Monday, December 23, 2013


There are plenty of educational items for me to blog about, but they can wait. The next week is about family, friends, giving, and finding peace. There are those who celebrate Christmas (like my family), and those who do not. Merry Christmas to those who do, and happy holidays to those who do not. Either way, we are all one giant school community, and I hope that we are all able to enjoy some peace during this special time of the year.

I will be at work during break, but will not post again until after we return to school on January 2, 2014. Please accept my best wishes during the holiday season.


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Stretch

Believe it or not there will be teaching and learning taking place as we inch closer to winter break. I can remember how I felt as a kid around this time of the year, and I can also remember how I felt as a teacher. Sometimes those feelings didn’t match! I always enjoy my time in the buildings and this week will be no different as I am sure to hear many stories of excitement from our youngest students.

Transportation: While we did not have exceptionally poor weather last week (Saturday night into Sunday was a completely different story by the way), it is a good time to remind ourselves just how good our bus drivers are. Our mechanics make sure that each bus is completely ready to go. Then our drivers do an amazing job of navigating the roads safely in undesirable conditions, while we arrive to work thankful that we didn’t drive our own cars into a ditch! Thank you for all of your work and for keeping our students safe on the way to school.

Also, if your child drives to school and you do not want them driving because the weather exceeds their driving experience, give an early call to our bus garage at 315-487-4576 and let them know that your child needs a ride. They will make it happen! I think we would all agree that your child getting to school safely is more important than them being upset with you because they have to ride the bus for a day or two.

Evaluations/Student Governments: I have spent the last two weeks sitting down "formally" with building principals to discuss their evaluations. I have been very pleased with the progress that has been made with our struggling learners and also really happy with our elementary and middle schools as they have formed student government groups (the high school has had student government groups for decades). 

Student government promotes ownership, critical thinking skills, debate, social skills, and organizational skills. We will take a closer look to see if there is a relationship between a student involved in student government and their academic success. I am proud of the strides that teachers and principals have made in our District and you should feel comfortable that your children are in very capable and caring hands.  Stay tuned.

West Genny Has an App for That: If you have a smart phone or tablet, hopefully you have been able to download our free app. We are meeting with the president of Parentlink this week to discuss our successes as well as areas where we think the app could be even more beneficial. As a parent I have learned all that the app has to offer, and I think that it makes managing things related to my own child much more efficient.  I was able to walk into a meeting the other day and use the app to put money on his lunch account. The entire transaction from start to finish took about 45 seconds.  I can deal with that!

Enjoy the week!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Listen to Your Elders

Dancing the Night Away: My wife and I had a wonderful time at the winter semi-formal on Saturday night. The theme was The Great Gatsby and the high school hallways, cafeteria, and gym were transformed into something right out of the book and movie. Tremendous kudos to our faculty advisors, Mrs. Deemer and Mrs. Hogan, as well as Mrs. Brown (not my Mrs. Brown!) who helped to organize all of our parent volunteers.
Our parent volunteers also deserve plenty of thanks as they helped with ties, dresses, and making sure that everything went well. For the freshmen this is really their first dressy dance, so it is always fun to watch them walk into the gym for the first time and see that they are awesome pieces of an 850 student puzzle! The gym was dancing and hopping and I even saw a few students do the worm. I am actually starting to like some of the new music that is out there, so that was cool too. I cannot wait for the junior prom!

Learning from Seniors: Earlier in the week I had my annual opportunity to meet with our senior citizens at the Camillus Senior Center. I would like to thank Mrs. Bacon for making this opportunity possible. The seniors are so welcoming, and I enjoy the chance to speak to many who helped forge our community into what it is today. I asked for a show of hands to see how many had gone to a West Genesee school, sent a child, grandchild, or great grandchild through the district and most of the crowd (I would say around 75 people) raised their hands proudly.

I went through a lot of topics over the course of an hour. Budgets, community issues, school matters, national concerns impacting education and talk of the past occupied our time. Of all of the topics covered, there was one that drew the most passion from the audience. The topic was how children are communicating differently and if that is a good thing or not.

