Oriskany takes initiative; unveils technology, improvements

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ORISKANY — Board of Education members, administrators, public officials and local residents gathered at Oriskany Junior-Senior High School Monday evening for the unveiling of the district’s Innovation Initiative and building upgrades.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held prior to public tours of new facilities that included a renovated technology classroom, innovation lab, new lobby addition to the high school gymnasium and school/community fitness room. The renovations and additions were part of Phase II of a district-wide capital improvements project approved by voters in May 2014.

Students also showed off their new Chromebook laptops used for online learning and led tours of the renovated rooms and new community fitness room, while teachers demonstrated new equipment like laser engravers and 3D printers.

Superintendent Gregory K. Kelahan addressed the crowd by first highlighting the Oriskany “Beyond the Box” initiative, and the educational and community partnerships created between the school district and area colleges and businesses.

Partners include Utica College, Mohawk Valley Community College, ANDRO Computational Solutions LLC, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Griffiss Institute and BNY Mellon Innovation Center.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi Jr., D-119, Utica, and Whitestown Supervisor and Oriskany alumnus Shaun J. Kaleta. Kaleta read from a proclamation declaring Nov. 28 be named Oriskany Junior-Senior High School Day.

As a “school of innovation,” Kelahan said the district is building its commitment to students and the community by networking and fostering relationships with local leaders in technology to help build the workforce of the future.

“Beyond the Box is about being bold and committed” to students and the community, the superintendent said.

It’s about gearing students toward being “the perfect choice for jobs that don’t even exist now,” and preparing children, “for what’s down the road,” he said.

Sean O’Brien, project and general manager with Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers, of Ithaca, said while designing the district’s improvements project, it was key to integrate new science and technology opportunities for children while making the junior-senior high school more inviting for community members. His company specializes in designing spaces for students, he said.

“The opportunity in Oriskany was two-fold — we had the innovation lab and the events entrance to highlight Oriskany (boys’ basketball) being named state champions, and it was an interesting process while working with the students,” O’Brien said.

The innovation lab was part of a “new wave” of integrating Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities for students, the entrance way was a means for Oriskany to highlight its sports programs, and the school/community fitness room, that includes state-of-the-art equipment, was about integrating programs for the community, O’Brien said. Not only does the entrance way, including a new concessions and ticket booth, serve the purpose it was intended for, but also doubles as a new meeting or collaborative space where the community can hold Cub Scout or Girl Scout meetings and other functions, he said.

“The focus today is on schools becoming more community-based,” O’Brien said.

Tom Varano, international speed painter from Emotion Into Art, also spoke to the audience and held a presentation of his work. Varano has been known locally for his photography and he is the owner of Varano Photography in Rome.

Varano explained that speed painting is one of his newer endeavors in self expression. His presentations not only include him working on his latest masterpiece, but he also mixes in music, history and some motivational speaking. He spoke to Oriskany students earlier in the day.

The artist advised students to “dream BIG,” which stands for Books, Individual and Goals. By getting a good education, being yourself and creating personal goals, anyone can accomplish their dreams, he said.

By shooting for big dreams, “you become a light that people are attracted to,” Varano said. “And people are attracted to passion. It’s not enough to just have a dream — it has to be fueled by passion.”

During the first of three presentations, Varano created a painting of President Abraham Lincoln. All three paintings are now the property of the school.

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