Monday, October 16, 2017

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

What a weekend! If you were at the Syracuse football game on Friday night, you hopefully witnessed the turning point of their program. I mention this because it was a very energizing thing to witness; especially the fan reactions after the game. Secondly, and whether we want to admit it or not, the success or failure of major college and/or professional sports programs have a direct impact on the local economy. We can certainly continue to use that, so go Orange!

Jamming with Our Graduates: Saturday night was very cool, and generational in many ways. Our assistant superintendent, Brian Kesel, and I (along with our better halves) went to an "album release" party for a local band called The Action. This band consists of five very talented musicians, four of whom are West Genesee graduates (before I got here), and they all married West Genesee graduates!

It was really neat because throughout the night Mr. Kesel caught up with the band members, who were his former students when he was a teacher and then assistant principal at the high school. I got to catch up with Max, one of the band members' children, who is now a student at Stonehedge Elementary School. Max kept looking at me, but I wasn't wearing a suit so he was a little confused. I walked over to him and gave him a fist bump and asked him if he liked the music. He said, "yes, and MY dad is in the band!". Too fun.

Rumors: Something that wasn't too fun was chasing down the rumors that we had bed bugs in the District. We DO NOT.  A couple of students saw the news about some area schools dealing with the issue (which I have had to do once in my career as well) and thought it would be a good idea to "Snapchat" that we had bed bugs. Thanks to our administrators for quickly finding the source of the rumors.

We did call our pest control company though to ask them if there was anything they could spray or do proactively to create an environment that bed bugs would simply not like. They told us that the only real way to create a hostile place for bed bugs is to thoroughly disinfect all areas. We authorized overtime for this to occur and work began last Friday night. The side benefit is a deeper antibacterial cleaning will also help us with the impending cold and flu season!

Thought Exchange Update: Thanks to those who took and are taking the time to respond to our Thought Exchange feedback survey. I have no idea who is posting what, but the Thought Exchange organization told us that input has been "healthy". If you would still like to participate, just click here.

Fall Competitions Coming to a Close: As we get a little deeper into the fall, it is time for sectional play to begin for athletics, and it is also time for final Marching Band preparations for their Carrier Dome show. (Congratulations to our Boys Golf Team who already became Section 3 Champions!)

We will post schedules on our Facebook page and our Twitter feeds very shortly. If you can get out to support our students, that would be great!

Substance Abuse Coalition: Lastly this week, the hard work of our Substance Abuse Coalition appears to be paying off in a way that we did not anticipate. At a recent meeting with my colleague superintendents, the idea was pitched and unanimously approved to begin a countywide, school-centered substance abuse team. I think this is a great advancement in the mission because so few students are addicted to opiates in high school, but the number really increases after they graduate.

That being said, if we can collectively provide more proactive education to our students while they are in school, maybe we will keep them from making a sometimes fatal decision after they graduate. Shannon Coholan, high school principal, and I will continue to lead our community coalition. I will be a team member, but not the team leader (for now) of the new group being formed.

Thanks for your continued support and have a great week!

Chris

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Short Week

Well, the rain that we "enjoyed" yesterday was the same rain that I "enjoyed" on Sunday while watching my favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, as they lost in Cincinnati. Standing outside in the rain for about seven hours in a $1 poncho reminded me that I really do not want to do that again, ever. At least I was there with about 20 family members and friends; and it was also a warm rain. I also didn't melt!

While I was gone, it was great to have Twitter and be able to follow almost all of our sports as well as the Marching Band's big trip to Delaware to compete in the Bands of America Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. They did very well and it made me even more excited for the show at the Carrier Dome, which is October 29 (The Wildcats will compete at 8:05 p.m.)

In my last blog, I shared the link for you to be able to provide feedback. If you followed the link and signed up (here is the link again...click here) you will be receiving an email message tomorrow from Thought Exchange, the organization we are using to help us. Thanks again for participating and giving us your feedback!

I am looking forward to a great short week! Thank you for your continued support.

Chris

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thought Exchange

I hope you are having a great week. In my previous blogs I mentioned that you were going to have the opportunity to provide me with some feedback about how I am doing as your superintendent and how we are performing as a District. That time has come.  

