Monday, April 24, 2017

Race to the Finish!

Vacation Update - At Home and Away: Welcome back! I hope you had a chance to rest and recharge last week. I had an opportunity to go to Puerto Rico for a few days at the very beginning of break. It is an interesting place. A United States territory, Puerto Rico has great culture, and the people are very friendly.

Their economy is very poor, so poor in fact, that the state colleges and universities are closed right now, and we saw college students protesting in the streets to be able to go BACK to school. I found that to be a sharp contrast to New York State, where free tuition for state colleges and universities was just legislated!

Back at work, it was awesome to read how well our sports teams have been doing, and I can't wait to get to some games this week. The mud is finally starting to subside in the back of the high school and work crews were able to get a great jump on a new roadway from our parking areas to our baseball and softball fields, as well as the tennis courts. Our crews were also able to get the first mow in of all of our properties and everything looks great for students and staff as they return for what will be a race to the finish.

Upcoming Dances: We are heading into the Junior Prom (this Saturday) and Senior Ball season (May 12), so now is a great time to remind all of you that is DOES take all of us to help our children to be safe. Anything you can do from words of encouragement and making good choices to helping with the after the Senior Ball All-Night Party can save a life. Thank you.

13 Reasons Why: If you are a parent of a middle or high school student and you have a Netflix subscription, chances are your child is watching, has watched, or has been told by you that they cannot watch the series 13 Reasons Why. The book was written in 2007 by Jay Asher (who we have had speak at school in the past), and depicts a high school student who commits suicide and leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes for the people who caused her to make that ultimate choice.

The series is very realistic from my perspective and the scene where the main character actually kills herself is very drawn out and very graphic. It has caused mental health professionals from all over the country to release coping guides, suicide hotline numbers, and opinions that the series may cause more harm than good to students who may be struggling with their own mental health issues, bullying, shaming, and just plain old being a teenager in today's world.

Please take a moment at dinner to ask your kids if they are watching the series and if they want to talk about it further. All of our counselors and social workers are very aware of the series and can help. I am bringing this to your attention now because the series is getting a lot of attention on social media and national news programs, and I want you to be as up to speed as possible.

Budget Information: If you aren't busy on Tuesday night, I will be presenting the budget at 7:00 p.m. in the West Genesee High School Large Group Instruction Room. Nothing has changed from what was originally presented to our Board of Education over a month ago, but I will be available to answer any questions you might have about the spending plan for next year.

Thanks and have a great week!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Sign of the Times

It is amazing what a little sunshine will do for our spirits. I got a couple of good runs in over the weekend, and my wife and I got to enjoy the Syracuse Chiefs game yesterday and really enjoyed the warmth (finally). We need more sun and some wind to try the paths leading up to our baseball and softball fields; but beggars can't be choosers!

Robots Roar to Life: I felt pretty old last week. No, it wasn't because of my eye exam that produced a "blended lens" prescription. It was watching students from East Hill Elementary School program an iPad with computer code to make a robot roar to life and navigate across the cafeteria floor and to me. 

It reminded me of 8th grade at St. Ann's Elementary School when I helped to set up a computer lab full of Apple IIe computers and then taught my fellow students a programming language called "Turtle Basic". At the end of that programming class, a small turtle moved four or five inches on a computer screen. We all thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Times sure have changed!

State Budget Passes: With the passage of the state budget, many things have become much more clear. First, and in terms of the school budget, we hit the mark in terms of what we thought we were going to receive from the state, so we do not need to make any changes to the budget before the voters consider it in May.

What was an interesting add to the budget was the inclusion of free college tuition to state schools for families making $125,000 or less per year. This will make things interesting. I have a graduating senior from a state school and that total bill was approximately $69,000, and another at a private school (more than a state school); so you can see how big of a deal this legislation will be for some families.

Many of our students attend Onondaga Community College (OCC) for two reasons: first because OCC is a very good school, and second, the cost fits into more family budgets. The majority of students who attend OCC from West Genesee are also accepted to other colleges but finances make the decision for them. By my estimations, about sixty percent of our families and students will now be able to choose between OCC and a state school for a free college education. This will certainly change the conversation at the dinner table for these families and will probably cause conversations to happen at the community college and state college level. If I was the president of a private school, I would be pretty nervous!

