Monday, March 27, 2017

We Can All Be Replaced...or Can We?

A Family Competition: Well, in the Brown family Half Marathon challenge, I was able to take the "trophy" back from my older son Ben (21 years old) by edging him in the Syracuse Half Marathon yesterday by three minutes. Last year he got me by seven minutes. Most rational people would do a best out of three, but I am sure he and I will be going head to head until I can't walk anymore. The MUCH more important thing is spending time with the kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything and if I have to run, play basketball, video games, go to a concert, play golf, or work to keep the annual family vacation happening; count me in!

A Fad that Leaves Scars: I was reminded about an interesting game that middle and high school students in our District started, and luckily ended playing quickly about two years ago, called the "eraser challenge". Students take an eraser and rub it back and forth on their skin until they can't take it anymore and the person with the largest and deepest burn wins.

I am hopeful that the recent articles do not cause our students to try that again. Once was enough. The eraser challenge is not safe. It can cause open wounds that you and I know won't be taken care of well by teenagers. The results can also leave a scar. If your child has these marks on their arms, please tell them to stop and alert your building principal. Again, we have been there and done that, and I would like to not go there again. Thanks for your help on this.

Our Community Loses a Leader and Friend: Tonight we will be recognizing students as they are inducted into the National Honor Society. The pillars of the National Honor Society are leadership, character, scholarship, and service. A person who has exemplified these characteristics since he and his wife Cheryl opened the Town Shop in 1970 in the Village of Camillus, was Dave Vermilya. I say "was" because he passed away last Friday evening from a short illness.

I had been worried for some time about what the community was going to do when he finally decided to retire (his wife retired a few years back and that was challenging enough) and he never got the opportunity to get time to himself.  Dave worked with thousands of youth over his career. His leadership came in the form of running the Town Shop, a "home", if you will, for young men and women looking for a place to hang out, for direction, for some guidance, and in many cases for kindness that was missing at home. His scholarship could be seen in his willingness to be a life long learner, always keeping up with what kids of "today" were interested in. His service needs no words. Lastly, his character appeared in everything he did. He is the ultimate example of someone who did the right thing when people weren't watching.

Growing up, I was raised to understand that no matter how good you were at doing something, you are always replaceable, so it is important to stay humble. David's passing challenges that ideal. I just do not know how he will ever be replaced, but he absolutely needs to be; because he would want it that way. The challenge will be finding the right person. Hopefully he is watching from somewhere and will help to guide that process. Rest in peace Dave Vermilya, our community lost a pioneer, leader, and friend. I will relay memorial information via our social media platforms as soon as I hear something.

Thank you for reading and take care.

Chris

Monday, March 20, 2017

March Comes in Like a Lion

Snow Days: Well, last week was like a mini-vacation for the students with all of the snow days plus the staff development day on Friday. March is a long month and in February I spoke to the principals about making sure that they were creating a couple of opportunities for the students to have a little fun (spirit weeks, etc.) and each building did do some fun things. Add in the snow days and April is right around the corner now! For the record, we do have one snow day left in the calendar before we have to start getting creative.

Fine Arts Director Receives Outstanding Educator Award: We are in-between student events so I wanted to take this opportunity to write about a few adult things. First, if you see our Director of Fine Arts, Bill Davern, please congratulate him. He was selected by SAANYS (School Administrators Association of New York State) to receive their Outstanding Educator Award. This award is certainly well deserved, and we have been very fortunate to have had him steering our Fine Arts program for many years. Congratulations to Bill and his family.

Federal Funding: I am keeping an eye on the Federal budget. As I mentioned in last week's blog, our local budget is in good shape, but we do rely on Federal monies in part for students who have disabilities, or who are living in poverty; as well as for a small portion of our professional development budget and for a small portion of salaries for at-risk counselors.

If the government were to cut all of our Federal funding (which they won't), we budget conservatively enough where we would survive it with less pain than we felt during the last recession; but one area that would be really challenging to make up is in the area of reimbursement for free and reduced lunches. One of the magical things about West Genesee is that even as our poverty has increased, so too have our academic results. A part of this, of course, is making sure that our students are fed and happy. With over twenty-five percent of our students (and climbing) qualifying for free and reduced lunch, losing that funding would not be good. I will continue to keep a close eye on what is happening outside of West Genesee and will help us to navigate anything we need to as we have done in the past.