From cursive writing, to block print, typing, texting, Facebook, Twitter and anything else social media many of our seniors felt that this evolution is ruining the art of communication, of resolving conflict, of forging true long lasting friendships, of memories. It was a powerful piece of our time together. They understood why things are changing and that we will probably never go backwards, but I learned that we should find other ways to preserve the human emotion in communication or we are going to be in trouble decades from now.  Thank you for the learning experience!

Busy Week in Fine Arts and Athletics: We had a very successful weekend with our fine arts and athletics. We had many musicians play in All-State Concerts in Rochester this weekend (click here for a list of students). I followed along on Twitter while the students performed, and they certainly represented us well.

On the athletic side all of our team sports won over the weekend. Considering nearly all of them competed, that is pretty cool!  Check our website for the most current schedules.

Enjoy the week!


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Blur

I hope that each of you had a peaceful and restful Thanksgiving weekend. I was able to see family and friends and actually took a few days off from e-mail, twitter, and Facebook. It was delightful!

The time between now and winter break should really be called "The Blur". One blink and December is over. Shopping, working, concerts, games, meetings, slippery roads, and stress all form the top layer of "The Blur". Below the top layer is where all of the goodness lies. I believe being thankful to have a job, fortunate enough to be able to purchase things for others, enjoying prized possessions, performing in a concert or in a game without a care in the world, and enjoying the snow that we are going to get, all make up that bottom layer. I hope you are able to enjoy all layers of "The Blur" throughout the holiday season!

I still do not have many details, but the Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King will be holding a parent forum at Fayetteville-Manlius High School on Tuesday, December 3.  My understanding is that doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the forum is being conducted from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. If I hear any additional details, I will pass them along.

For those who are just hearing about the Common Core Learning Standards, standardized testing, and data collection, we are trying to put a quick fact sheet together that will indicate what each item is and what supporters and detractors are saying,  so you can stay in the loop. The goal is to make you read for about ten seconds per item and then have enough information to decide if you would like to hear or read more. We will provide additional resources after that if people are interested.

Take deep breaths, relax, and enjoy "The Blur" that starts…..RIGHT NOW!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

Congratulations are in order for all of the cast and crew of the Camillus Middle School musical, Suessical. The students performed well, and the parents also performed well driving in our first mini-snowstorm!

Speaking of storms, our girls swim team stormed the pool at the state finals! Olivia Castro finished ninth in the 200 freestyle, and 11th in the 100 freestyle. The Wildcats’ 200 freestyle relay team (Sinead Guy, Olivia Castro, Brianna Smith, and Kaitlin Dunning) came in 11th, and the 400 freestyle relay team (Sinead Guy, Rebecca Kanoza, Brianna Smith, and Olivia Castro) finished 10th. In the team standings, West Genesee had the best finish of any Section III school, 14th in both the federation and public schools results. We are really proud of all that the swim team has accomplished.

We have a short week ahead that leads us to Thanksgiving, and we have a lot to be thankful for: family, friends, a supportive community, and each other. I hope that you are able to take time later this week to give thanks. If you are able to give a little to someone in need please do so, and if you need help please reach out because there are plenty of people willing to help.

Enjoy the week and thank you for your support.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Spreading Out the Talent

Over the Weekend
The past weekend was a gift on many levels. I was able to get a lot of yard work done, but more importantly many of our students were spread out across Syracuse and beyond representing our West Genesee Community. 

Cross Country Runners at Federation Championship/Girls Swimmers to Compete at State Championships - There were several cross country runners (Laura Leff, William Randall, Jack Erhard, David Leff, Michael Richards, Michael Lannon, Jr., Matthew Romano, Nathan Conroy, and Sean Beney) who had a chance to compete in the Federation Championship in Wappingers Falls, NY. Our students placed very well compared to other runners from across the state. We also still have girls swimmers competing this coming weekend at the state championships in Ithaca Congratulations to these awesome athletes!

Honk! Jr. Swims into West Genesee Middle School - Many talented West Genesee Middle School students performed on Friday night and Saturday afternoon in a musical called Honk! Jr.  Christy Knowlton and the gang always put on a great show. I am looking forward to checking out the video as soon as I can get my hands on it!

Split Rock Chorus Sings at Crunch Hockey Game - Lastly, members of the Split Rock Elementary School fourth-grade chorus had an opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the Syracuse Crunch hockey game on Saturday night. They did such a good job that it earned them the honor of "Anthem of the Week" by  See the video embedded below. Pretty cool!