What if you are like me and have children who won't qualify for free tuition and who will be paying in some way for other students to go to college for free through my taxes? I am always an optimist and look for the best in everything. Think about what happens when we are given the choice of multiple free things. We look for what else those free things might offer. That instills competition to offer the best "free" things, and everyone benefits. Should be fun watching all of this develop over the coming months, and I will make sure that our school counselors are up-to-date as they guide students toward college, career, and military goals.

One of the Best Music Communities, Again: Congratulations to our Fine Arts staff and out students for helping us to achieve the Best Communities for Music Education in America for the ninth consecutive year; and thirteenth time overall. If you have ever attended a fine arts performance, you know what it sounds and looks like to continue receiving this very high honor. (Click here to read more about this honor.)

Go Blue 4 Kids: Today you will see pinwheels in front of all of our buildings in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention month. We have partnered with the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Centers "Go Blue 4 Kids" campaign. Students raised money for the pinwheels and the money they have donated to the advocacy center will be used right here in central New York for victims of child sexual and physical abuse. I applaud and appreciate the efforts of our Parent Teacher Associations/Organizations, as well as our students and staff.

I am going to take a week off from writing until the Monday we return from spring break; unless there is a reason to write before that. Enjoy the week and have a wonderful spring break!


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

If You See Something, Say Something-Important Note

I apologize for the late post, but I wanted to share an important story with you; and on behalf of the Camillus Police Department, ask for your help. Earlier today a parent told one of our building administrators that she saw a suspicious vehicle in the Orchard Village area of our school District. The administrator immediately contacted our School Resource Officer, who is also a Camillus Police officer, and he began an investigation with the help of his fellow officers.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. this evening I was notified that the driver of the suspicious vehicle was apprehended and is being investigated. The investigation is ongoing, so I am not at liberty to give any further details at this time and questions should be directed to the Camillus Police Department.

Please ask your children if they were approached by any strangers recently, and if they were, please contact the Camillus Police immediately to help them with their investigation.

Thank you to the parent who saw something and said something, as well as our administrators and the Camillus Police for quickly working together for the safety of our children.

Thank you for reading.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Respect the Past, Represent the Future

I hope that everyone enjoyed the weekend. The weather is finally starting to turn for the better, and I got to run in shorts for the first time in a LONG time. Girls and Boys Lacrosse are both off to solid starts (keep an eye on both teams this season), and we hope to get baseball (looking forward to throwing batting practice to them), softball (going to try to hit a fast pitch softball), girls golf (going to try to beat them at a practice this spring), and track (going to try to run a 200m with the kids) off the ground shortly.

West Genesee Musicians Invited to Eastern Regional Concert: Last week we learned that two fine arts students, Julia Musengo and Kevin Buff were selected to perform at the 2017 Biennial Eastern Division Concert. That is a "big deal" as they say. It is rare for a school to have one student selected, let alone two. We are proud of these two students and their accomplishments will add to the storied history of our Fine Arts department overall.

Honoring the Past: When I teach courses about leadership, I tell people that it is important to respect the past but represent the future. Someone that deserves to be respected in our history is Bruce Burritt. Fifty years ago, Bruce led the first Wildcat Band into competition. Through his time as Director, the band won multiple NYS and National championships. 
Mr. Burritt also led the West Genesee Wind Ensemble to state and national acclaim. His legacy has endured as his students, Andy Perry (Nationally published and accredited) and Bill Davern (Director of Fine Arts and recent winner of the 2017 Outstanding Educator of the Year Award through SAANYS), have continued to maintain a tradition of excellence with the Wildcat Band and Wind Ensemble. Bruce was recently inducted into the Bands of America Hall of Fame, an incredible honor.

Community Band: Mr. Perry has been working on a special project that I am certain both Julia and Kevin could be a part of once they graduate called the "Community Band". With over seventy members from many graduating classes, they played their first performance last month to over six hundred people. They are awesome, so keep an eye out for word of their next performance which should be some time in May.

Reminder to Make Good Choices: With the weather finally changing to spring, students (and us for that matter) turn from being stir crazy to being a little wild and crazy sometimes. If you are a parent of a teenager, this is the PERFECT time to have a conversation with your kids (and yes, they may think you are nagging them but that is okay; it is worth it) about making good choices, being careful about driving and about being passengers with friends they may be driving with. What I have found with this generation of students, is that threatening them and using negativity does not work; talking about shared responsibility does. We are all in this together, so let's work together to keep them safe!

Thanks and have a great week!

Monday, March 27, 2017

We Can All Be Replaced...or Can We?

