Church will again put on fireworks show for Albion on July 5

File photo by Tom Rivers Posted 29 June 2015
ALBION – A church looking to start a congregation in Albion is paying for a fireworks show on July 5 at Bullard Park for the fourth straight year.


Members of the Tonawanda Indian Baptist Church in Basom and its sister church, Northpoint Community Church in Corfu, will also have games, food and music available for the community beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The top photo shows Albion firefighter Carmen Quatro watching the fireworks last year while standing on top of a fire truck at Bullard Park.

Tonawanda and Northpoint members are running a park ministry in the village this summer and the churches are working on securing a spot for church services in Albion, said Robert Dean, church pastor.

“We’re just trying to be a blessing to the community,” he said today. “We’re not looking for any accolades.”

Dean said he welcomes volunteers and donations to help put on the July 5 event. For more information, call Dean at 716-812-8330.


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County legislators make trip to Albany to press Orleans issues

Photo by Tom Rivers

State officials urged Orleans County canal communities to seek downtown development grants. This photo shows the Main Street clock in Albion, which is part of a downtown district on the National Register of Historic Places.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 June 2015
ALBION – A group of Orleans County legislators travelled to Albany to meet with state officials, pressing high-speed Internet, infrastructure money, downtown development and other issues for the county.

“Everyone we met with was very accommodating to us and to hearing about Orleans County and out initiatives,” said Legislature Chairman David Callard. “We are confident that through this trip we have laid the groundwork to be successful in upcoming funding rounds – especially the Upstate Revitalization Intiative and the New NY Broadband Program. We will continue to press our case to ensure that Orleans County gets its fair share.”

Callard travelled to Albany with legislators Lynne Johnson, Ken DeRoller and John DeFilipps. They met on June 10 with local state legislators – Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda), Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) and Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R-Clarence) – as well as representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Department of State and the Canal Corp.

Callard said the state government officials had advice for the county in seeking state funds. The county would be a prime candidate for state grants for the canal villages and historic downtown business districts in Albion, Holley and Medina, Callard said.
The state urged the Orleans communities to pursue Main Street development grants, Callard said.

Holley and Albion both have received those grants in recent years, and Callard said more of that funding would help the canal communities. He said the county could take the lead in working with the villages for those grants.

The state also recommended the county’s lakeshore towns of Yates, Carlton and Kendall update a lakefront development study from about 20 years ago. A fresh study could help those communities, and the county access state funds.

The county sought about $160,000 in state funds for projects at the Orleans County Marine Park in Carlton. Orleans was approved for half of that amount last year. Callard said the outdated development plan was a one factor in why the county missed out on the full amount.

The county is already working on applications for broadband Internet coverage throughout Orleans, including rural pockets without the service. Orleans also is pursuing funds for its emergency radio system to make it interoperable with neighboring counties and to boost service in schools and larger buildings.

Callard said the trip to Albany is part of the Legislature’s stepped-up efforts for state funding for projects in the county.

“Given that a vast majority of key decision makers on state initiatives critical to Orleans County are based in Albany, it’s imperative that we get to the State Capitol to meet face-to-face on a regular basis,” Callard said. “By taking the time to travel to Albany to press our case directly with state officials, they can gauge both our sense of urgency and our great desire to gain state resources and funding for our top priorities.”

The county has also retained a lobbyist for $60,000 for a year to help Orleans County have better success with state grants. The firm, Park Strategies of Albany, helped arrange the meeting on June 10 with the various state officials.


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Albion among most cost-effective school districts in Upstate NY

Photo by Tom Rivers
Members of the Class of 2015 are pictured in the LGI room at the high school on Friday, just prior to the commencement ceremony. The front row includes, from left: Class Secretary Dyer Benjovsky, Vice President Monica Benjovsky, President Aaron Burnside,Salutatorian Jacob Squicciarini and Valedictorian Madyson Coville. The district has the ninth lowest per pupil costs of 431 school districts in Upstate NY, according to a report from Buffalo Business First.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 June 2015
Albion Central School has been listed among the 50 most cost effective school districts in Upstate New York, according to a report from Buffalo Business First.