Coming Up this Week:
National Honor Society Induction - I am excited to induct mid-year members of the National Honor Society (NHS) tonight. The NHS is one of my favorite evenings because being inducted is not the end for these students. They have to live by the traits of service, scholarship, leadership, and character each day in order to keep this award. These traits really help our students to develop into responsible young adults, and I congratulate them and their parents. Keep up the good work!

Freshman Sings at SU Game - Also tonight, high school freshman Caitlin Barry will be singing the National Anthem in front of over 20,000 people at the Syracuse University vs. St. Francis basketball game. Wow! Look forward to the video on our Facebook page on Tuesday!

Camillus Optimists Honor Teachers/Youth - On Tuesday night I get to help recognize the Camillus Optimists Students and Teachers of the Year. This year our Students of the Year are Emily Cook and Michael Richards from the high school, Sophia Valerino and John Howes from Camillus Middle School, and Kyle Jenkins and Grace Walker from West Genesee Middle School. Teachers who are being honored are Melanie Callahan from Split Rock, Kathleen Byrne from WGMS, and Leandra Kovalchik from the high school. Nice work and I am looking forward to celebrating with our recipients and their families. 

Suessical the Musical at Camillus Middle School - The week ends with the Camillus Middle School Production of Suessical, which I am sure will be as excellent as Honk! Jr. Wow, what a week ahead!

Tracking Changes in NYS Education
For those keeping an eye on the Commissioner, do not think for a second that I have taken my eye off of that situation. His talk of local schools giving fewer tests (if parents are angry about testing) and broaching the topic of K-2 standardized testing, as well as his slow implementation of some pretty easy suggestions from parents and educators in the field, has "poked the bear". I will let you know how we can strike back in the coming weeks.

Have a wonderful week, and I hope to see you around.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?

This is just a quick post to thank you again for your overwhelming support of our Capital Project Referendum and establishment of a reserve account to eventually replace our turf field. Those who were able to come out and vote braved some obnoxious weather for this time of the year. I want to thank all of our volunteers for working the polls and especially Hugh Stannard, who at 97 years old drove, himself to the school to help voters use the machines as he has done for a long, long time! Your service is MUCH appreciated.

Where do we go from here? Great question. As you know, the project calls for technology and security upgrades at all buildings, renovations of all buildings, and additions at Onondaga Road and East Hill Elementary Schools. We are also looking to maximize our money so we have the least impact on taxpayers ($5.19 or less per $100,000 of assessed home value).

The first step in the process is to have formal plans approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). This can take up to four months at a minimum.  NYSED is backlogged and understaffed, and my experience has been that the harder I have pushed to get plans approved, the further down the pile the plans have gone.

Once the plans are approved, we will send what are called "bid specifications" out to general contractors and sub-contractors. They will have approximately two months to look things over and let us know through a sealed bid how much the job would cost for them to complete the work. We then open the bids and reward the work.  By now we are into May or June if all goes well.

We will begin the technology and security upgrades by the end of June, which are scheduled to be finished first (at this point I do not want to guess on an exact completion date). The first shovels for renovations and additions will hit the ground by July or August, if all goes perfectly.

There are many more little details to attend to during this time, but this is a blog not a book!  Based on past experiences, I would expect this entire project to take about two years to complete. However, you will see substantial completion of some aspects of the project by this time next year.

We always talk about how much things are going to cost, but we are also going to track savings as well. We think we can save hundreds of thousands of dollars just by changing our phone system, for example. We will also save tens of thousands by converting regular parking lot lights to LED lights, and we will save tens of thousands on our utility bills by upgrading boilers even though we are ADDING air conditioning to the elementary schools.

It is important to track savings for you because many of the utility and technology updates we are doing can be done on a much smaller scale in your own home. For example, I was amazed at how much money LED lights can save. So I converted most of my own home to LED lighting about a year ago, and I am saving at least $100 per month on my own utility bill. That was as simple as going to the hardware store, purchasing light bulbs (yes they were more expensive than traditional bulbs, but I have already made my money back) and replacing my existing ones with LED bulbs. 

