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August 3, 2018 - 2:53pm

Jenny Staebell had her first child when she was 19, and put herself through college, earning a master’s degree and becoming a teacher.

Staebell is now the director and community health educator for Project Stork Inc., a nonprofit organization she started, providing services for Genesee and Orleans counties. She is a certified NYS Health Educator for prekindergarten through grade 12.

The program empowers young people to make healthy decisions about education, relationships, sex, parenting and their lives. In addition to helping teen parents, the program has services and workshops for younger children, starting in kindergarten, and parents of teens.

“I decided one day I wanted to do something greater than what I was doing,” Staebell said. “I wanted to impact lives. I took some time off, and Project Stork evolved to what it is today.”

According to the Family and Youth Services Bureau, there are approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies and 400,000 teen births in the United States every year. According to Staebell, in Genesee County, there is a rate of 15.1 teen pregnancies, ages 15 to 19 per 1,000 females. In 2015, there were 28 pregnancies, of which 20 live births occurred and 8 induced abortions.

Staebell started taking participants for the programs, and has nine moms in the programs, between the ages of 16 and 20. Some are pregnant, some are parenting and first-time moms.

“I meet with them once a month, but every day I am in contact with them through texting, or I check on them through Facebook to see if they need anything,” Staebell said. “I go out and drop off a bunch of stuff to get them ready and prepared. I keep in close contact to make sure everything is OK and that they know they have the support also.”

There are multiple programs throughout Project Stork that offer many goals, whether it be finishing high school or finding a career in the work field. Project Stork helps put the parent in contact with resources throughout the county to complete those goals.

There is also positive parenting workshop for young moms or dads. They use a program called “Nurturing Parents,” which is an evidence-based program developed specifically for teen parents.

Through each program, if the participants meet the goals, at the end of the month, Project Stork purchases something the parent may need.

“We’ve purchased crib, car seat, stroller, other baby gear items, or items for their household,” Staebell said. “Also, a microwave, interview clothes, and things of that nature.”

Teens enrolled in the programs also receive a monthly supply of diapers and wipes.

Project Stork offers resources, such as healthy workshops, which have been offered in schools throughout the area for all different age groups. Staebell is hoping the programs will be offered county-wide in the future.

All programs and services are free.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade learn can about nutrition, growth, mental health, being a good friend, or being in dangerous situations.

Middle school students learn about nutrition and lessons that fit the health curriculum. High school students have lessons that fit the health class curriculum, as well as dating violence, contraception, and various topics in sexual health.

These programs started being offered in Oakfield-Alabama and Le Roy during the end of last year.

Sara Horgan, a teacher in Le Roy, said Staebell is a great resource for her in the classroom, as well as the community.

“I definitely have not taken full advantage of all Project Stork has to offer yet,” Horgan said.

Horgan was looking for updated research-based curriculum to use in her classroom, and Project Stork has been a valuable resource for her.

“I have also referred students and their families to the Project Stork community-based resources,” Horgan said. “In conjunction with our school social worker, we are also currently piloting a girls' wellness group with Project Stork. [It is] very much in the beginning stages, but we are hopeful that group can grow and help more girls make healthy decisions now and in the future.”

Staebell said they are currently looking to get a location in Genesee County for a Project Stork office.

“We want a place to have some office hours for young parents to come in, enroll in classes and get supplies,” Staebell said.

Project Stork is made possible through donations, sponsors, and fundraisers, but Staebell is hoping to eventually get grants to run more programs.

“We’re hoping each month to do a bigger event and a bigger fundraiser,” Staebell said.

Donations can also be made to Project Stork directly through their website, located here

The organization's email address is:  [email protected]

August 2, 2018 - 4:20pm

Press release:

Twenty-two students entering eighth, ninth and 10th grades are leaving their mark this week at Camp Hard Hat at the Genesee County Park & Forest.

The Camp Hard Hat Class of 2018 is working as a team, and building raised wooden walkways for the General Conservation Trail at Genesee County Park & Forest. In addition to completing this project for the community, campers use math, process-thinking skills, and battery-powered tools to improve their community while learning about careers in Building Trades.

Parents, friends and family of the campers are invited to the dedication of the wooden walkway, which will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3rd.

Camp Hard Hat is presented in partnership with Genesee County Parks, Recreation & Forestry, the Business Education Alliance of Genesee County, the Business Education Council of Wyoming County, and GVEP Batavia Building Trades.

Instructors Rich Monroe and Jared Radesi teach campers the principles of design and construction, project safety, and the power of teamwork. All materials, equipment and lunch are provided each day, along with an optional overnight experience at Genesee County Park & Forest and a camp T-shirt.

Thank you to our sponsors for making this camp possible! The generosity of sponsors helps cover the cost of materials, instructors, transportation and provides the opportunity for camp scholarships.

For more information contact Karyn Winters at [email protected] or call 585-343-7440, ext. 1025.

July 31, 2018 - 4:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, news, batavia, education, 2016-2017 annual report.

Press release:

Genesee Community College has published its 2016-2017 Annual Report -- available for the first-time ever completely online!

In addition, the College adopted an agricultural theme for the report highlighting the surrounding community.

GCC's 2016-2017 Annual Report was published on a special website, http://annualreport.genesee.edu/ to support the College's sustainable business practices as well as to maximize accessibility to the information contained within the report. From the welcoming message on the report's homepage to the photos recounting the past year's dynamic stories, GCC demonstrates its commitment to the theme "Plant. Water. Harvest. Repeat."

"At its core, GCC plants seeds of knowledge, waters and cultivates the learning experience, recognizes and celebrates the harvest of contributions, and continuously refines and repeats the process to ensure our future," President James M. Sunser, Ed.D., said in the report's opening message. "We hope we have captured how our efforts echo the hard-work, innovation and dedication of the farming families and agribusinesses that have long made our community a strong and vibrant place to work, live and grow."

A multitude of stories with accompanying photographs are celebrated in the report representing innovative programs that "Plant" seeds for student success. Events such as the Annual Tech Wars hosted by the Accelerated College Enrollment program, lectures by Multicultural Communications Club, volunteers working with Habitat for Humanity and many other stories reflect GCC "We plant" initiatives.

The report's "Water" chapter includes images from a plethora of community events such as Veterans Day, the Harvest Festival and the popular Cougar Crawl weekend. Perhaps, and most appropriately, the "Harvest" chapter of the report is the longest, highlighting all the ways students, faculty and staff contribute to the community through GCC's Center for the Arts productions, the Scholars Symposium, the annual Fashion Show, commencement and so many meaningful efforts.

It is through the annual repetition of GCC's efforts that our communities continue to grow and succeed -- which are highlighted in the report's "Repeat" chapter. Finally, the "Supporters" tab of the report pays tribute by listing those whose donations to the College have helped ensure long-term success.

