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June 26, 2015 - 3:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, batavia, City Schools, education, schools.

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It was a big day for the students at Jackson School. They moved up a grade, receiving certificates of continuation from administrators during a ceremony in the Batavia High School auditorium.

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June 23, 2015 - 7:15pm
posted by Traci Turner in st. joseph school, education, Batavia Kiwanis Club.

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After raising money all year long, the Kiwanis K-Kids Club presented checks to the YWCA and Genesee County Child Advocacy Center this afternoon. The children selected a total of six organizations to receive donations. The other organizations were Strong Memorial Hospital's Cardiac Unit, Golisano Children's Hospital, Smile Train and Genesee County Animal Shelter.

The children raised money through various fundraisers including selling flowers, candy-grams and pies.

The extracurricular club focuses on serving the community and the school population. Mary Case, a first-grade teacher at St. Joseph School, is the club's advisor.

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The children presenting a check to Jeanne Walton, executive director of the YWCA. They raised $98 for the YWCA.

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The club presenting a check to Anne Bezon, supervisor of the Genesee County Child Advocacy Center. They raised $100 for the center.

June 22, 2015 - 4:10pm
posted by Traci Turner in Batavia High School, prom, education.

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(Jarrett Laskett, Shontee Allis and Allison Della Penna. Photo taken by Laura Tenebruso.)

It was Batavia senior Allison Della Penna's plan all along to give her crown to Shontee Allis, a senior with Down Syndrome, if she was named Batavia High School's 2015 Prom Queen on Saturday night.

When Della Penna was announced as Senior Prom Queen, she immediately went up on stage and declared Allis to take her place.

"I knew it would make her so happy and it doesn't really mean anything to me," Della Penna said. "I mean it's nice that people wanted to vote for me but it's something that she is going to remember for the rest of her life."

Allis was all smiles when Della Penna, her friend, called her up on stage and put the crown on her head. She had always dreamed of being named prom queen.

"I was excited," Allis said. "It's good to be queen."

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( Allison Della Penna crowning Shontee Allis. Photo taken by Laura Tenebruso.)

Principal Scott Wilson has been to more than 40 proms and has never seen anything like it.

"It was absolutely wonderful," Wilson said. "I have never been a part of such a great group of kids and Allison just represented them so well. It was a very selfless thing to do."

Laura Tenebruso, English teacher and senior class advisor, has known Della Penna since she was in middle school and wasn't surprised when she made the selfless act because that is just the kind of person she is.

"Allison is a loving, giving and compassionate person," Tenebruso said.

After Allis was named Prom Queen, she and Prom King Jarrett Laskett danced to her favorite "Frozen" theme song, "Let It Go."

Allis told Della Penna she couldn't wait to watch "Frozen" and dance with her crown on. According to Allis's younger sister, Summer Mims-Allis, she wears the crown everywhere she goes.

Della Penna and Allis became friends on the school's senior trip last week. Della Penna really clicked with Allis's funny and friendly personality.

"She is always so happy and that is something that I really liked," Della Penna said. "She always wants to make sure everyone is happy and smiling. Everyone should have just a tiny bit of her happiness."

Nancy Brandon, Allis's mom, was amazed by how great the senior class has been to her daughter.

"The senior class has literally took Shontee underneath their arms and just made her feel so special," Brandon said. 

According to Wilson, Batavia High School has a saying "take care of BHS by taking care of others" and he feels Della Penna has really done that by honoring Allis as Prom Queen.

June 19, 2015 - 9:55pm
posted by Traci Turner in Jackson Primary School, education.

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With the hard work of all the first-graders and their reading efforts, the animals were able to get back to their normal habitats at the Jackson Zoo today.

Faculty dressed up as zookeepers and animals to put on a closing play and reward students for their reading achievements. With everyone’s help, the zoo was back to normal.

The play was a part of the Parents as Reading Partners program, which began on March 16 with a challenge for students. Faculty put on an opening play showing the zoo animals had gone wild. The animals were eating the wrong foods and living in the wrong places. The zookeepers asked students to help them solve the problem.

To help zoo animals get back to their normal habitat, students were required to read at home for 15 minutes every night. Students had to get a ticket signed by a parent once they completed their reading and return it to school every day.

During the program, the students read a total of 441,000 minutes. For all their effort, they were rewarded with prizes and received a new book to take home at the end of the play.

Heather Landers, first-grade special education teacher, organized the play.

“The program aligned with the curriculum so kids could connect what they were learning in class to the reading,” Landers said. “The kids got excited about reading and loved the play.”

The play was one of many reading incentives students participated in. Other events included a Family Reading Night, Fairytale event and reading with members of the Genesee County Bar Association.

Principal Diane Bonarigo has been thrilled with her students’ reading progress.

“I’m so excited 80 percent of our children are reading at grade level or above,” Bonarigo said. “I have seen the children significantly improve in reading this year.”

