Monday, July 16, 2018

Mid-July Check In

A Busy Summer at Home: I usually travel to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a week each summer but was unable to go this year. Not a huge deal because the weather here has been a mirror image of the weather down there. The only thing missing here in Syracuse is, well, you know, the ocean; but the Fingerlakes are no second banana!

You know it is mid-summer when you are able to buy $3 advance New York State Fair tickets, and the enrollment at many summer camps is down a little due to family vacations! My wife and I have significantly lucked out with the weather as we attend the concerts at the Lakeview Amphitheater. So far this year it has been Dave Matthews, Foreigner, and Weezer (I know, I am dating myself) which was last night.

Mid-July is also my wedding anniversary, so Happy Anniversary to the person who has stuck by me from my student teaching days until now; 24 years! Being the spouse of a superintendent is not for the thin-skinned. She has been the most special piece of the puzzle all these years. More importantly, she has been a great mom and partner!

A Busy Summer at Work: People ask me what I do over the summer. Well, besides hiring, firing, negotiating contracts with vendors, planning, designing the vision and path of the next school year, accommodating new Federal and state directives, rolling the budget over, starting Capital projects; not that much. We also hosted BOCES summer school, work camp, and Parks and Recreation programs.

Advanced Placement Exams: I want to give some kudos to the students who were able to academically achieve this past school year. Exams aren't everything, but Advanced Placement exams are taken nationwide, are very rigorous, and the higher the score can mean a greater chance that it will transfer to many colleges and universities. The students found by following this link scored a "5" on those exams (the highest score possible). They and their families should be very proud of their achievements; I know I am!

I hope you continue to enjoy this great stretch of weather, and I will write again soon!

Chris

Monday, July 2, 2018

Early Summer Check-In

I hope you are beating the heat! I am trying and am in NO way complaining about it; that's for sure. I am again thankful that we have air conditioning in all of our buildings. With summer recreation underway and Summer School about ready to launch, it is certainly nice to have.

I am writing just to give you a quick update on three things that will get buried if I wait two or three more weeks.

WorkCamp Update: The first is that we were very thankful to have the WorkCamp workers and in our community last week. I had a chance to spend time with the adult volunteers and student workers last Wednesday and it didn't take long to see why they are such a benefit to any community. They were upbeat, enjoyed the work they were doing for those in our community, and were very thankful for the support they have received from everyone. They shipped out of the high school on Saturday, and I certainly wish all of them well.

Will Supreme Court Ruling Impact Us? The second thing is that the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.The bottom line of the over 80-page decision is that employees will no longer be forced to pay a union as a condition of employment. We have excellent relationships with our unions, also called associations. For us, this decision doesn't have a positive or negative impact; it will be business as usual. The complete "Janus" decision can be found at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf.

Mental Wellness Education: The third thing is that the New York State Education Department approved regulations to mandate mental wellness education in schools for the next school year. In essence, schools MUST offer mental health education in physical education and health classes to include detection of mental illness warning signs, coping strategies, and how to get help.

This will be nothing new for us to add at West Genesee. Our mental health education is already delivered in health and physical education classes; and in every other class as well. We have counselors, psychologists, and social workers who help support the education that is given both in assemblies, regular classes, and in small class settings.

To me, it just does not matter what type of mental wellness education is offered, it is all about developing relationships with students. Every employee in the District MUST want to get to know the students they work with so they can best detect when something isn't quite right. Relationship building is also important when it comes to helping students to find coping strategies or to find ways to get further help. I think we do an outstanding job with that and it is one of the big reasons why we are considered one of the smallest large schools around. A podcast that we helped NPR with regarding this mandate can be found at http://wrvo.org/post/first-nation-new-york-requires-mental-health-information-curriculum.

That gets you caught up as of now! I hope you are able to enjoy July 4th with family and friends.  Thanks to all of our servicemen and women past and present for giving us a reason to celebrate our independence.

#Wildcatpride!

Chris

Monday, June 25, 2018

Enjoy the Summer!

As I walked to each of the elementary schools on Thursday I was greeted by chalk drawings and well wishes for a great summer.

We had a very good school year. Rolling backwards from a fantastic graduation ceremony, we gained ground academically once again; got ahead of mental wellness, safety, and substance use action; and most importantly, we watched your children grow!

Summer 20 years ago meant I wouldn't see students again until varsity sports started in late August. With Parks and Recreation, camps, summer school, driver's education, and sports, I am sure to see many of your kids this summer at one of the schools. This is not a bad thing as long as they are also getting a chance to regroup and recharge!

You may see some unusual traffic at the high school this week. Workcamp is in town from last night through Saturday. and we are hosting about 400 multi-denominational teenagers as they go out each day into the community to repair homes for the elderly and less fortunate. Most, if not all, local businesses are also pitching in to help feed and entertain them while they are here. This is a really positive and great thing for our community, so be sure to welcome them if you see them.

