Monday, February 13, 2017

Where Do I Start?

When I woke up on Thursday, I had no idea what the next four days were going to bring. They turned out to be a movie script about the power and success of public school education, and I got to get a first-hand screening.

Planning Strategically: First up was the meat and potatoes of our strategic planning process. The team is comprised of stakeholders from all walks of our school and outer community. We finished the session with some great plans for next year including a more vigorous attack on bullying, a renewed focus on academic results, and a further exploration of multiple pathways towards graduation. GREAT stuff!

Girls Basketball Senior Night: Then it was on to senior night for the Girls Varsity Basketball team. Four fierce competitors were recognized, and the team continued to do what it has done all season; win with intent.

Mary Poppins! Lands at the High School: That night it was also curtains up for the musical, Mary Poppins!. It was everything I thought it would be. From the pit to the stage crew to the actors and actresses, the performance was delivered to the highest level.

To say I loved it would be an understatement, and I kept finding myself humming along to the tunes. Check out this video from the musical of Steppin' time by clicking here.  Bravo to all!

I have never been more irritated about a snow day than Friday. A two and a half hour delay would have done the trick; but we don't have those. Fortunately, the weather continued to clear up throughout the day, and the musical was able to go on as scheduled. Had that not happened, we would have had a cancellation on Sunday for certain, and THAT would have been a bummer.

A Buzzer Beater: Then came Saturday. Another knock your socks off Mary Poppins! performance. At the same time, the boys basketball team won a thriller with a buzzer beater from half court by Malik Zachery, and then things went right over the top. See the video below (or click here) from

Girls Skate to a State Championship: First, the Girls Hockey team, undefeated on the season, won the New York State Girls Hockey Championship. This made me very proud, because the athletes are part of a shared team with Skaneateles. The effort they have to go through to make it to practice, keep their grades up, and then travel to compete (there aren't many other girls hockey teams locally) shows a true dedication, and I for one sincerely applaud that. Congratulations to them! West Genesee students on the team are Emily Cox, Johna Halko, Katie Halko, Katrina Harter, Lauren Jones, Cecily Kawejsza, Anne Rubel, Grace Schnorr, Jessica Smith, and Heather Tanzella. Thank you for representing your families, yourselves, and our school so well!

WGMS Student Wins Spelling Bee!: So you would think that would be enough excitement. Nope. Ava Propper, an eighth-grader from West Genesee Middle School, shot it over the top by WINNING the  2017
Post Standard / / WCNY Spelling Bee. Seriously! First, it was her against other very worthy competitors. Then it dwindled down, and as the last person standing, it was Ava against words. Which words you ask? How about "glitterati" followed up with "cinephile" for the win! We get to be proud of her and she gets to go to Washington, DC, in May and compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee; yes the one that is broadcast on ESPN. You can view a video from below or lick here.

If you have paw prints on your car, wear West Genesee gear, or are a silent supporter, take a victory lap (if taking this literally, please follow all posted speed limits). You live in a great community where magic like I have written above, happens due to your support, the efforts of all of the adults who work with our children, and of course, the performance of our students. I wear my blue and gold with pride every day.

Unless completely necessary, I will be writing again after the mid-winter break. Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, February 6, 2017

A Busy Weekend...

How we are Viewed by Others: My wife and I have been traveling and getting out more since we have had an empty nest, and we recently befriended three Australians who are in Syracuse to take courses on radar systems at Lockheed Martin. When we asked what they had done to learn about Syracuse, they mentioned going to The Dinosaur BBQ, Destiny USA, and a Syracuse University (SU) basketball game.

All three have been in the Australian Air Force, and the one thing they said they were jealous of was how much pride we take in our National Anthem. They observed that at the SU game, and they wished that people in their homeland stood at attention with such pride before their Cricket matches!

During our conversations, they said that they had heard about this big game in the United States called the "Super Bowl", so we invited them to our place to watch last night. They were amazed by the game, the halftime show, and the commercials. They have to fly back home later today, but I hope we reconnect the next time they come here.

District Strategy Around Bullying: Over the past nine years that I have been here, we have worked really hard as a District and community to curb bullying, both in person and online. We have been making tremendous headway, but recently, we have seen a small spike in behavior that may not be bullying or harassment by definition (click here to read the rules we need to follow), but it is certainly mean, and needs to stop. It is happening at all levels, and even one instance is too many.

My hope is that we are just dealing with the weather, but my hunch is that more and more moms and dads are stressed about things at home, work, and paying the bills. Children pick up on those feelings and get stressed themselves. They aren't quite able to handle those feelings like we can as adults, so they make a mean comment, push someone on the playground, or send a nasty message on social media. These situations are not as common as many may think, but they absolutely happen, and need to be dealt with.

