New York education leaders have suspended the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations for four years while the state revises the Common Core learning standards and related testing. The moratorium was approved by the policy-making Board of Regents in Albany Tuesday afternoon. It was recommended by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Common Core Task Force last week and has been vigorously sought by teachers for much longer. The measure sets up a transition period during which grade 3-8 math and reading scores will be used only on an advisory basis, rather than as a key component of annual performance reviews that can lead to teacher firings. The New York State United Teachers union says the moratorium is a first step toward ending what it calls a ``test-and-punish mentality.''
We will be getting a break in this stretch of unseasonably mild December weather later this week... but, the batch of cold air on the way may not last long enough to bring a white Christmas to the area. Meteorologist Jeff Wood of the National Weather Service in Buffalo says it will be turning colder starting on Thursday. Wood says it appears the snow will make it into Chautauqua County, but how much will fall is still uncertain. He says it'll be a fast-moving system, so it may be hard for the snow bands to settle over one particular spot. In addition... Wood says the long range forecasts indicate there could be another warm up before Christmas Day.
If the weather cooperates... a local ski resort is hoping to finally open this weekend... but, that remains up in the air at this point. Holiday Valley Ski Resort Marketing Director Jane Eshbaugh says the Ellicottville location has received about 10 inches of natural snow so far this season. However... that's all pretty much gone. She says if they can get some cold weather -- especially at night -- they can quickly make snow. Eshbaugh says they're hoping for colder weather -- starting Thursday. This morning... Holiday Valley was reporting a 0-to-8 inch base. Eshbaugh says she's kept records for the past 20 years... and, says -- if Sunday is the day -- it would not be their latest opening. She says that was December 22nd, in 2001. Eshbaugh says Holiday Valley is very fortunate to have a new snow-gun system that can be brought on line quickly if and when they truly get cold weather. For more information... go on-line to Holidayvalley-dot-COM. Here in Chautauqua County... Peek 'n Peak in Clymer reports that opening day will be delayed... and, they plan to open as soon as "weather permits." They're on-line at pknpk-dot-COM.
As gas prices fall to the 2-dollar mark across the country... they've fallen 4-cents per gallon for regular, unleaded here in Chautauqua County. That from the Triple-A's Fuel Gauge Report... which says the average price has fallen from nearly 2-dollars-36 cents last week to 2--31 this week. Triple-A says that's based on reports from 19 area gasoline stations. The Fuel Gauge reports the national average is now 2-dollars-1 cent per gallon. Overall... average prices remained relatively steady this week, with 26 state averages falling below the 2-dollar a gallon mark. With the falling cost of crude oil... Triple-A says consumers are paying the cheapest prices at the pump, on average, since 2009.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is denouncing the anti-immigration sentiment that has permeated the nation's political discourse. Cuomo, a Democrat, spoke at yesterday's (Monday's) annual National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn. He mocked the sentiment shared by some that immigrants should stay out of ``our land.'' Cuomo then thundered ``Your land? Are you a Navajo?'' before stressing that New York's tradition is to welcome arrivals from all backgrounds. He touted his own family's struggles after emigrating from Italy to the United States... and, said the state views immigrants ``as an asset'' and ``not a liability.'' Cuomo also highlighted his administration's efforts to help immigrant workers. He said the state has returned 28.9-million dollars to more than 24,000 workers who were victims of wage theft since the beginning of this year.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace has now identified the man whose skeletal remains were found last Wednesday in Boutwell Hill State Forest. Gerace tells us that the remains are those of Tyler Chase... a local man in his mid-20s... who was reported missing from the town of Charlotte in May of 2014. He says they wanted to make sure of the person's identity before releasing any information. Gerace says the formal identification brings closure to a year-and-a-half old case... and, allows the family to have some closure, as well. Some hunters located the remains off Boutwell Hill Road... on the border of the towns of Charlotte and Cherry Creek.
A grease build-up under a meat smoker is the apparent cause of last Sunday's fire at a business in the town of Portland. The Chautauqua County Fire Investigation Team revealed the cause late this (Tuesday) afternoon for the blaze... which was called in from 58-87 Route 5 shortly before Noon last Sunday. Fire crews from Brocton were joined at the scene by firefighters from Portland, East and West Dunkirk, Westfield and the Chautauqua County Emergency Services Department. The former barn used for the business was extensively damaged.
New York's attorney general says 30 online retailers have agreed to stop selling realistic toy guns in New York. The settlements announced Tuesday follow July letters to the retailers from across the U.S. who were selling the imitation weapons through an Amazon-dot-COM platform for third-party retailers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says the toys in question violate a New York law against sales here. The law requires toy guns sold to be brightly colored or have colored striping down the barrel. His investigation found 1,337 were sold in New York City. This summer, retailers including Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart and Amazon agreed to keep realistic toy guns off their shelves in New York in an earlier settlement. In November... a Cleveland police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old holding a realistic-looking toy gun.