I will be working all summer but will slow this blog down to about once every two weeks throughout the summer. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful summer, and I will see you soon.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Chris

Monday, June 18, 2018

Congratulations!

I hope that everyone had a great Father's Day. Like many dads, mine taught me some things that helped get me through to adulthood; and other things that will last a lifetime. One pro tip was not to put my fingers near snapping turtles, like the one pictured that I saw yesterday while running on the Onondaga Creekwalk. In all seriousness, thanks for everything, Dad.

We held our graduation on Saturday and it was as beautiful as ever. I have known the seniors for a really long time, so it was really tough to let them go. I thought that the student speeches were excellent (mine is below), and the musical selections were really inspiring.

It was also really cool to watch Kimberly Sacco cross the stage and receive her diploma, 30 years after her classmates did. She was in the Class of 1988 but could not graduate due to a bone cancer diagnosis. Shaking her hand on the stage was a very emotional moment.

It was also really heartwarming to watch our Executive Principal, Shannon Coholan, preside over her very first high school graduation. This was number 18 for me overall so there are things that I take for granted. Ms. Coholan got to breathe it all in for the first time and it was really nice to see her very proud parents up in the stands. Congratulations to all, and a special thanks to Andy Perry for directing the music, and to Becky DeCesare, Eliza Spaulding, and Leandra Kovalchik for working with the seniors all year.

Today is going to be really warm, and we are very lucky to have air conditioning. We will make sure that the students stay cool and safe. Luckily the rest of the week looks to be a little cooler.

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

GRADUATION SPEECH – Saturday, June 16, 2018

Good Afternoon, and Congratulations to all of our seniors and thank you to all of our parents for sharing your greatest gift with us. If you are here for your first graduation, I want to ease your concerns and reassure you that my speeches are always four minutes or less, or your next one is free.

Graduates, having known you for so long I have been able to watch you grow, learn, and develop your personalities and character. To say that I am proud of you is an understatement. You were tremendous role models, ambassadors, and examples for our younger students, as well as our community.

When I think of all of the experiences and time we have shared together, I want to leave you with two thoughts that are unique to you and your class as a whole.

First, I am always asked to “describe the senior class.” At Senior Ball, we enjoyed a really cool fireworks show. There was one in particular that launched up and had a pulsating light as it rose. It went higher than the others, and I could feel the suspense building in all of us. When it exploded, it was bright and vibrant, more so than the other fireworks we had seen. Then, little rockets shot out of the glowing light. In a nutshell, that firework best describes you as a class; bright, vibrant, explosive, and memorable.

Second comes a cautionary tale. When I started running years ago, I used to see the finish line and would actually slow down a little because, why not? I was almost there. Other runners would pass me before the finish, and I did not give it much thought.

At one race, after a particularly tough training season, I saw the finish line and my brain started to tell me to slow down a little. My heart and body took over from there and I sprinted through the finish, passing people along the way. I worked just as hard as every other runner if not harder, why should I let them win?

The moral of the story is that while you have excelled, this is NOT the finish line. Consider it a water stop. Life only has one true finish line - so my advice is to enjoy the ride and every milestone that you will cross, but also to keep the hammer down and have no regrets! You have too much to offer to the world to not give your best throughout your life’s journey!

Congratulations to the Class of 2018, thank you, and good luck!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Taking the High Road

Athletics Updates: I hope that all of you had a wonderful weekend. The weather could not have been better! You know you have had a successful spring sports season when we are still competing in June. Our track and field state runners did very well for themselves over the weekend. Carly Benson earned 1500m medals at the state competition: 4th place in the D1 Public School category and 8th place in the Federation Championships. Emily Young finished in 12th place in the 800m at the state competition and the 4x100 relay team placed 14th. We could not be more proud of them!

As I was watching our Boys Varsity Lacrosse team play Ward-Melville, I was wondering to myself which college lacrosse teams they could beat. We have some exceptional, all-American talent on our team. They gave it their all; it was just not enough. I congratulate them on a great ride! Also, I appreciate the support they received along the way, especially everyone who made the trip to St. John Fisher, considering many of you could have watched it at home.

As Coach Mike Messere's legendary tenure comes to a close, I did want to comment about this season. First, we wish Coach Messere and Coach Deegan well in their retirement, and the process to secure replacements will begin right after graduation. As the Superintendent, you never know where your next challenge will come from, and one of those challenges came from the lacrosse season this year.

