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February 8, 2016 - 11:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, sports.

High school student-athletes interested in playing sports in college are invited to a discussion tonight in the library of Batavia High School starting at 6:30 p.m. The workshop is open to student-athletes grades eight through 12 and their parents and will provide information on NCAA rules and requirements, eligibility, scholarships and recruiting. Kelly Cruttenden, an associate athletic director at University at Buffalo, will lead the discussion.

February 7, 2016 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, Pavilion.

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A panel of legislators and an audience of school board members and administrators who gathered in Pavilion on Saturday morning all seemed to agree that cuts in state aid to schools, mandates, and a restrictive property tax cap are hurting school districts.

School districts are in financial dire straights and can't continue to tap into reserves to provide the same level of services to students and their families was the general message of the discussion.

"What we would like to see, because we know the property tax cap is so low, what we would like to see in the Senate Republican Caucus, is eliminate the GA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) fully this year and add to the Foundation Aid so that we can fund our schools," said Sen. Cathy Young, who represents Cattaraugus County and is chair of the State Senate's Finance Committee.

Gap Elimination Adjustments were a prime target during the panel discussion. The program is a product of 2010-11 fiscal year when state funds were tight and Foundation Aid was being cut. While the word "gap" might imply the program was meant to replace what was being lost in Foundation Aid, for most school districts in the state, the program just meant fewer dollars to fund programs.

For the region, GA has cost school districts more than $140 million over the past five years. For the current fiscal year, those school districts are underfunded, officials say, by $21,447,597.

Meanwhile, the complicated tax cap formula limits any increase in school district revenue to .12 percent.

David Little, executive director of NYS Rural Schools, said there are districts that a year ago didn't need a voter-approved tax cap override, but this year, with the exact same budget, will need to go to voters for approval.

Until 2010-11, school districts were kept on a level playing field across the state through Foundation Aid. It's a complex formula but accounts for publication, household income, district size and cost of living to arrive at the size of an annual grant to school districts to ensure they have enough operational revenue.

Over the past five years, as the figures above indicate, Foundation Aid has been slashed drastically, and GA hasn't closed the gap.

The issue of mandate relief was raised early in the discussion by Paul Alioto, superintendent in Dansville, and several of the panel members responded.

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer said he was on a task force that came up with a list of 51 mandates that could be targeted for elimination, but as soon as you start to dig into them one-by-one, you find each has their constituency, people who will fight tooth and nail to keep it alive.

One of his pet mandates to eliminate is one that requires a third audit of district financial records. It costs districts from $10,000 to $100,000 annually and in Ranzenhofer's view, it's unnecessary. He was able to get a bill through that exempted the state's smallest school districts, but subsequent attempts to exempt more districts have been stymied.

"We have to be able to get (a reform) through both houses," Ranzenhofer said. "It seems like common sense to me, but there is somebody in the Assembly majority who feels it is a good idea to have these audits."

Young said mandates around special needs students are particularly contentious. Many of the mandates could be shifted to a federal budget responsibility, but at the local level, people fear change. At the local level, it's often easy to see how mandated spending on even one special needs child might lead to the elimination of an advanced placement class, which creates local conflicts, but it's difficult to shift expense responsibility to the federal government.

David Little said New York's funding formula is backward compared to just about every other state in the Union. In New York, the state picks up only about 40 percent of the cost of education; in other states, the school district is on the hook for less than 40 percent and the state covers the rest of the expense.

And that's something that could be fixed easily, Little said, at least in theory, though the politics of it are much more tricky. The state mandates a pension program that is state run, but the school districts pay into the program. If the state covered pension expense, Little said, that 40/60 split would flip. It would lift a huge expense burden from school districts.

Assemblyman Bill Nojay took aim at standardized testing. He said children need a broad range of experience and the ability to think critically. The system, he said, is forcing children at a younger and younger age into silos -- "you're going to be a doctor, you're going to be an engineer ... "

He said he was in China recently and their standardized testing is even more rigorous, and people there complain about it.

"For what purpose?" Nojay said. "No matter how good the standards, we are teaching to the test, for lack of a better term, and the obsession with testing, in my judgment, and the Chinese experience, it's not good for child development. It is immensely counterproductive to the development of a society."

