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Cayuga County Sheriff Gould likely to retire; lieutenant intends to seek office

Detective Lt. Brian Schenck said he has filed paperwork launching a campaign to run for Cayuga County sheriff should Sheriff David Gould decide to retire from the position. 

Gould confirmed Wednesday that he and Schenck have "communicated" about the campaign — the Committee to Elect Brian Schenck Sheriff — and discussed the possibility that Gould will not seek re-election in November. Gould, a retired New York State Police officer, was first elected to the position in 2006, when he ousted former Sheriff Rob Outhouse. He then won a second and third term in 2010 and 2014 without any opposition.

Schenck said Wednesday that he is preparing to seek the position should Gould decide not to run. Gould said he has already made his decision, which he plans to officially announce next month. 

"I am preparing to seek the position of sheriff in anticipation that (Gould) is not going to run," Schenck said. "I wouldn't run against him. I would only seek the position if he decides that he's not going to run."

If Gould chooses not to seek re-election, Schenck said he would seek the Republican endorsement. Schenck began his career at the sheriff's office in 1997 and was promoted to detective lieutenant in 2015. He is 46 years old. 

"I've been very proud to be part of (Gould's) administrative team and I think he's done a great job running the department," Schenck said. "If he decides not to run, I'd be very honored if I was fortunate enough to be voted in. ... I'm excited about the potential future." 

While Schenck's campaign has not reported receiving any contributions as of January, Gould's had received roughly $19,500 since July, according to a January report summary filed with the state Board of Elections.

During the same period, Gould's campaign spent approximately $17,500, making several donations to area nonprofit organizations such as the Heroin Epidemic Action League, Cayuga Counseling Services and Matthew House. His campaign balance was $7,496.

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One year in, Tubman state park in Maryland exceeds expectations

As the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Maryland prepares for its first anniversary celebration this weekend, officials are reflecting on the past year and better-than-expected attendance at the landmark. 

Dana Paterra, park manager at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, said the 17-acre site was designed to accommodate about 75,000 visitors each year. Since the park opened last march, it has attracted more than 100,000 visitors. 

Park records indicate that visitors traveled from all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Paterra said she was surprised to see the number of people who visited from other countries. 

"But Tubman's story is an international story," she said. "It's a story of love and of desire for freedom and I think that is something universal that everyone can relate to."

Angela Crenshaw, the park's assistant manager, added, "I think everyone can understand the need to be with friends and family, be able to do what you love and appreciate life and to want more than just to be someone's property. And she really speaks to that." 

The park features a $21 million visitor center, which received most of its funding from the state and some federal support. There is a legacy garden, recreational pavilion and administrative offices located on the grounds. 

The goal of the park is to tell the story of Tubman's early life. She was born into slavery in Maryland. She escaped in 1849, but made return trips to the state to free family and friends. 

There are exhibits in the park's visitor center highlighting Tubman's life in Maryland. Paterra said there will be new additions to the exhibit space unveiled this weekend. Sound stations have been installed to highlight Tubman's childhood experiences, her faith, rescue missions and her role in the Civil War. An audio-video program has been added to display historical images. And the park is planning a soft opening of its research library. 

Several events are planned this weekend to mark the park's one-year anniversary. Millicent Sparks, a Tubman re-enactor, will perform at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, author of the Tubman biography "Bound for the Promised Land," will deliver presentations each day. There are other presentations and children-specific events on the schedule. 

The park's visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. There is no entry fee. 

While park officials are pleased with the first year, the most important feedback they have received has come from visitors. Paterra said she recently reviewed the visitor log and the comments left by some of the park's guests. 

The comments included, "What a wonderful Maryland story" and "Thank you for sharing the lessons we should never forget." 

Locals have embraced the park, too, Paterra said. 

"I think leading up to the opening nobody really knew what quite to expect," she said. "But I think that now that we are open to the public and we are getting a lot of people traveling down here or to the Eastern Shore it's been well-received from the community as well." 

One-year anniversary weekend events

"Be resilient!": Cato-Meridian high school students, staff show kindness following lockdown

MERIDIAN — Cato-Meridian High School Principal Danielle Mahoney said the school's hallways were choked with wall-to-wall smiles Tuesday.

The smiles are a part of a series of challenges to staff and students alike that will be made over 17 days, the first day was Monday. The challenges, all of which involve showing kindness and positivity toward themselves and others, were created after the school district went into a lockdown last Thursday. 

Mahoney said district superintendent Terry Ward wondered about ways faculty could make students feel "safe and loved" following the lockdown. On Friday — school was canceled due to weather — Mahoney, school counselor Cheryl Sawyer and school psychologist Karen Carbone brainstormed ways to kick start a positive atmosphere for those who walked into the building Monday. 

The trio were inspired by a viral social media post concerning a teacher talking to her students about ways they could honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month, involving the hashtag #whatsyour17.

Sawyer came up with challenges for students and staff to demonstrate postivity to themselves and others, with a different challenge announced each day for 17 days. The challenges are meant to acknowledge the Parkland victims while allowing students and staff to interact with each other in positive ways. For example, Mahoney said Tuesday's challenge involved staff and students smiling at 17 people. 

Mahoney said students flashed their pearly whites throughout the day, reaching out to others that they might not interacted with under normal circumstances.

"I've seen students smiling that I've never seen smile," Mahoney said.

Mahoney said, Sawyer and Carbone also spent the weekend writing encouraging messages such as 'be brave!" "Be resilient!,", Be you!," etc. on Post-it notes, with one note for all 1,004 lockers.

Mahoney said students in one particular row put their notes on one student's locker. That student appreciated the extra messages, she added.

Sawyer said she noticed at the end of school Monday afternoon that some students had their notes in hand as they left the building instead of throwing them away, which she believes shows the messages resonated with them. She said she feels good about the 17-day campaign so far.

"Instead of going through the routine of the day, it just has added a little extra awareness and energy (to the day)," Sawyer said.

The school went into lockdown in response to more than 20 bullets being found in a student's locker that day. Authorities determined the incident was an accident, according to a press release on the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office

State police: 13-year-old Port Byron student charged with making terroristic threat

A 13-year-old student is facing criminal charges after allegedly threatening to harm Port Byron Central School District students Wednesday, state police said.

A male student was charged with making a terroristic threat, a class D felony, according to a press release. Troopers said the student made "claims of harming other students" at the school. Investigators didn't believe that the student would carry out the threat or that other students or staff were in danger, the release said.

A press release from the Port Byron Central School District said that district administrators were informed around 11 a.m. Wednesday about the eighth-grade student making threatening statements while speaking to other students during a lunch period. Several students overheard the student and reported to staff, the release said. The district removed the student from class and contacted police.

Following the incident, Michael Jorgensen, principal of Dana L. West Junior/Senior High School, held an assembly about the legal and disciplinary consequences of making threats.

“We absolutely will not tolerate any type of threat,” Jorgensen said in the press release. “Whether it is intended as a prank or a joke, it is taken seriously.”

The boy was processed for the charge, released to the custody of a legal guardian and was given an appearance ticket for Cayuga County Family Court for a later date, according to the state police's press release.

The district has experienced other scares in recent days. The district said Monday that a student falsely claimed that he had seen a Facebook post claiming that a bomb threat "would be carried out sometime this week at Port Byron CSD," but the student later admitted to falsely reporting the incident and that no such threat was made.

Another student, a 12-year-old, was charged on Feb. 16 with making a terroristic threat in connection with posts on social media.