Everyone is encouraged to view the annual report at http://annualreport.genesee.edu/ and join in the celebration of the accomplishments of the past academic year.

July 23, 2018 - 6:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia High School, regents exams, education, batavia, news.
Press release:
 
To help Batavia City School District students prepare for the August Regents exams, Batavia High School (BHS) will offer summer review classes in the following subjects:
  • Algebra 1
  • Geometry
  • Global History
  • Living Environment
  • Earth Science
  • English Language Arts
  • Chemistry

The classes will be held on Aug. 13, 14, and 15, from 1-3 p.m. at BHS, 260 State St. in the City of Batavia.

Register by Aug. 10 by calling the Batavia High School Counseling Office at 343-2480, ext. 2002.

July 15, 2018 - 12:50pm

Press release:

The Batavia City School District (BCSD) applied for and was granted federal funding that will allow all students attending a District school to receive one nutritious breakfast and one nutritious lunch each day that school is in session.

This four-year funding will begin in 2018-2019, with the District being eligible to reapply for additional four-year terms as long as the federal program is funded.

Batavia qualifies for this Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) funding – a provision of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – because of its classification as an economically disadvantaged community due to a significant number of students already qualifying for free or reduced meals.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the District, and we are very excited to be able to take advantage of a federal program that allows us to offer every student one healthy breakfast and lunch every school day at no cost to our families,” says Superintendent of Schools Christopher J. Dailey.

“Research is conclusive that good nutrition is a critical factor in learning. This is a program that allows us to bring some of our federal tax dollars back to our community to provide nutritious meals for all of our students.” 

The CEP funding is for the first full breakfast and first full lunch. If a student would like a second breakfast or second lunch, or would like one or more particular separate items (“a la carte” items), then those will need to be purchased. Purchases can be made with cash or through My School Bucks – the Nutrikids computerized payment system which has been used by families in the District for several years.

Because all children will receive one breakfast and one lunch at no cost, the option of charging items to a tab to be paid at a later time will no longer be available.

To qualify for other income-based funding and grants – a process which was formerly measured by information recorded on the Free and Reduced Meal Applications -- all students’ families will be asked to submit a short household form to establish the level of community need.

The District currently receives a significant amount of money in grants and other funding based on economic need. Collecting data from all households will permit us to continue to apply for and receive funding for which we are eligible.

The new form is currently being developed to ensure that the information required for applications to grant-funding agencies is gathered while not being unnecessarily burdensome or invasive to families.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for Batavia City School District

Question:  Who receives free meals?

Every student enrolled in the Batavia City School District will receive the first breakfast and the first lunch at no cost each school day regardless of the family’s household income.  Students are not required to participate; students may still bring their lunch if that is their preference.

Question:  Is my child able to make purchases, such as for milk (if bringing lunch from home), for other a la carte items, or for a second school meal? 

Yes, students may make purchases instead of or in addition to the first free breakfast or first free lunch. The purchase of all a la carte items will remain the same, in that families are responsible for payment. Additional meals are not covered under the program and it is each family’s responsibility to pay for those meals. Payment is due at the time of purchase. Purchases may be made with cash or through My School Bucks, the Nutrikids computerized payment system which has been used by families in the District for several years.

***Please note: there is NO charging allowed for additional meals or a la carte items. 

Prices for second meals and additional milk (or milk purchased a la carte) for 2018-2019 are:

Jackson and John Kennedy                     Middle School and High School

Second Breakfast                      $1.35                                              $1.45

Second Lunch                            $2.10                                              $2.30

A la carte Milk*                           $0.60                                              $0.60

Milk is included with the first breakfast and the first lunch or any additional paid meals. However, milk purchased separately (for students who bring their lunch) will be charged at a la carte prices, which is $0.60.  

Question:  How does the program work?

The New York State Child Nutrition (CN) Department began this program several years ago with federal funding backing the program.  School Districts must be eligible based on their specific poverty rates and have to apply to CN for approval.  Batavia City School District is eligible because it has an Identified Student Percentage of 40 percent or higher according to building level data. An Identified Student refers to any student certified to receive free meals by any means other than the submission of individual paper applications, such as SNAP and Medicaid.

Question: What impact does this program have on school taxes?

There is no impact on school taxes.  The General Fund budget (which the taxpayers vote on each year) is completely separate from the self-sustaining School Lunch Fund.    

Question: Who needs to fill out the CEP Household Income Eligibility Form?

All District families are asked to fill out the CEP Household Income Eligibility Form. The completion of this form is essential for the District. Many state and federal programs use socioeconomic data (that is, household and income information) to determine eligibility for their programs. In addition primary state funding calculations use socioeconomic data.

In order to continue to receive such funding and grants, the income information still needs to be gathered from our student population. The form is available in the school calendar, online at the Batavia City School District Nutritional Service Web page at:  https://www.bataviacsd.org/Page/5872  and will also be available at all school open house events. 

Question: If I have questions about the Household Income Form or if I received a letter this school year indicating that my children are approved for free meals, who can I contact?

Please contact the Food Service Department at 585-343-2480, ext. 1007. The office will be able to assist you with any questions or paperwork.

Question: Who do I include as members of my household and what if my monthly income is not always the same?

You must include all people living in your household, related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives or friends) who share your income and expenses. You must include yourself and all children living with you. If you live with other people who are economically independent (people that you do not support, who do not share income with you and your children and who pay a pro-rated share of expenses), do NOT include them.

List the income that you normally receive if your monthly income varies. If you have lost your job or had your hours or wages reduced, use your current income.

Question: Does this program change the quality of food that can be served?

There is no impact to the quality of food that is served.  The District must still continue to follow all food and dietary guidelines that are set by New York State Child Nutrition Program.

Question:  What constitutes a complete meal for breakfast and lunch?

The District complies with the Federal Program: Choosemyplate.gov.

For breakfast, the District offers two grains, a fruit, and a milk. Students must choose at least three of the four offered items, and one of those chosen must be the fruit. For lunch, the District offers a protein, a grain, a fruit, a vegetable and a milk.

Students must choose three of the five offered items, and one of those chosen must be the fruit or vegetable.

Question:  May a student be charged for an incomplete meal if the student refuses to select the required components for a complete meal?

The District will offer a complete meal to each student in order to qualify for the CEP fully funded reimbursable meal. However, if a student refuses to take the complete meal then the student will be charged a la carte prices for the foods selected on their tray.  

Question:  My child has a positive balance on his/her “MySchoolBucks” account. What happens to the current balance?

The balance on the My School Bucks account can be used for a la carte purchases or for any additional/second meals.

If you would like a refund of your account balance please send an email to: Susan Presher at [email protected] or a written letter to Susan Presher, Nutritionals Services Director, 260 State St., Batavia, NY 14020.

July 13, 2018 - 11:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in oakfield-alabama, news, schools, education.

