Monday, February 3, 2014

We Can Use Your Help

What a weekend!  A great Syracuse basketball game (if you are a SU fan, of course), and a Super Bowl game that was a lot less stressful to watch but just as enjoyable.  Also, I ran into a bunch of past graduates while out and about and it made me feel old when they were talking about starting families, work, etc.

Students Spell at the Bee: This weekend the Post Standard/WCNY Spelling Bee was held, and we were very proud to have Carter Leonard (CMS sixth grader), Collin Puchta (CMS eighth grader), and Abigail Ray (East Hill fifth grader) participated from our Wildcat family. Alaina Kenny from Onondaga Hill Middle School in the Westhill School District went on to win. Congratulations to all who participated.

Wildcats Clinch League Title: On Friday the Wildcat hockey team clinched the League Championship for the seventh time in seven years.  Once again we have a great group of young men who are making names for themselves both on and off the ice and I am looking forward to watching them as we near the post season.

Practicing Emergency Preparedness:  Also on Friday the administrators took part in an active shooter training at Stonehedge Elementary School.  Emergency officials from the Camillus Police Department, Fairmount Fire Department, Camillus Fire Department, Fairmount Ambulance, WAVES Ambulance, and about a dozen student volunteers helped us to witness what an active shooter situation could look and sound like within a school building.

Police used blank rounds and tracer rounds to demonstrate the noise of firearms in closed buildings and the student volunteers provided the chaos and yelling associated with such an event. It was sobering to say the least and the exercise is helping us to make some changes to our safety plans. I would like to thank all who were involved in this very important exercise and I hope we never have to deal with the real thing.

What is GEA and How does it Affect our Schools: With all of the swirling around education about the common core learning standards, testing, and data collection, it is important to note that there is one thing out there that will hurt both sides of the argument; and most importantly our children. I do not reach out for your assistance that often, but I am very concerned about the governor's budget that was released a couple of weeks ago. State school budgets have had a line item in them for a few years now called the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA for short. The GEA was enacted by former governor Patterson to help close the New York State budget gap. You might remember about four years ago when we had to lay off about 18% of our workforce. That was due to the GEA, increases in pension costs, and increases to health insurance.

Governor Cuomo indicated that New York State is approaching a $2B surplus. In his proposed budget he called for an increase in money to schools. When you read the fine print however, very few schools except for those in extreme poverty or schools that are underperforming will qualify for the additional money that he is making available. This leaves West Genesee with about a $1.7M budget gap as we fine tune our expenses for next year. Obviously this will lead to significant reductions once again to balance the budget unless something is done.

Rally for Change: Here is where you can help. On February 5 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at North Syracuse Junior High School ALL are invited to attend a rally of sorts organized by the Central New York School Boards Association to help educated everyone on how to lobby our elected officials to reduce the GEA. This event was going to be used to discuss concerns about curriculum, etc. but the GEA impact is so large for all districts that the other concerns need to be put aside.

A link to the flyer can be found here. As far as I know there are no assigned seats or anything else you need to do except show up to listen. All elected officials have been invited, but they will not speak. A full auditorium of area community members and school officials will send a strong message.  If you can find the time to attend or help, it will be very much appreciated. In the coming weeks I will also provide a template letter that you can send to our elected officials. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the governor will allow money that he has already set aside to be used for the GEA instead. This will help ALL schools and not increase what he has already pledged.

Planning Strategically: This week is our strategic planning meeting. Our strategic plan is the most important document that guides us to determine resources, needs, and direction. The strategic planning committee consists of Board members, administrators, support staff, teachers, and students. Be on the lookout for our 2014-15 goals.

Author of Petey to Speak at CMS:  We invite you to join us this coming Friday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m. at Camillus Middle School for the event: Finding the Heart of the Story. Ben Mickalesen,the author of the book Petey, will discuss the challenges he faced in creating his books and provides an in-depth view inside his research as he tries to uncover the "soul of a story".
Guys and Dolls at the High School: The musical Guys and Dolls kicks off this week at the high school auditorium on Thursday and Friday at 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. I am very excited to see another top notch performance by our students!

Enjoy the week-