Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to teachers, administrators, parents and students at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High and Southwestern Senior High schools for being named reward schools in recent state Education Department School and District Accountability Designation Reports. Both were designated high performing schools, which means the schools meet annual yearly progress benchmarks for all subgroups of students, meet gap closing requirements between student subgroups, have a graduation rate of 80 percent or higher while exceeding the state average for students graduating with either a Regents diploma with advanced designation or a Career and Technical Education endorsement. Schools are also judged on how well they graduate students deemed to be at risk. Proud parents and teachers in these districts should absolutely want to call attention to their schools’ accomplishments.

In that vein, thumbs down to lawn signs throughout the Southwestern Central School district that use the rewards school designation as the basis for a call to reward teachers with an appropriate contract. Under that logic, if Southwestern Senior High School were to fall from the ranks of the reward schools, would the teachers give back anything in the appropriate contract the next year? We highly doubt that. And, as far as we know, the state’s 2 percent tax cap doesn’t include exceptions for rewarding teachers for doing their jobs, so such an increase could come back to bite the district and taxpayers each and every year from here to eternity. Teachers should be proud of their accomplishment and, more importantly, their students’ accomplishments. Using those accomplishments as part of a guilt trip with the school board and taxpayers seems wrong.

Thumbs up to an opportunity to see an amazing performance without leaving the city limits or buying a ticket. The Harmonic Brass Quintet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, at Saints Peter and Paul Church of Holy Apostles Parish, 508 Cherry St. Known for being ambassadors of a new brass sound, the Harmonic Brass Quintet was formed in 1991 with little more than their musical training, their instruments and a dream. Today, the quintet is considered to be one of the finest brass quintets in the world. They transformed the world of Brass music by building bridges with various styles, epochs and cultures. Complimenting their style is their trademark sense of humor, seeing the comical side of life and music, and transforming audiences worldwide into lovers of great music. Music lovers should be sure to attend.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

A long overdue thumbs up to the Busti and Lakewood fire departments for coming together over the last several months to make sure the departments are able to handle rescue calls. The departments had a lack of manpower from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Michael Volpe, Busti fire chief, and Jack Knowlton, Lakewood fire chief, put their heads together and decided to have both departments dispatched to emergency medical calls during those hours. It’s not a perfect solution, but give credit to the departments for finding a temporary solution. Such situations are the reason why the county is studying ways to provide volunteer emergency medical services.

Thumbs down to a rough few weeks for historic vessels on Chautauqua Lake. The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry recently had to close its season early when a tree limb was caught in the paddle wheel and broke the ferry’s gear box. It had been a banner season for the ferry, with more than 9,400 people riding across the lake from May through late August. Then, on Saturday, the Chautauqua Belle found itself too close to shore near the We Wan Chu cottages in Chautauqua and ran aground. The 74-person wedding party aboard the steamship had to be shuttled back to shore. The ship sustained damage to its stern paddlewheel and rudder. Accidents will happen, and we hope to see both vessels back in the water as soon as possible. Chautauqua Lake just isn’t Chautauqua Lake without the Bemus Point-Stow Ferry and the Chautauqua Belle.

Thumbs up to all those who had a hand in the reconstruction of a historic fountain in the Village Green Park in Mayville. The fountain dates back to at least the 1920s while the statue in the center of the fountain can be traced back to the 1880s. The fountain itself has been replaced, but the statue remains. Cracks in the base of the original fountain made it impossible for the fountain to store and recirculate the water, leading to a waste of water when the fountain was used. Village officials received a $6,500 grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to pay for half of the reconstruction and spent much of the summer reconstructing the fountain. This is a small project in the grand scheme of things, but a worthwhile one for anyone who has fond memories of summers gone by in the Village Green Park.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to Fletcher Ward, a student of local history who is taking on an exciting new project, has written several books on local history, including: “Chautauqua’s Largest Fish,” “Saving Chautauqua’s Muskies” and “Chautauqua Lake’s Great Race.” At one time, Chautauqua Lake was a primary source of ice for the lake’s many hotels, breweries, ice cream factories and doctors. In addition to supplying local needs, the ice men of Chautauqua supplied much of the ice for Pittsburgh, Oil City, and Meadville, Pa., as well as contributing substantial amounts of ice to New York City and Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, ice cut on the lake was used to restock ice in thousands of Gustavus Franklin Swift’s boxcar shipments of beef and pork from the Midwest to New York City. That industry and its role in Chautauqua County’s history is next on Ward’s list of topics – and he needs the help of area residents to tell the story. “It is those recollections that transform a compilation of historical facts to being a book worth publishing,” he said. “In many instances, ice industry photographs from family albums also name the individuals shown in the pictures, or name the particular ice house – both of which are invaluable to a writer.” Anyone with old documents, photos and family tales about the ice industry can call Ward at 386-7977 and will be credited in the book for supplying the information.

