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Funding available for school projects focused on character education, bullying prevention

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WATERTOWN — School districts pursuing grant funding to support bullying prevention, character education and social media safety programs are encouraged to apply to the Daniel J. Briggs Fund for Integrity of the Northern New York Community Foundation, with up to $1,000 in funding available this year. The charitable fund was established at the Community Foundation in 2015 to provide resources for key educational programs that raise awareness of bullying in local schools and communities. The fund also supports professional development initiatives to educate school administrators, teachers, faculty and staff about bullying and ways to identify and prevent it.

Daniel J. Briggs was a student at Thousand Islands High School when he took his own life in March 2014, just two months before his 17th birthday. Since Daniel’s passing, his family has worked to foster change in local schools and help combat bullying.

“Across the region, more schools are implementing character programs and focused curriculum to raise awareness and build respect among students,” Max M. DelSignore, assistant director of the community foundation, said in a statement. “Daniel’s fund is available to support these endeavors further or to serve as a catalyst for a first-time project or program that will make a difference on campus and in the community.”

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Watertown school board to amend code of conduct; K-12 principal appointed

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WATERTOWN — The Watertown City School District’s Board of Education on Tuesday held a public hearing on amendments to the code of conduct and approved a new K-12 principal.

The school board appointed Steven Newcombe as K-12 principal, effective Aug. 29. Mr. Newcombe has been a teacher in the district for 17 years, and there will be a three-year probationary period until August 2025.

Just one community member, Milly C. Smith, commented on the code of conduct Tuesday and offered suggestions to be considered before the document’s approval. There will be a special school board meeting at 7:30 a.m. next Tuesday for the purpose of approving the code of conduct before the start of the new school year. Watertown schools start Sept. 6.

Having last been updated in September 2021, a majority of the code of conduct remains unchanged or was lightly modified — “penalties” was changed to “consequences” and “misbehavior” was changed to “behavioral choices,” for example. The code also added nicotine, vapes, e-cigarettes and marijuana when referencing smoking.

“It’s a good policy, but here’s my question: If this policy has been in place for a long time, and this is just a revision in verbiage and maybe some other things that you’ve added or maybe taken away, then why are we still having the problems that we’re having?” Mrs. Smith asked. “Because it seems to me that the code of conduct is very succinct, it’s precise. It says if you do this, if you vape, if you have marijuana, if you beat someone up, if you’re not behaving in a proper form, there’s a consequence.”

Mrs. Smith said she began attending school board meetings toward the end of last school year when there were physical fights reported at the school.

The district has appointed building principals as Dignity Act coordinators for their respective schools. New York’s Dignity for All Students Act, or Dignity Act, aims to make school environments free of discrimination and harassment.

Watertown’s coordinators, according to the code of conduct, are trained in methods to respond to human relations in the areas of race, color, creed, body type, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity or expression) and sex. The coordinators are available to speak with any person who has witnessed possible discrimination or harassment, or if that person has experienced treatment that may be prohibited discrimination or harassment.

Those coordinators are Chad Fairchild, principal of Watertown High; Mark Taylor, principal of Case Middle; Daniel Mincer, principal of H.T. Wiley Intermediate; Janelle Dupee, principal of Knickerbocker Elementary; Sandra Cain, principal of North Elementary; Jessica Blair, principal of Ohio Elementary; Terrance Gonseth, principal of Sherman Elementary; and Michael Lennox, principal of Starbuck Elementary.

According to the code of conduct, the principal or their designee is responsible for enforcing the code. When the principal or their designee sees someone engaged in prohibited conduct, which in their judgment does not pose any immediate threat of injury to others or property, the principal or designee is required to tell the individual that the conduct is prohibited and attempt to persuade them to stop.

The principal or designee is also responsible for warning the person of the consequences for failing to stop. If the person refuses to stop engaging in the prohibited conduct, or if the person’s conduct poses an immediate threat of injury to persons or property, the principal or designee may have the person removed immediately from school property or a school function. If necessary, local law enforcement authorities may assist in removing the person, according to the code.

Despite these appointments, Mrs. Smith said it is clear that there is no consistent body of people that are addressing indiscretions, whether they be administrative, student, parent or teacher indiscretions.

“There is no formal impartial body — it’s all subjective,” she said. “So something happens at the high school, Mr. Fairchild has to address it. He may address the situation very different from where Mr. Taylor might address the situation at Case Middle School. So, from the outside looking in, I would ask the board to consider putting together a body of people that would be impartial and have some consistency in what some of these punishments are going to be if the student or the teacher or whoever breaks the rule.”

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Playing Sports at School Makes People Grittier and Harder Working

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Playing sports at school makes people “grittier” and harder working, boosts the chances of achieving long-term goals, and having successful careers, say scientists.

Oftentimes old fashioned notions about people arose from a collected experiential wisdom, and in this case, Teddy Roosevelt’s notion that sports hardens a young man seems correct.

A study looked at adults who took part in organized sports as children—such as football, baseball and basketball, and measured them for “grit.”

The trait was defined as a combination of passion, perseverance, courage, endurance, resilience, and conscientiousness.

How does one measure grit without Navy Seal training?

The Ohio State University team analyzed National Sports and Society Survey data on almost 4,000 men and women across the US and asked study participants to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 on eight statements.

They included “I am diligent. I never give up” and “I am a hard worker.” None of the statements was directly related to sports.

