Monday, August 14, 2017

The Summer of Giving

It has been nice to finally get a stretch of decent weather. My wife and I went to the Goo Goo Dolls concert on Friday, and then we spent Saturday on Keuka Lake. Surprisingly, my golf game is finally back to where I can actually call myself a golfer again, instead of a "hitter of golf balls", although that will be short lived as school events begin to get mixed back into my evening work schedule.

I have to tell you that we have a LOT of very generous people and organizations in this community. During the summer, I spend a lot of time working through contracts, ordering, planning, hiring, scheduling, and preparing. I also take the time to check in with many of the people, companies, and organizations who help support our students. 

The Wildcat Golf Tournament Helps Fund Programs: This year, we have a few more very generous people to thank beginning with the locally owned and operated "The Wildcat".  Thanks to a golf tournament sponsored by owners Dan and Heather Thome, our student activities funds will receive a shot in the arm of $3,200. 

This money will go to the After-the Ball All-Night Party held after the Senior Ball, the Respect and Responsibility Club (which puts on community favorite events like the Culture Fair and the Halloween Festival among other things), and a fund to help families who struggle with the cost of renting musical instruments for our Fine Arts program. Many thanks!

Annual School Supply Drive: The West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council is once again sponsoring a School Supply Drive. The purpose is to provide free school supplies for students in need of assistance who attend any school in the West Genesee School District. Our students collected school supply donations from the community at the Walmart in Camillus and for those in need of assistance, requests are still being accepted up until Saturday, August 19, by clicking here.

Township 5 Partnership: At the same time, managing partners of Township 5 have invited our students to sell raffle tickets at their Wednesday Concert Series with the proceeds going to the After-the Ball All-Night Party. They were so pleased with how our students behaved and presented themselves at their last event, that they are exclusively working with West Genesee. Talk about Wildcat Pride!



State Fair Update: We also worked with a local business owner who has a large presence at the New York State Fair, and he hired 120 of our students to work at his restaurant stand, lemonade stands, and water stands throughout the State Fair. Again, due to how our students behave and present themselves, they were given first access to those jobs. Good stuff!

Also, while on the topic of the New York State Fair, our Marching Band was asked again by Governor Cuomo to welcome him at the ribbon cutting of the Fair, which will be at approximately 9:30 a.m. on August 23. Very cool!

Providing Meals: Lastly, we have developed a new and wonderful working relationship with New Life Ministries. They have started a "Power Pack" program to help supply our younger students who do not get consistent meals at home with ready to eat lunches and dinners, as well as food for the weekend. We did a trial run in the spring and quickly serviced sixty families. We met and are now going to work together to provide 100 children with meals for home and weekends. We are truly fortunate to have such great community partners.


Other Great Things are Happening: Other than that, not much is happening (insert sarcasm here). The Marching Band is working hard, some fall sports officially begin today, and there have been some great engineering camps, science camps, CMS students in the NYS Honor Choir, and orientations taking place; so we are busy!

As we get closer to the beginning of school, I will use future posts to let you know our goals for the school year and how we can continue to work together for our students.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mid-Summer Check In

That Time of Year for Lacrosse Tournaments: In Wildcat country you know you are nearing the mid-point of summer when the boys and girls lacrosse programs hold their Annual John Pepper Tournaments. The girls tournament was held yesterday and Saturday and was once again a huge success. I can never pin down exactly how many people attend these tournaments each year, but it has to be in the neighborhood of 2,000-3,000 people over the two days.

On top of that, our players, as well as the players from the teams around the area, state, and east coast, get a chance to interact and be seen by many high level college coaches. It is a great event to see the school, boosters, and the community working together for the benefit of kids. The boys tournament is July 29-30.