The publication ranked 431 school districts and Albion was 35th for cost effectiveness. Business First measured academic achievement and spending per pupil to determine the ranking. Victor was deemed the most cost effective. Click here to see the report from Business First.

Business First used a “bang for the buck” index to try to determine school districts where students excel in the classroom despite low spending rates.

Albion ranks 229th academically out of the 431 districts. However, Albion has the ninth lowest per pupil at $14,865, according to Business First, which said it used data from 2013 provided by the State Education Department.

Three districts in Orleans County are in the middle of the pack for cost effectiveness. Holley was 220th out of 431 districts, followed by Medina at 234th and Lyndonville at 247th.

Kendall was rated near the bottom – 413 out of 431. Rochester was ranked last in Upstate, according to the report.

Editor’s Note: The report may have made an error because Business First lists Kendall’s per pupil spending at $27,630 per student for 737 students. The district’s budget that year including some funds for a capital project.

The district’s budget for 2015-16 totals $15,065,842. Kendall had an enrollment of 737 in the Business First report. Using that budget and enrollment data, the district would have a per pupil cost of $20,442, more than $7,000 less than Business First has in the report.


According the the report, the districts in Orleans County spend the following per student: Albion, $14,865; Holley, $17,451; Medina, $18,995; Lyndonville, $19,610; and Kendall, $27,630.


Kendall is the highest ranked school academically in Orleans County, according to Business First. Out of 431 upstate districts, Kendall was ranked 123, followed by Albion at 229, Lyndonville at 288, Medina at 314, and Holley at 399.

Although Albion is frugal, the district strives to provide opportunities for students in the classroom, and with extracurricular activities. During commencement on Friday, Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent, noted that Albion was one of 17 school districts highlighted in New York and Colorado for meeting an opportunity gap.

Those districts were recognized for helping students reach their potential despite issues with poverty and other challenges. The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado named Albion a “School of Opportunity.”


Albion and the 16 other schools demonstrate a range of practices that ensure that all students have rich opportunities to succeed, according to the Education Policy Center.

Olivia Neidert walks to the stage to accept her diploma during Albion's graduation ceremony on Friday.


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Community gives Albion graduates a big send off

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 26 June 2015
ALBION – Justice Nauden, a member of Albion's Class of 2015, walks to the stage to receive her diploma during a commencement program attended by about 2,000 people this evening at the high school gymnasium.


The Class of 2015 graduated from Albion with a send off that showed pride in the students for what they’ve accomplished so far.

Board of Education President Margy Brown presents Isabella Cox with her diploma. Cox was the class treasurer.

Albion graduated 129 students, the smallest class in recent memory. Those students leave with accomplishment, said Michael Bonnewell, the superintendent of schools.

The students logged 7,200 hours of community service. They needed 30 to meet their graduation requirement, but many were well over that with 16 hitting 100 hours or more, five at 200-plus and one beyond 300 hours.

The 7,200 hours is equivalent to 180 work weeks at 40 hours a week, Bonnewell noted.

District Superintendent Michael Bonnewell addresses the Class of 2015.

He said he’s proud of the students and how community service has become engrained at the school.

Students also excelled in the classroom, in music, the arts, and on the sports field.

The Class of 2015 was part of 10 teams that won Niagara-Orleans League titles and six Sectional crowns. The athletes were scholars with 55 of the 68 teams with Class of 2015 members at 90 percent or higher with their grade point averages, Bonnewell said.

Class President Aaron Burnside, left, Class Salutatorian Jacob Squicciarini and Valedictorian Madyson Coville are all smiles as the commencement program gets started.

The class will have at least 80 percent of its members enroll in college. The students are already graduating with 819 college credits, the equivalent of about $250,000 in SUNY college tuition.

“Despite it’s small size, this class has achieved,” Bonnewell said.

