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!