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Millennium Project

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Millenium Project

October 6, 1999 – Utica City School District and Mohawk Valley Community College entered into a 50-year agreement formalizing a partnership called the Millennium Project, to be jointly guided by a Coordinating Policy Board with representatives from the UCSD Board of Education and the MVCC Board of Trustees. (MVCC’s Board of Trustees had approved it on September 22nd; the Utica School Board was scheduled to act on it on October 12th.) Among components of the agreement:
-Extension of proposed new curricular “house focus areas” at Proctor two years beyond high school into related programs at MVCC. This would include establishing teams of educators from both institutions in each focus area. Proctor students could choose to enroll in a combined diploma/degree program leading to an MVCC Associate degree in five or six years from the start of 9th grade.
- Continuation and possible expansion of the Bridge Program which allowed qualified students at Proctor and other area high schools to take MVCC courses for both high school and college credit.
- Shared use of educational facilities: examples --- potential use of MVCC’s extensive engineering technology laboratories by Proctor students; potential shared use of performing and fine arts spaces
- Alternative education approaches for high school students who are not successful in the traditional high school setting.
- Shared programming and/or services in the fields of child care and early childhood education
- Joint professional development opportunities for MVCC and Proctor faculty, possibly including a Saturday great teacher lecture series, co-teaching at both institutions, faculty mentoring, relocation of the Teacher Center to MVCC, and/or a partnership for guidance, counseling and other student services.
- Possible linking of the two institutions via microwave/fiber optic technology to permit shared instruction
- Creation of a shared staff position to ensure continuity of operations and maximum access to Millennium Project activities
- Utilization of MVCC’s “Ready, Set, College!” program, a county-wide initiative introduced at MVCC during the summer, encouraging financially-eligible high school students who don’t see themselves as “college material,” to experience post secondary education.
- Creation of a “College Now” program to serve high school seniors without college level skills with a combination of enrichment and remedial instruction.
- Creation of a six-member Coordinating Policy Board, including two members of the Utica School Board, two members of the MVCC Board of Trustees, Utica School District Superintendent Daniel Lowengard, and MVCC President Michael I. Schafer. The Chair of the Oneida County Board of Legislators Education & Youth Committee would act as a non-voting liaison for Oneida County. The Coordinating Policy Board would be an advisory and recommending board to the Utica Board of Education and the MVCC Board of Trustees.
Because the project involved the potential transfer for a small part of MVCC’s Utica Campus, it was also subject to approval by the Oneida County Board of Legislators and the State University of New York.

March 30, 2000 (From College news release) – “Utica School District, MVCC, Announce Director for Millennium Project, Outline Progress with New Partnership – Representatives of the Utica School Board and the Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) Board of Trustees met with media this morning to announce the selection of a director to oversee their collaborative “Millennium Project,” and to update the community on progress to date in developing the partnership between Proctor High School and MVCC.
School Board President Phillip Vanno, Jr., and MVCC Trustee Chairman N. Joseph Yagey introduced Mrs. Delores Caruso as Millennium Project Director effective April 3rd.
Mrs. Caruso will work with teachers and administrators at both MVCC and Proctor to identify specific opportunities for collaboration in educational programs and services, use of educational technology, and professional development for faculty and staff.
A Utica native, Mrs. Caruso is currently employed at MVCC, as Coordinator of Adult & Continuing Education in the College’s Center for Community & Economic Development. Her responsibilities have included extensive work with school districts throughout the area, managing off-campus credit and dual credit programs and distance learning courses offered by MVCC. She has overseen an English as a Second Language Bridge Program at MVCC for students at Proctor, and was among those who developed and implemented MVCC’s ‘Ready, Set, College!’ program, which serves students from across Oneida County, including a number at Proctor….
Mrs. Caruso has been employed at MVCC since 1995, when she joined the College as a Program Specialist in the Center for Community & Economic Development. She was named to her present position in 1998. She also worked at the College from 1987 to 1989 as coordinator of a program entitled Career Potential Unlimited.
She holds a BPS degree from the SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, and has done graduate study through the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is also a graduate of… Herkimer County Community College.

