Monday, December 22, 2014

Spending Time Together

This is the season of giving, and giving does not have to be posted on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, or talked about among friends. Anytime you are doing something (giving time, money, thoughts, efforts, etc.) for someone, you are making a positive impact. Give. Help. It feels good and it is infectious!

Good luck to all of our sports teams that will be competing over break and I hope that you all find some time to get together with family and friends.

My family celebrates Christmas, so Merry Christmas to you. If you do not celebrate Christmas, may I wish you peace and happiness during this holiday season. Our "Wildcat" family and community are special and I continue to be fortunate to be a part of it.

I will not post again until the New Year, and I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2015 will bring. Happy New Year and talk to you soon!

Take care-

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hope Appears When We Least Expect It

Hope is in the Air: Turning on the television or clicking on a news website these days can be a complete downer. Violence, abuse, crime, pain, and suffering are all common themes in the news. We watch or read about these things and sometimes wonder if there is anything GOOD actually happening out there in the world. It is easy to lose hope.

Hope appeared in Camillus last week. Right in front of the high school, to be exact. Early last week around 3:45 p.m., an elderly gentleman was using a walker to walk up our sidewalk toward our front circle.  He grabbed a light pole for a few moments and then collapsed onto the sidewalk. Within about eight seconds, two students, freshman Connor Macko and sophomore Mikayla Bittel, were standing over the man trying to assess the situation.

While one of them immediately called 911, the other worked to calm him. Both students waited with the man until WAVES ambulance arrived. The ambulance staff came to his aid and they were thankful for the help of the students.

Where was the hope in this story? In two places. The first is that two students did not hesitate to aid someone who needed it. The second was that these two students did not really know each other prior to this incident. They were both just standing in the circle and worked together to help someone in need. I am very proud of their efforts, and I am reminded that hope can appear when we least expect it. 

Changes in Albany: On the lighter side and with a little sense of humor, hope also appeared in Albany last week when the current Commissioner of Education announced his resignation to take the position as the second in command of the U.S. Education Department. I wish him the best, but I now have hope that a replacement will be found with public school experience, someone who has been in the trenches as a teacher and administrator.

Leaders are not leaders if they make decisions that everyone likes all the time. However, in this case I think that most public educators will find it challenging to agree with most of the decisions that have been made from that office over the past few years. I will be actively watching to see who the next Commissioner will be.

Making Gingerbread Houses is Fun! I was invited to Onondaga Road Elementary last Friday to watch all the kindergarten students work with a family member to build gingerbread houses. I had a blast. It is one of the few times that I get to see moms, dads, grandparents, and teachers all working together with children. It was a great networking opportunity for all, and I hope to attend again next year!

The week before a long break is always exciting. I am looking forward to getting around to all the buildings to see all of the students before they head home to you for two weeks.

Thank you for your continued support and enjoy the week!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How We Determine a Snow Day or Delay

Well, we might finally get some significant snowfall over the next forty-eight hours, so I want to remind you of how we determine if we are going to have a snow day or delay. I most certainly do not make the call after getting out of bed and looking out the window. 

Around 4:00 a.m. I communicate with our Assistant Superintendent for Management Services, Paul Pelton, along with: members of our transportation department (who are already on the roads by 4:30 a.m.); our own plow crew leader to make sure we can keep up with what is coming down; county and town plow personnel; the police when necessary; sometimes a local weather person; and nearly always neighboring school superintendents (although we do not regularly "make the call together" because our geography differs). All of this takes between thirty and forty-five minutes. 

When possible, if the decision to close or delay is made, I try to make that announcement by 5:30 a.m. or earlier. Sometimes I need to wait a little longer, depending on the type of weather and timing of the weather pattern. That is when  I hit the roads myself.

The first place I post the decision is on my Twitter account (@cbrownwgcsd), followed by our app, Facebook/@West GeneseeCSD Twitter account, our website, parentlink email and text, and then by an "all-staff" e-mail to our employees. The reason why I choose to post to Twitter first is two-fold. First, I have never seen a delay in transmitting on Twitter, and secondly, many students follow my Twitter feed and they always help get the word out quickly. As a last measure, I contact the local media. 