This recent increase will pass, but we as a District need to continue to recognize changes in our community, and work to teach students coping skills, how to be held accountable, and how to channel emotions differently. Presently, we use a combination of character education, the CODE program (Community Oriented Drug Education) in partnership with the Camillus Police, Dignity for All Students Training, assemblies, and plain old-fashioned relationship building. At the same time we have more mental health support than ever before, have rearranged our relationship with the Camillus Police to make our School Resource Office more visible in a positive way, and have been working with service agencies to help parents find support at home.

We are a District built on the highest of standards, and in order for those standards to be met, we need to continue to work together. You can help us at home by knowing if your child has a social media presence and if they do, what they are posting to each other. If you have a younger child who comes home to tell you what happened at school, call or contact someone at the school and let them work with you to get both sides of the story, and find a solution. If there is a situation that needs to be brought to our attention please do so, or fill out this online form by clicking here.

Not every situation resolves itself to the satisfaction of a parent, and sometimes those parents take to social media to express their displeasure. Some of those posts are factual, and many are not. If you ever want clarification about something, please contact me. Remember, I was born and raised here, have tremendous pride in what we do, and treat the District and everyone in it like my extended family. We include every possible angle and resource to solve problems.

At the same time, our students have outdone themselves with volunteer work, raising money for local charities, sick children, and their attendance at events and morale building activities has been through the roof. There are great projects going on in classrooms and our class of 2030 is rapidly taking shape! A quick run through my Twitter and other school twitter feeds along with our District Facebook page shows treasure after treasure of the cool things that are happening!

Athletics Update: Congratulations to our girls' hockey team (combined with Skaneateles High School) for remaining undefeated and becoming Section III Champions.

Congratulations also to our indoor track 4X400 Relay Team of Kendall Dombroske, Lauren Ferris, Kelsey Fox, and Carly Benson who are league champions with the best time in Section III. Also to Meg Delia who is the league champion in the 300 meter race.

Be on the lookout for upcoming sports schedules and check out an event. We are making noise in the section and state in nearly all of our winter sports!

Mary Poppins! is Landing at the High School: West Genesee High School students will present the musical Mary Poppins!, at the high school auditorium. Shows are Thursday, February 9 and Friday, February 10, at 7:00 p.m., with 2 shows Saturday, February 11, at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at or at the door. All seats are reserved and are $12. You can also call the Ticket Call Center at 1-800-514-3849, extension 4. Tickets can be purchased at the door. All seats are reserved.

There is a real energy surrounding this show so you should check it out if you can. Click here to read a full article about the musical and access cast and crew lists.

Don't forget to start dialing the area code 315 before your phone calls starting on February 7! Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Now What?

National Events Affect our Students: I have written year after year that I am NOT politically affiliated. I vote how I feel in each election (but I ALWAYS vote). Not being a Democrat or a Republican does not mean that I do not care about their policies and practices because they impact me as a person and impact the students and parents that we serve at school.

Case in point. we spend a lot of time educating students about bullying, harassment, mental health, and doing the right thing. At the end of some weeks, and especially in January, we as administrators can be drained from helping students and parents work through highly stressful situations. We normally use the weekend to recharge, and we are right back at it.

As news filtered out about President Trump's new approach to immigration, I saw the protests and anger that followed; I then realized just how much of a melting pot our District is when I heard from English as a second language and English as a new language teachers that some of their students were sad and upset that they may have to leave the country. These are completely documented immigrants and refugees, but I can understand their concerns, and it adds another layer of the support that we will be giving our students.

These students have friends, maybe even your children, so please take an extra pause if they want to have a conversation about what is happening with the election and some of the policy changes that have been coming out of Washington, DC. It is really causing some children a lot of stress.

Students Give Optimistic Speeches: The future of the nation is in good hands. Last week, several of our students participated in the Camillus Optimists Oratorical contest and their speeches were uplifting and very motivating. The students represented themselves, their families, and West Genesee very well, and I am proud of each and every one of them. Click here for a list of participants and other details.

Update on Smartbond Grant: Last April we applied for a grant called a Smartbond that has money available to increase the amount of technology that our students have access to.

We heard from the reviewers last week and it looks like we are going to be approved shortly. This will allow us to purchase about 3,000 pieces of equipment for students to use in the form of iPads, Chromebooks, netbooks, laptops, etc. We have solid equipment now, but this grant will help us to get closer to having a device available for every student. Good stuff!

Thanks for reading, stay warm this week, and I hope to see you at one of our events.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Spring? Not so Fast!