Music is in the Air: I often tell the story about how tough Marching Band members were when I was walking behind the school about six or seven years ago and it was raining.  I did not expect to see anyone, and I was actually just walking outside in the rain because I had been cooped up all day in meetings and I had evening meetings about to begin. I heard the sounds of the drumline and through the moderate rain, and light fog, I saw the Marching Band practicing.  As I walked closer, there was Nick Baratta, Creative Director/Music Arranger/Instructor, who was soaked with his glasses completely fogged up. He just looked at me calmly and said, "how's it going?".

The Marching Band is as determined as ever to notch another Field Band Championship, and even though it has rained a lot this summer, you can hear the band out back...every night. The beat rolls on and if you listen closely, you can hear the dedication.

It has also been fun to poke my head into the various summer camps that are held through the Town of Camillus. We are very fortunate to have such a great partnership with the town, and I really enjoy getting to interact with the students outside of the school year and participate in some of their activities with them (with the exception of water balloons however!).

Money for Technology Comes Through:  I have been working on getting ready for my tenth opening day at West Genesee, as well as helping some of our new employees transition into their roles at West Genesee. We also received word that the state government FINALLY released our Smart Schools Bond Act grant allocation, meaning we can now purchase the 3,641 pieces of equipment that we have been wanting to get into the hands of students for some time.

I am also working on some of the support pieces that our students are going to need as we head into the fall. We had the most successful school year that I have had as a superintendent; under some challenging conditions. Continuing that success takes time and planning, but that is what the summer is for!

Board of Education Plans Ahead: Today is our Board of Education retreat. The cohesiveness and dedication of our Board of Education should not be taken for granted. None of the members have hidden agendas or egos; they serve to make things better for ALL students, and that makes my job easier.

I will check in again next week. Until then, enjoy the sunshine when you can and I will see you around!

Chris

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Best Teacher Many Students Never Had

I hope that many of you were able to stretch the weekend through to the fourth of July. If not, like me, I hope you had a great weekend with a day off tomorrow. I spent the weekend in Hoboken, NJ hanging out with my niece and nephew, and I was able to go to an unforgettable U2 concert at the Meadowlands. I have seen dozens of concerts in my lifetime and that show ranks as a top three easily, along with RUSH at the NYS State Fair grandstands a few years back, and Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden in 2010. It was THAT good and restored my hope that these older bands aren't just out there "mailing in" concerts to pad their wallets. It flat out rocked.

The drive home did not flat out rock. A four-hour drive turned into five and a half hours due to construction, torrential rain, accidents, and flooding. I am no meteorologist, but I do not think we are in danger of a drought anytime soon.

Housing Summer School at CMS: Summer school starts soon and is being held at Camillus Middle School. The OCM BOCES leases the space from us and most schools from the west side, including West Genesee, send students to it. While Camillus Middle School is on the other side of the village of Camillus, many travelers from the six area school districts will be using West Genesee Street in the morning and afternoon to stop for food, gas, etc. While our parents and students are familiar with the territory, many visiting parents and students are not, so keep an extra eye out please, as well as an extra eye out around the high school, as summer camps are in full swing. Thanks!

The Best Teacher Many Students Never Had: I was going to hold off on a blog for a couple weeks, but I received news that long-time teacher, retiree, and a true piece of the fabric of West Genesee, Marsha Schoff, passed away. As news of her passing traveled through the Internet, graduate Sophie Meskos hit Marsha's impact right on the head when she said that, "Miss Schoff was the best teacher that she had never had". Many times it is easy to calculate how many students a teacher impacted in their careers, but in this case it really isn't possible. Yes, Miss Schoff taught for 36 years and always had a full load of 150 students on her schedule between US History courses and electives that were always closed out, so you could say that she impacted 5,400 students. I would call that her initial impact.

If you really want to get close to her true reach, you have to take into account that she was the Senior Class Advisor nearly every year that she worked for West Genesee; meaning she led EVERY senior ball and graduation. She was also responsible for starting the Mr. and Ms. West Genesee Pageant, Harvest Dinner, Senior High Awards Night and Honors Dinner (with former principal Helen White), Winter Semi-formal Dance, Spring Talent Show, and March Madness. She was also National Honor Society Advisor, and Student Council Advisor almost every year of her tenure as well.  You could not enter West Genesee as a freshman and exit as a senior without crossing her path; for 36 years.  She impacted tens of thousands of students and community members.

