Monday, October 20, 2014

The Other Side of the Coin

Another Great Weekend in Central New York: 
  • The Marching Band climbed into the 90's at Central Square and are ready for the big Dome show next weekend. 
  • Our athletic teams won and lost, but they are all ready for post-season play. 
  • Favorable state rankings came out about the District. 
  • We held some incredibly successful family nights in a couple of our elementary schools as well!
I had the chance to personally experience both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat over the weekend. The thrill of victory came when I beat my wife at air hockey in a best of three series. As these games have become so competitive over the years, it was time to celebrate! 

On the flip side, she bested me at my own sport, golf. While we were getting pumpkins, we played miniature golf and she won by one stroke. I told her I was distracted by the giant pumpkin and orange chickens that were nearby.

Students Teach us How to Overcome Challenges: Last week in my blog (one of my most read blogs for some reason), I wrote about being terrified of heights after a negative experience in the past.  As luck would have it, my wife and I ran into a student at the mall who could not have been happier being suspended very high over Destiny USA Mall at a place called Wonderworks

As we walked under the ropes course, overhead we heard a loud, "Dr. Brown!"  We turned to find a high school neighbor and the mom of a middle school student. I looked up and saw the student high overhead practically running through the pods, platforms, and rope trails, grinning ear to ear. I shouted up to him, and we gave a quick air "fist pump" to each other as he went back to what he was enjoying.  My wife and I left the area energized.

When I met this student years ago he was unable to walk, but had the fire within. He was determined but frustrated the first few years as he worked as hard as he could to participate in everything that the other students did. When I visited his class he would always be excited, no matter how tough his day was. I can remember helping to push his wheel chair at the Special Olympics when he really wanted to run.

Through the years, he had many surgeries (I don't think 19 surgeries is an exaggerated estimate), but he kept his poise. I can remember visiting the building when he could walk and hop a bit on his own and remember the first time he jumped up to give me a hug. He was so happy! As he has gotten older and he has become a teenager, we keep our greetings to a fist bump, and he continues to progress. To see him soaring above the mall, happy and free, reaffirms that there is no telling where life is going to take him.

What I was reminded by him was that determination, perseverance, a positive attitude, grit, and no whining will get you where you want to go, and you might even inspire some people along the way. What a great weekend!

Enjoy the week-


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Capital Project Update

I hope that no one reading this has had to pump out their basement or take a boat to work after all of the rain we have had in the Syracuse area!

Ranked in the Academic Top 10: In this quick update, I would like to thank all of our staff, students, Board of Education, and community members for helping us to be placed in the Academic Top Ten and Administrative Efficiency Top Two, by Buffalo Business First Journal for the Syracuse area. Considering almost all of the schools ahead of us academically are from higher wealth communities, I am very pleased with the fight and competitiveness we have shown and we look forward to moving up the list each year. 

Capital Project Update: Our Capital Project is moving along on time and on budget. As you may remember, our first stage is the technology upgrade portion. 
  • All of the necessary equipment is in-house. 
  • Workers are wiring the buildings to prepare us for the higher Internet bandwidth, Internet phone, upgraded security, and upgraded public address systems and clocks. 
  • Soon we will have a team begin to unpack, inventory, catalog, and program the equipment so that everything can just be plugged in once the necessary wiring is completed. 
We are making a slight change in course regarding the wireless. Instead of waiting for everything to be done in the building, each segment of a  building will be activated as they come online. This will get faster wireless Internet to our students and teachers in a quicker manner. We do not have a complete roll out schedule yet, but there is a plan to have some estimates in the next few weeks.

Enjoy the rest of the week and weekend!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Great Long Weekend

I hope that you had a chance to enjoy the great weather we had over the long weekend. 

West Genesee Girls Tennis Dominates Section III Doubles Tournament: At the Section III girls tennis doubles events held on Monday, it was an all West Genesee final. The Wildcats held both championship slots when Samantha Heyn and Marisa Joyce took home the title. Congratulations girls! For more about the event, check out this article on by clicking here.

Marching Band Wins US Bands Competition: Our Marching Band had a great weekend. They traveled to the US Bands Competition in Virginia Beach, VA and won first place. They also received awards for best visual, color guard, percussion, music, and overall effect. Our band director, Michael Stachnik, received the award for favorite band director. Not sure how much more they could have done. They certainly capitalized on the opportunity they were given to compete!

Christmas Lights and Fire Safety: I did a ton of things over the weekend, but one of the highlights was getting my Christmas lights hung. Why would this be a highlight?  Hanging Christmas lights is terrifying for me. 

