Monday, May 25, 2015

The Power of Positive Support

I hope that all of you had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. I also hope that you took a few minutes to reflect on why we truly have Memorial Day. There are plenty of very brave people who sacrificed and fought for the freedoms we have today and it is important to never forget that. Through several of our courses and programs we teach our students about the significance of Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and Flag Day. This was evidenced by our whole community at the Memorial Day parade when many of our students marched for the school and for those who were to be remembered.

Budget Passes: Last week was very humbling. I have been a Superintendent for fourteen years and a Business Administrator before that and have been a part of building and presenting sixteen school budgets.  Our recent school budget vote had an 85% passing rate, which is the highest passing percentage that I have ever been a part of. We sincerely appreciate your support and never take it for granted. From our Board of Education and throughout our organization we will continue to provide our students with the best opportunities possible and with the least financial impact on our community as possible. Thank you.

Olympics are Special: Dozens of our students went to Cicero North Syracuse High School for the Special Olympics last week and competed to their fullest and brought home a bus full of medals.  If you have never attended the Special Olympics you really need to carve out a couple of hours to watch these students perform and compete. It will make you a better person, I guarantee it. Congratulations to our awesome competitors and cannot wait for next year!

Athletes Compete: Many of our teams were also competing in sectional play.

  • Congratulations to West Genesee Boys Lacrosse coach Mike Messere on his 800th victory as a WILDCAT!! The Boys Lacrosse won over CNS and will play Auburn at the Dome on Wednesday for the Section 3 Championship.'
  • The Girls Lacrosse team won over the Baldwinsville Bees to play at the Dome on Tuesday for the Section 3 Championship.
  • The Boys Baseball team won and will be the #2 seed in the Section 3 tournament and will play home Thursday at 4:30 p.m. vs Baldwinsville, the #7 seed.
  • Boys and girls Track and Field compete in the Section 3 Championships this week at CNS.
  • In Boys Tennis, congratulations to the Boleslov brothers who just became Regional Champs in the Doubles.
  • The Girls Softball team made it to the 2nd round of Section 3 play and will travel to face Liverpool on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
  • Congratulations to West Genny Boys golfer Dylan Plis who made it to the 2nd round of the NYS qualifiers on Saturday.


  • This week should be really busy and our last day of classes at the high school is only 13 school days away from today! Thanks for the continued support.

    Chris

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    A Weekend to Remember

    Car Crash Simulation Stresses Good Decisions: I had one of my most enjoyable weekends as a superintendent this past weekend. It started on Friday by watching an outpouring of willing volunteers (well over 40) conduct a mock DWI crash for our seniors who were heading to their Senior Ball that evening.

    Our gratitude goes to the Camillus Police Department, WAVES Ambulance, Fairmount and Taunton Fire Departments, Buranich Funeral Home, Onondaga County Medical Examiner and District Attorney's offices, Myers Towing, several students dressed up as the "victims", and Mrs. Agricola who played the role of a distressed parent. Perfection.

    It was also nice to see how many graduates that I know (after being here for a while now) came back to volunteer. Most even stayed and mingled with our seniors during the senior breakfast, and I was very proud of our students who showed them the respect they deserved.

    The Senior Ball: How was the dance itself? Special. I have been to over 20 senior balls and this group, mature beyond their years, was just a pleasure to spend the evening with. The food was great, the music kept everyone dancing, and most importantly, everyone made it to the After the Ball Party safely.

    What an After Party! By far the biggest attractions at the After the Ball Party were the hypnotist (always a crowd favorite) and a new feature which was an inflatable obstacle course about the width of our large gym. I watched as students poured into the inflatable and raced each other through the obstacles again and again. I can see that becoming a permanent part of the festivities in the future.

    I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Joanne Pooler who always helps to organize this critical event, and also a huge thank you to all the parent volunteers. There were dozens. They took the time to spend the night with our students to keep them entertained and safe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Olympics are Special: This Thursday, weather permitting, is one of my most favorite events, the Special Olympics. If you have never attended, it is worth the couple of hours to watch students perform their absolute best as they beam with pride. Every time I go it makes me a better person. Good luck to all contestants!

    Mark Your Calendars for the Budget Vote: Please remember that tomorrow (Tuesday) is our annual school budget vote day. As a quick reminder, our budget plan falls below the Governor's tax cap, covers all efficiencies in order for community members to receive state rebate checks, and funds all of our existing programs, as long as the vote is successful.  The vote is from 6:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. in the West Genesee High School auditorium lobby. Thank you for taking time out of your day to exercise your right to vote.

    Days Off: Lastly, please remember that there is no school this Friday or next Monday as an observance of Memorial Day weekend.

    Thanks and have a great week!

    Chris

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Older and Wiser

    What a beautiful weekend!  The older and hopefully wiser I have become, the more I really value the words “Happy Mother’s Day”. In recent years, as more of my friends lose their mom (or dad for that matter), I realize that this holiday has different meaning to people.

