The past two weeks have been a flurry of activity. This is the week that I purposely try to stay out of buildings (especially elementary) because I have a tendency to get students all riled up and then leave. Students are already riled up, and if I want the continued support of our staff I probably shouldn't add to the excitement!
I won't be sitting around though. I am trying to deal with all of the negative news out of Albany. At last count they have taken about $1,310,000 from our school in promised aid this year, and we could be looking at upwards of $2,000,000 in reduced aid for next year if everything that has been legislatively proposed holds true. This will obviously mean more belt tightening for us when we already clicked our belt a few rungs tighter last year. We will make it happen but it is going to be painful and there is no way around it unless some miracle happens and more money is released to schools next year. I am not holding my breath.
I am also working on regulations for a Board policy regarding recognizing distinguished individuals. At the heart of the policy is whether or not facilities or fields will be named after anyone. This has presented challenges because it is one of the few issues that comes up in a career where everyone is not on the same page, and may not be after the policy is finalized and approved. My job is to write some language to help me manage the policy that the Board enacts. This will be tricky because what ever I write, as comprehensive as it might be, will probably not erase some of the feelings around the base policy. That is why I get paid the "big bucks" I guess.
I want to give thanks to our staff and students. They have given their time, money, and talents to help those who are less fortunate through this holiday season. More importantly they understand that poverty and need don't go away after the holidays and many of the programs that they have started, or are currently working with, will continue on through the rest of the school year. This will certainly come as good news to those who have benefited from their generosity.
The positives in this District still massively outweigh the challenges and many of our neighbors would love to trade challenges any day. Part of our growth and success is being hyper-critical of our own operation so don't take anything that I say as negative. Look at it as an honest reflection of what I think needs to get better or an honest look at the facts surrounding a challenge.
I am looking forward to the holidays, but I am also looking forward to facing the rest of the school year. There are some major challenges that need to be conquered!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The past two weeks have been a flurry of activity. This is the week that I purposely try to stay out of buildings (especially elementary) because I have a tendency to get students all riled up and then leave. Students are already riled up, and if I want the continued support of our staff I probably shouldn't add to the excitement!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Also, please take this opportunity to remind your high school child (if you have one) of the importance of using crosswalks when crossing West Genesee Street. We stress the importance of this each day to our students and also often have adults outside after-school, but kids are kids. Helping to reinforce from home always helps.
If I receive additional information I will post back to the blog and update everyone.
Probably the highlight of the day was being asked for my autograph by a 5th grade student. I told the student that I wasn't important enough for an autograph but sign a piece of paper I did! Signing autographs is one of the many fun things that you get to do as a Superintendent, so start your classes today....
A brief review of our Strategic Plan indicates that we are making excellent progress towards our goals. We have several different initiatives K-12 on the table to keep making our District functioning at a high level. One thing that I have mentioned to staff is that through the Strategic Planning process this Winter we will probably have to take another year to nurture our new programs instead of adding more. This doesn't mean that we let our guard down or lessen the vigor. It actually means that we will get more engrossed in our programs such as reading, spelling, CTE, at-risk, diversity, special education, technology, and all of the other new initiatives that began a year and a half ago.
Speaking of technology, we are completing our Promethean Board installation project and hope to be done by the Christmas holiday. This will give us time to re-train and begin a new training cycle for teachers looking to go to the next level. If you haven't asked your children about this new technology, please do. You will be pleasantly surprised to hear what they have been doing. I call it, "learning without even knowing that they are learning". Works for me.
Please take a moment to visit the following link: http://www.westgenesee.org/ for information about the Winter Special Olympics. It is rare that I help advertise, but the Special Olympics have given thousands of children with special needs the opportunity to express themselves through sports. The Winter Special Olympics are being held in Syracuse for the next two years, and they are looking for 500 volunteers. If you are able to help that would be great. I will certainly be there.
Busy rest of the week but will get something out on Friday as we head into the middle of December. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
December is full of concerts, sports, holiday celebration, and stresses. I caught myself last night letting it all go by without enjoying the moments (except for the stress of course!). This can really be a cool time of the year if you let it.
For young parents this is a great time of the year to start traditions that will carry on. Maybe lights on the lake or a football game in the snow (if it ever does). For parents of teenagers (like me) refocusing on what is important which is time with the kids while we still have them around the house. For more seasoned parents, they are preparing to spoil grandchildren or preparing to host sons and daughters home from school (with five or six of their closest friends most of the time!). Whatever it is that you will be doing...do it. Take the time. Enjoy our school events and your kids but also enjoy two seconds to yourself and keep focusing on the bigger picture!
Off to a Spelling Bee and then to observe a student teacher, which is a very enjoyable part of my job for sure! I will be back to post some operational updates later this week.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Later today we will have a Blue Ribbon School celebration for Split Rock (a larger celebration for the community Will be in the Spring) and we will raise the Blue Ribbon Flag for the first time. Thanks to Bonnie Russell we have figured out how to post pictures so expect some pictures of the event later today to be here and on our main website.
As I mentioned at the top of this post I am shutting down Twitter and my blog until next week so I can try to enjoy some time with my family. I hope that you are able to do the same.
