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Reporter's Notebook

June 30, 2012

Reporter's Notebook: Sadness, excitement at closing of school

The last day of school at Center Street Elementary School was a bittersweet time for several third-graders who talked about the experience.

The students will go to other elementary schools in the district this fall. Voters decided in May to close the school to deal with declining state aid.

Among those who commented, Abigail Gracey said that while the last-day activities were fun, it was very sad to be leaving for the final time. She attended since kindergarten. "I really had fun here," she said.

Autumn Nealis said it was a little sad but she was pretty happy being with friends and having pizza the last day. She will be attending Valleyview in the fall. She said she enjoyed the recent open house there, which included a barbecue.

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said, although she was unhappy about the closing.

Natalia Legname is also going to Valleyview. "I'm excited to be making new friends and experiencing new things."

But she said was sad to be leaving the school and some of her friends for the last time.

"I'm sad and happy," said Anna Fleury. "We have to say goodbye," but she will have some friends with her at the new location. Her favorite part of the final day was the graduation each class had to mark the event. Everybody got a chance to dance, she said.

Alyssa Ely graduated from sixth grade and will be attending middle school in the fall. The final day started upbeat, but it got to be down, she said. She has attended since kindergarten and "it's sad to see this wonderful school close. If I had to relive my childhood I wouldn't want to go to any other school." She said it was too bad that her siblings will not have the opportunity.

Parents who commented included Carlena Ficano who has a daughter in third grade. "I will miss walking to school every single day. I'm sorry to see it go."

She commended the Center Street staff and faculty for the professional way they handled things. That included the leadership of Principal Coleen Lewis, who made sure that it was a positive transition.

People praising retiring Otsego County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Bill Gibson included Gilbertsville farmer Richard Keene.

"He has been real farmer-friendly," Keene said. "He tried to keep people informed about programs available and bent over backwards to make participation as easy as can be."

Under Gibson's guidance "more farmers have seen the value of participating."

The reason that Gibson said he has enjoyed his work all these years is, "I enjoy working with farmers."

He grew up on a farm and started out as a dairy farmer after college before circumstances required a change, he said. But "my parents gave me the agriculture heritage that served me well."

When he started with the agency in 1979, it was called the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. Its current name dates from the mid-1990. In the 1980s, it administered the Dairy Herd Buyout Program, which helped about 25 farms transition out of the business. But more farms were lost to the downturn in the dairy economy. The numbers went from about 425 farms in the county in the 1980s to about 170 today.

Mark Boshnack can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 218, or at mboshnack@thedailystar.com.

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