At any rate, we are very excited to begin this project and we could not have done this without your continued support of our schools, our students, and our mission. We will provide updates as we have them.  Enjoy the rest of the week, and I hear that I could be in a t-shirt again by the weekend!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

Veterans Day: I am very proud of our students and how they recognize our Veterans each year. Each of our elementary schools do something special, our middle schools who have an even deeper understanding write or visit with Veterans, and our high school marching band members march in the Veterans Day Parade at the New York State Fairgrounds. It is always wonderful to meet and reconnect with so many Veterans who attend our recognition ceremonies as well. Thank you to all Veterans for your service!

Swim Team Breaks Records: Our girls swim team capped off an awesome season by winning the Section III title and also breaking a pool record. Their success is just unparallelled in the pool and we are very proud to call these young ladies Wildcats! The 400 Freestyle Relay team of Brianna Smith, Rebecca Kanoza, Sinead Guy, and Olivia Castro won the title and broke the pool record. Also winning an individual title was Olivia Castro in the 200 Freestyle.

In the state qualifier this weekend the team of Brianna Smith, Erin Dowler, Shannon Cahalan, and Olivia Castro came in second, but they did qualify the 200 medley relay for states and Castro won the 200 free. The school record was broken in the 400 free relay by the team of Kaitlin Dunning, Sinead Guy, Rebecca Kanoza, and Olivia Castro, as they won with a time of 3:40.16. Seven girls advance to the states in the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay, and Olivia Castro in the 100 and 200. Congratulations!

Winter sports begin today, and we are excited for what is to come in the gym, on the wrestling mats, and on the ice! The schedules can be found on our website, and the students really enjoy playing in front of a crowd.

District Spelling Bee:  West Genesee Middle School eighth grader, Jason Loustaunau faced-off against Camillus Middle School seventh grader, Rose Hays spelling such words as "caricatured" and "unilaterally" until Loustaunau emerged as the first place winner in the West Genesee Spelling Bee held on November 7. To see a list of the Top 12 moving on to the next level, click here.

The Commissioner Speaks in Syracuse: Last week Dr. King, the Commissioner of Education, made a listening tour stop at WCNY studios. Tickets were handed out on an application and lottery system basis. West Genesee was fortunate that several administrators, teachers, and parents were chosen to attend. They spoke well and asked some great questions. Hopefully they were listened to AND heard, instead of just listened to. He is scheduled to have a second Syracuse stop sometime in December. Once I know the location, I will pass that information on to you.

November is "No Shave November" and I am trying to be a good sport with some of the high school students who are participating. They do not have to wear dress shirts, be on television, or represent our entire school community, so I am going to see how long I can go before a trim is in order!

If you are looking for a night out, please consider coming to our annual Harvest Dinner this Wednesday, November 13 at the high school. This dinner is orchestrated by students and the money raised is divided between several charities.

Have a great week!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Now What?

Wildcat Band Marches to Success: In case you haven't heard, our Marching Band not only won the New York State Field Band Championships last weekend, but also won the USBands National Championship this past Saturday night. They scored a 96.25 in the NYS Field Band Conference Competition and then a 95.687 during the USBands National Championship. Consistent, remarkable, and probably an unreal feeling for all of the 170 band members. I cannot imagine the freshman members who at 14 years old are state and national champions in something so competitive and difficult to win.

If you are wondering what kind of recruiting tools the Marching Band has, take a look at these trophies and not much more needs to be said.  I wonder if there is a maximum number of members a school can have.
In all seriousness, we always talk about what it takes to be a successful program.

In a successful program, the group finds success or is in a position to be successful each and every year regardless of who the current members are. They practice with a purpose, are not afraid of hurdles, naysayers, negative people, or adversity. They protect their own and circle the wagons if one of the members needs help. Lastly, a successful program has no face. Success comes from the sum of its parts at all times and EVERYONE is equally important. Our Marching Band exhibits all of these qualities and that is why they have been champions, are champions, and are poised to be champions in the future. Congratulations!