My best memories of Marsha would be her focus on excellence, and always having students needs at the heart of every decision she made. During my first two graduations here, she would give me blown up Polaroids (before cell phone cameras) to make sure that the ceremony lived up to my standards. In reality, I was trying to keep up to HER standards. To say that she will be missed is the understatement of the year. Her legacy, and one that I will continue to uphold, is the unwavering goal of helping ALL students to reach past their potential. Thank you, Miss Schoff, you will be missed by each and every one of us.

Thanks, and I will be writing again in a couple of weeks.

Happy 4th of July!!!
Chris

Monday, June 26, 2017

That's a Wrap

What a great weather weekend! I know that plenty of you went to the Zac Brown concert,  or the Polish Festival, Syracuse Chief's games, graduation parties, or maybe you just spent time outside in the yard, exercising, or just plain old relaxing. Whatever you did, I hope some of it was outside. We do not get many nice days living here in Syracuse; and Mother Nature strung three in a row for us!

The School Year Comes to an End: Cartoons and television shows always depict educators as being excited as the kids pull away on the buses for the last time of the school year. They show teachers partying, seemingly happy that the kids are gone for the summer.

After watching the school buses pull away for the last time in June, 17 years in a row and counting, the actual reaction of our staff (and me), is the very opposite. Our employees put everything they have into helping our students to be successful. They ride the highs and lows of growing up, and the school year, just like the students do. That final departure is quite emotional.

I usually watch the students from Stonehedge leave, and this year as I was slapping high fives with the kids, several commented to me that they didn't want the school year to end. I heard those same comments from some seniors at graduation. Of course we are all going to enjoy the summer and all of that, but at the same time, I am very sure that our Wildcat Family is strong and everyone will be happy to return in the fall. Good stuff!

Crisis Prevention Training: During the winter, 15 of us (myself, a couple of principals, some counselors, and a few teachers) became trained as trainers in the Crisis Prevention Institute. The point of the Crisis Prevention Institute is to teach our employees every possible thing they can do in an escalating student situation besides using any type of physical restraint. If the situation becomes violent, we also teach what employees can do to keep the student, other students, and themselves as safe as possible.

With 860 full and part-time employees to train, we have our work cut out for us. On Friday we began by training 100 of our bus drivers and attendants. That went very, very well, and I am proud of the dedication of our drivers, as the training kept them from beginning their summer vacations! Everyone passed the training and all received an official "blue card", certifying them as being trained.

Over the summer we will train approximately 150 more people in each of our buildings. Over the course of next school year, we hope to get the remainder of our employees trained and certified. I really enjoy teaching, so I never have to be asked twice to lead a group!

A New Generator at the High School: This week we are going to be installing a generator at the high school. It is a monster, size wise, and will power the entire building and everything in it should we not have power. This will be really helpful for those early morning power outages that sometimes happen. It can run for days so we probably eliminated another reason to close school. I know you are thrilled!

I do work all summer, but I am going to take a few days off here and there over the next couple of weeks. As such, I am going to take a couple of weeks off of writing this blog. We continue to be about 5,000 strong every time something is posted, and I appreciate the support.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, June 19, 2017

Time to Celebrate!

Well, besides the storms early last evening, we really enjoyed a great weather weekend. Saturday was the West Genesee High School graduation and it turned out to be a perfect day both inside and outside of the SRC Arena. The speeches and songs were fantastic, and the students have been fantastic the past thirteen years. It was really hard to let them go, and at the same time I am excited for what lies ahead for them. Congratulations to the class of 2017!

Congratulations are also in order for our Athletics Director, Mike Burns, as well as all of our coaches and athletes. Due to their collective efforts, West Genesee was one of only two school districts (out of six hundred-ninety eight in New York State) to be announced as a New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) 2016-2017 Sportsmanship Promotion Program Banner Award Winner. We will be hanging a banner for this achievement, and we are so proud of their accomplishment.

