Faces of Dryden: To the superintendant's office please


By Cathy Wakeman

Tompkins Weekly


Josh Bacigalupi can never be accused of not having school spirit. With a ready handshake and wide smile, he eagerly greeted me for our 7:30 a.m. appointment to catch a glimpse of what we have to look forward to with the upcoming school year.

Communication with parents and the community is high on this superintendent’s agenda. He shared that the hashtag #lionpride is a snapshot of what we have to look forward to in the coming year. Whether you connect through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or old-fashioned paper, you can expect access to the schools.

Within days of starting his new position as superintendent, the school released its newly updated website. While that was obviously a long time in the making, it highlighted the changes we can expect to see from this new administration. Maintaining the schools’ original web address at dryden.k12.ny.us, the website has a new layout and a new look. And, Bacigalupi points out; the first drop down menu item on the “About Us” tab is an “Ask the Superintendent” button. “Carrie (Merriman, District Clerk and Secretary to the Superintendent) knows I have an open-door policy, that I’m willing to talk with anyone about anything. I am available and accessible. Members of the community can expect communication, transparency, and accountability.”

Bacigalupi explained that one of the key reasons for his returning to the district is the commitment and investment of the staff. “The dedication of the staff members, both in the school and in the community, is one hallmark of the Dryden district. Many staff members went to school here and have returned to work here, raise their families and participate in the community here.” An example of this dedication was posted on the school’s Facebook page as High School Art Teacher Bobette Butts, DHS class of ’99, was presented with the Outstanding Concurrent Enrollment Teacher Award by the College Now Program at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

When asked what we have to look forward to on the first day of school for grades Pre-K through 9 and for grades 10 to 12, Bacigalupi explained some of the traditions that the staff has to welcome students.

“Dryden Elementary School has an opening day tradition of all of the teachers welcoming students in the front of the school with large signs. Mr. P (Phillips-Burdge, Elementary Band Director) will be playing music while the teachers gather their classes. It is a welcoming, festive atmosphere for the students. The sixth grade had orientation last week. The event is held in the evening so parents could participate and help students with new experiences like trying a locker out and finding classrooms while following the schedule. The ninth-grade orientation team is headed up by (DHS Math teacher) Jamie Crosley. On their first day, they have the halls to themselves. While they’re still in the same building, beginning high school is a big shift.”

Bacigalupi replied to my question about the most surprising part of the job so far by saying, “The intensity and pace of the work in the summer. As a teacher and principal, summer has a different pace than when students are in the building. As a superintendent, there is an invigorating pace that maintains the momentum.”

With the strong start we’ve seen in just two months at the helm, we can expect the school year to be full of positive change, maintaining that momentum through the school year.


Festival Time

If Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, it stands to reason that the following weekend is the unofficial start of autumn. Two very different communities in our town traditionally hold celebrations on this weekend, making for either difficult choices or a very full day.

The 39 th Annual Freeville Harvest Festival kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8. The grounds of the Freeville United Methodist Church, 37 Main St, are transformed into an old-fashioned fair with vendors, entertainers, and yummy food offerings.

Pete the Cat, a favorite picture book character for the younger set, will make a special appearance with Miss Diane from the Southworth Library at 10 a.m.

Taking performance to a professional level, jazz guitarist Gabe Condon will play for the crowd at 11 a.m. When not entertaining fans in Freeville, Gabe is a lecturer of jazz at Ithaca College. Ithaca College’s Premium Blend student a cappella group will wrap up the performance portion of the festivities at 12:30 p.m.

Other festival favorites include the famous Freeville chicken barbeque dinners, which begin at 11 a.m., local crafters, a farmer’s market with Freeville Farmer’s Market vendors, a bake sale, kids’ games and face painting.


This year’s Festival Chair, Keith Eggleston, explains, “The Harvest Festival is an annual tradition sponsored by the Freeville United Methodist Church. The church enjoys being able to provide this family-friendly event for the local community. A portion of each year’s proceeds is donated to local community organizations. In addition, this year, the majority of the proceeds will be used to support the domestic and international disaster relief efforts carried out by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). When disasters, such as forest fires, hurricanes, and floods, occur in the world, UMCOR is one of the first organizations on the scene to assist in relief efforts.”

On the south end of town, the Ellis Hollow Community Center grounds will be abuzz with game players and fairgoers from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 during the 66 th annual Ellis Hollow Fair.

The Fair is the primary way that funds are raised to maintain the upkeep and day-to-day expenses of the Ellis Hollow Community Center. The center is the meeting place for a variety of organizations, including Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. It houses the Ellis Hollow Nursery School, the Ellis Hollow Pool, and the pavilion and fields that are the setting for a myriad of family and community events.

Fair organizer, Christine Becraft, shares, “For over a half century, Ellis Hollow has celebrated this tradition. While the Fair varies from year to year, several ingredients have remained constant to keep it a small, friendly country fair despite crowds of well over 6,000 people in some years. There is never a charge for admission and prices are kept low for the many games geared towards young children. Handcrafts and baked goods are homemade and the produce is homegrown by Ellis Hollow residents. Hot buttered corn is always a favorite as is the delicious chicken barbeque hot off the grill. The event also features festive face painting, a silent auction, games, bounce house and more!”


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