Friday, March 26, 2010

Celebrating our Successes and Our Diversity

This week I had the privilege to help induct 141 members into the National Honor Society. This is not something that the students win but rather something that the students are selected for. Academics are part of the equation, but more importantly are service and leadership. I always challenge students to reach out in the community and find ways to lead and serve in a volunteer capacity. When I write college recommendations for students, it is always a pleasure to write them for students who are well rounded and have the "whole package". Congratulations inductees.

This weekend will also be special because it is time for our Second Annual Culture Fair at the high school. If you attend the event on Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., you will see the members of our community celebrating their culture throughout the large gathering areas in the building. We anticipate over 40 different cultures to be represented, and this event is something that we are very proud of and hope to continue into the future.

On Monday we will be celebrating the successes of our athletes by holding what we call the Parade of Champions. We will be honoring athletes from Boys Hockey, Boys Swimming, Indoor Track, Cheerleading, and Boys Golf. More information is available from our home page, and we are excited to be able to honor the achievements of our athletes.

We are still moving forward with our budget. We feel that we have planned accordingly for the economic year that lies ahead. You may read about money being restored by the Assembly or other officials, but I would not get too excited. Their efforts are appreciated, but we should all recognize that there is not enough money available for us to restore anything. Any money that they are able to secure for the schools will prevent us from having to make deeper cuts for next year.

I have been asked by elected officials, students, and community members to weigh in on the "Wastebed 13" issue that could affect approximately 144 parcels in our District. I think by now, from the what seems like hundreds of times that I am on TV or in the paper giving opinions or statements, that you know I will give an opinion when I can. I am collecting information from all parties on the "Wastebed 13" issue, and for what it is worth (because I really don't think my opinion matters much on this issue) the best statement I could make at this time is that if it were ever to be proved that chemicals encapsulated in "Wastebed 13" harm living things or negatively affect property values, I would not be in support of the project. Like many other community issues, I will stay plugged in.

At this point we are beginning to shape the rest of the school year. There is a lot going on and if you blink you will miss something. If you want to stay connected and up-to-date, the best way would be to follow me on Twitter (, this blog, or our monthly newsletter.

See you around.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Budget and Other Updates

I have been off the grid for about a week trying to finish the budget and deal with some things happening around the school. Since I last posted we experienced the tragic loss of a first-grade student, Sarah Peek. She was a wonderful little girl and shared her short life with us which made an impact on us that will be with us forever.

We also experienced some great athletic successes. First, our cheerleaders won a national tournament in Ohio. Second, our hockey team not only who the New York State Championship, they also won the New York State Scholar Athlete Award; a very challenging award to receive (the entire team has to have a grade point average greater than 90%; they had a grade point average of 95+%).

We also recognized several of our students as National Merit Scholar finalists as well, which we were very proud of.

Building the budget has been quite a challenge. I am sure that by now you have seen that our faculty and staff have been incredibly cooperative in trying to help us bridge the budget gap. Because of their efforts in negotiations, we had to lay off 16 people for next year instead of 40-50. This being said, I completely understand that unemployment in our community is nearing 10% and that we need to deliver a tax levy that is manageable in these challenging times.

As a result, we are also looking at cost cutting measures through sharing transportation services, regionalization of transportation, maximizing what state aid is left, and considering other programs.

As we watch situations in other District's unfold, we can count our blessings that we were in a position to get out ahead on the budget, we made our tough choices, and we can now move forward with a reasonably normal rest of the school year.

An item that could be problematic in the 2011-2012 budget revolves around sales tax. The County has proposed to no longer give school District's a percentage of the sales tax revenues that we receive. If this actually happens, our loss will be about $1.2M for the 2011-2012 school year. I was recently misquoted in the news regarding this. I was quoted as saying that we would pass this increase along to taxpayers. This is not true.

If we were to lose $1.2M in sales tax, we are down to a few options; one of them being to pass it through to the taxpayers. The other options, since was have already renegotiated contracts at a lower percentage, increased class size, and cut staff, are to take a look at reducing offerings in athletics, fine arts, extra-curricular activities, and Advanced Placement courses. Again, these decisions will have to be made next year as we look forward to the 2011-2012 budget if we do not receive sales tax revenue as we have in the past. My guess is that the solution will incorporate a combination of everything that I listed above. They will all be tough but necessary decisions.

The entire budget presentation is on our web site from the home page and a video recording of the budget will be available shortly.

Good times!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making the Most of It

I know that we always say that a community is only as strong as its school. However, you cannot really appreciate all that we have until you live through an experience like we did recently with the loss of a student and we watch in awe as hundreds of students, community members, staff, and emergency personnel come together to help a family in need. Sarah Peek touched all of our lives and will be missed. At the service, the pastor mentioned that while she may not be here with us, "the show must go on" and memories of her will always be in our hearts. True. Rest in Peace.

I am in a job that requires the constant switching of mental gears. Along with the sorrow that we are feeling we are also feeling excitement and growth. As I am sure you have read, our teachers have worked closely with the District to find a way to save as many jobs as possible as we move through some tough times. Other District bargaining groups are following in their foot-steps and we are most thankful for their efforts as well. Our budget is coming together. We are still watching our Kindergarten numbers closely, however. Our registrations are a bit lower than planned and this may cause some additional adjustments to staffing.

If you are reading the paper or watching the news you are also probably wondering about what is happening with the County Sales Tax and with the possible elimination of some Regents Exams. If this was my first or second year I would be stressed to the max. Experience tells me that both are posturing moves and pure old-fashioned negotiations. I am studying both issues closely and will be able to comment more in the upcoming weeks on how they will really affect our District and our children.

Congratulations to our Cheerleaders. They won a National competition over the weekend in Ohio. Congratulations also to the Indoor Track team. Several runners placed very well in State competition. Probably the best source for specific information would be

Lastly, not only is our Hockey team playing for a possible State title this weekend, but we just learned that the team received the 2010 Scholar Team Athletic Award (entire team has an academic average of 90% or higher). The last West Genesee team to win this amazing award was the Bowling team in 2001. Much more will be made of this after the team tries to bring us the State title this weekend in Utica. Good luck!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sad News

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that Sarah Peek, a first grader at East Hill Elementary School, passed away this afternoon from a medical condition. I will always remember Sarah as a courageous youngster with a heart of pure gold. Her pink backpack and big smile will never leave my mind.

We will have counselors at East Hill tomorrow beginning at 8:15 a.m. to help our faculty, students, parents, and emergency personnel try to work through this tragic loss.

It is times like these when we need each other more than ever.

Thank you,