(April 5, 2000, editorial in Utica Observer-Dispatch) – “Millennium Project must go forward faster – About six months ago, Mohawk Valley Community College and the Utica School District unveiled the Millennium Project.
Officials labeled it ‘historic,’ ‘a breakthrough’ and dozens of other superlatives.
But since then, the only public progress has been last week’s appointment of a project coordinator (at a salary not yet announced) and the design of a logo.
Let’s pick up the pace.
The project is great. Its key elements include:
- Shared use of educational facilities, such as MVCC’s engineering technologies laboratories and performing and fine arts spaces on both campuses.
- Creation of a ‘College Now’ program to serve at-risk high school seniors through a combination of enrichment and remedial instruction.
- Extension of proposed academic-house focus areas from Thomas R. Proctor Senior High School into related programs at MVCC. (The areas are supposed to be health careers, public service, entrepreneurism and science and technology.)
Not all that can be wrapped up overnight, but neither can the project drift at its current pace.
Now that MVCC’s Delores Caruso has been named to lead the project, she needs to push the pace so that by the time the 2000-2001 academic year starts, at least some of the educational pieces of this puzzle are in place.
Is that pushing things? Yes. But progress that takes too long to materialize is no longer progress, but a missed opportunity. The Millennium Project can give Utica’s students – particularly those at risk – a better education. The longer the project stalls, the more Utica’s young people miss out on the benefits.
Let’s push the envelope. And let’s get this done.”

June 2000 – the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties announced a grant for $46,600 from the Rosamond G. Childs Fund, to support planning work for the Millennium Project. The planning phase was scheduled to begin in July 2000 when 16 professionals who had been competitively selected from both the Utica City School District and MVCC would begin the collegial collaboration to refine and redesign the delivery of education at Proctor High School. These Millennium Project planning teams would initiate the process to define the four thematic houses, and produce a report by July 15th.

October 25, 2000, Utica Observer-Dispatch- “County lawmakers consider transferring land to Utica schools – County lawmakers are expected to decide today whether to transfer more than six areas of county-owned land off Armory Drive to the Utica City School District to build a stadium as part of the Millennium Project….
Utica Schools Superintendent Daniel Lowengard said the land transfer is ‘absolutely critical’ to the Millennium Project, a partnership between the school district and Mohawk Valley Community College to plan student programs for the next 50 years….
The $4 million, 3,000 seat stadium would take the place of the current athletic facility at Thomas R. Proctor High School which must be demolished to make room for a 100,000-square-foot addition to the school, Lowengard said.
Construction is scheduled to begin next spring on the stadium, which would be used by the school district and MVCC. The high school and MVCC are adjacent to one another in southeast Utica.
A deed, conveying the property to the district must contain a clause allowing the county to regai ownership if the land is not used for ‘mutually beneficial educational programs.’
‘The issue isn’t the land; the issue is the (Millennium) project,’ said Majority Leader Robert F. Julian, R-Utica, who supports the project.
It ‘marries’ Proctor and MVCC and will allow high school students to accumulate college credits while still in high school, Julian said.
The project also can be used as a selling point to families looking to buy homes in Utica, and could help revitalize neighborhoods in the long run, Julian added. …”

