Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays!

We have had a great week. I have really enjoyed watching our students make things to take home to parents and family members. If you are fortunate to receive something, please know it was made with love.

In my family we celebrate Christmas, so Merry Christmas to all of you. If you do not celebrate Christmas, please have a very happy holiday season. I will post to all of you again in 2017!

Take care-

Monday, December 19, 2016

There are Always Opportunities to Learn

Mother Nature: Last week was a whirlwind of situations, decisions, and events, including an epic battle with Mother Nature. On Monday, I called what I thought was a no-brainer two-hour delay and then the temperature rose a few degrees more than predicted and the roads ended up being much better than anticipated. Not the end of the world, and it is always good to err on the side of caution, but I also am very aware of the impact that school delay and closing decisions have on work and childcare schedules. Mother Nature 1, me 0.

Winter National Honor Society Induction: We had an excellent winter induction ceremony to the National Honor Society. There were ten students inducted: Faris Amer, Jack Birchler, Jay Considine, Priscilla Grooms, Alexandra Guglielmi, Margaret Guinto, Emma Miller, Secidean Scott, Michael Serbun, and Andrea Wierbinski. What I like about the winter ceremony is that many of the students, for one reason or another, did not participate in the ceremony with the bulk of their classmates; but they hung on and worked even harder to receive their recognition.

To be selected for the National Honor Society, a student must exhibit leadership, scholarship, service, and character. In my speech I was able to remind students of these characteristics, and I think this applies to us as adults also. If you have to tell people that you are a leader, have character, are smart, or help out; then you are doing something wrong. If someone truly exhibits those characteristics; other people will be sure to recognize them. Congratulations to our honorees!

Difficult Situations: I believe that every situation in life provides learning opportunities. As many of you have seen or read already, we had to work through a difficult employee situation last week. This January will be my 17th anniversary as a superintendent. During that time I have worked through four such cases, and those four have come in the past five years. One situation is too many in my book, but can there be a positive out of what happened last week? I think so.

First, I think in our District at least, we have gotten the students to a point where they trust our counselors, principals, and me to follow through on situations that are brought to our attention. I also think that in our District at least, we have put a lot of value in truly knowing our students and what to do if we interact with a student and something doesn't seem quite right.

I am criticized by some superintendent colleagues for being on the news too much, being too transparent, communicating too much, and spending too much time in classrooms and buildings. I couldn't disagree with them more.

I have no greater job than to keep our kids safe, the public informed, and to know each student no matter how large our District is so they know they can come to me for help or guidance if needed. If certain colleagues don't like it, too bad. Making friends isn't in my job description. Keeping us safe and at the top of our game in every area is.

Early Dismissal: On Thursday, the battle with Mother Nature continued. We were able to get our students in safely, and we were cruising through our day when some heavy snow that was predicted to stay north began to creep slightly south. We contacted an area meteorologist, as well as SUNY Oswego forecasters, and they told me that it would be a really good idea to get our kids and staff home no later than 3:15 p.m., or face some dangerous situations.

Heeding that warning, we started an early dismissal. I can count on one hand how many early dismissals I have called in my career; it turned out to be a good decision. The snow began to fall at 3:15 p.m. and did not let up until about 7:00 p.m., and the conditions were very dangerous. Mother Nature 1, me 1 for the week. I am hoping that this week is a little more calm!

Substance Abuse Coalition Update: While all of this has been happening, our substance abuse coalition has been working to offer two great events during the winter. The first is going to be NARCAN training, which will be held on January 5, 2017 at our high school. Sessions are free, one-hour in length, and begin at 4:00 p.m. and will go through 9:00 p.m. Once trained, the Camillus Police will offer vouchers for participants to receive a free NARCAN kit once they are off of back order. We had tremendous response the first time we offered this. It is open to anyone you can think of who would like to be trained.

Our second event will be held on Monday, February 27, 2017 and it is setting up to be very informative. I will have much more information to share after the holidays.

Thank You: Lastly, I want to give a big thank you to all of our custodians, cleaners, bus drivers, mechanics, and transportation staff for their work last week. They all worked MANY grueling hours and kept our students and staff safe. Our crew has no equal!

Thanks and enjoy the week.


Monday, December 12, 2016

A Taste of Syracuse

Remembrance from Childhood: Did you ever smell, listen, or taste something that brought you back to your childhood? It happened to me on Friday night while on the way to a winter solstice fundraiser. 

We stopped at the Liehs and Steigerwald's downtown location on our way to the event, and I grabbed an hors d'oeuvre size piece of their bologna. As soon as I bit into it I was immediately taken back to my childhood when my dad would take me "all the way" from Onondaga Hill to the Liehs and Steigerwald's store on the north side. I was probably six or seven. The butcher would give me a small piece of bologna and it made my day. If life was only still that simple.