I would REALLY appreciate it if you could take the five to ten minutes to register and complete the following survey: https://rebrand.ly/WestGeneseeThoughtexchange. We have partnered with an organization called Thought Exchange, so no District employee (including myself) will be able to identify the author of any feedback given.

A "Thought Exchange" works in three phases. 
  • The first phase, which we are beginning today, is called the SHARE stage. This is the time when staff, students, parents, and community members will provide feedback to a few questions.  
  • In a few weeks, the STAR phase will begin. In this phase, participants will "favorite" comments that they agree with.  
  • The last phase is called the DISCOVER phase, where all participants will be able to see the results of the survey.

Thank you very much for participating. It is important for me and for the continued success of the District to hear from as many people as possible.

Thank you and enjoy the weekend.

Chris

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Moving Forward!

Boy, yesterday was a phenomenal first day of fall in my book. The weather was perfect, the Buffalo Bills won, and I finally started to turn the corner on my marathon cold. It doesn't get much better than that!

Homecoming: We had a terrific homecoming weekend. The high school pep rally was "off the hook", as the kids would say, and the student section at the football game was as large as I have seen it since probably 2011.

I tried to insert a few short videos as well as pictures from both events, and I hope they play on whatever device you are reading this on.

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Marching Band Update: Saturday night was special as well. The weather was crisp, the moon was out, and the Tournament of Bands was HOPPING! After our Marching Band performed an exhibition, they had their senior night, where 46 seniors were recognized. I had to put my phone camera on "pano" to get a successful picture of all of the seniors and their families. Congratulations!



When Situations Happen: The last blog I posted was out of sequence (not my traditional Monday morning post) and outlined a situation that we had involving a student on a bus. The post received nearly 8,000 unique reads, compared to the nearly 5,000 who read my weekly blog. You want information when things happen, and I very much appreciate that. With what happened last evening in Las Vegas, you can see why we take anything related to student and staff safety so seriously.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you what we do when a neighboring school district is working through an issue. I have a very tight network of colleagues, so we usually know what is happening elsewhere before you read about it or see it on television.

The first thing we do is reach out to the Camillus Police for direction and advice. I usually speak to the police chief or captain, and I discuss what is happening and what our course of action should be; if anything.

If it is a bomb threat for example, we wait to see if there will be a copycat, and we have the correct officials ready to trace it and react. If it is someone who may have a weapon, we check to see if they have been apprehended and if not, does law enforcement have a good idea of where they are. Based on the situation and the facts, we could remain business as usual, have patrol cars near every building, conduct a more formal lockout, engage in a lockdown, have a stay in place, etc.

You should know as parents that we are on it, even if the situation does not involve our school. Shared responsibility is critical to keep our children safe, and we all work together toward that goal every day.

Looking Forward: This week I have the pleasure of meeting with all of our seniors who are taking Participation in Government. It is one of my favorite days of the year, and we have a lot to talk about!

Thanks for your incredible support!

Chris

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Important Message

Good Morning-

I wanted to let you know that we had an incident on one of our buses this morning.  At approximately 7:10 a.m., a high school student got off the bus and notified an adult that he had heard a middle school student mention that he was in possession of a pistol. The adult at the high school immediately contacted our school resource officer and the middle school principal. The bus was secured at the middle school and the student who made the comments was immediately located and was searched and questioned by police and school administrators. The student was not in possession of any type of weapon, and there was no direct or implied threat made.

There are plenty of people who did their "jobs" this morning. First, students heard something and said something.  Second, our School Resource Officer and principal reacted quickly, and exactly how they are trained to react. Third, the bus driver was exceptional in keeping things as normal as possible.

While this ended up being unfounded, it is important for you to know as parents and community members that we react to anything we hear immediately and with the greatest care possible. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 315-487-4562.

Thank you.

Chris

Monday, September 25, 2017

Reminiscing

Another fantastic week in the books. Hard to believe that we are already three weeks into school. A sincere thank you to everyone who attended our open houses the past couple of weeks. Making and keeping connections with school is really important as we help our children navigate school and life!