January 2, 2001, Letter to Editor, Oneida County Home News (and other newspapers) – “The Millennium Project is a joint venture between the Utica City School District, the Mohawk Valley Community College, and the Oneida County Legislature to revamp Utica’s high school. As the former president of the Utica Board of Education, I do not believe that county tax dollars should be spent on any local school district without the express consent and knowledge of the taxpayers. Also, I believe it to be illegal for the Utica schools, operating under an austerity budget, preventing them from funding certain school programs to be using county tax dollars to circumvent the intent of the law.
I believe the taxpayers in your communities know nothing of this radical proposal. In essence, if funded to its full potential, what we may have here is the forerunner of the first County High School in New York, funded by county taxes. To date the Project has the full support of Mr. Eannace, Mr. Julian, many County Legislators, the President of MVCC, the Superintendent of Utica’s schools, and of course, the Utica Board of Education, who is continually looking for alternative funding sources to pay for their schools. It has also been endorsed by the Utica Observer Dispatch. All without any dialogue with you, the people of the county who are expected to fund it.
I do not speak in favor of, or in opposition to, the merits of the educational issues being addressed in this project. My concerns lie in its funding, and the legality of using county tax dollars to benefit only one school district at the expense of all other county schools. Please understand, as the former president of the Utica Board of Education, I always looked for sources of money for our schools, but never from the taxes of other municipalities, not without the expressed permission of those being approached. It may be illegal and at least unethical, for the County Legislature to fund programs for Proctor High School exclusively. There are questions of possible state statutes being violated if one municipality (the Utica City School District) receives funds for programs from the tax revenues collected by another municipality (Oneida County) without the express approval of the New York State Legislature or the legal representatives of the towns and villages whose taxes will be paying for these exclusive programs.
And since both Eannace and Dr. Schafer have admitted that the Millennium Project will be partially funded through the MVCC budget, that raises the additional concern as to whether or not one public educational institution can give public monies to another educational institution operating under a separate taxing authority. It is not proper for the County or disguise actual money expenditures to Proctor High School by hiding them within the MVCC budget; a community college budget supported by county tax dollars.
Julian has stated, “the Millennium Project will bring the economy back to the city of Utica.” That is such an overused argument it no longer carries any credibility. For too long now the people of Utica have been promised more prosperity if only we would fund one more political scheme to bring business to our area. Julian goes on to state, “the project is more than just academics – its economics.” Well, there it is, the implication that improving Utica’s high school will bring great economic prosperity to the whole of Oneida County! We continue to ask the local taxpayers to pay for enterprises that are questionable at best, expecting that such expenditures will attract businesses to Utica, and all of this at the expense of the every declining middle class worker who must live in deteriorating neighborhoods with declining property values. Are you willing to continue to pay for these political schemes?
Already the County has signed an agreement giving the six acres of MVCC land to the Utica schools so that a football stadium can be built there, shared and maintained by both schools. Were the other residents of other school districts throughout the county given free land for their athletic facilities, and are the maintenance costs for your athletic facilities paid for by a college funded with your tax dollars? The project calls for the implementation and staffing of a proposed Child Care Center at Proctor High School for pregnant and teen mothers, Forget about the moral issue raised by such an endeavor, allowing unwed mothers access to our schools to provide care for their children, but what about the legal issues this presents? Are you willing to have your county tax dollars go to the support of programs that you have no direct or even indirect say over? At a time when people are demanding more local control over their schools, the Millennium Project takes local control away from Uticans, and places the burden of paying for Utica’s schools into your hands, the county residents who face your own problems in your own communities ad schools.
For county residents, this is an extremely important issue. As a resident of Utica, a former teacher, and former school board member, I have always looked for solutions to Utica’s problems by turning to those who live in Utica, and who have a stake in the successes or failures here. But, this project goes far beyond the city’s borders, and issues of equity and fairness must be discussed. We have often heard the phrase that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child.’ But Mr. Eannace, Mr. Julian, and the County legislators who support the Millennium Project have proposed a more encompassing adage. ‘If the child’s village can’t succeed at raising the child then it’s ok to ask all the neighboring villages to take on that responsibility.’ Are you prepared to pay for this undertaking?
Stephen Schiavi, Utica