A Family Competition: Well, in the Brown family Half Marathon challenge, I was able to take the "trophy" back from my older son Ben (21 years old) by edging him in the Syracuse Half Marathon yesterday by three minutes. Last year he got me by seven minutes. Most rational people would do a best out of three, but I am sure he and I will be going head to head until I can't walk anymore. The MUCH more important thing is spending time with the kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything and if I have to run, play basketball, video games, go to a concert, play golf, or work to keep the annual family vacation happening; count me in!

A Fad that Leaves Scars: I was reminded about an interesting game that middle and high school students in our District started, and luckily ended playing quickly about two years ago, called the "eraser challenge". Students take an eraser and rub it back and forth on their skin until they can't take it anymore and the person with the largest and deepest burn wins.

I am hopeful that the recent articles do not cause our students to try that again. Once was enough. The eraser challenge is not safe. It can cause open wounds that you and I know won't be taken care of well by teenagers. The results can also leave a scar. If your child has these marks on their arms, please tell them to stop and alert your building principal. Again, we have been there and done that, and I would like to not go there again. Thanks for your help on this.

Our Community Loses a Leader and Friend: Tonight we will be recognizing students as they are inducted into the National Honor Society. The pillars of the National Honor Society are leadership, character, scholarship, and service. A person who has exemplified these characteristics since he and his wife Cheryl opened the Town Shop in 1970 in the Village of Camillus, was Dave Vermilya. I say "was" because he passed away last Friday evening from a short illness.

I had been worried for some time about what the community was going to do when he finally decided to retire (his wife retired a few years back and that was challenging enough) and he never got the opportunity to get time to himself.  Dave worked with thousands of youth over his career. His leadership came in the form of running the Town Shop, a "home", if you will, for young men and women looking for a place to hang out, for direction, for some guidance, and in many cases for kindness that was missing at home. His scholarship could be seen in his willingness to be a life long learner, always keeping up with what kids of "today" were interested in. His service needs no words. Lastly, his character appeared in everything he did. He is the ultimate example of someone who did the right thing when people weren't watching.

Growing up, I was raised to understand that no matter how good you were at doing something, you are always replaceable, so it is important to stay humble. David's passing challenges that ideal. I just do not know how he will ever be replaced, but he absolutely needs to be; because he would want it that way. The challenge will be finding the right person. Hopefully he is watching from somewhere and will help to guide that process. Rest in peace Dave Vermilya, our community lost a pioneer, leader, and friend. I will relay memorial information via our social media platforms as soon as I hear something.

Thank you for reading and take care.


Monday, March 20, 2017

March Comes in Like a Lion

Snow Days: Well, last week was like a mini-vacation for the students with all of the snow days plus the staff development day on Friday. March is a long month and in February I spoke to the principals about making sure that they were creating a couple of opportunities for the students to have a little fun (spirit weeks, etc.) and each building did do some fun things. Add in the snow days and April is right around the corner now! For the record, we do have one snow day left in the calendar before we have to start getting creative.

Fine Arts Director Receives Outstanding Educator Award: We are in-between student events so I wanted to take this opportunity to write about a few adult things. First, if you see our Director of Fine Arts, Bill Davern, please congratulate him. He was selected by SAANYS (School Administrators Association of New York State) to receive their Outstanding Educator Award. This award is certainly well deserved, and we have been very fortunate to have had him steering our Fine Arts program for many years. Congratulations to Bill and his family.

Federal Funding: I am keeping an eye on the Federal budget. As I mentioned in last week's blog, our local budget is in good shape, but we do rely on Federal monies in part for students who have disabilities, or who are living in poverty; as well as for a small portion of our professional development budget and for a small portion of salaries for at-risk counselors.

If the government were to cut all of our Federal funding (which they won't), we budget conservatively enough where we would survive it with less pain than we felt during the last recession; but one area that would be really challenging to make up is in the area of reimbursement for free and reduced lunches. One of the magical things about West Genesee is that even as our poverty has increased, so too have our academic results. A part of this, of course, is making sure that our students are fed and happy. With over twenty-five percent of our students (and climbing) qualifying for free and reduced lunch, losing that funding would not be good. I will continue to keep a close eye on what is happening outside of West Genesee and will help us to navigate anything we need to as we have done in the past.