Great Weather for Events: When my kids were still in school they ran track, played soccer for a period of time, and played basketball. I was at a soccer game the other night at the high school reminiscing about watching them play in the cold, rain, and even a few snowflakes one year. That night I was in shorts and a tee shirt! If you are a parent with a child in Marching Band or a sport, count your blessings these past couple of weeks. From what I can tell, we might even have one more nice week ahead before who knows what happens.

Musicians Selected for All-State Concerts: We received word last week that several of our students will be performing at the All-State Conference. Being selected for these concerts means that you are at the top of your game. Imagine being at the top of your game, in high school; at anything.

Next steps for some of these students may be professional music or even Broadway, as some of their predecessors have done. For now, we will enjoy their talents at our upcoming concerts and we wish them the very best! For more information about this honor click here.

Wellness is Important: At the beginning of the school year we established a wellness goal for all of our employees and Board of Education members to step around the world. How many steps is that? About 65 million. It has been fun to watch people get in a few extra steps at lunchtime or to hear where they are walking or running to help them accomplish our goal. As of this past Friday we are about 12,178,026 steps into our endeavor, and as people input their steps into a website we have, they can see how far we have made it around the world. It has been a great team building exercise that also focuses on wellness.

We have also been working with the American Heart Association to create a Phase II to this goal of including another initiative where students and employees will work together for wellness. I will certainly keep you posted.

Sports in the South-A Different World: While it was warm here over the weekend, I can assure you that it was warmer in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I was over the weekend. I was down there for the Syracuse/LSU football game in Baton Rouge. I have been in the Carrier Dome when it was sold out for football back in the 1980's. That didn't hold a candle to watching over 75,000 fans support their teams. Pretty crazy. The people on the way to and at the game were incredibly friendly and they really made us feel right at home. If you are a sports fan, I would suggest attending a college football game under the lights in the south. It is a totally different world.


Homecoming is this Week: Speaking of games under the lights, please accept this as my personal invitation to attend our Homecoming Football game this Friday at 6:00 p.m. on the turf field. Homecoming is something we enjoy and celebrate, and we would certainly like to share the fun with all of you and your children.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fore!

If you came to the football game on Friday night, it was much appreciated. The stands were packed, as it was Pop Warner night, Marching Band half-time show, a big showing by the cheerleaders, and the actual football game; of course!

While the team did not end up in the win column, there was an abundance of school spirit. Also, the Wildcat Nation had a beach theme, which was appropriate because it was a very warm night. I don't want you to think we are sleeping on cross country, soccer, volleyball, or golf. Look for a cool collage for them in the very near future!

The School Year has Taken Off: I often teach new administrators that a school year is like taking an airplane flight. The beginning of the year is like racing down the runway and pulling up off of the tarmac. By end of the first week, it is the equivalent of wheels up and the "big climb" to the clouds. Much like flying in a plane, this time of the year is when turbulence can be hit. For us, that usually comes in the form of getting the school bus routes and school dismissals to be as smooth as possible, and getting all of the students into a routine.

This week begins week three. At this point in a flight, the plane is headed into the clouds before leveling off for the rest of the flight until it is time to think about landing. We are headed to cruising altitude in great shape!

Being Positive: Our elementary and middle school students are beginning a new character education initiative called the Positivity Project. The overall theme of the project is to teach children that other people matter.  In just two short weeks of the program (which is free to schools), I have already seen a difference. We have GREAT kids, believe me; I interact with them every day.

What I am already witnessing are children who are genuinely interested in knowing about their classmates. That is huge. It establishes respect for one another and pays huge dividends now and down the road in being empathetic and caring; which reduces bullying and discipline issues. I have not seen a program that has really reached children like this. I know that parents were told about the program at open houses, etc. but here is a link to more information (https://posproject.org/).

The program does not scale to the high school quite as well as K-8. We are therefore working with the makeup of each grade level 9-12 and targeting assemblies and programs that are specific to each class, and then the opportunities that are being given to ALL students in grades 9-12. This is one of those areas where being here for a while really pays off. I know the students in the high school better than any teacher or administrator, and I do not want to waste time on things they don't need.