Please accept my best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Please do not forget to thank those who are in our armed services and will not be able to enjoy time with their family and friends.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
We were greeted (in real-time) by a wonderful young lady who described what Alaska was like, and how her sled dog organization could teach children about science, math, and health. She then switched to an outdoor camera where our whole group (audience included) met an Alaskan Huskie named "Creamer" and his musher.
His musher was very friendly and talked to us about his dog and about how the dogs are cared for, etc... At the end of our demonstration, he placed the dog back into his pen and asked us to say goodbye to the dogs by howling and barking. I could feel the tension in the crowd because adults "aren't supposed to have fun", but howl and bark we did and to our amazement the dogs on the other end heard us and stood up and began howling themselves!
I am very thankful that we have a video-conferencing unit in each building and the learning and enrichment opportunities are endless. Thanks to Bill Roberge, our Director of Technology, for arranging everything for us on our end.
Before the Board meeting the Board was given a "tour" and a hands on demonstration of our Promethean Boards as well. The Board got to use the "boards" and Laura Cantone and Jen McArthur (East Hill Elementary School) created some wonderful flip-charts for them to use. They also filmed their students who taught the Board members how to use each of the major items on the toolbar for the Promethean Boards. It was great to see people being actively engaged in a Board setting just as I see students engaged every day in classrooms. Nicely done!
Prior to all of this good news, I attended probably the most depressing meeting that I have EVER attended in my entire life. The meeting centered around the State budget and the impact any changes to the budget will have on our students and programs. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are okay for this year because we planned for a mid-year cut in funding from the State but no one knows what is going to happen moving forward. I was very frustrated because it is difficult to create budget scenarios moving forward until the State makes the first move. We have the brain power and desire in our District to make things work even if the outlook is bleak, we just need our top governing body to make some decisions so we can move forward.
Tonight is going to be nice. First is my youngest son's modified basketball game followed by C.O.D.E. graduation at Stonehedge Elementary School followed by my oldest son's concert at the high school. Life is a blur right now.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
We continue to work through our at-risk and technology initiatives. The next phase of Promethean Board installations is about to begin, and as soon as we are in receipt of replacement servers, memory, and computers, we will finish our technology initiative for the year. Also, our efforts in technology will be featured in March when BOCES hosts a series called TALKS at the high school. People from all over the county will attend, and they will get to see what we are offering our students.
Our at-risk program is beginning to take a strong hold in each building, and you would wonder at this point what we ever did without the extra assistance we have been able to provide students. As we are now able to make some additional interventions with students, in many cases we have helped to prevent bad situations from becoming worse. In some cases we have been able to help provide some students with food and shelter. Our requests for free/reduced lunch are on the rise as well. Without the interventions we have been using, many of those students who we have been able to serve would go through the day hungry, or forced to make poor choices without appropriate guidance.
We are rolling out our credit recovery program at the high school as well, and I will report when our first student has completed a course through our NovaNet program.
A dance at Camillus Middle School and the musical Willy Wonka at West Genesee Middle School will kick-off what will hopefully be a nice weekend. Thanks again for your support and have a great weekend.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Suffice it to say, that these statements could not be any farther from the truth. If anything, the road for my kids has been harder to travel because they are under a constant microscope and are sometimes used as vessels by adults to get messages to me. Unfair? Life is unfair. No biggie, but I do have some street smart boys (hopefully book smarts boys, too!). Last year was incredibly difficult for my wife, children, and I to fit into a much larger and much more competitive school community. This year has been somewhat easier for my wife and children, I think because they have had a year to establish friendships and know the new routines of being in a much larger place.
Two events last week really reminded me how stressful it can be to be a parent. First, was basketball try-outs for both of my boys. Our school is incredibly competitive, and I can tell you that we spent two very stressful evenings waiting to see if we were going to have boys playing on our own school teams or if they would be signing up for some of the other offerings in the community. They were fortunate enough to make the school teams. The lesson learned by both my boys was that hard work, practice, and skill can pay off. The lesson learned by us as parents, was that we need to prepare our children to recover from situations where their best may not be good enough someday because inevitably it will happen. The third lesson that I learned is that maybe I should get some training as a sports psychologist for both parents and students :>)
The second stressor was trying to get the boys registered for the H1N1 vaccine. As Superintendent I have had all of the information, all of the notifications, and all of the web site addresses necessary regarding H1N1. Like you, though, I was at my computer at 9:00AM trying to get the most important website link; the one to register my kids for the H1N1 vaccine on December 2! I was able to connect to the site around 9:03AM and even registered one child for a 4:00PM slot. Easy I thought. Then I saw that there were 520 slots available for the 4:00PM time slot. No problem I thought. I would just click BACK on my browser and register my other son and be on my way. Click, click, click....nothing... I started to feel very panicky. I have a Board Meeting at 7:00PM on the December 2 and I am sure that I will be helping the county workers that evening as well, so I really needed the 4:00PM slot. I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, I was able to register my other son. What was 520 slots a few minutes before was now down to 320. Click. Registered. 4:00PM. I put myself into the shoes of a line worker or someone who could not get to a computer until after work and just thought to myself that parenting is much more difficult than my job will ever be.
I apologize that this post is a little longer than normal, but I thought it would be nice for you to read that we are all in this parenting thing together.