Assemblyman Steve Hawley said the drift in education is being driven by a progressive agenda that is hurting America in a lot of ways, and he spoke at length about increases in the minimum wage and problems with the healthcare system.

He shared a story about a call from a restaurant owner who employs 27 servers. An increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour will cost that restaurant owner an additional $105,000 a year.

The owner also recently had a waitress and cook who fell in love and she became pregnant. The waitress did have health insurance, so the owner set her up with an appointment with a health insurance navigator. he waitress reported back that the good news was, she was going to get health insurance. The bad news was that in order to qualify, she couldn't work more than two days a week, and the child's father, a full-time cook at the restaurant, couldn't work more than three days a week.

"We've lost our way in this state with hands out instead of hands on, actually working," Hawley said. "This is not the America we grew up in. It's not the free enterprise system we all prospered under, or tried to prosper under, and that movement over the last seven years across this state is going the wrong way and it's hurting education."

January 29, 2016 - 11:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, schools, education, GSO, batavia, Batavia HS.

Anytime we cover an entertainment event at Batavia High School, we wind up with a picture of Ross Chua performing. He's very talented and very motivated. This is a photo from a talent show in June.

Besides being a performer, Chua is also a songwriter and composer. On Monday, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra played one of his compositions so it could be recorded to include with his college auditions and interviews.

This may be the first time the GSO performed a composition by a local high school student.

Here's the video:

January 26, 2016 - 2:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Imagination Station, batavia, schools.

Press release from Imagination Station:

Due to the water main break in between the Robert Morris School and Notre Dame School, we are having to close our Batavia facility early today. We request that all students are picked up by 3:30 p.m. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

January 26, 2016 - 2:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education, ugandan water project.

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Press release:

On Jan. 25, students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School hosted representatives from the Ugandan Water Project, a humanitarian organization headquartered in Bloomfield that works with communities in Africa to provide safe, accessible drinking water.

After learning how precious water is to children and families in Uganda, students took on the challenge to help raise funds to install a rainwater collection system at a school there. The system will serve a community of almost 400 people for up to 35 years. Byron-Bergen students will change lives.

“It is just as important to us to help kids here in Byron-Bergen see how powerful they are; how every one of them is capable of changing the world, as it is to bring safe drinking water to villages in Uganda,” said Ugandan Water Project Executive Director James Harrington. “Our purpose is to help kids grow on both continents.

"The connection between Byron-Bergen and Uganda began last year with a chance meeting between Harrington and third-grade teacher Lynnette Gall. Thanks to the elementary school’s Character Education Committee, with help from educational experts at the Ugandan Water Project, teachers school-wide are incorporating the concept of water as a valuable resource into their studies of world culture, geography, and science.

Students will learn how water is used, where water comes from, about the water cycle, and the problems caused by unequal distribution of water around the world.

The Ugandan Water Project presentation began with joyful Ugandan folk music played by Harrington, and a chance for children to try out traditional dance steps. Students then experienced what it is like to try to carry a 40- to 50-pound container of water — a task faced by many Ugandan children who live over an hour from their water source.

Harrington and Ugandan Water Project Communications Lead Megan Busch then spoke about their water projects, over 250 currently, and demonstrated how something as simple as a small filter can make unsanitary water safe to drink.

The nonprofit Ugandan Water Project was founded in 2008, and works with more than 200 communities in Uganda. Their water solutions include rainwater collection systems, well repair and water purification systems. To contribute to Byron-Bergen Elementary School’s campaign visit http://ugandanwaterproject.com/product/byron-bergen/ by Feb. 12.

Top photo: Special water filters can purify otherwise undrinkable water. Byron-Bergen students and their teachers join Ugandan Water Project Executive Director James Harrington in sampling clean, safe filtered water.

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Byron-Bergen Elementary School students shake their tail feathers as part of a traditional Ugandan dance.

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Students try to imagine carrying heavy containers of water over long distances. Many Ugandan children their age face this daunting task every day. 

January 21, 2016 - 2:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

This year’s National Geographic Society Geography Bees for grades seven and eight, and grades four through six were held earlier this month at the Byron-Bergen Junior High and Elementary schools. All of the participants qualified after earning high scores on written tests taken in December.