We have identified themes such as self-worth, making good choices, how to have appropriate and positive relationships with peers, cyber bullying, suicide prevention, substance abuse, how to use your talents to your benefit, and how to care about others. If you have a freshman student, ask them how their speaker, Cam F Awesome was last week for example. He was FANTASTIC.

Community Support: In my travels over the weekend, I ran into George and Rose Surace? Why would I write about them? They have supported West Genesee academics, athletics, and fine arts for decades. They also celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary over the weekend. There is something to be said about them; they were helping out the school when the Wildcat Nation was just a Wildcat Village!

Golfing to Support our Boosters: Yesterday, our Board of Education President, Bobbie Herron, and Vice President, Shawn Mitchell, as well as our Assistant Superintendent for Management Services, Paul Pelton, and I played in the West Genesee Sports Boosters Tournament that was held at Westvale Golf Course.

All was very normal through most of the round until all you heard was deafening yelling from across the course. It turns out that high school Social Studies teacher Eric Burns got a hole in one on the sixteenth hole! Congratulations to Mr. Burns and congratulations to the boosters, who raised some good money for great athletic causes.

Enjoy this beautiful week!

Chris

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What Wonder Looks Like

A Solid First Week: I want to personally thank all of you for a very solid first week of school. You were very patient while we got bus runs under control, no one passed a stopped school bus with it's red flashers on, many of you attended the open houses that we had last week, and you sent your children to school with positive attitudes. I cannot ask for much more than that.

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What I can return to you are some great pictures from the first few days of school in the short video above. Contrary to popular belief, most students want to be back at school. It is where their friends are, there are clubs, events, and activities to participate in; and the feeling in the buildings is just so positive that everyone wants to be a part of it.

What about our kindergartners? They have never been to school, don't know anyone, and are leaving home for the first time. By and large, they had a great week. I did see a few tears on opening day (both students and adults) which is completely normal, but by Friday it was as if they had been here a month already!

Each year I go to every classroom to say hello, and to find out if we have any new students and where they are from. The winners of the "came the farthest distance" award are a brother and sister who have relocated here from Puerto Rico! We also had a set of triplets start Kindergarten with us. How cool is that?

I am trying to figure out how to get a "GoPro" or some other camera for a day so you can see what I see when I visit the schools. The sights and sounds are awesome, fun, and powerful.

By the end of the week, I hope to have all of our systems running as they will for the rest of the school year. We are then "off to the races" as I like to say.

Feedback is Important: This is my tenth year as your superintendent, and while I can point to statistic after statistic to measure our success, I think it is equally important to get your feedback. I have always felt that it is quite arrogant for long-term leaders to just assume that because they are "still there" after a bunch of years, that there is no room for improvement.

I want to know from you what we are doing well, and maybe some areas where you think we can improve. I also want you to feel free to comment without thinking that I am going to know what you wrote.

To that end, we have contracted with an organization called Thought Exchange, and they are going to help us through a feedback cycle a little later this fall. I will be sure to give you all of the directions when the time comes, but I would appreciate your honest and complete feedback. It's the only way we (and I) get better, and I want to be assured that my next ten years are as good as the first ten. Thank you in advance.

A Time of Reflection: Today is September 11. Most of our students were not alive in 2001, but we certainly were; and many of us were old enough to experience a wide range of emotions that day. Some of us know people who died.

Take a moment today to reflect and appreciate life. On that awful day, 2,977 people had no idea they would be waking up for the last time. The victims, their families, and the heroes who tried to save them deserve a moment of our undivided attention.

Thanks again and have a great week.

Chris

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

It's Finally GO Time!

Well, I certainly made the most of Labor Day weekend, and I hope you did as well. The post New York State Fair diet starts today!

A Great Day at the Dome: I had a great Saturday morning and early afternoon watching our football team come from behind to win their first game in quite a while. What made it extra special was that the game was at the Carrier Dome, and our cheerleaders did a great job supporting the fans and the team. Icing on the cake was watching the marching band at half-time.

It made me very excited to get students back to school and back to a regular routine. I am not a fan of how much the Carrier Dome charges for high school sports, so I am extra appreciative of the large crowd that was on hand. Thank you.

