Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

Well, Mother Nature has been pretty tame so far this winter; but I am sure we will pay for it. If you are keeping track at home we have used one emergency closing day, and I would certainly like to keep it that way. I am not keeping my hopes up though!

District Office Building: I would like to give a quick but huge "shout out" to our custodians, buildings and grounds crew, and our technology department staff. They totally dismantled the District Office over the first part of break so we could get some work done to it, and they worked long hours and over the weekend to get us back in business a full week early. Because of their efforts, we are now open for business again and not working with laptops in buildings all over the District!

A Busy Time in Athletics: Even though we have been on break, the high school has been especially busy with practices, games, meets, and matches. I have had a chance to see some great games so far, and I am really looking forward to the rest of the winter season, sectionals, and state competitions! 

I was also happy to see the Syracuse University Orange football team win their bowl game and their basketball team start to turn the corner before conference play. We can argue about the value of sports on a community, but when the local college teams and pro teams are winning, people are buzzing and spending money locally and that helps all of us!

Starting A New Year: January represents my 18th anniversary as a superintendent; and the first half of this school year has been one of the smoothest I have been a part of. No complaints about that! As we start the new year, we are in very good shape, and I will outline some key dates and events of interest for you in my next blog post. We just need to continue to work hard, smart, and stay the course.

Happy New Year! Enjoy, be safe, and I will write again in the new year.

Thanks for your continued support.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Happy Holidays!

I wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of you for your support, and for choosing West Genesee as the school community to raise your children in. Merry Christmas to those like me who celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all. I will be around all break if you need me, and I will write again in the new year.

Thank you and take care!


Monday, December 17, 2018

Lessons Can Come from Anywhere

We continue to be going full speed ahead into the long holiday break. Believe me, two full weeks off was something that I was not a fan of. Due to the number of required days of staff and student attendance contractually required, and where in the week Christmas and New Year's Days fell, it called for a two-week break. It will go quickly I am sure, but when you see it on a calendar it looks like an eternity!

Art Comes in Many Forms: I had a pretty cool experience on Saturday night. I attended an art installation located at the Gear Factory on South Geddes Street. If you have been following along in this blog, I had mentioned that our Design and Manufacturing students made skateboard decks that were then given to art and photography students to be creatively decorated. The art installation on Saturday night was to show them off (there were other boards made by adult artists as well). They will be on display at West Genesee in the early spring and then auctioned off, with the proceeds benefiting the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center
(stay tuned for info on that).

As I stood in the building and observed the art, it hit me. I had been in that building almost 48 years ago, as a child in foster care through the Department of Social Services. It is where my mom and dad picked me out, adopted me, and took me home all those years ago. How full circle is that? At any rate, suffice it to say that I will be bidding on a many of these boards when the time comes!

Positivity in Practice: I have struggled to get into the holiday spirit this year, but I ran across a situation during a building visit last week that changed that. Each of our buildings participates in a character program called the Positivity Project and the students learn traits for each along the way. A recent trait was "humility" and second grader Connor Hussong exemplified that.

During lunch last week, he saw a friend choking on his lunch. Connor did not hesitate to get up from his lunch, pat his classmate on the back until the food dislodged, and got him some help. He didn't attract attention to himself or the situation. He saw a situation, helped, and went back to what he was doing. I am very proud of Connor, as was our School Resource Officer, Anthony Gucciardi, who made a special trip to Connor's building to thank him as well. Good things do happen and great lessons can
come from anywhere. Nice job, Connor!

School Bus Safety Pilot: We are going to pilot a program that is so new, it doesn't have a name yet. In an effort to help keep students safe, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office, Camillus Police Department, and the school are working together to help stop people from passing stopped school buses.

Officers will ride on select bus routes.When a car passes the bus while its red lights are flashing, they will radio to a patrol car(s) that will pull the offending cars over and issue tickets. We hope that this will spread the word that passing stopped school buses and putting children in danger is not cool. It will start shortly, and I will report back when I can as to how many cars were stopped.

A Busy Week: If you are looking for something to do, we have several home athletic contests this week (schedules are available from the District, Athletics, and school home webpages). The big "sleigh ride" concert is this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the high school. It is going to be a very busy but great week!