Tips Make a Difference: We have a great relationship with the District Attorney's office as well as the Camillus Police. We were together last week to catch up on a few partnership opportunities and as we got to talking, we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of our tip button (for bullying, crimes, etc.) which can be found by clicking here as well as the Camillus Police Tip line by clicking here.

We discussed how the number of drug-related issues in our schools have dropped drastically over the past three years due to our partnerships, communication, and visibility of our administrators; but that some people may not feel that way because we haven't written about it in a while.

If you have tips or things you think we should know about, please use the links above. It may look at times like there is no outcome, but every tip we get creates a report and file that all parties build upon. You should also be very proud of the students who have no problems coming to us to let us know if they hear of anything that they think we should know about!

Diplomas on Order: We have ordered diplomas and I plan to start signing them shortly. This means that if you are the parent of a senior, you are now in the channel to graduation. Hard to believe, but it is true!

Hoping for some sun and snow melt this week. We need to get ALL of our sports teams outside for some fresh air! Thanks for your support and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ready for Spring

A Successful Season for the Girls Basketball Team: Well, the Girls Varsity Basketball team did not have the outcome they wanted, but they sure had a successful season. One of the exciting things in my job is watching the rebirth and resurgence of a program. We quickly forget that the team made it to the section championship last year and came up short, because they went right back there this year and won it. It stinks that in society we are excited when a lot of people show up to watch a women's sporting event. I hope that changes; it needs to.  

The level of sportsmanship, grit, and talent from this group is fantastic and each player, as a person, is a role model. Their Section III Championship picture will hang proudly in the entrance to the District Office. They will be losing some very valuable seniors, but they are also able to restock with experience right down to the eighth grade. Their future continues to be bright. Congratulations on a great season and thanks to the Wildcat Nation and our community for all of the support!

Festival of Bands Golden Anniversary: Fifty years is a long time for anything. Last week, the Fine Arts Department celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Festival of Bands. Each of those fifty years has been excellent, and our records show how many former performers went on to do great things in music and life. We have tremendous participation in our program, and their dedication to detail and to practice, as well as their instruction, is what separates our program from the others. The CD from the performance will be playing in my car for the next few weeks! A special thank you to Dr. Damon Talley from Louisiana State University for being a guest conductor.

Budget Time Already: We have completed and presented the 2017-2018 budget to the Board of Education. The package falls within the tax cap, preserves any incentives that might be available to homeowners, preserves programs, and adds mental health support for our middle school students and families. You can access the presentation and other budget information from our website by clicking here, Also, I will be giving the presentation again on the following dates:

  • April 25 - 7:00 p.m. at the High School Large Group Instruction (LGI) Room

  • May 3 - Budget Public Hearing - 7:00 p.m. at the High School Library

  • Thank you for your continued support.

    We will have to see what the weather decides to do this week. Hopefully nothing, but stay tuned!

    Enjoy the week-

    Chris

    Tuesday, March 7, 2017

    The Results are In...

    We have had such good attendance at our games and such an amazing following of our sports teams that I wanted to provide a few updates and some time and place information as we dig into this week.

    First, it is my pleasure to let you know that our student athletes in Boys Swimming and Diving as well as Indoor Track did very well in their New York State Championships this past weekend.

    In Swimming and Diving: 
    • Ryan Hagadorn placed 17th in the Breaststroke.
    • The team of Nathan Gdula, Evan Tuthill, Ryan Hagadorn, and Matthew Shoults placed 22nd in the 200 yd Freestyle Relay.
    • The team of Brian Salmons, Ryan Hagadorn, Nathan Gdula, and Evan Tuthill placed 32nd in the 200 yd Medley Relay.
    • Nathan Gdula placed 32nd in 50 yd Freestyle event.
    • Peter Bowman placed 29th in diving.  
    Great representation and thanks for all of your efforts.

    In the New York State Indoor Track Championship: 
    • The Girls 4x400 Relay were medal winners for the second consecutive year. Carly Benson, Megan Delia, Emily Young, and Kendall Dombroske raced to an 8th place Federation medal finish after qualifying for the final in that event. 
    • Carly Benson also competed in the 600 meter, Megan Delia in the 300 meter, and Emily Young in the 1000 meter events. 
    • Senior David Leff raced a season personal best as he placed 16th in the 1600 meter state final.
    Congratulations to all!