I turned to the server, who turned out to be one of the owners and told him my story. He said that their bologna recipe is eighty years old, and has never been changed.

His statement got me thinking about how I always tell people that at the end of the day "kids are kids"; I stand by that. The realization I am having, however, is that while that piece of bologna has been handed over the same butcher counter for the past eighty years, the things that kids are exposed to, and especially how they choose to communicate (think texting and social media) makes us as adults have a different perception of them sometimes. Please do not have that perception of kids. Instead think about what you would have posted if you had cell phones, Snap Chat, Twitter, and Facebook "back in the day".

We did not, luckily for most of us, but what we CAN do as adults, instead of passing judgment, is help children to understand the impact of decisions. That is a much more worthwhile use of time in my opinion, and probably a little more helpful! All of those thoughts from a piece of bologna.

We Never Stop Learning: Last week, fifteen of our employees, including yours truly, completed the four-day Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Instructor training. It was weird being a student again and it renewed my appreciation for what students have to deal with every day in their own classes. 

While taking the course, I got interrupted several times for small and large blocks of time due to "job stuff" and was in absolute panic mode on Thursday night knowing that I had to take and pass a seven-page final exam the next day. My wife even commented that she had never seen me study as much as I did, and we have been together since undergraduate school!

Luckily it all came together. All of us passed, and now we can begin to train our employees and once I have a little time to collect my thoughts, I will share some of the things we learned with you. Good stuff!

Winter Sports are in Full Swing: Get to a hoops game, hockey game, swim meet, track meet, or wrestling match if you can. Our winter sports campaign has taken off like a rocket and our teams look GREAT!

Thanks and enjoy the week-


Monday, December 5, 2016

Pretty Darned Cool

A Great Semi-Formal Dance: On Saturday night I was talking with the DJ at the high school semi-formal. He has twenty-two years in his business, and I have twenty-two years in mine. We were swapping stories about dances and how songs have changed over the years; but how kids have largely remained the same. 

I showed him a song that Nick Sgroi, a graduate from three years ago, produced and performed with some of his friends. Through my ears, and then his, the song, "Her" was radio quality, and fit in the Justin Bieber/Coldplay/Rhianna space.  

We decided to experiment and see how the crowd would react to the song. We fit it in at the right time, and as the first three words of the song boomed through the gym, the kids went NUTS and began dancing and singing every word. How cool is that? Watching current students get that into something that a graduate created is just another one of those reasons why my job is like no other! Needless to say, all had a great night and best of luck to Nick! 

Wildcat Branch of Westar Opens: Earlier in the week, we made school history by opening the first credit union within one of our buildings. Westar Credit Union partnered with the district to bring real life financial experience to our students. I was honored to be the first customer. Students in our finance courses are the tellers and the credit union staff help to make everything run smoothly. We will be holding an official grand opening in early January.

Chorale Plays at All-State Concert: Our Chorale was tapped to perform at the New York State School Music Association conference in Rochester, New York earlier in the week. To be asked is a "big deal" and they did not disappoint!

Winter Athletics Season Begins: Winter sports opened this weekend and our teams did very well for themselves. Trying to follow all of the action reminded me to remind you to download the West Genesee app so you can follow along. 

Our community partners,, do a great job of updating the scores, statistics, and schedule. I am looking forward to seeing you at a game or wrestling match this season! 

De-Escalation Training: This week I am going back to school to become a certified trainer for the Crisis Prevention Institute. We have been looking for a consistent way to educate our employees and parents about ways to work with children who have escalating behaviors, including physical behaviors, talking back, etc.

The training includes how to arrange spaces, how to read body language in the classroom and home environment, and how to de-escalate a potentially violent student situation before it becomes violent. All of us have received a variety of training over the years, but it is important to standardize our vocabulary and processes. I want to roll up my sleeves and get the training myself so I can share information with you that may help at home.

Thanks for your support and enjoy the week!


Monday, November 28, 2016

The Blur

It was nice for my wife and I to spend a few days with our boys. We haven't had them in the same room since August so it was great to catch up with them, enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with them, and actually listen to how they have grown. My oldest even got his first new car, totally on his own, and we are very proud for him. This week will be spent eating a lot less and running a lot more to lose the pounds I gained more from the "fixings" and less from the turkey itself!

