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News stories tagged with "hardchoices"

Tom Burns of St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES
Tom Burns of St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES

Local schools study consolidation

In much of the North Country, declining enrollments and dwindling state aid are painting a stark picture for school districts. Districts are talking about sharing administrations, teachers, and, in some cases, merging or closing schools.

This week, the 18 school districts in St. Lawrence County are beginning a year-long study of consolidation. Enrollment has plunged by more than 10,000 students from 30 years ago, a 40% drop. Almost all the districts are classified as rural high-need.

Tom Burns is district superintendent of St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES. He told David Sommerstein the numbers are disheartening. But he says full-fledged school mergers are a worst-case scenario, especially because of the distance students would have to travel.  Go to full article
Sarah Minor, happy to have a cubicle she can call her own.
Sarah Minor, happy to have a cubicle she can call her own.

Story 2.0 - a journalism student finds a job after a long search

A Story 2.0 today, where we follow-up with people we've reported on in the past. Last year as a part of our Year of Hard Choices series, we met Sarah Minor, a photojournalism graduate from Syracuse University. She was living with her parents in St. Lawrence County while looking for a job. It was 2008 and 2009, the depth of the Recession, and newspapers were laying off reporters and photographers in droves. She moved to Chicago and got a part-time job with Suburban Life. The company owns 14 weekly papers in the area. She adapts print stories for the website, researching sidebar topics and adding links to stories. And she gets to do the occasional photo shoot. Last week, Sarah was hired full-time. She spoke with David Sommerstein during one of her first morning commutes as a full-time worker.  Go to full article

STORY 2.0: After A year of Hard Choices, checking in on the region?s economy

North Country Public Radio kicked off its "Year of Hard Choices" look at the impact of the Great Recession last year with a conversation with economist Greg Gardener.

Gardner has been a student of the North Country economy since coming to the region over 15 years ago. He teaches at SUNY Potsdam. He and his wife live outside Watertown.

He says the year looked about like he had thought it would...unemployment is up, there's been pressure on the private sector, but the region had an OK tourism year..."we got leaned on hard," he said, but it wasn't catastrophic.

But Gardner told Martha Foley there was a troubling erosion of what's traditionally been the region's buffer against hard times. Public sector jobs: from prisons to schools to local government. They're threatened, and hurts the North Country.  Go to full article

Year of Hard Choices: Classes and hope at career centers, but few jobs

Over the last year, the NCPR news team has been reporting on the impacts of the so-called Great Recession in our series, A Year of Hard Choices. What we didn't necessarily consider is that the year after the recession could be even tougher for many people. Unemployment remains around 10% throughout much of the North Country. The manufacturing sector has been hit hard with massive job losses, from General Motors and Corning in St. Lawrence County, to Pfizer in Clinton County, to New York Air Brake and Covidien in Watertown.

During 2010, those workers' jobless benefits will begin to run out. And they will join an already overcrowded market of job seekers. The situation is making for stressful times at the state-run career centers across the region. At the One Stop Career Center in Canton, the unemployed are trying to stay busy and keep their hopes up. David Sommerstein reports.

CORRECTION: The correct title of the employment center is "One Stop Career Center".  Go to full article
Randy and Sharlene Carpenter, with their son.
Randy and Sharlene Carpenter, with their son.

Year of Hard Choices: A job search, delayed

At the beginning of this year, we began a series called A Year of Hard Choices, looking at the challenges posed by economic losses and budget deficits. You can review all of our coverage on our website, ncpr.org. One of those stories introduced us to the Carpenters. Sharlene and Randy are both in their late 40s. They live in Heuvelton. Sharlene lost her job three days before Christmas last year. She made high tech glass lenses at the Corning plant in Canton. She was collecting unemployment. Her husband, Randy, had been laid off from a pallet mill three months earlier. Randy was looking for work at Fort Drum. Recently, David Sommerstein visited the Carpenters again to see how 2009 treated them, and what next year may have in store.  Go to full article
Tom Slater inside the Food Bank of CNY's warehouse.
Tom Slater inside the Food Bank of CNY's warehouse.

Story 2.0: In prolonged time of need, food bank still provides

As the unemployment rate in much of the North Country remains just under 10%, more families are struggling to put food on the table. Thousands of people live with food insecurity - that means at some point, they don't know where their next meal will come from. Demand at the region's food pantries and kitchens is up. But the Food Bank of Central NY says it's been planning for this kind of crisis for years, and it's still ready and able to fill the demand. Todd Moe and David Sommerstein revisit a story from 2008.  Go to full article

Disabilities advocates fear funding cuts

Governor Paterson's deficit reduction plan is facing opposition from many groups who rely on government funding. People with disabilities have been keeping a vigil in Albany since last week to protest proposed cuts. St. Lawrence County NYSARC didn't send anyone to Albany to join in because they couldn't afford it, says Daphne Pickert, the group's executive director. NYSARC provides services to 650 people with disabilities and employs almost 600 people in St. Lawrence County alone. Pickert told David Sommerstein the 10% proposed cuts would leave her with no choice but to cut programs and jobs.  Go to full article
Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R-Gouverneur)
Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R-Gouverneur)

Dede Scozzafava: "I'm proud of my investment"

Seaway Valley Capital Corporation has become a concern in Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava's campaign for Congress. According to her personal finance disclosure form, Scozzafava has at least $1 million invested in the company. Financial filings show her firm, Seaway Capital Partners, loaned Seaway Valley more than $400,000 last month.

Dede Scozzafava was mayor of her hometown of Gouverneur and has enjoyed broad support while serving in the state Assembly since 1999. Her public stature is often cited by investors as a factor in their decisions to buy stock in her brother's company. And now that their investments are nearly worthless, they want answers. "I can't defend any of that," Scozzafava says, "because I'm not involved in any decision making in the public company." Dede Scozzafava is vice-president and chief operating officer of Seaway Capital Partners, the firm that started Wise Buys in 2003. In 2007, Seaway Capital sold its share in Wise Buys to Seaway Valley in exchange for preferred shares of stock. Scozzafava told David Sommerstein she has always been just a "passive investor" in the new company.  Go to full article
Mary Rain, St. Lawrence County's Public Defender, shows her staff's overbooked schedules.
Mary Rain, St. Lawrence County's Public Defender, shows her staff's overbooked schedules.

Year of Hard Choices: public defenders swamped

Tonight, the St. Lawrence County legislature takes up a measure to increase the salaries of its public attorneys. The vote comes after more than half of the county's 21 lawyers have resigned in the last year. Many cited low pay and high workload for their departure. St. Lawrence may be an extreme example. But across the North Country, the recession is putting increased stress on lawyers in public defenders and district attorneys' offices. For our series, A Year of Hard Choices, David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article
Leo Branchaud coaxes a heifer out of the barn at his organic dairy farm in Tinmouth, VT
Leo Branchaud coaxes a heifer out of the barn at his organic dairy farm in Tinmouth, VT

Organic dairies struggling, too

The demand for organic milk and dairy products has grown by double digits each year since 2005, until this year. Now the shrinking economy has pushed consumer demand for pricey organic products down and that has left some organic farms in trouble. As part of a collaboration with Northeast stations, Susan Keese of Vermont Public Radio reports.  Go to full article

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