Monday, November 26, 2012

Lake Effect

Winter Driving: I hope all of you had the opportunity to rest and enjoy time with family. We saw our first snow over the weekend and with it came about a dozen accidents in the Camillus area. Please know that our buses will not have issues in the snow as we have experienced drivers and heavy buses with new brakes. Inexperienced student drivers, and people like us trying to hustle to work in the morning, will have more of a challenge. Therefore, please leave for work and school a few minutes earlier and use extra caution on the roads so that this winter will be as accident free as possible.

Legislation to Add Degree Paths: We are keeping an eye on a few things happening outside of our District. First, Senator Charles Schumer has introduced legislation to add some degree paths to High School diplomas that target students who want to enter careers in the technical and engineering fields. These degree paths might allow students to eliminate some traditional courses that you and I took when we were in school, but still earn a New York State High School diploma. His ideas are set to hit the Board of Regents shortly, and I will keep you posted.

State Aid Concerns: The other thing that we are keeping a close eye on is how the Governor will handle paying for Hurricane Sandy damage. We know that FEMA will cover some or maybe even the majority of the damages, but the Governor will have to decide how to handle any gap that might remain. I am cautiously optimistic that the Governor will not take state aid from schools to help fill these gaps. If he does choose to impact our aid, we may have to alter our financial plans. This would be a big bummer because we have worked very hard as a community to work through a solid financial plan. So far we have kept tax increases below the cap, and can now begin to plan to restore some of the things that we have reduced over the past few years. Hopefully we will get some clarity on this situation in the coming weeks, and we can finish our budget preparation for 2013-2014. Stay tuned.

Check out our website for our events this week, and I hope to see you out and about.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks - With Thanksgiving right around the corner I would like to thank you for your continued support. We have worked together over the past five years and have achieved some pretty amazing things. Each day I am proud to represent our community as we face challenges that are presented to us. Your willingness to listen, become involved, and trust our direction makes my job very exciting and I look forward to keeping us moving in a positive direction. I have no problem putting on the blue and gold each morning. Thank you.

Hurricane Sandy Relief Kits - Last week was pretty exciting. First, we were able to finish our relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy victims by creating a total of 229 complete relief kits and 197 partial kits. Our students in grades K-12 came together to assemble these kits, and they will be shipped on Tuesday by community partners National Grid. This generous gesture is courtesy of Linda Clark who learned about our efforts through this very blog a couple of weeks ago. It was awesome to see students learning about helping people and then rolling up their sleeves to help. Good work!

Visit from the Commissioner - Dr. John King, the New York State Commissioner of Education, visited our high school during the week. He came without alerting the media and really wanted to get into some classrooms. He focused his visit on learning about how we provide services for our Students with Disabilities, as well as students who are at-risk. Dr. King also wanted to see how we use technology in classrooms and was interested to see how strong our Career and Technical Education program is. Our teachers, counselors, and students did not disappoint. As I shook his hand when he left, he told me that I should be very proud with what we have achieved at West Genesee. I most certainly am.

Parent Portal - Our Schooltool roll out is going pretty well.  If you have not had a chance to use our new student management system yet, please begin to familiarize yourself with it. The link to reach the parent portal can be found on our website, and over time more information about your children will be made available to you.

Healthy Choices - I had a chance to meet with high school students to brainstorm ways to try and make our school lunch program more suitable to them but still fit within the new USDA Healthy Choices guidelines. Our student committee was chosen through Twitter and the group is very diverse. We had a diabetic nutritionist and menu planner on hand to teach the students about why we serve what we serve and how we plan menus. The meeting was powerful from my perspective, and the students gave some great input. Our menu planner and nutritionist are planning a December menu based on many of the suggestions that the students gave, and I am excited to see if student input has an impact on the number of lunches that we serve. Our group will meet again in January so that we can monitor progress and keep looking ahead.

I hope that you are able to take some time to get together with family for Thanksgiving, and I will reach out to you again after the turkey break.


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Big Thank You

Veterans Day - I am really pleased that it seems like we as community members, students, and parents are taking more time to appreciate our veterans. I hope this positive trend continues as we move forward as it is very important  to recognize those who have served our country allowing us to enjoy the freedoms that we have. Several of my former students are veterans as well as many older family members. What always shocks me is what they DO NOT get when they return from service. The least we can do is appreciate them every chance we get.

Hurricane Sandy Relief - Our collection efforts for those still suffering from Hurricane Sandy are going very well.  Many thanks to our community for supporting this cause. We have found some schools and some areas in New York City and New Jersey that are still without power, and will not have power for up to four or five more weeks. Crazy but true. To view a listing of items being collected for Relief Kits, click here.

Cheerleaders Win Section III Title - We are very proud of our Varsity Cheerleaders. If you haven't watched our cheerleaders in the past five years or so, they have become more and more athletic to the point that their quest to be recognized as an actual sport is close to becoming a reality. I am very proud of our girls for bringing home the Section III Championship. Congratulations to these hard working young ladies, and we will see many of you during basketball and winter competition cheer season.

Tastier Menus - This week should be pretty cool. On Tuesday, a group of high school students are meeting with me and a diabetic nutritionist to talk about school lunches and menu planning. We are going to receive feedback from the students, and our nutritionist is going to have the students taste test some new menu offerings that absolutely maximize every calorie that they are allowed to have under the new Healthy Choices Program from the USDA. I am excited to see how things work out.