At the Junior High, the top student performers were — Grade eight: Caitlin Ashton, Siomara Caballero, Alex Dean, Kyle Foeller, Sara Fraser, Coltin Henry, Connor Kaminski, Cambria Kinkelaar, Garrett Swinter, Justice Towne, Hannah VanSkiver, Abby Vurraro, and Grant Williams. Grade seven: Nick Baubie, Ricky Denson, Josh Fleming, Colby Leggo, John Mercovich, Isaiah Merrell, Zechariah Merrell, Andrew Parnapy, Deacon Smith, and Josh Swapceinski.

The very smartest Bees on this side of the globe were students Ricky Denson and Alex Dean, who competed in the event’s Championship Round. Denson was able to answer all three final questions correctly and was declared the Junior High School Geography Bee Champion. He was awarded a $25 Amazon.com gift card. As the runner-up, Dean received a $15 Amazon.com gift card.

The next step for Denson will be a written test. If his score is one of the 100 highest in the state, he will be invited to take part in the New York State Bee. State winners compete in the National Geography Bee in Washington, D.C., hosted by Alex Trebek from the “Jeopardy” TV show.

At the Elementary School, there were also many outstanding competitors: Jared Barnum, Dayanara Caballero, Cameron Carlson, Caris Carlson, Braedyn Chambry, Sadie Cook, Evan Cuba, Gianni Ferrara, Emily Henry, Frank Hersom, Grace Huhn, Brooke Jarkiewicz, Ryan Muscarella, Stephanie Onderdonk, Madelynn Pimm, Elizabeth Piper, Carter Prinzi, Elli Schelemanow, Grace Shepard, Ella VanValkenburg, Alexandra Vurraro, Dawson Young, Corden Zimmerman, and Nicholas Zwerka.

The new 2016 Champion Corden Zimmerman, a sixth-grader, will also be taking a written exam in hopes of qualifying for the state competition. Fifth-grader Cameron Carlson was the runner-up.

District teachers and counselors also played a part in the success of the events. At the Elementary School: Judges Craig Schroth, Erin Varley, and Liz Findlay; moderator Rick Merritt; and Bee Coordinator Ken Rogoyski. At the Jr. High School: Judges Rob Kaercher, Matt Walther, and Bryan Kavanaugh; moderator Debbie Slocum; organizer Ken Gropp; and Interim Dean of Students Aaron Clark.

Top photo: Elementary School Geogrpahy Bee Champion Corden Zimmerman.

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Byron-Bergen Junior High School participants in the National Geographic Society Geography Bee for grades seven and eight.

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Junior High Geography Bee Champion Ricky Denson, Mr. Gropp, and runner-up Alex Dean.

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Contestants from grades four through six in the 2016 National Geographic Society Geography Bee at Byron-Bergen Elementary School.

January 20, 2016 - 3:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, schools, education.

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Press release:

Four students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center recently competed in the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association (NFADA) Ron Smith Memorial AutoTech Competition. This event was held on Jan. 16 at Erie Community College.

Santiago Deluna, from Batavia CS, and Tyler Weaver, from Pavilion CS, both juniors, competed in the tire rodeo. This timed event tested the students’ speed and accuracy as they demonstrated their expertise on the Hunter TC3700 tire changer. Both students were required to take an exam about tire theory. This team placed second. Tyler took first place for the highest test score and won a Best Buy gift card.

Seniors Dylan Binnert, from Caledonia-Mumford CS, and Dan Cone, from Pavilion CS, participated in a three-part competition. The first section of the competition was comprised of workstations that included front-end alignment, wheel balance, brake systems, electrical repair, precision measurement, and noise and vibration diagnosis. The second phase of the competition included debugging a 2016 Ford F150 Truck. The competition concluded with a mock employment interview.

Dylan and Dan, the senior team, earned first place and will advance to the national competition in New York City at the end of March. This trip is an all expenses paid trip funded by the Niagara Frontier Automotive Dealer Association. Dunn Tire, LLC, sponsored the competition.

All four young men are students in the Auto Technology Program at the Batavia CTE. Bob Yates is the instructor.

Photo: Scott Bieler, president of West Herr Ford; Dylan Binnert; Dan Cone; and Bob Yates, celebrate the team’s first-place win in the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association (NFADA) Ron Smith Memorial AutoTech Competition.

January 15, 2016 - 1:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, schools, education, nutrition.