School Starts this Week: Students will be arriving tomorrow so it is that time of the year for me to remind you to be careful on the streets. Please be on the lookout for school buses, student drivers, and student walkers; as well as yourselves. Give yourself an extra minute or two to get yourselves back into a routine this week. There was construction in many areas of the District over the summer, and I am sure with that construction came changes to traffic light patterns and traffic flow in general. By next week we will have everything figured out, and we will be off to the races.

Thanks for your support, I am looking forward to the upcoming school year; see you around!

Chris

Monday, August 28, 2017

Freebird

Yesterday was the first time that I have yelled "Freebird!" at a concert and the band actually played "Freebird". That's because I was watching the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the New York State Fair. That is usually my go to joke when I am at a concert like Symphoria or a band of that nature. It really wasn't funny yesterday because the band actually played it. I may have to tuck that joke away for a while.

Wildcat Marching Band is Loud and Proud: A band that did not play "Freebird", although given enough time they probably could, was our Marching Band. They did, however, confidently and competently, reveal the Marching Band show for the season on Friday night at our annual Marching Band Preview.

I have had a chance to visit several Marching Band practices this year and there is a positive energy with this group. The way the students are marching looked different to me, and that is because they are marching differently; especially their footwork. The sound is "loud and proud" as I like to say, and the color guard is going to provide some nice flare to the show. I am looking forward to their first show!

Fall Sports Have Kicked-Off: Sports are in full swing! Our football team gets an opportunity to open the season on a positive note at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. I also like the energy and determination of that group this year. Cross country, golf, tennis, volleyball, soccer, and swim are all poised to represent us well so check out our schedules and come out to support the Wildcats!

New School Year, Already? To me, today marks the beginning of the school year, and I am in school year mode. We have freshman orientation followed by locker night, kindergarten orientations (they will be the class of 2030 believe it or not), and later this week I welcome all of our employees back for their opening day, followed by professional development. I am looking very forward to a successful school year.

Support All People: On a serious note, I did want to address where I stand personally, and as your superintendent, on the recent movement to disqualify transgender people from entering the military.

I was raised with the understanding that as a human, I have no right to judge another human against my own color, background, upbringing, preferences, or beliefs. People are people, and we are all on our own journey of life, hopefully working together to leave behind a world that is better than we had it, for our children, and our children's children.

At the same time, I have spent my entire adult life working with children and helping ALL children to do whatever they want to do when they graduate from high school. That includes college, the workforce, AND the military.

Taking away the choice of ANYONE to serve our country completely goes against everything that I believe in and work for. I am passionately supportive and protective of the rights and opportunities for ALL students, regardless of gender, orientation, culture, color, or beliefs. 

I will be using my voice to reverse the decision to disallow transgender people from entering the military. At the same time, I will be meeting with ALL of our student groups personally so they know that I have their backs, because I always have and always will. Period.

I still hope to get to the State Fair a few more times. Feel free to stop and chat! Thanks and enjoy the week.

Chris

Monday, August 21, 2017

Almost Ready to Go!

Everyone has their ideal weather; and the weekend we just had is perfect for me! Temperatures in the mid-70's, light winds, and sun. Even the quick burst of rain on Friday night wasn't too bad because it broke the humidity. I had a hard time getting any work done because all I wanted to do was enjoy the outdoors! I wonder how productive I would be if I lived in southern California where it is this kind of weather EVERY day.

Bacon vs Blog Posts: I know that you are probably wondering two things: did I go to the Bacon Festival and does anyone else besides you read my blog over the summer. Excellent questions. 

First, if there is bacon, I am there. In the past I wanted bacon to be its own food group. Now that I am eating healthier I have backed off that wish, but it is hard to get me away from any place that has bacon ice cream. I think some of you are like minded because most of the vendors sold out of their goods by mid-way through the afternoon. Hopefully they will repeat the event next year and will bring more bacon!

The blog does get read in the summer months. I have been checking the statistics because I don't want to post information that no one is reading, and there are about 2,000 people reading the blog during the summer versus the 3,000 or more who read during the school year (the most we have has is 6,000 readers). Thank you for taking the time!