    If your mom is still here, I hope you had a chance to connect with her and tell her that you love her. If she has moved on to a better place, I hope that the glow of her memory made your heart beat a little stronger. Either way, your mom will always be a part of your life; and a special part at that.

    Last Week was Great. We had a Collegial Circle organized by our Teaching Center. The event drew over one hundred of our teachers who displayed action research projects and unit plans that will help our entire organization to improve. It is always encouraging to see teachers working with each other to make things better for our students.

    A Concert on Periscope: There was also a very powerful string concert that allowed many students to really show off their talent! For the first time, we were able to use the new Periscope Twitter application to broadcast a few song selections and it looked and sounded great.

    Teachers of Excellence: I would like to take a moment to congratulate teachers Sue Deegan, Colleen Barba, Peggy Barbuto, and Steve Shoults as well as principals Beth Lozier and Steve Dunham for being nominated by their peers and honored by Senator DeFrancisco as 2015 "Teachers of Excellence". Congratulations!

    Into the Future: I don’t want to jinx our teams, but they are all playing pretty well and I expect deep runs into the post season! Believe it or not this Friday is our Senior Ball, and by the end of next weekend we have just over thirty days until graduation. Yes, that is correct. Crazy.

    Enjoy the week and I hope to see at one of our events.

    Chris

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    Visibility and Availability

    Taking a Break: Congratulations to all the runners that participated in the Mountain Goat Run held this past weekend. I took a year off from running in it, but logged 28,000 steps on Saturday by just taking a quick run in the neighborhood, cleaning the house, and spreading mulch around the yard. Those 28,000 steps is right around 14 miles. When I saw that at the end of the day Saturday, I knew that the Mountain Goat would not be in the cards this year!

    What is Important: Visibility and availability are very important to me. When we hire administrators, one of the questions I always ask is how the candidate plans to get everything done AND be visible and available to parents, students, staff, and their own family.

    As you know, I like to be present in buildings, at events, and just “around” in general. I do this for a variety of reasons. I am not looking for a mental “check mark” from someone that I was at an event or in a classroom. I am visible and available because that is how you see the magic that happens between students and staff, understand culture, climate, and build relationships with EVERYONE in the school community. Trust is developed when you are visible and available.  

    If you follow me on Twitter (@cbrownwgcsd) you know that I like to spend a large part of my time interacting with students. Children are the most important gifts that parents have, and I am responsible for those gifts each day. This includes making sure every day they come to school is a worthwhile day.

    Last week I had some wonderful interactions that were not staged or scripted. Throughout this blog post are a few of the pictures taken last week that demonstrate what is on the minds of our students and your children so you can extend learning and have conversations at home. 

    Periscope: With this in mind, I want to extend my visibility to you in another format that is relatively new to the Internet. There is an application (app) called Periscope that you can download to your smart phone from your “App Store”. It is a free app (for now). When you launch the application you will log in using your Twitter account. It allows the server (that will be me) to play real time video of events that others can type comments about or “like” by tapping their phone screen.  

    I hope to experiment with Periscope at some events in the near future. For now, if you like what I am able to post and cover, just download the app. Then down the road I will announce some events on Twitter. I will be giving professional development to my administrators so they can serve live feeds as well. I am excited to expand our visibility and availability in this direction.

    It looks like we are going to have a spectacular week. I am sure I will see you around. Enjoy!

    Take care-

    Chris

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Talent at Every Turn

     Student Art Gallery: I thought I was at a regular art gallery on Thursday when I entered the high school library. They were setting up for the junior and senior art show and the pieces were absolutely fantastic. We have very talented students that always amaze me with their skills. It doesn't matter what kind of medium they use either. Kudos to their teachers who are obviously helping them to hone their skills and take their talents to the next level!

    Spring Athletics Update: I love baseball and if you love baseball too, you need to get out to see our varsity baseball team. With a current record of 7-0, the lineup is full of power and skillful players. They are fun to watch and just like the art show, you feel like you are watching regular semi-professional baseball.

    Both boys and girls lacrosse teams are heating up as well (boys are currently undefeated) and are looking to make long post-season runs. I would also challenge you to try and hit a softball pitched by one of our girls! We have had a few girls track standouts, including Carly Benson who has the best time in NYS for the 1500m. The weather has kept me away from girls golf and boys tennis so far, but they are out there and competing, and I look forward to watching them play.

    The student talent that surrounds us should never be underestimated and should always be enjoyed as well as encouraged!

    Recognition Day at West Genesee: Equally talented are our employees. All of them. At West Genesee we do not follow the national individual recognition day calendar. We are all one big family. So on one day, which this year is tomorrow April 28, we have one large Staff Appreciation Day.

