Monday, September 28, 2015

Race for Respect!

Race for Respect Means Fall is Here: I am beginning to wonder if all of this nice fall weather is payback for the awful winter we had. Each day seems to be nicer than the last! Certainly the "real" fall will arrive, but it was nice to have a slice of summer greet us for the 17th Annual Race for Respect that was held at the high school yesterday. It was a nice turnout, and I would like to thank all of the event organizers for making the race successful once again. To view a short video of the event, just click here.

Next Weekend Will be Busy: I am hopeful that the weather will hold out at least one more weekend. The largest fundraisers for both the Marching Band and the Athletics programs are going to be held next weekend.

The Tournament of Bands will be held next Saturday, October 3 followed by the Sports Boosters Annual Golf Tournament on Sunday, October 4. We usually "sell out" the turf field for the Tournament of Bands. I look forward to visiting with people from both near and far on Saturday and then playing golf for a good cause with a couple of Board of Education members on Sunday.

Closing Out an Era of the East Hill Playground:  As some of you might remember, part of the Capital Project involves replacing the current wooden castle playground at East Hill Elementary School and replacing it with a more modern and compliant playground called a Playscape. The current playground was built by the hands of many volunteers in the late 1980's under the direction of head volunteers Jane Goot and Mary Anne Clark. Unfortunately, the playground has reached the end of its usable life.

On October 20, at 6:00 p.m. in the East Hill Gymnasium, we will be holding a closing ceremony for the existing playground. We will also get a glimpse of the new Playscape (and basketball court and walking path) that was voted on by current East Hill students.

Part of the ceremony will be to recognize anyone who might have worked on installing the playground. We are also going to dig up and open a time capsule that was placed in the ground when the current playground was officially opened in 1989. There will be a new time capsule placed once we open the new playground.

All are welcome to attend and if you cannot, we will be filming the ceremony and also streaming it on Periscope, the popular social media application.

I have been specifically asked why the current playground needs to be replaced. The short list would include that the current playground is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the wood is treated with a popular chemical from the 1980's that is now banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, the wood is beginning to unsafely sliver, and the wood is bending causing nails and screws to be exposed, along with bees nests. The playground has been recommended to be closed by a third party inspector twice in the past five years.

We have been able to keep it open during the Capital Project because it is slated for replacement. We have, however, had several significant portions of the playground closed for some time.

People are asking if they can purchase or take parts of the existing playground (or the whole thing) before it is demolished in early November. Good question. We are awaiting a legal opinion on that topic due to the chemicals in the treated wood.  If we can, we will accept bids and the highest bidders will be able to come one weekend day (to be determined) to remove their winnings.

Celebrating a Veteran Teacher: Many of you have been asking about services or memorials for our veteran teacher, Jo Ann Macaluso, who passed away recently. A memorial mass is planned at Holy Family Church for this Thursday at 5:00 p.m.

I think we are slated for a couple more nice days of weather, so I hope you can enjoy them. Thank you for your support and have a great week!


Monday, September 21, 2015

Not All News is Bad News

Good News: Pictured with me is senior Christian Holcomb. Christian is also a lifeguard who received his training and certification from Mrs. Carrie Butler, one of our Physical Education teachers. One day recently he was with his mom at a local restaurant and noticed a mother who was becoming frantic because her baby was choking on food.

The baby had been choking long enough that he had stopped crying and was beginning to change color. Christian told the mom to hand the baby to him. He turned the baby over, stopped him from choking, and removed the piece of food from his mouth. He handed the baby back to the mother as emergency crews arrived. He and his friends continued on with their own meal. The family he helped did not speak good English, and Christian actually never spoke to them again.

What makes the story more remarkable is that Christian did not tell me about what he did.  The story came from others. When I met with him he asked if we really had to feature him because he did not want it to look like he was seeking attention. I featured Christian because he deserves it. In a world of negativity, stories like this one continue to give us hope that there are still good things happening around us. If you see Christian, please give him a pat on the back; not because he wants it, because he DESERVES it.

In the Media: West Genesee is featured in the media A LOT! Some people think that we are attention hounds and cannot go a week without seeing ourselves in the paper or on television. That cannot be further from the truth.

I have been teaching graduate courses in educational administration since 2006. For the leadership courses, I always talk about what it takes to be a successful leader. The recipe for success that I have always used and believe in is to establish trust within the organization and the community and then work each and every day to keep that trust. Part of trust building is always telling the truth, always being transparent, having and communicating a clear vision, celebrating success, learning from shortcomings, and ALWAYS being genuine. Sounds easy right? If you want to call yourself a leader, it should be.

I have been very fortunate that both Districts I have led have been very successful. The downside of success sometimes is that people are looking for those cracks in the armor. The media (who I respect and work with very happily), cover what viewers are going to watch or read. Our transparency causes the media to pick up on stories, both positive and negative, at a higher rate than others. I do not have a problem with that because I know if a community member sees a positive story or a negative story about our District, they know there is nothing else that we are hiding from them.

