Thursday, February 22, 2018

Getting Ready for Next Week

I hope that you are enjoying the final leg of winter break. We got a couple of really warm days, some cold days, some snow, and some rain; typical Syracuse! It was nice to run in shorts and a tee shirt a couple of mornings though.

Winter Athletes are Busy: Even though we have been on break, our winter athletes have been pretty busy. Our Girls Basketball team advanced to the semi-final sectional game that will take place this Sunday at SRC Arena; two of our wrestlers put themselves in position to compete for a New York State Championship; several of our track stars won, and are now preparing for the New York State Championship next weekend; as are our cheerleaders. Our Boys Hockey team lost a heartbreaker to Baldwinsville last night in four overtimes and two shootouts! The consolation for me, and I am sure for the parents, was watching the sportsmanship as our players and coaches congratulated and wished their opponent the best of luck moving forward.

Safety Update: The last time I wrote, it was just following the most recent school shooting in Florida. I want to take this opportunity to let you know where we are at as a District seven days later, and where we will be moving forward.

First and foremost, I own my words. I always have. I have always tried to make the most out of every day as a Superintendent. My job description has a lot of duties as you might imagine, and one of them is to be an advocate and voice for students. My comments about thoughts and prayers meaning nothing, my views on mental health resources and some kind of gun control sparked reactions both positive and negative. To clear the air and make sure that my consistent readers and supporters have a clear understanding of my position, I offer the following. 

I am faith-based. I feel that there is a time for thoughts and prayers, but there is also a time for action, and I just feel that we missed the boat on that. On gun control, I own guns. When I had time before I was a Superintendent, I hunted. I would be a hypocrite to be anti-Second Amendment. I just feel that there needs to be a conversation to keep firearms out of the hands of people that are identified as being mentally ill or unstable. A National radio host referred to me as anti-religious and uber liberal. I would respectfully disagree. I am a Superintendent who does not want another school shooting, and I think there needs to be action, whatever that looks like, to get us to that point.

At the end of the day you trust me to keep your children safe, educated, and happy. After any tragedy involving a school, we debrief with experts on how we at West Genesee can do a better job to prevent something similar from happening here. We are very fortunate to have such a great resource in the Camillus Police Department. They are invested in our schools, and many of the officers have children who attend our schools.  

I spent Tuesday with Sergeant Nightingale. Sergeant Nightingale is a New York State certified active shooter trainer.  He is recognized for his leadership in this area statewide and by all police agencies. We walked each building in the District looking at points of entry, building safety plans, and anything else that should be considered to keep students and staff safe.

We then debriefed with Chief Winn to develop a partnership plan. Chief Winn gave us an increased Police presence immediately following the last shooting, and we are very appreciative of that. Starting Monday we will continue to have an increased police presence in all buildings; with a twist.  He has initiated an "Adopt a School" program with his officers. Basically, several officers have adopted each of our buildings. They will be meeting with building administrators, students, and teachers over the coming weeks. While on patrol they will be visiting the buildings frequently and will be working with administrators on any situations that arise.Your children may come home and say that they see the Police "a lot". That is by design.

We also identified areas in the District (tactically I am not going to mention those areas in a public blog), that would benefit from some type of increased door barrier. We will be working with vendors and our School Safety Committee to determine the best devices for the different spaces we have identified. This work and subsequent purchase(s) will happen very quickly.

We will also be working with our clerical staff about door and entry protocol, and we will be asking the Board of Education at a special meeting on February 28 to authorize us to add a proposition not to exceed $2M to our school budget vote in May to provide entryway enhancements to include more updated ways to allow or disallow visitors. We had intended to ask for this in the fall as a part of our larger project, but we want to get this rolling within a tighter timeframe.

We will also be increasing our lockdown and active shooter drills. While all of us feel very confident that the plan we have is solid, I think we would all feel more comfortable if we did additional practice.

We should also remember to say something if we see something. This can be ANYWHERE in the community. Every bit of information helps. Unfortunate situations don't just happen in schools; so we all want to be and stay connected.

There is a student component to all of this, especially at the high school. They want to be heard, just like thousands of other students across the country. This is a long blog as it is so I will give you more details in my next writing, but essentially it is my job as a Superintendent to give students a time and place to assemble and speak their minds, as well as a safe environment to do so. At the same time, not all students will share the same views, just as some of you do not share my views. It is my job to make sure all of that is managed in a safe and respectful way. I have every confidence that this will happen. You should also know that as certified professionals, we will NOT tell children WHAT to say. You have my word on that. Our job is to provide students a safe venue and time for them to express themselves. I am meeting with Student Council leaders next Tuesday to see what their thoughts are. Once we know what they would like to do, we will develop a support plan around that and will make sure that it is communicated. Stay tuned.

Thanks again for reading and for your support. I am going to be going over all of this in person at a special board meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Large Group Instruction Roon next, Wednesday, February 28. If you have further questions you can always call me at 315-487-4562, email me at, or attend the meeting and ask in person.

Thanks and enjoy the rest of break!