conundrum: A student crosses Central Avenue on a recent
Test: Get Here Safely
schools and the APD look to find a solution to insufficient
numbers of crossing guards
three R’s of education—reading, writing and arithmetic—have
long been considered the standard ingredients of a school
day. Yet, for some Albany students, there may be another,
more intimidating “R” to add to the mix: rush hour.
no crossing guard around when school starts,” explained Debi
Gregory, parent of a student at the new Albany Preparatory
Charter School. “Students are allowed to go in around 7:30
[AM], but there isn’t a crossing guard until 8.”
Albany Prep is currently housed within the Brighter Choice
Charter School, located along one of the city’s busiest corridors
near the corner of Central and North Lake avenues. And while
the bright-colored jerseys of crossing guards can be seen
most mornings around the busy intersections near most of Albany’s
schools, Gregory said these part-time guardians are few and
far between for students at Albany Prep and Brighter Choice.
our start time up has possibly left us with a situation,”
said Chris Bender, executive director of the Brighter Choice
Foundation, the nonprofit group that manages the school. The
two charter schools open their doors at 7:30 each morning—earlier
than most city schools, and a full hour before some.
have a longer day because we have very ambitious goals for
what we want to teach the children,” said Bender, who added
that the crossing-guard complication wasn’t immediately obvious
to the faculty because so few students walk to school each
Although there are many aspects of the ongoing public-school-versus-charter-school
debate that do show favoritism by the city to one side or
the other, this isn’t one of them, said Bender. In fact, he
said, the lack of crossing guards is a problem the 3-year-old
Brighter Choice and the brand-new Albany Prep have only recently
been made aware of—and one for which he expects to find a
solution in the near future.
According to the Albany Police Department, which manages the
city’s crossing guards and other traffic-safety personnel,
the shortage of crossing guards is simply a matter of resources.
With more than 20 schools currently operating within the boundaries
of the city’s school district, there often aren’t enough willing
part-time guards, volunteers or funds to go around.
the number of schools increase, we’re finding that there are
areas that don’t—and simply can’t—get covered,” said Detective
James Miller, spokesman for the APD, noting that Brighter
Choice was not singled out for any reason. “But we’re working
with the schools to make sure students are as safe as possible.”
Bender said that one solution may be to ask parents who are
able to spare some time in the morning to volunteer as crossing
guards—an arrangement that, said Miller, the APD certainly
It’s also an arrangement that, for kids like the two Brighter
Choice students seen on a recent morning peering up and down
Central Avenue while waiting for a break in the weekday traffic,
might keep the most challenging part of the school day where
it’s supposed to be: in the classroom.
While some expected a strong condemnation from
the White House of William Bennett’s comments
made on a recent radio program, White House spokesman
Scott McClellan said that President George W.
Bush “believes the comments were not appropriate.”
Bennett’s critics, however, suggested that saying
“If you wanted to reduce crime . . . you could
abort every black baby in this country,” was more
than just “not appropriate.”
The feisty and clear-seeing GAO is at it again.
An investigation by the Government Accountability
Office recently determined that the White House
acted illegally when it paid public-relations
firms and conservative pundit Armstrong Williams
to push the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact,
the GAO’s report accused the administration of
disseminating covert propaganda in its own country.
Stop! Or We All Will Shoot
Newspapers in France, Germany and Japan will soon
be warning tourists planning to visit Florida
that they need to avoid arguments with state residents
at all costs. The advertisements are paid for
by the Brady Campaign, a gun-control advocacy
group. The group argues that a recently passed
law allowing the state’s gun owners to shoot rather
than walk away if they feel threatened will increase
gun violence in the state. The state’s tourism
office claims the group is taking the state’s
tourism industry hostage with its political agenda.
The Brady Campaign says it doesn’t understand
why the state doesn’t want potential visitors
to know about the law, which is unique to Florida.
Go to War With the Army You Have
An amendment recently proposed by U.S. Sen. Christopher
Dodd (D-Conn.), which would force the Pentagon
to obey a year-old law requiring it to reimburse
soldiers and their families for body armor and
other protective equipment they purchased while
in Iraq, has met with opposition from the White
House once again. Under the law passed last year,
the Pentagon had until Feb. 25 this year to develop
reimbursement strategies, but has yet to do so,
claiming that such a policy would create “an unmanageable
low-impact home: Lance and Carrie Wong at their new
Brunswick home, which features active and passive solar
and many other environmental features.
homeowners open their doors to the curious
a sunny day, the sun emits the equivalent of 1,000 watts of
energy per square meter of the Earth’s surface. Most of that
energy goes into waste heat. But this past weekend, Capital
Region residents were able to see how far our sun’s energy
can go. On Saturday (Oct. 1), more than 15 local residences
shined up their solar panels for the 2005 Green Buildings
Open House. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (www.nesea.org)
holds the Green Buildings Open House each year as a chapter
of the American Solar Energy’s Society National Solar Tour.
Sarah Johnson and Dave Smalley’s Fultonville house was one
of the homes open all day to visitors. Driving up the gravel
road, and getting a first glimpse of the single-level, south-facing
home, one would not know that this was a sustainable home.
It has gardens and a shed in the yard, large windows and new
siding, and a little dog greeting the visitors. Pulling closer,
you see the two solar panels—one photovoltaic, which creates
electricity, and one for domestic hot water—and a tall wind
generator to the east of the house, about 100 feet away.
This isn’t your typical house. The entire home runs on solar
and wind energy, and the daylight shines through large windows
onto numerous shelves of books with topics such as energy,
the outdoors, and living a simpler life. Johnson and Smalley’s
solar panels create enough electricity to run a home office
with two computers and a fax machine, along with stereos and
an energy-efficient washer and refrigerator. The “guts” of
the house contain batteries that hold the energy of the converted
sunlight, and Johnson and Smalley say their home runs as easily
as if it were on the power grid.
As Johnson sliced herself a piece of fresh apple pie, she
described their home as “more comfortable than anything I’ve
ever lived in,” with temperatures almost always in the 70s.
One of the most positive results of relying on renewable energy,
for her, is not using petroleum. That desire was partly what
got them started on building their house this way. Basically,
Johnson said, “We wanted to, so we did.”
The house would have been good for skeptics to view, since
it had all the conveniences of a “normal” home—but the various
people touring the home on Saturday were by and large those
already interested in switching to solar energy.
Along with a dramatic reduction in heating costs, reduced
dependency on foreign oil, slowed pace of global warming,
and less pressure to drill for oil and gas in unspoiled landscapes,
there’s a less-recognized incentive for going renewable: tax
Jan Bever, who opened her farmhouse for the tour, said that
tax credits from the government make financing a solar home
relatively easy. The difficult part, she said, is actually
getting the forms for those credits. “If you go [to the New
York State Department of Taxation and Finance], they will
pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about,” Bever
said. However, the forms are easily available online. More
information and links to the forms can be found at the Database
of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (www.dsireusa.org).
loose ends this week-