Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missing Student

We were informed by the Camillus Police Department that a tenth-grade student, Brittney Ruggireo, ran away from her home on Sunday, November 27, and was last seen near the home of a cousin on the north side of Syracuse.

She is approximately 5'5" tall and weighs approximately 120 lbs. She has brown hair and was last seen wearing a pink AĆ©ropostale® shirt, black sweatpants, and white sneakers.  If you have any information, please contact the Onondaga County Sheriff's office at 425-2111.

I will update this blog if I hear of any new information.

Thank you for spreading the word.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Blur

I have heard the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year described as many things, but "the blur" seems to be the most appropriate. One blink of the eye and we will be in January. Testing, concerts, sports, holiday plans, get-togethers, dances, and white knuckle driving (keeping fingers crossed that this current weather holds up though) will test the will and patience of all of us. If we all take a moment to actually enjoy this time and put things into perspective, I think we will all stand a better chance of remembering that each day is a gift.

Our redistricting study is moving along at a strong pace now. Consultants Dr. Silky and Dr. Pole came to my office last Friday and collected a large box of information to sift through as they begin the process of completing the study. Every piece of school community information that you could possibly imagine was collected: census information, schedules, street maps, course catalogues, building condition surveys, building maps, and grade level configurations to name a few. 

While they are collecting and analyzing the information, we are assembling a redistricting focus group consisting of two members of each of our PTA/PTO/PTSA and PTSO volunteer organizations, as well as three Board of Education members (Deb Simon, Neil Widrick, and Karen Fruscello). This 19 member task force will work with the consultants as the study is completed.

There will be approximately five public meetings where the focus group and consultants will meet and which will be open to the general public. The general public audience will be given an opportunity to comment at the end of each meeting. The first public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, January 5, at 6:30 p.m. in the Stonehedge Library (each meeting will be held at a different building). As this date and time are solidified, I will keep you updated.

On another topic, the Board of Education is considering an offer for the wooded lot on West Genesee Street. Because the matter involves a real estate transaction, the conversations have been held in the Executive Session of our Board of Education meetings. When the time comes to accept an offer and move forward, that announcement and Resolution will be made at a public meeting. I do not have a timeline at this point for a recommendation and Resolution to be made public.

Our anti-bullying task force is meeting this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the large group instruction room at the high school. The task force will be finalizing our anti-bullying policy that meets the requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). The committee will then be screening a video that may be shown to high school students about the effects of bullying.

In the meantime, some of our students through English classes at the high school are reading a book titled, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY,  by Jay Asher. This book is a New York Times Bestseller and is about a girl who commits suicide because of bullying. Before her death, she sent tapes to thirteen people who she felt responsible for her decision. I am reading the book myself and it is gripping. It is one of the few books that I have seen a wide cross-section of students read from cover to cover. When it comes to bullying and helping students make better choices about words and actions, you need to blanket them with themes and topics that hit home, and this book certainly does that. As a parent of teenagers, I would consider the book a "must read".

On the athletic front, Laura Leff  took 5th place at the Footlocker Northeast Qualifier Competition this past Saturday. Laura led the cross-county race through the half-way mark before relinquishing the lead on the infamous "Cardiac Hill." She ran one of the toughest 5k's of her career and was the only sophomore to qualify, and she finished it in 18:26.1. The top-10 runners advance to the  national race in San Diego's Balboa Park on December 10. Laura also led the New York runners to first place to the states championship as they edged Pennsylvania by one point. Footlocker information can be accessed at:

Have a great week and my next post will be in...December!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I just took a look back at some of the entries that I have made over the past month or so. The budget and state nonsense withstanding, we have had A LOT of things to be thankful for. In our school world we celebrated many academic, athletic, and fine arts accolades. We also spotlighted several stories of our students, staff, and community doing extraordinary things outside of our four walls.

