Monday, October 16, 2017

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

What a weekend! If you were at the Syracuse football game on Friday night, you hopefully witnessed the turning point of their program. I mention this because it was a very energizing thing to witness; especially the fan reactions after the game. Secondly, and whether we want to admit it or not, the success or failure of major college and/or professional sports programs have a direct impact on the local economy. We can certainly continue to use that, so go Orange!

Jamming with Our Graduates: Saturday night was very cool, and generational in many ways. Our assistant superintendent, Brian Kesel, and I (along with our better halves) went to an "album release" party for a local band called The Action. This band consists of five very talented musicians, four of whom are West Genesee graduates (before I got here), and they all married West Genesee graduates!

It was really neat because throughout the night Mr. Kesel caught up with the band members, who were his former students when he was a teacher and then assistant principal at the high school. I got to catch up with Max, one of the band members' children, who is now a student at Stonehedge Elementary School. Max kept looking at me, but I wasn't wearing a suit so he was a little confused. I walked over to him and gave him a fist bump and asked him if he liked the music. He said, "yes, and MY dad is in the band!". Too fun.

Rumors: Something that wasn't too fun was chasing down the rumors that we had bed bugs in the District. We DO NOT.  A couple of students saw the news about some area schools dealing with the issue (which I have had to do once in my career as well) and thought it would be a good idea to "Snapchat" that we had bed bugs. Thanks to our administrators for quickly finding the source of the rumors.

We did call our pest control company though to ask them if there was anything they could spray or do proactively to create an environment that bed bugs would simply not like. They told us that the only real way to create a hostile place for bed bugs is to thoroughly disinfect all areas. We authorized overtime for this to occur and work began last Friday night. The side benefit is a deeper antibacterial cleaning will also help us with the impending cold and flu season!

Thought Exchange Update: Thanks to those who took and are taking the time to respond to our Thought Exchange feedback survey. I have no idea who is posting what, but the Thought Exchange organization told us that input has been "healthy". If you would still like to participate, just click here.

Fall Competitions Coming to a Close: As we get a little deeper into the fall, it is time for sectional play to begin for athletics, and it is also time for final Marching Band preparations for their Carrier Dome show. (Congratulations to our Boys Golf Team who already became Section 3 Champions!)

We will post schedules on our Facebook page and our Twitter feeds very shortly. If you can get out to support our students, that would be great!

Substance Abuse Coalition: Lastly this week, the hard work of our Substance Abuse Coalition appears to be paying off in a way that we did not anticipate. At a recent meeting with my colleague superintendents, the idea was pitched and unanimously approved to begin a countywide, school-centered substance abuse team. I think this is a great advancement in the mission because so few students are addicted to opiates in high school, but the number really increases after they graduate.

That being said, if we can collectively provide more proactive education to our students while they are in school, maybe we will keep them from making a sometimes fatal decision after they graduate. Shannon Coholan, high school principal, and I will continue to lead our community coalition. I will be a team member, but not the team leader (for now) of the new group being formed.

Thanks for your continued support and have a great week!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Short Week

Well, the rain that we "enjoyed" yesterday was the same rain that I "enjoyed" on Sunday while watching my favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, as they lost in Cincinnati. Standing outside in the rain for about seven hours in a $1 poncho reminded me that I really do not want to do that again, ever. At least I was there with about 20 family members and friends; and it was also a warm rain. I also didn't melt!

While I was gone, it was great to have Twitter and be able to follow almost all of our sports as well as the Marching Band's big trip to Delaware to compete in the Bands of America Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. They did very well and it made me even more excited for the show at the Carrier Dome, which is October 29 (The Wildcats will compete at 8:05 p.m.)

In my last blog, I shared the link for you to be able to provide feedback. If you followed the link and signed up (here is the link here) you will be receiving an email message tomorrow from Thought Exchange, the organization we are using to help us. Thanks again for participating and giving us your feedback!

I am looking forward to a great short week! Thank you for your continued support.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thought Exchange

I hope you are having a great week. In my previous blogs I mentioned that you were going to have the opportunity to provide me with some feedback about how I am doing as your superintendent and how we are performing as a District. That time has come.  

I would REALLY appreciate it if you could take the five to ten minutes to register and complete the following survey: We have partnered with an organization called Thought Exchange, so no District employee (including myself) will be able to identify the author of any feedback given.

