In the winter the product will go out by truck and in by rail for propane and out by rail for butane so it will not affect the tourism. What you see now is what you will see once the facility is built, with trees in front to block the view, the tanks set back away from the road, and a lawn that they will keep mowed. Matt McCormick said if there was not the hoopla about the facility that no one would notice it besides the 10 people who got good jobs there. Also that the noise from the drilling rigs is not an every day thing, it’s them drilling new caverns for US Salt.  Inergy has taken a lot of measurements and have done studies about who would be affected by any potential catastrophic event and the ground water is always monitored with this sort of activates. Another thing was that the 2 equipment failures were brine leaks on US Salt’s Property, not part of their project ether, it was just something reported as Inergy and as he understands it was little problems with the wells between two pipes that were carrying brine that squirts brine maybe as big as your finger not the geyser that was reported by people and these events was also later reported in by Inergy.

Link

By: Kalea Jones and Alexis Gonzalez

29 May

By: Kalea Jones and Alexis Gonzalez

This is a podcast about Alexis Gonzalez’s recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. It talks about what she has done to cope with MS, and also about what is going on with her life right now.

Here is a link to the podcast

It’s an A-B Schedule, Can You “C” Your Way Out of it?

29 May

The plan to eliminate C and D days to create a common schedule for the Watkins Glen schools.

By Caitlin Connelly

It’s going to be a blast from the past next year as not only new freshmen are coming over from the middle school, but the classic A-B schedule is making its appearance at WGHS.

With only 7th and 8th graders remaining in the middle school, it has become unnecessary to keep all the staff currently working in the school there for only two grades. Staff needs to be shared between the middle and high school and, in order for this to occur, the schools need to operate on a common schedule.

A committee was formed amongst the middle and high schools with representatives from each. They reached the decision that the A-B schedule would be the simplest solution. This schedule would consist of eight 42 minute periods each day. Students must attend the same classes everyday (besides gym and science labs). Rather than the typical six period days, there will be eight transitions for classes.

Attending the same classes everyday may seem beneficial, but with less time per class, students will not have more time to get their work done.

“Continuity is good in a difficult concept,” said Mrs. Coon, but shortened class periods means less time to assist her students. In-class practice will become homework and Mrs. Coon will lose the ability to help clarify concepts they may be struggling with.

Megan Daigle enjoys her “breathers” away from classes once every four days that decrease the stress from homework. Teachers prefer the longer class periods to cover complicated lessons. However, the concern 7th and 8th graders cannot adjust to the A-B-C-D schedule persists.

In the long run, it’s the A-B-C-D schedule that is preparing students for college. In college, students won’t be attending classes every day, and not for only 42 minutes. Less class time will require both teachers and students to adapt.

Juniors Matthew Gill and Natasha Patel are both concerned about switching to the A-B schedule the year before they will attend college. High school should prepare students for the college experience, not step away from it, these juniors say.

Teachers will need to rewrite their lessons for shorter class periods, and students will have to take additional responsibilities because of this change. Without a day of no class for certain subjects, students will need to seriously consider finding assistance when they need it. Less class time will also limit the time teachers have to work with their students individually.

“I think it is more time efficient to only have students switching classes 6 times a day, now they will have to switch classes 8 times a day,” stated math teacher Mrs. Debolt. “Being late to class won’t be an option,” due to the increase in transitions between classes and a “waste of time in the halls,” she continued. Students will need to get to class quickly to still have a functional amount of time to accomplish their work.

Most believe this will be a negative change for our school, not understanding why the middle school can’t adjust to the A-B-C-D schedule or have the two schools “meet in the middle” with a completely different schedule that has longer class periods. The middle school has never tried any other options besides the A-B schedule, some say. So why should we adjust instead of them?

However, the A-B schedule will be followed next year, so students are encouraged to at least give it a chance. This may be a positive change for the school system, but if problems with the schedules persist, Mr. Warren is willing to accept students’ opinions. He wants the best for the high school, and if they are determined to make a change, he is open to what they have to say.

This change will be relooked if drastic effects occur, but the A-B schedule will still make its appearance whether WGHS is ready or not.

The Physical Fitness Exam: Will You Make it or Break it?

28 May

Sit-ups, the shuttle run, pull-ups, and the ever dreadful mile. Without even saying the name, you already know what I am talking about—The Physical Fitness exam. The horrifying exam is made to test all the blood, sweat, and tears the gym teachers put into each class. It is required by the state that each student take participate in the exam.

Mr. Brubaker, gym teacher at WGHS, says that not every student tries their best on the exam.

“At least 50% of the students try their best on the exam,” said Brubaker. “No one student is the best on every test.”

The Physical Fitness exam gives kids a base line on their physical fitness year-to-year. The New York  State wants students to try and become fit. NYS is issuing the Carol M. White Physical Education Program local area schools that show improvement in physical fitness scores. This exam will initiate, expand, and improve physical education for students K-12. Recipients of the grant must implement programs that help students make progress toward meeting the state standards. The grant can be worth $100,000 and up to $750,000 per school.

