Monday, October 17, 2016


Some time between posting my last blog and this one, one of you was the 500,000th reader. Thank you! I enjoy sitting down to write this every week, and I enjoy the conversations that it spurs with you. I wonder who will be the millionth reader?!?

Whirlwind Trip to London: My wife and I got the opportunity to spend the long Columbus weekend in London, England. Between raising kids and my job responsibilities, we never really had the chance to travel. Now that we are "empty nesters", we are trying to get out and see the world a little. The main purpose of the trip was to see the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theater (awesome).

While there for a couple of days I did what I could to learn about their economy, education system, and social issues. Educators in general appear to be treated with higher regard than educators are in the U.S.; which is similar to how Canada treats their educators. In terms of the students, however, it was like deja vu. Cyberbullying, scary clowns, and "university" courses were all hot topics; just like they are here.

I am quickly realizing that traveling will make me a better superintendent by getting firsthand experiences with different cultures, norms, and education systems. Next destination? Hopefully Italy in two years for our twenty-fifth anniversary!

Elections Around the Corner: If you are like me, you cannot wait for the election to be over so your Facebook timeline can go back to normal, and all the attack commercials stop.

You should know though, that student government is alive and well; in fact it is bursting at the seams. We have student council groups at the elementary, middle, and high schools.

The high school also has Senate and Respect and Responsibility clubs (both are also a governing body as well). It is not uncommon to have over one hundred students at any of these meetings, and the building principals have done a great job incorporating student decisions into every day life at every building. TRUE government.

Hall of Fame: If you see our Director of Fine Arts, Bill Davern, please take a moment to congratulate him. At the Marching Band "Dome Show" at the end of the month, he and long time contributor Nick Baratta will be inducted into the NYS Field Band Association Hall of Fame. As you know, our Marching Band is world renowned, and Mr. Davern has been a HUGE part of its success. If there was a Hall of Fame for being a Director of Fine Arts, he would be a first ballot choice as well. Congratulations to Bill and Nick. Well deserved!

Substance Abuse Forums: You might remember our community coalition on substance abuse from last year. We are back and bigger than ever this year with more people at the table, including elected officials at all levels. Our first catch-up and future planning meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, October 18, at 2:45 p.m. in the West Genesee High School Large Group Instruction Room. All are welcome to attend and join our group!

Athletics Update: Sectional seedings for fall sports were released. If you have an opportunity to make it to a game, the students would sure appreciate it!

Thanks for your support and enjoy the week!


Friday, October 7, 2016

When You Make Something a Priority...

What a beautiful week we had. It was great to see the elementary students in full-blown outdoor recess mode and to not have to wear a jacket yet has been fantastic!

Celebrating Marching Band Seniors: We have many "senior nights" for various sports and performing groups, but we wanted to give the Marching Band a special senior night congratulations because theirs did not happen on Saturday as planned at the end of a very long Tournament of Bands day.

The Tournament of Bands is a huge undertaking for the staff, students, and parents, and the capstone each year is for the band to perform in front of approximately two thousand people, followed by their senior recognition ceremony. All was going according to plan on Saturday until a big flash of lightening and a huge rainstorm caused everyone to scatter.

Luckily, last night was absolutely gorgeous and a perfect backdrop for their recognition!

Attendance Goal Update: At the beginning of the school year I mentioned that one of our goals was to improve upon our already solid average daily attendance at the high school. The high school administration, faculty, and staff have been working toward this goal, and I wanted to share with you that our average daily attendance is already up 1.78% from last year (a small number on paper, but huge statistically) and truancies (late to class) are down 3.32%.

What has been helping is our increased attention to school spirit, sense of family, increased communication with parents, and students not wanting to miss anything by being out or late. Kudos to all. When students attend school, they have a MUCH greater chance at success.

With the long weekend ahead, I will not be posting my usual blog on Monday. Enjoy the long weekend, and I will write to you again on the flip side.

Take care and thanks for your support.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Raise the Roof!

Homecoming Spirit: As I entered the high school this past Friday, the Homecoming Pep Rally noise was deafening. We have new dividers in the gym and the one closest to the senior section reads WEST GENESEE. The seniors sat quietly as a group in the bleachers behind the divider.

The Marching Band Drumline began to pound on their drums in unison as the divider was raised. The seniors began to cheer, which caused all of the other classes to cheer. Totally awesome! (If the video below does not show in your browser, click here.)

I looked to the roof, half expecting it to actually raise up off of the building. Luckily, it didn't; but the school spirit from that moment through the weekend was simply incredible. All of the festivities gave us a great kickoff for the rest of the school year, and I want to thank the kids for behaving so well along with the organizers of these events who helped students make some memories they will never forget!