They won 11 first place awards in marching band competitions, were recognized for musical performances by the Rochester Stars of Tomorrow, and helped the district continue its streak of national recognition as a Best Community for Music Education.

Kevin Rosario walks up to get his diploma. He was one of 129 graduates in the Class of 2015.

Bonnewell said the Albion community provides students with an opportunity for success in school. And many students have done their part with diligent work and effort.

“This is just the beginning,” Bonnewell told the graduates inside a packed high school gymnasium. “Know you have your Albion community behind you.”

Dyer Benjovsky and his twin sister Monica walk to the risers to join other members of Senior Chorus in singing the National Anthem and then "For Good."

Members of the Senior Chorus, from left on bottom row, include Sara Maxon, David Stilwell, Aaron Chen, Ben Vanacore and Andrea Muoio.

Board of Education President Margy Brown addressed the graduates and told them the school has worked to help them build their confidence. That is different from arrogance, which is driven by selfish motives, she said.

“Embrace the confidence that Albion has instilled in you,” Brown said. “Go out in this world and make a difference.”

Salutatorian Jacob Squicciarini and Valedictorian Madyson Coville gave a combined speech. After thanking parents, teachers and community members, the two alternated reading "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss.

Many members of the Junior Class, led by Dylan Bader, served as escorts for the Class of 2015, leading the seniors into the gymnasium.

Emily Shabazz is excited as she goes to get her diploma.

Chase Vazquez heads to the stage for his degree.

Class President Aaron Burnside leads the class in the turning of the tassel to signify the last step in graduation.

One graduate had a nice present waiting outside the school.


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Albion couple shooting another film locally

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 26 June 2015
ALBION – There was a lot of head turning on Main Street in Albion today when motorists passed near Beaver Alley. A film crew was getting footage of actresses who appeared as “working women.”

The scene will be part of a new film by Rhonda Parker, a film director and writer in Albion. Her latest film is called “Message in a Bottle.”

Her husband Mark Parker is the lead videographer and editor.

LaShawn Baldwin is one of the actresses in "Message in a Bottle." She tries to entice "Timmy," a teen-age boy played by Jack Champion.


According to a synopsis of the film: "A trio of young teens' lives are changed forever when they go on a journey to rescue a kid sending eerie notes down stream in bottles.


"Johnny Tatro (Matthew Owen Kozak) is a passionate young teen that has been mislabeled due to skeletons in his family closet. His sarcastic, socially immature best friend, Timmy (Jack Champion) has been sheltered his entire life due to medical issues.


"Emily (Emma Morrison) is a young women trying to get out from under her sister's shadow and find her own identity. Each set out on this Journey to an unknown destination for their own reasons and a shared bond of friendship. Can the optimism of youth survive the harsh light of day?"

The film crew is on location at Beaver Alley this afternoon.


Rhonda and Mark Parker have named their film production company, Beaver Alley Studios. They said they will be shooting the film over 12 days at many locations in Albion and Orleans County.


Mrs. Parker said she is aiming to have the new film released in spring 2016.

Parker released her first film last year. “Friends Don’t Let Friends - Date Friends” was named the “Best Western New York Student Film” by the 2014 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Dreamer Awards. That film racked up six award nominations, including Best Comedy Feature, Best WNY Feature, Best WNY Student Film, Best WNY Director (Feature) for Rhonda Parker, Best WNY Screenplay (Feature) for Rhonda Parker, and Best Performance by a WNY Actress for Amelia Favata.

Rhonda Parker, front left, and her husband Mark, kneeling with camera, work on a shot as part of their newest film.


For more on Beaver Alley Studios, click here.


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Albion Rotary honors retired village clerk, outgoing club president

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 26 June 2015
ALBION – The Albion Rotary Club honored Kathy Ludwick, retired Albion village clerk/treasurer, as a Paul Harris Fellow on Thursday. She is pictured with Rotarians Don Bishop, center, and Bill Diehl.

This is the highest honor given by a Rotary Club. The Albion club will donate $1,000 in Ludwick’s name to Rotary International to be used for humanitarian work.