When I was a volunteer firefighter years ago, we rolled up to a colonial home that had smoke pouring from the windows. Four of my teammates took a hose and went inside the home to search for occupants and to start to apply water at the source of the fire. Another firefighter and I went to the roof of the garage to cut a hole in the side of the house to provide a vent for the heat and hopefully allow us to save the house. As I completed the cut, the hole that I made blew open and fire, heat, and steam billowed out. I was immediately burned beneath my nomex hood, and I became disoriented and needed to get off the roof in a hurry. With the house being more involved than we originally thought absolute panic set in, but somehow my partner and I made it back to the ladder and down to the ground. 

Every year when I have to go back on the roof to hang lights (leaders can NEVER back down to fear), all I think about is that night so when I get them done, I feel very relieved! If you are a neighbor don’t worry, I won’t turn them on for quite a while.
(As October is Fire Prevention Month, CMS students at left had the opportunity to listen to Jordan Davie from the Camillus Fire Department talk about fire safety during Fire Safety Week.) 

What Students are Talking About: During my building travels I try to get a handle on what students are thinking about, worrying about, and talking about so that I can make sure I am up to speed. Periodically, I try to relay those things to you so you can stay “hip” like me (or so we think)!
  • Elementary students are still into the movie Frozen, and I could not be happier about that.  
  • Middle school students are into a series on the FX channel called American Horror Story.  I was not aware of this series so I had to check it out.  It reminded me of the 1980’s remakes of The Twilight Zone series. Quirky stories with interesting characters and scenes.  
  • Middle school students are also into anything Taylor Swift (kids really like her music or they really don’t and have no problem telling you so).
High School students are into some interesting things right now, and I have enjoyed my recent visits. 
  • They are concerned about Ebola (I think we all are), and ISIS (I think we all are).  
  • They are moving away from Facebook and more into Instagram and Twitter (look up the term sub-tweet and spring that on them at dinner and see your teenager “cred” rise).  
  • They love Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, and more and more of them are into county music (I am starting to warm up to a few country songs). 
Because communication is so important with our children, feel free to use a few of these topics if you are looking to fill up some dead space while driving them to the mall!

This is getting to be book like and that goes against blog rules! I do want to give a Capital Project update as well as some other information, so I will probably send something else out later in the week.

Thanks and let’s have a great week!


Monday, October 6, 2014


Homecoming 2014: I want to thank the dozens of volunteers, staff, and students who made our high school Homecoming special. The pep rally and dance were wonderful. Congratulations to the Homecoming court: Jack Howes, Emily Augello, Brian Van Beveren, Mackenzie Mathewson, Matt McDonald, Katie Lannon, Alex Tripodi, Anna Delaney, Bob Marks, and Leandra Kovalchik.

Our sports teams did well and the Marching Band finished first in their competition. We are fortunate to have such a supportive community, and I am looking forward to next year already!  

Connecting with our Community Members: Last week I had a chance to attend the annual Camillus Rotary luncheon, which celebrates people who help others in our community. This is a very worthwhile event each year, and I am always amazed to be able to be together with so many people who are making a daily impact in our community.

Participating in Government with our Students: Recently I had a chance to teach Participation in Government classes to seniors. We spoke about the link between federal, state, and local government and how those bodies impact students each day. We also talked about what rights students have in school and why we have some of the rules we have. It was a great conversation on that topic. Teaching these classes each year gives me an opportunity to see if students are in the ready line for graduation. They are.

My Last Marathon? Lastly, I had an opportunity to run the Corning Wineglass Marathon yesterday.  I ran a better time than last year, but my legs are so sore that I don’t think I will be walking correctly for some time!  Many thanks to the over 700 volunteers who made it a success, and a very special thanks to West Genesee parent, Mr. Winters, who found me at mile 17 or so. We had never met. I had very severe cramps in the front and back of both legs, and he pushed me along to get me going again. If it weren’t for him there is no way that I would have finished with the time that I had set for a goal. Thanks! No more marathons for me!

Have a wonderful week-


Monday, September 29, 2014


Well, my favorite high school, college, and professional football teams came up short over the weekend, but my sadness was short-lived because of the absolutely perfect weather days we have had! Just unbelievable for Central New York.

Beautiful Day for an Invitational:  I spent Saturday traveling the New York State Thruway to Buffalo to take my youngest on a college visit. Along the way, we saw dozens of buses from just as many districts. Their destination? The McQuaid Cross-Country Invitational. We sent runners as well. My college housemate, Tim Lynch, snapped this great picture from the starting line. A beautiful day for a run.

Tournament of Bands is Entertaining: Back home an extremely successful Tournament of Bands was taking place. Again, a picture perfect day provided a beautiful backdrop to a beyond standing room only crowd. They were not disappointed by the talent displayed by students from nine schools. Our own Marching Band put on quite a demonstration show as well.  We are very fortunate to have such great facilities that can hold such a massive gathering!