I did some analysis last year and from the time I post to my Twitter it takes about two more minutes to get it to Facebook/District Twitter, and the website.  It can take another three to four additional minutes to get the information to e-mail, text, and our app, and it can take as long as fifteen additional minutes for the media to display our decision. These are all of the media options that are available. I am not comfortable with the speed and accuracy of our new phone calling service yet, so I am not going to use that for at least these first couple of snow events. We are planning another test of the phone system over the holiday break.

As a parent, the decision is always yours if you choose to send your child to school.  If I DO NOT call a snow day or delay, it means that I would feel comfortable placing my own child on a school bus. If you have children who drive, you have to make the decision to let them drive, take the bus, or drive them in yourself. I always place safety over money and always will, but I respect your choice if you ever disagree with my decision to keep school open. The weather is not completely predictable. With all of this being said, let's hope that we do not have to call too many delays or closings this year!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the week!


Monday, December 8, 2014


A Busy Weekend: I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend. Mine was busy and if you are connected to the school yours was probably pretty busy as well! We had all kinds of sporting events, a very successful high school semi-formal and a couple of concerts. Last Thursday we also had West Genesee graduate Benjamin Mauro entertain parents and students in our auditorium and talk about what it is like to be a bonafide rock star (Ben has been the guitarist for Lionel Richie for the past 14 years). All good stuff.

Student Work on Display at the Everson: I did learn two things over the weekend. The first thing is that the Everson Museum of Art puts on a wonderful holiday festival of trees featuring trees and wreaths made by various community organizations. As my wife and I strolled through the exhibits (you can purchase them, with some of the money going to charity and some going to the organization that created the exhibit), she pointed out two wreaths designed and created by our West Genesee Middle School PTA and the 8th grade Studio in Art Classes. So the takeaway was that West Genesee is everywhere and that that exhibit is a way for clubs and organizations to display some great work...and make some money!

Everyday Events Take on New Meaning: The second thing I learned is that when you are faced with the prospect of an empty nest for the first time, normal events can feel different. My son plays for our varsity basketball team, and I have watched him play basketball since he was in kindergarten. On Saturday they played CBA in a tip-off tournament and were winning by 15 points at half time. They ended up losing the game. I was frustrated and irritated as I am sure every other West Genesee parent in attendance was. As I climbed down from the stands, I said to myself "only 18 more games".  By the time I hit the parking lot, I fully understood the gravity of my thoughts. In eighteen more games I will never get to see my own child play high school basketball again. By the time I got to the car, I learned that no matter the outcome, I need to enjoy these last moments because they aren't coming back.

Update on Veterans' Tax Exemption: Last Wednesday at our Board of Education meeting, the Board voted to adopt what is known as the Veterans’ Tax Exemption. This exemption is something that towns and counties have given for a while by law (they would have to opt-out of giving the exemption), but schools have just recently been given the option to opt-in. It is anticipated that at the next meeting on December 17 the Board will adopt the actual level of exemption, Level C, that will be utilized for the 2015-16 school year.

Another busy week ahead, so be sure to take time to enjoy it!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Don't Blink!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We had the pleasure of entertaining twenty-six family and friends at our house, and Mrs. Brown did an amazing job with all of the side dishes, appetizers, and the traditional turkey. I tried my hand at a "turducken" (duck breast stuffed into a chicken that is stuffed into a turkey) on the grill, and it came out perfect! My post-Thanksgiving diet is now underway, and I hope to drop five pounds in the next two weeks to get back on track!

A Busy Weekend: If you were out and about this past weekend you might have seen our own Caitlin Barry singing the National Anthem at the Syracuse vs. Holy Cross basketball game in the Dome. She did an awesome job as always!

While she was at the Dome another one of our high school students, Megan Silvia was in Philadelphia in an Irish Dancing competition and earned the right to compete to be in the world Irish Dancing Championship in April. I know that Irish dancers wear green, but I hope she can find a way to sneak in some blue and gold as well!

I would also like to give a big congratulations to the Baldwinsville Marching Band. I thought they did an exceptional job representing Central New York at the annual Macy's Day Parade in New York City.

Also in New York City, Lindsay Weaver and Carly Benson were STILL representing us in cross country at the Footlocker Northeast Regional.  Congratulations to all!

Are You a Closet Rock Star? West Genesee graduate and Lionel Richie guitarist Ben Mauro is going to be in our auditorium this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. He will be giving mini guitar lessons to people who show up with a small amp, extension cord, guitar, and a willingness to learn. Ben and his band are also going to play a few tunes as well. Sounds like fun!

