Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to Julie Ratzlaff, a Sherman Central School senior, for her third-place finish in the nationwide Teens Make Music Contest sponsored by the Grammy Foundation, MusiCares and the Partnership at Ratzlaff explained that, on the first day of school, the guidance counselor showed her a paper about the contest. “I came in the next day with it all written out,” she said. The song is titled “Where Did You Go?” Sherman music teacher, Andrew Minton, said he was amazed. “She came in with a recording of the song on her phone,” Minton said. “We spent the next few weeks recording it track by track.” Using the computer program Garage Band, Minton and Ratzlaff built the song, recording such things as tempo, metronome track and the scratch track. As the third place winner, Ratzlaff will receive $100 and will attend a Grammy Awards Backstage Experience, a backstage tour that will allow her to watch the artists rehearse for the live Grammy awards, which will be on February 10.

Thumbs down to a school’s alleged strip search of four 12-year-old girls in Binghamton. The students were searched for drugs after allegedly appearing “hyper and giddy.” In addition to directing the state police to offer their services to local law enforcement agencies in Binghamton, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the state Education Department to conduct their own investigation into the incident. It’s hard to believe there wasn’t a better way for school officials to discern if the students were under the influence of drugs, but it should go without saying that strip searching students should never happen.

Thumbs up to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which uses volunteers certified by the IRS to prepare income tax returns at no charge. The primary focus of the VITA program is securing Earned Income Tax Credits for working families who earned less than $54,000 in 2018. In 2018, 797 tax returns were processed through the local VITA program, generating $838,000 in tax refunds returned to working families. That is money that helps hundreds of local families and, by extension, the local economy. To see a full list of locations, visit To schedule an appointment for free tax assistance, call 2-1-1.