When you have a legendary multi-generational coach, public opinion about "how things should be," really varies, and it can make for divisive conversations. It also puts kids in the middle. I have known our senior players since they were in second grade, and the underclassmen even longer. I know their character because I have watched them develop it. I have watched them succeed, fail, and learn for a long time. I was not there for the interview after the game because I did not have a field pass, but somewhere in that interview, the players were characterized as being quitters. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I strongly disagree.

I think there was a disconnect for sure between the players and coaches, but the fact that the kids had every opportunity to say something negative when they had their time with the media and didn't, says a lot. It speaks to their character. They took the high road. They also had to endure the intense pressure of trying to win with the watchful eyes of prior generations on them constantly. No other group of kids will be asked to do that. They were given a challenge, accepted it, and showed their heart all season. I wish them the very best, and they have plenty to be proud of.

Seniors Visit their Elementary Alma Mater: Last week was the last week of classes for high school students. The seniors carried on the tradition of visiting their elementary schools on the actual last day and it was a heartwarming time for the students and their elementary teachers. They were also great role models for the younger students!

Graduation is Almost Here: Graduation is Saturday, June 16, and we are looking forward to another great ceremony. There will be someone graduating on Saturday from the class of 1988. Yes, you read that right. Let me explain.

Kimberly Sacco was a member of the class of 1988. She was very involved in school, participated in just about everything, and was a great student. Just prior to graduation, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and she had to immediately undergo treatments. Because of this, she never officially crossed the stage to receive her diploma.

Fortunately, she was able to beat cancer and for the past nine years has been an important member of our Board of Education. She will be retiring from the Board of Education at the end of June. We thought it would be fitting for her to attend graduation and receive her diploma on the 30th anniversary of her diagnosis, and as her career on the Board of Education comes to an end.


Graduation is about the whole class, so if you are attending you will recognize her by the asterisk next to her name. She will process with the students and receive her diploma exactly as every other student will. Congratulations and thank you to Kimberly for her service and perseverance!

A Busy Week Ahead: This week is super busy. There are final exams at the high school, field trips at the middle and elementary schools, the Athletic Awards Reception on Tuesday night, and the Onondaga County Safety committee meeting on Thursday! Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, June 4, 2018

So Extra

I recently learned a term from the students that I can't seem to stop saying. The word is "extra". Yes, I have heard of the word extra, but students are using the term in a unique way. If you are driving a bunch of kids somewhere and you hear one of the kids say "my mom is so extra" it means that the mom was over the top about something. Because of this, if I walk into a cafeteria and it is a little louder than normal, I will say, "the cafeteria was a little extra today."  I am actually starting to annoy myself (and probably others) by using the term so much, so I need to pass it along to you to keep it alive.

A Busy Weekend: Anyway, I hope you had a great week last week. The Wildcat Nation sure did!

  • The Boys Lacrosse team defeated Ithaca in the New York State Regional competition after winning the Section 3 title earlier in the week; 
  • Track and field stars Carly Benson, Emily Young, and the Girls 4X100 Relay team earned spots in state competition; and 
  • Golfer Nick Bove made a name for himself on the course in state competition and advanced to the final round.

I played in my first competitive golf tournament in a long time and held my own, visited the Taste of Syracuse, and had a chance to attend the grand opening of the new Red House Theater on Salina Street (in the old Sibley's building). If you are a fan of theater at all, the new Red House location is very much worth the trip to check out. We took in La Cage aux Folles and were not disappointed.

A lot of our employees participated in Paige's Butterfly run over the weekend for many different reasons. In addition to supporting pediatric cancer research, 20 of our football players, many of their family members, coaches, and the parents of Joe Adams (teacher and West Genesee coach who passed away from cancer) ran the race in Joe's memory. It was just another reminder of just how influential educators are.

Congratulations to all who were recognized at the Fine Arts Reception on Friday night. You know how competitive our fine arts program is so to be recognized for anything in the program is a "big deal!"

The Week Ahead: We have a very busy week ahead. On Monday, we have the Senior Awards Night and that is a wonderful chance to sit back and watch students receive recognition for all of their hard work. Congratulations to them and their parents. Also, Nick Bove plays in the final round of the NYS Golf Championships.

On Wednesday, about 170 of our employees will be participating in the Chase Corporate Challenge. Our group is the fifth largest and helped the District to win the Chase Scholarship that is worth $1,500 for our students! Wednesday is also the New York State Boys Lacrosse semi-final game against Lancaster, so we are going to be spread out and busy.

Friday is the last day of classes for students at the high school. It is also "Senior Walk" day; when our seniors hop on buses and visit their elementary schools as role models for our younger students. They also get to visit the people who helped them start their school careers. It is a great morning! During the day, our track and field athletes will begin their competition in the NYS Championships at CNS!