Bonarigo hopes children will continue reading and be lifelong learners.

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June 13, 2015 - 5:28pm

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(Photo: Edwin Cooney)

Members of the New York State School for the Blind Alumni Association met for their annual reunion to recall memories with their schoolmates and reinforce their connection to the school. The opening ceremony was in the auditorium at Severne Hall last night.

Tom Flaherty, vice president of the alumni association, led the ceremony. Barbara Lemen, NYSSB superintendent, gave a speech about the school’s recent efforts to increase educational opportunities for current students.

Following Lemen, Edwin Cooney, president of the alumni association, shared history of the school through a trivia game he created. Winners received prizes including key chains and soil from the school grounds.

Cooney thought the soil would help bring back fond memories alumni made at the school. He remembers when he first attended kindergarten there in 1950 like it was yesterday.

“There were 16 boys and 16 girls in the old kindergarten building,” Cooney said. “We were in big dorms and there was a bed in each corner. You could fit 16 beds in the room so it was all very communal and very new for most of us.”

Cooney adapted to the culture quickly but felt isolated from the rest of the Batavia community. When he graduated in 1966, it took him a while to adjust socially at college because he never had the experience of going to a public school.

“Some of us were shocked when we went to college and found some people were afraid of us,” Cooney said.

Diane Scalzi, corresponding secretary for the alumni association, first attended the school in February 1957 but left three years later to attend public school. Her experience at public school helped her socially to interact with sighted students but she was concerned she wouldn’t have equal educational opportunities. As a result, in 1960 she returned to the school and graduated in 1971.

“I was worried that if I went to public school I would not get gym classes, Home Economics classes and mobility,” Scalzi said. “I was able to get through college and have a career because of my education at the school.”

Chet Smalley, treasurer of the alumni association, was in fourth grade when he came to the school in 1964 and graduated in 1973. He participated in student council, the Key Club and wrestling.

“The evolution that those of us at NYSSB were able to experience was the fact that we were able to grow up as ‘normal’ children because our blindness was incidental,” Smalley said. “We did everything else that normal children could do and that was the beauty of the school.”

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(From left: Diane Scalzi, Linda Smalley, Chet Smalley and Edwin Cooney)

Tonight the association will have its annual banquet and Sunday members will hold a memorial service to remember alumni who have passed away.

Moving forward, alumni officers are planning the association’s 100th-anniversary celebration in 2018. The officers are working with Lemen to help encourage more graduates to join the alumni association. They hope recent graduates will show interest in becoming members.

“We don’t have a member in the association that is under 50 years old,” Cooney said. “We need to acquire more members because we are getting old and need to start caring for each other.”

The alumni association has also expanded its eligibility to allow graduate’s spouses to become members. The association hopes by working with the community they can continue their legacy and pass their memories onto future generations.

June 13, 2015 - 1:30pm
posted by Traci Turner in pembroke high school, education.

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(Photo: Eric Johnson)

Eric Johnson, visual arts instructor at Pembroke High School, strives to teach his students principles of design so they can apply it to real world experiences. 

Johnson has been teaching a variety of art, design and photography classes at the school for 14 years. He rotates teaching different art classes with Rebecca Schuler, the school's other visual arts instructor.

"I try to tie things they learn with the work world so they don't think art lives in a bubble," Johnson said. "I want them to realize most of what is around us has been created by someone in the art field in some capacity."

A recent project Johnson assisted his students with was designing the new Village of Corfu signs. Last school year the village board asked the school if they would be willing to have students complete the project. Johnson first introduced the project to his advanced drawing and painting students and they came up with sketch ideas. After narrowing down 50 sketches he received from the students, he gave 30 sketches to the village board to review over the summer. The board selected different designs for the four new signs. Emily Verdaasdonk, senior, created three of the designs and Nicole Franclemont, senior, made the fourth design.

In September, Verdaasdonk and Franclemont, and four other seniors, Sabrina Sanner, Nikita Harding, Morgan Smykowski and Bailey Groth, started drawing and painting the signs. The project was not a part of any class so Johnson helped the girls, who worked on the signs during lunches and study halls all year long.

"The students were invested in their designs," Johnson said. "The project was like their baby so they came and religiously worked on it."

The signs were just completed a few weeks ago and will be up soon.

In addition to the sign project, Johnson selects students' art projects to be showcased in seven or eight local art shows every year. In the last few years, Johnson has noticed his students have been winning awards at local art shows.

"I think Pembroke has created a reputation at some of these art shows because students have been taking first and second place for two and three years in a row," Johnson said.

In this year's GO! Art Show, 12 students had their work featured including Verdaasdonk's ceramic tree. The ceramic piece was fired in a kiln Johnson and his students built out of a garbage can.

Johnson's favorite part about teaching is knowing when one of his students is truly in love with their artwork and is proud of it. He has been passionate about art since he was a child. He grew up in North Tonawanda with his parents and two brothers. 

