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Metro ink - 6.7.06 

GREENING THE CLASSROOMS

click to enlarge On duty: the Energy Patrol at Rochester's - School 41. - DEANNA GUEVARA-KASZUBA

They call themselves the "Energy Patrol." Up and down hallways they go, looking for glaring computer screens and lights left on by forgetful classmates and teachers. Clad in their bright green T-shirts, they make up cheers and hold pep rallies to spread the word about saving energy.

And while they keep it fun, this is serious business. This year, students in Rochester's "GreenSchool" clubs have saved the district more than $100,000 in energy costs.

Students in 17 city schools have shown that changing simple behaviors such as turning lights off when they aren't in use can have a huge impact. The schools have seen energy use reduced by between 5 and 15 percent. At the end of the year, each club receives a rebate of 50 percent of their savings for use in future energy-conservation activities.

Megan Comstock, a second-grade teacher at School 41and one of the club leaders, says she likes the program because it is science-based. And, she says, students need to draw on their communications skills to be effective.

"It's really popular with students," she says. "They really get this. It's very tangible, and they can see the results of their efforts. I also like that we are teaching them that they can have some control over this."

Students have also been working with the district's facilities manager, John Songer, to replace old light switches with new sensor switches. And the schools have replaced more than 200 old appliances with new, energy-efficient models. Some schools have even planted trees around their parameters to help provide shade and cool the building. Mentors from energy-related businesses have been teaching students about the field of energy conservation and have been guiding the GreenSchool programs.

The clubs focus on conserving electricity, because it is a major expense for the district, and that expense continues to rise, says Maurice Bell, local coordinator for the Alliance to Save Energy. Electricity is also something students at most grade levels understand, because they use it, and they've learned that conserving electricity also conserves on the non-renewable sources of energy needed to produce it.

"The really interesting thing about this program is that these students not only educate other students in their schools, but then they go home and teach their parents and siblings about how to conserve energy," says Bell.

Most of the savings, Bell says, come from finding places to eliminate electricity use, to neutralize the impact of adding new equipment.

"We have to think in terms of eliminating costs, while recognizing that our needs for electricity expand," says Bell. "As kilowatt prices go up and more computers are added, we have to find ways to take costs out of the school somewhere else, because if we do nothing the bill continues to rise."

The Green Schools program originated with the Alliance to Save Energy, a Maryland-based organization. Schools from all over the world participate, and Rochester --- which joined the effort in 2004 --- had the first Green Schools in New York. This year, students and teachers from School 41 and WilsonMagnetHigh School will go to Washington to receive awards for their efforts.

--- Tim Louis Macaluso


WORTH SAVING?

click to enlarge MATT WALSH

What will become of a late-19th-century Queen Anne-style house near the Little Theatre is unclear. Neighboring 2 Vine Restaurant owners bought the house a few months ago to get rid of problem tenants there. "The building itself was basically a slum," says 2 Vine co-owner Jerry Serafine. "There were so many complaints, so many fines levied against the building."

Serafine says he initially researched converting the building into an apartment or office space, but decided that those projects would be too expensive. "To be honest with you, economically, demolishing the building is really the only way to go," says Serafine, who estimates that it would cost between $250,000 to $300,000 to gut and renovate the house. It was so badly neglected, says Serafine, that there was a sign in one of the kitchenettes that read: "This is a sink, not a toilet." Ideally, Serafine would like to tear down the house and create a green space for special 2 Vine events.

But city officials are reluctant to let 2 Vine's owners demolish the house without exploring all possibilities. "We need to pause before we lose a building of importance," says the city's zoning director, Art Ientilucci.

The owners, who met with Ientilucci Friday morning, agreed to halt talk of demolition --- at least for the time being. "To make a compromise, we're offering this building up for sale," Serafine said on Monday. The sale, though, comes with a few stipulations: the building can't be converted into a restaurant, café, or rooming house.

Serafine says the building will be on the market for 30 to 60 days, and if it's bought, developers will have one year after the sale to convert it. Interested parties can also buy the house and move it within the area of the city bounded by the Inner Loop.

--- Sujata Gupta


SOFT RUN

Rochester School Board member Willa Powell is running for State Senate against Republican incumbent Joe Robach --- maybe.