Mariah Brisbois, senior at WGHS, says that it is obvious as to who participates on the exam and who doesn’t.

“Students just want to prove that they don’t have to do it,” Brisbois said. “You should at least put effort into doing the exam.”

With the current distaste towards the exam, there will be more to come. The grant will require students to take the exam twice—once in the beginning of the year and once at the end. This will show the progress of the students through the course of the year and won’t affect your grade.

As for the participation of the students, having the exam twice a year might affect that percentage.

“I think the reason kids don’t participate is because they are too embarrassed about performing,” Brubaker said.

Some people do view the exam as a little easy and could be harder to text their level of fitness. The Physical Fitness exam has been happening annually for over 45 years and has recently involved 4th grade for the past 6 years. Hopefully, this grant allows the school to develop, expand, and improve the existing physical education. If students realized how the exam and the grant affect our physical education, they would participate and put effort into the exam.

“This is a good way to test your level of fitness and could be a little harder,” Brisbois said.

This is a fair test required by the state and not just a waste of time. In the years to come, we will be seeing more sit-ups, pull-ups, and a lot more running. So prepare yourselves for the most dreadful physical exam you have seen in your life.

By Abigail Rundle

Frozen Treats — Who Does it Better?

22 May

 

            Spring fever has officially hit! Temperatures are rising, plants have started to bloom, and the grass is returning back to its soft, springy self. While many are taking out their lighter wardrobe of sandals and shorts, a familiar delicacy returns into their minds: ice cream. Nothing tastes better on a warm breezy day than a frozen sweet treat.

            Recently, two very popular ice cream shops in Watkins have reopened for the season: The Great Escape and the Glen Dairy Bar. They both sell similar items, but what makes a person choose to eat at one over the other?

            To discover this answer, I devised an experiment in which a blind taste-test would be held. Four subjects were chosen, two male and two female, to sample products from each of the ice cream shops. Three staple items were picked to be judged. These included vanilla soft serve ice cream, a chocolate milkshake, and a cherry slushie.

            Sounds simple enough, right? I thought it was almost too simple, so I added an additional variable in the taste testing – Burger King! Not only are the two most popular ice cream shops competing, but they’re also being compared to a fast food restaurant’s products.

            The first sample consisted of each establishment’s vanilla soft serve ice cream. 75% of the subjects chose the Great Escape as having the tastiest. A few of the words used to describe the taste and texture were “really creamy,” “thick,” and “a very strong flavor.” Although three out of the four participants chose The Great Escape as having the best, all 3 of those subjects had strikingly similar descriptions of the Glen Dairy Bar’s vanilla ice cream.

            The second sample was of a chocolate milkshake. Surprisingly, there were complaints made towards all three of the different samples by all of the taste-testers. They didn’t like how sweet all the milkshakes were – one even claimed it tasted like straight chocolate syrup. 75% of the participants however chose The Great Escape again as having the most appealing milkshake. The deciding factor was that it wasn’t too sweet.

            The third and final sample was a cherry slushie from each business. The results from this sample proved very surprising. 75% of the taste-testers chose Burger King’s slushie over both ice cream parlors. They liked its bright color and how it was smooth, but still icy. All participants agreed that The Great Escape’s slushie was extremely unappealing. The Glen Dairy Bar’s had abnormally large chunks of ice in it that kept it cold for longer, but irritated many of the participants.

            It can be concluded if you’re looking for the best vanilla ice cream cone or chocolate milkshake, you can head on down to the Great Escape. However if a cherry slushie is of more to your liking, you may want to try Burger King’s “Icee.”

Test Taking Gets Even Worse

16 Apr

GST BOCES idea to “ensure the integrity” of Regents Exams

By Caitlin Connelly

Disappointment, frustration, and confusion filled the room of the two advanced English classes as their January Regents scores were revealed to them earlier this year. These students normally receive high 90s, yet several of the exams exhibited scores much lower.

Out of the 29 students that took the Comprehensive English Exam, 12 of the advanced students received below an 85, making them ineligible, according to the school’s policy, to take an advanced English class the following year.

“That can’t be my grade,” thought AP English student Emily Doppel as she viewed her grade for the first time. She knew several students from past classes who had easily scored near a 97, and couldn’t understand why she had not excelled just as they had.

These students must retake the exam in June, hoping for a different and much better outcome than before.

The Regents Examination is entirely skilled based, said AP English teacher Mrs. Lasko. It does not reflect knowledge of course content, nor reflect how well students perform in school. Lasko finds the exams to be more of an obstacle to the students’ learning, making them live up to the state’s goals, rather than ones the teachers would like to reach.

Although the Regents have been an obstacle to the students, their scores were not completely due to their own
performances. Regional scoring, the new method of grading the exams, has been called into question, too.

“At the September 2011 Board of Regents Meeting, a committee was formed and charged with developing a system to ensure the integrity of the State’s exams,” said Jackie Spencer, Executive Director of Instructional Support Services for GST BOCES.

