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Driver charged with homicide over June crash that killed man, child in Cayuga County


A woman has been charged with homicide for allegedly causing a crash in June that left two people dead.

The crash happened at about 10:30 a.m. June 16 on Franklin Street Road in Sennett when a passenger car hit a full-sized pickup truck head-on, resulting in the deaths of a 29-year-old man and a 2-year-old girl. A 3-year-old boy was left paralyzed.

The Cayuga County District Attorney's Office announced that the driver of the car, Kadesha Dunham, 24, of 211 Tolbert Ave., North Syracuse, was charged by the New York State Police Thursday with two counts of criminally negligent homicide and three counts of third-degree assault.

The charges allege that Dunham was operating a 2015 Hyundai Sonata westbound when she attempted to pass a concrete truck in a no-passing zone at the crest of a small blind hill. The sedan slammed into an eastbound pickup truck operated by William Curtis, 47, of Skaneateles, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Police in June said that Curtis had tried to avoid the collision but was unable to.

The front-seat passenger in Dunham’s vehicle, Terrell Jackson, 29, and 2-year-old back-seat passenger IyLeiah Noreault were both killed. Another back-seat passenger, Shandelle Benjamin-Noreault, 30, the mother the 2-year-old, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Dunham’s 3-year-old son, who was also in the back seat, was left paralyzed as a result of his injuries. Dunham also suffered serious injuries.

The district attorney's office said in a news release that there is no evidence that alcohol or drug impairment played any role in the crash. Criminally negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison.

Dunham was arraigned in the Sennett Town Court Thursday and released on her own recognizance after being assigned an attorney.

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Memorial at Cayuga Community College recognizes fallen military members

AUBURN — The names and faces of over 300 men and women from New York state were shown on a display, the military flags behind it pierced by sunlight, at Cayuga Community College Thursday.

The Fallen Stars Memorial, which acknowledges men and women from the state who were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was set up in the main hallway of the Auburn campus on Tuesday.

A star is also included for each person, along with rank, hometown and branch of service. Flags from every division in the armed forces are included, along with flags acknowledging the Sept. 11 attacks on both ends of the display. The mural, which was shown at the college's Fulton campus last year, is set up by the Herkimer County Hunger Coalition. The last day for the display on the Auburn campus will be Monday.

Emily Cameron, the assistant director of community education and workforce development for the college, said she has seen people go by the project and then stop to consider it.

"I can tell they're thinking about it and taking a moment to see what it's all about," Cameron said.

Jackie Darquea, assistant director of financial aid for the Auburn campus and a member of a veterans advisory group for the campus,  said she believes seeing the faces and hometowns of the fallen soldiers — some of them the same ages as some of the students — is powerful. She said she believes it is critical to support veterans.

Theresa Rogalski, who also works in the Auburn campus's financial aid office, said she always notices the display when she walks by it.

"Every time I walk by this, it kind of stops me in my tracks," Rogalski said.

Cato-Meridian school district picks new superintendent

The Cato-Meridian Central School District has selected a new superintendent: Dr. Terry Ward.

Ward was offered the position by the district's board of education at the end of a meeting Monday night. He is set to start with the district in January. The educator, who is currently the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and pupil personnel at the Cazenovia Central School District, ultimately beat out 19 other applicants for the job.

A formal board appointment is expected to be made sometime this month, pending final contract negotiations.

Ward said he and the board talked about his priorities for the district at the Monday meeting. He showed the board an entry plan he had created that outlined his long-term and short-term plans for the district. Ward and the other top contender, Shawn Bisetta, met with the board on Nov. 1.

Taking the superintendent job marks a bit of a reunion for Ward, as he served as an assistant principal intern at Cato-Meridian's middle school from 2003-2004, when he was transitioning his education career from teaching to administration. He was struck by how warm and friendly people were at the district, saying it was "like a family."

On his first day at the district, a teaching assistant asked him what kind of snacks he liked. He casually said he was fond of fruits. The next day, he was told to look in a lunch bag, which contained grapes, apples and other goods for him. Ward never forgot the kindness he was shown on those first two days in a new environment.

He also recalled when a teacher at the district died a year after Ward left the district. At an event memorializing the teacher, he again saw the kindness of the district's employees.

"I remember thinking, 'These are people you want to be around,'" Ward said.

One of Ward's primary educational beliefs is the importance of students having access to learning. For example, he wants special education students to have opportunities to get regents diplomas and students performing "middle level" academically to have access to advanced placement classes.

He also wants students already taking advanced classes to be able to take courses where they can get college credit. On the more short-term side of things, he plans to immediately focus on the district's budget when he starts in January.

There are certain core beliefs Ward wants to emphasize when he arrives at the district, like the importance of every single student displaying academic growth.

Ward had previously served as the Cazenovia district's director of special education. He also served as an employee of the Central New York Regional Information Center, an elementary principal at Fulton City School District and an assistant elementary principal at the Phoenix Central School District.

He has a doctorate in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College. Ward also holds a master of science in special education from Syracuse University; a certificate in advanced study from SUNY Oswego; a bachelor of arts degree in history from SUNY Cortland; and an associate of applied science degree from SUNY Canton.

Current superintendent Noel Patterson will serve through December. He announced his retirement in May. The longtime educator started with Cato-Meridian in 2009.

William Speck, former superintendent of Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, served as the hiring consultant for the superintendent search through BOCES at a cost of $8,500.

Ward said he is looking forward to getting started — again — at Cato-Meridian. He doesn't take the responsibly lightly.

"I really do believe that we have the best and most important jobs in the world," Ward said.

Dr. Terry Ward

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Auburn City Council delays vote on Owasco Lake watershed agreement

AUBURN — The Auburn City Council postponed voting on a resolution that, if approved, would give the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council full administration of the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program. 

In 2011, the city of Auburn, the town of Owasco and Cayuga County agreed to support the watershed inspection program until the management council "would be able to assume full and ongoing administration" of the inspection program, according to Auburn City Council agreement resolution No. 162. 

The management council, which was granted non-profit status in January, is now ready to take on full administrative responsibly for the program, according to the resolution. 

There was no discussion during Thursday night's council meeting about why council members wanted to table the resolution. Following the meeting, City Manager Jeff Dygert said the council supports the concept of the agreement, but has issues with some administrative and language matters.  

According to the agreement between Auburn, Owasco, Cayuga County and the management council, the inspection program would have an annual budget of $167,000. As part of the agreement, Auburn will provide the program with $150,000 every year. The town of Owasco would provide the rest of the money through charges associated with Owasco residents' water bills. The council's non-profit status also allows them to apply for more grant funding. 

In August, the management council voted to approve assuming full administrative responsibility for the inspection program. The town of Owasco approved their part of the resolution, as well.  

The agreement is on its way to final approval in the Cayuga County Legislature. During Thursday night's Health and Human Services Committee meeting, legislators passed a resolution authorizing the agreement. The resolution will move to the Ways and Means Committee on Nov. 21 before going to the full Legislature on Nov. 28.

Dygert said the resolution will come back before the city council within the coming weeks. 

If approved by all parties, the agreement will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.   

In other news 

• The city is undergoing a modernization effort to convert all paper maps of the city's water distribution system to digital versions. The project is managed by MRB Group, an architectural engineering company in Rochester. 

Director of Municipal Utilities Seth Jensen said the city's current mapping system is "old" and "archaic." 

Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) Dan Allen said during a presentation to the council that the project will improve the accuracy of the maps so, in case of an emergency, city staff will be able to address problems more quickly, such as in the case of a water main break. 

The city plans to continue working with the company to modernize sewer and storm water mapping as well.