Ludwick was praised for her 32 years as a village employee, including 25 years as clerk/treasurer. She has been a volunteer with the Albion Strawberry Festival for all 29 of the events. Even in her retirement, she continues to help with the festival, serving as treasurer of the two-day event, which costs more than $20,000 to put on. Ludwick for many years coordinated the craft vendors.

The Rotary Club now is the main sponsor for the festival. Ludwick thanked the club for stepping up and leading the event.

Bishop has volunteered with the festival for two decades and he said Ludwick has been instrumental in the effort.

“She has been my mentor and go-to person for over 20 years,” Bishop said.

Marlee Diehl puts a Paul Harris Fellow pin on Bill Diehl, her husband and the outgoing president of the Albion Rotary Club. This is Diehl’s third Paul Harris award.

Diehl is a retired teacher and financial advisor. His wife also is a member of the Rotary Club and will serve as district governor in 2017-18 for 70 clubs in Western New York and Southern Ontario.

Mr. Diehl said the club tackled several important community projects in the past year in addition to the Strawberry Festival. A golf tournament raised $5,000 for a van for the Joint Veterans Council to take veterans to medical appointments. The Saint Patrick’s Dinner in March raised $1,633 for Rotary Interact to give to a community in South Sudan that is building a school and safe drinking water system.

Diehl also said the club secured funding for literacy projects in the Philippines and also locally with Head Start families.

The Rotary Interact leaders at Albion High School attended the Rotary meeting on Thursday. The Interact club started in Albion in 2000. Tim Archer, left, is advisor for the club that includes these student officers for 2015-16, from left: Elizabeth Goff, president; Meredith Patterson, treasurer; Matilda Erakare, vice president; and Vivian Rivers, secretary.

The Interact Club connects students to community service, including projects far from Albion. Besides the humanitarian work in the South Sudan, Interact has raised money to dig water wells in Peru, build a school for girls in Pakistan and help hurricane-ravaged Biloxi, Miss.

“We’ve done a lot with your help to touch our world,” Archer told the Rotary Club. “The world is full of places in need and we’re grateful to touch just a few of them.”

Karen Sawicz, owner and publisher of The Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub, was inducted as the new Rotary president for the next year.

Sawicz, left, is sworn in as new president by Carol Toomey, a newspaper publisher and a Sawicz friend from Concord, Mass. Toomey is a past district governor in Central Massachusetts.

Sawicz joined the Rotary Club in 1995 and served as president in 2002-03. Her father, the late Vincent St. John, also was a Rotarian.

This year’s theme for Rotary is “Be a Gift to the World.”


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Albion bus driver retires after 30-plus years

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 25 June 2015
ALBION – For more than 30 years Joe Riley has greeted Albion school children with a friendly face and kind words while bringing them to school and driving them home.


Riley drove the bus for the last time today, finishing a route around noon for elementary kids on a half-day of school. He is pictured wearing a shirt with a big "H" given to him by his co-workers. Riley drove bus "H" for Albion.


That letter will be retired from the bus fleet and the bus will become letter “L” next school year.

“He will be missed so much around here,” said Lea Olles, bus supervisor. She has worked with Riley for the past 20 years.


For more than 30 years Riley has driven a school bus, typically arriving at work at 6 a.m. and sometimes not getting home til late at night if he was driving for an athletic event.

“He has been a great employee,” Olles said. “He’s just a great person. There’s not one person he doesn’t get along with.”

The elementary school announced over the public address system that Riley was retiring today. He received numerous hand shakes and hugs, including from parents of the current students. Riley has watched generations of Albionites grow up.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good kids on the bus,” Riley said today. “A lot of the kids know me.”

He gets a lot of greetings when he goes to the grocery store or is out in the community.

Riley, 75, didn’t intend to work so long driving a school bus. He worked at Liptons in Albion until that plant closed in 1979. Then he worked at General Electric in Brockport until that site shut down in the mid-1980s.

Riley originally was a part-time school bus driver for a few years until he became full-time in 1986.