January 18, 2001, Letter to Editor, Life & Times of Oneida County - The Millennium Project, an innovative collaboration between Mohawk Valley Community College and the Utica School District – specifically T.R. Proctor High School – is without doubt one of the most exciting and most positive developments in this community’s program of education in which I have had the pleasure to be involved. The collaboration between high school and college faculty will result in extraordinary educational opportunities for students. The project will also provide significant professional growth opportunities for the faculty and staff of the college and the high school.
Unfortunately, some who should know better have been unfairly critical of the Millennium Project, and seemingly would seek to deny these benefits to our students, staff and community.
They suggest that MVCC’s partnership with Proctor is unfair to students and taxpayers in other area school districts. Your readers should understand that MVCC has been collaborating with school districts throughout Oneida County- especially the Rome Public School District – for many years.
For instance, since 1996, 1,836 high school students have taken MVCC ‘dual credit’ courses right in their home schools – receiving both high school and full college credit at no cost to the student. The largest group, more than 1,600, has been students at Rome Free Academy. Others have been students at Camden Central School, Sauquoit Valley Central School, and Holland Patent Central School. Courses have included American National Government, Pre-Calculus, Survey of Economics, College Seminar (study skills, time management, etc.), Chemistry, AutoCAD and General Psychology.
For several years, in cooperation with Oneida-Madison BOCES, MVCC has also provided distance learning classes to schools in Waterville, Holland Patent, Remsen, Sauquoit Valley and Brookfield via interactive television.
MVCC has articulation agreements with many area high schools, providing college credit at MVCC for selected high school courses, which meet learning objectives of comparable MVCC courses, when those students enroll at the College. Such an agreement is in place with Rome Free Academy. Other participating schools include Camden Central School, Clinton Senior High School, Holland Patent Central School, New Hartford Central School, New York Mills Junior-Senior High School, Proctor High School, Rome Free Academy, Sauquoit Valley Central School, Waterville Central School, Westmoreland Central School, and Whitesboro High School, as well as Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, Madison-Oneida BOCES.
Some time back, MVCC worked closely with technology faculty in New Hartford Central School and Sauquoit Valley Central School as they established their ‘Project Lead the Way’ pre-engineering curricula.
And, MVCC’s ‘Ready-Set-College’ program, designed to reduce the high school dropout rate by exposing carefully selected students to motivating educational experiences and mentorships, includes students from various parts of Oneida County, including Rome.
We are proud of all these partnerships, as we are proud of the Millennium Project. In each, the nature and content of the partnership reflects the specific and unique needs of the school district(s) and students involved. The Millennium Project reflects the Utica School District’s exciting and major curriculum changes even more than their facilities improvement plans.
Partnerships which benefit students, and which support this region’s economic development, are central to what MVCC is all about. Well-designed partnerships can save money for students, taxpayers and educational institutions by reducing duplication. They can also provide students and institutions with a way to achieve educational goals which would never have been possible otherwise. The synergy they create benefits not only the students but also the entire community, and brings out the best in all who participate.
While the Millennium Project is undoubtedly the most ambitious and complex partnership in which MVCC has been engaged, it is certainly not unique. It is, rather, the most recent in a long history of collaborations with our colleagues in secondary education.
To undermine the Millennium Project, and deny its benefits to students and faculty, would be a tragedy with serious long-term consequences for this community, its residents and taxpayers. It would also suggest that the many other partnerships which MVCC has developed throughout the years, might also be called into question to satisfy personal agendas.
We remain confident that community leaders will not permit this to happen, that the Millennium Project and other learning partnerships will be allowed to serve students as intended. These partnerships make winners of us all.”
Michael I. Schafer, President, Mohawk Valley Community College

(Feb 3, 2001, Utica Observer-Dispatch) – “Former school board member wants to halt Millennium Project – In an attempt to halt development of the Utica School District’s Millennium Project, former school board member Stephen Schiavi Thursday filed a petition with the state education department.
Schiavi would not comment Friday on his petition, which contains the application for a stay order. State education law states a person who believes himself wronged by district action may appeal to the commissioner of education for a review of the action.
The Millennium Project is an academic restructuring at Proctor High School instituting four themed academic houses, removing general education and collaborating with Mohawk Valley Community College.
Schiavi claims in the petition that the district and Superintendent Daniel Lowengard allow Proctor students to take free MVCC courses. Other allegations made in the petition include the Millenium Project violates state law by using public funds, violates students’ civil rights and operates using undisclosed funding sources. MVCC is not named in the petition….”