"My father and I would make books together," Johnson said. "He would help me write and I would illustrate them."

One of Johnson's professors encouraged him to become a teacher so he could help students practice art. He holds an associate degree in the visual arts from Niagara County Community College and a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Buffalo. He earned his master's degree and teaching certification from Buffalo State College.

He currently lives in the Town of Tonawanda with his wife and two children. In his free time he enjoys creating sculptures and digital photography. In the future, he would like to have his own art show. 

June 12, 2015 - 9:03am
posted by Traci Turner in Notre Dame, schools, education.

Notre Dame High School ranks in the Buffalo Business First's top 15 percent of all secondary high schools in Western New York for eight consecutive years.

For 2015, Notre Dame ranked 17th out of 136 secondary high schools in WNY. The school was also rated the No. 1 secondary school in Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties and No. 1 private catholic coeducational high school in WNY for eight consecutive years.

In athletics, the Fighting Irish interscholastic athletic program ranked 10th for two consecutive years and No. 1 in Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties.

"I have to stay that I'm very proud of our students," Principal Joseph Scanlan said. "They work very hard and you don't get to achieve those kind of accomplishments without hard work. I'm proud of our teachers, faculty and staff. They have high expectations and encourage our students to do the best and it's paying off."

Every year Business First ranks schools based on academic performance. All the schools are judged in areas including regents exam scores, graduation rates and levels of diplomas.

For math and science regents' scores, the school received a 5 out of 5 recognition. For English regents scores, the school received a 4 out of 5 recognition.

"The tradition has been students are going to come here and do a good job in school and their going to be leaders and give back to the community," Scanlan said. "Put all those things together and they line up with results like we got."

Notre Dame's Class of 2015 Valedictorian Abigail Bleier and Salutatorian Natalie Moulton were ranked in the top 100 academic students in WNY. Each of the 40 graduating students are headed off to college and received $4.5 million in scholarships.

Other high schools in Genesee County that were in the top 100 high school ranking included Oakfield-Alabama, Elba, Alexander, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion, Batavia and Le Roy. For a complete list of all the high school rankings, click here.

June 11, 2015 - 4:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, scholarships, education.

Press release:

The Janice & Paul Keesler Scholarship Fund is proud to announce that it is now accepting applications from qualified students toward receiving scholarship assistance.

As a living memorial for two people who loved New York State and the outdoors, this fund assists students training in the field of wildlife management.

Paul and Janice were avid sports persons who wrote and lectured about the outdoors and founded and published the nationally recognized and respected "New York Sportsman Magazine."

A great loss to all those who appreciate the wonder of nature, Janice passed away suddenly in 1988 and Paul in July of 2005. They are greatly missed.

According to Scholarship Fund President Dave Hamilton, "These annual scholarship awards are available to any New York State resident who has been accepted into an accredited institution of higher learning and is, or will be, working toward obtaining a degree in some facet of wildlife management."

The 23rd series of Janice & Paul Keesler Scholarship Awards will be distributed in December. To date, the fund has had the honor of distributing more than $29,500 in grants to deserving Wildlife Management students.

Any qualified individual interested in applying for these Scholarships may do so by sending a request for an application form, along with a stamped, self-addressed legal sized (#10) envelope to:

The Janice & Paul Keesler Scholarship Fund
C/o Bridget Keesler (sec/treas)
PO Box 485
Newport, NY 13416

An application may also be obtained by going to www.keeslerscholarshipfund.org and the application can be printed from the Web site. The completed application form must be returned to the committee no later than Sept. 1.

Individuals or clubs wishing to make a contribution to the fund may do so by sending their donation to the same address, with the sincere gratitude of the Scholarship Committee! In December of this year and continuing on an annual basis, a wonderful couple who cared deeply about our state's outdoor sports will be remembered in a meaningful way, thanks to the generosity of those same outdoor sportsmen.

For additional information about the Keesler Scholarship Fund, please visit this Web site:

www.keeslerscholarshipfund.org

Or send inquiries to:
Keeslerbridget@gmail.com

June 11, 2015 - 4:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in elba, pembroke, education.

Press release:

The Elba Central School District’s Board of Education anticipates appointing Keith Palmer as the district’s next Superintendent at a special board meeting on Friday, June 12. Palmer is set to begin on July 1.

“I look forward to working with the Elba Board, faculty, students and community to develop strong relationships as we work together to deliver the District’s vision and mission," Palmer said. "Our first priority is the education of our students as we focus on curriculum and instruction. This will enhance our students’ academic achievement as we work together to meet the district’s academic and financial goals."

Tony Zambito, Elba Central School District Board president said, “The Board is confident in selecting Mr. Palmer to lead Elba Central Schools. His professional background, along with a deep understanding of many aspects of educational leadership, makes him an excellent fit for the staff and students of the District. The search process narrowed the field to three excellent candidates. The Board values all of the participation and input from stakeholders and community members and is committed and proud of this decision.”