No Scary Clowns: Luckily, those memories did not include scary clowns which are making headlines all across the country. People dressed up as scary clowns have been spotted just standing in random places. There have been no reports of any of these clowns causing any real problems, but scary clowns certainly play to the fears of some; especially younger children. If we do see any scary clowns, and it isn't Halloween, we will make sure they keep their distance from our buildings. I am not a fan of mimes, scary or otherwise, so we will also keep them away from the buildings. Spiders too.

Rights of our Students: At the grocery store the other day I was asked what lesson I was going to teach in my blog this week. Something very relevant and not as cut and dry as one might think has to do with students who kneel or sit during the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. Some people support the rights of students to sit or kneel, some defend the rights of students to sit or kneel, and some both support AND defend those rights.

The cut and dry answer to sitting or kneeling is freedom of speech and expression, both rights protected by the Constitution. These rights have not gone without challenge. In 1943 members of the Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance while in school. They were not allowed to do so because of a 1940 United States Supreme Court ruling in the case Minersville School District vs. Gobitis, that said that students could be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

That ruling was later overturned in the United States Supreme Court case, West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette. That ruling has really enforced the freedoms of speech and expression that students are displaying today. How is that for learning something?

I saw MANY people over the past four days, and I just want to tell you again how much I appreciate your support. We have a lot of very cool things happening around here, and I am excited to be a part of it.

Thanks and enjoy the week-


Monday, September 26, 2016

A Time of Change...

Losing a Great Talent: "Wembley Stadium." This was the answer I got when I asked two-time Grammy winner, Camillus resident, and former drummer for the Robert Cray Band (1978-1989), Dave Olson, about the largest venue he had ever played.

He quickly downplayed himself and asked how he could help the school with percussion or anything else to do with our Fine Arts program. Moreover, he gushed about his wife Nancy, who works as a teaching assistant, and his daughters Sarah and Anna. This was seven years ago.

Because of a mutual love for music, we struck up a friendship that remained very solid until I received a call on Saturday night that he had suddenly passed away. His snare drum snap was unmistakable, as was his time and tempo. There are a lot of talented people in Camillus; and we lost a great one.

I mention his passing because it certainly jolted my system and writing about it helps me to process everything. More importantly, however, there are lessons to be learned about his time in our community. As a world traveled, award winning, professional musician, Dave could have spent his time basking in his successes.

Instead, you would have never known he had the experiences and success that he did unless someone pointed him out to you, or you liked Robert Cray music. He spent his time enjoying music; but never let it get in the way of being the best father and husband he could be. Nothing ever got bigger than his family. Food for thought. Rest in peace friend.

Final Race for Respect: In much better news, we had a wonderful turnout for our eighteenth and final Race for Respect. Special thanks to Dr. Copeland who helped to get this effort underway years ago, and it was great to see his whole family join him for one last spin around the course. We are going to be focusing our efforts now on the non-weather dependent Culture Fair, which takes place in late winter. Thanks for attending and for your support!

NYS Education Department Listens: In other good news, the New York State Education Department listened to the "field" (that's us folks), and made some DRAFT changes to the Common Core Learning Standards for English and Math. Obviously, there is more work to be done, but in my book the increased flexibility, loosening of time constraints on assessments, and the inclusion of more fiction in reading passages represent a move in a positive direction.

To see all of the changes, and to comment on them, just click here.

Commended Scholars are Announced: Congratulations to our National Merit Commended Scholars Jesse Elmer, Julia Musengo, and Amelia Ryan for their academic efforts, you are certainly making us proud!

This Blog is Recognized: We are also proud as a District that this blog has received both state and national recognition of being "high quality".  This is not the first time we have received these awards, but I did want to take a moment to thank all of you for reading and for my team for making sure that what I write looks like something you would want to read. Congratulations to all!

Spirit Week at the High School: This is Spirit Week at the high school, followed by our annual pep-rally, homecoming football game, Marching Band half-time show, and dance on Friday night. I hope to see you there.

Have a great week!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Good Stuff!

Good Stuff: For all of the rain we haven't been getting over the past couple of months, we certainly have made up for it over the past few nights! I felt fortunate as I was humbled to host an OUTDOOR wedding for my brother on Saturday night, and all we had to deal with were a few sprinkles. To prepare for the wedding my wife and the bride worked to "spruce" up what we have been told is an already very nice back yard. The transformation was amazing and I did a double take when I got home on Friday to remind myself that I was actually in my own back yard!

I think our middle and high school students are experiencing a little of what I experienced. They had great locker room and bathroom facilities, but they have all been upgraded. Listening to what the students are saying, they really have an elevated sense of pride for the new changes. Good stuff!

National Merit Semi-Finalists are Announced: Also in the "good stuff" category are our two National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists, Amanda Lowther and Russell Graziano. To qualify for this recognition, students must score in a certain percentile on the "PSAT" exam. Out of nearly one million students, they are now down to a field of sixteen thousand.