    Girls Basketball in Regional Competition: The girls basketball team will play in the New York State quarterfinal this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College against Shenendehowa. Tickets are available at the door for $8, and we hope to see another great crowd for that game.

    Artwork at the Everson Museum: While I have you reading, hats off to eighth grader Gabrielle Mitchell, who had her artwork selected (only 32 in Central New York were chosen) to be on display at the Everson Museum. Her piece? A picture of Ava Propper, the Syracuse.com Spelling Bee Champion!

    Great stuff all around. Enjoy the rest of the week and Go Wildcats!

    Chris

    Monday, March 6, 2017

    The Year was 1994...

    Not Since 1994--Girls Basketball Team Wins Sectional Title: In 1994, my wife and I got married, a gallon of gas was $1.09, and The Lion King was the big movie for kids. Snoop Dogg and Bon Jovi ruled the music charts, and Rugrats and The X-Files were popular television shows. The year 1994 was also the last time that the West Genesee Girls Varsity Basketball team won a Sectional Championship. That all changed on Saturday when the girls defeated Liverpool in the Allyn Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College.

    They are frightening to watch from a competitive standpoint. They don't say a lot when they play, but their defense is just fierce and NOTHING seems to rattle them. On offense, they all seem to be good outside shooters, and when they can get the ball inside they have no fear of being fouled as they try to make a basket. In other words, they are rolling. Oh, and you aren't going to find a better team of role models who always display great sportsmanship. I do not think they are done either. This is a special group that is on a mission. They play Shenendehowa next Saturday, March 11, in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College starting at 4:00 p.m.

    I am very thankful to all who were able to make it to the game. Yes, parking was a challenge due to how many other events the college was hosting, but the reality is that the venue is very convenient for us, and I very much hope that we will have an even bigger crowd to see them play next week. Congratulations to the lady Wildcats!

    Celebrating Different Cultures: The 9th Annual District Culture Fair was also held on Saturday and it seems like the more years we hold the event, the more cultures are represented! It is so great to catch up with the dozens of community members who bring artifacts that are close to them and their families to share with students so they can learn and enjoy. There are too many volunteers to thank without missing someone so thank you to all, and we are already planning for our tenth anniversary event!

    Hockey Update: The hockey team ended their season in overtime at Shove Park on Saturday in front of a sold-out arena. Some of you who are reading this who graduated in the 1980's or 1990's might not think much of a sold out gym or arena but back then the school had nearly three thousand more students than today. School spirit is at the highest point I have seen it in my nine years here and that does translate to achievement in the classroom, higher daily attendance, and fewer tardies. All of this is a recipe for success!

    March is Music in our Schools Month: You all know how spoiled we are by our Fine Arts program so you can't go wrong attending any concert; but a great one was held last week called the Choral Festival and Art Exhibit. The art pieces were fantastic and you can't beat over 350 singers on one stage! Hats off to all, and there are plenty of other shows to get to this month!

    High School Administration Update: Two years ago I wrote about a restructuring of our high school administrative team and moving away from assistant principals and to an executive principal/building principal model. The purpose was to give each administrator in the building full decision-making authority for students and staff so our large high school would feel much smaller to those in it. The plan was also to create a smooth transition for when Dr. Copeland, high school principal for fifteen years, decided to retire.

    The Board of Education did receive and approve Dr. Copeland's retirement letter for the end of this school year, and it is important to recognize that during his time, he graduated over seven thousand students and worked with tens of thousands of parents in our community. As he wraps up his career this spring, be sure to congratulate him when you see him either at school or around town. He hopes to volunteer helping Veterans in his retirement, and we certainly wish him well!

    Busy but good week ahead. See you around!

    Chris


    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Full Speed Ahead!

    I hope that all of you had a great winter break. If you stayed home, there was no shortage of excitement.

    Hockey Team Wins Section III Championship: First up was the Section III Championship hockey game featuring West Genesee versus Syracuse at the War Memorial. West Genesee was smaller sized but very skilled and determined and Syracuse was very big, fast, and physical. It was a game for the ages. There was a HUGE crowd on hand and the action went back and forth all the way to overtime.