Enjoy your week and I will post soon.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Please be checking the Neighbor's West next week for some great photography awards that some of our students received, as well as an announcement for a screening of a Veterans Remembrance that Wendy Cross (high school photography teacher) and some of her students from 2006-2009 put together. It is being shown at the Palace Theater on Veterans Day. Great work.
We have been told that we will be releasing a letter to parents regarding H1N1 vaccination clinics for our school age children. The best information that I have is that we will be one of the host sites (at the high school) and that the clinic will take place during one evening in the first part of December. I know that there will be a link on our web site to register, and that there will also be a phone number to call to register. The clinic will only be for school aged children who attend a school in our District. This whole operation is being run by the county and funded by the Federal Government, so I apologize for not having any additional information. As soon as I know all of the details, I will immediately pass them along.
Lastly, I am sad to report that the Pythagorean Theorem, yes, a2 + b2 = c2, will now be given to all students for their math assessments beginning in 7th grade :( In a recent poll of my friends and colleagues, most remember having to remember that! The dawn of a new era I suppose. Next thing you know the basic Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip recipe will be inlaid on all kitchen counter tops sold in the U.S.!
Be safe, be happy, and have a great Halloween weekend.
Monday, October 26, 2009
While I was out on Friday, the county health department announced that West Genesee School District will be holding a county run H1N1 vaccination clinic for children at some point during the latter part of November, in the evening. The county had released actual dates but are concerned about supply so they have told us they will have firm dates later in the week. As soon as I have more details, I will pass them along.
Last week I spent a lot of time listening to the budget blues. If you study school and state budgets nationwide, you will discover that band-aid fixes to budgets have not been working. States that do not use property tax to fund schools ran out of money about two years ago, and the schools in those states were not far behind. In California, all extracurricular activities were removed and no textbooks were purchased for this year, class sizes are near 60 in many schools, and many students do not speak English and there are no classes for them to help them learn.
Could New York State end up in the same mess? Probably not. Unfortunately, property tax is a component of the school balance sheet along with state aid. My best guess is that the state will make significant cuts to state aid to schools, and then will cap the amount that we can raise property taxes to 4% for a series of years.
The bottom line is that whatever happens the next few years will be tricky at best, and could be devastating to what we know as public school education, at worst. I was once told that, “Life is tough, wear a helmet.” We will prevail and our children will get the best of what we have to offer!
This week will be full of building visits, policy review, budget calendar development, meetings, and whatever else comes my way. Enjoy your week as well.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I went back to my office and sweated out the Governor's address where he proposed $5 Billion in cuts that in his mind would begin as soon as possible and carry into next year. I took a deep breath and then called our Assistant Superintendent for Management Services, Paul Pelton. Paul and I worked with staff last year to create a budget plan that took into consideration a possible cut in funding this year, and as you know, we also had to make some difficult adjustments in order to align with the times. Our Board was very supportive of our plans, and we were very appreciative of their support as well as the support that we received from our own staff and the community.
Mr. Pelton and I communicated for a few hours before we learned about the actual cuts that were proposed for West Genesee. Finally, we learned that the cuts would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 Million. Mr. Pelton did some number crunching and determined that if we stay the course on our budget plan we will weather this initial storm. Our planning is paying off.
This is an election year and I am sure that by the time the dust settles our "hit" will be less than $1.5 Million but it will still be substantial. We have to be incredibly careful moving forward to make sure that we stay on our budget plan. We have, and we will.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
As you begin to read and hear about a vaccination being available for the H1N1 virus, you should know that the last I heard we will be one of the sites for a clinic. I do not have many details yet, except that it will probably be offered during one evening in the middle of November. The county will be in charge of the clinic, and it will most likely be at the high school. As I learn more information I will let you know.
You might also be interested to know that our average daily attendance has been 95% or better throughout this H1N1 season. As I have looked at building attendance, there are certainly more cases of flu than last year, however, there are fewer cases of other illnesses and things seem to be balancing out.
Schools in the south are still closing because of the H1N1 virus but reports indicate that attendance is the same once the schools re-open. This has led doctors to believe that closing schools because of H1N1 has no benefit. Washing hands and staying home when sick are recommended to prevent catching or spreading the virus.
Finally, this week represents our homecoming week. Regardless of records, our students take pride in what they do and so do their coaches (and their boss J). If you can attend one of our homecoming games (you can find the schedule on our web site), the students would really appreciate it. Last year I spoke to an elderly gentleman who attended a homecoming game because one of our players had a part-time job at a local convenience store and he wanted to support her. It made her day when she saw him in the stands. It is all about connections, communication, and support.
Friday, September 25, 2009
For starters, all of the Open Houses were very successful as they always are. As I walked about a quarter of a mile to get to the CMS Open House, I had time to reflect. The fact that I had to walk such a distance is living proof that we have tremendous parent support. This is one of the key ingredients to the success of any school. I also scored some great Applebee's discount cards in the parking lot of the high school I am sure because we took up all of their spaces for the High School Open House. I mention this with a sense of humor and a tone of thanks, because if the local businesses wanted to be difficult to us during our evening events by not allowing us to park in their lots, many of us would be shuttling in from pretty far away.
