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First-place winners at Sullivan West; BOE continues to hear about plans for graduation

Sullivan West Elementary’s Odyssey of the Mind team is headed to the state competition. Standing are coach Wendy Kraack, left, Morgan Kraack, Gabriel Campanelli and Henry Peters. Kneeling are Evan Herbert, left, Abby Gaebel and Maggie Russell. Absent from photo is Emma Switko.
TRR photo by Kevin Kearney

By Kevin Kearney
March 13, 2013

The Odyssey of the Mind team at Sullivan West Elementary School was recognized at the March 7 school board meeting for taking first place in its division at a recent regional competition in Goshen. The team advances to the state contest on March 23 in Binghamton.

“We were really surprised because the competition was tremendous. I was really proud of them,” said teacher Wendy Kraack, who coaches the group.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from Kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

Sullivan West’s team members are fourth graders Abby Gaebel and Evan Herbert, and fifth graders Gabriel Campanelli, Morgan Kraack, Henry Peters, Maggie Russell and Emma Switko. The kids were awarded a trophy and individual medals.

The judges also were impressed with how well-mannered the Sullivan West students were. “They said the kids are really too polite,” said Kraack, beaming.

Board member Ken Cohen said, “It’s great to hear people saying what great kids we have. We hear it a lot.”

District superintendent Nancy M. Hackett told the competitors, “We’re so proud of you and we do appreciate having you here.” The superintendent told Kraack, “We appreciate the time and effort you put into everything.”

About 350 students and 52 teams from schools in Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess counties took part in the contest. There were 12 schools competing in Sullivan West’s division. The teams competed in solving five different problems, which included vehicle, technical, classics, structure and theatrical categories. Each team received its problem in early October and then had to construct and test-run props and mechanisms to prepare the best solution to the challenge.

In other business, Hackett said the district is looking into options concerning where the high school graduation will be held. At last month’s meeting, a group of students had submitted a petition to persuade the district to hold graduation ceremonies at a location other than the limited-spaced auditorium. Previous commencements were held in the gymnasium, but the district has added a fitness center to the facility, taking up half the space.

“We’re looking at the gym and its current state to see if it meets the fire code,” Hackett said at the March meeting. She said the district still needs to find room for the school band and for risers for the graduates.