District Office Building Update: Lastly, we are having some minor work done to the District Office over the break, but it will cause us to close the building and for us to work in other areas of the District. The building will be closed from December 22 through January 6. If you email or call the office, however, we will respond, and it will be business as usual for us through the break.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, December 10, 2018

A Little Bit of Everything

Last week felt like a whirlwind. On Monday, I had an opportunity to visit with people at the Camillus Senior Center. Meeting with them is a highlight of the school year for me because I get a chance to soak in more history of our community from the experts and I get an opportunity to talk to them about what is happening in our schools. I always like to answer questions as well. Probably the most prominent question I received was about the Marching Band and the direction we are headed. I assured them that they will want to pay attention to this upcoming campaign because it will not disappoint. In retirement, my dad has been working a few days a week there during tax season to help people with their tax return filings and it was funny to watch the reaction when I connected him to me. It was a "small world" moment. Good stuff!

West Side Support Network Update: We held a very good West Side Support Network meeting during the week as well. We have a really diverse group of people who have joined our core group and we are in the planning stages of offering a night called "Lived Experiences" on January 14 at West Genesee High School. It will center around substance use disorder, mental wellness, juuling and vaping, and NARCAN training. As the official agenda comes into focus I will be sure to share it. Our previous forums and get-togethers have been well attended and informative, and I hope to see you there.

School Resource Officers: Chief Tom Winn and I have been working since the spring to find a pathway to increase the number of School Resource Officers in our schools. It sounds easy, just hire some officers, right? Not quite. Inter-municipal agreements (between the Town of Camillus and the District) take buy-in from both governing boards (done); all the legalese you would expect in a sharing and employment agreement (done); and then an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish (done). Oh yeah, you also need to have the resources in place (done).

The shared vision is to add retired police officers (called School Patrol Officers by Civil Service title) to West Genesee Middle School and Camillus Middle School. They will also serve the elementary schools that feed the middle schools. We would like them to build relationships with students, staff, and parents, provide another layer of safety, as well as help when the need for their expertise arises. We currently have two officers at the high school (one is a regular patrol officer and one is a School Resource Officer). These additional officers will help to bolster a secure presence in our school buildings.

You will begin to see advertisements for these officers, so if you are a retired police officer or know of a retired officer looking to return to work, please contact the Camillus Police Department. We will fill the positions once we have the people who will be the right fit for the Camillus Police Department and the District.

A Busy Time at the High School: I spent a lot of time last week at the high school, just meeting with students and staff. I learned that the popular online game Fortnite is losing some of its shine, and kids are looking for the next thing (they think Call of Duty will go back to being really popular again). I learned that the Apple Airpod headphones are a worthy opponent to the Beats brand that I see most kids using. I also reaffirmed that this time of the year before break is stressful for a lot of students. All noted, and you should too, as we dig into the holidays and then the darker part of winter. I really do enjoy my time with the students and I always learn a lot. I hope they learn a little from me every now and then too!

Saturday night was the High School Semi-Formal Dance and the theme was the "Enchanted Forest". The students did an awesome job of getting it all set up, and it was a wonderful night for about 850 of our students. Unfortunately, more than 850 students wanted to attend, so the dance was officially a "sell out". If you are a musician or athletic team, you celebrate playing in a venue that is sold out.  For us, there was no celebration. You never want to turn kids away from anything but in this case, there was no other option. 

The high school advisers and administrative team have worked tremendously hard to build a positive school culture and it showed during ticket sales and again on Saturday night, and there was no time to make a venue change. Even though it was a high school event, everything with West Genesee on it is my responsibility and I will work with the team to make sure that they can continue to ride the wave of positivity and student participation with the right tools to do so.

If you are looking for a good, fun, holiday thing to do, I would recommend Elf the Musical at Syracuse Stage through January 6 I believe. I went on Friday night and it was light and a lot of fun.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!


Monday, December 3, 2018

Different Ideas

I hope that you had a great week last week. I am so used to writing a blog every week that I really missed not posting one after Thanksgiving, but I really didn't have much to say besides how much turkey I ate; and I didn't want to bore you what that.

As I spend more years as a superintendent (18 years this January!), I get more and more opportunities to present at and be a part of national conversations surrounding education. I choose wisely and only a couple a year that I think I can learn the most from. Late last week I presented about distributed leadership and communication to superintendents from around the country. I also learned about the national conversation around getting more diversity in my role, school safety, national school budget strategies, making telemedicine for underprivileged students available in schools, and updates to the survey tool "Thought Exchange" that you may remember us using for Strategic Planning.