Speaking of parking near the high school, it is really a night and day topic. The local businesses allow us to use their lots for evening events, but they do frown upon students parking in their lots during the day. I think this goes back to before I was born, but we are trying our best to make some new in-roads (no pun intended) for some additional daytime parking which is well within their rights if they do not want to support that. I would categorize student parking as a work-in-progress that is more out of my control than people might think. We were able to create about 60 more spots on campus, however that may not be enough if future class sizes are larger than expected. There is always the bus.
As you also know, there were changes made to the enrichment program formerly known as Apple Corps. In October, there will be several project-based experiences rolling out for all of our elementary students that will include working with our Promethean Boards, participating in a "Green Club", participating in Civil War re-enactment exercises as part of social studies units, participating in Distance Learning field trips as well as some other experiences that are being coordinated at this time. As I watch students learn how to research lessons and enhancements for our Promethean Boards, it is exciting to know that we are enhancing their learning experiences with their insistence. Good stuff!
Probably enough for now. Please don't forget the Race for Respect this Sunday and also don't forget that the new diversity shirts are now available in the high school assistant principal's office for $5. There are a ton of different colors and sizes to choose from.
Have a nice weekend-Chris
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Split Rock Elementary School, headed by Principal Theresa Williams, accomplished this task under her building leadership which helped to place the school in the top one-half of one percent of all schools in the United States.
Theresa and a teacher will head to Washington D.C. in November to receive the official award. They will also bring back the Blue Ribbon flag that will be flown each day at Split Rock Elementary School so that we will always remember how their efforts have made us one of the best school districts in the nation. Congratulations!
Monday, September 14, 2009
It is with this preface that I give you some random thoughts from last week. First, it was a great first week. I have had nine school openings as Superintendent and this year was by far the smoothest. One would think that each school year should be easier the more years someone has under their belt, but the field of education is different than others in that respect. Each year presents itself with different challenges that need to be navigated by everyone involved and this year was no different. It takes a team to make things successful here, and I would like to thank the students, parents, faculty, and staff for coming together and helping us to get our school year off on the right foot.
I am particularly excited for this year because along with maintaining the outstanding academic achievement we have grown to expect, we are also going to focus in a couple of areas that have needed some additional attention. First, is in the area of Special Education. Last year we made huge strides in identifying what services we offer our children with disabilities and how those services are delivered. We also began a strong partnership with parents who formed a Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) which will open a line of communication with all regarding students with disabilities.
This year I plan on visiting and observing all of our out of District placements, as well as schools who have begun initiatives to provide “fully” inclusive special education programs. The goal by the end of the year will be to understand if we are providing the least restrictive environment for our children and if not what programming changes would need to be made to accomplish the task. My guess is that what I am hearing and what I will see will be different, so I will hold judgment of other programs until I have a chance to see everything with my own two eyes.
Second, we will be taking a closer look at how to help students who are at-risk of not completing school. At-risk, by my definition, is a child who has had significant changes in their grades, attendance, or behavior. These changes usually mean that something either at home, school, or work is causing them stress. This stress can turn into grade, attendance, and behavior issues that when left unchecked can cause a child to give up. This is unacceptable, and you would be surprised how many children at one point or another are “at-risk”; even in our community.
The fix to this challenge is to provide more counseling support K-12, and also to provide ways for children to earn course credit outside of the traditional classroom setting. The question to ask yourself is to imagine how you would feel if you finished your ninth grade year knowing that you do not have enough credits to graduate High School even if you packed your schedule the next three years and passed everything. You would feel stress. Some keep that stress inside. Others fight, or do drugs, or stop attending school, or become class clowns and take time away from those who are not in the same predicament.
Through the Federal Stimulus Funding we are adding counseling support at the K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 levels and are also launching a credit accrual program called NovaNet so that students can try to get caught up while being counseled back to the right path to success.
To me and especially in our community where we are afforded the resources that are necessary, completing school is an expectation that should be available to all. My challenge is to renew a sense of wonder and dreaming. Ask your children, no matter how old, what they want to do when they grow up. Get them thinking beyond graduating. Get them thinking at as young an age as possible about how they will some day impact all of us by displaying their talents and skills to the world.
Have a great week and I promise a shorter post soon!
Friday, September 4, 2009
One of the things that I find remarkable each year is how prepared each building is for the start of school. Summer school and summer recreation make it difficult for our custodial and maintenance staff to get into buildings to have them ready, but they find a way somehow to bring things together for the start of school and for that I am very thankful.
You might have heard that President Obama is delivering a live back-to-school message to students on Tuesday, September 8 at 12:00PM via the Internet. We carefully evaluated our internal Internet capacities, as well as the capacity of our Internet provider, to see if it is realistic to flawlessly deliver President Obama’s message to each student on our first day of school. We are not confident that we can broadcast the event live without a significant chance of error or failure. Therefore, we have instructed our staff to download the address from our internal servers beginning Wednesday, September 9. Our teachers will then determine if and when the material presented by President Obama best fits into their scheduled lessons.
Speaking of live Internet broadcasts, we now have the ability to push material out to the Internet through a partnership with Live Sports Nation. We intend to broadcast sporting events, concerts, and some awards ceremonies live over the Internet beginning with the first football game of the year as our Wildcats take on Baldwinsville in Baldwinsville at 6:30PM Friday, September 4. You can find the broadcast on http://www.livesportsvideo.com/.