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It was celebrity chef night at Le Roy High School on Thursday, with three local chefs acting as instructors for a group of teachers who competed against each other to create the best healthy meal.

While awards were given for best salad and best entree, the evening was really about providing a real-world lesson in healthy eating, said Michelle Sherman, a phys-ed teacher and coordinator of the wellness program at the school.

"It's so easy to create these meals out of just stuff you would have in a pantry and you don't have to go pick up fast food," Sherman said. "It's easy, and it's fun. You can have a nice fun family night by doing all of this."

The local chefs instructing the teams were Selby Davis, Hassan Silmi and Sam Hillburger. On Davis's team were Erica Jermy and Kim Cox. On Silmi's team were Julie Coleman and Mike Humphrey. On Hillburger's team were Tatyana Qadiri and Pete Green.

The judges are students in the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES, and they were Emily McVicker, Abbey Cacner, Steven Stephany and Nicholas Shepard.

Brian Moran was emcee.

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January 15, 2016 - 1:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in micheal ranzenhofer, schools, education.

Press release:

The New York State Senate has passed legislation that completely abolishes the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) this year. Nearly $434 million in GEA cuts remain for schools in 2016-17.

Senator Michael Ranzenhofer voted in favor of the bill.

“One of the top priorities for this Legislative Session is to get rid of the GEA budgets cuts. I am proud to support the Senate-approved legislation as the first order of business. It’s time for the Assembly Democrats to join with us,” Ranzenhofer said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a phase-out of the GEA over two years during his State of the State address.

“We must end the disastrous GEA this year. The time is overdue to eliminate the GEA, along with its devastating impact on funding for public schools,” Ranzenhofer said. “Abolishing the GEA will finally restore millions of dollars in state aid to our schools and build a better future for our children.”

The GEA was first imposed in 2010 by former Governor David Paterson and the Democrats who controlled the Senate and Assembly. Senator Ranzenhofer voted against the GEA because it made severe cuts to the bottom lines of school districts in Western New York. Since it was first approved, Senator Ranzenhofer has been leading the charge to eradicate the GEA and deliver major funding increases to help mitigate its devastating impact on education.

In the past five years, the GEA cuts have been reduced by approximately 85 percent. Last year alone, Senator Ranzenhofer successfully pushed for an additional $603 million to help schools overcome the GEA challenge.

The bill has been sent to the State Assembly.

January 11, 2016 - 10:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, byron, bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

Sixth-grader Elli Schelemanow bested 22 other participants in the annual Robert Fowler/Byron-Bergen Grades 6-8 and Buffalo Evening News Spelling Bee held last month. Schelemanow now represents Byron-Bergen in the run for regional representation at The Scripps National Spelling Bee. Up next for her is a written test in early February to determine her eligibility for the regional spelling bee. That competition, The Western New York Oral Final, will be held on Sunday, March 13, at 1:30 p.m. at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Runners-up this year are Byron-Bergen seventh-grader Joshua Swapceinski and eighth-grader Garrett Swinter. The competition put all the students through their paces, with eight challenging rounds and scores of demanding words before a champion emerged. The competition was moderated by teacher Andrew McNeil; with instructors Charlene Kelly, Laurie Penepent, and Diana Walther acting as judges. 

Byron-Bergen’s exceptional spelling contestants:

Grade 6: Corey Abdella, Madison Burke, Sadie Cook, Grace Huhn, Elli Schelemanow, Alex Toal, Ella Van Valkenburg, Hallie Wade, and Corden Zimmerman. 
Grade 7: Julietta Doyle, Josh Fleming, Gavin Lewis, John Mercovich, Alaura Rehwaldt, Sarah Streeter, and Josh Swapceinski.
Grade 8: Siomara Caballero, Alex Dean, Cambria Kinkelaar, Ethan Ray, Garrett Swinter, Justice Towne, and Grant Williams.

Byron-Bergen’s Jr./Sr. High School Interim Principal Patrick McGee congratulated Shelemanow, Swapceinski, Swinter, and all the participants.

“Our schools are proud to have Elli represent us, and I’m confident she will do a great job,” he said. “All our kids did impressive work with very difficult spelling challenges. McGee also wished to thank all the teachers at the Elementary School and Junior HS for their support, “especially Jason Blom and Elizabeth Findley and the sixth-grade team.”           