Palmer is currently the principal of Pembroke Central High School where he has served since 2003. Previously, he served as assistant principal at Kendall High School, a position he held for 12 years.

Palmer has 16 years experience in the educational field. Palmer began his career in 1987 as a math and computer science teacher at North Warren Central School in the Adirondacks. He also taught at the Washington Correctional Facility located in Comstock for two summers in both 1988 and 1990.

Palmer holds a bachelor of arts from Houghton College, and a master’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. He holds three New York State (NYS) Certifications, a NYS School District Administrator, a NYS School Administrator and Supervisor Certificate and a NYS School Business Administrator Certificate.

Palmer’s career encompasses a variety of leadership accomplishments including developing Professional Learning Communities to build school/family communication and maintaining effective relations with union leadership.

June 11, 2015 - 3:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, BEST Center, Announcements, education.

The BEST Center at Genesee Community College is offering a series of "Brush up Your Skills" courses for students who plan to begin their college studies this fall. These non-academic credit classes in Math, Writing and Reading cost no more than $15 and are designed to help students increase their placement test scores and enable registration into higher-level courses. This not only potentially saves students tuition dollars, but also improves the likelihood of timely graduation.

The courses are geared toward incoming freshmen who may not have performed as well as expected on the COMPASS Placement Test, and also for high school graduates of all ages who may be beginning college after being out of school for some time. Current GCC students continuing their studies are also eligible. After completing the Brush Up courses, students retake the placement tests to potentially improve their scores and also eliminate the need to take developmental courses in these subject areas.

The three courses being offered include:

Math Pre-Algebra Placement Test Review, $15, July 21 – Aug. 12, Wednesdays, 6 – 9 p.m.
Brush up on the seven pre-algebra topics assessed by the COMPASS placement test so you can place directly into basic algebra or a credit-bearing college math course. Students may retake the COMPASS exam at the end of the course.

Writing Placement Test Review, $10, Monday – Thursday, Aug.10-13, 9 a.m. – noon
Review basic writing skills so you're prepared for college-level academic writing. The course will cover basic concepts including essay structure, sentence mechanics and test-taking strategies. Students may retake the COMPASS exam at the end of the course.

Reading Placement Test Review, $10, Monday – Thursday, Aug. 10-13, 1 – 4 p.m.
This course is designed to help those students who are close to meeting the college level reading requirement enhance the effective and efficient reading skills they need for academic work on the college level. These students have tested into the developmental class Gaining Power in College Reading (REA 101), but will be able to retest at the end of the course.

"We understand that placement testing is often the hardest and most intimidating part of starting a college program," said Reid Smalley, the executive director of GCC's BEST Center. "In a collaborative effort with our BEST Center, we specifically designed the Brush Up Your Skills Series to help students over this hurdle. For anyone who wants to start college in September, or those who hope to graduate through an associate degree program within two years, this is an excellent investment of their time."

Students interested in these classes may register in the GCC Records office, at The BEST Center in the Conable Technology Building on the Batavia campus, or online at www.bestcenter.org. For more information, contact The BEST Center at (585) 345-6868.

June 11, 2015 - 1:24pm
posted by Traci Turner in byron-bergen, education, schools.

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 Byron-Bergen Superintendent of Schools Casey Kosiorek (left) and the WNY Video Recording Coaching Institute’s Executive Director Jim Thompson (right) at their recent presentation for the TeachLivE conference at the University of Central Florida.

Press release:

Teachers throughout the region will have a new professional development resource, thanks to a collaboration between the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP) and the Byron-Bergen Central School District. The Western New York Video Recording Coaching Institute will incorporate a proven video-coaching model with a groundbreaking virtual-classroom simulator, TeachLivE™, which allows educators to develop and improve their teaching practices in a safe environment.

The new institute will be headed by Executive Director Jim Thompson, who has led the development of BBCSD’s own successful Instructional Coaching initiative since 2013. He and Byron-Bergen’s Superintendent of Schools Casey Kosiorek recently made a presentation at the National TeachLivE Conference at the University of Central Florida to educators from across the country, who were there to learn about this innovative approach to professional development.

Kosiorek credits the GVEP’s District Superintendent Kevin MacDonald for supporting the Institute’s vision.

“Mr. MacDonald has shown unwavering support for this initiative, and his support has made this a reality,” he said. “This is a great approach to support teachers in becoming the best they can be. We are very excited to be hosting it here, and helping to make these services available to teachers in our entire area. Ultimately, this is a huge benefit, not just for the teachers, but also for all of their students.” 

TeachLivE is a computer-simulated, mixed-reality classroom. Teachers step into this virtual classroom and within a minute experience immersion and suspension of disbelief, allowing them to rehearse high-leverage teaching practices related to student achievement. Much like a flight simulator for pilots, TeachLivE simulates a classroom experience for teachers to hone their skills.