Athletic Teams Continue to Succeed:
  • Our cross country runners did well this weekend, and we are very proud of their efforts. Check out the Athletics webpage later today for details.
  • The girls swim team continues to dominate. They established some pool records last week and are still rolling. Check out the Athletics webpage for details.
  • I am also excited for our volleyball team. They will be playing in the Section III championship game on Wednesday night.  This is the first time they have been in this position since 2008.  I am really looking forward to how they respond to this game because they are playing their biggest rival (Baldwinsville). They have come so close to beating them in the past and it is going to take everything our girls have both mentally and physically to succeed.  Best of luck!
The Commissioner Speaks: This week the Commissioner of Education will be speaking at WCNY studios. The link to his visit can be found here ( and tickets are being given out on a lottery basis.

A Busy Week Ahead: I have a week full of Capital Project presentations, committee meetings, classroom visits, and my monthly BOCES meeting.  A lot to do but considering the success we continue to have, it will all be well worth it!

Have a great week.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Out and About

Students Participate in Government Class: Last week I had a blast talking with students in the senior class in their Participation in Government classes. This is something that I have enjoyed doing since my arrival in 2008. Because it is a government class, I am asked to speak about student rights, student searches, as well as chain of command. For the last fifteen to twenty minutes the students ask me any questions they have and I always answer them right back, whether the answer is popular or not.

The most frequent questions asked by students included:
  • Could they have more freedom as students?
  • Could they use their cellphones more during the school day?
  • Could they have more control over what we serve for lunch?
  • Could they have a "snack shack" after school before sports or activities?
  • Could they leave school grounds during the day if they were students in good standing with open slots in their schedules?
  • How do I call snow days?
  • How do I learn everyone's names?
  • Why do community members call me when students do something wrong out in the community?

The most thought provoking question was what my largest challenge is right now. I had to take about thirty seconds to mull it over. I responded that the most challenging part of my job is keeping our standards high and continuing to help students to have opportunities after high school while facing economic stressors and changes in the economic make-up of our community. I then explained leadership versus management. Many did not know that there was a difference.

I am looking forward to spending time with seniors again in the spring. I always learn a lot from them, and I do not think we listen to what they have to say often enough.

Weekend Sporting Events: If you are a West Genesee sports fan, you have probably wiped Friday night from your mind. Both soccer teams and the football team played in Sectional events and unfortunately came up on the short end. I always try to make a positive out of a negative, and I will say that it was nice to spend time with our athletic director, Mike Burns, as we traveled from Baldwinsville to North Syracuse to Liverpool to watch the students play. He bleeds blue and gold just as I do so it was fun to heartily cheer the teams and be excited for them all.

It was heartbreaking that both soccer teams lost by a goal. I was close to where the goal was scored against us in the boys game and I could not believe how high and angled the kick was to the goalie. No one was going to make that save. Just an amazing shot! The boys fought all the way to the end, but just could not get one in the net. Their teamwork was infectious, just as I had witnessed in practice all season.

At the girls game I kept tapping my foot because it was so intense. The girls ran really hard, blocked shots, made amazing saves, and just did not let up. They were relentless on offense and defense. It was a great, lose, or draw. I was proud of them for the effort, and I cannot wait to watch many of them on the basketball court this winter. Wow!

The football team is tricky to talk about. What a great bunch of young men. Again, I have watched and even participated in some practices throughout the year. There are many moving parts and when you add in injuries a team that appears to be really rolling one game can look flat as a pancake the next. That is high school football, except for those rare occasions that come around when everything works, the injury bug doesn't bite, and the stars are in alignment. I am excited for what the future holds for the Wildcat football, and I thank the current players and coaches for handling themselves with class.

Congratulations to the West Genny Cheerleaders as they won the CNYCL League Championship this past weekend.

Students choose to take on the added responsibility of representing themselves, their school and their community by participating in fine arts and athletics. Still representing us this fall in athletics are the girls volleyball team, girls swim team, cross country, and girls tennis.

Wildcats Bring Home the Title and the Cup: Still representing us in fine arts is the Marching Band who last night won their 33rd State Marching Band title with skill and precision. I love being on the turf with them during the "retreat". They are poised, professional, and complementary to their opponents. They are also a class act whose relentless pursuit of success finds them being successful quite a bit. Over 180 strong, they rocked the Dome for us. They will now participate in a national competition this weekend at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and will also march in the Veteran's Day parade. Everyone who follows the Marching Band should be very proud of their accomplishments. I sure am.

Enjoy the week. I am looking forward to getting back into classrooms after not feeling well last week. Hope to see you around!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Game On!