Tips Make a Difference: We have a great relationship with the District Attorney's office as well as the Camillus Police. We were together last week to catch up on a few partnership opportunities and as we got to talking, we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of our tip button (for bullying, crimes, etc.) which can be found by clicking here as well as the Camillus Police Tip line by clicking here.

We discussed how the number of drug-related issues in our schools have dropped drastically over the past three years due to our partnerships, communication, and visibility of our administrators; but that some people may not feel that way because we haven't written about it in a while.

If you have tips or things you think we should know about, please use the links above. It may look at times like there is no outcome, but every tip we get creates a report and file that all parties build upon. You should also be very proud of the students who have no problems coming to us to let us know if they hear of anything that they think we should know about!

Diplomas on Order: We have ordered diplomas and I plan to start signing them shortly. This means that if you are the parent of a senior, you are now in the channel to graduation. Hard to believe, but it is true!

Hoping for some sun and snow melt this week. We need to get ALL of our sports teams outside for some fresh air! Thanks for your support and enjoy the week!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Ready for Spring

A Successful Season for the Girls Basketball Team: Well, the Girls Varsity Basketball team did not have the outcome they wanted, but they sure had a successful season. One of the exciting things in my job is watching the rebirth and resurgence of a program. We quickly forget that the team made it to the section championship last year and came up short, because they went right back there this year and won it. It stinks that in society we are excited when a lot of people show up to watch a women's sporting event. I hope that changes; it needs to.  

The level of sportsmanship, grit, and talent from this group is fantastic and each player, as a person, is a role model. Their Section III Championship picture will hang proudly in the entrance to the District Office. They will be losing some very valuable seniors, but they are also able to restock with experience right down to the eighth grade. Their future continues to be bright. Congratulations on a great season and thanks to the Wildcat Nation and our community for all of the support!

Festival of Bands Golden Anniversary: Fifty years is a long time for anything. Last week, the Fine Arts Department celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Festival of Bands. Each of those fifty years has been excellent, and our records show how many former performers went on to do great things in music and life. We have tremendous participation in our program, and their dedication to detail and to practice, as well as their instruction, is what separates our program from the others. The CD from the performance will be playing in my car for the next few weeks! A special thank you to Dr. Damon Talley from Louisiana State University for being a guest conductor.

Budget Time Already: We have completed and presented the 2017-2018 budget to the Board of Education. The package falls within the tax cap, preserves any incentives that might be available to homeowners, preserves programs, and adds mental health support for our middle school students and families. You can access the presentation and other budget information from our website by clicking here, Also, I will be giving the presentation again on the following dates:

  • April 25 - 7:00 p.m. at the High School Large Group Instruction (LGI) Room

  • May 3 - Budget Public Hearing - 7:00 p.m. at the High School Library

  • Thank you for your continued support.

    We will have to see what the weather decides to do this week. Hopefully nothing, but stay tuned!

    Enjoy the week-


    Tuesday, March 7, 2017

    The Results are In...

    We have had such good attendance at our games and such an amazing following of our sports teams that I wanted to provide a few updates and some time and place information as we dig into this week.

    First, it is my pleasure to let you know that our student athletes in Boys Swimming and Diving as well as Indoor Track did very well in their New York State Championships this past weekend.

    In Swimming and Diving: 
    • Ryan Hagadorn placed 17th in the Breaststroke.
    • The team of Nathan Gdula, Evan Tuthill, Ryan Hagadorn, and Matthew Shoults placed 22nd in the 200 yd Freestyle Relay.
    • The team of Brian Salmons, Ryan Hagadorn, Nathan Gdula, and Evan Tuthill placed 32nd in the 200 yd Medley Relay.
    • Nathan Gdula placed 32nd in 50 yd Freestyle event.
    • Peter Bowman placed 29th in diving.  
    Great representation and thanks for all of your efforts.

    In the New York State Indoor Track Championship: 
    • The Girls 4x400 Relay were medal winners for the second consecutive year. Carly Benson, Megan Delia, Emily Young, and Kendall Dombroske raced to an 8th place Federation medal finish after qualifying for the final in that event. 
    • Carly Benson also competed in the 600 meter, Megan Delia in the 300 meter, and Emily Young in the 1000 meter events. 
    • Senior David Leff raced a season personal best as he placed 16th in the 1600 meter state final.
    Congratulations to all!

    Girls Basketball in Regional Competition: The girls basketball team will play in the New York State quarterfinal this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College against Shenendehowa. Tickets are available at the door for $8, and we hope to see another great crowd for that game.

