Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Boys Lacrosse Coach

I would not normally write a blog about a new head coach of an athletic program, but considering how long Coach Messere guided our Boys Lacrosse program (as well as how many people came to recognize him over the weekend at his retirement gathering), I felt it was appropriate to let the entire community know who will be taking over as the Boys Lacrosse Coach.

We had excellent applicants for the position, and I appreciate the efforts of our hiring committee, our Athletic Director, Mike Burns, and the time of all the references we checked! We were looking for someone who will provide stability and leadership, is student focused in both on and off the field development of our student athletes, understands college pathways for lacrosse and has the connections to help student athletes to get opportunities, and someone who respects the tradition of excellence that West Genesee Lacrosse has come to enjoy.

We found all of those characteristics, and more, in our new Boys Varsity Lacrosse coach, Shaun Smith. Coach Smith started the lacrosse program in the city of Syracuse in 1996, and is currently the lacrosse coach of Corcoran High School. Along the way he has helped young men from a variety of backgrounds to find unity in their team and mission. He values academics and athletics, has coached a multitude of other sports as well, runs very successful off-season and summer camps, has been recognized and rewarded for his efforts, and has a winning attitude.

Coach Smith is also a long time District resident, and understands the expectations of West Genesee athletics as he had a son, Ryan, play both hockey and lacrosse for us and his daughter, Brianna, swam for West Genesee.

We expect that Coach Smith will hit the ground running and make an immediate impact. His stability, vision and experience make him a great choice to replace a legend in Coach Messere.

Congratulations to Coach Smith. He will begin lacrosse operations late next week.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Systems Check

I often equate the school year to a plane ride, and this time of the year is systems check time. This is when we kick the tires, walk around the aircraft, and figure out what is needed in order to have a successful flight. Right now things are looking good. The Marching Band got a great start, summer school and summer camps are nearing completion, and we have concluded the annual Board of Education Retreat.

Our data from the completion of last year is very positive, with a District record of 94.5% June high school completion rate (it will be higher after we account for our August graduates), which sets us up nicely to challenge the first year of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which replaces the old No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I will present much more about this when all of us are geared back into thinking about school.

Mid-summer is also when we have completed both the Boys and Girls John Pepper Lacrosse Tournaments. The boys and girls were very successful and the boys weekend that we just had also served as a great time to bid a final farewell to Boys Lacrosse coaches Mike Messere and Bob Deegan. Somewhere between 700 and 1,000 former and recent players, parents, and community members spent Saturday night reminiscing and celebrating the careers of our coaches culminating with a large retirement dinner that was held at SRC Arena. Our Athletic Director, Mike Burns, also a former player, spoke to the crowd and gave Coaches Messere and Deegan custom made and inscribed Native American lacrosse sticks. Congratulations to them! Also, we are getting closer to completing the process to find our next Boys Lacrosse coaches!

If you still aren't convinced that we are just past the mid-point of summer, take a look at "Fred." Fred is a regular at my favorite golf course and he has seen me hit some great shots, and plenty of junk shots as well. He really doesn't show any emotion either way.  If you don't have this blog to read, or a calendar to tell you it is the beginning of August, you have Fred and his antlers that are "in the velvet", which is nature's way of telling us that there is still some summer left; but we should start thinking about the fall. Hopefully, Fred makes it through the fall and winter, and I can then grab another picture of him around this time next year!

I hope that you have gotten a chance to rest a little and recharge. Keep enjoying this beautiful weather, and I will start writing a little more about back to school starting next week.

Thanks for reading!


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!


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.