Monday, October 30, 2017

Plenty to Write Home About!

Marching Band NYS Field Band Conference Championship: Well, it is very safe to say that we had a REALLY busy week that culminated with a fantastic second place finish at the Carrier Dome about twelve hours ago. I have often written about "the blur" that happens once the school year really gets going, and the past seven days have been a perfect example of that. There is a lot to cover so I appreciate you taking the five minutes to read this post.

Cheerleaders are Section III Champions: Congratulations to the cheerleaders for winning Sectionals over the weekend.This was a fantastic accomplishment for them and something that they had been laser focused on all season.

Great Instruction: I saw a LOT of great instruction taking place during my building visits. As most of you know, I try to get to every elementary classroom in each building every week, as well as visits to the middle schools and the high school.

Great Events: Pushing rewind for a moment, we had HUGE turnouts for both the Harvest Dinner at the high school (sponsored by the Senior Class with help from their adviser Becky DeCesare), and the elementary Halloween Carnival (sponsored by the high school Respect and Responsibility Club, also known as R Squared, with help from their adviser, principal Shannon Coholan).

If you attended the Harvest Dinner, you got to eat well, catch up with family and friends, and also hear great music piped evenly through the cafeteria through a MUCH needed sound system upgrade.

The Halloween Carnival volunteers watched costumed students (and their parents) enjoy over 30 pizzas from The Wildcat, 15 gallons of cider, 700 mini-donuts, and 3,000 pieces of candy provided by Costco, along with the games, face painting, and bouncy house staffed by student volunteers. It was such a great afternoon and evening that I think we outgrew the lower gym at the high school and it will need to be moved to the upper gym for next year!

Thanks to all of our volunteers for both events and thanks to all who came to have fun. A portion of the proceeds from the Harvest Dinner was donated to the senior class charity of choice (Make-A Wish-Foundation), and probably 500 pounds of food that people brought were donated to various food pantries.

Students of the Year: I am very proud to announce the recipients of the Camillus Optimists Student of the Year Awards. They are: Anita Edgar and Liam O'Connor from CMS; Julia Biggs and Connor Dunham from WGMS;  and Victoria DeSantis and Michael McGuigan from the high school. To be selected, the students must be extremely well rounded. They are, and then some. Their parents and families should be equally proud, as their success is a reflection of their efforts as well. We will celebrate them at a dinner in their honor on November 6.

Community Events have Meaning: My wife and I had the opportunity to see the Syracuse Stage production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time". It was remarkable and I highly recommend it. It was a drama, which are usually not my favorite shows to attend; but this was different. In a nutshell (there is a book that the play is based on), an autistic child (played by an actor with autism) is blamed for the death of a dog. Due to his disability, he is not able to verbalize that he did not do it. At the same time, he faces challenges in a split home, and his mother and father face their own challenges with him.

At intermission, I did not know how they would be able to make it have a happy ending, but they did. The show is absolutely not child-friendly (profanity, adult situations, intense scenes of anger), but the show left me with a range of emotions. I laughed during the show, was sad, was tense, and "got" the message so well, that I was still talking about the show two days later. It is a must see in my opinion.

We also got to attend a charity event for the Chadwick House, which is an excellent organization that helps homeless and battered women to get help, become independent, and get back on their feet. A very worthy cause for sure, and I was really impressed with how many people were there to help them continue their mission. Good stuff!

This week is equally busy, but in very positive ways. I keep wondering if it is going to slow down at all but from the looks of my calendar, that will be July!

Thanks for your reading and continued support-


Monday, October 23, 2017

News YOU Can Use

Another awesome weekend in the books! I have a LOT of information to share, so I am going to get right to it. For starters, we have many people to congratulate for a variety of things.

Students Inducted: First, I would like to congratulate the 19 West Genesee High School students who were inducted into the Business and Marketing Honor Society in coordination with the Business Teachers Association of NYS (BTANYS) on October 16. The inductees Ryan Segar, Devryn Rikhoff, Dan LaVine, Karsyn Plis, Haley Elsey, Kyle Petersen, Maggie Cunningham, Phoebe Nelson, John Bergan, Jack McManus, Liam Barry, Jack Corcoran, Ryan Gentilcore, James LaValle, John Galimi, James Dussing, and Alexandra Ciarla. Not pictured are inductees Brendan Bresnahan and Ryan Allen.

NYS Master Teachers are Announced: Next, we are very proud to announce that Katherine Clift (CMS Science), Gabriela Babcock (WGHS Math), and Maria Leonardo (WGHS Technology) have been named New York State Master Teachers. This article from explains what it means to be a Master Teacher, but the long and short if it is that these individuals are recognized as being the TOP math, science, and technology teachers in New York State. Kudos to them and their families, but kudos to you as well, because they are teaching OUR children! This is one of those rare cases where everyone is a winner!

Teachers of the Year: Also, Ann Davis-Allen (Split Rock Special Education), Toni Abdo (WGMS Math), and Cheryl Miedaner (WGHS Social Studies) were selected by their peers to be honored as Teachers of the Year by the Camillus Optimists Club. This is a prestigious recognition because recipients are nominated and selected by their peers. They will be formally recognized at a ceremony in early November.

Board Recognition: Last week we also recognized our Board of Education for all they do for us as employees and for the community as well.  Students brought them cards and tokens of their appreciation. It was a special night for sure.

A New Partnership: Mr. Pelton, our Assistant Superintendent for Management Services, and I have been working for about a year to secure a partnership with an organization called "Work Camp".

Work Camp is a multi-denominational helping hands group consisting of approximately 400 young adults, between the ages of 14 and 20, and adult leaders. The young adults go out into the community in groups and perform home repair and modification for the disabled, people in poverty, and the elderly. They do very good work and usually set up shop in larger cities.

We were able to partner with them from June 24 through June 30 and they will be using our facilities to sleep, eat, and launch out to the jobs. This partnership means that they WANT to conduct jobs in OUR AREA. The work, including materials, is ABSOLUTELY FREE for the homeowner. They would like to have about one hundred jobs scheduled for the week. Jobs include but are not limited to roofs, handicap ramps, weatherization, step repair, and interior/exterior painting.

If you or maybe a family member or aging parent need some help, this is NOT to be missed. The application process is competitive so click here for the application and fill it out very soon so that you can to apply and be considered. Good luck and we are very proud to be hosting such a great community outreach group!

Harvest Dinner: If you are available on Wednesday and would like to eat a fantastic dinner at school, please consider attending the annual senior class Harvest Dinner which starts at 4:30 p.m.  and runs until 7:30 p.m. The cost is $9 for adults and $7 for students/senior citizens; takeout is also available.

Halloween Carnival: The Annual District Halloween Carnival sponsored by the R2 Program  is this Thursday, October 26,  from 4:00-7:00 p.m. in the West Genesee High School LOWER Gymnasium. For more information about the event, click here. A “spooktacular” night is sure to had by all!

Thought Exchange: Last, if you were able to participate in the Thought Exchange feedback process that we started a couple of weeks ago, thank you. Anyone who provided initial feedback (over seven hundred of you) will be receiving an email from Thought Exchange soon (if you haven't already) to move on to the next part of the process. Thank you for your continued support.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


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!


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 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.


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: 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.


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.

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!