Technology in our Schools: Our technology crew has been working very hard to unbox, inventory, program, and set up the 3,641 Google Chromebooks that we received as Phase I of the federal Smart Schools Bond Act. I had given them a hard date of October 1 to have all of the equipment into the hands of students, and judging by the work they put in last week, it isn't going to surprise me if the computers are ready to go by the start of school.

You might be wondering if we are purposely headed towards a "1:1" computer environment. The answer is NO. We will get to a "1:1" environment by the end of Phase II of the Smart Schools Bond Act later this year, but the real reason why we are implementing so much technology is to engage students. It is no secret that modern-day students live in a Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter world. We need to bring their education into that environment to further make connections, prepare them for life after high school, and engage their creative sides.

Our teachers are receiving professional development on how best to strike a balance between using technology in the classroom in conjunction with regular excellent teaching. 

  • Our grades two through five are closest to this balance so they will be the first recipients of the Chromebooks. 
  • Our K through one students will be using technology (as they already have been), in center time. 
  • Our students in grades six through twelve will have many "Chromebook carts" to use. 
  • Teachers who really want to extend student learning can apply for additional equipment to use on a more frequent basis. 
I am excited for this new initiative, but at the same time I will still be looking for solid teaching and learning when I visit classrooms. I think you will be impressed at open houses.

As you have heard a billion times by now, don't look directly into the eclipse today. Also, do not eat more than two Gianelli sausages in one sitting at the Fair. Trust me!

Have a great week!

Chris

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Summer of Giving

It has been nice to finally get a stretch of decent weather. My wife and I went to the Goo Goo Dolls concert on Friday, and then we spent Saturday on Keuka Lake. Surprisingly, my golf game is finally back to where I can actually call myself a golfer again, instead of a "hitter of golf balls", although that will be short lived as school events begin to get mixed back into my evening work schedule.

I have to tell you that we have a LOT of very generous people and organizations in this community. During the summer, I spend a lot of time working through contracts, ordering, planning, hiring, scheduling, and preparing. I also take the time to check in with many of the people, companies, and organizations who help support our students. 

The Wildcat Golf Tournament Helps Fund Programs: This year, we have a few more very generous people to thank beginning with the locally owned and operated "The Wildcat".  Thanks to a golf tournament sponsored by owners Dan and Heather Thome, our student activities funds will receive a shot in the arm of $3,200. 

This money will go to the After-the Ball All-Night Party held after the Senior Ball, the Respect and Responsibility Club (which puts on community favorite events like the Culture Fair and the Halloween Festival among other things), and a fund to help families who struggle with the cost of renting musical instruments for our Fine Arts program. Many thanks!

Annual School Supply Drive: The West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council is once again sponsoring a School Supply Drive. The purpose is to provide free school supplies for students in need of assistance who attend any school in the West Genesee School District. Our students collected school supply donations from the community at the Walmart in Camillus and for those in need of assistance, requests are still being accepted up until Saturday, August 19, by clicking here.

Township 5 Partnership: At the same time, managing partners of Township 5 have invited our students to sell raffle tickets at their Wednesday Concert Series with the proceeds going to the After-the Ball All-Night Party. They were so pleased with how our students behaved and presented themselves at their last event, that they are exclusively working with West Genesee. Talk about Wildcat Pride!



State Fair Update: We also worked with a local business owner who has a large presence at the New York State Fair, and he hired 120 of our students to work at his restaurant stand, lemonade stands, and water stands throughout the State Fair. Again, due to how our students behave and present themselves, they were given first access to those jobs. Good stuff!

Also, while on the topic of the New York State Fair, our Marching Band was asked again by Governor Cuomo to welcome him at the ribbon cutting of the Fair, which will be at approximately 9:30 a.m. on August 23. Very cool!

Providing Meals: Lastly, we have developed a new and wonderful working relationship with New Life Ministries. They have started a "Power Pack" program to help supply our younger students who do not get consistent meals at home with ready to eat lunches and dinners, as well as food for the weekend. We did a trial run in the spring and quickly serviced sixty families. We met and are now going to work together to provide 100 children with meals for home and weekends. We are truly fortunate to have such great community partners.


Other Great Things are Happening: Other than that, not much is happening (insert sarcasm here). The Marching Band is working hard, some fall sports officially begin today, and there have been some great engineering camps, science camps, CMS students in the NYS Honor Choir, and orientations taking place; so we are busy!

