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-


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!


Monday, May 14, 2018


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!


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!