Press release:

The Oakfield-Alabama Central School District’s Board of Education held a special board meeting on Friday, July 13 to appoint Michael Crumb as the Interim Superintendent effective July 30 until Jan. 4, 2019. Crumb replaces Mark Alexander who recently announced his resignation to accept a position as Director of Transportation for Akron Central Schools.

Matt Lamb, Oakfield-Alabama Central School District’s Board president, said, “The Board is duly impressed with Michael Crumb’s background and experience. We are confident that Michael will guide our District through these next five months as we begin our formal search process for a Superintendent of Schools.”

Crumb retired in 2017 after serving the Spencerport Central School District for 19 years where he worked as an assistant principal, assistant and deputy superintendent, and superintendent.

“I am extremely honored to have been asked by the Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education to provide leadership and support during the upcoming transition,” Crumb said. “Further, I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the staff, parents and school community on the education provided to each of the District’s students.”

Kevin MacDonald, District superintendent of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, assisted with the interim search and will also act as the final search consultant. He noted that the Board will develop and implement a rigorous process that will help determine the best candidate.

July 6, 2018 - 10:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in michael ranzenhofer, education, news.

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer is encouraging students to continue growing, learning and developing – even though school is out of session until September – by participating in his Summer Reading Program.

“As the school year comes to an end, students are turning their thoughts away from books to vacation," Ranzenhofer said. "This program is a great way to promote literacy and keep children’s minds active when they are not in a classroom. I encourage students to read all summer long by participating in the Summer Reading Program."

The theme of this year’s program is Libraries Rock! Students and parents can participate by visiting Senator Ranzenhofer’s website, ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov.

Evidence shows that children who stop reading over the summer often fall behind when they return to class in September. More than 2.2 million students participated in summer reading at New York libraries last year.

July 5, 2018 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, education, news, byron-bergen, bergen.

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Press release: 

As Genesee Community College's 50th graduating class crammed for finals, one student worked harder, practiced longer, collaborated more, and without realizing it she embodied the College's "Beyond Expectations" brand with quiet dignity and integrity seldom seen.

Lifelong Bergen resident, Lauren E. Stumpf was born in 1994 with cerebral palsy, and has relied on a wheelchair for mobility for most of her life. But this challenge never much slowed Lauren down, nor dampened her spirited disposition.

With hard work and dedication, she has enjoyed great success. She graduated from Byron-Bergen Schools in 2012 and months later enrolled at GCC with plans to earn a degree in Human Services.

Lauren's determination has always been a mark of her character and integrity, first by proving her doctors wrong by far exceeding their projected life expectancy of just five years. Then at GCC she excelled in her coursework and quickly made friends across campus.

Several months before graduation, Lauren decided she wanted to make the ceremony even more special by surprising her family and friends with another significant accomplishment -- walking across the Commencement stage to accept her degree.

To that end, Lauren began doing exercises to strengthen her muscles, and she contacted her friends who were enrolled in GCC's Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program. Together, with guidance from their professors, they helped Lauren by monitoring her progress, educating her about proper posture and exertion levels to ensure she rested appropriately and did not injure herself.

As Lauren proudly walked across the stage, the crowd cheered, applauded and many people jumped to their feet with enthusiasm and support. She shook hands with keynote speaker Kristina Johnson, Ed.D., the new SUNY Chancellor, whose speech included a message about optimism and rising to her own challenge of being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Lauren's determination inspired the GCC's admissions office to capture her story in a short video that would illustrate her resolve. It also will inspire others to meet their challenges head-on and realize the many resources available to help make their dreams a reality.

Lauren's story is proof that good news travels fast and far. After posting Lauren's story on the College's social media channels, there were more than 4,500 views in just one week. This included a message from Buffalo State College who is looking forward to having her on their campus this fall, as she begins her next challenge.

Lauren will be enrolled in Buffalo State's Special Education program, in part, as a tribute to her close friend who also enrolled in the program but sadly passed away before she graduated.

"After Buffalo State, I want to get a job as a special education teacher and possibly go back to GCC as a professor for the Developmental Disabilities class," Lauren said.

And to that GCC remarks, "Bring it on! We can't wait to see you."

Photo by Howard Owens.

June 29, 2018 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Notre Dame, schools, education, news, batavia.

After receiving word in April that the Buffalo Diocese was cutting financial aid for Notre Dame High School, Principal Wade Bianco, his staff, and the board of trustees got busy figuring out a way to reduce spending by $125,000 in a way that wouldn't hurt students or the families that depend on paychecks from the school.

"It’s an opportunity to stand alone and then get it done," Bianco said in an interview with WBTA.

There will be no layoffs, no classes cut, and no sports or other extracurricular activities cut, Bianco said.

He rattled off a series of small cuts that get the school pretty close to meeting its budget for 2018-19.

  • With the retirement of the guidance counselor, that position will be merged with another administrative job, which will not only save money but mean a guidance counselor is on campus five days a week rather than just three.
  • One employee is voluntarily shifting off of group health care coverage to Medicare.
  • One business class, with only two students, is being shifted to online learning through Genesee Community College.
  • The hockey booster club will help pay for ice time.
  • The receptionist hours are being cut by 2.5 hours per week.

"It all adds up," Bianco said. "We’re just about to the number we need and we have increased participation in our annual fund from alumni because we have new strategies to do that. If we add students, compete, continue to be very responsive in how we navigate the operational side to the budget we should continue to meet cash flow for a long time."

He said he strategized with Mike Rapone and Tom Rapone on a plan that would "least affect kids, least affects families that work here, and least affects the excellent reputation of the school."

The reduction from the Diocese is a part of those made at Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions because of decreased revenue.

There may be other opportunities for savings, Bianco said. For example, the school is exploring a merger of the swimming program with another school.

"The public schools are doing that all the time," Bianco said. "So we're getting creative without losing opportunities for kids because we're a small school with big school opportunities. We offer 17 sports teams, a  great music and arts program, a fantastic theater program. We're doing that for $1.4 million. That's just $9,000 per student. It costs the public almost $21,000 per student (in public schools)."

June 28, 2018 - 3:11pm

Press release and submitted photo:

The Genesee County Interagency Council awarded two scholarships at their annual picnic on June 20 at DeWitt Recreation Area.

The goal of the scholarship is to support students who have a strong drive to contribute to the field of Human Services. The Council was seeking applications from high school students as well as college students who were pursing their education in a Human Services major.

The Genesee County Interagency Council awarded $1,000 to Parise Ricks. Ricks is a Batavia High School graduate and will be attending Ithaca College in the fall to study Psychology. Her long term goal is to earn a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

The Genesee County Interagency Council awarded $1,000 to Eva Graham. Graham is a wife, a mother of three, and will graduate with a degree in Human Services from Genesee Community College in December with a focus in Gerontology. She plans to continue her education at SUNY Brockport to study Social Work next spring.