April 27, 2001 (College News Release) – “Millennium Project Moves Into Phase 2 Planning – The Millennium Project, a major collaborative educational project involving Mohawk Valley Community College and the Utica City School District, is moving into a second phase of academic planning. The new round of planning was jointly announced today by Phillip Vanno, Millennium Project Coordinating Policy Board Chairman, and N. Joseph Yagey, Vice Chairman of the Coordinating Policy Board. Mr. Vanno is a member of the Utica City School District Board of Education. Mr. Yagey is a member of the Mohawk Valley Community College Board of Trustees.
In Phase 1 planning, last summer, a team of faculty members from both the School District and MVCC developed a foundation for academic restructuring at Proctor High School.
In Phase 2, beginning today, 35 faculty members from MVCC, Proctor, and from Donovan and John F. Kennedy Middle Schools undertake the next critical step. They will work to develop a curriculum that is aligned to State Education Department standards and that improves student achievement through relevant career-oriented experiences and activities….”

(May 10, 2001 – Utica Observer-Dispatch) – “State denies Schiavi petition – Former Utica school board member Stephen Schiavi’s petition to halt development of the school district’s Millennium Project has been denied. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills wrote a decision that Schivai ‘presents no proof whatsoever’ that the district violated budget statutes. Schiavi said in the petition that the Millennium Project violates state law by using public funds, violates students’ civil rights and operates using undisclosed funding sources. ….”

November 13, 2001 - Groundbreaking Ceremony for T. R. Proctor High School Expansion
Local educators, public officials and students gathered at the intersection of Hilton Avenue and Armory Drive to officially break ground for a $37 million expansion of T. R. Proctor High School. (The groundbreaking took place at the end of the MVCC campus closest to the existing high school, as six acres of college land were being turned over to the school district for the expansion.) The Millennium Project Director, Delores Caruso, was employed at MVCC.
The expansion was part of the Millennium Project partnership between the Utica City School District (UCSD) and Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC). It would add approximately 160,000 square feet of new construction to the high school, including a new stadium to be shared by teams at Proctor and MVCC.
The physical expansion of the high school was accompanied by a major restructuring of the curriculum at Proctor, and a reorganization of the student and teaching population into themed academies: Human & Public Services, Science & Technology, Finance & Business, and Health & Health Careers. (These later became Liberal Arts & Human Services, Physical Science & Technology, Business & Finance, and Health Careers & The Environment, each serving approximately 500 students.)
Speaking at the ceremony were Utica City School District Board of Education President Dianne DiMeo, Board Vice President Keith Heinrich, Superintendent of Schools Daniel Lowengard, MVCC President Michael Schafer, N. Joseph Yagey, chair of the Millennium Project Coordinating Policy Board and a member of the MVCC Board of Trustees, and Utica Mayor Timothy Julian. Also taking part were several representatives of Oneida County government, including County Executive Ralph J. Eannace, Jr., Board of Legislators Chairman Gerald Fiorini, and Legislator Robert Kelly, chairman of the Board of Legislators Education & Youth Committee and an ex-officio member of the Millennium Project Coordinating Policy Board, as well as Proctor High School Principal Ronald Mancuso.

December 2001
Congressman Sherwood Boehlert secured a $500,000 federal grant to be divided between MVCC and UCSD, to be used for computer technology.

2002
Utica City School District Students, under the Millennium Project, could take part in the JumpStart Early College Program. They started by taking a college exploration course (College Seminar), Following this, they could select introductory courses in humanities, mathematics, psychology, social science, technology, fine arts, or health careers, up to two courses per semester. Matching grants from the City of Utica and Oneida County ($36,000 from each) provided funding for JumpStart.

April 2003

The Millennium Project was awarded $400,000 from the New England Small Schools Network, $200,000 in FY 2004, and $200,000 in FY2005. The Network was a division of the Center for Collaborative Education, a non-profit organization located in Boston, Massachusetts. Since its founding in 1994, the mission of the Center was to improve student learning in K-12 public schools and districts by promoting whole-school change. The Center was a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Educational Foundation. The New England Small Schools Network was located at the Center for Collaborative Education, 1135 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02120.

September 2003 – new Proctor High School opened.