Dance the Night Away: Saturday is our high school semi-formal which means in a few short blinks we are going to be at winter break.  Please try to enjoy this crazy, busy time.  There will be games, concerts, shopping, weather, and stress.  There will also be family, friends, and our children to enjoy as well.  Try to find a balance and try to find the positive side!

Enjoy the week!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks

Being Thankful: As we head into Thanksgiving week, I would like to thank all of you for your support throughout the past seven years. We would not be where we are as a District without your willingness to be a part of our "Wildcat" family.

There are a growing number of our community members who are struggling more than ever. If you are aware of someone who needs some help, or a family to celebrate Thanksgiving with, please consider offering a hand.  We don't need to write, tweet, e-mail, or talk loudly about these opportunities; we just need to help those in need. Thank you and enjoy the holiday!

Swimming Update: Our girls swimming team completed their season over the weekend with impressive performances. Those receiving special recognition were: Olivia Castro who finished sixth in the 100 freestyle and 15th in the 200 freestyle. The 400 medley relay team of Rebecca Kanoza, Kaitlin Dunning, Shannon Cahalan, and Olivia Castro finished 20th. We are very proud of the efforts of the whole team, and we are looking forward to the future. Congratulations!

Veterans' Tax Exemption: Last week our Board of Education was brought up to speed regarding the Veterans' Tax Exemption that is available to be given by school districts across New York State. The next step for the Board of Education is to hold what is called a Public Hearing to formally discuss their options and receive feedback from the community. That will happen at our next Board Meeting which will be held on December 3 at 7:00 p.m. in the Stonehedge Elementary School library. The Board of Education has until March 1, 2015 to ultimately make a decision about which direction they would like to take.

Advancing to the Next Level: We would like to congratulate the top twelve spellers who will be advancing to the Post Standard Spelling Bee. (Click here to see the article with the names of those students.) Our own District level competition is always so great that whoever advances is definitely skilled enough to win it all. Good luck!

Fame! JR. at WGMS: West Genesee Middle School students were "on top of the charts" when they offered a joyous performance of Fame! JR., this past weekend. Congratulations to the cast and crew for an inspired performance!

Other Weekend Events: It was great to see so many West Genesee community members at two events over the weekend. The first place was the annual Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation that was held at Onondaga Community College, and the second was the Frozen Dome Classic hockey game that was held at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night. I always tell people that we are the smallest large community that I know. My experience of interacting with so many people outside of our four walls proves that time and time again.

Congratulations to those being inducted into the National Honor Society this evening and have a great short week filled with family, friends, and... turkey!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Run Like the Wind

Cross Country Runners Compete: "Run like the wind!", they cheered.  "You can do it!", they yelled. "We are proud of you!", they said. All were shouts going out to our cross-country runners competing at the Federation Championship this weekend in Poughkeepsie, New York. The girls team of Carly Benson, Grace Craig, Lindsay Weaver, Elise Dunshee, Kendall Dombroske, Maria Matkoski, and Sarah Ferranti competed and placed 13th. In the individual competitions, Will Randall placed 18th and Carley Benson placed 6th. Nice work and a great way to end the season. Now they can start their winter sports today!

Musicians Perform at Ithaca College: Over the weekend our Chorale performed at the renovated Ford Hall at Ithaca College where they had a chance to both compose AND perform. There was also a concert for parents in Hockett Hall. There are great acoustics in both halls and when you combine great sound with fantastic performers and conductors (thanks Mr. Alvaro!) special things happen.

The Board of Education Switches Locations for Meetings: Speaking of special things happening, the Board of Education is going to hold a few meetings this year in different buildings so they can become familiar with the facilities that will undergo changes and improvements through our Capital Project.  This Wednesday, November 19, the Board will hold their meeting at Camillus Middle School in the Large Group Instruction Room. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m., with a tour starting at 6:00 p.m. The meeting on December 5 will be held at Stonehedge Elementary School in the library.

Veterans Tax Exemption to be Discussed: One of the topics at the Board meeting will be a Study Session regarding the Veterans Tax Exemption. You might remember that last year the Board of Education just did not have enough information from Onondaga County to make an informed decision. We have received a variety of informational and financial pieces of data from Onondaga County that will be shared with our Board members so they can be more informed about the exact impact of the exemption on Veterans and non-Veterans. Because so many media members read this blog, I am quick to point out that the Board of Education is not close to making an actual decision at this meeting; they will simply receive more updated information than they had last school year.