Top photo: Robert Fowler/Byron-Bergen Grades 6-8 and Buffalo Evening News Spelling Bee (l-r) runner-up Garrett Swinter, Bee champion Elli Schelemanow, and runner-up Joshua Swapceinski. 

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January 8, 2016 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education.

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Parents and other community members were invited to the library of Batavia High School last night to learn about how the City School District has been implementing technology in the classroom.

District officials shared how technology is being used and how they would like to improve the use of technology with the help of money from the Smart School Bond Act. The district is applying for $2.1 million in state grant money to upgrade the district's technology infrastructure and purchase technology equipment. 

It's an increase in attention on technology that the district has been preparing to implement for a couple of years, Superintendent Chris Dailey said.

One goal is to provide each high school student and eventually, students at the lower grades, with smart devices that connect to the Internet at school. Part of the money from the state will be used to improve the wi-fi infrastructure to support that level of always-on connectivity. 

"Go on any college campus right now, walk into a classroom or lecture hall, there's no pen and paper anymore," Daily said. "It's all utilizing a device. When you're going into most industries now, people are using these kinds of things. We're trying to put those kinds of devices into the hands of our students at a younger age so they're natives to it versus visiting the technology."

Whether a student comes out of high school bound for college or going straight into a career, the future belongs to those with the technology skills needed to compete in the digital age.

"This doesn't replace the instruction that's going on," Daily said. "We want to prepare students for the world that we don't know will exist in a couple of years, with jobs that are evolving as we speak at things like the STAMP project, or you look at what's going on in the incubators in the Rochester and Buffalo area with new businesses evolving all the time at the unviersities. We want to put our kids at an advantage so that when they come out they can walk into those jobs with some skills that other kinds may not have in our region."

Top photo: Mason Battaglia shows off a 3D printer. One of the things he was able to do with the printer was solve a problem for the marching band. The drummers needed glow-in-the-dark mallets, so Mason used the 3D printer to make them.

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December 22, 2015 - 4:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

A standing-room-only audience of more than 200 filled the Elementary Cafetorium at Byron-Bergen Elementary School on Dec. 21 to hear the school’s kindergarteners greet the holiday season with music. The annual Holidays Around the World event is the culmination of the children’s study of world cultural diversity through understanding holiday customs. This year, the program featured songs and carols highlighting seasonal traditions from Germany, Mexico, Israel and England.

Teacher Melissa Chamberlain presented the program, introducing the students from her kindergarten class and the classes of fellow teachers Beth Amidon, Shana Feissner and Lori Simmons. Accompanist and former kindergarten teacher, Marsha MacConnell, who has been part of the proceedings for many years, played the piano. Dressed in their finest festive garb and wearing elf hats they made themselves, the children enthusiastically launched into their performance.

Songs included a demanding Spanish rendition of “Casca Bells,” “Oh Christmas Tree” from Germany, complete with dancing trees, and “Deck the Halls,” which celebrated the English tradition of caroling. The young performers also represented the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah with a version of “I’ve Been Lighting All the Candles.” Favorite songs were not forgotten: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” were all part of the fun.

After the singing concluded, parents and students enjoyed punch and cookies, and had the opportunity to speak with hosts Principal Brian Meister and Assistant Principal Amanda Cook, along with the kindergarten teachers.

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December 12, 2015 - 10:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, batavia, schools, education.

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Jackson School continued a 25-year tradition this morning with its annual Breakfast with Santa.

It's a chance for the children to come with the school on a morning that is all about fun and family, said Principal Diane Bonarigo. 

The event includes gifts, games, crafts, chance auctions, breakfast and, of course, a few minutes on Santa's lap and a whisper in his ear of what toys under the tree would most delight the children come Christmas morning.

Bonarigo said Michelle Miller, president of the parent-teachers group, deserves a great deal of credit for putting together this year's event.

More than 800 students and adults were expected to attend this year.

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December 8, 2015 - 1:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

The third-annual Reading Celebration at Byron-Bergen Elementary School got off to rollicking start with a farmyard-themed event on Nov. 20. Students were in the mood, wearing straw cowboy hats, overalls, and bandannas. Teachers dressed as cows, pigs, and singing farmhands hit the stage to build excitement for the challenge ahead: reading 25,000 books (almost 50 per student) before the end of the school year.

