Monday, October 26, 2015

Your Time to Be Heard

Celebrating a Playground: Another week is in the books. We have had a great school year so far. Last week was busy. About three hundred people came to the closing ceremony for the East Hill Elementary School playground. It was nice to see so many generations of people, some traveling from out of state, join us for the ceremony. Click here to read an article about the event that includes a video of the ceremony, the video from when the playground was opened in 1989, and many really good pictures. Site preparation for the new playground should begin on or about November 7. The new playground will be installed in the spring.

Honoring our Teachers and Students of the Year: Each year the Camillus Optimists Club sponsors a Teachers and Students of the Year recognition program and dinner. This recognition is highly regarded for our teachers because the honorees are selected by their peers. 

This year the winners are Lisa Long (foreign language teacher at West Genesee High School), Susan Mills (foreign language teacher at West Genesee Middle School), and Kristin Hudson (Kindergarten teacher at Onondaga Road Elementary School). Once we have the student names, we will share those as well. The recognition dinner will take place at Gillfillan's West Hill Country Club on November 10. Congratulations to all honorees!

State Education Department is Looking for Feedback: MaryEllen Elia, the NYS Commissioner of Education, was in town last week on a listening tour. She met with superintendents and board of education members last Thursday and with teachers, parents, and administrators last Friday at the BOCES offices in Auburn, New York. 

Along with her listening tour is a survey that is open to all ( regarding the impact of the Common Core Learning Standards on New York State education. If you are interested, please take the time to complete the survey.

Only a week away from turning the clocks back!

Take care-


Monday, October 19, 2015

Walk the Line

Snow in CNY in October? Many of you said the "S" word over the weekend and that is okay. Snow happens in central New York. Luckily it was just a quick dusting and a blast of cold air. It was enough for me to find the hat, gloves, winter coat, and snow brush. Now if the weather holds true for Syracuse, I will be "too hot and too cold" over the next three weeks before we really get a season change. I will take it considering the alternatives that are out there.

Walking the Line with New Education Commissioner: Johnny Cash wrote a song called "Walk the Line". The lyrics describe how he is hopeful that a person in his life would be trustworthy, dedicated, and loyal. In return, Mr. Cash would be willing to help "turn the tide". This is where I am at with our new NYS Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia.

She promised to listen to all stakeholders, involve teachers and administrators in the decision making process, and be more communicative and transparent. So far she has lived up to those promises:
  • She is involving teachers in the writing of this years' 3-8 NYS assessments (twelve of our teachers are participating). 
  • She is on the Governor's commission to study the Common Core Learning Standards.  
  • She has started her own focused review which will include a survey that ALL New Yorkers can participate in. 
  • She has reorganized her top staff so that  schools are getting quicker responses to questions and communication.. 
When will I "Walk the Line"?  If this continues through next spring, I will begin to have hope that the dark days of New York State education are slowly giving way to a new dawn. We will see.

Celebrating a Playground: This Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. will be the closing ceremony for the East Hill Elementary School playground. Some things have changed since our original communication that is important for you to know.

First, the event will be held outside next to the playground. Why? Two reasons. First, the playground was opened outside in 1989; and secondly, many people I have connected with have not seen the playground since the early 1990's. You will have an opportunity to get some pictures and a last look at the playground before we begin construction on the new one.

In 1989, Friendly's had a shake wagon available. They no longer have these, so we have asked another long time community partner, Cam's Pizzeria, to provide their mobile food truck. They are more than happy to help. Sunset will be around 6:35 p.m. that evening and that will give us plenty of time for the event. Please dress for the weather that day.

Second, during our historical research we discovered that the original time capsule was unfortunately crushed and broken about ten years ago when the bridge on the playground broke and all of the contents were ruined by water. While we will not have any time capsule to open, we will certainly have a fitting ceremony for a great community fixture.

We hope to see you there. I will be there by 5:30 p.m. if you would like to come a little early to really take a look at the playground before the ceremony which will promptly begin at 6:00 p.m.