A New Secretary of Education: Just before we went on break, the Trump administration announced their pick for the new Secretary of Education. Her name is Betsy DeVos, and her history is deep into charter schools and voucher programs. Her background does not include work in public education. As I mentioned in my post-election blog, all signs point to voucher programs and competition for survival for public schools under a Trump presidency, and once she is appointed it will certainly be "game on". I will be keeping a close eye as this progresses to make sure that our students do not lose any opportunities.

A Time of Giving: This is the season of giving, and at school we have several large student groups as well as all of our employees working together to help local families in need. As we get closer to the holidays, you will see information coming out from our building principals as to what is available for struggling families and how you can help.

Looking for Volunteers: At my most recent District parent-teacher/student meeting, it was mentioned to me that each of our PTA/PTO/PTSA/PTSO's are a little light in the membership department right now. If you are not a member of the group for the building(s) that your child(ren) is/are in, I would ask that you please consider becoming one.

The leadership of these groups do NOT need you to attend each meeting if you cannot; they do need parent volunteers for the functions that they hold. If you are interested in joining, or want more information about the benefits about being a member of a PTA/PTO/PTSA/PTSO, please contact the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council President, Gloria Francisco at Many thanks!

The Blur: Today begins what I call the blur. We have a ton of winter sports coming up, concerts, and you will be busy at home yourselves. Blink and we will be at Holiday Recess. As an old mentor once told me about this time of the year, "stop and smell the roses".  He wasn't the originator of that quote, but he helped me to realize the meaning of it!

Thanks and enjoy the week-


Monday, November 21, 2016

Getting Ready for Turkey Day!

Weather Dependent: I hope all of you enjoyed the warm weather at the beginning of the weekend. Now that it appears that more typical Syracuse weather has returned, please be sure to pay attention to my Twitter feed, our Facebook Page, website, Blackboard Communications email/text/push notification and local media for any delays or closings. Since we have had some weather that involved closing our schools for today, you should have seen this process in motion.

Back in the days before cellphones, I used to have to get in the car, drive the roads, and then make a decision.With school districts being large, it was possible to drive on good roads and open school, only to find out that roads on the other side of town were a mess. I would get to my office, the phones would start ringing, and my day would go right down the drain.

Thanks to cellphones and social media, the process now involves many more people and probably has made our decisions to delay or close a little easier; although as Mother Nature is Mother Nature, every now and then the wrong decision is made.

I begin by having a phone or text conference with road crews, my assistant superintendent, our own plow crew, and the local police. The road crews can give me a good idea of how the outer roads are, the police can keep me up-to-date on accidents, and my assistant and local plow crew can tell me how the snow or ice situation is on our properties.

From there I contact some of our local weather people, who have been great at getting right back to me. They let me know how quickly the weather is moving, where it might go, and what the temperatures will be over our potential school bus commute; in other words, I get my own weather report.

Then I have to rely on experience and my gut feelings, and I then make the "official call" to delay or close. I try to make this call as early as I can. Later calls come on days where the weather is truly temperature dependent. I never worry about our school buses. They are large, heavy, inspected, and driven by experienced people.

I worry about student drivers, their parents, and other traffic on the road. If I open school, it means that I would put my own children in a car on the roads or on one of our buses. Every now and then parents disagree when we open, and I always tell them that as parents, they have a right to keep their children home if they do not feel the roads are safe. Sounds like fun right?

Great Events: The West Genesee Middle School put on a spectacular production of Annie Jr. last Thursday and throughout the weekend. The actors and actresses were very strong. Between those performances and the earlier performance at Camillus Middle School, our high school productions are going to continue to be strong well into the future!

Our winter sports and holiday concert schedules are in full swing. If you get a chance, please get to a basketball game in our newly renovated gym at the high school. The bleachers are safer and easier to climb up into and sit in, the floor has been updated, and rumor has it that the very successful pep band from last year will be returning. Good stuff!

From my family to yours I would like to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Weather Outside...Could be Frightful

It is that time of the year again! While the next few days look to be stunningly warm for this time of the year, cold and snow could hit us on Sunday into Monday. While I do not expect any weather related issues on Monday, November 21, we need to have a plan in place for a delayed opening because our K-5 buildings are already going to be running on a half-day schedule.

Should we need a delay on Monday, we would NOT bring our K-5 students into school. By the time they would get to school, it would be time to bring them home. Parent Teacher Conferences that are scheduled for the afternoon on Monday would still be held.

Students in grades 6-12 WOULD report to school, just on the delayed schedule that they as students and you as parents are used to.

Again, I don't expect to have a delay, but if we do, I want you to know what the plan is so you can make arrangements at home just in case.

Thank you-


Monday, November 14, 2016

When a New President is Elected...