Even though graduation is now in the rear-view, we still have many activities and events happening as we finish the school year.  My week starts with the first Onondaga County Shared Services meeting for schools tonight, and then I am looking forward to joining students on some of their field trips and at some of their field days throughout the week.  I am hoping the weather holds up.

Thanks for all of your support throughout the school year, and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting Ready to Land

We finally had some great weather to enjoy and I tried to get the most out of it;  believe me.  I think I spent more time outdoors than indoors, including a sleep over this weekend! My wife and I also got to take in "Ring of Fire", a musical tribute to the late Johnny Cash at Syracuse Stage. If you are even remotely a fan of old country music, Johnny Cash, or Americana, you really should check it out. Top musicians and top notch performances. They are performing until the June 25.

Seniors Wind Down: I am very proud of our high school seniors, and our high school students in general. Each year, people make light of senior pranks around the country, that is, until someone is hurt or bullied, something is damaged, or someone does not get the opportunity to participate in their graduation ceremony. Then, people wonder what more could have and should have been done by the school to prevent the behavior.

We are fortunate that our students are respectful and have that switch in their heads (well, the majority of them anyway) to know right from wrong. The last week of high school classes there is always a heightened awareness and stress for us, but this class pulled through with flying colors and we ended the week with our sights set on graduation, which will take place on Saturday, June 17,  at the SRC Arena at 1:00 p.m. If you are the parent of a senior this year, well done. I have been working with them since they were in third grade and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow up into the people they are today.

The senior high awards are always a highlight of the year. Last Monday, 131 students received over $4M in scholarships and awards thanks to a generous community as well as students with well rounded academics!

Athletics Updates: Also, last week we celebrated the success of our senior athletes. We had nearly five hundred people on hand to applaud and appreciate some very talented student athletes. Special thanks to Charlie Miller from Syracuse Media Group for providing some words of wisdom at the event and congratulations to Mackenzie Baker and Jay Considine for being recognized as student-athletes of the year.


Believe it or not, we have actually still had some athletes competing up until Saturday afternoon. Huge congratulations go out to Evan Tuthill who placed 2nd at the NYS Championships; Meg Delia who placed 13th in NYS Championship 400 hurdles; and to  Emily Young who set a new school record in placing 8th in the 800 meter at the NYS Championships. Also to golfer Dylan Plis, who scored very well in and tied for 13th place at the NYSPHSAA Boys Golf Championships under some very adverse conditions.

This school year also produced a total of ten West Genesee High School athletes who qualified for the Academic All-American honor, nine from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA):  Peter Bowman, Emily Cox, Jesse Elmer, Matthew Hotaling, Gabrielle Shuron, Evan Tuthill, Grace Van Hoven, Zachary Walker, and Cassandra Wetmore. Also, West Genesee Boys Lacrosse player Luis (Manny) Castro was named an Academic All-American. All of these athletes had to have very high grades, and have had to compete at the highest levels and have had to also receive letters for their respective sports. Also, West Genesee Girls Lacrosse player Mackenzie Baker was named a High School All-American by US Lacrosse.  Most schools are happy to have a couple all-americans per year, we are fortunate to have eleven. Congratulations to all!

Celebrating 30 Years of Dance: Hats off to high school dance teacher Caroline Brackett for organizing a wonderful tribute to our Dance Program last Tuesday night. The program has been in existence for 30 years and in that time styles and dances have changed, but the relentless pursuit of perfection has not. What a great evening!


End-of-Year Ceremonies:  I also got a chance last week to attend Community Oriented Drug Education (C.O.D.E.) completion ceremonies at the elementary schools (this is a long-time program about making good choices for K-5 students and is a partnership between the District and the Camillus Police Department) as well as several BOCES graduations where we had students completing BOCES programs. Congratulations to all!