Applicants had to be in a good academic standing, majoring in Human Services, Social Work, Sociology, or Psychology. Applicants needed two letters of recommendation from a guidance counselor, teacher, or other professional person. They also had to describe why they were deserving of this scholarship.

The mission of the Genesee County Interagency Council is to create fellowship and understanding among community human services agencies. The council helps to identify community issues and encourages development of resolutions. The Council is happy to have been able to award such deserving candidates and wishes them nothing but success for their future!

(Photo: GC Interagency Council scholarship recipients Eva Graham, left, and Parise Ricks.)
June 26, 2018 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, byron, bergen, sports, schools, education.

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Press release:

Alumni of Byron-Bergen schools might remember seeing high school runners carrying the Jr. Olympic torch through the streets of the two communities back in the 1970s. The custom began in 1976 to signal the start of the Elementary School’s Jr. Olympics Day celebration, but fell out of practice over the years. The tradition was back again on the evening of June 12, as a relay team of varsity runners from Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School, escorted by town fire engines, traveled a route around the towns of Byron and Bergen.

This was the third year for the new town run, which was organized by Varsity Track Coach Ken Rogoyski and elementary school teacher Alyson Tardy. This year’s runners, Jerome Spinks, Dayanra Caballero, Siomara Caballero, Anna Hersom, Hope Hersom Miriam Tardy, Josh Tardy, Paul McDermott and Travis Lambert, were cheered on by neighbors as each took a turn carrying the torch.

The next day, the traveling torch made another appearance at the opening of Jr. Olympics Day at the elementary school. Students there had been busy studying the cultures of many different countries. Each class represented their chosen country in a parade, and then in a day full of track and field competitions.

“The Jr. Olympics Torch Run is a fun way to connect with our community and a good way to get the younger kids excited about participating in the next day’s ceremonies,” Tardy said. “We’d really like to thank the folks at the fire departments for their support. We hope that even more people will take a moment to come out, have fun, and enjoy the show again next year.”

Top photo: Runner Anna Hersom carries the Jr. Olympic torch in Bergen as neighbors look on.

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Team Ireland celebrates at the Byron-Bergen Elementary School Jr. Olympics on June 13.

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Proud Bees after the 2018 Jr. Olympic Torch Run, (l-r) Jerome Spinks, Dayanra Caballero, Siomara Caballero, Anna Hersom, Hope Hersom Miriam Tardy, Josh Tardy, Paul McDermott and Travis Lambert with driver from the Bergen Fire Department.

June 25, 2018 - 4:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, elba, news, education, SUNY FACT2.

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee Community College is proud to announce the appointment of Judith M. Littlejohn to the State University of New York (SUNY) Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology (FACT2). SUNY FACT2 is a collaborative advisory body to the Interim SUNY Provost, Grace Wang, Ph.D.

Littlejohn, GCC's instructional designer, will begin her three-year term on the FACT2 Council next month and will represent the community college perspectives in advising the SUNY Provost office. The purpose of the FACT2 Council is to:

  • Improve the learning environment and expertise of faculty and instructional support staff;
  • Enhance the teaching and learning process through the use of technologies;
  • Increase networking, collaboration and sharing of best practices; and
  • Advocate for appropriately equipped and designed learning spaces.

"The entire leadership team at GCC is very proud to have Judie representing community colleges on the FACT2 Council," said Craig R. Lamb, Ph.D., GCC's dean for distributed learning. "Throughout her service to the College, she has continually shown a deep interest and dedication to staying abreast of new developments within teaching and learning technology.

"She also helps ensure our institution as well as the SUNY system overall maintains the highest quality in the online teaching and learning environment."

Littlejohn's career at GCC began as a testing center associate in 2000. She quickly advanced to the department of online learning where she worked for 10 years developing online curriculum, coordinating online learning functions and acted as an advocate for inclusion of opportunities for diverse student populations. In 2015, Littlejohn became an instructional designer.

Honored for "Outstanding Peer Support" by participants in the Emerging Technologies Massive Open Online Course (#EmTechMOOC) in 2018, Littlejohn has also been the recipient of the SUNY FACT2 Award for Excellence in Instruction at Community Colleges in 2016, and a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service in 2014.

She earned two A.A.S. degrees in Instructional Model Making and Commercial Art -- Graphic Design from GCC in 1993, a B.S. in History in 2010, and her M.A. in American History and World History in 2013, both from SUNY College at Brockport. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design from the University of Wisconsin Stout, which she earned in 2015.

Littlejohn resides in Elba with her husband, Martin, and daughter, Amanda Littlejohn. Judith Littlejohn, her daughter Amanda, and daughter Laura (Littlejohn) Hare of Lockport are all GCC graduates.

The announcement of Littlejohn's FACT2 appointment kicks off a new series of GCC news and information entitled "Recognition Matters," which will highlight the ongoing accomplishments of the College's faculty, staff and students.

The new program intentionally plays on the dual meaning of the word "matters." College officials are excited to feature the wide body of employees whose daily dedication to their jobs continues to foster the institution's "beyond expectations" brand identity.

June 25, 2018 - 11:07am
posted by Steve Ognibene in Batavia HS, commencement, news, education, steve ognibene.

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Batavia High School's 136th commencement, for the Class of 2018, was yesterday at Genesee Community College at the Richard C. Call Arena.

Valedictorian Lauren Leone classified the Class of 2018 as iconic, with a legacy that will linger in every corner of the school.

Her message to her class:

Dare to defy, dare to challenge. Challenge yourself and your counterparts to break with accepted standards and set your own precedent, even if that means challenging your superiors as well. Don’t settle for what has been done, struggle for what should be done. Seek social justice wherever it is absent.

"Take to social media and peaceful protest as avenues to effect change. Make a statement and don’t be afraid to stand behind it. Be passionate. Be activists. Don’t be satisfied until you’ve made a change. So far, the Class of 2018 has been very successful in doing just that.” 

Salutatorian Claire Zickl remarked:

“If there is one similarity shared by every member of my class, is that not one of our paths was a straight line from where we stayed as freshman to where we are today. We all experienced winding road filled with bumps, downed trees, and traffic with plenty of detours."

Commencement speaker Dan Hartnett who will retire after the ceremony after 20 years at BHS said: “always look outside the box. Move in different directions. You never know someone special is waiting out there to meet you."

Many tributes were recognized during the ceremony of student Lorne R. Brudz who had passed during homecoming week last fall. Presentation of awards and diplomas was given by Paul Kesler, principal of BHS, Christopher Dailey, superintendent of schools, and Patrick Burk, president of the Board of Education.

To view or purchase photos go to steveognibenephotography.com or click here.

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Valedictorian Lauren Leone

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Salutatorian Claire Zickl

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Superintendent of Schools Christopher Dailey hands the first diploma to Sophia Alkhouri-Stuart.