Thankful to the Emergency Volunteers in our Community: Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks, and I want to give some early thanks to all of our volunteer emergency organizations that cover our District.  Fairmount Fire Department, Camillus Fire Department, Taunton Fire Department, WAVES Ambulance, the Onondaga County Sheriffs, the New York State Police, and the Camillus Police Department. Brave men and women (many who work for free) to keep us safe, provide helpful tips, and are wonderful community partners. One of these amazing people is Camillus Police Officer Mike Schreyer. You can usually find Officer Schreyer at many of our school functions. On Friday night he was in a parking lot in the community saving someone's life. Again, great people and thanks for your service!

Enjoy the week-


Monday, November 10, 2014


Spelling is an important Skill: The title was the correctly spelled word that won 6th grader, Abigail Ray, our annual District Spelling Bee. The competition was fierce as always, and I always appreciate students who enter the Spelling Bee. Not only do they learn how to perform under pressure, they have to dedicate time to preparation and maintain a positive attitude; even when they spell a word wrong. These are all great life skills that some don't learn until they are adults, if ever!

National Merit Commended Scholars Honored at Board Meeting: At the last Board of Education meeting we recognized our National Merit Commended Scholars: Steven Mirabito, Christopher Brown, Claire Thomas, Aaron Jones, and John Buttner. These students help to exemplify the academic excellence that is promoted at school every day. A big congratulations goes out to their parents and family members as well. Nice work!

Cinderella Finds Her Glass Slipper at CMS: Camillus Middle School presented a great musical on Friday and Saturday. They did the student version of Cinderella: The Enchanted Edition and their performances were commendable. 

West Genesee Middle School will perform the musical Fame Jr. on November 20-22. I cannot wait until all of these performers get to the high school!

Athletic Update: We have had a VERY successful fall athletic campaign. Our cheerleaders and girls swimming and diving teams all performed extremely well this weekend.  

Congratulations to our girls Swim team for becoming Section III Class A champions this weekend! There were also championships won by Shannon Cahalan for the 100 yard backstroke and Olivia Castro in the 200 yard freestyle and 100 yard freestyle.

It was also a good weekend in cross country. For the girls, Carly Benson placed 5th in the state competition, and Grace Craig came in 53rd. In boys cross country, Will Randall placed 16th in the state competition. Both Carly and Will's meet finish qualifies them as individual racers for next Saturday's NYS Federation Championship at Bowdoin Park in Poughkeepsie. Our girls team has also been selected to compete in that event. This is the first time we have qualified a girls team for this elite competition.  

As we finish up our fall sports, we head right into varsity winter sports, believe it or not!

Update on Progress: Our Capital Project is slightly ahead of schedule and on budget.  I had a chance to see all of the equipment being unpacked and prepared for installation and I could not be happier with the contractors we are using to pull cable and connect equipment so we can upgrade our security and provide all campus wireless Internet access. If you click on this link to my last blog update about the project, you can see the time frame for the remainder of the project and I see no reason why we will not be able to stay on schedule.

There is a Reason We Test New Systems: Last week we tested the phone portion of our Parentlink Communication System using information from Schooltool. No bueno. What we determined from that test, is that there is a lot of work to be done before I would call that phone system a success. We have to work with two companies as well as internally to clean everything up. 

Thank you for your patience during our testing phases. Don't feel bad if you didn't get a test call from our system; I didn't either! For now, emergency closings or other emergency information will still be found through Twitter, the Parentlink mobile phone app, our Facebook fan page, your email, as well as various media outlets.

Elections Affect Everyone: The recent elections are going to create an uncertain future for education in New York State. The current governor has been very vocal about putting pressure on educators to "do better" and has also been vocal about forcing mergers and consolidations. The senate is now a Republican Senate, and they will be more vocal about promoting Charter Schools over public schools. I have been around long enough to be ready for anything, but the "fasten your seat-belt" sign has just been lit!

Recognizing Students and Teachers: Tonight the Camillus Optimists Club will recognize the West Genesee Teachers and Students of the Year.  This is a great event sponsored by the Optimists and held at Gillfian's West Hill. Students are selected by teachers and the teachers are selected by their peers which makes this award very special.  