    With a few minutes left in the overtime, tied at 1, Syracuse took a penalty and West Genesee went on the powerplay. Coach Colabufo called a timeout and drew up some plays. West Genesee won the faceoff and absolutely peppered a superb Syracuse goalie until one rebound got out just a little too far and Jay Considine scooped it up and hit the back of the net. I thought I pulled something jumping so much; and the place went crazy!

    Congratulations to the boys. They will now play in the New York State Quarterfinal on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. right at Shove Park versus the winner of Section VI.

    As that game finished, I snuck over to Pavones Pizza to grab a quick slice and spoke to some parents about how lucky we are to have such talented students!

    Academic Decathlon Competes at States: From there, I waited by the phone as Principal Shannon Coholan relayed scores back to me from our Academic Decathlon Team, who competed for the New York State Championship. The greatest thing about Academic Decathlon is that students from all ability and performance levels compete.

    After two days of tests and essays, they finished second by the equivalent of one question on one test. Competitors did bring home some medals though and are already planning for next year. Our list of medal winners will be published on the website and social media very soon, so check back.

    Boys Varsity Basketball in Sectional Semi-Final: After a quick break it was up to Onondaga Community College to watch our Boys Varsity Basketball team take on Henninger in the Section III Sectional Semi-Final game. Again, another great crowd on hand, and the Wildcats fought hard but came up just short to a Henninger team that is on the rise. As a basketball fan, I am looking very forward to the Section III Championship game between Liverpool and Henninger.

    Looking back at the boys season, they brought life back to our gym. We had two games that filled the gym (well over one thousand seats) so full, that our Athletic Director had to bring in folding chairs. Add a pep band (thank you!) to the crowd, and we are the place to play. I am hoping that we can keep up the energy next year and thank you to our seniors.

    Girls Varsity Basketball Team Moves on to Sectional Final: Where I am a little perplexed is with our Girls Varsity Basketball team. They are VERY, VERY good and they have been rock solid all season. On Sunday, they played a feisty Utica-Proctor team. What makes this team, and their coach, the most admirable is that they are able to find a way to get to the next level of effort. At halftime, the girls were up 22-21. They came out of halftime and found a way to elevate their play and were able to get the win.

    They will now play against Liverpool next Saturday, March 4, at 12:00 p.m. at Onondaga Community College for the Section III Championship; something we have rarely played for in the history of West Genesee.

    What is perplexing is how few people have come out to watch these athletes. We have used social media, announcements, and plain old word of mouth, and while we have had crowds that have been larger than previous years, these girls deserve to have more fans at their games; bottom line. If you can find a way to come out and support them I would personally appreciate it, and I know that the girls would REALLY appreciate it. Hats off to them and best of luck on Saturday!

    Other NYS Championship Updates: Also, competing in NYS Championships this weekend are Boys Swim/Dive on March 3-4 at the Nassau County Aquatics Center on Long Island and Indoor Track at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Center on Staten Island.

    Trivia: To cap off my weekend, my trivia team (teams are made up of seven people) made it to the Syracuse Winterfest Finals, where we finished second to the top trivia teams in the Syracuse area. My wife got the MVP for going head to head against a member of the other second place team in a lightning round that allowed us to take second all alone. Why didn't we take first place? Well, let's just say that I shouldn't quit my day job.

    A Busy Week: This week is very busy. I hope to see many of you at our Substance Abuse Community Resource Night from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.tonight at the high school. The event will begin in the Auditorium and will feature keynote speeches by award winning news anchors Christie Casciano and Tammy Palmer. Attendees will then be escorted to our upper gym where they can speak to resource providers in our area, and can also turn in unused medication. We will have breakout sessions lasting fifteen minutes each featuring Beth Hurney from the Prevention Network, Dr. Dr. Ross Sullivan from Upstate University Hospital, as well as a person who is in recovery after being a drug addict. After their breakout sessions, they will answer questions. It will be a very worthwhile evening.

    Saturday, in addition to the hockey game (6:30 p.m.), and girls Section III Championship game (12:00 p.m.), we will be hosting the District Culture Fair. This event is always very well attended and features all of the cultures that our community has to offer. The event takes place from noon to 3:00 p.m., and I hope to see you there!

    Thanks for reading.  That was a lot of information; but isn't it great to be a Wildcat?

    Thanks and enjoy the week-

    Chris


    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 syracuse.com.

    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 / Syracuse.com / 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 Syracuse.com 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!

    Chris
    #wildcatpride