Simply put, we have it good. Please take the time this week to be thankful for family, friends, role models, and people who have helped you out. I know I will. Please accept my best wishes for a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving and I will post again in a week.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some News Stories to Follow

If you have read enough about the Penn State scandal, global budget pressures, and Lady Gaga, then consider the following three stories that could have a big impact on how we all do business:

1. First is a story out of the New York State Education Department where officials have agreed to support mandate relief for special education requirements. Special education expenses make up a large portion of school budgets, but the money goes to help service students with disabilities. Mandate relief in general has been a big topic for the past couple of years. There are over one hundred mandates for schools that cause money to be spent without any local control. It has been difficult to get the state to make changes to mandates related to reporting, paperwork processing, conducting a census, and other items that really do not impact children.

To see the Commissioner and Governing body at the State Education Department support changes in mandated regulations that directly impact students with disabilities makes me curious, and it should make you curious as well. If this is truly on the table and gaining traction, the questions should be "why now?" and "what don't we know about the state budget that is causing these changes to be seriously considered?" My guess is that we will learn these answers shortly. Something to keep an eye on.
@JohnKingNYSED via Twitter

2. New York State announced today that they will likely have a $350 Million structural deficit (in English it means that they will be short) by the end of their fiscal year. For all of us in the public sector (schools, towns, villages, and counties) what will this mean? The answer cannot be good. My feeling is that the sooner the state confirms this and tells all of us what this means to our organizations, the more time we will have to plan and make the changes that will be necessary to accommodate this shortfall.

3. Lastly, there are five towns who are in disagreement with the county about snow plowing. At this point, the towns are refusing to plow roads for the county because the reimbursement rate is just not financially beneficial enough to take on the work any longer. In Camillus this means that the following roads will be plowed by the county instead of the Town:

Van Buren Road and Armstrong Road South
Belle Isle Road
Gere Lock Road
Milton Avenue
Pottery Road and Armstrong Road North
Thomas Avenue
Thompson Road
Winchell Road

We have been assured that these roads will receive the same care from the county as they did from the town, and I am sure that they will. However, I think that the three topics that I have outlined show you how bad things are finally getting in New York State when decisions have to be made that potentially impact children with disabilities and general public safety. Not good, but telling in my opinion. My advice is to be part of the solution whenever possible.


Monday, November 14, 2011


Laura and Martin Leff continue to represent West Genesee in cross country competition.  Laura finished second in the state (a first for West Genesee) and is continuing her fall running campaign at the Federation Championship on December 19 at Bowdoin Course in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her brother Martin came in 27th place and will also compete at the Federation Championship. This will be his fourth consecutive appearance; his previous three were with West Genesee boys team qualifications. Great work! Also, Good luck to the swimmers competing this coming Thursday at the State level.

Because so many students read this blog and follow me on Twitter, I would like to take this time to thank the members of the Wildcat Nation for their school spirit and respectful behavior. The Nation has represented themselves at all of our fall sports (with the exception of golf I think, but in their defense cheering at a golf match would probably get us a two stroke penalty!)

I am especially pleased and appreciative of the older students who have welcomed the younger students (including elementary children) to join them. In our Sectional Championship game at the Dome I was approached by a security guard who complimented me on the behavior of the group, especially considering the size (around 600 for that game). It is just another example of how well our students represent us. The challenge that I give our students as we enter the winter season is to keep up your reputation of providing a huge dose of school spirit in a respectful way. I know you are up to the task, and I look forward to hearing you at the rink and in the gyms.

In other news, interested parties have until November 15 to submit offers for the wooded lot that is currently for sale on West Genesee Street. Once all offers are received, we will carve out some time at a future Board meeting to discuss which offer is the most advantageous for the District and move forward with a decision.

Also, Castillo, Silky and Martin were approved by the Board of Education to conduct our redistricting study. Dr. William Silky will be on hand at the November 16 Board meeting to outline the process for the study and answer any question that the Board may have. This group was selected over others in large part because of their desire to interact with the community through focus groups throughout the process. We expect a recommendation to be available by April of 2012.

