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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Night to Remember!

Memorial Day: I hope that all of you had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I always pause to think about what life might be like without the sacrifices of service members who died to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Not to be taken lightly or for granted; that is for sure. Thanks to all who weathered the rain for the parade; our students and staff enjoy being a part of it regardless of the weather.

A Successful Kaleidoscope: Well, I know at least fifteen hundred people attended Kaleidoscope on Thursday night because we sold all of our advanced tickets! When I looked up into the balconies before the show started, I did not see any empty seats, and the empty ones toward the front of the first level were empty because of obstructed views.

What a night. I knew it was going to be good, but as the performers and groups went on and off the stages I realized that we had a very special night in progress. For the first few years, I used to sit in the audience so I could take it all in, and now I enjoy being backstage cracking jokes with the students and having a little fun with them before they head out to perform. There is a great energy backstage that instantly translates into the performances that we get to enjoy. Another successful night, and we are all very proud.

Athletics Update: Congratulations to a couple of record setters and a couple of pace setters. In track, Megan Delia won sectionals for the 400m hurdles with an amazing time of 1:05.32 and Evan Tuthill rocked sectionals as well with convincing wins in discus and shot put. 

Equally impressive on the golf course were Dylan Plis and Joe Morgan. Both endured really tough weather in the first round of state qualifiers, only to advance and medal and come in second in round two. Very well done. They continue to represent us in state competition. My sense is that we may see one of the two or maybe even both on television someday. They are THAT good.

National Spelling Bee: Eighth grader Ava Propper is in DC, ready to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She has a long road ahead, but she is very capable and ready to compete. If she is able to advance through the first few rounds, she will be on ESPN for the final rounds! This link outlines her path, and it all begins today. Good luck! http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/scripps-national-spelling-bee-2017-date-time-finalists-how-to-watch-tv-online-stream-espn/6hd2ek3x88eu1w9ljaqa7lzan

Last Push is Important: As we begin the month of June, let's remember that the last push for the school year is very important. Keeping students in their routines, making sure they get enough rest, and providing an environment for them to work at home is very important. Equally important is what they eat, so please continue to provide all that you have been even though the weather is finally improving!

Thanks and enjoy the week.

Chris

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tickets Please!

All for a Good Cause: I hope that all of you had a great weekend. I feel like I over did it with exercise, the Downtown Living Tour, and just plain old work. As you are reading this, I am playing one hundred golf holes in a row (we started at 6:00 a.m. and I play until the last putt drops on hole one hundred, which should be around 7:00 p.m.) for the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center. As a team of twenty-four, we will end up raising about $100,000 for a great cause. I have to tell you though, that it will feel good to settle down for the rest of the week!

Budget Passes: Thank you for your support on the budget vote last week. It personally means a lot, and I do not take anything for granted. I am humbled with the 85% success rate and will continue to keep our winning formula going. Also, congratulations to Board of Education members Shawn Mitchell, Neil Widrick, and James Soper for being re-elected to the Board.

Olympics that are Special: Last week I also had the pleasure once again to watch about eighty of our students compete in the Special Olympics. This event is simply wonderful and has grown over the years to include nearly twenty school Districts. We also place a lot of value on being one unit, and our athletes were cheered on by all of the students in their buildings as they left for and returned from competition, and about four hundred of our students in grades K-12 went to the games to cheer in person. If you have never been to watch or volunteer, it is definitely worth your time.

Unified Basketball Season Ends this Week: Speaking of being worth your time, this week is full of opportunities. This afternoon beginning at 4:00 p.m. in the lower and upper gyms at the high school are the culminating games in the Unified Sports Basketball season. The games are competitive and fun. If you have time to stop in on the way home from work for even twenty minutes, you will be inspired for the rest of the week. I would estimate that the games and closing ceremonies should all wrap up by 7:30 p.m.

Other Events this Week: Boys and Girls Track, Girls Golf, Tennis, Boys and Girls Lacrosse, Baseball, and Softball all compete this week in sectionals; and we are excited about that. 

We are also very excited for Kaleidoscope that will take place this Thursday at the Civic Center beginning at 7:30 p.m. If you have been to Kaleidoscope in the past, you know what to expect. This year will be all that, plus a couple of talents that we will be paying to see on the larger stage so I hope you have your tickets, and I will see you there! 

There is School on Friday: Lastly, do not let your kids fool you into thinking that we have Friday off. Due to the number of snow days we used this year, we DO have school on Friday. That being said, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend next week and unless it is absolutely necessary, I will post again next Tuesday.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, May 15, 2017

Classy Students...Classy Events

I have often toyed with the idea of wearing a "GoPro" for a few days so people could really see and hear what I see and hear. If I had been wearing one on Friday through Saturday afternoon, it would have shown high note after high note.

Car Crash Simulation Held at the High School: On Friday, and thanks to over two dozen people from our local emergency services as well as student volunteers (Sarah Channels, Mark Kopp, Grace Craig, Tracy Dowler, Joe Gauzza, and Avery Miller), Teaching Assistant Pam Agricola, school counselors, and our administrators, we held another successful Mock DWI Crash event for our senior class ahead of the Senior Ball. 