Thumbs down to a continued escalation in the amount of overtime paid to New York state employees. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently reported state agencies spent more than $337 million on overtime in the first six months of 2015, a $21 million increase over the same period in 2014. State employees worked more than 8.2 million overtime hours, up 5 percent over the same period in 2014. If overtime continues to rise at this pace, total costs for 2015 would exceed $700 million, an all-time record. Some of that increase can be pinned on overtime searching for two escaped murderers in June, but not the entire amount. That is disappointing given that DiNapoli has issued this very same warning for the last two years, yet overtime spending continues spiraling out of control. State agencies should absolutely scrutinize their management practices and see what changes can be made to reduce reliance on overtime. That money could certainly be used for better things.

Thumbs up to Pam Moran for finding a way to put her special skills with puppets and costumes to good use. Moran is a kindergarten through fifth grade art instructor at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School. Moran was a co-founder of Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theatre, a nationally acclaimed puppet company in which she performed across the country and coordinated hundreds of workshops ranging from puppet construction to script and production development. Those who attend this year’s Enchanted Forest at the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center can see Moran’s handiwork up close. A state grant paid for Moran to create costumes including a praying mantis and a lightning bug to be added to the Enchanted Forest, but the money would go to waste without the skills of a talented artist. The Enchanted Forest takes place Oct. 2-3. For more information, call 569-2345 or visit

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to what should be an enlightening process on the process to dissolve a village. Forestville residents will decide on Nov. 3 whether to dissolve the village and combine its operations with the town of Hanover. A baseline study that analyzes the village’s finances and the impacts of dissolving on taxes and services will be released on Oct. 20. It was little more than 18 months ago that Chautauqua County lawmakers approved a $150,000 loan to decrease a 445 percent tax increase in the village caused by debt from a village waterline project and an emergency demolition project. Part of that agreement was agreeing to determine the feasibility of dissolving the village. It will be an interesting two months or so until the November election for not only Forestville residents, but residents of villages throughout the county.

Thumbs down to another instance of distracted driving that brought with it disastrous consequences. On Aug. 28, two people were injured after a distracted driver veered into an oncoming lane and destroyed an Amish buggy in Poland. Sheriff’s deputies reported the accident was caused by the driver using her cellphone while, at the same time, being distracted by her three children. The driver of the buggy as well as the horse that was pulling the buggy were seriously injured. An accident July 18 in Jamestown, meanwhile, resulted in injuries to two cyclists when a driver distracted by her children struck the riders head-on. Government can only do so much to eliminate distracted driving incidents. The rest is up to each and every one of us.

Thumbs up to what was, by all accounts, a successful inaugural Chautauqua Gran Fondo ride a week ago. Michelle Turner of the county IDA said there were 280 riders – many of whom came from outside the area – registered for the either 20 mile or 42-mile route around Chautauqua Lake. The event also included a Country Proud Celebration behind Webb’s Captain’s Table in Mayville, complete with live music, food and vendors. Proceeds from the event benefited local chapters of the Wounded Warrior Project, Habitat for Humanity and the Loco Rail Trail. Events like the Gran Fondo won’t balance the county’s budget or create new jobs, but they are an important part of helping boost the bottom line of hundreds of small businesses who count on tourism dollars to make ends meet each year. We look forward to next year’s Chautauqua Gran Fondo as well as the Fitness and Health Challenge, a new event announced by County Executive Vince Horrigan that will include three weeks of fit and healthy events throughout the county, Horrigan said, including the golf tournament, the second annual Chautauqua Gran Fondo, fishing, 5K and 10K races and a plethora of healthy eating options sponsored by local restaurants, farmers markets and the Taste of Chautauqua.