Students have consistently surpassed their reading goals since the challenge began in 2013; last year beating their target of 20,000 books by almost 4,000.

“Reading really is fun. We want kids to enjoy it and develop the reading habit now while they are young,” said Principal Brian Meister. “The motivation this year is the promise of a very special farm-themed reward in June. We’ll make all their hard work pay off in an event to remember.”

The assembly kicked off with Byron-Bergen parent Alyson Tardy, her backup teacher/singers and the student population singing and dancing to “Read a Book” — a special version of Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off.” Then Assistant Principal Amanda Cook played the starring role in a skit based on “Little Pig Joins the Band,” a favorite children’s book by David Hyde Costello.

Things got even more boisterous with an enthusiastic gameshow version of Pictionary, with students trying to guess which favorite books were being represented by teacher-drawn pictures. The festive atmosphere continued with a colorful quartet of Book Fairies (more enthusiastic teachers) who awarded a free book to one child from each class. 

Top photo: Reading is fun at Byron-Bergen Elementary School and a new book makes the day complete for student Mace Tyson.

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Byron-Bergen Elementary School teachers perform “Read a Book,” with a little help from the audience of young readers. 

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Assistant Principal Amanda Cook puts on a pig nose to lead the band and advance the celebration of reading at Byron-Bergen Elementary.

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The Byron-Bergen Book Fairies made sure that outstanding representatives from each class got their very own new book.

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Byron-Bergen student Gianni Ferrara is already well on the way to making sure the goal of reading 25,000 books is reached.

November 20, 2015 - 9:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, schools, education, Wonderland of Trees, hlom.

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Photo by Nicole Tamfer; info submitted by Diane Bonarigo.

Jackson Primary School students and staff decorate Jackson's Community Caring Tree for The Wonderland of Trees at HLOM. Jackson students created ornaments in Art class of many different people and organizations that help the school each year. Some of the ornaments included, firemen, police officers, volunteer readers, military personnel, bus drivers, dentists, Cornell Cooperative Extension reps,  and JAHA.

The students were reminded through this project how much the Batavia Community cares about the children. (First picture) Brock Bigsby, Nolan Wright, Connor Malone Wesley Fisher, Carleigh Miller, Ryan Bigsby, Lauren Nelson,  and Reese Koukides, Mrs. Bonarigo, Mr. Sloan, Mr. Calandra, Mrs. Mundell, Mrs. Koukides, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Tamfer, Mrs. Bigsby, Mrs. Torrey.

The Wonderland of Trees opens tonight with a gala starting at 7 o'clock.

November 9, 2015 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

Students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School have focused their efforts on an impressive goal to benefit their school for well over a year. They have been busy planning, organizing, budgeting, working with partners, and raising needed funds. They finally saw all their hard work pay off at an outdoor ceremony at the school’s playground on Nov. 4 when Principal Brian Meister cut the ribbon and opened the new four square playing court.

The project began with the school’s Student Council. Student leaders from grades four through six recognized that a need existed for a safer location for students to play the popular playground game, four square. For years, students had played on a concrete sidewalk next to the parking lot. Errant balls often came much too close to cars and traffic. Student leaders created a proposal to build a new play area with a permanent four square court, partnering up with the community's STEP Boosters, and finding support from the Board of Education and administration leaders.

They planned and organized a number of successful fundraising events and activities. Students researched court building guidelines and rules, designed the court, managed the budget, hired contractors, and directed the work.

“This project came straight from student ideas and has been entirely executed by our students,” Meister said. “It is reality today because our students made it happen.”

The opening ceremony featured a short speech from Student Council President Elli Schelemanow, who thanked the Board of Education, the Byron-Bergen Administration, the Bergen Highway Department, The Pike Company, the Byron-Bergen Maintenance Department, Visual Impact Signs and Graphics, and the elementary school Art teacher Melissa Coniglio. Student Council Vice President Frank Hersom, Treasurer Lexi Vurraro, and Secretary Kendall Phillips were also on hand to assist in the ribbon-cutting, along with BOE President Debra List and Amy Phillips, and STEP Boosters Treasurer Carrie Baubie.

The student court design includes four courts for four square play, with additional areas for shuffleboard and hopscotch. 

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November 7, 2015 - 11:09am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, schools, education.