Four sixteen hour days in a row this week with hopefully a regular Friday. Are you ready? Bring it on. Enjoy the week!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Bigger Picture

Homecoming Pep Rally and Football Game: It was a chilly night, but a night full of Wildcat pride for our homecoming festivities. Our football team is working really hard to compete this season but fell short in the cold, crisp air. The score was somewhat lopsided; so I would argue that while the team lost the game, they certainly won a valuable life lesson. They kept their heads up, played to the end, and knew that if the tables were turned that they would have won the game with dignity. This is why our athletic programs continue to be recognized for their sportsmanship, academics, AND on the field success. I am very proud of them. 

Earlier in the day our high school students were treated with another great pep assembly. The pep rally is always stressful for our administrators because we have over 1,700 people in one space and they are all excited. The student skits and the organization from the advisers were both top notch once again. Homecoming is one of my favorite times of the year, and I am already looking forward to next year!

The Band Marches On: The Marching Band continues to find out what they are all about both in their performance and as people. The strength of a unit is known sometimes when the chips are down, rather than when everything is going well. Don’t count them out.

Music and Football Meet Up in Nashville: The other cool thing from the weekend was that I got to hop on a plane and go to Nashville, Tennessee to soak in the music but also attend the Tennessee Titans/Buffalo Bills football game. Music is a hobby of mine and there is no lack of talented musicians in Nashville. The city was welcoming, clean, and alive. The music history is deep. There are some great museums and art as well. The Bills game was the icing on the cake, and they actually won which made for a LOT of happy traveling fans in the streets! I will definitely return there some day!

This week is full of building visits, construction planning, and…snowflakes?

Have a great week!


Monday, October 5, 2015

A Good Surprise

People close to me know that I do NOT like surprises. This probably makes me a boring, predictable person, but it is good for business. An exception was made over the weekend when my wife and I were surprised by a visit home from our oldest son. We then attended our youngest son's college cross country meet for the first time AND we surprised HIM by bringing his dog. Surprises are not all bad I guess!

Student is Generous: West Genesee Middle School eighth grader, Erin Byrne, surprised the community with her generosity. She took $200 she raised collecting cans and bottles this summer and bought 60 tickets for the annual Joseph's House car raffle. As Erin wasn't technically old enough to win the prize, she wrote her last name down on the tickets and her family agreed that Erin would decide what to do with any winnings.

She has been volunteering at Joseph's House with her mother every Thursday, and if she won they had decided to donate the car to Joseph's House. We congratulate Erin's parents for raising such a selfless child, and Erin herself for representing herself, her family, and our community in such a positive way.

Weekend Events: The weather held out for the Tournament of Bands and the Sports Boosters golf tournament. Both are significant fund raisers for the fine arts and athletic departments respectfully, but more importantly both events bring the community together for our students. Thank you to all of the volunteers and organizers!

Students Learn about Government Participation: This week I will be visiting with all Participation in Government classes. Participation in Government is a course taken by seniors (my own senior class in 1989 was the first class to have to take "P.I.G") that helps to give students a last and hopefully lasting framework about the status of current issues in government.

I have spoken to Participation in Government classes since 2000, and each year I have spoken about school government, issues facing students, and have then taken questions from students about any topic. I would not pass up these experiences for anything and you might imagine that I have heard a variety of things over the years!

Community Coalition Addressing Drugs: You might remember from last year that we started a community coalition to help educate community members about the dangers of drug use, addiction, and the resources that are available. Our coalition has members from school, local, state, and federal government, business, law enforcement, nearly every clinical organization, parents, and students.

Right now the focus of the coalition is on heroin abuse and addiction. While other topics are dominating the headlines, our community (and every other) is being impacted by heroin. Like many drugs, heroin has no typical user and overdoses are becoming more commonplace. Our emergency officials have saved many people from overdoses with a drug called Narcan, but that is not the long term solution.

My fear as a coalition member is that heroin will make its way into our schools (recent statistics show heroin use to be most prevalent in people ages 18-26). Heroin is cheaper and easier to get than alcohol or marijuana and addiction comes quickly.

We are preparing a larger community forum to be held in January 2016 with some of our members who are experts in the field. There will also be smaller "Town Hall" type meetings leading up to the larger forum.

Thanks for reading and for your support. Have a great week!