C.O.D.E./Camillus Optimists Honors Teachers and Youth - On Tuesday, I will be speaking to C.O.D.E. graduates at Split Rock and then head out to celebrate with our Teachers and Students of the Year. Our teachers this year are Patti Sullivan from the High School Learning Center, physical education teacher Dallas Barton from CMS, and special education teacher Pam Ciarla from East Hill Elementary School.  The students are Maureen McInerney and Steven Ferguson from the high school; Lauren Cahalan and Manny Castro from CMS; and Mark Kopp and Johna Halko from WGMS. The program is sponsored by the Optimists Club, and we are very pleased to have this partnership. I look forward to helping them to be recognized.

Harvest Dinner - Wednesday is our Harvest Dinner which is a personal favorite. The students provide some great food and service, and all of the attendees get to sit and catch up with everyone. If you would like to attend the dinner, come to the High School Cafeteria 1 between 4:30-7:30 p.m. Hope to see you there.

Musical at WGMS - Friday is the West Genesee Middle School production of Yes Virginia. Our middle schools put on performances that are as good as high school productions and sell out very quickly. If you would like to attend, you can get tickets at the door. However, make sure to show up early for the Friday evening or Saturday afternoon performances so you can get a seat.

Enjoy the week and I hope to see you around at some of our many events!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Relief Information

As I mentioned in my recent blog, we are working on a way to include all of our students, staff, Parent Teacher Associations/Organizations, and community members to organize a relief effort for Hurricane Sandy victims in the downstate area.

We have had great support so far and just added the missing piece at the high school with Mrs. Deemer organizing the students there. So we are ready to rock and roll.

Pasted below is the letter that we will be sending home. (If you would like to access a PDF version online, click here.) Please notice that everything is organized by grade level and the ultimate goal is to be able to provide "relief kits" containing many essential items.

Your help is greatly appreciated. Our students will roll up their sleeves and put everything together, and we have had some generous community members willing to drive the kits to the downstate area. Awesome! Let's work together to make this happen.  

If you do not have a child in the school and want to help, just pick an item from the list and drop it off at one of our buildings. If you have a business that already delivers downstate and you would like to help with transportation, please let me know as well and we might be able to spread deliveries out (

Thanks again!



In an effort to provide relief to our fellow New Yorkers who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, West Genesee School District will be assembling and donating hygiene kits to those most in need. Each student will have the opportunity to make a difference by participating in assembling the kits.

To ensure that we receive all necessary items, we are asking for the following grade donations:

Kindergarten: 6 Band-Aids (in a sandwich bag)       
1st Grade: 1 washcloth
2nd Grade: 1 nail clipper
3rd Grade: 1 small container of hand sanitizer
4th Grade: 1 bar of soap         
5th Grade: 2 one gallon plastic Ziploc bags
6th Grade: 2 “D” batteries
7th Grade: 1 bottle of conditioner                              
8th Grade: 1 hand towel
9th Grade: 1 stick deodorant
10th Grade: 1 tube of toothpaste
11th Grade: 1 toothbrush
12th Grade: 1 bottle of shampoo
We will be collecting in all buildings up to Thursday, November 15 and assembling the kits on Friday, November 16. If there are community members that would like to donate items, you may drop them off at any of the West Genesee Schools.

Thank you for your participation in this project.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Doing What Is Right

Hurricane Sandy Relief Kits: Well, that was quite a week we had!  It has been a long time since I had to prepare for a possible hurricane. Fortunately, by an absolute sliver, the brunt of the storm missed us but pounded many in the downstate area.  At West Genesee we mobilized quickly trying to figure out what would be the most help to those in immediate need.

Many larger organizations are collecting cash for displaced people, but thanks to Caroline Flaherty, Split Rock Parent Teacher Organization President, Heather Valerino, Camillus Middle School Parent Teacher Organization President, and Todd Freeman, Split Rock Elementary School Principal, a great idea has emerged for our students to contribute. They have collaborated with the other Parent Teacher Organizations and Associations, our other building principals, and student groups at the high school to create emergency kits to be delivered to those in need downstate.

Students at all grade levels are getting fired up to help. As soon as we have a complete list of needs for both adults and children in the hardest hit areas, we will ask our community to help collect the items. Our students can then put these items together as "relief kits" and we can have the kits shipped as soon as possible. We are working to spread requests out among our whole community so that it will feel like you are only adding one more thing to your shopping cart the next time you are at the grocery store. If you are able and willing to help, thank you. Our students are going to learn a great lesson in volunteerism for a very important cause. Let's work statewide for Wildcat Pride.

BOCES Update: Last week I also had the opportunity to tour our local BOCES, where many West Genesee students are attending classes. I was able to visit Special Education settings, Cosmetology, Building Construction and Trades, Medical Technology Labs, the Culinary Institute, the Alternative Education program, and the GED program. I must say that I was very pleased with what I saw.

BOCES provides some outstanding programs for our students, many of whom go on to be very successful in different trades that we rely on today. What I found most fulfilling was their emphasis on reading, writing, and math. In the culinary classroom, for example, I was able to watch two of our students create some desserts for a meeting that was going to be held that night.  The teacher of that class, however, was being held accountable not for how the dessert tasted or looked, but how the student wrote out the directions to make the dessert which includes nutritional information.  I have always been a BOCES supporter, and my visit affirmed my feelings.

Redistricting Transition: Our redistricting transition planning is complete, and you can find all of the documents from the last meeting (that would have been held had the winds and rain completely stayed away!) on the website in the Redistricting section. Building principals will be organizing letters, welcome packets, and agendas in the coming weeks to be sent to families that have children being redistricted in the next school year. Many thanks to those who served on the committee.

Have a wonderful week, and I hope to see many of you at the various events and activities that are happening in our schools.