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Assistant Principal Jon Wilson, left, and Principal Carol Messura greet students Friday during a celebration of Wolcott Street School's designation as a 2015 National School of Character. 

Call it a show of good character, featuring a cast of “good characters.”

About 700 of them, to be exact.

The Wolcott Street School community gathered along Trigon Park on Friday afternoon to celebrate — cheerfully and loudly — its designation as a 2015 National School of Character.

Principal Carol Messura and Assistant Principal Jon Wilson arrived aboard a Le Roy Fire Department ladder truck, which carried a National School of Character banner and was escorted by the fire department along Main Street to the school.

They exchanged high-fives with students, before heading indoors for an assembly in Memorial Auditorium.

The elementary school was named a National School of Character in May by Character.org (formerly the Character Education Partnership), a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for character education. School administrators traveled to Atlanta last month to accept the honor.

Messura said it’s something to share.

“This award represents every single student, every staff member, every worker here, every parent, every administrator past and present, board members, families and our fabulous community at large,” she told students.

“This award lives in all of you.”

National Schools of Character are schools and districts where character education has had a positive impact on academics, student behavior and school climate, according to Character.org. Designated schools have the right to use the National School of Character name and logo for five years.

Messura said 276 schools from across the United States applied for the honor this year. Wolcott Street School was one of only 64 schools and three districts that were awarded.

For Wolcott Street School, the story actually began about 15 years ago, when a Character Education Committee was created under the direction of then-principal Jim Thompson.

After his retirement, the character education program continued under his successor, Casey Kosiorek. The school earned a “Promising Practices” award in 2010, the same year it adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. 

Wolcott Street School was named a New York State School of Character in 2012.

Thompson and Kosiorek were among local dignitaries on stage for Friday’s celebration.

“You know what we’re all here for? To make a difference with kids,” said Thompson, who now directs the Instructional Coaching Service for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.

The Character Education Committee was formed in light of changing times, Thompson said. It had become clear that developing good character, was a responsibility schools had to share.

“It needed to be taught and it needed to be celebrated,” Thompson said. “And not in a heavy-handed way, but in a good way.”

Highlights from the assembly:

— John Panepento and Riley Wood each spoke on behalf of the sixth grade, which was asked to describe what character education has meant to them.

— Sixth-graders also sang “Hakuna Matata,” from Disney’s “The Lion King Kids.” The class presented the musical — to rave reviews — on Thursday.

— Wilson announced that every student will receive a T-shirt to commemorate Friday’s celebration. Students chose shirts over wristbands in a school-wide vote.

Friday’s celebration capped “Character Day” at WSS. Students participated in class activities throughout the day.

“Building character in each and every classroom is really our goal,” Wilson said.

“There’s a lot going on in education right now,” he added. “But we can never lose sight of the fact that character education is the heartbeat of our school district.”

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Wolcott Street School Principal Carol Messura and Assistant Principal Jon Wilson, center, are pictured Friday with former principals Jim Thompson, left, and Casey Kosiorek.

November 6, 2015 - 3:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education, Bullying.

bbbully_nov62015-1.jpg

Press release (submitted photos):

For the third year, the Byron-Bergen Elementary School community of students and teachers united to celebrate their culture of diversity and anti-bullying.

The afternoon of October 27 began with a school tradition: the photograph of more than 500 students, taken from the vantage point of the school's rooftop. Their matching anti-bullying T-shirts featured the District's strategic goal for the year, "Creating leaders one student at a time."

After the photo was taken, the school gathered for its annual Anti-Bullying Assembly. Principal Brian Meister started things off with an acknowledgement of the District's recent designation by Character.org as a New York District of Character, thanking the students for making their school a shining example.

Much of the afternoon's entertainment was based on Carol McCloud's award-winning book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" "Bucket fillers" say and do nice things and help fill people's emotional buckets with positive feelings, while "bucket dippers" treat others hurtfully and leave them feeling sad and empty. Teachers and students presented a gameshow-type skit, complete with prizes, where student contestants had to guess whether teachers were demonstrating bucket-filling or bucket-dipping behavior. 

The school recognized participants in the 2015 Empire State Games with a special video commemoration of the event and an awards presentation. The proud winners included students: Camryn Brookhart, Robbie Gaylord, John Klafehn, Draven Liles, Chelsea Vanelli, and Emily Yun.