As we get closer to the beginning of school, I will use future posts to let you know our goals for the school year and how we can continue to work together for our students.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mid-Summer Check In

That Time of Year for Lacrosse Tournaments: In Wildcat country you know you are nearing the mid-point of summer when the boys and girls lacrosse programs hold their Annual John Pepper Tournaments. The girls tournament was held yesterday and Saturday and was once again a huge success. I can never pin down exactly how many people attend these tournaments each year, but it has to be in the neighborhood of 2,000-3,000 people over the two days.

On top of that, our players, as well as the players from the teams around the area, state, and east coast, get a chance to interact and be seen by many high level college coaches. It is a great event to see the school, boosters, and the community working together for the benefit of kids. The boys tournament is July 29-30.

Music is in the Air: I often tell the story about how tough Marching Band members were when I was walking behind the school about six or seven years ago and it was raining.  I did not expect to see anyone, and I was actually just walking outside in the rain because I had been cooped up all day in meetings and I had evening meetings about to begin. I heard the sounds of the drumline and through the moderate rain, and light fog, I saw the Marching Band practicing.  As I walked closer, there was Nick Baratta, Creative Director/Music Arranger/Instructor, who was soaked with his glasses completely fogged up. He just looked at me calmly and said, "how's it going?".

The Marching Band is as determined as ever to notch another Field Band Championship, and even though it has rained a lot this summer, you can hear the band out back...every night. The beat rolls on and if you listen closely, you can hear the dedication.

It has also been fun to poke my head into the various summer camps that are held through the Town of Camillus. We are very fortunate to have such a great partnership with the town, and I really enjoy getting to interact with the students outside of the school year and participate in some of their activities with them (with the exception of water balloons however!).

Money for Technology Comes Through:  I have been working on getting ready for my tenth opening day at West Genesee, as well as helping some of our new employees transition into their roles at West Genesee. We also received word that the state government FINALLY released our Smart Schools Bond Act grant allocation, meaning we can now purchase the 3,641 pieces of equipment that we have been wanting to get into the hands of students for some time.

I am also working on some of the support pieces that our students are going to need as we head into the fall. We had the most successful school year that I have had as a superintendent; under some challenging conditions. Continuing that success takes time and planning, but that is what the summer is for!

Board of Education Plans Ahead: Today is our Board of Education retreat. The cohesiveness and dedication of our Board of Education should not be taken for granted. None of the members have hidden agendas or egos; they serve to make things better for ALL students, and that makes my job easier.

I will check in again next week. Until then, enjoy the sunshine when you can and I will see you around!

Chris

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Best Teacher Many Students Never Had

I hope that many of you were able to stretch the weekend through to the fourth of July. If not, like me, I hope you had a great weekend with a day off tomorrow. I spent the weekend in Hoboken, NJ hanging out with my niece and nephew, and I was able to go to an unforgettable U2 concert at the Meadowlands. I have seen dozens of concerts in my lifetime and that show ranks as a top three easily, along with RUSH at the NYS State Fair grandstands a few years back, and Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden in 2010. It was THAT good and restored my hope that these older bands aren't just out there "mailing in" concerts to pad their wallets. It flat out rocked.

The drive home did not flat out rock. A four-hour drive turned into five and a half hours due to construction, torrential rain, accidents, and flooding. I am no meteorologist, but I do not think we are in danger of a drought anytime soon.

Housing Summer School at CMS: Summer school starts soon and is being held at Camillus Middle School. The OCM BOCES leases the space from us and most schools from the west side, including West Genesee, send students to it. While Camillus Middle School is on the other side of the village of Camillus, many travelers from the six area school districts will be using West Genesee Street in the morning and afternoon to stop for food, gas, etc. While our parents and students are familiar with the territory, many visiting parents and students are not, so keep an extra eye out please, as well as an extra eye out around the high school, as summer camps are in full swing. Thanks!