Please enjoy the long weekend, and the next time I post the schools will be full of students once again and we will be on our way to another great school year.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This summer was pretty special. For starters, we did not have to move into a new house. Second, we actually got to enjoy a lot of activities in and around Syracuse, and I had a chance to get my family acclimated to the area. Third, I got the opportunity to sit in and play with a band, play on a softball team, and watch my sister skate on her Roller Derby team. Fourth, I had the opportunity to teach a graduate course at LeMoyne College. Fifth, of course, would be that I get to enjoy the State Fair with my family.
No, I don't get summers off. I just like to keep busy. I think it is important for everyone to have things to do that do not involve work. It is okay to leave the office every now and then and do something with your family or for yourself. It will all be there when you get back!
Speaking of work, we spent a lot of time this summer making sure that all of our budget adjustments were in place for the start of the school year. We were fortunate that our planning actually worked in our favor and a few of the items that had been slated to be cut were actually able to be restored. Most notably, the hours for our Early Literacy Teaching Assistants, field trips, and some limited equipment were returned to the budget.
Patty Davern is putting together a very nice program and continuum for enrichment for all of our students and our distance learning equipment is almost here. The interactive boards that we installed this summer in classrooms are already being used by teachers arriving early, and I am looking forward to seeing how they are used in classrooms with our children.
We are also going to be able to provide better services to a segment of our student population that has not been reached adequately in the past, thanks in part to the federal stimulus package. Federal monies can only be used for new programming or to avoid layoffs, so we are going to use a portion of our allocation to begin a new program for students who are at-risk. My definition of students who are at-risk is: those who have had sudden changes in attendance, behavior, and grades. I think in our neighborhoods, churches, and schools we can identify those children who are at-risk. These children, when left unchecked, get into the habit of making poor choices which can lead to drug use, pregnancy, truancy, fighting, bullying, and dropping out of school. The time spent trying to react to the actions of at-risk students is a waste of time in my opinion and that time is taken away from students who are not at-risk. Everyone loses.
Our plan is to provide a K-12 integrated system involving guidance, programming, and counseling so that all children receive opportunities to advance, complete, and be enriched by their school experiences. To do this, we are expanding our high school pro-school program, we are exploring credit recovery and accrual options via technology, and we are looking at providing better at-risk counseling K-12. I think you will see immediate improvements even if you do not have a child who is considered to be at-risk. I expect the number of discipline referrals to drop, time on task in classrooms to increase, and student morale to improve as all students recognize that they have a chance to be successful.
We are also re-evaluating our Special Education programs as well as our guidance structure. We need to make sure that we have top to bottom accountability in both areas so that we can more efficiently transfer children from elementary, to middle school, to high school. I hope to have these structures changed by mid-Fall and will make sure that our new organizational charts and service charts are made available to you on our website.
Thanks to our maintenance and custodial workers. We take their work for granted, but you would recognize them if one thing was out of place, which never happens.
All for now. I will be posting at least once a week from now on as we get ready for school. Make sure to sign up for a Twitter account (http://www.twitter.com/cbrownwgcsd). You will get posts more regularly so that you can always be in the loop. I will also use Twitter to announce snow days and delays before I contact the media.
See you soon.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
As a result, we may be adjusting some programming and philosophies to better accommodate children who need something beyond the traditional instructional methods. Stay tuned to future Board meetings and blog updates as we begin this exciting new chapter.
On another exciting front, we are beginning to partner with a company called LiveSportsVideo.com. This partnership will allow us to broadcast our athletic, fine arts, and award assemblies live on the Internet. As a neat twist, we are going to partner with a local university (details and official announcement forthcoming) and begin to offer broadcasting to students who want to become commentators for our live broadcasts. How cool is that?
Operationally, we are still trying to find ways to make traffic flow and parking at the high school as efficient as possible. We have found a way to possibly add about 50 parking spots which should help, and we have also changed the way that our buses line up and that should provide for a better flow as well. The main problem is space and changing that at this point is out of our hands. I do think that people will be happier with the whole setup when school starts.
We are also completing installation of our interactive boards. By the second half of the school year, every classroom will have the capability to deliver instruction with the newest techniques available. I think the students will be excited, and I am looking forward to visiting the classrooms.
Personally, things are going pretty well. Aside from work, I have been able to find some time to play with my kids, enjoy time with my wife, and start my diet plan. I will say that eating well and trying to lose weight makes me cranky, but I should be in tip-top shape for the Race for Respect!
I will be taking a short break from posting and will begin weekly posts again by mid-August. In the meantime, you should consider creating an account on twitter.com and following me at cbrownwgcsd. Twitter allows me to give you frequent updates about happenings in our school and elsewhere. I also intend to use Twitter to communicate snow days and closings in conjunction with the media being contacted, so if you are signed up you will know right after my own kids do!
Take care and talk to you soon.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
What I didn’t recognize was that there were millions of other 18 year olds out there with the same set of goals. I also didn’t realize how protected I had been by my parents, my teachers, my coaches, and to some degree my friends. As an adult I realize that is the point of high school; to prepare you for “life without a net”, except the net is still there. Reality hit soon enough. Success for me changed into being able to pay the rent on time and getting my clunker to make it to my college job.
