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!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Never Forget

Remembering 9/11: In my job, one thing you are taught and then are forced to learn is the concept of "stick and move". In the sport of boxing, stick and move means to learn how to concentrate your resources, make a decision, and immediately move on to the next decision. In boxing, dwelling on decisions can have a tough result. In my job, dwelling on decisions causes the organization to run inefficiently and no high functioning school district can run inefficiently.

One of the things in life that has made me reflect on, however, is September 11, 2001. Our current freshmen were not alive on that very scary day for America. If you are my age, you can remember where you were the exact minute the first plane hit the Twin Tower. You personally know/knew someone impacted by that awful day, or you know someone who knows or knew someone.

From the bad came a sense of absolute patriotism, and what it means to be a real life hero. The emergency responders who ran toward the towers never to be seen again, the volunteers who lined up by the thousands to provide assistance when the safety of their surroundings was not known, and the survivors themselves; many of whom helped others to flee knowing that slowing down may have cost their life as well. (Pictured below is Shawn Picciott, a 2015 West Genesee graduate who attends the US Naval Academy.)

Fifteen years later, we have learned, we have dwelled, and we have moved forward; but we never forget, and we won't, and that is okay. Peace to those who lost their lives, and pride to those who call themselves Americans.

School Begins: In other news, we are beginning the second week of school. Week one went well, although I wish the air conditioning was working in all of the buildings. Soon for sure, but for those who attended open houses or ice cream socials, soon wasn't good enough; and I agree!

I really enjoyed reconnecting with all of our students and staff. The kindergartners are just a blast to meet with for the first time. I am always impressed that they can say the word superintendent, let alone know and remember what I do for a living. Impressive!

Capital Project Update: I would call our construction project 98% complete, with the last 2% being touch up paint, trim, carpet, and we are finishing the air conditioning and cafeterias at Onondaga Road and East Hill Elementary schools. We are very fortunate to have completed the project on time and most importantly on budget.It took a LOT of people to make that happen and my thanks goes out to everyone.

Thanks for the support and have a great week!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Determination, Different Approaches, and Drive

End of Summer/Beginning of the School Year: Well, the diet begins today. I got plenty of exercise over the summer, but Syracuse favorites like Byrne Dairy, Gianelli Sausage, and Hoffman hot dogs at the New York State Fair have made more fruits and vegetables an absolute must! It was well worth it. I only went to the Fair five times, which is a little low for me, but I did get to see some great live music from my favorite local blues band Dr. Kildean, Culture Club, the Charlie Daniel's Band, ZZ-Top, and Chicago. It is a good thing I know all of the short cuts to the parking lots, and I am already looking forward to next year!

Speaking of next year, it is here! The 2016-2017 school year has begun, and with it comes smiling faces from students and staff, school buses on the road, and new goals for the year.

The Three D's: At opening day for our employees last week I emphasized that we are going to continue to improve our high school completer rate (currently 93%, NYS average 78%) through the "three D's; determination, different approaches, and drive." Determination and drive are pretty self-explanatory.

After assessing all of the resources that we provide students and families, we have determined that we need to take a different approach regarding student attendance. We have excellent average daily attendance in all of our buildings, but a high school completer rate of 93% means that sixteen students, give or take, are not getting across the stage by the time they are seniors.We discovered that many of the students who did not complete high school over the years had poor daily attendance, came in late or left early on a regular basis, or were truant.

We need to get ALL students to school every day so they have the best opportunity to learn and to find success. If you have children in our schools you can help us by making sure that they get to school, unless there is a legitimate reason for them not to be there. We would like to raise the completer rate roughly two percentage points per year until we get into that 97%-100% range. It will take all of us to get there, and I appreciate your continued help and support from home.

Looking Forward: I am keeping this blog short this week so you can concentrate on getting the school year started at home. Thanks for calling the West Genesee Central School District your home, and I am looking forward to greeting you at our open houses and curriculum nights. Please feel free to explore all of the Capital Project updates when you are in the buildings!

Thanks and enjoy the week-