    Artwork at the Everson Museum: While I have you reading, hats off to eighth grader Gabrielle Mitchell, who had her artwork selected (only 32 in Central New York were chosen) to be on display at the Everson Museum. Her piece? A picture of Ava Propper, the Spelling Bee Champion!

    Great stuff all around. Enjoy the rest of the week and Go Wildcats!


    Monday, March 6, 2017

    The Year was 1994...

    Not Since 1994--Girls Basketball Team Wins Sectional Title: In 1994, my wife and I got married, a gallon of gas was $1.09, and The Lion King was the big movie for kids. Snoop Dogg and Bon Jovi ruled the music charts, and Rugrats and The X-Files were popular television shows. The year 1994 was also the last time that the West Genesee Girls Varsity Basketball team won a Sectional Championship. That all changed on Saturday when the girls defeated Liverpool in the Allyn Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College.

    They are frightening to watch from a competitive standpoint. They don't say a lot when they play, but their defense is just fierce and NOTHING seems to rattle them. On offense, they all seem to be good outside shooters, and when they can get the ball inside they have no fear of being fouled as they try to make a basket. In other words, they are rolling. Oh, and you aren't going to find a better team of role models who always display great sportsmanship. I do not think they are done either. This is a special group that is on a mission. They play Shenendehowa next Saturday, March 11, in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium at Onondaga Community College starting at 4:00 p.m.

    I am very thankful to all who were able to make it to the game. Yes, parking was a challenge due to how many other events the college was hosting, but the reality is that the venue is very convenient for us, and I very much hope that we will have an even bigger crowd to see them play next week. Congratulations to the lady Wildcats!

    Celebrating Different Cultures: The 9th Annual District Culture Fair was also held on Saturday and it seems like the more years we hold the event, the more cultures are represented! It is so great to catch up with the dozens of community members who bring artifacts that are close to them and their families to share with students so they can learn and enjoy. There are too many volunteers to thank without missing someone so thank you to all, and we are already planning for our tenth anniversary event!

    Hockey Update: The hockey team ended their season in overtime at Shove Park on Saturday in front of a sold-out arena. Some of you who are reading this who graduated in the 1980's or 1990's might not think much of a sold out gym or arena but back then the school had nearly three thousand more students than today. School spirit is at the highest point I have seen it in my nine years here and that does translate to achievement in the classroom, higher daily attendance, and fewer tardies. All of this is a recipe for success!

    March is Music in our Schools Month: You all know how spoiled we are by our Fine Arts program so you can't go wrong attending any concert; but a great one was held last week called the Choral Festival and Art Exhibit. The art pieces were fantastic and you can't beat over 350 singers on one stage! Hats off to all, and there are plenty of other shows to get to this month!

    High School Administration Update: Two years ago I wrote about a restructuring of our high school administrative team and moving away from assistant principals and to an executive principal/building principal model. The purpose was to give each administrator in the building full decision-making authority for students and staff so our large high school would feel much smaller to those in it. The plan was also to create a smooth transition for when Dr. Copeland, high school principal for fifteen years, decided to retire.

    The Board of Education did receive and approve Dr. Copeland's retirement letter for the end of this school year, and it is important to recognize that during his time, he graduated over seven thousand students and worked with tens of thousands of parents in our community. As he wraps up his career this spring, be sure to congratulate him when you see him either at school or around town. He hopes to volunteer helping Veterans in his retirement, and we certainly wish him well!

    Busy but good week ahead. See you around!


    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Full Speed Ahead!

    I hope that all of you had a great winter break. If you stayed home, there was no shortage of excitement.

    Hockey Team Wins Section III Championship: First up was the Section III Championship hockey game featuring West Genesee versus Syracuse at the War Memorial. West Genesee was smaller sized but very skilled and determined and Syracuse was very big, fast, and physical. It was a game for the ages. There was a HUGE crowd on hand and the action went back and forth all the way to overtime.

    With a few minutes left in the overtime, tied at 1, Syracuse took a penalty and West Genesee went on the powerplay. Coach Colabufo called a timeout and drew up some plays. West Genesee won the faceoff and absolutely peppered a superb Syracuse goalie until one rebound got out just a little too far and Jay Considine scooped it up and hit the back of the net. I thought I pulled something jumping so much; and the place went crazy!

    Congratulations to the boys. They will now play in the New York State Quarterfinal on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. right at Shove Park versus the winner of Section VI.

