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May 4, 2013

Teachers say Afton boy was funny, smart

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Craig A. Gohl was an “amazing storyteller,’’ who had “a lot to offer the world,’’ an administrator at Afton Central School said Thursday.

Kimberly S. Werth, principal of Afton Elementary School, said Craig was artistic, loved music, had a sharp mind and was considerate of others. Pupils at the school were offered counseling this week, she said, and they contributed thoughts and stories for a memory box for the family. Craig was an energetic boy who joked and smiled to everyone he passed in the hallway, Werth said.

Craig, 11, his father, Nathan J. Herbert, 45, and Herbert’s girlfriend, Anna M. Ebert, 54, died in a fire at their Afton home on April 27.

Werth prepared comments to share at Craig’s funeral at the First Baptist Church in Bainbridge on Thursday night. As members of the church, Werth said, she had known Craig since he was about 3 years old.

Werth said she had help preparing comments from school faculty, including Tara McManus, who was Craig’s fifth-grade teacher.

Craig would sulk and “be spinning his wheels’’ over writing assignments, and as an incentive, McManus gave him comic books after successful completion of a writing project. At the end of the year, Craig presented McManus with the comic books, plus others from his collection, in case she had another pupil like him.

McManus convinced Craig to keep the books, Werth said, and this year, Craig found joy in writing letters to the homesick soldiers overseas.

Afton Elementary School has about 330 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, Werth said, and the sixth grade is the smallest class unit at the school — 28 sixth-graders, not including Craig.

After hearing about the fire and Craig’s death, Werth said she and another school administrator called the families of sixth-graders to let them know so that parents had a chance to speak to his classmates before school. 

Another story shared by the sixth-grade this week told when Craig one day wore a yellow shirt to school, Werth said. Throughout the day, Craig dropped things and was off balance, at one point falling out of his chair, saying, “Sorry everyone, I am a little buttery today.”

Another student, who was asking Craig if he was OK, lost her balance, and he said, “Oh, you are buttery today, too.’’

For Thursday’s service, the class arranged for a bouquet of 28 “buttery’’ yellow roses, with a white rose representing “God’s newest angel and storyteller,” Werth said. The class plans to plant a memorial garden, she said.

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SUNY Oneonta will launch a “common read’’ program featuring a work by a contemporary author who will visit the campus in the fall semester.

In a “common read,” participants read the same literary work for the purpose of critically discussing it, a media release from the State University College at Oneonta said. The program to “enhance first-year student engagement and further infusing cultural literacy into academics.”

Students enrolling this fall will read “Flight” by Native American author, poet and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, an award-winning author. “Flight” is a coming-of-age novel narrated by a 15-year-old foster child who was orphaned at age 6 by the death of his Irish-American mother and abandoned before that by his American Indian father.

Alexie will visit the college for a speaking engagement Sept. 10. His presentation will be free and open to the public.

The “common read” selection will become the basis of curricular and co-curricular programming across several disciplines, college officials said.

SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski said the program is an important step.

“In 2010, we committed to advancing diversity as one of six pillars supporting our strategic plan,’’ she said in the release. “The ‘common read’ aligns with this by encouraging students to examine and better understand topics such as equity, inclusion and personal history through many lenses.”

•••

SUNY Cobleskill had a groundbreaking ceremony on its north campus Wednesday for a suite and townhouse complex for upper-level students.

Alumni Commons, a 158-bed apartment-like housing center for baccalaureate students, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, a media release from the college said.

The completion of Alumni Commons will coincide with the fall 2014 opening of the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, now under construction nearby.

In Alumni Commons, students will have options to live in three-, four- or six bedroom units each with a full kitchen, individual bedrooms and one bathroom for every two students, the release said. A separate common building will be used for instruction and social gatherings to create the first living and learning environment on the north campus.

“Today’s college students have a far greater expectation for housing than in the past,” Steve Ackerknecht, vice president for student affairs, said in the release.

“These townhouses and suites will help attract and retain junior and senior baccalaureate students and will offer them an enhanced quality of life.”

Construction for the new complex is being financed by Alumni Housing Corp. LLC, which acquired the land from the college and hired LP Ciminelli Inc. to design and build the complex.

SUNY Cobleskill alumnus Kyle Tuttle, class of 1984 and representative of LP Ciminelli, will manage and oversee the project.

DENISE RICHARDSON is a staff writer for The Daily Star. Contact her at drichardson@thedailystar.com.