The teachers being recognized this year are: Eliza Spaulding (West Genesee High School Science), Rebecca Eassa (Math at Camillus Middle School) and Molly O' Keefe (Physical Education at East Hill Elementary School).  

The students being honored are: Alex Tripodi and Claire Wenner from the High School, Katherine McManus and Phillip Martin from Camillus Middle School, and Jessica Potosky and Haneen Awawda from West Genesee Middle School. Congratulations to all!

Celebrating our Veterans: Tomorrow please take a moment to reflect on what our Veterans have done for America which affords us the freedoms we have today. Better yet, see if you can find a Veteran and thank them in person; they will appreciate it!

This is the first year that I will be able to walk the "Lights on the Lake" before they officially open to cars and I am excited! Also I will be attending a fundraiser for the Food Pantry of Central New York at Wonderworks. Cool!

Have a great week-


Monday, November 3, 2014

Election Season is Almost Over!

Don't Forget to Vote this Week! I am looking VERY forward to Wednesday when the election signs and commercials disappear and we can get back to our regular programming. Every time I think that it would be a good idea to run for an office someday, I just remind myself about these past few weeks and go back to my appointed job as Superintendent! Good luck to everyone on a ballot Tuesday and thanks for removing your signs promptly.

Successful Halloween Carnival: Last week was pretty cool. One of our assistant principals at the high school, Peter Blake, helped to organize several of our volunteer organizations and MANY students to give our younger Wildcats a night of trick or treating, fun and games, and an overall good time. If you were one of the nearly 2,000 people to attend the event, thank you and thanks to all who volunteered their time to make the night a tremendous success.

That same night parents and community members were also able to enjoy an evening of music in our auditorium.  The students sounded great!

Athletics Update: Although I will have more to share about athletics later in the week, I wanted to share some news about our cross country runners. After their performances over the weekend, we will be sending senior Will Randall to the NYS championship on the boys side as well as Carly Benson (freshman and the fastest of 492 runners) and Grace Craig (sophomore) on the girls side. Once the numbers are all reviewed, we may also send a girls team of seven to the New York State Federation meet. Congratulations to all!

In girls Tennis Doubles and Volleyball, both teams ended with very successful seasons over the weekend. With varsity winter sports just seven days away, we still have cross county, cheerleading, and girls swimming and diving in the fold.

Now with the clocks turned back an hour, it will be nice to actually run in the daylight again before work, and I want to congratulate any of our community members who ran the New York City Marathon yesterday. Enjoy the week and I will write again soon.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trick or Treat?

Marching Band Brings the Cup Home: Congratulations to the West Genesee Marching Band on their 34th New York State Field Band Championship! Hard work, determination, drive, and coming up big when needed, along with the help from staff and volunteers all led to their success.  Hats off as well to the competition who provided some tremendous shows of their own! We feel very fortunate and humble to be among such company. Believe it or not, preparation for next season starts now.

The Wildcats received a score of 96.80. Way to go! The rest of the results are: Arlington 96.10; Victor 95.55; Lancaster 93.00; Liverpool 92.55; Baldwinsville 89.75; Brentwood 88.65, and Orchard Park 86.55.

Athletics Update: A huge congratulation goes out to the tennis doubles team of Samantha Heyn and Marisa Joyce who completed the sweep as Section III champs and State Regional championships in the doubles division. They will represent West Genesee and Section III at the State Tournament next weekend. Coach Mannara has done quite well with our tennis program. We should all be proud!

Our football season is in the books, but not the heart of our players. Plagued by injuries all season, they had to fight critics as well as their opponents to make it through the season, let alone make it to the playoffs.

Their season ended on Saturday, but many got up yesterday to support their teammate, Sean Relyea, who ran in the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund of CNY Run for Their Life in memory of his mom who passed away. That shows you can win off the field as well.

Our cross country runners are still competing as are our girls soccer, volleyball, and swimming/diving teams.  It is crazy to think that winter sports tryouts are less than two weeks away!

Trick or Treat? I titled this blog "Trick or Treat" for two reasons.  First and most obvious is to be on the lookout for children trick or treating this Friday. Also, be on the lookout for information about the trick or treat carnival at the high school this Thursday.