    As that game finished, I snuck over to Pavones Pizza to grab a quick slice and spoke to some parents about how lucky we are to have such talented students!

    Academic Decathlon Competes at States: From there, I waited by the phone as Principal Shannon Coholan relayed scores back to me from our Academic Decathlon Team, who competed for the New York State Championship. The greatest thing about Academic Decathlon is that students from all ability and performance levels compete.

    After two days of tests and essays, they finished second by the equivalent of one question on one test. Competitors did bring home some medals though and are already planning for next year. Our list of medal winners will be published on the website and social media very soon, so check back.

    Boys Varsity Basketball in Sectional Semi-Final: After a quick break it was up to Onondaga Community College to watch our Boys Varsity Basketball team take on Henninger in the Section III Sectional Semi-Final game. Again, another great crowd on hand, and the Wildcats fought hard but came up just short to a Henninger team that is on the rise. As a basketball fan, I am looking very forward to the Section III Championship game between Liverpool and Henninger.

    Looking back at the boys season, they brought life back to our gym. We had two games that filled the gym (well over one thousand seats) so full, that our Athletic Director had to bring in folding chairs. Add a pep band (thank you!) to the crowd, and we are the place to play. I am hoping that we can keep up the energy next year and thank you to our seniors.

    Girls Varsity Basketball Team Moves on to Sectional Final: Where I am a little perplexed is with our Girls Varsity Basketball team. They are VERY, VERY good and they have been rock solid all season. On Sunday, they played a feisty Utica-Proctor team. What makes this team, and their coach, the most admirable is that they are able to find a way to get to the next level of effort. At halftime, the girls were up 22-21. They came out of halftime and found a way to elevate their play and were able to get the win.

    They will now play against Liverpool next Saturday, March 4, at 12:00 p.m. at Onondaga Community College for the Section III Championship; something we have rarely played for in the history of West Genesee.

    What is perplexing is how few people have come out to watch these athletes. We have used social media, announcements, and plain old word of mouth, and while we have had crowds that have been larger than previous years, these girls deserve to have more fans at their games; bottom line. If you can find a way to come out and support them I would personally appreciate it, and I know that the girls would REALLY appreciate it. Hats off to them and best of luck on Saturday!

    Other NYS Championship Updates: Also, competing in NYS Championships this weekend are Boys Swim/Dive on March 3-4 at the Nassau County Aquatics Center on Long Island and Indoor Track at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Center on Staten Island.

    Trivia: To cap off my weekend, my trivia team (teams are made up of seven people) made it to the Syracuse Winterfest Finals, where we finished second to the top trivia teams in the Syracuse area. My wife got the MVP for going head to head against a member of the other second place team in a lightning round that allowed us to take second all alone. Why didn't we take first place? Well, let's just say that I shouldn't quit my day job.

    A Busy Week: This week is very busy. I hope to see many of you at our Substance Abuse Community Resource Night from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.tonight at the high school. The event will begin in the Auditorium and will feature keynote speeches by award winning news anchors Christie Casciano and Tammy Palmer. Attendees will then be escorted to our upper gym where they can speak to resource providers in our area, and can also turn in unused medication. We will have breakout sessions lasting fifteen minutes each featuring Beth Hurney from the Prevention Network, Dr. Dr. Ross Sullivan from Upstate University Hospital, as well as a person who is in recovery after being a drug addict. After their breakout sessions, they will answer questions. It will be a very worthwhile evening.

    Saturday, in addition to the hockey game (6:30 p.m.), and girls Section III Championship game (12:00 p.m.), we will be hosting the District Culture Fair. This event is always very well attended and features all of the cultures that our community has to offer. The event takes place from noon to 3:00 p.m., and I hope to see you there!

    Thanks for reading.  That was a lot of information; but isn't it great to be a Wildcat?

    Thanks and enjoy the week-


    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Where Do I Start?

    When I woke up on Thursday, I had no idea what the next four days were going to bring. They turned out to be a movie script about the power and success of public school education, and I got to get a first-hand screening.

    Planning Strategically: First up was the meat and potatoes of our strategic planning process. The team is comprised of stakeholders from all walks of our school and outer community. We finished the session with some great plans for next year including a more vigorous attack on bullying, a renewed focus on academic results, and a further exploration of multiple pathways towards graduation. GREAT stuff!

    Girls Basketball Senior Night: Then it was on to senior night for the Girls Varsity Basketball team. Four fierce competitors were recognized, and the team continued to do what it has done all season; win with intent.