Over the weekend I ran the Empire Marathon. This was my first and only marathon. I learned a lot during that race. I was reminded of the value of practice because I had not done enough of it (not by choice, I was injured for about a month).  I was also reminded that I am still not a quitter after all these years and never will be. I ran like a gazelle (in my mind) through mile 16 when my legs completely cramped up.  I could not move. No joke.  I stretched, walked, and took encouragement from other runners through mile 24 when I really hit a wall. A volunteer got right in my face and said, "Go get your medal." I am sure he said that to everyone else behind me too but those were the exact words that I needed to hear.

Those words reminded me that as educators simply telling a student, "good job" or "cool sneakers" or something else small can make a huge difference in their day.  As I crossed the finish line, all I could think was "mission accomplished". I still cannot walk well but that will be short lived. I hope! I want to thank my family for the support and encouragement, all of the runners around me for their kind words, the race organizers, volunteers, and emergency personnel. By the numbers? Lost 5 pounds, burned 3,600 calories, and went 45,092 steps. Going to be eating whatever I want for a few days!

What is Happening in Education: While running, I also gave a lot of thought to what is happening in education (I know, pretty exciting right)? I can think of twenty different ways to lead the state education department differently, and I need to stop keeping quiet about that. I have been a superintendent for almost 14 years in two very successful school districts because of great staff, students, and communities. This is not rocket science. There are better ways to implement national standards and hold all accountable. I am not going to be an arm chair quarterback or petition or yell about what is happening today in New York State.  I am going to create a plan to be used if the opportunity presents itself. No more standing by! Pretty deep thoughts while pounding pavement!

The Commissioner has reinstated some form of public listening sessions. I think those are important along with making sure that elected officials know that change is needed. If you are able to attend these sessions, my advice would be to not make anything personal. Personal comments and attacks weaken good points. Be factual, be passionate, and be willing to roll up your sleeves with a solution. Be on the lookout for a local appearance schedule.

Students Make Strides: Congratulations to the many staff, students, and community members that participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk this weekend. Here is a great photo from that includes a picture of some of our cheerleaders that participated in the walk: Capri Coggi, Amanda Grome, Kayla Overvold, Kyla Williams, and Kelly McCarthy. Nice job everyone.

Lacrosse Coach Elmer is Honored: After the marathon (and a shower), I had the opportunity to attend an induction of our girls lacrosse coach, Bob Elmer, into the Upstate NY Chapter of US Lacrosse's Hall of Fame. We are very fortunate to have such talented coaches working with our student athletes. This Hall of Fame class also includes three other West Genny graduates: Tom Gravante, Jeff McCormick, and Dan Sheehan. Congratulations! 

Upcoming Events: Our Capital Project vote is just a few weeks away, November 12, and I will be out and about speaking about it. Just check our website for a schedule.  Also, next Sunday our 'Wildcat' Marching Band will be performing at the Carrier Dome. I am always very excited to see our students perform on such a big stage!

Enjoy the week and I will see you around.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's All the Same, Only the Names Have Changed

Many Different Initiatives in Education: There are plenty of places to talk about standardized testing, the "Common Core Learning Standards", modes of instruction, creating "SLO's", "LAT's" and calculating a score based on a rubric. Those places are public forums, online webinars, faculty rooms, Board of Education meetings, and PTA/PTO gatherings. Except for Sunday...

My sister-in-law (a high school math teacher in the Rochester area) and I were waiting in line for the Port-a-Potty at the Buffalo Bills game talking about all of the above as she has re-entered the profession after a couple of years off raising children. I was telling her about how K-8 teachers are dealing with the new curriculum, the new assessments, etc., when the man in front of us turns around and asks if we are both teachers. He explains that he overheard us and that he is a Physical Education teacher in the south Bronx. For the next twenty minutes or so we had a pretty lively conversation about students, outcomes, expectations, and testing.

It turns out that every educator is going through the same thing everywhere in New York State. The interesting take away for me was that the conversation always came back to kids being happy and not too stressed through all of these educational changes. While my sample size is pretty small, I can say that good teaching is still good teaching and big hearts are big hearts. I just wish that the Bills had ended up winning the game!