I thought the presentation went well on my end, and I took a lot away and actually created two key partnerships with companies in the school safety and communications spaces that will really help us. As those partnerships develop, I will keep you up to speed. I just don't want to jinx anything by describing them before agreements are made in writing.

One thing that I found quite frustrating as a superintendent from New York was how schools, particularly in the south, are able to work with commercial partners to help pay for things and programs in schools. New York State prohibits any commercialism in schools.

I am certainly not saying that I want our children, buses, or fields to look like NASCAR drivers, but when every budget conversation in New York revolves around costs, taxes, and impact on you and me, why can we not begin to at least talk about how a commercial partner(s) could help us grow programs and defray costs? Schools in the south have sponsors for their athletics, fine arts, career, and technical education programs, etc. and that helps to drive down their cost per pupil. That lower cost per pupil lowers the tax impact. I just think there is a way, and I would love to see the law change from "NO" to "maybe". I am going to carry that flag for a while and see where that goes.

We are in full-fledged "concert season" so if music is your thing, be sure to keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for upcoming concert dates. Also, high school athletics works in cycles, and we are really in an "up" cycle in our basketball programs at the moment. You can expect very large crowds for our girls and boys games this season, so if you are coming to see them play and want a good seat, be sure to get there early!

Thank you and enjoy the week.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Thanks

I am still upset that we had to use a snow day on Friday, and it was no one's fault but Mother Nature. Our own plow people were out at 11:30 p.m. Thursday night trying to keep up, as were town and county crews. They all worked tirelessly to help us to get school open on Friday, but too much heavy snow came too close to the start of the school day for us to be able to open school safely. Obviously, we can't have a four-hour delay, but it probably would have worked. My hope is that Friday will be the last snow day until at least Christmas break. This is Syracuse though; so who knows.

Students Perform in Musicals: We now have two very successful middle school musicals in the books. West Genesee Middle School delighted attendees with their rendition of The Addams Family, and Camillus Middle School sang and danced their way through The Music Man. Many of these performers will choose to continue in high school, so I would say that the performing arts continue to be alive and well at West Genesee!

Athletic Letter of Intent Signing: Last week we celebrated National Letter of Intent Signing Day. Mike Burns, our Athletic Director, does a really nice job of reminding everyone in attendance that while the students athletes are receiving scholarships to play sports at the Division I or II levels, they also excel in the classroom. If they weren't going to college to play a sport, they would (and some are also) receive money to attend college for their successes in the classroom. The students in this photo have a combined grade point average of 90.4. Thank you for representing West Genesee so well and good luck at the next level! Click here to read a full article about the ceremony with a list of the students and colleges they plan to attend. 

Back in the Day: Last week when I was visiting elementary classrooms, I got to thinking that the elementary classroom today is nothing like the Norman Rockwell type of classroom that I was a part of "back in the day". When you attend open houses, or parent-teacher conferences, you only get to see a quick glimpse of what life looks like inside your child's classroom. In one round of visits last week I saw direct instruction (like you and I used to get); center time where students used iPads, Chromebooks, shaving cream, sand, paper, glue, glitter (my least favorite), pens, pencils; and robots. None of this happens without the dedication, thought, and master execution of our teachers and support staff. I wish my kids were young again so they could experience how kids today get to learn.

Giving Thanks: Many of you will be welcoming family into your homes, and others will be traveling. As we give thanks for what we have and who we have, please keep your eyes open for elderly neighbors, less fortunate people, or members of your own family who just need an extra hug or piece of turkey and conversation. People sometimes don't show it, but they appreciate the time and help.

Thanks, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and I will see you soon.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We are ALL Ambassadors

A Great Long Weekend: I hope that all of you had a good and reflective Veterans weekend. I spent the weekend in Iceland. Yes, you read that correctly. We had heard from friends that Iceland was definitely a place to travel to, and it did not disappoint. Once you realize that Iceland is a four and a half hour flight from Boston and that the only thing that is pricey there is the food (so pack snacks in a checked bag, but the food is excellent there if you don’t; we did a combo) you realize that Europe is closer and cheaper than you think.

Now I can start stories with things like, "While I was (insert cool topics here such as  in a geothermal hot pool, underground in a lava tunnel, in an ice cave, on a boat in the North Atlantic watching the Northern Lights, and speaking to people all over the world.)” So, yes, place Iceland on your trip list and shoot me an email if you want suggestions of things to do while you are there.

Something really powerful happened while I was there as well. It was Veterans weekend in the United States, but it was also the remembrance of 100 years since Armistice Day, the conclusion of World War I. So some of the talk in the eateries and venues was politics, not “who am I going to un-friend next on Facebook” political talk; but real, global political conversations.

It was the second evening we were there when we really realized how closely people were listening to us talk as Americans, and about  American politics in general. It made me realize that we do not need pundits, elected officials, or the media, to be true ambassadors of our country. I take great pride in where I live and feel very fortunate, so it was easy for me to gush about our country, the great things in it, and how we as a people use conversation, debate, and legislation to rule. Not every person we spoke to had those abilities, so my take away was that we all really need to realize that while we may be at odds from time to time about our politics here at home, there are probably millions of people out there who would like to be in our shoes. We are the ambassadors who deliver the message of how good we have it.

Back home, we wrapped up winter sports tryouts, and tried to get our custodians, who work harder than anyone realizes, a couple of days off.

Events Update: On November 5 we celebrated the Camillus Optimists Teachers and Students of the Year honorees at the Tuscarora Golf Club. The student honored were: Lindsay Chamberlain and James Clark from WGHS; Emma Evanchak and Tyler Anastasio from CMS; and Emilie Shoults and Eli Owens from WGMS were honored by the Camillus Optimists with the David Kenna Outstanding Student Award. The teachers honored were: Erin Hogan (WGHS social studies teacher), Nancy Muldoon (CMS health teacher), and Rebecca Gesser (Stonehedge fourth-grade teacher). Click here to read the full article about the event.

Another annual event showcasing the academic talents of our students, the District Spelling Bee, took place on November 8 at CMS. Congratulations to WGMS students Cooper Corcoran and James (Jamie) O'Donnell for coming in first and second, respectively. To read the full article that lists the top twelve students moving on to the next level of competition, click here.

Critical Time of the Year: The time from now until late February is really critical. For full-year courses at the high school, or classes at the middle and elementary schools, the students and teachers are in rhythm. Students and teachers know where they stand with each other, have a pretty good idea of how the course or class will complete based on how much effort is exerted, and what we need to do to help children close learning gaps. It is just an absolutely critical time of the school year academically.

Our seniors are getting into the thick of deciding about life after high school, and half-year courses are getting just beyond the middle point. As the parent of two graduates, it can be a stressful time. Don’t forget to smell the roses or to take a break and stay glued together as a family.

This time of the year is also the time of giving. I wrote in an earlier blog that we are trying to put something bigger together as a District with other community partners. That continues to be a work-in-progress because we want to get it right; and be able to repeat it.

All of our buildings and many of our organizations led by students will be ramping up their giving efforts, so please stay tuned to individual building blogs and our social media presence for ways to help or to receive help if needed.

I am looking forward to the coming weeks. Thanks for reading and have a great week!


Monday, November 5, 2018

The Quality Triangle

Athletics Updates: We had quite a week and weekend of activity in the Wildcat Nation. By the way, how about that Wildcat Nation? They showed up in full force to watch our football Wildcats play an incredibly strong team from Cicero-North Syracuse in the Carrier Dome for the Section III Championship. I appreciated the effort of the fans as well as the players. We came up short, but the players gave 100%, and their coaches had them well prepared. That is all I can ask for, and the team is back to being a contender as they begin to prepare for next season.

When we come up short in sectionals, we always wish the other team the best of luck the rest of the way. Why? For starters, it is good sportsmanship. In addition, every Section III team should want themselves or another Section III team to make waves in state play.

If you look back at our mission statement, we are preparing our students for whatever they want to do after high school. If our student-athletes want to play after high school and at the highest levels possible, it doesn't hurt on the recruiting trail if they compete in one of the toughest sections in the state. The competitive strength of the section and the abilities of the athlete will help them to get the best opportunities after high school.

Congratulations are in order for members of our swim team and our cross country team. On the running side, senior Matt Bartolotta qualified for state competition in sectionals on a really rainy, cold, "soupy" day. He is a machine and proved it in those conditions!

In swimming, we had "bookend" winners. I couldn't ask for a better role model in senior Maddy Zapisek. She is quietly ferocious and has done things the right way throughout her swim and school career. She won Section III titles in the 200 free and the 500 free, and  was awarded the Swimmer of the Meet and won the 200 free and 500 free while setting the school record in 500 at yesterday’s NYS Qualifiers. She qualified for the NYS Championship in both the 200 and 500.

On the other end, freshman Anna Ivery is starting to make a name for herself. She won the Section III title in the 50 free, and you will hear her name for years to come.

Also, congratulations to all of the West Genesee swimmers who competed in the NYS Qualifiers yesterday including the following swimmers who ‘placed’: Anna Ivery, Haley Hagadorn, Hannah Murdoch, Miki Riley, Maggie Smith, and Maddy Zapisek.

The Quality Triangle: Last week I wrote about the Marching Band finishing in fourth place. I was challenged by some (and believe me, I enjoy the feedback because it means people are reading this) as if I didn't care that we finished in a position that we aren't used to at West Genesee. Hardly. I was up until 3:00 a.m. after the "Dome" show, deciding what was going to come next. I care deeply about our community, our students and our staff, and the Marching Band is a part of our fabric.

Just like the football example above, one of the things that I do is take a step back and see how what we do impacts opportunities for our students' long-term. We have a 50-year history of success in Marching Band. When we take a little dip, we can "survive" it to a point, just due to our past success. That is not acceptable to me because that's not how I work. Adapt and overcome. I hold myself accountable every day for everything, and that makes its way into what we do at school. I just don't yell and pound my fists to deliver accountability like you see on television shows. I use the quality triangle, and you can too in your personal and work lives.

Take out a piece of paper. Draw a triangle. Label the bottom, "Quality", label one side, "Resources" and label the other side "Time". Here is how it works to achieve accountability and how to make the conversations and decisions professional and non-blood pressure raising, and without emotion:

Think of a home. You want to renovate the kitchen. You want it to be a quality job, but money is not falling off of trees in the yard. You find a reputable contractor, and they can do a quality job, but with lower resources from you, it is going to take a while. They will renovate when they have time and maybe even with materials left over from other jobs in order to keep your costs down.

Conversely, if you have the resources and want that quality kitchen, the contractor can work quickly to provide you with a quality kitchen. It is that simple.

My job involves the management of dozens of these triangles simultaneously. In the Marching Band example, we all want to live up to our reputation of quality, and we want that to happen tomorrow. It will, I guarantee it. The conversations will revolve around the resources. Personnel, ideas, strategy, and preparation are some of the examples of resources. When I am satisfied that we have the correct resources in place, the program will be stamped as "held accountable", and I will make the necessary decisions or approvals, and we will move on. No fanfare. No yelling. No fist pounding. The quality triangle has been around for decades and it works. So in short, yes, I care.

Veterans Day: My next blog won't come out until after Veterans Day. As you go to vote tomorrow in very contentious mid-term elections, don't forget about the men and women who have provided us the opportunity to argue our political views; and to be able to vote. Our Veterans carry with them the sights, sounds, smells, and memories of unthinkable things they had to endure in order to secure our freedom. Check in on a Veteran, thank a Veteran, support a Veteran. Repeat.

Just a reminder that this Tuesday, November 6, is a half-day for students. They will attend in the morning and the dismissal times for the buildings will be as follows: WGHS: 9:55 a.m.; CMS/WGMS: 10:10 a.m.; and All Elementary Buildings: 11:30 a.m.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!


Monday, October 29, 2018

Things to Cheer About

Athletics Update: The Wildcat Nation had quite a week and weekend! Girls Tennis stars Mikayla Mannara and Katie Viau won sectionals and then competed all the way to the New York State quarterfinals; the Football team won a huge game against Liverpool and earned a chance to play in the sectional championship this Saturday at the Carrier Dome against Cicero-North Syracuse; and our Cheerleaders are Section 3 Champions for the second year in a row. How cool is that!

Marching Band Pride: Our Marching Band had a really interesting season. Since I have been here, you could track each band and their progress throughout the season in a pretty consistent way, and you could clearly see which bands were stronger than the others. This year, several bands took first place in different competitions on their way to the Carrier Dome last night so it was really anyone's championship to win. Our Marching Band took fourth place, and I am proud of our students and commend the winners. For us, planning for next year has already begun!

Conference and Safety: I had a couple of eye-opening moments at a conference last week. The conference was a national superintendent summit, invitation only, and there were a variety of topics for us to talk about. I helped to present the topic of communicating with staff, community, and students, as well as receiving feedback, and using that feedback.