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Appreciating Memorial Day

The older I get, the more I appreciate Memorial Day. Over the years I have had a chance to meet families of those killed in combat, and have heard many stories from veterans about their comrades who did not make it out of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is easy for us to say that others made sacrifices for our freedom, but it is another thing to feel the loss, emptiness, pride, and sadness of families who have had to go without so that we can go with.


I will say that I am very proud that our students recognize both those who we have lost for our freedom and those who are still with us. A great example is the annual Memorial Day Parade in the Village of Camillus. Our students don't march "just because" they march with a purpose. My sincerest thank you to those reading this who lost a loved one in defense of America.

Another Kaleidoscope in the Books: Thursday was our annual Kaleidoscope concert at the Civic Center, and it did not disappoint. We had a great crowd on hand as well. My first few years I used to sit in the audience and watch everything, but these days I like to be backstage or side stage helping the kids get on and off the stages for their performances. The coolest feelings are closing the side door of the stage and then listening to the kids when the curtain opens for the first time and then listening to the audience gasp in joy and awe when the curtain opens for the finale, and every performer is on stage. Very, very cool stuff and congratulations to all who participated!


Athletics Update: I would like to congratulate the Boys Baseball and Girls Softball teams. These baseball and softball Wildcats are role models. They know their importance to the younger students, they are polite, regimented, and do things the right way. They actually have FUN while they are playing, and the teams are tight. Both teams came up just short, but they did not hang their heads. They congratulated the winners, appreciated the fans, were a little bummed out, but carried themselves very well, just as you would like your own kids to do. Congratulations to the boys and girls, their coaches, and their families for doing things the right way.

Since the last time I wrote, we did have some great performances from Nick Bove on the golf course, who placed 3rd at the NYS Qualifiers and scored well enough to move onto the NYS Championships this weekend at Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Cornell University. Also, the tennis duo of Matthew Mannara/James Plunkett placed 3rd in their NYS Qualifiers and will be moving on to the NYS Championships as well at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. In track and field, senior runner Carly Benson broke a couple school records over the course of the week in the 1500m and 3000m and became a Sectional Champion in the 3000m. Good luck to those athletes in the NYS Competitions as well as the Girls and Boys Lacrosse teams that are still competing for Sectional Championships. Congratulations to all!

Impact of a TV Show: I do want to make you aware that season two of "13 Reasons Why" is on Netflix. The series is about a realistic school community and in season one, a student committed suicide and there was also a sexual assault.


During season one, our counselors saw an increase in the number of students who wanted to talk about their feelings. Season two (spoiler alert) features student suicide, sexual assault/rape, and a student who brings guns to school. Yes, you read that correctly. I might suggest that you check in with your middle or high schooler to see if they are watching season two and just keep an eye on them or listen if they want to talk. There is national outrage at Netflix about the series, but I do not see that changing anything.

There is also a video game about to be released where players can be school shooters or SWAT Team members. Again, I wish I was making this up. There are a lot of resources out there to help you speak to your children about these types of programs and games and our counselors are always available.

Happening this Week: This week we will be recognizing our retirees. Our District has been successful due in large part to the lack of turnover, so many of our employees are retiring with 25 years of experience or more. Congratulations on much deserved retirements!

Thanks and enjoy the week-

Chris

Monday, May 21, 2018

Multiple Levels of Support

Voting Results: As the Budget Vote results poured in on Tuesday evening, my heart swelled with pride and an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for the support that our community showed for our vision, our employees, and most importantly, our students. I never take a positive vote outcome for granted. Support and trust are EARNED and there is never time to "rest" when it comes to keeping that relationship healthy. Thank you; and our positive work continues.

Aside from the school bus proposition, which is a usual piece of our Budget Vote, the community passed, by a 90% margin, the first phase of our security upgrades. This is also very much appreciated and necessary, as we read about another school shooting in Texas last week. I am afraid these incidents are not going away anytime soon, so working to be as prepared as possible continues to be a top priority.

In the coming weeks I will be able to give you a schedule for what will be upgraded and when. With the positive vote outcome, we can now file our New York State paperwork and get the project moving. My first guess would be for New York State approval by late June/early July, bidding for materials and equipment by the middle of August, and work to begin very late August/early September, with the completion of our first phase at this point next year; hopefully sooner.

In the meantime, we are piecing together a larger project for voter consideration to take place in the fall/early winter so we can keep workers mobilized here and save on startup and tear down costs. Again, I will know more in the next week or so and will give an exact layout.

Board of Education Update: On the Board of Education side, we want to welcome new Board member Dr. Barbara Wells, and congratulate incumbent Board members Kim Coyne, Vladimiro Hart-Zavoli, and Joe Simon. Also as a special note, the Board of Education meeting scheduled for June 6 is canceled and the next meeting will be June 20. The official new "terms" of these Board members will begin on July 2, the evening of our reorganizational meeting.