Going forward they both need to file formal applications, including a writing sample, to be named a finalist. We should know in the coming months if either advance to the final or winner categories. Academic excellence and high standards are our earmarks, and these two students have helped us to measure our success. Congratulations!

Eighteenth and Final Annual Race for Respect is Almost Here: Join us for the 18th (and final) Annual Race For Respect next Sunday, September 25, at the high school starting at noon.

You can register the day of the race – just look for the registration table right in front of the high school! Students and families may pre-register at your respective schools until this Wednesday, September 21.
Fees are $5 pre-registration and $7 race day registration. A race T-shirt is provided while supplies last. Click here for registration form and other information. We hope to have a great turn out for our final race, so plan to join us as we walk/race together for respect!

This week rounds out our open houses for the fall. Thanks to all who have been attending and have a wonderful week!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Never Forget

Remembering 9/11: In my job, one thing you are taught and then are forced to learn is the concept of "stick and move". In the sport of boxing, stick and move means to learn how to concentrate your resources, make a decision, and immediately move on to the next decision. In boxing, dwelling on decisions can have a tough result. In my job, dwelling on decisions causes the organization to run inefficiently and no high functioning school district can run inefficiently.

One of the things in life that has made me reflect on, however, is September 11, 2001. Our current freshmen were not alive on that very scary day for America. If you are my age, you can remember where you were the exact minute the first plane hit the Twin Tower. You personally know/knew someone impacted by that awful day, or you know someone who knows or knew someone.

From the bad came a sense of absolute patriotism, and what it means to be a real life hero. The emergency responders who ran toward the towers never to be seen again, the volunteers who lined up by the thousands to provide assistance when the safety of their surroundings was not known, and the survivors themselves; many of whom helped others to flee knowing that slowing down may have cost their life as well. (Pictured below is Shawn Picciott, a 2015 West Genesee graduate who attends the US Naval Academy.)

Fifteen years later, we have learned, we have dwelled, and we have moved forward; but we never forget, and we won't, and that is okay. Peace to those who lost their lives, and pride to those who call themselves Americans.

School Begins: In other news, we are beginning the second week of school. Week one went well, although I wish the air conditioning was working in all of the buildings. Soon for sure, but for those who attended open houses or ice cream socials, soon wasn't good enough; and I agree!

I really enjoyed reconnecting with all of our students and staff. The kindergartners are just a blast to meet with for the first time. I am always impressed that they can say the word superintendent, let alone know and remember what I do for a living. Impressive!

Capital Project Update: I would call our construction project 98% complete, with the last 2% being touch up paint, trim, carpet, and we are finishing the air conditioning and cafeterias at Onondaga Road and East Hill Elementary schools. We are very fortunate to have completed the project on time and most importantly on budget.It took a LOT of people to make that happen and my thanks goes out to everyone.

Thanks for the support and have a great week!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Determination, Different Approaches, and Drive

End of Summer/Beginning of the School Year: Well, the diet begins today. I got plenty of exercise over the summer, but Syracuse favorites like Byrne Dairy, Gianelli Sausage, and Hoffman hot dogs at the New York State Fair have made more fruits and vegetables an absolute must! It was well worth it. I only went to the Fair five times, which is a little low for me, but I did get to see some great live music from my favorite local blues band Dr. Kildean, Culture Club, the Charlie Daniel's Band, ZZ-Top, and Chicago. It is a good thing I know all of the short cuts to the parking lots, and I am already looking forward to next year!

Speaking of next year, it is here! The 2016-2017 school year has begun, and with it comes smiling faces from students and staff, school buses on the road, and new goals for the year.

The Three D's: At opening day for our employees last week I emphasized that we are going to continue to improve our high school completer rate (currently 93%, NYS average 78%) through the "three D's; determination, different approaches, and drive." Determination and drive are pretty self-explanatory.

After assessing all of the resources that we provide students and families, we have determined that we need to take a different approach regarding student attendance. We have excellent average daily attendance in all of our buildings, but a high school completer rate of 93% means that sixteen students, give or take, are not getting across the stage by the time they are seniors.We discovered that many of the students who did not complete high school over the years had poor daily attendance, came in late or left early on a regular basis, or were truant.

We need to get ALL students to school every day so they have the best opportunity to learn and to find success. If you have children in our schools you can help us by making sure that they get to school, unless there is a legitimate reason for them not to be there. We would like to raise the completer rate roughly two percentage points per year until we get into that 97%-100% range. It will take all of us to get there, and I appreciate your continued help and support from home.

Looking Forward: I am keeping this blog short this week so you can concentrate on getting the school year started at home. Thanks for calling the West Genesee Central School District your home, and I am looking forward to greeting you at our open houses and curriculum nights. Please feel free to explore all of the Capital Project updates when you are in the buildings!

Thanks and enjoy the week-