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Julie Wasilewski, a counselor​ a Jackson School, hugs daughter Paige before presenting her diploma.

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June 24, 2018 - 2:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, alexander hs, schools, education, news.

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Brian West Jr., who would have graduated Saturday from Alexander High School if not for an automobile accident in July 2017 that took his life, was not far from anybody's heart in the school's auditorium as the members of the Class of 2018 finished their high school careers.

Each speaker mentioned West. His jersey sat on a chair in the first row of graduating classmates, and his father, Brian West Sr. (top photo), walked on stage to accept his diploma.

"The passing of Brian West was a tragedy that touched all of our hearts," said valedictorian Cassidy Graham. "Many of us had a hard time understanding how such a horrible thing can happen to our little town. None of us wanted to believe that we had seen Brian’s smiling face or heard his hearty laughter for the last time; however, in Brian’s absence, we found the best possible outcome from such a loss. In mourning, we came together as a class, closer than ever before."

Principal Shannon Whitcome said, "Although Brian isn’t here with us physically, he is here with us. He is here with your memories of Brian and love we all have for him and his family. Those things will ensure he lives on long after we leave here today. His legacy is going to last through each one of you and your accomplishments in the future."

Steve Dodoszak, former assistant principal, selected by the class for the commencement speech, also recalled Brian as a special person.

"I believe Brian’s presence is with us today," Dodoszak said. "When I reflect on some of the memories of this class, know that Brian is part of it. There are no words to ease the pain but know that he and you are in our thoughts and prayers. We miss him and we will always love him."

Alexander celebrated the graduation of 68 seniors during the ceremony.

Graham noted the accomplishments and promise of her classmates.

"On this stage, we have football players who took our team to sectionals two years in a row," Graham said. "On this stage, we have record-setting swimmers and state champion wrestlers. We have talented artists, incredible singers, a great actor, a brilliant dancer.

"We have three future members of the military. We have individuals who maintained their grades while working part time, not an easy task. What this tells me is that the Class of 2018 is a group of motivated individuals who are willing to work hard to get what they want in life. All I can say is never, ever, lose that drive that is within each of you."

Previously:

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Cassidy Graham

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Salutatorian Benjamin Slenker

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June 23, 2018 - 10:09pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in byron-bergen, byron, bergen, schools, education, news.

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Seniors in Byron-Bergen’s 2018 graduating class were urged to “set out and make a difference” by Junior-Senior High School Principal Patrick McGee, as he addressed the class at graduation ceremonies Saturday.

The class of 80 received their diplomas at Roberts Wesleyan College’s Cultural Life Center in North Chili.

McGee commended school staff in helping the kids, who he called “an amazing group of young people.”

In urging them to make a difference, he cited a young boy named Pete whose only ambition was to be a bagger in the local grocery store. Pete wrote a personal note and put it in each customer’s bag. Business at the store soared and all the customers lined up at Pete’s station, causing long waits, but they all said it was because Pete’s notes made their day.

“He became part of the life of every person in his community, because of one simple act,” McGee said. “And it had to do with putting others first.”

McGee said today Pete is a very successful motivational speaker.

Superintendent Mickey Edwards challenged the class to set goals for themselves.

“Life is not always fair, and sometimes failure is inevitable,” but keep moving forward, whatever you do,” Edwards said. “I know each one of you has the potential to change the world.”

Finally, he urged the class to laugh often and be responsible citizens.

Salutatorian Margaret Graney said she thought the class was all pretty great.

“We’ve had an opportunity to grow up together as friends,” she said. “Always remember something good about Byron-Bergen – the fun you’ve had and the mistakes you’ve made.”

She said Byron-Bergen had taught them a lot – maybe not all in the classroom.

“It taught us how to think – not what to think,” she said. “It taught us how to take on the bigger world. Like a fish only grows as large as its tank will allow it to, Byron-Bergen has been our fish tank. Now it’s time to move on to bigger things.”

Valedictorian Lauren Burke praised all the great teachers, from kindergarten through her senior year.

She recalled her first school musical in second grade and the recent senior class musical. She shared the sports championships the classes had won during her school years and this year’s talent show.

There was the senior class trip this year to Cleveland and New York's Cedar Point State Park, located in the Thousand Islands' region.

“We’ve come a long way,” Lauren said. “We’ve gone from nervous kindergartners to star athletes and accomplished musicians. This class has taught us lessons we will use throughout the rest of our lives. None of our achievements would have been possible without the support of the community, our parents and teachers. Our success is your success.”

She concluded with a quote from "Mahatma Ghandi," born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.”

Special scholarship awards were presented by McGee, school counselor Matt Walther and Assistant Principal Scott Bradley to the following:

Alfred K. Sheldon Memorial Leadership Award, Joshua Phelps; American Field Service Foreign Language Award, Lauren Burke; American Red Cross Scholarship, Morgan Fuller; Arthur Rohe U.S. History Scholarship, Lauren Burke; Bergen Grange Award, Ethan Green and Peyton Mackey; Bergen Rod and Gun Club Award, Justin Hannan and Morgan Fuller; Bergen Volunteer Fire Co. Student Volunteer Scholarship, Melanie Kulikowski; Brad A. Hobin Memorial Award, Paul McDermott Jr. and Michael Khomitch; Byron Kiwanis Club Award, Nicole Welka, Cameron Brumsted and James Boughton; Byron-Bergen Administration Scholarship, Quinn Chapell; Byron-Bergen Faculty Association Award, Justin Hannan; Byron-Bergen Learning Community Award, Jean Denson and Leah Thompson; and Byron-Bergen Student Council Scholarship, Benjamin Chaback.

Also, Claus Memorial Award, Lauren Burke and Margaret Graney; Clint Cooper Memorial Scholarship, Brian Ireland; Derek K. Sheldon Memorial Scholarship, Daniel Stutzman; Dora M. Jones Scholarship, Hayley Hoehn; Earl Almquist Family Art Award, Austin Sharpe; Francis J. and Ethel A. Miller Memorial Scholarship, Tyler Henry and Larissa Ashton; Gillam Educational Fund Scholarship, Dana Van Valkenburg; H.E. Turner and Co. Funeral Homes Community Service Award, Lauren Burke; Helene Forsyth-Hough Memorial Scholarship, Nathan Knickerbocker; Hesperus Lodge No. 837 F.&A.M., Julia Menzie; Ida Casewell MacEwen Award, Austin Sharpe; Jerome G. Spitzner Memorial Science Award, Benjamin Chaback; Leo J. O’Neill Memorial Scholarship, Benjamin Chaback.