A "Thought Exchange" works in three phases. 
  • The first phase, which we are beginning today, is called the SHARE stage. This is the time when staff, students, parents, and community members will provide feedback to a few questions.  
  • In a few weeks, the STAR phase will begin. In this phase, participants will "favorite" comments that they agree with.  
  • The last phase is called the DISCOVER phase, where all participants will be able to see the results of the survey.

Thank you very much for participating. It is important for me and for the continued success of the District to hear from as many people as possible.

Thank you and enjoy the weekend.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Moving Forward!

Boy, yesterday was a phenomenal first day of fall in my book. The weather was perfect, the Buffalo Bills won, and I finally started to turn the corner on my marathon cold. It doesn't get much better than that!

Homecoming: We had a terrific homecoming weekend. The high school pep rally was "off the hook", as the kids would say, and the student section at the football game was as large as I have seen it since probably 2011.

I tried to insert a few short videos as well as pictures from both events, and I hope they play on whatever device you are reading this on.




Marching Band Update: Saturday night was special as well. The weather was crisp, the moon was out, and the Tournament of Bands was HOPPING! After our Marching Band performed an exhibition, they had their senior night, where 46 seniors were recognized. I had to put my phone camera on "pano" to get a successful picture of all of the seniors and their families. Congratulations!

When Situations Happen: The last blog I posted was out of sequence (not my traditional Monday morning post) and outlined a situation that we had involving a student on a bus. The post received nearly 8,000 unique reads, compared to the nearly 5,000 who read my weekly blog. You want information when things happen, and I very much appreciate that. With what happened last evening in Las Vegas, you can see why we take anything related to student and staff safety so seriously.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you what we do when a neighboring school district is working through an issue. I have a very tight network of colleagues, so we usually know what is happening elsewhere before you read about it or see it on television.

The first thing we do is reach out to the Camillus Police for direction and advice. I usually speak to the police chief or captain, and I discuss what is happening and what our course of action should be; if anything.

If it is a bomb threat for example, we wait to see if there will be a copycat, and we have the correct officials ready to trace it and react. If it is someone who may have a weapon, we check to see if they have been apprehended and if not, does law enforcement have a good idea of where they are. Based on the situation and the facts, we could remain business as usual, have patrol cars near every building, conduct a more formal lockout, engage in a lockdown, have a stay in place, etc.

You should know as parents that we are on it, even if the situation does not involve our school. Shared responsibility is critical to keep our children safe, and we all work together toward that goal every day.

Looking Forward: This week I have the pleasure of meeting with all of our seniors who are taking Participation in Government. It is one of my favorite days of the year, and we have a lot to talk about!

Thanks for your incredible support!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Important Message

Good Morning-

I wanted to let you know that we had an incident on one of our buses this morning.  At approximately 7:10 a.m., a high school student got off the bus and notified an adult that he had heard a middle school student mention that he was in possession of a pistol. The adult at the high school immediately contacted our school resource officer and the middle school principal. The bus was secured at the middle school and the student who made the comments was immediately located and was searched and questioned by police and school administrators. The student was not in possession of any type of weapon, and there was no direct or implied threat made.

There are plenty of people who did their "jobs" this morning. First, students heard something and said something.  Second, our School Resource Officer and principal reacted quickly, and exactly how they are trained to react. Third, the bus driver was exceptional in keeping things as normal as possible.

While this ended up being unfounded, it is important for you to know as parents and community members that we react to anything we hear immediately and with the greatest care possible. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 315-487-4562.

Thank you.


Monday, September 25, 2017


Another fantastic week in the books. Hard to believe that we are already three weeks into school. A sincere thank you to everyone who attended our open houses the past couple of weeks. Making and keeping connections with school is really important as we help our children navigate school and life!

Great Weather for Events: When my kids were still in school they ran track, played soccer for a period of time, and played basketball. I was at a soccer game the other night at the high school reminiscing about watching them play in the cold, rain, and even a few snowflakes one year. That night I was in shorts and a tee shirt! If you are a parent with a child in Marching Band or a sport, count your blessings these past couple of weeks. From what I can tell, we might even have one more nice week ahead before who knows what happens.

Musicians Selected for All-State Concerts: We received word last week that several of our students will be performing at the All-State Conference. Being selected for these concerts means that you are at the top of your game. Imagine being at the top of your game, in high school; at anything.

Next steps for some of these students may be professional music or even Broadway, as some of their predecessors have done. For now, we will enjoy their talents at our upcoming concerts and we wish them the very best! For more information about this honor click here.