Commended Scholars are Announced: Last week I was filled with pride to learn that five of our students were recognized as National Merit Commended Scholars! Steven Mirabito, Christopher Brown (no relation), Claire Thomas, Aaron Jones, and John Buttner will be recognized by our Board President, the high school Principal, and yours truly at our Board meeting on November 5. Congratulations to these students and their parents!

Open Houses are a Success: I would like to thank everyone who attended our open houses across the District. We had nearly 100% attendance from our parents, and the biggest complaint I heard was that we need more parking! I will take that any day.

Spirit Week at the High School: This week is spirit week at the high school. So if you are driving along West Genesee Street and see a superhero or cowboy/girl, do not be alarmed (or beach attire on a cold day for that matter). We are celebrating student spirit, school pride, and homecoming.  We are West Genesee!

Have a great week-


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Great Weekend in Central New York!

What a great weekend in Central New York!  I had a chance to attend an outdoor wedding on Friday night, followed by being able to wear shorts and a tee shirt to the Syracuse football game, followed by a warm and humid run at the Race for Respect on Sunday. Not too shabby for late September!

16th Annual Race for Respect: Speaking of the Race for Respect, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended. Dedicating a part of your day to walk or run at a school function in the spitting rain, humidity, and warmth is very much appreciated.  We are at a crossroads with this event. The race has been run for the past 16 years and was developed as a way to help celebrate what it means to work together in the school community.  Click here to view a brief video of the event.

About five years ago we started the District Culture Fair that takes place in the winter. This event was designed to promote and celebrate our diversity.  The event is not weather dependent, and in recent years we have had up to approximately 2,000 people attend the Culture Fair. While the Race for Respect draws a few hundred.

Neither are designed to make money; they are designed to promote togetherness. We are going to evaluate both events and make some decisions moving forward. Thanks again to all who attended and volunteered!

Open Houses are a Success:  I would also like to thank our parents for their attendance at our Open Houses.  We often have close to 100% attendance at Open Houses, and that is a sure sign that we are all connected and working together.

Open House at the High School last week left me with mixed emotions.  It was the last Open House as a parent and a superintendent, as my youngest is a senior.  It made me think about why we as parents should attend Open House.

As much as it seems like a social hour for us as parents to catch up with our friends and neighbors, it is also an opportunity to:
  • see your child's teachers in action, 
  • see how your child’s personality connects to that of their teachers, 
  • see how the teachers are going to communicate with both our children and us, 
  • what the grading policies are, 
  • how their room is designed and decorated, but 
  • probably the most significant thing you can pick up at Open House is a teacher's desire. 
I have never selected teachers for my children, and while I know who they are because they are my employees, they cannot fake desire.  No one can. I am really happy with our teachers.  I see enthusiasm, creativity, and a general sense of caring for our children and for what it means at West Genesee.

If you are one of the few thinking twice about attending Open Houses, please attend.  I guarantee it will be worth the traffic, late dinner, and your time! Also, you will establish communication with your child’s teachers and principal, and you never know when you will need each other.

Enjoy the week!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Student Privacy

Good morning and welcome to the world where another virus with a scientific name is sweeping across the country and New York State. Yesterday I sent a letter home indicating that a child in our school community had been diagnosed with said virus. I came to learn shortly after the letter went home that a second confirmed case had been detected.

A virus can be picked up in a variety of ways. The most common include coughing, sneezing, or touching a contaminated surface. People cough, sneeze, and touch contaminated surfaces at the grocery store, church, home, school, the mall, sporting events, etc.

When we first sent our letter home, we were questioned by some as to why we would not identify the buildings the children attended or what grade level they were in. You know me as the person who communicates everything that I can. When I wrote the letter, I made sure to have a conversation with our legal counsel who is much more versed in student privacy than I am. They indicated that it would be best to stay away from any identifying information that might help to personally identify a child because they have a right to privacy.

I agree with this approach considering a virus can be picked up virtually anywhere.  We teach our students and staff about hand washing, proper ways to blow noses, sharing food and drink with others, and so on. We are also fortunate that our Director of Buildings and Grounds came from a hospital environment. He and his staff thoroughly clean and sanitize surfaces whether there is a virus going around or not.

This virus will pass through our school community just as others have, and we will remain vigilant with our cleaning and teaching of healthy habits along the way.

I have heard from many parents that "they" have determined that their child has or doesn't have the virus. I would advise against playing doctor. If your child has symptoms that are similar but more pronounced than the common cold, please get them to a doctor so they can be tested.  A positive test does not mean exile.  It means that your doctor can prescribe a treatment plan that will get your youngster back to health, school, and regular activities as soon as possible.

Thanks for your continued support.