You may have heard that West Genesee Middle School has made a state list as a School in Need of Improvement in the area of Students with Disabilities. This was something that we knew was going to happen over the past couple of years due to our extremely high percentage of students with varying disabilities in that particular school (Camillus Middle School has fewer than 30 identified students while West Genesee Middle School has 100).  Personally, I have been pleased with the progress that our students are making, but the state has raised the bar for all students and taken away all of the "safety nets" for our learners that struggle the most. This combination has caused WGMS to fall below the state mark along with nearly 2,000 other schools in New York State. Because I am not a politician and do not need to sugar coat anything, I can tell you that unless the state recognizes the unrealistic goals that have been placed on some of our most profoundly disabled youngsters, not only will we remain on this "list" but thousands of additional schools will be added next year.

We are working continuously with all of our students to help them find success. So if you were to accompany me through the halls of all of our schools, you would see that list or not, our students are making substantial progress.

Concert season is beginning, so be sure to check out our website ( for our most current schedule. I know the students would appreciate having you at one of their concerts.

Have a wonderful week.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More than Wins

When it comes to high school athletics and activities winning is always great, but it isn't even close to being the most important thing. In team sports or activities, the experience of working with other people through highs and lows, rallying around common goals, finding a way deep inside oneself to handle pressure, and then acting like a champion when things ultimately go well or come up short, SHOULD BE the REAL reasons why schools and communities support athletics, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities.

I was on the Carrier Dome turf the Sunday before last to help the Marching Band celebrate their 31st NYS Field Band Conference Competition Championship, and then on the Dome turf again this past Saturday to help our football team celebrate the Section III AA Championship. 

In both cases, students were interviewed by members of the media and there were no leaders or coaches around to prep the students on what to say. In each case the students, without missing a beat, thanked their parents, coaches and leaders, fellow students, and gave credit to their opponent. NONE of the students interviewed used the word "I" once which seals the deal for me as far as supporting these programs as best we can.  I am very proud of our students and look forward to continuing to cheer them on for many years to come. In the short term, this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Vestal High School our Wildcats will take on Binghamton High School in the first round of state competition. Good luck and know that we are all proud of you.

For individual sports and activities (I played golf for Westhill back in the day) things are a little different. Your individual score usually is added to the scores (or times) of other teammates to equal one singular number or time. I can tell you that after being a basketball player (team sport) and a golfer (individual sport), golf was much more stressful on me. For our cross country runners, they are running against themselves, as well as opponents.  A slip, a cold, a bad stride, or just an off day can ruin a run, but our student athletes find ways to block all of those things and quietly continue to keep West Genesee pride in our newspapers and in our hearts with their performances.  Laura and Martin Leff will continue running next Saturday, November 12, at the State championships held at VVS High School, and we will continue to pull for them (since we cannot run along side or catch them!)

This week it is my pleasure to attend C.O.D.E. graduations at Split Rock and East Hill Elementary Schools. C.O.D.E. is a partnership program with the Camillus Police Department to help students make good choices. We will be celebrating their successes with the hope that when they shake my hand at graduation a few short years from now, they will have made good choices through both middle and high school.

Also this week we will begin the budget process. Some of the preliminary work was done last week, and with the 2% tax cap in effect, I can assure you that we will not be able to restore anything that we reduced or eliminated this year. I will provide you with information in the next few weeks about the gap amount that we will likely have to close for the 2012-2013 school year. We have never had to develop a budget where we have to reach a set budget number. This means many of the decisions we make will be in response to the Governor's Tax Cap legislation and there will be some things that simply won't fit within the cap.  Much more about this later this month, and we appreciate your continued trust and support.

For now, we continue to lead by example and enjoy the time that we get to spend with your children and grandchildren each day.

Have a great week.