I was on the west coast at a conference on election day. It was very interesting to read the map on television from right to left as the results poured in. My flight left early the next morning and I knew that I would have jet lag, but I also knew that my friends would all have election lag; so we were even!

What I thought was pretty remarkable was that there was really no conversation about the presidential piece of the election the entire time I was there. The conversation centered completely around a variety (A through P to be exact!) of local propositions. As I got to my connection in Chicago and then on to Syracuse, the conversation changed like switching a radio dial from local concerns, to Trump/Clinton. It quickly made me realize that even with social media and a twenty-four hour news cycle, there truly are differences in culture, opinions, and priorities right in these same United States.

As taxpayers, you pay me to keep your children safe, provide them with the highest quality education and extracurricular experiences possible, and to have, and carry out a vision for the District. Not only to meet, but to exceed those expectations, I also have to have a good handle on "what comes next" and create plans for those things before anyone else realizes that changes may be coming.

Sometimes experience means absolutely nothing; and sometimes experience means everything. When a new president is elected, I have learned over time that there is a four-part process that needs to take place in order to keep the ship steady, make people feel as at ease as possible, and to move the organization forward.
  • The first step is to give some direction to administrators ahead of the election. That direction centers around keeping calm, watching for different student behavior, watching for employee opinions seeping into work duties, and making sure that safety plans are all reviewed in case something really off the rails happens on election day.
  • The second step is to follow the election and once the outcome is determined, read absolutely everything possible about the education platform for the successful candidate, as well as any social policy tendencies that might impact students and staff.  This includes reading material from the left, right, and center and looking for consistencies in opinions.  This also includes reviewing what the successful candidate said along the campaign trail; even if it was an offhand comment, and factoring that in as well.
School is my second home and each of my employees and students are extended family members to me. It is absolutely vital to communicate with all of our employees to let them know what to possibly expect from a new president and how prepared we are, or not, to accommodate any changes that may be coming. They can then relay that information to students as appropriate.

The last step is equally critical and takes place at the District Office. We huddle together and take a look at our budget, revenues, expected expenditures, reserves, and where retirement and pension systems have their money invested. This gives us a very clear picture of how our budget may behave for the next year if we enter a recession or boom (both have happened after past elections) and we can begin to plan for both cases right now.

Sometimes people tell me that we "make it look easy". What you just read is what goes into "making it look easy"; and that is just for the educational impact of a presidential election!

What do I think the major changes will be in education? I think there will be four major changes. 
  • I think that the US Department of Education will be disbanded, or at least heavily trimmed, so that states will have local control over education.
  • I think that many states will abolish the Common Core Learning Standards (understanding that every other major federal educational change has taken a president into a second term to accomplish). I do NOT think that New York State will abolish the Common Core Learning Standards, but I do think there will be a complete overhaul regarding assessments and the number of them.
  • I believe that President-Elect Trump will divert federal monies (and ask states to kick in as well) into a "voucher" system that will allow students in underperforming or high poverty schools to choose a higher performing school to attend. The higher performing school would receive the voucher money to cover the education and transportation expenses of those children.
  • The last major change that I think we could see is a forced competition among schools in an attempt to make schools merge or close, thereby lowering tax impact on all. This would likely be accomplished through the voucher system depleting underperforming schools and competitive grants for levels of success, which would money starve schools that have students but are underperforming.
There are other suggested changes, but these four concepts are generally agreed upon as common opinions by all political groups and pundits.

If these changes were to happen, is West Genesee prepared? Yes. We can easily survive with more local control. Between myself and several of our employees, we hold seats on influential statewide decision-making committees. Even if we didn't, our proven ability to adapt to change make me confident that we will be just fine.

We are very high performing, and our buildings can accommodate many more students.The voucher system, if funded as I have read, would bring additional diversity, both cultural, and economic, that I would welcome as we prepare students to graduate into a global melting pot.

I am not a fan of competition among schools, and I never have been. I do think though that we all need to do more to consolidate services, and find a way to get opportunities to students in less fortunate settings.

The elephant in the room is how the new administration will treat ALL people moving forward.We have worked incredibly hard over the past nine years  to change the culture of our District and community to be accepting of everyone. Our LGBT club has never been larger, our Culture Fair is well attended, and a true testament of how well EVERYONE gets along in our community, and ALL of our staff feel comfortable in their own skin; and are supported from the top down.  

There are stakes in the sand that we sometimes plant, and this is one of them for me personally. I am not a republican or a democrat and issues of humanity should not be republican or democratic issues anyway, in my opinion. I will FIERCELY defend the rights of ALL of our students and staff, just as I have had to do at times during the Obama Presidency. I, and our schools, are safe zones for ALL. Bottom line.