    Mary Poppins! Lands at the High School: That night it was also curtains up for the musical, Mary Poppins!. It was everything I thought it would be. From the pit to the stage crew to the actors and actresses, the performance was delivered to the highest level.

    To say I loved it would be an understatement, and I kept finding myself humming along to the tunes. Check out this video from the musical of Steppin' time by clicking here.  Bravo to all!

    I have never been more irritated about a snow day than Friday. A two and a half hour delay would have done the trick; but we don't have those. Fortunately, the weather continued to clear up throughout the day, and the musical was able to go on as scheduled. Had that not happened, we would have had a cancellation on Sunday for certain, and THAT would have been a bummer.

    A Buzzer Beater: Then came Saturday. Another knock your socks off Mary Poppins! performance. At the same time, the boys basketball team won a thriller with a buzzer beater from half court by Malik Zachery, and then things went right over the top. See the video below (or click here) from

    Girls Skate to a State Championship: First, the Girls Hockey team, undefeated on the season, won the New York State Girls Hockey Championship. This made me very proud, because the athletes are part of a shared team with Skaneateles. The effort they have to go through to make it to practice, keep their grades up, and then travel to compete (there aren't many other girls hockey teams locally) shows a true dedication, and I for one sincerely applaud that. Congratulations to them! West Genesee students on the team are Emily Cox, Johna Halko, Katie Halko, Katrina Harter, Lauren Jones, Cecily Kawejsza, Anne Rubel, Grace Schnorr, Jessica Smith, and Heather Tanzella. Thank you for representing your families, yourselves, and our school so well!

    WGMS Student Wins Spelling Bee!: So you would think that would be enough excitement. Nope. Ava Propper, an eighth-grader from West Genesee Middle School, shot it over the top by WINNING the  2017
    Post Standard / / WCNY Spelling Bee. Seriously! First, it was her against other very worthy competitors. Then it dwindled down, and as the last person standing, it was Ava against words. Which words you ask? How about "glitterati" followed up with "cinephile" for the win! We get to be proud of her and she gets to go to Washington, DC, in May and compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee; yes the one that is broadcast on ESPN. You can view a video from below or lick here.

    If you have paw prints on your car, wear West Genesee gear, or are a silent supporter, take a victory lap (if taking this literally, please follow all posted speed limits). You live in a great community where magic like I have written above, happens due to your support, the efforts of all of the adults who work with our children, and of course, the performance of our students. I wear my blue and gold with pride every day.

    Unless completely necessary, I will be writing again after the mid-winter break. Thanks and enjoy the week!


    Monday, February 6, 2017

    A Busy Weekend...

    How we are Viewed by Others: My wife and I have been traveling and getting out more since we have had an empty nest, and we recently befriended three Australians who are in Syracuse to take courses on radar systems at Lockheed Martin. When we asked what they had done to learn about Syracuse, they mentioned going to The Dinosaur BBQ, Destiny USA, and a Syracuse University (SU) basketball game.

    All three have been in the Australian Air Force, and the one thing they said they were jealous of was how much pride we take in our National Anthem. They observed that at the SU game, and they wished that people in their homeland stood at attention with such pride before their Cricket matches!

    During our conversations, they said that they had heard about this big game in the United States called the "Super Bowl", so we invited them to our place to watch last night. They were amazed by the game, the halftime show, and the commercials. They have to fly back home later today, but I hope we reconnect the next time they come here.

    District Strategy Around Bullying: Over the past nine years that I have been here, we have worked really hard as a District and community to curb bullying, both in person and online. We have been making tremendous headway, but recently, we have seen a small spike in behavior that may not be bullying or harassment by definition (click here to read the rules we need to follow), but it is certainly mean, and needs to stop. It is happening at all levels, and even one instance is too many.

    My hope is that we are just dealing with the weather, but my hunch is that more and more moms and dads are stressed about things at home, work, and paying the bills. Children pick up on those feelings and get stressed themselves. They aren't quite able to handle those feelings like we can as adults, so they make a mean comment, push someone on the playground, or send a nasty message on social media. These situations are not as common as many may think, but they absolutely happen, and need to be dealt with.