Second, I think of trick or treating when it comes to the election season. Instead of giving candy (or a healthy choice treat of course!), I am giving my vote to someone. I know most of the candidates in our area on a personal level, so it has been tough to watch the negative campaign ads and the promises being offered, etc.  Everything is personal, and it always comes down to what a candidate can ACTUALLY DO (not their opinion or what they would like to do if they could) to change the path that New York State Education is taking.

If they cannot make a change, then they need the power to swing resources to our community so that I can make the changes we need to make and not follow certain New York State Education Department policies.  If they can do neither, that presents a challenge from my vantage point.  Trick or treat.

Enjoy your week!


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Other Side of the Coin

Another Great Weekend in Central New York: 
  • The Marching Band climbed into the 90's at Central Square and are ready for the big Dome show next weekend. 
  • Our athletic teams won and lost, but they are all ready for post-season play. 
  • Favorable state rankings came out about the District. 
  • We held some incredibly successful family nights in a couple of our elementary schools as well!
I had the chance to personally experience both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat over the weekend. The thrill of victory came when I beat my wife at air hockey in a best of three series. As these games have become so competitive over the years, it was time to celebrate! 

On the flip side, she bested me at my own sport, golf. While we were getting pumpkins, we played miniature golf and she won by one stroke. I told her I was distracted by the giant pumpkin and orange chickens that were nearby.

Students Teach us How to Overcome Challenges: Last week in my blog (one of my most read blogs for some reason), I wrote about being terrified of heights after a negative experience in the past.  As luck would have it, my wife and I ran into a student at the mall who could not have been happier being suspended very high over Destiny USA Mall at a place called Wonderworks

As we walked under the ropes course, overhead we heard a loud, "Dr. Brown!"  We turned to find a high school neighbor and the mom of a middle school student. I looked up and saw the student high overhead practically running through the pods, platforms, and rope trails, grinning ear to ear. I shouted up to him, and we gave a quick air "fist pump" to each other as he went back to what he was enjoying.  My wife and I left the area energized.

When I met this student years ago he was unable to walk, but had the fire within. He was determined but frustrated the first few years as he worked as hard as he could to participate in everything that the other students did. When I visited his class he would always be excited, no matter how tough his day was. I can remember helping to push his wheel chair at the Special Olympics when he really wanted to run.

Through the years, he had many surgeries (I don't think 19 surgeries is an exaggerated estimate), but he kept his poise. I can remember visiting the building when he could walk and hop a bit on his own and remember the first time he jumped up to give me a hug. He was so happy! As he has gotten older and he has become a teenager, we keep our greetings to a fist bump, and he continues to progress. To see him soaring above the mall, happy and free, reaffirms that there is no telling where life is going to take him.

What I was reminded by him was that determination, perseverance, a positive attitude, grit, and no whining will get you where you want to go, and you might even inspire some people along the way. What a great weekend!

Enjoy the week-


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Capital Project Update

I hope that no one reading this has had to pump out their basement or take a boat to work after all of the rain we have had in the Syracuse area!

Ranked in the Academic Top 10: In this quick update, I would like to thank all of our staff, students, Board of Education, and community members for helping us to be placed in the Academic Top Ten and Administrative Efficiency Top Two, by Buffalo Business First Journal for the Syracuse area. Considering almost all of the schools ahead of us academically are from higher wealth communities, I am very pleased with the fight and competitiveness we have shown and we look forward to moving up the list each year. 

Capital Project Update: Our Capital Project is moving along on time and on budget. As you may remember, our first stage is the technology upgrade portion. 
  • All of the necessary equipment is in-house. 
  • Workers are wiring the buildings to prepare us for the higher Internet bandwidth, Internet phone, upgraded security, and upgraded public address systems and clocks. 
  • Soon we will have a team begin to unpack, inventory, catalog, and program the equipment so that everything can just be plugged in once the necessary wiring is completed. 
We are making a slight change in course regarding the wireless. Instead of waiting for everything to be done in the building, each segment of a  building will be activated as they come online. This will get faster wireless Internet to our students and teachers in a quicker manner. We do not have a complete roll out schedule yet, but there is a plan to have some estimates in the next few weeks.

Enjoy the rest of the week and weekend!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Great Long Weekend

I hope that you had a chance to enjoy the great weather we had over the long weekend. 

West Genesee Girls Tennis Dominates Section III Doubles Tournament: At the Section III girls tennis doubles events held on Monday, it was an all West Genesee final. The Wildcats held both championship slots when Samantha Heyn and Marisa Joyce took home the title. Congratulations girls! For more about the event, check out this article on by clicking here.