Now for something fun and lighter. The "Mannequin Challenge" started in early October as internet videos that have become viral. They are done purely for fun and feature people who "freeze" doing normal things while they are recorded. Some of our own students produced a couple of videos that are getting a lot of views on Twitter. Enjoy this one and the week!


Monday, November 7, 2016

A Wildcat in Sheep's Clothing?

On the Lam: I have had several animal encounters during my career as a superintendent. Snakes and LARGE spiders in my office, a bobcat at a sports game, and my favorite, until last week, was a six point buck at my previous district who was scraping up against the front doors to the building, as if he was late to class.

Last week took the cake however, when I got a phone call that a small herd of sheep were grazing near the East Hill Elementary School playground. Yep. Sheep. Remembering that this isn't Ireland where that is probably pretty common, I spoke to the Camillus Police who indeed verified that a resident just outside of their jurisdiction had some sheep in their yard that "escaped" out into the larger community.

I have to give the Camillus Police, as well as several town employees, area law enforcement, and surrounding neighbors a lot of credit for their creativity. After they searched the Internet for a sheep "call", they took two long pieces of snow fence and slowly corralled them. A truck with an enclosed trailer scooped them up and they were taken to a wildlife refuge in the Watkins Glen area. I believe there may still be two more out there, but by now they have probably found sunglasses and are trying to fit in!

Annual String Festival: This picture probably best represents our string program; or all of our fine arts programs for that matter. We have tremendous student involvement in all of our performing groups and it is not unusual, as was the case on Thursday night during the annual string festival, for the conductor (in this case Mr. Mercer) to have to rise above the mass of students in order to do his job. If there was ever a picture to be used to advertise for the program, you are looking at it. Awesome!

Girls Volleyball Update: We are very excited and proud of our girls varsity volleyball team. Under the guidance of Mr. Martin, the team has performed very well this year and they have great student leadership. They have advanced to the sectional finals against Baldwinsville, on Wednesday, November 9 at Cicero North Syracuse High School starting at 8:00 p.m. If they were to win, it would represent the first time volleyball has been sectional champions since I have been here (2007).  Best of luck to them!

Musical Season: Play and musical season is underway and I had a chance to catch a fantastic performance of The Little Mermaid at Camillus Middle School on Friday night. The set changes, costumes, music, and of course the actors and actresses were superb. Congratulations to all!

Veterans Day Celebrations: Our students are very aware, thanks to the dedication of our teachers and administrators, of the importance of our Veterans. With Veterans day approaching, I want all of you to know that our entire school family thanks Veterans for their service to our country. 

We have several large Veterans Day celebrations, letter writing campaigns, donations to Veterans causes, and we also invite Veterans in to speak to our students. As long as I am "the boss" and I am sure well beyond that; any Veteran can consider West Genesee Central School District as a place where Veterans are respected, celebrated, and appreciated.

Thanks and enjoy the rest of the week-


Monday, October 31, 2016

QUITE a Busy Week

With Grace and Class: Last night I got to witness sportsmanship at its finest. After a marching band performance that came up short to Arlington and Victor, our student performers, always under tremendous pressure to win, congratulated their opponents with grace and class.This should remind us that while winning is great, the life lessons that solid programs teach students are much more important than winning. 

At the same time, we know what the community expects from our Marching Band program, and we are already at work to continue our strong tradition of success.

Wildcat sustained success was celebrated last night when Bill Davern, our Director of Fine Arts, and Nick Baratta our designer, were inducted into the NYS Field Band Conference Hall of Fame. It was a great moment to see them be recognized and applauded by all in attendance!

Fun Events: We had QUITE a busy week last week. It was great to see so many of you at the Harvest Dinner and/or the Halloween Carnival. We estimated that between the two events over one thousand people joined us. The Harvest Dinner is offered by the senior class and the proceeds (after the costs of the dinner is covered) are donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The Halloween Carnival is put on by the Respect and Responsibility Club at the high school as a way for the older students to offer some of our younger students a fun and safe place to trick or treat and take part in games and fun!

Speaking of trick or treating, today is Halloween and I want to thank ALL of our employees for the care they take to make sure that everyone remains safe while having fun; especially at a time when some people seem to use every opportunity they can to cause disruptions and ruin things for others. We ALWAYS take the high road and today is no exception. Some of the costumes I have seen are beyond creative!

Substance Abuse Coalition: I had the opportunity last Thursday night to speak to the Camillus Homeowners' Association. Usually I am there to speak about the school but this time they asked me to talk about our Substance Abuse Coalition and what we have done in the community and where we are headed in the future.