    This recent increase will pass, but we as a District need to continue to recognize changes in our community, and work to teach students coping skills, how to be held accountable, and how to channel emotions differently. Presently, we use a combination of character education, the CODE program (Community Oriented Drug Education) in partnership with the Camillus Police, Dignity for All Students Training, assemblies, and plain old-fashioned relationship building. At the same time we have more mental health support than ever before, have rearranged our relationship with the Camillus Police to make our School Resource Office more visible in a positive way, and have been working with service agencies to help parents find support at home.

    We are a District built on the highest of standards, and in order for those standards to be met, we need to continue to work together. You can help us at home by knowing if your child has a social media presence and if they do, what they are posting to each other. If you have a younger child who comes home to tell you what happened at school, call or contact someone at the school and let them work with you to get both sides of the story, and find a solution. If there is a situation that needs to be brought to our attention please do so, or fill out this online form by clicking here.

    Not every situation resolves itself to the satisfaction of a parent, and sometimes those parents take to social media to express their displeasure. Some of those posts are factual, and many are not. If you ever want clarification about something, please contact me. Remember, I was born and raised here, have tremendous pride in what we do, and treat the District and everyone in it like my extended family. We include every possible angle and resource to solve problems.

    At the same time, our students have outdone themselves with volunteer work, raising money for local charities, sick children, and their attendance at events and morale building activities has been through the roof. There are great projects going on in classrooms and our class of 2030 is rapidly taking shape! A quick run through my Twitter and other school twitter feeds along with our District Facebook page shows treasure after treasure of the cool things that are happening!

    Athletics Update: Congratulations to our girls' hockey team (combined with Skaneateles High School) for remaining undefeated and becoming Section III Champions.

    Congratulations also to our indoor track 4X400 Relay Team of Kendall Dombroske, Lauren Ferris, Kelsey Fox, and Carly Benson who are league champions with the best time in Section III. Also to Meg Delia who is the league champion in the 300 meter race.

    Be on the lookout for upcoming sports schedules and check out an event. We are making noise in the section and state in nearly all of our winter sports!

    Mary Poppins! is Landing at the High School: West Genesee High School students will present the musical Mary Poppins!, at the high school auditorium. Shows are Thursday, February 9 and Friday, February 10, at 7:00 p.m., with 2 shows Saturday, February 11, at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at or at the door. All seats are reserved and are $12. You can also call the Ticket Call Center at 1-800-514-3849, extension 4. Tickets can be purchased at the door. All seats are reserved.

    There is a real energy surrounding this show so you should check it out if you can. Click here to read a full article about the musical and access cast and crew lists.

    Don't forget to start dialing the area code 315 before your phone calls starting on February 7! Thanks and enjoy the week!


    Monday, January 30, 2017

    Now What?

    National Events Affect our Students: I have written year after year that I am NOT politically affiliated. I vote how I feel in each election (but I ALWAYS vote). Not being a Democrat or a Republican does not mean that I do not care about their policies and practices because they impact me as a person and impact the students and parents that we serve at school.

    Case in point. we spend a lot of time educating students about bullying, harassment, mental health, and doing the right thing. At the end of some weeks, and especially in January, we as administrators can be drained from helping students and parents work through highly stressful situations. We normally use the weekend to recharge, and we are right back at it.

    As news filtered out about President Trump's new approach to immigration, I saw the protests and anger that followed; I then realized just how much of a melting pot our District is when I heard from English as a second language and English as a new language teachers that some of their students were sad and upset that they may have to leave the country. These are completely documented immigrants and refugees, but I can understand their concerns, and it adds another layer of the support that we will be giving our students.

    These students have friends, maybe even your children, so please take an extra pause if they want to have a conversation about what is happening with the election and some of the policy changes that have been coming out of Washington, DC. It is really causing some children a lot of stress.

    Students Give Optimistic Speeches: The future of the nation is in good hands. Last week, several of our students participated in the Camillus Optimists Oratorical contest and their speeches were uplifting and very motivating. The students represented themselves, their families, and West Genesee very well, and I am proud of each and every one of them. Click here for a list of participants and other details.

    Update on Smartbond Grant: Last April we applied for a grant called a Smartbond that has money available to increase the amount of technology that our students have access to.

    We heard from the reviewers last week and it looks like we are going to be approved shortly. This will allow us to purchase about 3,000 pieces of equipment for students to use in the form of iPads, Chromebooks, netbooks, laptops, etc. We have solid equipment now, but this grant will help us to get closer to having a device available for every student. Good stuff!

    Thanks for reading, stay warm this week, and I hope to see you at one of our events.