The result is a community that helps us celebrate the successes that they hear about, and they understand that while a situation might be challenging, we have control of it and will be okay. They can go on with their lives. There are no rumors, no "wondering when/if a story will break". You would not believe the energy I can then spend on the more important things.

This formula has worked, does work, and will continue to work.

As we finish up open houses this week, I again want to thank you for your support. Our attendance thus far by parents has been over the top, and we absolutely would not want it any other way!

Enjoy the week.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Losing a Legend

It is with great sadness that I write to let you know about the passing of West Genesee Middle School teacher JoAnn Macaluso. Miss Macaluso has worked for the West Genesee Central School District for forty-eight years.

She did her student teaching in the District, spent many years at Onondaga Road Elementary, and has been at West Genesee Middle School since. She was an incredible role model for thousands of students over the course of her career. The profession never passed her by. She embraced change, faced challenges head on, and always had a thirst for learning. She absolutely loved watching students grow and learn. She will be dearly missed by our entire community.

As you talk among yourselves and with your children about this loss, please be confident that we will have an adequate amount of support for our students and staff should they need it. The focus from our staff will be to remember all of the positive things that Miss Macaluso brought to our community. She would want us to be strong during this time, and we will absolutely honor that in her memory.

Thank you.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Notice of Bus Driver Arrest

I wish I had better news to share, but it is my job to inform you that one of our bus drivers, Zach Madonna, was arrested for first-degree attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor, a felony; as well as endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

We currently have no reason to believe that this activity involved West Genesee students, but this type of conduct is not acceptable in any way. We are pursuing the matter to the full extent that the law will allow. If anyone has any information about this case that you feel will benefit the investigation, please contact me at 315-487-4562 or the Criminal Investigations Department at the Onondaga County Sherriff’s Office at 315-435-3081.

It is unfortunate when these events occur, but I feel as the Superintendent of Schools you as parents and community members are entitled to the facts as soon as we are aware of them; especially when a case involves an employee of the District. A letter outlining all of the information above will be sent home with students today.

Thank you for reading.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Making Connections

A Great Opening Week of School: The students and staff were excited to be back and it was fun for me to get to meet the class of 2028. We had a couple of bus delays and a few gremlins in the new phone system, but I consider the week a huge success.

A Winning Weekend: Over the weekend my favorite college and NFL teams (Syracuse Orange and Buffalo Bills) won, and our Marching Band had its first victory as well. I am trying to remember the last time both of my favorite teams won on the same weekend!

Open Houses/Curriculum Nights: Last week, and over the next two weeks, are our open houses/curriculum nights. On opening day with the staff, I stressed the importance of making connections with students and families.

Open houses/curriculum nights give our staff and you as parents a great opportunity to meet face-to-face and establish a good communication flow. I appreciate your patience with parking and crowds during these times. Most of our open houses and curriculum nights have near 100% attendance, which is a good thing. Your commitment to the success of your children is as important as any other part of their educational journeys.

This week we really start to buckle down and establish how the rest of the school year will operate. In my next blog I will give you a complete update of our Capital Project, including milestones for when some of the larger pieces will be complete.

Thanks for your support and enjoy the week.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

They're Back!

Many of us in education chose this profession to help children to become adults, and to teach them a thing or two along the way. This opening day was as exciting as my first opening day; it simply never gets old. Summertime is great, but it is lonely without the students around. I begin to feel like a grumpy old man dealing with "big people problems".  As soon as the students step off of the buses, the big people problems go away, and I instantly feel about twenty years younger.

As tough as it is as parents to watch our children drive away in the big yellow bus, or close the car door and run up to the school, can you put yourself back into their shoes and imagine how they really feel? I would love to ask an astronaut how they felt the first time they exited the earth's atmosphere, because I bet that a kindergartner stepping off of the bus for the first time must feel the same way.

A new environment, decisions to make that they have never had to make before, and experiencing feelings that they were only told they would feel. Bravely, they make their way to their classrooms. They share glue sticks, playthings and learn to listen and to raise their hands if they have a question.

By the second or third day it is as if they had been there all year. It is truly an amazing thing to watch, and the raw emotion that you see from our youngest students has not changed in twenty years. At that age kids really are, well, kids!

On the flip side, I want to take an opportunity to wish our recent graduates well, either in college, the workforce, or the military. I was exceptionally close to our most recent graduates because my son was one of them, and I think the hardest thing for them to realize is that any reputation they had, good or bad, is now gone; it is up to them to forge their way. They too are brave.

What was expected of them by us goes out the window, and what they expect of themselves takes over. That can be scary for students who were coddled maybe a little too much growing up. It has been very interesting to watch this group free fall, collect, scatter, and land on their collective feet. There are many success stories and "high school underdog to adult champion" stories in the making. Enjoy!

It was a great opening day, and I look forward to sharing stories of our first week when I write again.