The tool will be combined with individual coaching, role-playing, model lessons and videotaping of lessons. The Institute’s program is designed to guide teachers, using a style that is highly interactive, supportive, and reflective.

“Everyone can get better; this is not just for new teachers, or superstars,” Kosiorek said. “No matter where a teacher is, they can be better. We’d like to see every teacher at Byron-Bergen get involved in Instructional Coaching within the next three years.”

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The new WNY Video Recording Coaching Institute will offer teachers a rich professional development experience, complete with individualized video coaching, and a safe environment for teaching improvement in TeachLivE’s simulated classroom environment.

June 10, 2015 - 1:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Special Olympics, sports, batavia, schools, education.

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A group of runners, including several members of the local law enforcement community, carried the Special Olympic Torch from Elba to the Genesee ARC building on Walnut Street, Batavia, this morning. Along the way, they stopped at the Batavia School District's fourth-grade track meet on Woodward Field.

Above, Garrett Schmidt and Avelin Tomidy get ready to assist Deputy Joseph Corona in carrying the torch for a lap around the track.

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Carl talks about what Special Olympics means to him and how he won three medals at a recent competition.

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Dave Chua

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The runners approaching Van Detta Stadium.

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Completing the lap around the track.

June 6, 2015 - 8:01pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in batavia, education, alexander, Warsaw, events.

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The last text he sent, before hitting an Amish buggy with three children inside, was "I love you" to his wife. He's not even sure if he was looking at the road at the time of the accident. The next thing he knew, the windshield shattered and when he stopped, a person rolled off the roof of his van and onto the hood.

Debbie was struck by a teen who was texting while getting her mail from her roadside mailbox. She now has limited mobility, memory loss and other health issues. The accident left her entirely dependent on relatives. Debbie doesn't remember the accident at all. She went from being active to inactive in a just a second. 

“I made the choice that texting was more important to me than those two men were to their families,” said a young man. “That accident was preventable. I just had to put my phone away and drive.”

These stories and others were shown to Alexander and Warsaw high school students Friday during the Save a Life, Alcohol Awareness tour program at Alexander High School. The presentation, given by tour manager Clay Martin, is to put a spotlight on what drivers do in their cars -- it matters, even if there are no passengers.

“There's no message that would be worth picking up that phone,” Martin said. “Remember, many people may not get a chance to see these videos, but if you make it a point to remember, the avalanche of waiting until it's safe to write that text will propel and maybe it will start a chain of safer driving.”

The Save A Life Tour is a comprehensive high-impact, safe-driving awareness program that informs, educates and demonstrates the potentially deadly consequences resulting from poor choices and decisions made by a driver. The program specifically places emphasis on distracted and impaired driving, driver experience, improper driver behavior, and seat belt usage. The Department of Defense, as well as the Connecticut and Rhode Island departments of transportation, also use this program.

“All good driving begins with making simple habits,” Martin said. “Most people pick up their cell phone at a stop light, but most accidents occur at an intersection. You have to be prepared and pay attention. You have to be aware of not only your actions but those who are around you as well.”

Just a few seconds of distraction can take you the distance of a football field when driving at 55 mph. According to Martin, a drunk driver has driven 327 times before something happens. In 2012, a total of 3,326 people died in distracted-driving-related accidents and more than 421,000 people sustained injuries.

Alcohol has an amazing way of blurring the consequences, Martin told the teens. “Alcohol gets silly names like 'liquid courage' and 'beer muscles', but what it really does is put a barrier between you and a rational choice.

“There is a list of people in your phone that you can call for a ride,” Martin said. “I bet if you start in the As, by the time you reach the Cs you could have someone willing to pick you up on Christmas Day during a snowstorm.”

Not only did the students view a presentation, two simulators were set up for them to try to experience what it was like when the driver is distracted behind the wheel or has been drinking.

“It was hard to do,” said Alexander Middle/High School Principal Shannon Whitcomb. “It got more difficult as I kept going.”

“I think it has an impact. I don't know that we can determine how much, but you can tell by the attentiveness of our students that they were learning from the presentation and hopefully help them with choices in their future,” said Alexander School Superintendent Kathleen Maerten. “It’s providing education in a realistic manner. The experiential part is certainly important. The stories shared on the video have an impact as well. I think his point is that, even if you're not the driver and you're the passenger, you can advise the driver. The responsibility is not only in the hands of the driver it's the passengers as well.” 

Alexander High School senior Raven Quackenbush said “The scariest thing about it is something happening to my family. I’d rather it happen to me, than the ones I care about.”

“I have texted when I was driving and I swerved, but I don't do that anymore,” said Alexander senior Jessica Meyers. “I'm so aware of what I'm doing that it's not worth it. When you're driving with other people that are in your car, you're responsible for their lives. I appreciate it when parents trust me.”

