Monday, December 21, 2015

We are a VERY Fortunate Community

This past week we had plenty to be thankful for. We came together as a community and helped a family devastated by a house fire, the cheerleaders volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, and we had a great turnout for our annual high school holiday concert that included a special appearance by Santa!

For those of you who had a chance to make it to the recent Symphoria concert downtown, you heard our students as well. We take that for granted, but playing at that concert is a BIG deal! Congratulations to them.

If I tried to list out all of the awesome things happening in athletics right now, I am sure I would miss something. My short list would include the many West Genesee athletes that made all CNY teams for the fall; and for our winter teams and athletes, how well they are doing right now.

There was definitely a positive buzz in the air when I attended events and games last week and over the weekend, and that feeling isn't going anywhere anytime soon. We are a VERY fortunate community.

As we head into the next two weeks, I may be quiet on my blog and twitter, but I will be working and enjoying time with my family. Having my boys home from college will also make me very happy.

As my family celebrates Christmas, I want to personally wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays if you celebrate something else. I feel very fortunate to have your support and will write again right after the new year.

Thank you.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Proud of our School Community

A Student in Need: There are hundreds, if not thousands of reasons why I am proud of our school community. One of those reasons showed itself last week. One of our students (and the rest of the family) lost their home in a fire. Fortunately everyone escaped, but the house is a loss and they lost EVERYTHING. I mean everything. The Red Cross is doing what they can for them, but they have limits because of everyone else they have to help. 

I cannot say enough about our school counselors and transportation department. Our counselors have been working all week to help the family, and counselor Mrs. Clancy sent a list of basic needs that was shared with our staff in an "all staff" e-mail. Within minutes, our employees had mobilized and the family is well on their way to being helped to far beyond "square one", and they would repeat this generosity for any of our students or families. I can tell you from experience that every school community is not like our school community, and we should all be thankful!

A Good Week for Education: Last week was a good week for education in my opinion. The Federal government replaced what was called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This is important for several reasons (a great comparison of the two Acts can be found by clicking here. Probably the most important change, however, is that control over many facets of education (curriculum, testing, and accountability) will be in the hands of each state.

At the same time at the State level, the Governor released the findings and recommendations from his Common Core Task Force. The entire summary can be found by clicking here.

Essentially, there were twenty-one recommendations made and most of them involve breaking the tie between testing and teacher/principal evaluations, length of testing, quantity of testing, and development of curricular resources. Again, these are recommendations; but my guess is that the NYS Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents will vote positively on nearly all of the recommendations.

It is tough for me to give an opinion on what one group or entity was responsible for bringing these changes about. I feel like is has been a battle fought in the trenches by Board of Educations, administrators, teachers, and parents as a collective.

What is really important to me as a superintendent is that this "win" for educators does not cloud the need for increased financial resources from New York State. I am afraid that people may not be as willing to push for adequate funding this year because they are so elated with the other recent developments. We need to keep our "eye on the prize"; and we will.

Community Forum on Substance Abuse: I have received some great questions about our upcoming substance abuse forum. For starters, we are very pleased to have Congressman John Katko as a confirmed guest and participant. Secondly, we have been asked about students attending the forum. Our National Honor Society is going to be providing free child care for school-aged students right at the high school during the forum. 

As a collective group of committee members, it was decided that we would advertise the event for students in grades 7 through 12. As a parent I think it is important for you to understand before you bring your young adult that some of the subject matter could be emotional and jarring to some audience members. We will be viewing a short video of someone being revived from a heroin overdose with NARCAN. There will also be stories shared by a recovering addict as well as a mom who recently lost her child to drug addiction. You will have to make the call as a parent if you would like your child to attend. We have an informational flyer that you can access and share by clicking here. Stay tuned.

Lots of events happening this week and I hope to see you at some of them!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Always Looking to Help

I hope this decent weather keeps coming! It has been nice not to have to worry about snow days or delays yet. I am sure that time will come, but the extra hour of sleep has been great.

Swimmers Polar Bear Plunge for Charity: I really feel like my heart would stop if I tried to do a "polar bear plunge". Each year, however, groups of our students do not even think twice and take the plunge for charity. Thanks to our swim team for helping to raise money once again for the Special Olympics!

The Winter Concert and Athletics Season has Arrived: Holiday concerts and winter sports are in full swing and both have been very enjoyable to watch and listen to. If you are interested in basketball, wrestling, or hockey then check out our schedules by clicking here or from the calendar section of the mobile phone app. The student athletes would love to have you at their matches and games; and the level of competition has been really high so far. Congratulations to all.

On the concert front, the student groups sound very strong and full. There is a lot of talent right in your backyard, so come out and listen to some great music!

Semi-Formal Dance is a Success: Speaking of talent, I want to thank our student council advisors Mrs. Hogan and Mrs. Deemer for helping our students transform our high school into a winter wonderland once again. 

Each year they and the students work to create a wonderful environment for students to enjoy the semi-formal. They sold over 850 tickets to the dance this year, which is close to sixty percent of our total high school population. Students were well behaved, respectful, and genuinely thankful for all of the work that was put into the event.

The Community Comes Together for a Good Reason: Our community coalition on substance abuse is meeting this afternoon to finalize our agenda for our community forum that will be held on January 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at our high school auditorium. If you are the parent of a student from middle school age through adult, I would suggest that you attend. 

Substance abuse has many faces and warning signs. We are going to have service providers, treatment organizations, and other resources available in an expo format. Our main forum will be moderated by a local media person (to be announced) and will feature short talks by professionals, former addicts, parents of addicts, doctors, and law enforcement.  

Due to the nature of some of the discussions, our National Honor Society is going to be providing free child care during the event. Many more details to follow, but our auditorium holds just over a thousand people, and we expect to fill it for this event. Please plan on attending.

This should be a GREAT week ahead, and I hope for you as well. Enjoy the season and thank you for your support.