There will be times when you will forget the values and training instilled upon you by your parents, relatives, coaches, directors, teachers, and school staff such as integrity, character, honesty, compassion, drive, patience, and how to find the area of a circle. You will be focused on what will feel like survival at the time. That is okay. Your skills will come forward and you will grow to appreciate your days of “survival” as they become visible in your rear view mirror. Please remember to heed the warning “Objects may be closer than they appear.”
So what is my advice to you, 19 years and 51 weeks after I took the plunge mere feet from where we sit today? Remember to love your family. They care more deeply for you than you will probably ever know. Remember to thank the people who got you to where you are today, tomorrow and ten years from now. Those two words are powerful and will cause your mentors to radiate with happiness. Do not put a limit, definition, or number on success. Let success evolve into everything surrounding your life, throughout your life. Lastly, contribute; give back. I am convinced that there is enough character, brain power, and skill in this room to cure cancer, lead the free world, explore other planets, or invent the next generation ShamWow. For the short term, how about helping your parents get the lawn mowed, trash taken out, and rooms cleaned as they prepare for your graduation parties.
Congratulations class of 2009, where-ever life takes you, you will always be Wildcats.
In July I started in this District very proud that I was given the opportunity to return to the neighborhood where I grew up and to be given the reins on the best school District in the area. I spent July and August learning names, structures, policies, and attended my first Superintendent’s retreat.
By the first day of school I felt that we were in very good shape to have a great start to the school year. Through my studies of the District and community I formulated the opinion that I would like to see cafeterias at East Hill and Onondaga Road Schools, as well as full-day Kindergarten at all of our elementary schools. I also felt that we should continue to look at Special Education and transportation to try to find ways to offer more opportunities to students and with transportation in particular, in a more efficient manner.
It did not take long into the school year to learn that the economy was beginning to head in a bad direction. I knew that I could forget about full-day Kindergarten and expanded cafeterias. We did make huge strides in Special Education and transportation however, and I felt good about our progress in each area.
As I began to learn about the District, I realized that the keys to our success really evolve around hiring incredibly well, having solid parent support, and raising the bar for success on each one of us every day. By November I recognized that the sky is going to be the limit. We have the staff, students, and parents to be an absolute powerhouse. This will allow us to expose children to a multitude of opportunities both during school as well as when they head off to college, the military, or the workforce.
The bad economic news dropped right before Christmas. We addressed the problem head on with the help and cooperation of our staff and community members and really had a master plan for the budget before Christmas Day. After the holidays we began planning for our budget presentations for the next year. I felt that our budget plan was fair and still allowed us to offer opportunities to students. It is difficult to keep everyone happy when reducing staff especially when we are the largest employer, but people seemed to rally around the cause and contribute in any way that they could.
While all of this was happening we were nominated as a Blue Ribbon School, we won a Marching Band State Championship and many of our teams were league, section and on their way to competing for State championships.
By the Spring we had passed a budget, recognized our successes, identified our growth areas, and began to plan for next year.
Then came graduation. I am really proud of the students. Their behavior through the end of school and into graduation was superior. This is really a testimony, because the senior class this year had to face some rules that previous classes did not. While they did not really want to follow the new rules and felt as if they were paying a price for past classes’ mistakes, they became role models for future classes.
Graduation was special and I am glad to have been a part of it. I get three more times to “practice” before my first son walks across the stage.
What comes next? Reflection, planning, and execution. We will shine in the face of economic adversity next year thanks to a large group of people who say “We are West Genesee” each and every day.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Since my last post in May, I have been able to attend and participate in many different events. Children's Day was held at Split Rock Elementary School and highlighted the legislation that was written and pushed by Tina Norton, a long time school teacher. She worked with her classes and elected officials for over 10 years to finally have legislation pass to establish a Children's Day. She and many elected officials spent a couple of hours at Split Rock talking about the creation of the day and celebrating education and children. It was a great time.
It was then on to the High School Academic Awards. From my spot on the auditorium stage I was able to look out at almost 180 seniors who received awards and accolades. I was incredibly impressed with the entire event. I am also very proud of the hard work of our students and staff, along with the generosity of the community. Well done.
Then there is of course, "The Mayor", Andrew Bowman, who received the New York State Excelsior Award for Excellence. This award was given to Andrew by Governor David Patterson after being selected by Assemblyman William Barclay because Andrew consistently demonstrates success despite his disabilities. I can personally tell you that my heart feels warm each time I get a chance to talk to Andrew, and he takes time out to speak to me whenever I am at the West Genesee Middle School. Great job Andrew!
Next came the good news regarding our Grades 3-8 Mathematics Assessments results. We achieved our highest scores to date. We are not completely satisfied with these results, however, because we feel that the state lowered the bar on passing standards and we would prefer to compete against the highest scale possible. I can tell you that when we combine the Mathematics scores with the equally high English Language Arts scores, we are consistently successful. I will take that any day.
Sports are winding down as well but not without a fight. Boys and Girls Lacrosse teams as well as Outdoor Track are moving into state-wide competition and play after winning Sectional Titles. I am looking forward to their upcoming games and events and I would love to have a Marching Band title and a couple of State Championships during my first year!
Next was Kaleidoscope. Awesome. Only way to describe it. It was a very proud moment to be part of something that special. It is rare that I am moved to tears, but the strength of Jess Pardee's voice and her range made the packed Civic Center emotional. My congratulations to all of the participants and especially to Bill Davern, our Fine Arts Director, and all of his staff on such a successful event.