Quackenbush said: “You have to ask yourself -- 'Is this more important than my life?' It's not too hard to say hey, can you check that for me. You can pull over for five seconds.” 

The Alexander Central School Parent Teacher Association sponsored the program as a way to remind students to make good decisions.

“It’s especially important because our prom is next weekend,” said Alexander Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) student President Hunter Doran. “We know that there will be those who decide to drink.”

“We just want them to be safe,” said SADD Advisor Shawnie Woeller. “You're not always going to hit them all. I've been doing this for so long that it use to bother me, but I have to take the stand that if we can affect one kid’s life, it does make a difference.”

“It resonates with me every time I watch this,” Doran said. “I don't ever want to have to deal with it, but the possibility is that I may have to. I want to educate myself as much as possible. 

I have no problem telling someone to stop. I see these people every day, I don't want them to end up in a hospital because of it (distracted/drunk driving).” 

“I want to be an example,” Woeller said. “I want to remind kids that there is a way to have fun, but you have to know when to stop."

According to Whitcomb, the kids can make the connection between the selfishness of taking their phone out to text while driving. Any way getting the word out works, different presentations affect different kids.

“I don't think we give kids enough credit,” Whitcomb said. “We just need to give them the information and trust the will make good choices.”

“Other families matter, too,” said Warsaw High School Junior Ashley Scott. “I wouldn’t get in a vehicle with anyone drinking, I would take their keys away.”

“I think it’s cool that they gave the stories and then let the kids use the simulators,” said Warsaw ELA teacher Jen Smith. “They way they set this up was perfect. Even though our prom is over with, the summer is starting and you have grad parties. It’s a good way to end the year as a reminder. 

“This should also be shown to adults. It would be a benefit. I don't think you can get enough of stuff like this,” Smith said. “I wonder if people even really think about it until it affects their community or family.”

According to SRO officer at Warsaw Central School Tim McGinnis, it’s a good barometer of what can happen if a driver decides to text or drink and drive. McGinnis agrees that it absolutely makes the kids see a reality of what can happen. While he said that it sometimes may take time for the information to really hit them and sink in, he’s hoping it is a deterrent to poor choices, which can have long-term effects on everyone.

“It helped me realize that it can impact more than just a driver,” said Warsaw junior Nate McGuire. “I felt sorry for them at first. It shows the impact of one very small moment and how it can impact the rest of their lives.”

“My favorite feedback I get is when the kids come back and tell me they had a conversation about this in another class,” Martin said. “That's what we want the kids to do, get talking about it. Those stories represent the people who are affected.”

“It’s not even tempting for me to drink if I’m going to drive,” Quackenbush said.

“I don’t care what people think if I don’t drink,” Meyers said.

Both girls said there is so much more to do with their time.

For more information about the program visit www.savealife.com

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June 5, 2015 - 4:10pm
posted by Traci Turner in Le Roy, education, dwi drill, schools, Le Roy Fire Department.

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Le Roy Jr./ Sr. High School held its third DWI drill to make students think twice before stepping behind the wheel drunk.

The drunken driving simulation emphasized the consequences of a two-vehicle accident that involved six high school students. In the simulation, the driver of a Chevy Suburban was intoxicated and responsible for crashing into a Chevy pickup truck. The student in the passenger side of the Suburban died from injuries sustained and one of the students in the back seat suffered critical injuries. The other three students involved in the crash had minor injuries. 

The Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Le Roy Police Department, Le Roy Fire Department, Stafford Fire Department, Mercy Flight and the Genesee County Coroner participated in the simulation. Deputies from the Sheriff's Office and Le Roy police went through the process of administering sobriety tests. Le Roy firefighters demonstrated auto extrication to get the passengers out of both of the vehicles. Stafford firefighters set up an emergency landing zone in the parking lot for Mercy Flight so the passenger in critical condition could be flown out.

The drill takes place every two years at different high schools in Genesee County so all the juniors and seniors witness the simulation at least one time. 

Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Parker hopes today's simulation will influence students to question the offense and make good decisions.

"In the past, there have been crashes where kids have been killed on prom night in Elba and Oakfield," Parker said. "The worst part of my job is to notify a parent a child has died."

Detective John Condidorio, from the Le Roy Police Department, wants to make young adults aware of the consequences of drunk driving. Drunk drivers can face jail time, fines and probation. The consequences go beyond the charges as well.

"How is the driver going to deal with the fact that he kill his best friend or sister?" Condidorio asked. "The emotional toll is something that will long surpass jail time."

Jerry Diskin, past Le Roy fire chief, thought the simulation had a good turnout and educational presentation.

"It's important for kids to know the consequences of drunk driving and witness a crash because it's an important lesson you don't learn in school," Diskin said. "I hope it will stop accidents from happening in the near future."

Tim Hogle, assistant Le Roy fire chief, hopes the students realize the seriousness of drunk driving so he doesn't get called out for a crash for Le Roy's prom tomorrow night. To deter drunk driving, faculty will be randomly breathalyzing students at the prom.