The Best Teacher Many Students Never Had: I was going to hold off on a blog for a couple weeks, but I received news that long-time teacher, retiree, and a true piece of the fabric of West Genesee, Marsha Schoff, passed away. As news of her passing traveled through the Internet, graduate Sophie Meskos hit Marsha's impact right on the head when she said that, "Miss Schoff was the best teacher that she had never had". Many times it is easy to calculate how many students a teacher impacted in their careers, but in this case it really isn't possible. Yes, Miss Schoff taught for 36 years and always had a full load of 150 students on her schedule between US History courses and electives that were always closed out, so you could say that she impacted 5,400 students. I would call that her initial impact.

If you really want to get close to her true reach, you have to take into account that she was the Senior Class Advisor nearly every year that she worked for West Genesee; meaning she led EVERY senior ball and graduation. She was also responsible for starting the Mr. and Ms. West Genesee Pageant, Harvest Dinner, Senior High Awards Night and Honors Dinner (with former principal Helen White), Winter Semi-formal Dance, Spring Talent Show, and March Madness. She was also National Honor Society Advisor, and Student Council Advisor almost every year of her tenure as well.  You could not enter West Genesee as a freshman and exit as a senior without crossing her path; for 36 years.  She impacted tens of thousands of students and community members.

My best memories of Marsha would be her focus on excellence, and always having students needs at the heart of every decision she made. During my first two graduations here, she would give me blown up Polaroids (before cell phone cameras) to make sure that the ceremony lived up to my standards. In reality, I was trying to keep up to HER standards. To say that she will be missed is the understatement of the year. Her legacy, and one that I will continue to uphold, is the unwavering goal of helping ALL students to reach past their potential. Thank you, Miss Schoff, you will be missed by each and every one of us.

Thanks, and I will be writing again in a couple of weeks.

Happy 4th of July!!!
Chris

Monday, June 26, 2017

That's a Wrap

What a great weather weekend! I know that plenty of you went to the Zac Brown concert,  or the Polish Festival, Syracuse Chief's games, graduation parties, or maybe you just spent time outside in the yard, exercising, or just plain old relaxing. Whatever you did, I hope some of it was outside. We do not get many nice days living here in Syracuse; and Mother Nature strung three in a row for us!

The School Year Comes to an End: Cartoons and television shows always depict educators as being excited as the kids pull away on the buses for the last time of the school year. They show teachers partying, seemingly happy that the kids are gone for the summer.

After watching the school buses pull away for the last time in June, 17 years in a row and counting, the actual reaction of our staff (and me), is the very opposite. Our employees put everything they have into helping our students to be successful. They ride the highs and lows of growing up, and the school year, just like the students do. That final departure is quite emotional.

I usually watch the students from Stonehedge leave, and this year as I was slapping high fives with the kids, several commented to me that they didn't want the school year to end. I heard those same comments from some seniors at graduation. Of course we are all going to enjoy the summer and all of that, but at the same time, I am very sure that our Wildcat Family is strong and everyone will be happy to return in the fall. Good stuff!

Crisis Prevention Training: During the winter, 15 of us (myself, a couple of principals, some counselors, and a few teachers) became trained as trainers in the Crisis Prevention Institute. The point of the Crisis Prevention Institute is to teach our employees every possible thing they can do in an escalating student situation besides using any type of physical restraint. If the situation becomes violent, we also teach what employees can do to keep the student, other students, and themselves as safe as possible.

With 860 full and part-time employees to train, we have our work cut out for us. On Friday we began by training 100 of our bus drivers and attendants. That went very, very well, and I am proud of the dedication of our drivers, as the training kept them from beginning their summer vacations! Everyone passed the training and all received an official "blue card", certifying them as being trained.

Over the summer we will train approximately 150 more people in each of our buildings. Over the course of next school year, we hope to get the remainder of our employees trained and certified. I really enjoy teaching, so I never have to be asked twice to lead a group!

A New Generator at the High School: This week we are going to be installing a generator at the high school. It is a monster, size wise, and will power the entire building and everything in it should we not have power. This will be really helpful for those early morning power outages that sometimes happen. It can run for days so we probably eliminated another reason to close school. I know you are thrilled!

I do work all summer, but I am going to take a few days off here and there over the next couple of weeks. As such, I am going to take a couple of weeks off of writing this blog. We continue to be about 5,000 strong every time something is posted, and I appreciate the support.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris