Monday, January 8, 2018

Success Behind the Scenes

Finally, a "warm" spell. Last week, the roads were simply awful. For only the third time in 18 years (if my memory serves me right) I closed school the night before. It was simply that bad; with no hope of it getting any better until yesterday. That night I drove to Keuka, NY (in the fingerlakes) to watch my son "start" in his college basketball game. It was certainly worth it, but a ride that usually takes about an hour and twenty minutes took two and a half hours. Here is a picture of what I saw on the Thruway heading home around 11:00 p.m. Thursday night.

On Saturday, my wife and I went up to the Dome for the basketball game (what a heartbreaker, and SU better get some rebounds or it is going to be a long season), and we were able to walk up the hill from downtown to the game (bundled up of course) MUCH faster than anyone was able to drive. I am glad we went though because we did get to see recent graduate, Caitlyn Barry sing the National Anthem. She still knocks it out of the park!

Computers are great things, but they do not understand warm from cold. We program them to lower temperatures in the winter during breaks and weekends when the buildings aren't occupied to save a few bucks. We turned the program off for the weekend, and I am glad we did because I am certain we would have had frozen pipes had we not!

We have just over 100 school buses and vehicles. Yesterday, James Dark, our Director of Transportation, several bus drivers and attendants, and our plow crew, spent most of the day getting the snow off of the buses, starting them, and getting the bus lot cleared of snow. There was a lot of snow and without their help and behind the scenes dedication, we would absolutely not have been able to open school today. Wildcat pride was in full effect!

I also listened intently to the Governor's State of the State address, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh's induction speech (it was the first Syracuse mayoral induction ceremony that I have attended), and Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony. All spoke about challenges and opportunities through their own personal experiences, as well as the lessons that history has taught us. I was really pleased that they all focused on creating opportunities for EVERYONE; which you know is something that is really important to me. I am hoping that their words become actions and that their actions write the history books for our children and our grandchildren. We can only grow as a community through fostering and cultivating our collective diversity and valuing one another as EQUAL; period.

Unfortunately last week, we also had to deal with an employee who chose to participate in some inappropriate activity on the Internet involving children (please see my last post if you are unfamiliar). While the situation had nothing to do with West Genesee, the fact remains that he was a West Genesee employee. I was infuriated as you might imagine, since it seems like we have had an abnormal number of these cases over the past four years and I wrestle with what I could be doing differently or better, to keep these people out of our schools. The maddening answer is that I cannot.  All of our employees are background checked and reference checked. Bus drivers have the added check of random drug testing. In all cases throughout my career, these criminals have hidden in plain sight; with clear employment records. Many were leaders in other areas of the community, and the reaction to each case has been "shock".

I will say that we live in a time when these people seem to be everywhere. I choose to be very transparent with you and the media when one is from our school, and I choose to act very quickly and swiftly. This is not a universal action plan in our society. I also have great working relationships with the Abused Persons Unit, District Attorney's Office, State Police, Sheriff, and Camillus Police, so when a situation comes up we work together to bring justice quickly. We have also worked closely together to ensure the tightest cases possible, and I have lobbied for the longest jail terms possible. In cases involving our own students past and present, they have come forward because in their own words "they know I will do something about it" and I will not disappoint them.

What we can do together, and as our children get older and out of our grasp, is remind them to let us know if something they are hearing or reading from someone doesn't feel right, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. Until there is a way for all of us to pinpoint these sick individuals before they try to take action, we need to work together in every aspect of a child's life. I will certainly continue to do my part.

Busy week ahead. If you have some time on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council will be hosting our annual "Dialogue with the Superintendent" at the high school.

Thanks and enjoy the week!