This committee recommended several proposals regarding proctoring, scanning, and scoring the exams. Among those
proposals, teachers could no longer grade their own students’ exams. All districts this applied to had to find an alternative method of scoring, so 13 of the 21 districts in the GST BOCES region transitioned to “regional scoring” for their January 2013 Regents Examinations.

In regional scoring, the teachers that grade the exams are chosen by each district to meet and work with other districts at a specified location to score the exams together. Any English teacher or teacher familiar with the English curriculum (including special education) can grade the exams. However, teachers in special education may lack the familiarity with some books students chose to write about in their essays.

The English Department at Watkins Glen made the conclusion that major flaws existed with regional scoring in light of such unexpected grades from advanced students.

The Phase 4 English teacher, Ms. Muir, had misgivings about the grading system far before they viewed the scores. The grading setting was too loud with too many representatives of different districts together at once. Although there was a man advising the graders, he knew no more than the scorers, and was only there because the state requested a supervisor to be there and nobody else had offered. Overall, the system was unprofessional and poorly run, said Ms. Muir.

The English teachers reviewed the exams after they had been graded and found that even essays that displayed advanced writing skills got an average score (4 out of a possible 6). Even when all aspects of the tasks for the essay were covered, a student had received a 2. It was clear that the exams needed to be checked again.

An excerpt from one of WGHS's essays that was scored as a 2 out of 6.
An excerpt from a WGHS student essay that was scored as a 2 out of 6 this January.
The example provided in the Comprehensive English Rating Guide for a level 2 essay.
An excerpt from the example provided in the Comprehensive English Rating Guide for a level 2 essay.

The exams were sent to Linda Perry, the Supervisor of Instructional Support Services for GST BOCES. Perry had taught English for 12 years before becoming a regional trainer, leading scoring training for Grades 3-8 State Exams and Regents Exams.

Perry began with scoring a practice set of essays provided by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and after she graded them accurately, began to score the Watkins Glen students’ exams. She left the original scores in a sealed envelope as she graded them.

“Once I was done, I got the sealed scores from Jackie Spencer and we compared my ratings to those given at the regional scoring site. We were pleased with the consistency,” said Perry.
Because of the “consistent” scores found with Perry’s informal review, the Regents exams were not sent to be formally re-graded. Many of the juniors will be taking the exam again in June to qualify to take AP or ACE English their senior year.

The reliability of regional scoring is still questionable for future Regents Exams, but no major changes are being made that will affect the accuracy of this grading system. Unfortunately for future Regents test-takers, there’s no way to predict the trustworthiness of this system. However, BOCES seems to believe the system is flawless.

Student Letters Lead to Albany Trip

16 Apr

Everyone who has had Mr. Durfee as a humanities teacher knows about his infamous debate unit. Debating on topics ranging from the death penalty to abortion, the students complete their research and approach the podium with their opening statements. One part of the students’ research is to find a person who is particularly involved with their topic and write them a letter. Nate Swarthout, one of Mr. Durfee’s lucky freshmen debaters, wrote a stimulating letter to Andrea Miller and was shocked at the response.

Shortly after the debate letters were sent out Nate received a letter at his home. The letter was labeled with a few simple words that sparked some mixed feelings with his father, Abortion Clinic. After explaining to his dad about his debate unit in school, Swarthout eagerly tore into the letter. He had not expected a letter that answered his.

After Swarthout carefully explained the letter to his concerned dad, his father could then share his excitement about his son’s great news and be proud of the steps his son has taken. New doors have been opened for the students of Watkins Glen High School.

Casey wrote him back addressing his debate topic—a woman’s choice to abortion. When Casey first receive Swarthout letter he was just as surprised as Swarthout was to receive one back.

“I have the greatest admiration for all of you for encouraging debate, on this and any other issue,” said Casey. “And this is why I am willing to do everything I can to support his and others efforts.”

In effort to further encourage the young man’s debate efforts he informed the students of an exciting opportunity. Casey invited Swarthout and a few of his class mates to get on a bus in Binghamton and join Casey in Albany. A lobby day will take place Albany on May 21ST. The day will begin after a brief breakfast. The workshop that takes place after breakfast will inform the folks how to citizen lobby, then each person will go to their arranged meeting with their senator.

Casey feels very strongly about the issue that he lobbies for. Much like Swarthout, Casey’s interest in politics sparked when he was young. Based on his parents’ strong involvement in civil rights moments in the south, Casey believes that teenagers should find ways to have their young voices be heard in politics.

“I strongly, strongly, strongly believe that young people must grapple with the great issues that confront our country in open, honest, and civil debate among themselves and in their communities,” Casey declares.

The debate students of Mr. Durfee’s class could not be more excited about the opportunity that was presented to them. Katherine Meehan, who debated against Swarthout, said she could not wait to head to Albany to watch their debate issue in action. Even though Meehan’s team lost, by one devastating point, she and her partner are eagerly awaiting their chance to go to the lobby day with Casey. Being totally against abortion, Meehan waits her time to fire questions at Casey and his prochoice team.
“I’m actually really excited because I did a lot of work on my debate,” Meehan says, “and I want to know why the people at Albany think Abortion is good.”

By: Darby Cady