And, Lori A. Nelson Award, Brendon Kendall; Mary Wride Memorial Attendance Award, Tyler Henry; Paul West Scholarship,Peyton Mackey; Ralph and Minna Gillette Scholarship, Jean Denson and Daniel Jensen; Reis Memorial Scholarship, Makenzie Muoio; Sackett-Merrill-White Post 575 American Legion Scholarship, Shaun LoVerdi; Sarah Batemen Memorial Scholarship, Nicole Welka; Sunshine Award, Hayley Hoehn; Tom Covington Memorial Agricultural Scholarship, Garrett Sando; TVFCU Junior Banking Scholarship, Leah Thompson and Melanie Kulikowski; and the William F. Engle Scholarship, Riley Sadler.

The graduating seniors with the 10 highest academic averages are Lauren Burke, Margaret Graney, Benjamin Chaback, Larissa Ashton, Lily Mercovich, Dana VanValkenburg, Tyler Henry, Jean Denson, Brian Ireland and Leah Thompson.

Class officers are Hayley Hoehn, president; Makenzie Muoio, vice president; Justin Hannan, secretary; and Lauren Burke, treasurer.

The High School Band, under the director of Kevin Bleiler, accompanied the graduates for the processional and recessional and in singing the National Anthem. Laurence Tallman is director of the school’s Singing Silhouettes.

Top photo: Byron-Bergen’s Class of 2018 stands with Principal Patrick McGee, left, and members of the Singing Silhouettes as they sing the National Anthem prior to graduation ceremonies Saturday at Roberts Wesleyan College’s Cultural Life Center in North Chili. Photos by Virginia Kropf.

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Byron-Bergen High School’s valedictorian Lauren Burke addresses her class during graduation ceremonies Saturday at Roberts Wesleyan College’s Cultural Life Center.

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Lauren Burke, from a slideshow that presented students as seniors and with a childhood picture.

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Salutatorian Margaret Graney gives her address during Byron-Bergen’s graduation Saturday at Roberts Wesleyan College’s Cultural Life Center.

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Seniors Lauren Burke and Margaret Graney were presented with the Claus Memorial Award in memory Christopher Claus (Class of 2015) and Victoria Claus (Class of 2018) at Byron-Bergen’s graduation ceremonies Saturday.

June 23, 2018 - 7:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, schools, education, news.

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Le Roy High School celebrated the graduation of 93 seniors today in a ceremony in the school's auditorium.

Gavin Luckey (top photo) was the valedictorian.  

He noted that now he and his classmates will have more freedom and the time they have in front of them will be filled with choices about how to spend that time. He said, make choices to fill it with memories.

"We are now able to do what we want with our time. By far one of the greatest resources we have is time. For this reason, I want to take this moment to talk about it, more specifically, to never take it for granted.

"Unfortunately, time does not work in our favor. Time is limited, unlike other resources, time can only be lost; it can never be gained, therefore, once time is past it can never again be attained. However, the one extraordinary thing about time is it can be stored within us as memories we can revisit again and again."

The salutatorian address was delivered by Lydia Borrelli, who marked the time of her class by recalling some of the cultural touchstones of the past four years, such as Michelle Obama's healthy lunch initiative, the Harlem Shake, the blue or gold dress, the break up of One Direction, and clowns.

“Clearly, we’ve overcome many obstacles during our time here at Le Roy," Borrelli said.

The class selected James Thompson, elementary principal for 20 years, to deliver the faculty/staff address. He recalled that he had known many of the students since kindergarten and advised them that what they learned in kindergarten will always serve them well in life.

"Share everything, play fair, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, wash your hands before you eat, flush, and when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together," Thompson said. "All good reminders, my friends, the Class of 2018, especially that last one. As we go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and please stick together."

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Lydia Borrelli

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James Thompson

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Donald Hobart, president of the Le Roy Board of Education

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June 22, 2018 - 6:29pm

This past February, members of the Alexander Central School District Board of Directors traveled outside of the district, driving to East Aurora, for a retreat where, according to the school district's attorney, the board members learned about how to work together better.

If that's all the retreat was, it's perfectly legal.

However, in a May 15 interview with The Batavian, Superintendent Catherine Huber said that at the retreat the board developed a policy called the "Norms."

If that's true, and if you interpret the "Norms" as a work product unique to the Alexander CSD, the retreat may have violated the state's Open Meetings Law, according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the NYS Committee on Open Government.

It would take a citizen filing a legal challenge to the meeting/retreat to determine if it really were a violation of the law. Freeman's statements to a reporter is not a legal determination.

"If they came back with a policy that is clear, then the purpose of the retreat was not general in nature," Freeman said. "Policy can only be established and discussed in a meeting in accordance with the Open Meetings Law. The facts, in this case, differ from the analysis offered by the school district attorney."

The "Norms" for the school board, as published in a district newsletter earlier this year, are:

  • We represent all students and District residents;
  • We speak with one voice;
  • We consider all matters brought to the Board as confidential;
  • We are active listeners;
  • We agree to the practice of tell one, tell all;
  • We are visible in our schools and at school functions;
  • We are respectful to all.

It is the "one voice" policy that brought the retreat and the "Norms" to the attention of The BatavianAs reported earlier, Huber, school members, and a school board candidate have used this policy as a reason that board members cannot answer questions from reporters.

After the May 15 interview, The Batavian filed a request under Freedom of Information Law for all documents, including emails, related to the retreat including an agenda, minutes, meeting notices, notes, memos, and emails created in the planning of the retreat, and any documents produced after the retreat.

The Batavian received back two documents, receipts from the Roycroft Inn for a meeting room rental and food totaling $496.80.

In response to receiving only the receipts, The Batavian emailed the school district's attorney, who responded to the FOIL request, and asked: "No agendas? Minutes? Meeting notices? Dr. Huber went into this meeting with no preparation? There was no prior planning? The board members didn't have hotel rooms? No travel expenses?"

Schwartzott responded, "Yes, that is correct – the District did not prepare agendas or take minutes. Additionally, there were no hotel expenses because no one stayed at a hotel. There were no travel expenses because there wasn’t any travel involved – the Roycroft Inn is in East Aurora."

She didn't address the question about missing meeting preparation documents.

In subsequent emails, Schwartzott denied the board held a meeting. We asked her to explain how the retreat didn't violate the OML.

Her response:

District policy was not discussed or created at the Board retreat. As Dr. Huber explained and your publication clearly states (“Recently we did a board retreat and the board established norms, which you also probably saw on our website, and one of the norms that the board established was that they would speak with one voice”), the discussion centered around communication strategies (i.e., “norms”), which the State’s Committee on Open Government (COOG) has determined is a permissible topic for Boards of Education to discuss privately in a retreat setting (see OML-AO-3709).

Moreover, COOG has also long held that a meeting of members of a Board of Education at which “public business” is not being discussed is not a Board meeting, and, therefore, is not a public event and does not follow the requirements in the Open Meetings Law (see Open Meetings Law Section 102(1); see also OML-AO-4762).