I hope all of you enjoyed a weekend that felt like spring. I know I sure did, and I am sore from using muscles I haven't used since early fall. I am sure that Mother Nature has more in store for us this winter, but we should certainly enjoy the weather any time that we can when we live in Syracuse, New York!

The Inauguration: The best rumor I heard all weekend was that I did not allow students to watch the Inauguration ceremony for President Trump. Could you imagine? Those who know me (and most of you reading should by now) know that I would never use my position to block a student, or adult for that matter, from experiencing history. We had to make sure that our Internet pipeline was as open as possible so anyone who wanted to stream it, could!

I will admit that I was very worried about the potential for violence, and we did plan accordingly in the event of having to react to threats, violence, or disturbances; and we planned for this for either candidate because they were both so polarizing to the nation. Luckily, the transformation of power went without major incident, and we are all moving forward.

Marching for Rights: On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women rallied around the world to support equality, women's rights, and peace. One of those marchers was my sister, Sarah Patterson. I have written in the past that I am the oldest of three adopted children. My brother and sister are Native American; and I am not. She is in the middle and I would describe her as part artist and part activist for Native American rights, but for the rights of women as well. 

She marched in Washington, DC with this piece of art that she made and it garnered a lot of attention from the media. As she left she was approached by a security guard from the National Museum of the American Indian who stated that her work would be considered for display in the museum as a part of the history of the day. Pretty cool, and I am proud of her. You can place your cursor over the picture to read her interpretation of her work. I am very thankful that everyone who went was able to rally in peace, and arrive home safely.

Basketball Player Hits a Milestone: Congratulations goes out to senior boys basketball player Malik Zachery for scoring his 1,000th point last week against Fayetteville-Manlius. We will not get a chance to recognize him officially until our next home boys' game in about a week and a half, but I want to sincerely thank the FM Hornets for recognizing his accomplishment that night and on social media. That is true class.

All-County Concert: Also a big congratulations to all of our Junior All-County Concert participants who performed at Solvay High School over the weekend. For a listing of those who participated click here. We really DO have talent within these four walls, and I invite you to check out the many performances that we are going to have this spring leading up to the fine arts Super Bowl that we call Kaleidoscope!

Academic Decathlon season is upon us and our team started out with a strong performance. They came in second at the Section III competition this past weekend and will go on to compete at the state level in March. I am looking forward to another strong season from them.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

S..W..A..N S..O..N..G

Swan Songs throughout Senior Year: There are only a few times in our lives when we get to do something for the last time. For some, like senior student and singer Caitlin Barry, those last experiences, or swan songs as we call them, will be on the biggest of stages. No pressure.

She began her farewell tour on Saturday at the Carrier Dome in front of over 20,000 people singing a perfect National Anthem. Boom. She commanded the challenging song with ease and punch and was rewarded by a loud ovation from the crowd. Crouse Hospital featured her life story in a touching article that can be found here and there is another story about her on here.

She is destined to do great things with her gift, but more importantly she is someone who younger students can look up to and learn something from. Kaleidoscope isn't until May, but it should be on your calendar as something not to miss if you want to see a talented person "before she made it big".

Spellers Advance to Next Level: The title of the blog this week also speaks to how well students involved in the The Post-Standard/WCNY Spelling Bee handle themselves. I would guess that most of you reading this have been involved in a spelling bee at some point in your life so you know what it looks and feels like. Now imagine advancing to the next level with more and more on the line, and fewer and fewer competitors to outlast.

Ava Propper and Emily Pattermann from West Genesee Middle School, along with Laura Alvaro from Camillus Middle School, have done just that, and we wish them well as they advance into public competition on February 11 starting at 2:00 p.m. live on WCNY. If you are fortunate to be one of their parents and you are reading this, RELAX and enjoy the moment; trust me, and good luck to them!

Great Question on Class Rank: Thanks to all who attended our "Dialogue with the Superintendent" sponsored by the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council. It was very well attended, and I got some great questions. One of particular interest because it is a hot topic around the country had to do with class rank and whether we would consider moving away from class rank as other equally successful schools have done. National research shows that more colleges are considering the total body of work for students rather than where they rank in their class.

For students, studies have shown that moving away from class rank creates a more collaborative environment for students and more students will challenge higher level courses because the result will not impact their rank. In schools like ours, the separation between the tenth student in the class and the fifteenth can be one hundredth of a point.

I do not make decisions in a vacuum, but I am very interested in this topic. If there is interest in our strategic planning sessions to advance the topic, I will certainly keep you posted.