Community Coalition Update: The last event of the year for the Community Coalition on Substance Abuse will be held this Wednesday, June 14, at the Municipal Building and is a partnership between the coalition, Camillus Police, and ACR Health. 


The topic is NARCAN Training and participants who complete the training will receive free NARCAN kits (nasal), which ACR Health DOES have on hand. More information about this important training can be found from the flyer to the right. Thanks to all who helped us to have another progressive and successful year fighting drug abuse and addiction in our community.

A Busy Upcoming Weekend: In addition to graduation on Saturday, it is also Father's Day on Sunday. As I tell everyone, I would not be where I am today were it not for the guidance and nurturing by my mom and dad, so Happy Father's Day to all of the dads reading this.

Thanks and congratulations to all of our upcoming 2017 graduates; enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, June 5, 2017

What's in a "Post-It"?

I hope that all of you were able to enjoy the one nice day of the weekend. Fortunately, that day was the day of our oldest son's college graduation party (I still cannot believe that I am old enough to be the parent of a college graduate).

STEM and Rockets: It was also a great day to do some physics, build, and launch rockets for a group of West Genesee Middle School and Stonehedge Elementary students! The MOST and Syracuse University sponsored a very cool Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Day at Skytop near Manley Field House called the CNY Rocket Team Challenge.

Lead by fifth-grade teacher Brian Ramsden who "coached" all five of our teams, the kids had a blast (pun intended) and learned something. Let's hope for more days in the near future when we can launch rockets instead of wearing raincoats!

National Spelling Bee Update: West Genesee Middle School eighth grader Ava Propper finished 41st out of 148 spellers from across the country in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I really appreciate all of the recognition she has received from you, local businesses, and our school community. She represented us, and most importantly herself, very well, and we wish her the best as she finishes up the school year.

Athletics Update: We still have athletes in competition this late in the year. The following West Genesee Girls/Boy Track and Field athletes are going on to the state championships beginning Friday at Union-Endicott: Evan Tuthill in discus; the Wildcats Girls 4x400 relay team; Meg Delia in 400 hurdles; and Emily Young in 800 meter.

West Genesee Golfers Dylan Plis and Joe Morgan finish up round two of the NYS Championship today at Cornell. Fantastic dedication and effort by these student athletes!

Fine Arts Recognitions: Congratulations to all students who participate in our Fine Arts programs. We held our Fine Arts awards Reception last week and Julia Musengo and Nick Cantello each received the "Outstanding Musician Award".  Knowing the competition, being recognized for this honor is a "big deal" at West Genesee. Congratulations as well to all of the other award winners!

Operating More Efficiently: You may have heard or read that Onondaga County has been assembling groups of Town Supervisors and Mayors to look at ways to operate more efficiently. Soon, you are going to see a similar meeting promoted (being on the committee is by invitation only) for school districts. Paul Pelton (Assistant Superintendent for Management Services) and I will be representing West Genesee at the table. We do feel that we are running very efficiently, but if there is power in a larger group to be even more efficient through sharing more services than we already do; I am all ears.

Special Messages: As students and staff entered the high school this morning, they were greeted with individualized "post-it" notes with different messages for each and every student. This has been a tradition that has gone on for a few years here and credit goes to our Respect and Responsibility Club, and our administrator in charge, Ms. Coholan. What is always remarkable to me is the dedication (students wrote these notes for months and then hung them over the weekend), how personalized they are, and how long they remain hanging on lockers and classroom doors. This is a super positive project, and my hat goes off to all involved.

A busy Week: This week is incredibly busy. Not only is it the last week of classes for the high school, we have the senior academic awards tonight, the Corporate Challenge on Tuesday night (we have almost one hundred fifty employees participating, and we won a $1,500 scholarship for a graduating senior), board meeting on Wednesday night, and the Athletics Reception on Thursday night. Quite a week ahead, but it is all positive.

Thanks, stay dry, and enjoy the week.

Chris