While Schwartzott did not explicitly quote from OML-AO-3709, which was written by Freeman, for example, does state:

... if there is no intent that a majority of public body will gather for purpose of conducting public business, but rather for the purpose of gaining education, training, to develop or improve team building or communication skills, or to consider interpersonal relations, I do not believe that the Open Meetings Law would be applicable.

In that event, if the gathering is to be held solely for those purposes, and not to conduct or discuss matters of public business, and if the members in fact do not conduct or intend to conduct public business collectively as a body, the activities occurring during that event would not in my view constitute a meeting of a public body subject to the Open Meetings Law.

In other words, school boards can have retreats for the sole purpose of education and training without violating the Open Meetings Law.

However, the next paragraph states:

"...if indeed the retreat involved 'District goals' and consideration of the policies and procedures referenced earlier, I believe that it constituted a 'meeting' that fell within the requirements of the Open Meetings Law."

In The Batavian's discussion with Freeman about these official, written opinions, he expressed the opinion that a retreat that produces "Norms" would mean that discussions were held and decisions made that were unique to the district, sets policy for the board, and is not general in nature, then the gathering is covered by the Open Meeting Law.

"This clearly involves school district business that is unique to the school district and is not general in nature," Freeman said.

We provided these Freeman's quotes to Schwartzott and she called Freeman and then sent The Batavian an email that began, "It turns out he and I don’t disagree about these issues at all. Mr. Freeman said you didn’t provide him with all of the relevant information when you spoke."

She added, "To confirm, now for the third time, the District’s position remains that a discussion about how to develop strong communication skills at the Board retreat did not violate the Open Meetings Law. In closing, this is my last comment about this; I will not engage with you on this issue anymore."

We asked Schwartzott to provide the "relevant" information The Batavian did not provide to Freeman. She did not respond. When we spoke to Freeman today, he mentioned no missing relevant information and confirmed his prior opinion the "Norms" look like something that is unique to the district, sets policy, and should have been handled in a public meeting.

By this time, we had provided Freeman with the full May 15 quote from Huber and a copy of the "Norms."

"Again," Freeman said, "it seems to me what is described here would essentially be a policy of the board of education and the school district, which, again, should have been discussed in an open meeting."

See also: Analysis: It's still not clear what Alexander attorney and superintendent believe about free speech for board members

June 22, 2018 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, byron-bergen, news, byron, bergen.

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Press release:

On June 19, the Byron-Bergen learning community and the community-at-large were treated to a special stage adaptation of “Sneaky Weasel,” a children’s book by author Hannah Shaw, performed by fourth-graders.

The show featured the talents of the entire class working together as actors, assistant directors, narrators, dancers, stage crew and scenery designers, sound effects artists, and costume designers. The story centered on an unhappy bully, Sneaky Weasel, who finally discovers how to be a friend.

“Our students have been working on the project for several weeks,” said fourth-grade teacher Alyson Tardy, who along with teachers Jenna Carney and Kelly Morriss, wrote the stage play and directed the performance. “They have each contributed their best efforts.

"It’s been really great seeing students find talents they didn’t know they had, kids stepping up to help each other, and quiet children coming out of their shells to get onstage in front of an audience. The arts are so important for development and this has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to really stretch themselves and shine.”

Top photo: “Sneaky Weasel” featured players (l-r) Grace DiQuattro, Joel Lamb, Simone Scharvogel (as Sneaky), Megan Jarkeiwicz, and Katherine Rogoyski.

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Mama Weasel (Gianna Graff) with all her weasel-y offspring (Madisyn Rodak, Logan Czachorowski, Madison Hutchings, Sidney Maher, and Connor Copani.)

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The cast included narrators plus singing and dancing hedgehogs, rabbits, sheep, rats, mice, shrews, dogs, and even a chicken.

June 22, 2018 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, woodward memorial library, education, news.

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Elementary schoolchildren in Le Roy at the Woodward Memorial Library were honored last night with the Mary Hadley Love of Reading Award.

The new award is presented in memory of Mary Hadley, who worked for the library for more than 30 years. A member of her family made the donation for the award after she passed away.

The winners were selected by a committee of library staff after receiving nominations from teachers and library staff.

"They are elementary students who just love reading and share that same enthusiasm that Mary had as a way to honor her memory," said Library Director Betsy Halvorsen.

Award winners, and their grades, were: MacKenzie McLaughlin (K), Meredith Ianni (second). Grant Northrup (third), Nathaniel Staley (fourth), Tate Hempel (fourth), Emma Offen (fourth), Evan McAllister (fourth). Marin Kemp (third). Anna Kent (third), and Noah Hurley (third).

The winners received a certificate, a $25 gift certificate for Bridge Books in Brockport, and a small gift bag of prizes.

Photo by Andrew Hempel.

June 22, 2018 - 8:00am

The Alexander Central School District is planning on instituting a fee structure for use of school facilities by community groups and that has a number of parents, especially parents of children who participate in sports, upset, according to Lisa Lyons, president of the Tri-Town Youth Athletics Association.

Lyons raised those concerns with the Board of Education on Tuesday night. School board meetings are generally sparsely attended and Tuesday dozens of district residents were in the auditorium for the meeting, though there's no way to say how many were there because of the fee issue.

The fees, at least as announced, would cost the association about $8,000 for football and basketball, according to Lyons (CLARIFICATION: Lyons provided a revised calculation of anticipated association costs after publication of this story) and she asked a number of questions, none of which were answered by board members after she spoke.

"As residents, we pay taxes that are among the highest in the state for a community our size," Lyons said. "Adding in $6,000 in fees, how is this not double dipping? As a nonprofit organization, these fees will close programs for us. The district parents of these children have stated this is unacceptable."

Besides Lyons, there were two other parents who signed up to speak but with the intention of ceding their allotted three-minutes to Lyons, a request Board President Reed Pettys would not allow. One parent, Mary Shepard, tried to read from notes prepared by Lyons once her three minutes were up but Lyons said after the meeting she really didn't get to express all of the concerns that have been raised to her by the parents.

Before the public comments section on the agenda, during what the board calls "roundtable," where each board member can speak on any issue they care to raise, Superintendent Catherine Huber took a few minutes to explain her view on why and how the fees are being initiated.

She said in the fall, the board appointed a committee to review and potentially rewrite the school district's facilities use policy. She said the committee was comprised of board members and school staff who are past and present parents and coaches involved with Tri-Town.

The board minutes for Oct. 18 list board members Rich Guarino, Molly Grimes, Lisa Atkinson, Shannon Whitcombe, Matt Stroud, Tim Batzel, Rob Adam, and Ben Whitmore as members of the committee. The minutes also list Board Member Brian Paris as a member of the committee but he said he declined the appointment because of other business commitments and never attended a meeting.

The policy was adopted by the board in December.

Huber said the prior policy also allowed for a use fee but no fees were ever charged.

"We believed that it was time to start charging a nominal fee to outside organizations, to community organizations to use our facilities," she said.