I have also really enjoyed reading all of the yearbooks from each building. They are all student centered and packed with photos and momentos. People can now watch my hairline receed from year to year!
Lastly, we finally experienced our first case of Swine Flu. In an organization of over 6,000 (larger than some cities) we were bound to have someone contract the illness. Good old fashioned hand washing and staying out of school when sick seem to be the best tools to combat this illness.
I will probably post one additional message before the summer vacation as I am experimenting with Twitter and will let you know how to connect to that if I can find a way to make my "Tweets" meaningful to you.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Last week we held a simulated DWI crash at the high school. I had done this type of exercise in my previous District about every two years and involved the juniors and seniors. I would like to continue that practice here. Having the Fire Department, Police, and Ambulance, all of whom are our parents and volunteers in the community working with our children about the dangers of drinking and driving is a very positive experience and one the students will not forget. I would like to personally thank all of those who helped to coordinate the exercise last Friday. (Click here to access pictures of the event from our District web site.)
The past few weeks have been a blur, but I can share with you that I have had a wonderful time attending honors’ dinners and breakfasts’, various concerts, games with national implications on the line (also win number 700 for our Boys Lacrosse Coach and win number 200 for our Girls Lacrosse Coach), the Senior Ball, and today the Special Olympics. I wish I could do a video blog of all of the wonderful things I get to see every day.
With the budget behind us, we now prepare for the end of the school year. There will be more awards, more games, and hopefully more warm weather. It is my hope that as we close out this school year and begin another, that we do so happy with what has happened since September. On paper we can celebrate our New York State School Report card, but in real life we should celebrate each of the days we have had together as successes, and I am looking forward to many more.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Speaking of next week, please do not be alarmed next Friday morning if you are passing the high school and see emergency vehicles. We are working with local emergency officials to simulate a car crash to demonstrate to students the importance of making good decisions.
At this point we are celebrating our success on the New York State Assessments, wrapping up budget presentations, attending awards ceremonies and concerts, and planning for the end of this year and next year. While these are busy times, they are memorable times as well as we watch our children grow another year.
Finally, it is officially okay to not be alarmed by the "Swine Flu" or H1N1 as it is technically called. We received correspondence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and they are NOT recommending the closing of schools for confirmed cases of this type of flu. They still and always do recommend staying home if ill and washing hands as much as possible.
Those are the updates for now. Thanks and see you soon.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The Board has allowed us to try to obtain some grant money to comprehensively outfit all buildings with security cameras. This has been in the works since September and became a focus area during the Strategic Planning process in January. You have my personal word that these cameras will not be used to create a police state; they will be used to help deter and provide us with successful investigations when students choose to make poor choices. We will continue to breed and foster an environment of respect and responsibility, but we are also going to take advantage of what is available to make our schools as safe as possible.
You might have also heard that we have decided to slightly change the times of the school day. This is being done to help deliver students to our schools in a more efficient and timely manner. This is also being done to maximize student time on tasks and to keep room for extracurricular activities, sports, jobs, babysitting, etc… I think once these new times below are in practice, that the 5 or 10 minutes difference from what we are currently doing will feel like no changes were made at all. In many cases the bus run times will not change. Stay tuned for letters from your child’s principal concerning the new times and new bus runs if applicable.
School Start and End Times
High School-(now) 7:30AM-2:26PM; (next year) 7:20AM-2:16PM
WGMS-(now) 8:00AM-3:00PM; (next year) 7:50AM-2:50PM
CMS-(now) 8:00AM-3:00PM; (next year) 7:50AM-2:50PM
East Hill-(now) 9:00AM-3:20PM; (next year) 9:00AM-3:20PM
Onondaga Road-(now) 9:00AM-3:20PM; (next year) 9:00AM-3:20PM
Split Rock-(now) 8:45AM-3:00PM; (next year) 9:00AM-3:20PM
Stonehedge-(now) 9:00AM-3:20PM; (next year) 9:00AM-3:20PM
Finally, we were able to lower the tax rate predictions from 2.15% to 1.4%. The updated presentation is on this web site, and the change was made due to some additional BOCES aid that we now know that we will be able to receive. No other changes were made to the budget as we head toward the May 19th vote date.
We are continuing to move in a very positive direction, and I am looking forward to our continued success.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
We believe that the global economic crisis will last two to three years minimum so the correct approach is to see what additional money actually arrives and then "feather" that money out to avoid having to make deeper cuts than we had to this year. I also believe that we will be able to restore in some fashion at least field trips, and some equipment, materials, and supplies. For the record, we have reduced our workforce by 11.4 positions but were able to retain our teaching staff due to other retirements, resignations, and terminations.
It has been fun watching classes launch rockets, perform plays and concerts, and prepare for Open Houses. I am really looking forward to the Diversity Fair being held this Saturday at the high school as well as being able to check out a few lacrosse and softball/baseball games while it is still light out!
My next post will be made soon and will include information about some directions that we will be heading into this Summer as we prepare for next school year.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Since my last post we have had another whirlwind of activity. Spring sports are in full swing, it was still light out when I left a concert the other night, and I am seeing award nights on my calendar and that can only mean one thing; a snap of your fingers until the end of the school year.