Special Olympics: Last week were the annual Special Olympics held at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Under a picture-perfect sky, over 900 champions from around the area competed in a variety of events and showed all of us in attendance that there still is greatness and positivity in this world. I am very proud of our athletes! They were sent off to the games and welcomed back by their classmates, with many of them also attending the games to cheer the athletes on in person. Good stuff!

Transportation Receives High Marks: Congratulations to our school bus mechanics. Once again they far exceeded the safety standards for school bus repair given to them by New York State. They provide an exceptional level of care because they know just how important their cargo is! They again achieved the goal of a 90% or greater pass rate on their annual NYS Department of Transportation Bus Inspection with an out-of-service rate of .9%, while the NYS average is 4.8% and the tolerance is 10%. Click here for more information.

New Requirement: On the business side of things, I wanted to get you familiar with the words "990 hours" because you are going to be hearing about the "990 hour requirement" in the coming months. Children in New York State must attend school for 180 days per year. For next year, the New York State Education Department has indicated that in addition to the 180 days, children must be in attendance for a total of 990 hours, not including passing time, recess, and other traditionally non-instructional times.

The state gave each school district a handy spreadsheet to help them calculate their 990 hours, using their schedules from this current year. We are going to be fine, with some minor tweaking, as long as we stay within our scheduled allotment of snow days. If we exceed them (they vary between 5 and 6 per year depending on the calendar, leap year, etc.) we may need to make some adjustments, but we will cross that bridge when we need to.

Happening this Week: Speaking of snow days, because we used enough of them this year, school WILL BE in session this Friday. This week is very busy as we start to wind things down, and I hope to see many of you at Kaleidoscope which is Thursday night at the Civic Center. Thanks again and have a wonderful week!

Chris

Monday, May 14, 2018

#WildcatPride

I hope that all of the moms reading this had a great Mother's Day weekend! 

What a Game-What an Honor: One of the best parts of my job is witnessing students making memories that they will never forget. On Thursday night, under the intense pressure of senior night (with 20 seniors recognized) and packed stands of former players waiting to applaud the accomplishments of their former coaches Mike Messere and Bob Deegan, the Boys Lacrosse team found themselves down 5-1 against a very good Fayetteville Manlius team. Then something happened. With just a few seconds left in the half, we scored, making it 5-2. What happened after halftime was remarkable. The boys dug deep, loosened up, and put on a performance worthy of the memory books and won 9-8. They will never forget that night, especially being able to stand proud as the coaches were rained on with applause for their accomplishments. It was a very cool moment. 

For the coaches, I will screw something up if I try to rattle off all of their accomplishments over the years and as they left the turf for the last time in the regular season, it will be a challenge to find coaches in any sport in any part of the country with the same level of sustained success. Congratulations to them as they head into a last sectional and hopefully state title run!

Simulated DWI Crash: After that game, Friday morning and our annual simulated DWI crash before the Senior Ball came quickly, but it was as impactful as ever. Our seniors watched as dozens of fire, police, ambulance, and parents laid out what the scene of a DWI crash could look and sound like. Several of our students played roles in the simulation as well, and students were also paid a visit by Buranich Funeral home, Chris Bednarski from the District Attorney's Office, and the Onondaga County Coroner's Office to drive home the importance of making good decisions. My personal thanks to all who played an important part in this yearly lesson and it worked, as I got the all clear at 6:30 a.m. that the night went without incident. While we celebrate that, let me rewind and reflect on the night.

We All Had a Ball: As my wife and I left the Senior Ball, we reminisced about all of the other dances we have chaperoned over the years, (some 25 years worth; we met in college), she turned to me and said that this was the most fun she had in years. This is not to say that all of the others weren't fun and special, but there was something about Saturday that I certainly won't forget, and neither will the students.

The weather was chilly but warm enough to use the entire facility at Traditions (Links at Erie Village) and all of us certainly did. Gazebos for pictures, huge fire pits, decks with heat lamps, photo booths, great food, and an awesome DJ made the night fly by. All of that was capped by a fireworks display that was better than Friday after a Syracuse Chiefs game! As students got to the After-the-Ball Party at the high school, we talked about how tired we all were because of how much fun we had. Special is an understatement. Memories made. 

Special thanks to the venue staff and owners, our volunteers, parents, the Camillus Police Department, chaperones, advisors, and our high school administrative team, led by Executive Principal Shannon Coholan. It is also important to mention the role our students played. They were simply awesome. Polite, appreciative, and mature beyond their years. Thanks to all!

One of My Favorite Weeks: This week is one of my favorites. First is the Budget Vote, where I get to see and visit with many people, and second is the Special Olympics. The Budget Vote is tomorrow, May 15 from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the lobby of our Auditorium (PLEASE remember to vote). 