I got some great questions and probably the most rewarding part of my night came after it was all over. A community member, who I did not know, came up to me and wanted me to see something in her purse. She opened it to show me her NARCAN kit that she got from our NARCAN training last year. We are making progress!

What is ESSA? There is federal legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that is going to change how we train our teachers and principals. The act also outlines how we will assess students, how those assessments will count in the future, and what we can expect a graduate to have completed by the time they graduate.

Fortunately our education commissioner is taking the time to listen to parents, students, school employees, and Board of Education members around the state. Last week I attended a "listening and work" session with one of our Board members, a teacher, and an administrator. We were joined by many others and had a positive session. We have others coming up, and I will share the final results with you when they are completed. I am pushing for academic rigor, support for ALL students, multiple pathways to graduation, and as little emphasis on state assessments as possible.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Keeping Busy

Weather and Competitions: I am no meteorologist, but I am thinking that the rain over the weekend brought us much closer to ending the drought from the summer. The weather provided for some crummy conditions for sports and the Marching Band; which for the first time in three years, actually had to compete indoors.

Probably the most exciting competition of the week was the girls varsity soccer game versus Fayetteville-Manlius last Thursday night. Neither team gave up as the rain came down. Through four overtimes and two rounds of penalty kicks, our girls came up just short; but what a display of pride, effort, and grit!

If you are a fan of tennis then you understand how tough it is to get a good doubles team. The pair have to really connect to know where to be and when, and how to stick to the plan even when down. Our girls varsity doubles team of Mikayla Mannara (9th grade) and Katie Viau (7th grade; yes, you read that correctly) dug deep to qualify for the state competition. How cool is that? Congratulations to them and be on the lookout for sectional schedules for cross country and volleyball; both have the potential to compete deep into the fall.

By the time you read my next blog, the Marching Band will have competed for the New York State Field Band Conference Championship. They have been working really hard to take back the top spot, and I am hopeful that they are able to accomplish their goals.

Update on Coalition: Speaking of goals, our Substance Abuse Coalition met last week. We have many new members, including elected officials from the assembly level through congressional level, area physicians, and more community members than last year.

We established goals of providing another NARCAN training, holding another resource night, and finding ways to help adults in our community to stay on the recovery trail. I am continuing to lead that group and have also joined the Onondaga County Drug Task Force as a member. The goals for the group are:
  • providing more education for youth regarding the dangers of drugs, 
  • providing channels for addicts to get help, and 
  • lobbying for harsher penalties for dealers. 
It was great to hear from Camillus Police Chief, Tom Winn, that from the time our coalition began until last week, the number of local overdoses are down 19% and the number of fatalities from overdoses are down 50%. Awesome, with the understanding that we have more work to do.

Upcoming Events: I would like to personally invite you to two events that are being held at the high school this week. The first is the annual Harvest Dinner that is put on by the senior class. This longstanding tradition features full table service in our cafeteria with roast beef as the star with all the fixings. For dessert, the students made pies that are absolutely delicious. If you can't dine in with them on Wednesday from 4:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., please consider take out.

If you have younger children and are looking for a very safe and fun trick or treat experience, please consider taking them to the high school this Thursday from 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. The Respect and Responsibility Club does a great job with the kids and many local businesses, as well as the Camillus Police Department and Fairmount Fire Department help to provide goodies and activities. This event was VERY well attended last year and received excellent reviews.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this and enjoy the week!


Monday, October 17, 2016


Some time between posting my last blog and this one, one of you was the 500,000th reader. Thank you! I enjoy sitting down to write this every week, and I enjoy the conversations that it spurs with you. I wonder who will be the millionth reader?!?

Whirlwind Trip to London: My wife and I got the opportunity to spend the long Columbus weekend in London, England. Between raising kids and my job responsibilities, we never really had the chance to travel. Now that we are "empty nesters", we are trying to get out and see the world a little. The main purpose of the trip was to see the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theater (awesome).

While there for a couple of days I did what I could to learn about their economy, education system, and social issues. Educators in general appear to be treated with higher regard than educators are in the U.S.; which is similar to how Canada treats their educators. In terms of the students, however, it was like deja vu. Cyberbullying, scary clowns, and "university" courses were all hot topics; just like they are here.

I am quickly realizing that traveling will make me a better superintendent by getting firsthand experiences with different cultures, norms, and education systems. Next destination? Hopefully Italy in two years for our twenty-fifth anniversary!

Elections Around the Corner: If you are like me, you cannot wait for the election to be over so your Facebook timeline can go back to normal, and all the attack commercials stop.