Thanks to those who attended my first budget presentation. I am always nervous until I say the first word and then it kind of flows from there. A copy of the presentation is on our website at http://www.westgenesee.org/teacherpage.cfm?teacher=1556 and I am also going to have a "movie" of the presentation uploaded as well, as soon as I figure out a way to keep my forehead from shining on camera.
To give you a very brief synopsis, the worst case scenario (and I always work in worst case scenarios) will be a .46% budget increase, a 2.15% Tax Levy, and a 1.7% tax rate. What this means is that if you have a home valued at $100,000 in the Town of Camillus you will pay $24.98 more that you paid in school taxes this year. Again, please view the whole presentation and in about 10 minutes you will know all of the details behind the numbers.
We are also extremely proud of our high school Academic Decathlon students. They placed second in the state behind an established Cazenovia club. Our students also brought home 22 medals! Way to go.
All for now. Enjoy your weekend.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
From there it was off to West Genesee Middle School to be a part of a surprise award "ceremony" for Rick Chapman, one of our science teachers. He was one of 24 teachers in the country to be awarded the opportunity to attend the Advanced Space Camp, an experience backed by Honeywell Corporation. Here is a link to an article about the the opportunity and the event this morning: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/03/west_genesee_middle_school_tea.html
From there it was off to put the finishing touches on the budget. We were able to factor in the affects of the stimulus bill and create a tax levy of 2.15%, a tentative tax rate of 1.7%, and begin to have discussions about how to best incorporate field trips back into the budget for next year. If the Government does what is says it is going to do we should be able to "feather" the stimulus money out over the next two to three years and keep our tax levy low and our offerings and staff intact.
From there is was out to Camillus Middle School to observe a student teacher. I have always offered to observe student teachers because they could be job candidates in the future so it is nice to have an idea of what their skills really are before they leave the district. In the particular lesson I observed I learned that many of our Middle School students are aware of the effects of drugs and alcohol and know to stay away from them. This is also good news.
Lastly, I got to celebrate 25 and 30 year anniversaries with staff at Camillus Middle School. Again this was a great time and I was really happy at all of the support that our honorees received.
All in all I would call today very full and refreshing!
Monday, March 2, 2009
At Split Rock there were many great projects as well and I was glad to see that the erupting volcano is alive and well. It is such as sense of normalcy to see a vinegar and baking soda plaster of Paris volcano in an Elementary gym. There were many quality experiments and it was great to see exploration of some of the "green" technologies that are making their way into our every-day lives.
On Sunday our Varsity Hockey team played Baldwinsville for the Sectional Championship and were able to pull it out in exciting fashion. It still is difficult for me to get over how calm and collected our students are when under stress to perform. I can tell you that the crowd was stressed for them!
March is the time for the Math assessment in grades 3-8 and it is also the time to really put the finishing touches on the budget and prepare to present the information to the public. This is a stressful time for me as well and especially this year because it is the first time I will have an opportunity to relay my personal interpretation of the budget to all of our taxpayers. As soon as the budget presentation is complete it will be located on our school website for your review. I am also hopeful to have a video presentation of the budget on the website as well in case you are not able to attend one of the many presentations.
One thing that will be different in the presentation will be a significant reduction in the number of pictures. Previous presentations contained many pictures of students and staff working within the buildings and I can assure you that nothing has changed in that department. However, in order for us to make our presentations available to the public via the Internet, etc... we have had to shorten the presentation. The presentation you will see will focus on our accomplishments, expenditures, revenues, tax rate and levy information. We are including more student and staff pictures on a regular basis on our website, as well as our new 2009-2010 school calendar to help make up for the lack of pictures in the budget presentation.
Today I get to help honor staff and faculty at the High School who have worked in the District for 25, 30, and 35 years; what an honor!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I have been enjoying the different concerts and games that I have been able to attend. I will be the first one to tell you that I need a tutorial on scoring swimming and track events but I think I have a pretty good understanding of everything else! I also thought that Sweet Charity was an absolute gem. The students did an exceptional job.
My next post will contain information regarding the future of enrichment in the district as well as how the stimulus plan will effect us for next year. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
In closing this gap, we looked to retain the culture that the West Genesee Central School District is recognized for – outstanding academic programs focused on student growth; and enriching, extracurricular offerings that provide for student learn-ing outside of the regular classroom. Through the ideas and efforts of all of our staff, we are able to reduce the $5.2 million gap to $1.2 million with reductions in supplies, equipment, contracted services, and use of reserves. Unfortunately the last $1.2 million will come through reduction in our workforce, in program reduction, and in some cases program elimination.
These reductions are being proposed across all areas of the organization including academics, fine arts, and athletics. In considering these changes, we are trying to make reductions that will have the least impact on the most children. It is important to note that West Genesee has the lowest cost per pupil in the area, so any adjustment is going to have an impact on what we can provide for our students.
We are confident that the results of our efforts will keep the District strong and forward thinking, and we are also hopeful that the budget we put forward will be responsible and have little, if any, additional impact on our taxpayers. We sincerely thank you for your continued support and trust as we head into these difficult times. More information about specific reductions will be available on our web site beginning February 1, 2009, and the budget will be discussed in detail at each of our Board of Education meetings between January and May.