With the regularity of active shooter situations and mass shootings happening today, one of the other topics was school safety. I spoke to several different superintendents about how they are approaching school safety. Interestingly, approaches were all over the board. I spoke with some who were just hearing about the slogan "if you see something, say something" and to the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools (Sandy Hook Elementary) who has experience with every security product and protocol available. I also spoke to superintendents who arm teachers because the nearest law enforcement needs to be flown in by helicopter and is 40 minutes away; and to superintendents who will not support anyone armed in schools, including School Resource Officers.

I am comfortable with where we are right now after taking it all in. We have the input from our forums, the guidance of the Onondaga County School Safety Task Force (I was a  committee leader), excellent training for our staff, a great partnership with our local law enforcement, armed School Resource Officers, consistent drills for our students, an anonymous tip line, a way to take attendance in an emergency, and a capital project that will harden our entrances and upgrade our locks and cameras. Best practices in the area of safety are always changing, and we will stay on top of that.

We had a great West Side Support Network Meeting last week and are beginning to plan some events related to substance use disorder and mental wellness in our community; so stay tuned for that. The major topics will be NARCAN training, mental health awareness, substance use disorder programming, support groups, and working with other organizations to support people in poverty in our area.

Halloween Carnival: Speaking of events, if you are looking for a really cool, safe place to take your kids for some Halloween fun, look no further than the West Genesee High School Halloween Carnival today from 4:00-7:00 p.m. in the upper gym of the high school. If you have attended before, you will notice it has gotten so big that they had to move it to a bigger space. There are all kinds of fun things to do for elementary students.

The event is sponsored by the high school chapter of our Positivity Project, and admission is free; but bringing a canned good or non-perishable food item would be appreciated. We will keep some of the food on hand for our students who need it and donate the rest to our local food pantry. If you are there early, I will see you before I head to Buffalo for my first Monday Night Football Game.

Thanks and enjoy the week!


Monday, October 22, 2018

As Much Information as I Could Fit into a Three-Minute Read

When this blog first started years ago, my intention was to get you up to speed about what happened over the past week, feature students and staff, let you know about what lies ahead, maybe fit in a larger example of something, and give you an understanding of my personality as your school leader. As the readership has grown to about 10,000 a week, I think we have kept to that model. I have also tried to keep these blogs to about a three-minute read, because I know that all of you are very busy. With all that in mind, buckle up because there is a lot of news you can use to report this week!

On my end, I had a great time reading the "Big Pumpkin" to kindergarten students; teaching a class about strategic planning to adults. taking in Fiddler on the Roof (long but enjoyed it); and an SU Football overtime win (no, I am not going to weigh in on the quarterback controversy there, I have enough of my own things to take care of). 

Competition Updates: Wildcat Tennis stars Mikayla Mannara and Katie Viau advanced beyond the New York State regionals and much closer to a New York State Championship; Wildcat football advanced to the Section III Semifinals with a win over CBA; and the Marching Band took first place at their most recent competition held at Central Square, reminding the competition that they are still here and look forward to competing against them at the Carrier Dome in a couple of weeks. Our JV and varsity cheerleaders also took first place at the CNS Cheer Competition. 

Take a breath. Also last week, Our West Genesee High School PTSA held a "Car Care 101" program to teach students how to change a tire, know what to carry in their cars during the winter, and how to check and replace common car fluids.

The "course" was taught by two of our employees, Gene Bobey and Sean Fahey, and Board of Education member Joe Simon. At the end of the evening they deployed an airbag in the parking lot that launched about 25 feet in the air, driving home the point that it is not a good idea to put your feet on the dashboard.  It was so well received that they are going to have an encore performance in the spring!

Update on Previous Blog Topics: Bringing you up to speed on two topics that I wrote about previously and that received a lot of feedback, we are making progress with the "skateboard project" and they are responding to your willingness to help for our students in poverty.

The skateboard project, now titled "Deck the Halls" (get it?) has a poster (will share when it is totally final), a venue, and who will benefit from the production and auction of the boards. The decks have been produced and, as we speak, they are in the hands of our art and photography students to be designed. I don't want to post pictures of the final product until they are done, but they are COOL.

Many of you responded to my last blog about how our community has changed, and you have offered to help with clothing and resources. Your response was actually overwhelming. We are working on a way to tap into your generosity and it may take the form of a pop-up clothing "shop" (everything would be free of course). There is a lot of work to get from idea to reality on this so stay tuned and THANK YOU.