You should know though, that student government is alive and well; in fact it is bursting at the seams. We have student council groups at the elementary, middle, and high schools.

The high school also has Senate and Respect and Responsibility clubs (both are also a governing body as well). It is not uncommon to have over one hundred students at any of these meetings, and the building principals have done a great job incorporating student decisions into every day life at every building. TRUE government.

Hall of Fame: If you see our Director of Fine Arts, Bill Davern, please take a moment to congratulate him. At the Marching Band "Dome Show" at the end of the month, he and long time contributor Nick Baratta will be inducted into the NYS Field Band Association Hall of Fame. As you know, our Marching Band is world renowned, and Mr. Davern has been a HUGE part of its success. If there was a Hall of Fame for being a Director of Fine Arts, he would be a first ballot choice as well. Congratulations to Bill and Nick. Well deserved!

Substance Abuse Forums: You might remember our community coalition on substance abuse from last year. We are back and bigger than ever this year with more people at the table, including elected officials at all levels. Our first catch-up and future planning meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday, October 18, at 2:45 p.m. in the West Genesee High School Large Group Instruction Room. All are welcome to attend and join our group!

Athletics Update: Sectional seedings for fall sports were released. If you have an opportunity to make it to a game, the students would sure appreciate it!

Thanks for your support and enjoy the week!


Friday, October 7, 2016

When You Make Something a Priority...

What a beautiful week we had. It was great to see the elementary students in full-blown outdoor recess mode and to not have to wear a jacket yet has been fantastic!

Celebrating Marching Band Seniors: We have many "senior nights" for various sports and performing groups, but we wanted to give the Marching Band a special senior night congratulations because theirs did not happen on Saturday as planned at the end of a very long Tournament of Bands day.

The Tournament of Bands is a huge undertaking for the staff, students, and parents, and the capstone each year is for the band to perform in front of approximately two thousand people, followed by their senior recognition ceremony. All was going according to plan on Saturday until a big flash of lightening and a huge rainstorm caused everyone to scatter.

Luckily, last night was absolutely gorgeous and a perfect backdrop for their recognition!

Attendance Goal Update: At the beginning of the school year I mentioned that one of our goals was to improve upon our already solid average daily attendance at the high school. The high school administration, faculty, and staff have been working toward this goal, and I wanted to share with you that our average daily attendance is already up 1.78% from last year (a small number on paper, but huge statistically) and truancies (late to class) are down 3.32%.

What has been helping is our increased attention to school spirit, sense of family, increased communication with parents, and students not wanting to miss anything by being out or late. Kudos to all. When students attend school, they have a MUCH greater chance at success.

With the long weekend ahead, I will not be posting my usual blog on Monday. Enjoy the long weekend, and I will write to you again on the flip side.

Take care and thanks for your support.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Raise the Roof!

Homecoming Spirit: As I entered the high school this past Friday, the Homecoming Pep Rally noise was deafening. We have new dividers in the gym and the one closest to the senior section reads WEST GENESEE. The seniors sat quietly as a group in the bleachers behind the divider.

The Marching Band Drumline began to pound on their drums in unison as the divider was raised. The seniors began to cheer, which caused all of the other classes to cheer. Totally awesome! (If the video below does not show in your browser, click here.)

I looked to the roof, half expecting it to actually raise up off of the building. Luckily, it didn't; but the school spirit from that moment through the weekend was simply incredible. All of the festivities gave us a great kickoff for the rest of the school year, and I want to thank the kids for behaving so well along with the organizers of these events who helped students make some memories they will never forget!

No Scary Clowns: Luckily, those memories did not include scary clowns which are making headlines all across the country. People dressed up as scary clowns have been spotted just standing in random places. There have been no reports of any of these clowns causing any real problems, but scary clowns certainly play to the fears of some; especially younger children. If we do see any scary clowns, and it isn't Halloween, we will make sure they keep their distance from our buildings. I am not a fan of mimes, scary or otherwise, so we will also keep them away from the buildings. Spiders too.

Rights of our Students: At the grocery store the other day I was asked what lesson I was going to teach in my blog this week. Something very relevant and not as cut and dry as one might think has to do with students who kneel or sit during the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. Some people support the rights of students to sit or kneel, some defend the rights of students to sit or kneel, and some both support AND defend those rights.

The cut and dry answer to sitting or kneeling is freedom of speech and expression, both rights protected by the Constitution. These rights have not gone without challenge. In 1943 members of the Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance while in school. They were not allowed to do so because of a 1940 United States Supreme Court ruling in the case Minersville School District vs. Gobitis, that said that students could be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

That ruling was later overturned in the United States Supreme Court case, West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette. That ruling has really enforced the freedoms of speech and expression that students are displaying today. How is that for learning something?