The Special Olympics take place at Cicero-North Syracuse High School on Thursday beginning around 10:00 a.m. Our student athletes in the Special Olympics are inspiring and the event is open to the public so if you have a little time, I encourage you to attend.

Many thanks for your continued support and enjoy the week!

Chris

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Busy Time of the Year

Honoring our Students: Last week was the beginning of the "awards" season for us and it did not disappoint. On Wednesday through Friday we held the annual high honor roll breakfast ceremonies. The students who attend have to have made the high honor roll (90 percent overall average) three out of four semesters EACH year. We use Cafeteria I and we have had the "good" challenge of barely having enough space for parents and students. I am always impressed with the hard work and dedication of our students and the support of our parents and family.
As the 11th grade program ended, Mr. Pagcaliwagan asked if he could get a picture of his daughter Kailei and me. She had made high honor roll each of her high school years, but will not have a chance to make it again her senior year. Why? She is able to graduate early and pursue her next challenge at Upstate Medical
University in the fall. Very cool!

Safety Meetings Update: We are working towards finding solutions to several different issues facing communities and students. Last week, we were able to have a larger presence in a county-wide town hall about school safety that was hosted by Channels 3 and 5. If there is a positive that we can take from the negative of a tragedy, it is that people are still talking about school safety and are working together to find solutions.

Spreading the Word About Vaping: We have also been very concerned with students who "vape", concerned enough that 11th grade principal TJ Vaughan put a good program together about vaping and presented it several times to our parents in a variety of forums. He will be presenting in a larger venue soon and West Genesee Middle School principal Steve Dunham presented our work at the Central Region PTA Annual Meeting to parents from five counties. Thanks to them for their efforts, and parents should be aware that vaping is in no way safe for your children.

Wildcats on the Run: I saw plenty of Wildcats at the Mountain Goat Run yesterday. I run outside every day, and for me, the conditions were ideal. We had a lot of fun and today is a recovery day for sure!

Honoring Lacrosse Legends: This week is REALLY exciting. On Thursday night, long time and highly decorated boys lacrosse coaches Bob Deegan and Mike Messere will coach their last regular season home game against Fayetteville-Manlius. If you know either of them, they do NOT like the spotlight; but they certainly need to be recognized for what they have done for the sport of lacrosse and for our school program. I plan to be brief (that's how they want it), but we will celebrate them at the conclusion of the game. Please feel free to join us at the conclusion of the game (should be around 9:00 p.m.) this Thursday, May 10, on Mike Messere Field (the turf field) to applaud their bodies of work.

Senior Ball is Coming Up: Friday is the mock DWI crash in the West Genesee High School circle, followed by the Senior Breakfast and Senior Ball. This is such a special night for our students. I am keeping my fingers crossed for good weather so pictures come out well! We then have the All-Night Party, and I wanted to thank all of our parent volunteers, law enforcement, and administrators in advance for committing to a lack of sleep to help keep our kids safe and happy.

Thanks and have a wonderful week!

Chris

Monday, April 30, 2018

Welcome Back!

If you were fortunate to have gotten away last week, welcome back to...snow and cold. Actually, it wasn't too bad here last week. I feel for our student athletes, coaches, parents, and athletic director who spent most of their break in bleachers, on a court, field, course, or track as we tried to make up as many games as possible. The good news is that we made some progress; the bad news is we have many more contests plus sectionals and state competitions to squeeze into a very short window. We will, it just doesn't feel like it right now!

Last week I was able to spend some time getting caught up on paperwork and getting us ready to conclude the school year. I always know that things are about to get "real" when the diplomas show up. They are here and I am signing them as we speak, so this is a good time to remind your seniors to finish strong and to remind younger students to stay focused as the weather finally gets nicer.

Best Music Community: Congratulations are in order for our fine arts students and staff. For the tenth year in a row and for the thirteenth time overall, West Genesee has been named one of the Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation. This award recognizes school fine arts programs for being very well rounded and we sure are. I am very proud of their accomplishments, and we are very fortunate to be able to enjoy such talented people! To read the full article about this accomplishment, click here.

Safety Update: In the area of safety, I will be leading a countywide meeting on safety training tomorrow from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Dewitt Town Hall. This is a part of the Onondaga County Safety Task Force. On Thursday I will be part of a panel from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as a part of a school safety "Town Hall" that is being sponsored by Channel 3. You can either watch it on television, or you can attend by registering here at http://cnycentral.com/station/safe-at-school-town-hall-registration.

Upcoming Events: We have some other cool things happening this week as well. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we will be recognizing our high school honor roll students with some kind words and breakfast for them and their parents. The event has been held on Cafeteria I for years, and I am excited to hear what our new sound system sounds like in there when it is full of people.