Students participating were Tom Wood, Brian Hodges, Ashley Swartzenburg, Haley Steen, Emily McVicker and Karl Ehrhart.

Le Roy Ambulance service also participated.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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June 4, 2015 - 5:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, arts, schools, education.

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Le Roy High School hosted a student Fine Arts Festival yesterday evening. Here are 12 photos from the event.

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June 3, 2015 - 5:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, schools, education, batavia.

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Fifth-grade students at Batavia Middle School completed a 10-week course of study today into various worldwide leaders in human rights. The course culminated with each student dressing as their chosen leader and making a presentation for parents who attended the event in the school's library. The students were required to read a book, research a Web site and a database on their chosen leader. They also drew posters of the leaders.

Above, Betty Cherry as Maya Angelou.

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Allyson Clemm as Julia Ward Howe.

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Roger Jones as Booker T. Washington.

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June 3, 2015 - 4:06pm
posted by Traci Turner in agriculture, education, Pavilion.

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Kindergarteners from all over the county took a field trip to Grassland Dairy in Pavilion to learn about milk production and other aspects of farming for the annual Kinderfarmin' Day.

The purpose of the farm tour is to teach children where their food comes from.

"The tour helps to inform kids in the community about agriculture," said Jeff Post, president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau. "They need to understand food doesn't come from the supermarket."

Grassland Dairy is owned and operated by Brent and Polly Tillotson. The Tillotson family milks 190 organic Jersey cows. They provide natural feed for the cows by farming 300 acres of organic land.

More than 400 kindergarteners and 100 teachers, parents and chaperones visited the farm. Children from schools in Batavia, Oakfield, Elba, Pavilion, Alexander and Byron-Bergen participated in the tour. The four suggested learning stations that all of the groups were scheduled for included the milkhouse, milking parlor, comfy cows and cow cuisine. At other stations around the farm children could experience what it's like to milk a cow using a milk simulator, make s'mores using a hi-tech camp stove and pet various farm animals.

Barb Sturm, agriculture in the classroom educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension, visits schools in Genesee County to educate students in agriculture and set up the stations to go along with agricultural lessons she has taught them.

"The learning stations have keywords that align with the Common Core curriculum," Sturm said.

As a part of the Common Core farming unit, Amand Wachter's kindergarten class at Pavilion has been learning about cows, chickens and crops that farm animals eat.

"The tour connects to what we have talked about in class," Wachter said. "Kids can see how to milk a cow and what goes into their food."

Julie Tryon, a mother from Jackson Primary School, went through the barns and stations with her children. Their favorite part about the tour was getting to see the baby calves.

"It's a great opportunity for my kids to learn about agriculture and become familiar with it," Tryon said.  

Kinderfarmin' Day was sponsored by the Genesee County Farm Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County helped organize it. Some of the other contributors to the event included Upstate Niagara who donated cartons of milk and Cargill Animal Nutrition who donated ice cream for the kids to enjoy.

The dairy days have been going on for more than 30 years and different farms have taken turns hosting the event. For future years, the farm bureau welcomes any farm that would be interested in volunteering to host the event to contact them.

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Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

June 3, 2015 - 2:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, byron-bergen.
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Byron-Bergen Elementary School’s Celebration of Reading Challenge proves that Principal Brian Meister and Assistant Principal Amanda Cook, along with the entire student population, are “stuck” on reading.

Press release:

The Byron-Bergen Elementary School’s Celebration of Reading Challenge began on Dec. 5 — students pledged to read 20,000 books before the school year ended. On May 28, the entire school population gathered to hear the results, delivered by teacher Debbie Slocum: just over 510 motivated young readers had exceeded their goal, reading a total of 23,473 books.

And the students’ reward for all that reading? Inspired by the book “Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers, about an impossible tree where everything thrown into it gets stuck, Principal Brian Meister and Assistant Principal Amanda Cook promised to allow themselves to be duct taped to chairs during the assembly, and to wear clothes made of duct tape the next day.

“It’s a fun way to get students 'stuck' on reading,” Meister said. “It keeps them excited and wanting to read more, while the duct tape event itself is something they will always remember.”           

The Celebration of Reading is the brainchild of Byron-Bergen’s English Language Arts (ELA) Committee, which began the challenge in 2013 with a goal of reading 10,000 books (a target also exceeded by more than 8,000). The assembly included guest speaker Nancy Bailey from the Bergen Public Library who invited the children to visit the library and to keep reading over the summer. Selected readers from each grade level received new books to jumpstart their summers, some of which were signed by the authors or illustrators.

Teachers read selections from a few favorite books, complete with comic flourishes. Craig Schroth read from Mo Willems’ “Knuffle Bunny”; Taylor Farruggia read from “Strega Nona” by Tomie DePaola; Heather Young entertained with “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz; and Daneen Williams read from “Miss Nelson is Missing” by Harry G. Allard Jr. and James Marshall. Many other teachers participated in the event, including Nicole Newton, Mariah LaSpina and Karen Tischer.