34% of those who did sports as a youngster scored high on the grit scale, compared to 23% of peers who opted out or gave up. One in four of those who never played sports ranked low, compared to just 17% of those who did.

Lead author Dr. Emily Nothnagle said practicing drills on the field can improve pupils’ lives for decades, adding “the grit they develop playing sports can help them the rest of their lives.”

True grit

Those who participated in sports during the past year showed more grit than those who didn’t, said co-author Professor Chris Knoester.

“Adults who played youth sports but dropped out did not show higher levels of grit,” Prof. Knoester “They actually demonstrated lower levels of grit after we included a proxy measure of how sports mattered for the development of grit while growing up.”

The findings, published in the journal Leisure Sciences, were supported by more sophisticated statistical analyses that accounted for respondents’ demographic characteristics.

But it appears only children who keep at it—and play continually—get the benefit, say the researchers. Some may just be born with the grit to help them succeed at sports as a young person and then continue to benefit from that trait as an adult.

“Quitting could reflect a lack of perseverance, which is a crucial component of grit,” said Knoester. “It could also make quitting an activity, and not persevering, easier the next time.”

Adults who played sports as kids generally perceived the experience helped improve their work ethic, and that perception was linked to their grit scores as adults even though the researchers said people can gain or lose grit throughout life.

For instance adults who said they participated in sports regularly within the last year exhibited higher levels of grit.

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Watertown Rapids host first STEAM Education Day, show over 1,000 north country students science in baseball

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WATERTOWN — More than 1,000 students, teachers and parents from eight north country schools filled the baseball stadium at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds on Monday.

As a light drizzle fell and the baseball teams warmed up, a group of tents were slowly popping up in a field to the side, with local agencies and businesses preparing exhibitions for the gathered students.

It was all done for the first annual Watertown Rapids STEAM Education Day, during which fifth- and sixth-graders from around the region were invited to enjoy a baseball game and learn about some of the fundamental forces behind the game and the world around them.

“We’re really excited to be able to tie sports and STEAM, that is science, technology, engineering, art and math,” said Jay M. Matteson, fan experience specialist for the Watertown Rapids and the host of Monday’s event.

The exhibitions included a pitching machine built by Great Lakes Cheese, demonstrating how the mechanics of throwing and hitting a baseball work. The Watertown Daily Times showed students how newspapers, with sports stories and scores included, are made.

National Grid had a booth to show kids how the energy grid powers the bright stadium lights and public address system, and multiple agriculture booths were opened to teach students more about the dairy and farming industries that are so important to the region.

The Watertown fire department was on scene as well with one of its engines, showing off gear and fire safety tips.

Mr. Matteson said the baseball game, featuring the Rapids and Mohawk Valley Diamond Dogs, was also adapted slightly from the usual format, with skits and education baked into the gaps between innings.

“I’m going to do a little skit on photosynthesis and try to make fun out on the field during the breaks,” he said.

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Watertown parents still concerned over bed bugs at high school

in Local News/School 328 views

WATERTOWN — Parents remain dissatisfied with the Watertown City School District’s handling of a potential bed bug incident at the high school that was brought to light Monday. Parents also claim the district was aware of the possible infestation well before parents were notified.

Responding to calls from parents wanting to know if there were bed bugs and if there was cause for concern, the school district on Monday would not confirm whether bed bugs were present in the school. Instead, Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr sent a notice outlining protocols for handling situations when bed bugs are discovered. Social media posts suggested the insects were in the high school auditorium, where some students eat lunch.

“They wouldn’t answer any questions,” parent Angela M. Bennett said. “I think by their omission alone, that said all that we needed to know. Myself personally, I don’t want to send my son back until I know for sure that it’s been handled fully. It shouldn’t even have gotten to that point if they were actually following their protocols. They’re talking so much online about how they’re following protocols, but are they? Because here we are.”

Mrs. Bennett said her son Ashton, 15, messaged her Monday and told her he and some of his fellow students had been sent to eat their lunch on the gymnasium floor because there were bed bugs in the auditorium, where lunches are split with the cafeteria to maintain social distancing. He told his mother that he thought they were in the auditorium spraying something, which made her think the insects would start scattering to look for places to hide. This prompted Mrs. Bennett to pick her son up and take him home. She was not alone, as many parents reacted to the possible bed bugs Monday by bringing their children home early.

Tuesday morning, another statement was sent out to parents from the superintendent’s office stating that “this situation was about one case at Watertown High School (there is not an infestation), and our protocol was followed.” The protocol included service by pest control Monday night and a deep cleaning by staff. Mrs. LaBarr said the district is monitoring the situation, and if any additional actions are warranted, the school will communicate them accordingly.

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JCC student receives SUNY excellence award

in People/School 219 views

WATERTOWN — Jefferson Community College has announced that Natasha Richardson, of Clayton, recently received the 2021 Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Educational Opportunity Program Student Excellence from the State University of New York. She is one of 45 recipients.

Ms. Richardson graduated from JCC in December with her associate degree in human services.

Now in its third year, the Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for EOP Student Excellence recognizes outstanding SUNY EOP students for their academic excellence and strength in overcoming significant personal obstacles. The award is bestowed in memory of Norman R. McConney Jr., a graduate of the University at Albany, former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY and longtime chief of staff for Buffalo Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve.

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