The school's Students of the Month and the Sixth-Grade Safety Patrol also received special honors.

The assembly included music, provided by the sixth-grade choir, a great dance number illustrating beauty in diversity, and a promise from the newest Pre-K members of the Byron-Bergen school community, to support others and report bullying behavior. Older students led the assembly in reciting the Seven Habits from the school's Leader in Me Program, which along with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program forms the foundation for Byron-Bergenís character-building success. 

For more information on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program visit HYPERLINK "http://www.violencepreventionworks.org" http://www.violencepreventionworks.org. For information on The Leader in Me visit HYPERLINK "http://www.theleaderinme.org" www.theleaderinme.org.  

November 3, 2015 - 10:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy central schools, transgender, education, schools.

A conservative Christian group based in Arizona has issued a press release challenging the Le Roy Central School District for its handling of a reportedly transgender student and the student's access to locker rooms and restrooms. In a separate letter to the district and released by Alliance Defending Freedom, the advocacy group states that some male students are uncomfortable sharing facilities with a female student who identifies as male, but gives no indication that ADF actually represents any local residents.

The press release invites any district parents concerned about the issue to commence legal proceedings against the district. The district has not issued a statement in response to the press release from ADF.

Press release (links within the press release are to third-party sites):

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Friday to the Le Roy Central School District Board of Education that asks it to reverse a recent decision by district staff to allow students to use locker rooms and restrooms of the opposite sex. The letter provides a suggested policy that addresses the school district’s concerns about discrimination without allowing the sharing of restrooms.

The ADF letter explains that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, as the letter notes, the district could be exposing itself to legal liability for violating students’ right to bodily privacy.

“Protecting students from inappropriate exposure to the opposite sex is not only perfectly legal, it’s a school district’s duty,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Letting boys into girls’ locker rooms and restrooms is an invasion of privacy and a threat to student safety.”

In December 2014, ADF sent public school districts nationwide a similar letter that it has now provided to Le Roy Central School District. All of the ADF letters cite pertinent legal precedent, including court rulings that support the ability of public schools to limit restrooms to members of the same sex for privacy and safety reasons without violating Title IX, a federal law concerning sex discrimination in public school programs and activities.

“Allowing students to use opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms would seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, prejudice religious students’ free exercise rights, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning,” the ADF letter to Le Roy Central School District explains.

“ADF’s policy allows schools to accommodate students with unique privacy needs, including transgender students, while also protecting other students’ privacy and free exercise rights, and parents’ right to educate their children.”

The ADF letter also offers to evaluate the situation and potentially offer free legal assistance if anyone files a lawsuit against the recommended policy.

“Schools can accommodate a small number of students that have different needs without compromising the rights of other children and their parents,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “No child should be forced into an intimate setting – like a bathroom or a locker room – with a child of the opposite sex.”

October 22, 2015 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education.

caseybb2015_0.jpgPress release from the Hilton Central School District:

The Hilton Board of Education has selected Casey Kosiorek as the next superintendent of the Hilton Central School District pending formal appointment to the position at the next Board of Education meeting on Oct. 27. He will step into this role when David Dimbleby retires at the end of this calendar year.

“The Hilton School District Board of Education would like to sincerely thank the staff and community members who participated in the search process,” said Board President Daniel Wellington. “We have reviewed all the information given to us from the finalist interviews as well as their Day in the District. Together with our own observations and your invaluable input, we have taken great care to select our next leader and are confident that Casey will carry on the tradition of keeping our schools at the heart of the community.”

Kosiorek is currently the superintendent of the Byron-Bergen Central School District and has served in that position since 2012. Kosiorek earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Master of Science degree in Education from Canisius College. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Rochester.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected as the next Superintendent of Schools for the Hilton Central School District,” Kosiorek said. “I look forward to learning and understanding the great pride, traditions, and work that has taken place and I’m excited about working with all stakeholders in the Hilton learning community to continue on the trajectory that has been set on doing what is best for our students. My family and I look forward to becoming a part of the community in the near future. I am humbled by this opportunity.”

The Board worked with Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES District Superintendent and Search Consultant Jo Anne L. Antonacci throughout the search process. Wellington stated, “The Board was very pleased with the process that Mrs. Antonacci led us through and the resulting selection of our new Superintendent.”

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