Wednesday night is our annual School Budget Hearing, and a chance to hear from Board of Education candidates. That is at 7:00 p.m. in the West Genesee High School Library. All are invited.

Thanks for reading, welcome back, and let's have a great rest of the school year!

Chris

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Spring Break!

It was nice to finally get some sun and warm weather here in Syracuse. I was too busy to get away this week so I am thankful for weather that will at least let me run in shorts and a tee shirt, and maybe even hit some golf balls!

Speaking of running, and in the "I am old" category, I was running the Mountain Goat training run on Saturday morning and grooving right along. I was feeling good about everything until a younger dude ran by me WHILE TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE. I am at an age where I really am racing against myself, but come on!

Safety Training: On Friday we had a very successful student training and staff training day in the area of security. In the morning, students worked with their teachers, administrators, and Camillus Police on specific emergency scenarios. When I checked in with students after their training, they reported that they felt more assured in what they would do if we were to have an emergency situation.

In the afternoon, Armoured One came in and did a more advanced training for 800 of our employees. It was intense; but very worthwhile. Many of our employees felt empowered after the training, and we will take those feelings and build on them in future training. The training exceeded my expectations and my personal thanks goes out to the Armoured One staff who have now become our partners in security.


Sports Schedule Expands to Sundays: You may be seeing sports played on Sundays for the rest of the sports season. I am absolutely not a fan of having any activities on Sunday, but the poor spring weather forced the Section into allowing teams to play seven days in a row if needed. Our athletic director has informed all coaches that we will only use Sundays if absolutely necessary, but I felt you should know if you see a game or practice going on through the month of May on Sunday afternoons.


#GoBlue4Kids for Child Abuse Prevention: You may also see blue and silver pinwheels around each campus. This is because our Parent Teacher groups are working with the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center on their "Go Blue for Kids" campaign during the month of April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month and raising money through the sale of pinwheels is a part of that. 

Enjoy this beautiful week. I will be in the office but hope to get away here and there. If you are away, enjoy and safe travels.

Thanks!

Chris

Monday, April 16, 2018

To Be Young Again

Junior Prom: I must have checked the weather every ten minutes on Saturday as we closed in on the time of the Junior Prom. I cannot remember a time when we had a winter weather advisory on prom night. I mean, who does that? I had been talking with students all week about the prom, what kind of limo they were riding in, whose special car they were going to get to drive, where they were going to eat, what color tux and tie, and where dresses came from. 

Actually, during those conversations, I got a stomach ache when one of the girls told me that a prom "package" (shoes, limo, dress, makeup, tan, and hair) can cost over $1,000. I had boys, and one of them worked at Men's Wearhouse during high school so our yearly cash outlay was a LOT less for proms and balls; comparatively speaking. I think if I spent that on my outfits and hair and stuff, I would wear it for about two weeks following prom!


Anyway, at about 5:30 p.m. I realized that the temperatures were going to stay high enough until the overnight hours and the heavy rain was going to stay north of the prom site. We were golden! Actually, we were blue and gold. What a great night. Prom always makes me feel young again. The DJ was excellent and put the students through the paces. As students left at 11:00 p.m., they told me they were exhausted from dancing so much. It was REALLY a good time. Thank you to all of the student and staff volunteers, as well as our administrative team. I always sleep with one eye open on prom and ball night, and I did not get one call or text. Success!  Next up, Senior Ball in a few weeks.

Assessment Update: Earlier in the week, our students took the Grades 3-8 English Language Arts assessment. About 2,000 of our students tried the assessments online for the first time. On day one, we had some Internet issues followed by larger issues at Questar, the test site, so we pulled the plug and decided to start the assessments the second day (we have six days to administer a two-day assessment). On day two, we had some glitches, but nothing that prevented us from moving forward, and the third day was pretty smooth. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that there were some issues during this ramp up into digital testing. I hadn't read about a state that had a smooth launch, and we were no different. They will get everything resolved and I expect smoother delivery of the math assessments in the coming weeks. There are bigger fish to fry for sure.


School Security: We met with the architects on Friday to finalize our budget and plans for "Proposition 4" on the upcoming budget vote regarding school security. We had established a number of up to $2M (no increase in taxes) to make security updates including entryways, interior locks, cameras, and other hardening measures. To do "all of it", the cost is going to be $3.8M, so we had to decide which items need immediate attention with the $2M, and which can wait until our larger capital project in the fall.  

We decided that we will work on the entrances and the interior lock upgrades first, and then tackle camera and software upgrades in the next project. Pending approval in May, we will get started in late summer. I will be explaining in more detail this Tuesday when I present the budget in the West Genesee High School Large Group Instruction room at 7:00 p.m., and then again in the West Genesee High School Library on Wednesday during our regular Board of Education Meeting. I feel comfortable with the direction we are headed. It will meet our goals and keep our word as to what we said we were going to when we met as a large group back on February 28.