Marching Band Wins US Bands Competition: Our Marching Band had a great weekend. They traveled to the US Bands Competition in Virginia Beach, VA and won first place. They also received awards for best visual, color guard, percussion, music, and overall effect. Our band director, Michael Stachnik, received the award for favorite band director. Not sure how much more they could have done. They certainly capitalized on the opportunity they were given to compete!

Christmas Lights and Fire Safety: I did a ton of things over the weekend, but one of the highlights was getting my Christmas lights hung. Why would this be a highlight?  Hanging Christmas lights is terrifying for me. 

When I was a volunteer firefighter years ago, we rolled up to a colonial home that had smoke pouring from the windows. Four of my teammates took a hose and went inside the home to search for occupants and to start to apply water at the source of the fire. Another firefighter and I went to the roof of the garage to cut a hole in the side of the house to provide a vent for the heat and hopefully allow us to save the house. As I completed the cut, the hole that I made blew open and fire, heat, and steam billowed out. I was immediately burned beneath my nomex hood, and I became disoriented and needed to get off the roof in a hurry. With the house being more involved than we originally thought absolute panic set in, but somehow my partner and I made it back to the ladder and down to the ground. 

Every year when I have to go back on the roof to hang lights (leaders can NEVER back down to fear), all I think about is that night so when I get them done, I feel very relieved! If you are a neighbor don’t worry, I won’t turn them on for quite a while.
(As October is Fire Prevention Month, CMS students at left had the opportunity to listen to Jordan Davie from the Camillus Fire Department talk about fire safety during Fire Safety Week.) 

What Students are Talking About: During my building travels I try to get a handle on what students are thinking about, worrying about, and talking about so that I can make sure I am up to speed. Periodically, I try to relay those things to you so you can stay “hip” like me (or so we think)!
  • Elementary students are still into the movie Frozen, and I could not be happier about that.  
  • Middle school students are into a series on the FX channel called American Horror Story.  I was not aware of this series so I had to check it out.  It reminded me of the 1980’s remakes of The Twilight Zone series. Quirky stories with interesting characters and scenes.  
  • Middle school students are also into anything Taylor Swift (kids really like her music or they really don’t and have no problem telling you so).
High School students are into some interesting things right now, and I have enjoyed my recent visits. 
  • They are concerned about Ebola (I think we all are), and ISIS (I think we all are).  
  • They are moving away from Facebook and more into Instagram and Twitter (look up the term sub-tweet and spring that on them at dinner and see your teenager “cred” rise).  
  • They love Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, and more and more of them are into county music (I am starting to warm up to a few country songs). 
Because communication is so important with our children, feel free to use a few of these topics if you are looking to fill up some dead space while driving them to the mall!

This is getting to be book like and that goes against blog rules! I do want to give a Capital Project update as well as some other information, so I will probably send something else out later in the week.

Thanks and let’s have a great week!


Monday, October 6, 2014


Homecoming 2014: I want to thank the dozens of volunteers, staff, and students who made our high school Homecoming special. The pep rally and dance were wonderful. Congratulations to the Homecoming court: Jack Howes, Emily Augello, Brian Van Beveren, Mackenzie Mathewson, Matt McDonald, Katie Lannon, Alex Tripodi, Anna Delaney, Bob Marks, and Leandra Kovalchik.

Our sports teams did well and the Marching Band finished first in their competition. We are fortunate to have such a supportive community, and I am looking forward to next year already!  

Connecting with our Community Members: Last week I had a chance to attend the annual Camillus Rotary luncheon, which celebrates people who help others in our community. This is a very worthwhile event each year, and I am always amazed to be able to be together with so many people who are making a daily impact in our community.

Participating in Government with our Students: Recently I had a chance to teach Participation in Government classes to seniors. We spoke about the link between federal, state, and local government and how those bodies impact students each day. We also talked about what rights students have in school and why we have some of the rules we have. It was a great conversation on that topic. Teaching these classes each year gives me an opportunity to see if students are in the ready line for graduation. They are.