    Our Board of Education members take a day off of work to congratulate and thank EVERY employee for their service to the District and what they do for children. It is a great day for everyone! So if you happen to run into any of our employees or Board of Education members, please take a moment to thank them for their service to our children and our school community.

    Addressing Substance Abuse and Prevention:  Last week I attended a community coalition centered around substance abuse and prevention in our school community. There were over twenty people in attendance including students, counselors, administrators, law enforcement, clinical organizations, and private counseling organizations. Substance abuse, and most recently heroin use, is on the rise.

    Most people want the school, law enforcement, or help agencies to find people who need help. My concern has been what is actually available for people once we identify that they need help. This coalition took a great step forward in creating a plan of attack to locally help those in over their heads. Stay tuned for community forums where you can get more informed and involved.

    The Junior Prom was a Success: On a cold but very clear Saturday night, we held our Junior Prom at Driver's Village. This has been a great venue for us over the years, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to interact with the students outside of school. I am not that old but I have to tell you, I don't think they use to make the kinds of limos that these kids roll up to the dance in today!

    It's Budget Time Already: By now you have hopefully received our printed Budget Edition of The Communicator. I will be presenting the budget three more times: April 27 and May 4 at the high school large group instruction room starting at 7:00 p.m. and May 6 at the high school library starting at 7:00 p.m. We invite you to attend one of these presentations to answer your questions or provide clarifications before the budget vote on May 19.

    Thanks and enjoy the week!

    Chris

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    An Academic National Champion!

    Academic Competition: Last week our Academic Decathlon team went to California to compete in the Academic Decathlon National Championship. Coming off of a convincing New York State Championship, the group was excited to travel and compete against the other top teams in the Nation.

    Academic Decathlon (http://www.usad.org) started as an idea by Dr. Robert Peters while he was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He was a downed B-17 pilot and wrote in his journal that "students ought to have a decathlon of studies". When he returned from the war and became a school Superintendent, he started the first Academic Decathlon competition in 1968 in Bolsa Grande, California. The competition takes students from three academic flights (based on grade point averages) through scholastic competitions that cover academics, speeches, and interviews.

    Some schools offer a separate curriculum called "Academic Decathlon" right during the school day in order to be as competitive as possible. West Genesee banks on a solid well-rounded curriculum that ALL students receive. The team uses that knowledge plus expert coaching by Scott Duda, our advisor and science teacher, to be as competitive as possible.

    I am very proud to announce that while the whole team did not win the National championship, senior Domtilla Magunga won a Gold medal for the "Interview" portion of the competition, making her a National class academic achiever! Congratulations to Domtilla and please congratulate her when you see her!

    Athletic Competitions: It was a great weekend to be a Wildcat. Both lacrosse teams won very difficult competitions, and our baseball team secured a convincing win in front of many college scouts. If the weather cooperates, they will all be in play along with softball, girls golf, and track which are also having strong seasons so far.

    Up Next, Math Assessments: We wrap up the 3-8 New York State Assessments this week with the Math portion. About 18% of our students did not take the English portion of the assessments, and many have asked what kind of penalty that might bring to the District. If fewer than 95% of the students are tested there can be state or federal penalties levied.

    I have some people that I trust in the business, and at this point I do not believe there will be any state financial penalties given to our school for not meeting the 95% tested. On the state side, I believe that the tests taken will be scored, and the results will be used in teacher, principal, and building overall scores.

    On the Federal side, I think that Split Rock Elementary School is at risk of losing their federal "Reward School" distinction for having sustained academic success. The "95% rule" is a part of this distinction, so my fear is that federally the school will lose the distinction and the $50,000 grant that comes with the distinction. I am going to write some letters and call people in hopes that Split Rock Elementary School will not suffer while New York State is going through an educational revolution. Keep your fingers crossed.

    Thank you for your continued support and enjoy the week!

    Chris

    Sunday, April 12, 2015

    The Ink Is Dry...and so are the Fields!

    I hope that all of you enjoyed your spring break. I spent mine getting all of the diplomas signed and ready for final signature by the Board of Education president. 

    I also watched our playing fields dry out, become level, and become ready to be played on. Surprisingly, we have been able to hold almost every one of our games on schedule and our turf field is back in service. Who would have thought that a month ago?

    Other than desk work and visiting buildings to make sure all winter damage has been taken care of, I had a pretty quiet week which is in direct contrast to the week our paid and volunteer emergency management service people had. Many of our emergency service workers are also parents of children in our schools and they had to respond to three ugly car accidents and a fire. I want to thank all of our community emergency responders for handling each situation with compassion, professionalism, and expertise.

    Here I go jinxing ourselves, but if we do not have any additional emergency closing days, students and staff will have the Friday before Memorial Day (May 22) off.

    Enjoy what is supposed to be a beautiful weather week and thank you for your continued support!

    Chris