Wellness is Important: At the beginning of the school year we established a wellness goal for all of our employees and Board of Education members to step around the world. How many steps is that? About 65 million. It has been fun to watch people get in a few extra steps at lunchtime or to hear where they are walking or running to help them accomplish our goal. As of this past Friday we are about 12,178,026 steps into our endeavor, and as people input their steps into a website we have, they can see how far we have made it around the world. It has been a great team building exercise that also focuses on wellness.

We have also been working with the American Heart Association to create a Phase II to this goal of including another initiative where students and employees will work together for wellness. I will certainly keep you posted.

Sports in the South-A Different World: While it was warm here over the weekend, I can assure you that it was warmer in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I was over the weekend. I was down there for the Syracuse/LSU football game in Baton Rouge. I have been in the Carrier Dome when it was sold out for football back in the 1980's. That didn't hold a candle to watching over 75,000 fans support their teams. Pretty crazy. The people on the way to and at the game were incredibly friendly and they really made us feel right at home. If you are a sports fan, I would suggest attending a college football game under the lights in the south. It is a totally different world.

Homecoming is this Week: Speaking of games under the lights, please accept this as my personal invitation to attend our Homecoming Football game this Friday at 6:00 p.m. on the turf field. Homecoming is something we enjoy and celebrate, and we would certainly like to share the fun with all of you and your children.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, September 18, 2017


If you came to the football game on Friday night, it was much appreciated. The stands were packed, as it was Pop Warner night, Marching Band half-time show, a big showing by the cheerleaders, and the actual football game; of course!

While the team did not end up in the win column, there was an abundance of school spirit. Also, the Wildcat Nation had a beach theme, which was appropriate because it was a very warm night. I don't want you to think we are sleeping on cross country, soccer, volleyball, or golf. Look for a cool collage for them in the very near future!

The School Year has Taken Off: I often teach new administrators that a school year is like taking an airplane flight. The beginning of the year is like racing down the runway and pulling up off of the tarmac. By end of the first week, it is the equivalent of wheels up and the "big climb" to the clouds. Much like flying in a plane, this time of the year is when turbulence can be hit. For us, that usually comes in the form of getting the school bus routes and school dismissals to be as smooth as possible, and getting all of the students into a routine.

This week begins week three. At this point in a flight, the plane is headed into the clouds before leveling off for the rest of the flight until it is time to think about landing. We are headed to cruising altitude in great shape!

Being Positive: Our elementary and middle school students are beginning a new character education initiative called the Positivity Project. The overall theme of the project is to teach children that other people matter.  In just two short weeks of the program (which is free to schools), I have already seen a difference. We have GREAT kids, believe me; I interact with them every day.

What I am already witnessing are children who are genuinely interested in knowing about their classmates. That is huge. It establishes respect for one another and pays huge dividends now and down the road in being empathetic and caring; which reduces bullying and discipline issues. I have not seen a program that has really reached children like this. I know that parents were told about the program at open houses, etc. but here is a link to more information (

The program does not scale to the high school quite as well as K-8. We are therefore working with the makeup of each grade level 9-12 and targeting assemblies and programs that are specific to each class, and then the opportunities that are being given to ALL students in grades 9-12. This is one of those areas where being here for a while really pays off. I know the students in the high school better than any teacher or administrator, and I do not want to waste time on things they don't need.

We have identified themes such as self-worth, making good choices, how to have appropriate and positive relationships with peers, cyber bullying, suicide prevention, substance abuse, how to use your talents to your benefit, and how to care about others. If you have a freshman student, ask them how their speaker, Cam F Awesome was last week for example. He was FANTASTIC.

Community Support: In my travels over the weekend, I ran into George and Rose Surace? Why would I write about them? They have supported West Genesee academics, athletics, and fine arts for decades. They also celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary over the weekend. There is something to be said about them; they were helping out the school when the Wildcat Nation was just a Wildcat Village!

Golfing to Support our Boosters: Yesterday, our Board of Education President, Bobbie Herron, and Vice President, Shawn Mitchell, as well as our Assistant Superintendent for Management Services, Paul Pelton, and I played in the West Genesee Sports Boosters Tournament that was held at Westvale Golf Course.

All was very normal through most of the round until all you heard was deafening yelling from across the course. It turns out that high school Social Studies teacher Eric Burns got a hole in one on the sixteenth hole! Congratulations to Mr. Burns and congratulations to the boosters, who raised some good money for great athletic causes.

Enjoy this beautiful week!