A highlight of the readings was a hip-hop version of the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” by teachers Ken Rogoyski and Megan Wahl, assisted by student Katherine Rogoyski as “Fox I Am.” Students were also treated to a showing of the school’s video “Read a Book” (based on Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off”), which was produced at the beginning of the school year.

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Byron-Bergen student Katherine Rogoyski and teacher Mrs. Wahl make Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” come alive.

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Mrs. Cook and Mr. Meister sport their custom-tailored duct tape regalia to celebrate Byron-Bergen Elementary students reading 23,473 books.

June 3, 2015 - 2:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, schools, education, Le Roy.

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Press release:

The Genesee Valley Educational Partnership is pleased to announce that Brian Mayer was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker for 2015. This recognition honors his work, both locally and nationally, for the development of gaming programs to support libraries and classrooms.

“Brian's recognition as one of 50 Library Journal Movers & Shakers this year is greatly deserved, said Christopher Harris, director, School Library System at the Partnership. “He exemplifies the goal of the School Library System to deliver local support and services at a national level. Brian’s work with game-based learning in our districts and his dedication to service within the Games and Gaming Round Table of the American Library Association are great success stories.”

Locally, Mayer is a regular visitor to many of the Partnership’s component-district schools where he co-teaches in libraries and classrooms using games from our curriculum-aligned board game library. As a game developer himself, Mayer has also helped lead local classes in exploring game design as a way to promote critical thinking and creative expression of student understanding.

Nationally, Mayer has been a huge force within the Games and Gaming Round Table of the American Library Association. For the past few years, he has led the move to reinvigorate the ALAPlay gaming event at the ALA Annual Conference. Last year, more than 400 people came to the event to play board games, interact with cosplayers, and learn more about running game programs in libraries. Mayer was also able to bring game companies back to the ALA exhibit floor through creative partnerships with the GameRT booth.

This summer, things will continue to grow with the addition of a pre-published game review event at ALAPlay and the inclusion of a board gaming space for attendees and families on the ALA exhibit floor.

Mayer joins fellow Partnership employees, Christopher Harris, director, School Library System and Andy Austin, library technology specialist, who were previously recognized as Movers & Shakers. The Partnership is now the only School Library Services organization in the country that is fully staffed by Library Journal Movers & Shakers.

Caption: Brian Mayer. Photo credit: JMS Studio and Gallery.

June 3, 2015 - 8:58am
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, community, education, City Schools, schools.

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Diane Reed with a group of faculty and members from the community.

The Family Engagement Survey results from 2014 were presented at the Batavia High School Library during their "Data Café" Tuesday night.

Diane Reed, Ph.D., the Batavia City School District’s outside educational expert and associate professor in Educational Leadership at St. John Fisher College, shared the data from the community survey taken by families and other Batavia residents last fall. Reed is certified by the New York State Education Department to work with Focus Districts to help determine school effectiveness and discuss strategic plans with faculty and community members to improve it.

The community survey is one of three that make up the Data Triangle Survey. It was based on six tenets to measure effectiveness which include District Leadership and Capacity, School Leader Practices and Decisions, Curriculum Development and Support, Teacher Practices and Decisions, Student Social and Emotional Developmental Health, and Family and Community Engagement. The survey was composed of 50 statements and participants answered using a Likert scale. The total number of people who took the survey was 374. According to Reed; the low response rate is typical.

The overall data total results for the district showed that 75 percent or more of participants answered each of the 22 statements with either strongly agree or agree. These results are considered an asset.

For each of the other 28 statements, 50 to 74 percent of participants answered strongly agree or agree. These results are considered an emerging strength.

The overall data total results for the district also revealed no fewer than 50 percent of participants answered strongly agree or agree to any of the statements. These results show no possible risks for the district.

When breaking the statement results up by schools, the Batavia High School showed minimal possible risks.

“The Batavia City School District should be very proud because many responses are in the green asset area,” Reed said. “It is not too often with schools I work with to show strengths in a lot of the areas.”

Faculty members and parents divided into two groups to discuss the district’s strengths and weaknesses based on the survey results. Both groups came to the conclusion the district could improve on providing the community with more training on Common Core learning and positive engagement with students outside the classroom.

Jean Berry, mother of two boys who attend Batavia Middle School and Batavia High School, really enjoyed how teachers sent home postcards when her children were doing well in school. One suggestion she had was to use lexiles -- reading level measurements -- more effectively.

“When we have the Scholastic Book Fair, the books should be labeled with lexiles so I can buy the appropriate books for my sons’ reading level,” Berry said.

Moving forward, the district will consider hosting additional Common Core informational nights to help the community understand the standards especially at the secondary level. They also will encourage teachers to make positive calls home to help motivate students. 

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