Boys Basketball Team Still Undefeated: On Saturday, our boys basketball team continued their undefeated streak. Whenever a team is undefeated this deep into a season you have to look back to the root cause. People can argue that coaching and talent are the key factors, and there is truth to that. I always look at two other things: the depth of the score sheets to see how many players are contributing, and how the students put in front of the microphone at the end of the game handle themselves.

Right now, the boys are as tight as I have seen a team in a long time. They share the ball and the spotlight, and each young man who gets interviewed never talks about themselves. They spend the time talking about coaches and teammates who are working together to make things happen. Best of luck to them!

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.: We had yesterday off to recognize the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on our lives. I am most respectful of what he did because he was able to completely change the path of the nation regarding acceptance of all people, without violence.

During my building visits last week I was really proud to see the work of Dr. King being celebrated and understood from kindergarten on up.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Courage is On Display When You Least Expect It

I finally had a chance to catch a movie at the new Movie Tavern in Township 5. What a great place! I have never been to a theater where you can recline AND order food to your seat. Pretty cool. The movie, Hidden Figures, was even better and I highly recommend it!

Sports and Art Come Together: On Friday, our girls basketball team played against Baldwinsville at home for first place in the section. Halftime was set to be girls Camillus Youth Basketball Association (CYBA) games. There was a large crowd on hand for both. As the JV game ended (with a convincing win by our girls), I spent some time talking to parents, giving the pep band a pep talk, speaking to the cheerleaders, and preparing to find my seat for the varsity game.

It was then that we were asked to rise for the National Anthem and THIRD GRADER, Taylor MacCaull, grabbed the microphone and stepped out toward mid-court. In front of her classmates, students, parents, and community members she NAILED it. What courage and poise! Everyone was so happy for her. A few moments later, parent Mr. Mercer snapped this picture, which completely sums up why I do my job; and why, after seventeen years this month, being a superintendent is still the best job on earth.

Checking Your Sources: Fake news seems to be the topic of conversation around the country of late, and we have been talking about ways to help students separate fact from fiction when they read something either in print, watch it on television, or see it on the Internet. Our assistant superintendent found a cool link that reveals a one page checklist for fake news detection. If you are looking for some dinnertime conversation, click here for that good resource.

Update from Community Coalition on Substance Abuse: On behalf of our substance abuse coalition, I would like to thank ACR Health and the Camillus Police Department for their help in operating our recent NARCAN training. About 120 people received the training.

We will offer another one at some point in the future. At this point, please place February 27 on your calendar as a night to come to school for a targeted resource night. Channel 9's Christie Casciano is going to be our keynote speaker, and we have some of the top physicians and speakers in the area to spend the night with us. Stay tuned for the full agenda.

Questions for the Superintendent?: This Wednesday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. is our annual Dialogue with the Superintendent, sponsored by the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council. The event is held at West Genesee High School in the Large Group Instruction Room. The format is fantastic. I give a quick "State of the District" and then attendees can write questions anonymously on index cards. The index cards are shuffled, and then I read and respond to them sight unseen. Looking forward to seeing you this week.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Buckle Up!

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017! If you are the parent of a senior, this means that we are only five months away from the "big day"; and time will fly by; believe me. I was fortunate to be able to ring in the New Year with friends at the newly refurbished Hotel Syracuse, and what a spectacle it was. We ran into three of our graduates who work there in upper level roles and it was great to catch up with them too.

For many, the start of the new year means resolutions, or a time to do things differently. Not for me. I have been trying to lose ten pounds since October and the start of the new year isn't going to help that along. Really tightening my diet and getting in even more exercise will make the difference.

On Target: On the school front, we plan to stay the course through the rest of the school year. We are looking good to exceed our academic goals for the year, and we are riding a wave of great morale all around. Our biggest challenges for January and February will be to mentally weather (no pun intended) the darkest part of the winter, and to build the 2017-2018 budget. We will.

Sports Update: The weather prevented some games from happening over break, BUT the girls basketball team got a monkey off my back by beating CNS right before the holiday, and then went on to win the More Than a Game Basketball Tournament. Thanks to the girls, there are only two sports monkeys left in my nine years and counting at West Genesee. The first is for girls volleyball to beat Baldwinsville, and the second is for our boys basketball team to beat Bishop Ludden. That will happen!

Free NARCAN Training: Please remember that the Camillus Community Coalition on Substance Abuse, in conjunction with the Camillus Police Department and ACR Health, is offering FREE NARCAN training this Thursday from 4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.(in one hour sessions) at West Genesee High School in the Large Group Instruction area at the rear of the high school. There is no pre-registration. Just show up for the hour that works for your schedule, get trained, and receive your voucher for a free NARCAN kit.

Buckle up and here we go!