"The straight-forward facts are that my name is on the Democratic Party ticket because the deadline arrived on Friday and no one had stepped forward," says Powell. But she says she's interested in opposing Robach because he has endorsed the Senate Republicans' position on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. New YorkState has been ordered to provide substantially more funding for New York City schools, and it's assumed that a revised state-aid formula would benefit all urban districts, including Rochester.

The Republicans' position is that "12 percent of all new state education funding will go to Long Island," says Powell. "And I will add, whether they need it or not. That means that the high-risk districts that really need the extra aid targeted to them will have to fight for what's left over."

Powell says she doesn't expect to win, but the closer she can get to winning, the more uncomfortable it's going to be for Robach.

"He's going to have to go back to his Republican Party bosses and say that this position on education spending is untenable," she says. "I also think that the Senate is going to flip this year" --- that Democrats will take control --- "and Rochester is going to need its own representative, because Robach and [James] Alesi are not going to be bringing home the bacon."

Powell says she doesn't want to be seen as a one-issue candidate just because she's on the School Board.

"Republicans are always saying the state's taxes are too high and they are the party that's going to cut them, but really, all they are doing is shifting the burden on to property owners, and people in every county in the state are seeing this," she says. "Their avoidance of health-care reform and support of corporate welfare are what's really driving the state's high tax rates."

If a stronger candidate comes along, Powell says, she will step aside. And she's not the only one who questions whether the seat is winnable.

"She's definitely running," says Colleen McCarthy, a spokesperson for the Monroe County Democratic Committee. "We're not expecting her to win, necessarily, and we won't be putting a lot of our resources behind it, but obviously we want someone running for that seat."

The bigger question may be whether Party Chair (and State Assemblymember) Joe Morelle can keep his party behind Powell. In Robach's last Senate race, he was endorsed by a number of prominent Democrats.

--- by Tim Louis Macaluso and Krestia DeGeorge


RIJF ON TV

WXXI will be filming select performances of this year's Rochester International Jazz Festival and offering them to public stations around the country. WXXI plans to develop the footage into three 60-minute, high-definition programs, called "Live from the Rochester International Jazz Festival."

The programs will feature live performances at Kilbourn Hall, interviews, and scenes from the Festival. Broadcasts are scheduled for some time in 2007, with cities and their PBS stations to be announced at a later date.

--- Frank De Blase


WHAT'S YOUR 'SECTOR?

For its Neighbors Building Neighborhoods effort, city officials divided Rochester into "sectors." And they've been using that term ever since. City residents, in all likelihood, don't think that way. And to at least two city councilmembers --- Lois Giess and Carolee Conklin --- it's time for the city to rethink the use of the term "sector."

"People in Rochester think in neighborhoods. They don't think in sector numbers," Conklin commented at a recent City Hall budget meeting. "We need to start looking at identifying neighborhoods that people relate to." Neighborhoods, perhaps, like Corn Hill or the 19th Ward.

--- Sujata Gupta


NEW APPROACH, OLD WAYS

click to enlarge ink---pagan.jpg

It comes from the Latin paganus, meaning "rural" or "rustic," and the Oxford English Dictionary defines it simply as "a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions." So why is it that for many people the word "pagan" still conjures negative images of devil worship and human sacrifice?

Suite D233 is a cozy and inviting space in Village Gate, 274 North Goodman Street, and since April it's been home to the Paths of the OldWaysPaganOutreachCenter, a nonprofit organization that board co-chair Char Hacker hopes will "help educate some people about what we are and what we aren't."

Hacker and treasurer Michele Morgan, both practicing Wiccans, have seen public perception of paganism --- actually an umbrella term that covers religions as varied as Wicca, Druidism, Freemasonry, and Santería --- evolve over the years, thanks to positive portrayals in pop culture, but they find that misperceptions still persist. Besides hosting assorted classes and workshops related to the pagan faiths, Paths of the OldWaysPaganOutreachCenter is designed to be a community resource, "a safe place for people to come and ask questions or to worship together or just network," says Hacker.

"People would say Rochester is conservative; I would disagree," says Hacker, who also owns Psychic's Thyme on University Avenue. "Rochester is very progressive. There are a lot of religions in Rochester who are supported by our diverse community, and we're just another one of those groups who are starting to step forward, be a little more visible."

The Center's website --- offers more about Paths of the Old Ways, and members are holding a grand opening fundraiser --- which will include psychic readings, vendors, lectures, and raffles --- on Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

--- Dayna Papaleo

Speaking of Monroe County Democratic Party, Rochester Downtown Development

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