My Last Marathon? Lastly, I had an opportunity to run the Corning Wineglass Marathon yesterday.  I ran a better time than last year, but my legs are so sore that I don’t think I will be walking correctly for some time!  Many thanks to the over 700 volunteers who made it a success, and a very special thanks to West Genesee parent, Mr. Winters, who found me at mile 17 or so. We had never met. I had very severe cramps in the front and back of both legs, and he pushed me along to get me going again. If it weren’t for him there is no way that I would have finished with the time that I had set for a goal. Thanks! No more marathons for me!

Have a wonderful week-


Monday, September 29, 2014


Well, my favorite high school, college, and professional football teams came up short over the weekend, but my sadness was short-lived because of the absolutely perfect weather days we have had! Just unbelievable for Central New York.

Beautiful Day for an Invitational:  I spent Saturday traveling the New York State Thruway to Buffalo to take my youngest on a college visit. Along the way, we saw dozens of buses from just as many districts. Their destination? The McQuaid Cross-Country Invitational. We sent runners as well. My college housemate, Tim Lynch, snapped this great picture from the starting line. A beautiful day for a run.

Tournament of Bands is Entertaining: Back home an extremely successful Tournament of Bands was taking place. Again, a picture perfect day provided a beautiful backdrop to a beyond standing room only crowd. They were not disappointed by the talent displayed by students from nine schools. Our own Marching Band put on quite a demonstration show as well.  We are very fortunate to have such great facilities that can hold such a massive gathering!

Commended Scholars are Announced: Last week I was filled with pride to learn that five of our students were recognized as National Merit Commended Scholars! Steven Mirabito, Christopher Brown (no relation), Claire Thomas, Aaron Jones, and John Buttner will be recognized by our Board President, the high school Principal, and yours truly at our Board meeting on November 5. Congratulations to these students and their parents!

Open Houses are a Success: I would like to thank everyone who attended our open houses across the District. We had nearly 100% attendance from our parents, and the biggest complaint I heard was that we need more parking! I will take that any day.

Spirit Week at the High School: This week is spirit week at the high school. So if you are driving along West Genesee Street and see a superhero or cowboy/girl, do not be alarmed (or beach attire on a cold day for that matter). We are celebrating student spirit, school pride, and homecoming.  We are West Genesee!

Have a great week-


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Great Weekend in Central New York!

What a great weekend in Central New York!  I had a chance to attend an outdoor wedding on Friday night, followed by being able to wear shorts and a tee shirt to the Syracuse football game, followed by a warm and humid run at the Race for Respect on Sunday. Not too shabby for late September!

16th Annual Race for Respect: Speaking of the Race for Respect, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended. Dedicating a part of your day to walk or run at a school function in the spitting rain, humidity, and warmth is very much appreciated.  We are at a crossroads with this event. The race has been run for the past 16 years and was developed as a way to help celebrate what it means to work together in the school community.  Click here to view a brief video of the event.

About five years ago we started the District Culture Fair that takes place in the winter. This event was designed to promote and celebrate our diversity.  The event is not weather dependent, and in recent years we have had up to approximately 2,000 people attend the Culture Fair. While the Race for Respect draws a few hundred.

Neither are designed to make money; they are designed to promote togetherness. We are going to evaluate both events and make some decisions moving forward. Thanks again to all who attended and volunteered!

Open Houses are a Success:  I would also like to thank our parents for their attendance at our Open Houses.  We often have close to 100% attendance at Open Houses, and that is a sure sign that we are all connected and working together.

Open House at the High School last week left me with mixed emotions.  It was the last Open House as a parent and a superintendent, as my youngest is a senior.  It made me think about why we as parents should attend Open House.

As much as it seems like a social hour for us as parents to catch up with our friends and neighbors, it is also an opportunity to:
  • see your child's teachers in action, 
  • see how your child’s personality connects to that of their teachers, 
  • see how the teachers are going to communicate with both our children and us, 
  • what the grading policies are, 
  • how their room is designed and decorated, but 
  • probably the most significant thing you can pick up at Open House is a teacher's desire. 
I have never selected teachers for my children, and while I know who they are because they are my employees, they cannot fake desire.  No one can. I am really happy with our teachers.  I see enthusiasm, creativity, and a general sense of caring for our children and for what it means at West Genesee.

If you are one of the few thinking twice about attending Open Houses, please attend.  I guarantee it will be worth the traffic, late dinner, and your time! Also, you will establish communication with your child’s teachers and principal, and you never know when you will need each other.

Enjoy the week!