He considered moving out of Albion for other jobs, but he decided to stay put where there was a job close to home working with children and families he’s know for years.


“He’s one of a kind,” said Pete Toenniessen, a bus driver since 1998. “He’s old school. He’s here because he enjoys the kids.”

Dawn Pulcino has worked as a bus driver for five years. She said Riley gave the bus garage a boost with his positive energy.

“He’s always been very happy-go-lucky at work,” she said. “I’ve never seen him grumpy.”


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Albion Alumni Foundation gives out $40K in scholarships, including four new awards

Staff Reports Posted 25 June 2015

ALBION – Albion High School Alumni Foundation takes great pride in making a difference for a lifetime for the Albion Central School District community – alumni, students, teachers and friends.


Its claim to fame, so to speak, is the scholarship program. Each year at the Class Night celebration, the Foundation presents scholarships to graduating seniors who meet the criteria of each specific scholarship. This year, the Foundation awarded 20 scholarships to 28 students totaling: $39,650.


These awards provide financial assistance so that Albion’s bright young scholars may continue their educational goals and be successful in their future endeavors.


The funding for the scholarships are made possible through memberships and gifts from AHS Alumni, as well as individuals or organizations that contact the Foundation to establish a scholarship. The Foundation manages the funds and awards the scholarships annually during the Class Night event, along with other scholarships that are awarded that evening.


Four new scholarships were added in 2015: The Rex & Marilyn Horton Scholarship, The Wayne A. Burlison Memorial Scholarship, The Glassner Family Scholarship and The John Panek Memorial Scholarship.


The Foundation is already working on at least three more for the 2016 awards: the Ronald Sodoma Scholarship, the Masons Scholarship, and the Archibald Scholarship.


Here are the results of the 2015 scholarships managed and awarded by the Albion HS Alumni Foundation.


Albion High School Alumni Foundation Scholarships ($1,500): This year’s recipients are Dominic DiCureia, Brittany Francis, Kellie O’Hearn, Morgan Seielstad.

Paul R. Haines Memorial Scholarship ($1,500): This year’s recipient is Morgan Ferris.

Smith Foundation Challenge ($1,000): These scholarships are awarded annually by the Foundation to students entering the second year of college. This year’s recipients are Kali Benjovsky and Lydia Erakare.

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Madyson Coville.

Elizabeth Balcom Smith Scholarship ($500): This year’s recipient is Gabriell Struble.

Golden Performance Award ($500): This year’s recipient is Elijah Martin.

Jim and Susie Fraser Health Careers Scholarship ($500): This year’s recipient is Olivia Neidert.

Dr. Lee Minier Science Scholarship ($500): This year’s recipient is Jacob Squicciarini.

Albion Alumni Foundation Performing Arts Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Charlyne Olick.

Coach Richard Diminuco Scholarship for Athletic Excellence ($1,500): This year’s recipient is Clayton Stanton.

Harry W. Salchak Science Scholarship ($2,500): This year’s recipient is Jacob Squicciarini.

A.B. “Dick” Eddy “Service Above Self” Scholarship ($1,250): This year’s recipient is Adryan Cheeseboro.

The Nancy Elaine LaGamba Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Savannah Allen.

The Dr. Paul Mahany Family Scholarships ($1,250): This year’s recipients are Nita Bela, Mallory Broda, Amanda Covis, Jordan Deskins, and Sara Maxon.

Panek Family Farm Acriculture Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Riley Kelly.

Hoag Scholarship ($10,000): This year’s recipient is Kyler McQuillan.

Panek Family Farm Agriculture Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Jayne Bannister.

The Rex & Marilyn Horton Scholarship ($500): This year’s recipient is Jayne Bannister.

The Wayne A. Burlison Memorial Scholarship ($500): This year’s recipient is Nicholas Ettinger.

The Glassner Family Scholarship ($1400): This year’s recipient is Drake Arnold.

The John Panek Memorial Scholarship ($1,000): This year’s recipient is Sara Millspaugh.

For more information on the Alumni Foundation, click here.


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