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-