This is something I have been doing since before arriving at West Genesee because sometimes students need to see and hear something for it to sink in. For me, the power of the event never wanes. I have been told by a couple of people over the years that the exercise is a "waste of time" and "not impactful". At left is a candid shot of some students from Friday morning. I don't see "waste of time" or "not impactful" on their faces, do you?

This is by no means a negative event. We believe in the Wildcat family, and this event brings the students closer as they prepare to spend the evening dancing and laughing together at the Senior Ball and then the All-Night Party (thanks to those who burned the midnight oil to help keep our students safe). 

Moving on to the Senior Breakfast: From the simulation, students headed to the Annual Senior Breakfast. While I was speaking to senior Kevin Donahue about the simulation, the breakfast, and the Senior Ball, a student entered the cafeteria alone and sat down at an empty table. Before he and I could exchange another round of sentences, a student from three tables away, walked up to the student and asked the student to come and sit with them. The student even grabbed a chair and carried it to the table as the rest of the table made way for their classmate. I turned to Kevin and I said "did you see that?". He said "yes, that is what we do." Very cool.

A Classy Event: The Senior Ball was elegant and classy, and the dance floor got full in a hurry. Again, there were a few students who were sitting at their tables and other students went to them to ask them to dance. Those are the kinds of things that make me very proud to be a superintendent and should make you very proud as parents and community members. 

After the Ball: At the end of the ball, the students made their way back to the high school for the All-Night Party. Everyone had a great time. I got the "all clear" from my administrative team and the Camillus Police around 7:00 a.m. at which time I gave a large exhale and immediately relaxed. Thanks to all for a spectacular weekend.

We have large senior classes but because they are such great role models, we would like this class to begin what will hopefully become a tradition of walking through the elementary school they attended while wearing their caps and gowns. This will help to set the stage for our younger students so they get an idea of what they have to look forward to!

Annual Budget Vote: I am looking forward to seeing many of you this Tuesday at our Annual Budget Vote. Polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. in our usual spot, the West Genesee High School Auditorium Lobby. Please remember to vote (and remind a neighbor). See you there and thank you!

Special Olympics: In my past few blogs I have written about the offshoot of the Special Olympics called Unified Sports, where our students with disabilities compete in basketball games against students from other schools. The program has been amazingly successful.  

The actual Special Olympics are this Thursday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. We have dozens of our students participating, and we will have busloads of students there to cheer them on. It is one of my favorite events of the year and the weather is looking good!

Thanks for your continued support and enjoy the week!

Chris



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Special Message

By now you have probably heard or read that we had a fight outside of the high school yesterday at dismissal time. As the situation was unfolding, members of the media were calling me because they were receiving calls from parents and community members about a large police presence at the high school. This is totally understandable considering the twenty-four hour news cycle we live in. I asked all of the media outlets to hold on until I could get the situation sorted out. All but one outlet agreed. That happens; we deal with it and move on.

Anyone who has followed my communications over the years knows that I give as many details as I can, when I can. Yesterday, I sent out a brief overview of what happened. Absent from the communication were details that we did not know until we completed our investigation at approximately 12:30 a.m. this morning.

I will try to make a long story short, but will include all of the facts that I think you need to know as parents, community members, and students, and how we are moving forward.

First, the incident was not random, and the incident involved two students, in total, fighting. There were a few other individuals who were present and who watched the fight, but were not involved in the actual fighting. Some of those individuals are current students, and the others are not.

Second, the actual fight lasted approximately forty seconds, however, the stir it caused, as well as the quick police presence (I will get to that), made it feel like twenty minutes.

Third, one of the students fighting did, for a short time, possess a small pocket knife that he had taken from and returned to a vehicle he had been in. The knife did not make contact with anyone, but it is clear that he was in possession of it for a brief time.

One of the individuals was in possession of a broomstick handle for a brief period. That was taken from the trunk of his vehicle, was in his possession for a brief period, and was returned to his vehicle.

As you might imagine, if you were an administrator or School Resource Officer running to a "possible fight" in the parking lot, and you see the fight, plus a couple hundred students trying to get into their own cars and leave for the day, you would call for backup. The building principal called for backup. This created the large police presence that some of you saw or heard about. The positive take away from this is knowing that should we ever have a large emergency, we can bank on a large police presence quickly. They are to be commended for their professionalism and attention to detail, as are our administrators, who made all of the right decisions quickly and kept the situation from escalating.

So where do we go from here? First, we apply the Code of Conduct to any student participants, and then we work with the Camillus Police on the criminal charges that may apply to those involved.

I was very disappointed with the incident; but for reasons you might not think. We are a very large District but have great connections with students. I was very proud of our students who did all of the right things in terms of telling us about the fight and then getting out of the way. I was also very proud of our administrators and staff for quickly doing the right thing, as well as our School Resource Officer and the Camillus Police.

We work very hard to avoid incidents like the one that occurred yesterday. In fact, the last even remotely similar case we had to this one was eight years ago, and I am disappointed that the clock has to start ticking again.

As far as your children being safe? Absolutely. I do appreciate your trust and also appreciate your patience while we got everything sorted out. I will certainly keep you posted should we learn anything else.

On another note, tomorrow night is the Senior Ball. Tomorrow morning is the simulated DWI crash that we hold for the seniors at 7:30 a.m. in the front circle. You will see police cars again, but in a positive way; to help our students to make good decisions on one of the most important nights of their high school careers.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the week.

Chris