Being Neutral: The midterm elections are November 6, and the last couple of weeks before an election can be very negative. I have an obligation as superintendent to ensure that the District is not endorsing any candidate(s). If you see advertisements including me, our school, classrooms, fields, or students, please know that the District and I did NOT give permission for the use of any of those things. We have notified each of the area campaigns and candidates outlining our obligation to remain neutral. One of the reasons why I love my job is because I deal with different things every day, and this election cycle is certainly different.

Lastly, in my career I have coached little league baseball, youth basketball, boys modified soccer, and junior varsity and varsity boys basketball. My time coaching little league and modified soccer remain some of my best memories, even though I was fortunate to have teams find success at the JV and varsity levels. 

At those younger ages, the players are learning how to work with and be a part of a team, how to win and lose, and I was able to establish relationships with kids that still exist today now that they have kids of their own. These two pictures really symbolize the joy of working with younger kids at the modified level.

Thanks for reading, #GoWildcats, and enjoy the week!


Monday, October 15, 2018

School Spirit!

We had quite a Homecoming Week! Everywhere I turned I saw students full of pride for themselves, us as a school, and us as a part of something bigger. There is no way to collect data on the true feeling of positive morale unless you want to measure in decibels from the pep rally or the amount of blue and gold seen throughout the District all week. We are having fun, learning, and making our community the "place to be", as real estate agents continue to tell me.

Congratulations to Emma Farmer and Matty McMahon who were crowned Homecoming Queen and King in front of a full house on Friday night. The football team and cheerleaders also enjoyed their senior nights as well as a win on the field. 

Athletics Update: Our teams will be continuing in Section III Competitions as follows:

  • Football team will play the first round of sectionals this Friday at home against Christian Brothers Academy at 7:00 p.m. 
  • Boys Soccer team will play in sectionals on Thursday at Liverpool at 7:00 p.m. 
  • Girls Soccer team is the third seed and will play the second seed, Fayetteville Manlius (FM), in the semi-final; date and time to be announced. 
  • The Girls Swim, Girls Volleyball, Cross Country, and Cheerleading teams will compete in Sectionals, but the games start in another week or two. Once we know that information, we will share it with you!

Just before the game, girls tennis players Mikayla Mannara and Katie Viau became Section III Class A Champions in a convincing win over a pair from FM. They will continue to the New York State Regional Competition tomorrow. Best of luck to them!

Our Demographics: Community members often ask me the question, "how poor are we?". I have always been a believer that poverty does NOT and should NOT define a child or a school district. My expectation as a superintendent is that every child can succeed no matter their background, and the school community should always band together. Every child is an equal member of the Wildcat family. Our results show that our employees and students believe in this as well.

Looking at the raw numbers though, some of you may be surprised at the number of families who are living in poverty in our community. Federal guidelines for the 2018-2019 school year tell us that in order for a family to qualify for free and reduced lunch, a family of four must make $25,100 or less before taxes for free lunch and $25,100 to $46,435 for reduced lunch ( As of today, just under 30% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In raw numbers, that is almost 1,400 of our students in grades K-12. When I arrived in 2008, 8% of our families qualified for free or reduced lunch, which was approximately 440 students.

Next, we need to consider students who are homeless. In 2008 when I arrived, we had no homeless students. As of today, 26 families in our District are homeless by definition. To be homeless by Federal definition, the child must lack fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (

We have structured our support and leadership styles so that you as community members, and students as a body, see our students as students; not affluent, poor, or homeless. Again, our results show that.

One place where it is important to at least have an understanding of our families is when we do winter clothing or school supply drives. There IS a need, even though you might not see it.

I had a meeting last week with several members of the faith community; multiple denominations. We spoke about how we can work together to help our families in poverty, families experiencing mental illness, and families experiencing substance use disorder. We also spoke about how we can support families that aren't experiencing any of those things, but are just trying to work through raising kids in the very fast paced society that we live in. We are creating some plans to help provide additional support for those who need it.

Our West Side Support Network (formerly known as the Community Coalition) will be having its first meeting on October 23 in the West Genesee High School Library at 2:45 p.m. All are certainly welcome. I will be rolling out our plans to meet the mental health needs of students and will also be giving an update on substance use disorder support in our area.

Thanks for your support and have a great week!