Huber said she has tried to communicate clearly and work collaboratively with Tri-Town, inviting Lyons in for a meeting, not only to inform them on the need for the new fee but letting them know that the district could be flexible.

"Our goal is all the same," Huber said. "Our goal is to provide a great experience for all the children of Alexander."

She called the fee nominal and said that Lyons continued the conversation in emails back and forth.

"This is the first year for fee structure, so I suggested that if what we were suggesting is not something Tri-Town could bear, I asked Tri-Town to bring to me what could be a manageable solution in terms of a facilities fee."

One issue raised by Lyons is the district's projections for the Tri-Town fees are much lower than Tri-Town's estimation of the fees, based on the documentation they've received.

Huber presented slides showing the fee structure.

The association, she said, would be charged $25 an hour for football, for example, and with four games, that would come to about $300 per game day with an annual cost of $1,200.

The district's costs, she said, is $56 an hour or $650 per game day, with a total of about $2,700 annual. That would still leave the district short its expenses by $1,520.

The cost for basketball, by Huber's numbers, would be $1,920 annually with the district's annual cost at $3,523, for a two-sport charge to the sports association of $3,120, which is less than half of what Lyons estimates it would cost the association. The association uses school facilities only for football and basketball. (CLARIFICATION: This paragraph added after initial publication).

Those numbers, she said, don't include all of the district's costs.

"I think it’s really important that we have those numbers in front of us because as a community, we all want the experience for our students but we also have to understand that it is the responsibility of the board and the administration of the school district to make sure that there are facilities for people to use," Huber said.

"This community has come to expect a certain level of facility maintenance and certain expectations of around our facilities. It would be irresponsible of the board to not have a certain cost-recovery measure in place in order to maintain those facilities long-term."

Lyons said Tri-Town is a 40-year-old organization. She doesn't know how long the association has been using school facilities but it has been many, many years, so it doesn't make sense to her why now, all the sudden, the district needs fees to maintain the facilities.

While Huber is saying the fees are in that $1,500 range (they change some, depending on the sport and facility), Lyons said based on the use application she's been provided and the belief that the two chaperones required for each event, at $18 per hour each, increase the cost, the range is closer to $6,000 per sport annually.

If that is true, use fees for parents per sport will likely double, which will lower participation and mean the end to some sports. The disparity is so great, Lyons said a counteroffer, which Huber said is welcome, is hard to even formulate.

"I understand a nominal fee," Lyons said after the meeting. "I get it. But for us to even try to offer them something at this point, the fees are so astronomical I don’t even know where to start."

One thing that bewilders Lyons and other parents who joined a conversation outside the auditorium after the meeting is the requirement for two chaperones at each event.

"If something is broken, we’ve always paid for it," Lyons said during the hallway conversation. "If something happens, we try to take care of it. If they have a complaint, they’ve come to us and said there were kids running around the school, what can we do, OK we rope it off, we have volunteers wandering the school, making sure kids are in place, so again it’s not that we’re not trying to work with them, we are to the best of our ability."

In the parking lot after the conversation with parents, Huber said the chaperones were necessary because "we want to make sure our facilities are taken care of."

Asked if there were problems in the past that made chaperones necessary, Huber would only say, "We just want to make sure our facilities are taken care of.”

We relayed those comments to Lyons in an email and she said, "I would hope that if there were any issues that came up that I would’ve been informed. To my knowledge, I don’t recall there being anything that wasn't taken care of. Most issues that had come up were 'kid issues' and handled where both parties were satisfied. Issues with any property -- I only know of two and those were taken care of at the expense of Tri-Town and its insurance."

She said one property issue was recent and the other occurred many years ago.

The fees also don't make any sense, Lyons said, because Tri-Town volunteers take care of the facilities before, during and after events.

"The school puts on varsity games on Friday night," Lyons said. "When we get here on Saturday, that field is disgusting. It was lined but we set it up. We have to empty all the garbage cans. We have to get ready. We have our game. We clean up to the best of our ability. So you’re telling me as a school they have to ingest more fees when staff would have to do it on Monday?"

She added, "It’s not fair. When you really look at it, it’s not fair."

Students going through Tri-Town athletics makes the school district better, Lyons said. She said studies show that students who learn teamwork, discipline, and other life skills through sports do better academically.

The association also prepares young athletes to compete eventually at the varsity level -- a point Shepard also made during public comments after picking up the notes from Lyons.

"We have fed your school student-athletes for years," Shepard said. "We have helped put Alexander on the map with many individual wins, sectional wins, regional wins and many patches. How many athletic scholarships have been awarded compared to academic ones?"

Debbie Green said her daughter started with Tri-Town as a cheerleader when she was 5. After four years of cheer in high school, she earned a college scholarship. That is how Tri-Town benefits the school, the kids, and the parents, she said.

Green also noted that under the new fee structure, Girl Scouts, which she is involved with, will wind up paying $100 per meeting to continue meeting at the school.

The Batavian attempted to interview school board members after the meeting to get their indivdual takes on the association's feedback on the policy but we were only able to talk with two before the rest quickly left the building.

"When I’m outside the board and I’m not in session, I’m just an individual but I don’t give interviews," said Vice President Rich Guarino.

Asked if that was because of the district's "One Voice" policy, Guarino said, "Outside of the board, we’re just individuals and I don’t give interviews for anything. I don’t answer surveys on the telephone. I don’t give interviews."

Board Member Brian Paris did answer questions.

Paris said he believes the facilities policy is a work-in-progress, that it's really still in draft form and that the board is working on it.

"I’m not on the committee to develop it, so I don’t have tremendous insight but I do know that a lot of people put a lot of time behind it," Paris said. "I know this board. It’s a very reasonable board. Our goal is not to put any student in a position where they are not able to participate in any of these activities."

Lyons, Green, and Donna McArthur, who has been with Tri-Town for 42 years, said it's expensive enough being a parent of a student-athlete. Besides fees, there's equipment, training, travel, and other expenses that add up.

For the association, there are also expenses the district may not be considering, from insurance to recertifying football helmets every three years. And, McArthur said, the association has always made sure every kid who wants to play gets to play.

“We never have a child that does not play," McArthur said. "If they can’t pay as parents, we all kick in. We find them shoes, we find them a glove, no kid has ever been turned away.”

And community members help the school district in other ways. It was community members who did the fundraising in the 2000s for Chris Martin Memorial Field of Dreams, which is used by the district's football, softball, baseball and soccer teams.

For all these reasons, Lyons said, district parents aren't happy with what they see as astronomically high use fees.

"There has to come a point where, yes, there is that collaborative conversation," Lyons said. "But as a district, these parents are pushing back because they know that this organization cannot afford those fees. As parents, with that 99.6 percent of kids who are playing who are district kids, they’re already paying for this school. They don’t want to pay any more for it."

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