I saw MANY people over the past four days, and I just want to tell you again how much I appreciate your support. We have a lot of very cool things happening around here, and I am excited to be a part of it.

Thanks and enjoy the week-


Monday, September 26, 2016

A Time of Change...

Losing a Great Talent: "Wembley Stadium." This was the answer I got when I asked two-time Grammy winner, Camillus resident, and former drummer for the Robert Cray Band (1978-1989), Dave Olson, about the largest venue he had ever played.

He quickly downplayed himself and asked how he could help the school with percussion or anything else to do with our Fine Arts program. Moreover, he gushed about his wife Nancy, who works as a teaching assistant, and his daughters Sarah and Anna. This was seven years ago.

Because of a mutual love for music, we struck up a friendship that remained very solid until I received a call on Saturday night that he had suddenly passed away. His snare drum snap was unmistakable, as was his time and tempo. There are a lot of talented people in Camillus; and we lost a great one.

I mention his passing because it certainly jolted my system and writing about it helps me to process everything. More importantly, however, there are lessons to be learned about his time in our community. As a world traveled, award winning, professional musician, Dave could have spent his time basking in his successes.

Instead, you would have never known he had the experiences and success that he did unless someone pointed him out to you, or you liked Robert Cray music. He spent his time enjoying music; but never let it get in the way of being the best father and husband he could be. Nothing ever got bigger than his family. Food for thought. Rest in peace friend.

Final Race for Respect: In much better news, we had a wonderful turnout for our eighteenth and final Race for Respect. Special thanks to Dr. Copeland who helped to get this effort underway years ago, and it was great to see his whole family join him for one last spin around the course. We are going to be focusing our efforts now on the non-weather dependent Culture Fair, which takes place in late winter. Thanks for attending and for your support!

NYS Education Department Listens: In other good news, the New York State Education Department listened to the "field" (that's us folks), and made some DRAFT changes to the Common Core Learning Standards for English and Math. Obviously, there is more work to be done, but in my book the increased flexibility, loosening of time constraints on assessments, and the inclusion of more fiction in reading passages represent a move in a positive direction.

To see all of the changes, and to comment on them, just click here.

Commended Scholars are Announced: Congratulations to our National Merit Commended Scholars Jesse Elmer, Julia Musengo, and Amelia Ryan for their academic efforts, you are certainly making us proud!

This Blog is Recognized: We are also proud as a District that this blog has received both state and national recognition of being "high quality".  This is not the first time we have received these awards, but I did want to take a moment to thank all of you for reading and for my team for making sure that what I write looks like something you would want to read. Congratulations to all!

Spirit Week at the High School: This is Spirit Week at the high school, followed by our annual pep-rally, homecoming football game, Marching Band half-time show, and dance on Friday night. I hope to see you there.

Have a great week!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Good Stuff!

Good Stuff: For all of the rain we haven't been getting over the past couple of months, we certainly have made up for it over the past few nights! I felt fortunate as I was humbled to host an OUTDOOR wedding for my brother on Saturday night, and all we had to deal with were a few sprinkles. To prepare for the wedding my wife and the bride worked to "spruce" up what we have been told is an already very nice back yard. The transformation was amazing and I did a double take when I got home on Friday to remind myself that I was actually in my own back yard!

I think our middle and high school students are experiencing a little of what I experienced. They had great locker room and bathroom facilities, but they have all been upgraded. Listening to what the students are saying, they really have an elevated sense of pride for the new changes. Good stuff!

National Merit Semi-Finalists are Announced: Also in the "good stuff" category are our two National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists, Amanda Lowther and Russell Graziano. To qualify for this recognition, students must score in a certain percentile on the "PSAT" exam. Out of nearly one million students, they are now down to a field of sixteen thousand.

Going forward they both need to file formal applications, including a writing sample, to be named a finalist. We should know in the coming months if either advance to the final or winner categories. Academic excellence and high standards are our earmarks, and these two students have helped us to measure our success. Congratulations!

Eighteenth and Final Annual Race for Respect is Almost Here: Join us for the 18th (and final) Annual Race For Respect next Sunday, September 25, at the high school starting at noon.

You can register the day of the race – just look for the registration table right in front of the high school! Students and families may pre-register at your respective schools until this Wednesday, September 21.
Fees are $5 pre-registration and $7 race day registration. A race T-shirt is provided while supplies last. Click here for registration form and other information. We hope to have a great turn out for our final race, so plan to join us as we walk/race together for respect!

This week rounds out our open houses for the fall. Thanks to all who have been attending and have a wonderful week!