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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 8, 2012

Schoharie is close to clinching “People’s Choice Vote” in tech grant competition

SCHOHARIE — Stacey DeLaney, the principal of Schoharie Junior-Senior High School, votes every day for her school’s team, vying for thousands of dollars of tech equipment in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow technology grant competition.

She checks the scores in the “People’s Choice Vote” several times a day.

Two among the 12 finalists from across the country are tens of thousands of votes ahead of the others. The two front-runners are neck and neck. Yesterday evening, Sutter Middle School in Folsom, Calif. had 75,230 votes and Schoharie had 78,585 votes.

Videos by the 12 finalists can be viewed online at HYPERLINK "https://pages.samsung.com/us/sft/video/index.jsp#top" https://pages.samsung.com/us/sft/video/index.jsp#top. Viewers can vote daily through March 12.

“We’re just sitting on pins and needles,” said DeLaney yesterday of waiting for the final results.

The Sutter middle-schoolers built models in their “Project Lead the Way” course that would help the environment, like a robot to keep streets clean.

The Schoharie High School video shows scenes of the lush valley, described as “the breadbasket of the Revolution.” Pictures follow, depicting the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, and the floodwaters that contaminated crops. Sediment from the Catskills washed into the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, says the narrative student voice, which will be expensive to dredge to restore habitat.

The floodwaters with contaminants settled on the soil. The Schoharie students, using data from Cornell, analyzed soil samples and came up with “surprising results.” Contaminants had not seeped into the fertile farmland. The students hypothesized that five inches of rain that fell before Irene hit on Aug. 28 may have saturated the soil so the contaminants couldn’t penetrate.

Drainage may be a problem in the future and nutrients may leach from the soil, the video concludes, noting that the project “gave agricultural students firsthand insights on how to best manage man’s interface with nature.”

DeLaney praised the “collaborative effort” that went into creating Schoharie’s entry. Many staff members and “144 students that we’ve counted” were hurt by Irene, she said, and the school has served as “a pillar” for the community.

English teacher Amie Hausmann, who teaches video production, was central to the project. “Her house was devastated by the flood,” said DeLaney. “She’s been a phenomenal role model for our students.”

The competition has involved three phases, DeLaney explained. “First, we earned the equipment to make the video for the second phase,” she said, “and now we’re in the third phase, trying to get the votes to win.”

The rural school has fewer than 1,000 students. “We have all networked — students and staff — with our colleagues and friends and families,” said DeLaney. “We’ve had people voting for us from across the state and across the country.”

The project has been important to the school community in many ways, she said. “First and foremost, it’s a great morale booster with the healing and recovery process after Irene,” said DeLaney. “Most importantly, if we won, we’d be able to have equipment to help us forge ahead in instruction of 21st-Century skills. We’d have computers and software we’d never be able to purchase otherwise.”

The Schoharie district is considering shared services and possible consolidation as it faces a million-dollar gap with a budget of about $20 million. Schoharie is dealing not only with the tax-levy cap faced by every district in New York, it is also dealing with an eroded tax base as homes, farms, and businesses were hurt or destroyed by the summer floods.

DeLaney concluded of winning the Samsung contest, “It would be an incredible opportunity for us and our students.”

— By Melissa Hale-Spencer

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