We all have opinions about testing, the new standards, and the new evaluation system. I have been a superintendent for a long time compared to many of my peers. When an initiative truly is not working, there is usually enough pressure from the inside to make the initiative change. My fear when something is being evaluated such as the new Common Core Learning Standards or the assessments that go along with them, is that too much negativity spills out too quickly and the people making the rules (in this case the Commissioner and Board of Regents) dig in their heels and go underground.

Last week the Commissioner held one of five listening sessions downstate and things got so contentious that he cancelled the remaining sessions. His reasoning was that special interest groups have overtaken the conversations making the conversations unproductive. If this remains, parents, students, and advocates just lost a great way to get to the Commissioner. This will leave larger, more crowded, Commissioner controlled forums, as well as letter writing and e-mail sending.  Not sure if those forums are as effective. I hope he continues with the listening sessions. I think the Common Core Learning Standards are here to stay, but I do sense weakness in standardized testing. As I have stated earlier, I am waiting through this next testing cycle before I offer an official opinion on paper.

Science Teachers Named Master Teachers: Congratulations go out to high school science teachers, Sam Gervaise and Kathryn Annan, who were designated as New York State Master Teachers by a governor's commission. They will work for four years to spread their joy and knowledge of teaching to younger generations of science teachers. To read an article about this, click here.

Enjoy the week!  There are a lot of events on the calendar as we head into the end of fall sports and activities. Winter practices start in about four weeks believe it or not!

Thanks for your support and see you around.


Monday, October 7, 2013

The "Mayor" of West Genesee Got a Promotion!

Homecoming Week: We had a very special homecoming spirit week. The students were so positive and happy to be a part of such a large celebration of our culture and their school. The "pep" rally on Friday took the cake. Loud drums, dance routines, contests, some awesome tumbling, and the unveiling of the high school homecoming court were all a part of the festivities.

I was super excited when they announced the name of the "Homecoming King". As they announced Andrew Bowman's name, the crowd erupted with cheers as Andrew came down to receive his crown. His Queen, Maria Delany, was the perfect complement to Andrew.

Andrew is exceptional in many ways. He has had his time in the spotlight as a polar bear plunger, a Special Olympian, a swimmer, a performer in the band and chorus, and an actor in the musical. People from the outside always start their conversation about Andrew by indicating that he has Down's Syndrome.  His administrators, teachers, and classmates refer to Andrew as Andrew Bowman, the Mayor of West Genesee. H
e is a classmate, a friend, a leader, and I would consider him to be the ambassador of change when it comes to total acceptance of everyone.

At half-time of the football game, he also received a standing ovation from all in attendance, including spectators from the visiting team. He is truly a special person, and we will miss him when he graduates in June.

What was also awesome on Friday was that even with a dance being held at West Genesee Middle School, the stands and areas around the turf field were absolutely packed. Talk about Wildcat pride!

Sports Boosters Also Feed Us: The Sports Boosters are having their annual spaghetti dinner and silent auction tonight in cafeteria I beginning at 5:00 p.m.  The cost is $6 per person or a maximum of $20 per family, no matter how many in the family!

Capital Project Presentations: This week I will be speaking about our upcoming Capital Project at the following locations: 
  • Monday, October 7 - Rotary Club luncheon, Copper Top Restaurant at 12:00 noon  
  • Wednesday, October 9 - Onondaga Road Elementary PTA meeting at 6:30 p.m.  
  • Thursday, October 10 - Stonehedge Elementary PTA meeting at 6:30 p.m.
I will also be there at the Stonehedge PTA meeting as they celebrate 50 years of their PTA. Fifty years...unbelievable! I am looking forward to helping them celebrate. 

Have a wonderful week, and I hope to see you around.


Monday, September 30, 2013

It is the Same All Over

I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy the magnificent weekend in some way. Looks like a few more days of nice weather before the true fall settles in.

I had an interesting weekend. I went to Buffalo for a wedding and to check in with our college son at the University at Buffalo. I did not know anyone at the wedding except for the bride and groom, so when we sat down at our table for dinner my wife and I met three other couples, one from Rochester, one from London, Ontario, and one from the near the Fingerlakes area. After we went through all of the small talk (nice weather, how many kids, how old are they, etc...) the conversation settled into children and what they (and their parents) are dealing with.