Hosting Outside Organizations: As you know, we are hosting the multi-denominational "Workcamp" for a week in late June at the high school, where close to 500 teens from all of the country will come to Camillus and work on the homes of senior citizens and the less fortunate.

We are also excited to be hosting the Syracuse chapter of the National Organization of Missing and Exploited Children. They do a very large bike ride each year to raise money and bring it back to our local youth. They are having their organizational meeting at West Genesee Middle School tomorrow, Tuesday, from 6:00-7:15 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Community Open House-#CMSVotesforWomen: Tonight at Camillus Middle School starting at 7:00 p.m., you will be treated to a traveling active museum to celebrate the Women's Suffrage movement. Our librarian and assistant did an awesome job of securing artifacts and information. The students have learned a ton from it and it is worth the trip to see it. Click here for more information about the event.

Swing-In is a Success: Congratulations to our performers who crushed it in the 50th annual "Swing In" on Wednesday night. Professional musician Winston Byrd, loves to come to West Genesee and he definitely gets the most out of the students. Cool! Click here for more information about the event.


Spring Letter of Intent Signing: Congratulations also to Meredith Barrett, Carly Benson, John Bergan, John Howes, Karsyn Plis, Kevin Sheehan, Kevin Snow, Paul Stannard who signed their National Letters of Intent to further their academics and athletics at a Division I or II college. What always impresses me about these signing events is the overall grade point average of the students. It takes special people to perform at a high level in the classroom and on the field, and I wish them the best of luck in the future. Click here for more information about the event.

Reminder: April 20 is a Half-day for Students: Just a friendly reminder that Friday, April 20, is a half-day for students, as we conduct security and safety training. If you are traveling for spring break, travel safe and have fun! For those of us who are staying behind, lets hope we get some warmer weather!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!

Chris

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Well Worth the Wait

A Must See: Yes, I think actual spring weather will be well worth the wait, but I have to tell you that Hamilton on Broadway was well worth the wait also. It took us nearly two years of waiting to finally get tickets (at box office prices) to the show; but it did not disappoint. I am not a Broadway show expert by any means, but if you are looking for a show that has a top-notch story, superb and diverse music, expert acting, and edge of your seat choreography, this show is for you. I am glad we went to the matinee because it is also emotionally draining, and I needed dinner and a nap afterword. Bottom line, a MUST see in my book.

School Safety Meetings: Last week was very busy for me. In addition to my usual building visits and normal day-to-day superintendent work, I had an opportunity to attend and lead four safety meetings: two for West Genesee and two for Onondaga County. All of the meetings were very informative and worked to narrow the focus of our work for school safety. The overarching theme for the meetings was training and preparing for emergencies, and how best to accomplish those tasks. The second theme was how to fund all of the preparedness we want to accomplish, as well as additional security officers. For more information from the PCIC meeting about safety, click here.

Student Perspective on Safety: I also met with the high school students who helped to organize the March 14 Student Walkout Day. We debriefed about that day, and I asked them their thoughts about the next planned National Student Walkout Day on Friday, April 20. They were very pleased about how March 14 went, but as a group, they did not want to stage another walkout on April 20. They asked if they could spend some time that day practicing unique situational safety drills like what would happen during a lunch, class changes, etc.

Friday, April 20-A Half-Day for Students: After giving that meeting some thought, as well as the nine total safety meetings we have had since the Parkland shooting in February, we are going to alter the school calendar on April 20 and turn it into a half-day for students and full-day for teachers.

Our students in the high school are going to work on those situational safety situations mentioned above; our middle school students will do a blend of safety meetings and regular programming; and our elementary students will receive safety reminders, regular programming, and work on the Positivity Project. In the afternoon, all of our employees (with the exception of bus drivers because they are driving the students home) will receive active shooter training. We will deliver similar training to the bus drivers shortly after. Thank you for rearranging your schedules a bit to help us accommodate this important work.

You may be asking yourself about the students who want to continue to express themselves as part of the #NeverAgain movement on April 20 and beyond. There is a great moment in Hamilton spoken by George Washington that says in part, "I know that greatness lies in you, but remember that from here on in, history has its eyes on you." which is a great line for all of the students in the country working for change. I have been working with the student leadership of our local movement and they are planning their future activities. I am lending adult guidance when I feel it is appropriate and wanted.

Upcoming Week: I think we might actually see some baseball and softball games this week. I am not holding my breath for the golf team to play anytime soon, but we have to work with the cards that we are dealt. No matter what weather comes our way on Saturday though, we are ready and excited for the Junior Prom! Yes, it is that time of the year already!

Thanks and enjoy the week!

Chris