At this point in the conversation these couples had no idea that I was a school superintendent. Each couple described their biggest challenge as trying to keep their children from being cyber-bullied and from them cyber-bullying. This was seconded by the fear of the parents who had daughters and the possibility of them interacting with people on the Internet that were not known to them.

I sat back and was stunned, but probably should not have been. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all exist in most places in the world and anyone with access can connect and interact. The conversation ended on a positive note with none of them blaming the school system but rather mentioning how they all needed to continue to step up and be involved in their children's lives so maybe they would stay away from some of the negativity that the Internet can bring.

When they asked me what I did for a living, I told them and thanked them for the case study. I then told them that the school should be a parent partner, as well as some of the curriculum that has to be covered (at least in the U.S.) related to cyber-bullying. What a neat experience!

While I was there the Marching Band held their annual Tournament of Bands and by all accounts the night was jam packed with happy patrons! Great music, great food, and great company; what more could you ask for?

If you don't follow me on Twitter but your son or daughter does and comes home with a joke or one liner be advised!  I put a joke up one day and then visited the high school. The students really wanted me to post a joke of the day to get them going, so I am going to post a clean, safe for work or school joke on my Twitter account until I run out of them.  Hopefully I can find enough of them to make it through the year.  Anything to keep the students connected!

I will be attending a ton of events and meetings this week, so I will probably run into many of you. This week is also spirit week at the high school as we lead up to Homecoming this Friday.  This is going to be a great week!



Monday, September 23, 2013

A Busy Week...A Busier Weekend!

I am usually an early adopter when it comes to all things related to technology. For some reason I did not download the new operating system for my iPhone, and I am really glad that I didn't. My Facebook news feed and Twitter timeline have been littered with angry comments, while I continue to be able to use my "old" phone without any trouble!

Honoring a Student: I was able to use my phone to take some pretty cool pictures last week in classrooms and at a few events. A few of my favorites came from Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday night I had the honor to recognize freshman Marshall Winn for saving the life of a person who was drowning over the summer. He brought his immediate and extended family to our Board of Education meeting and was presented a plaque on behalf of the Board of Education and our entire school community for his efforts. Congratulations and thank you to Marshall for his poise, character, and efforts.

Friday Night Spirit: Friday was a beautiful night as the remnants of the Harvest Moon began to fill the sky, and our Wildcat football team took the field. Their play was nothing short of spectacular, especially considering that they were down a couple of key players due to injury. From my vantage point, I was able to enjoy everything that a Friday night football game brings including: the huge crowds, spirit-filled cheerleaders, an unbelievable half-time show provided by our Marching Band, and of course our mascot, the Wildcat! As the Wildcat (senior Neil Goodman) and I took a "selfie" on the sidelines, he told me that it was pretty hot inside that costume. I asked if he wanted to take a break and he said, "no way, there is too much cheering to do!" Awesome!

I purposely stood near the student section known as the "Wildcat Nation" because I wanted to hear their interaction with our football team, Marching Band, our cheerleaders, the opponent's cheerleaders, and their football team. I was very proud of our students (I would estimate about 500). They cheered loudly for our team, supported our cheerleaders, clapped for our Marching Band, made no comments to our opposition, and boo'd at a couple of "bad calls", which I can totally deal with. I hope we can sustain the size and behavior of the Nation for our other fall sports and continue this right into the winter sports season. I was on cloud nine to say the least. Nice work all around!

Racing for Respect: Unfortunately, I did miss the Race for Respect. This was the 15th Annual Race and the only one I have not been able to attend since I came to the District. My son was home for the first time from college, and I have a badly rolled ankle. I would like to thank Mr. Blake and all of our other organizers for putting another great event together. Even though it was rainy and cold, the turnout was great!  I hope to see everyone at our next community building event, the annual Culture Fair, that will take place in late winter.

Open Houses: We have a couple of Open Houses left this week (Camillus Middle School and West Genesee Middle School) that I am sure will be well attended and supported.

Newsletters Coming Soon...We will also have a paper version of The Communicator for fall mailed shortly (we send three per year) followed closely by a printed Capital Project version of The Communicator which we should have finished and ready for proofing by the end of the week (look for it in your mailboxes the first week of October).

Have a great week and I will post again soon.