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GCEDC announces changes to sewer line plans for WNY STAMP

By Press Release

Press release:

“The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) is pleased to announce that we are working closely with the towns of Oakfield and Alabama, along with the village of Oakfield and regulatory agencies, to construct a force main to accommodate the current projects at STAMP and a potential future project.

“This project would result in capital improvements to the Village of Oakfield wastewater treatment plant, including the installation of equipment to reduce the current phosphorus discharge into Oak Orchard Creek.

“As the Oakfield line cannot fully replace the Orleans County line, we will continue to pursue the force main to Oak Orchard Creek in the town of Shelby through a different construction method, and we look forward to working with the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Tonawanda Seneca Nation as this process moves forward. The Oakfield plan alleviates the timing pressures for the build-out of the force main to Oak Orchard Creek.

“As a result of being recently notified by the USFWS that our permit for horizontal directional drilling for the force main to Oak Orchard Creek in the town of Shelby has been terminated, we are in the process of submitting a new permit application to propose an open cut construction method which will avoid the types of incidents that resulted from the former method.

“The determination by USFWS is unrelated to claims made by Orleans County regarding the force main to Oak Orchard Creek.  Those claims brought by Orleans County were recently dismissed by the State Supreme Court following an Article 78 hearing.”

Nurse, deacon and Woman of Excellence to be honored May 14

By Joanne Beck
Diane Cox with Bishop Sean Rowe
The Rev. Deacon Diane Cox of Batavia with Bishop Sean Rowe.
Submitted Photo

Diane Cox of Batavia seemed to always know her life was headed into nursing, though it was a crooked path by way of working in clerical and as a candy striper and pursuing health education before becoming a registered and faith community nurse, she says.

Cox, who grew up in Albion the daughter and first-generation college student of what she calls a multicultural household — a Polish dad and American Indian mom — obtained her master’s in health education before someone suggested that she go into nursing.

“I wanted to go into health education because I wanted to work with people who really want to make a behavior modification change, and their decision to physically make some changes emotionally, make some changes socially, make some changes spiritually, make some changes in their life, to have a complete model of overall health and wellness. And so I went into education for that,” she said, moving on to what came after she became a nurse. “I worked for six years as a chemo nurse at a private clinic practice. And, you know, having that cancer diagnosis to begin with is a nightmare. And then the hope that these patients give, and you're there a part of their journey, to bring them their hope, and provide them their hope. And sometimes the hope comes to an end, and then you help them cross that journey over to their next spiritual life. I had a spiritual moment. And so from there, I was called to the ordained ministry.”

Her work in both of those fields — the combined effort of those fields — have made Cox one of Rochester Business Journal’s Women of Excellence 2024 Awards honorees. All of them will be recognized during an awards dinner on May 14 at the Riverside Convention Center, 123 E. Main St., Rochester.

As a teenager, Cox was drawn to the human services field and be a support to patients, “to hold their hand” and effect tangible change in their lives, she said. However, after getting her master’s in health education, there weren’t jobs available for what she really wanted to do, so she ended up going to BOCES for her licensed practical nurse degree and then obtained her registered nurse degree from Brockport State College.

Cox had also been a lay person in the Episcopal church and was being called for many duties. It was during this time period that she had a revelation.

“When they say the Holy Spirit comes to you, the Holy Spirit does come to you,” she said. “It is a process spiritually, where you walk through this journey of prayerfulness.”

That process becomes more regimented, in that a committee of people get involved, including the bishop, “who talks to you and works with you spiritually with God, and you make a decision to be ordained,” she said. 

Cox made that decision to become an ordained deacon, which precedes becoming a priest, bishop and then presiding bishop for those that choose those next steps. Cox’s heart was pulled toward serving through pastoral care and as a faith community nurse, with ultimate goals to support the underserved, feed the poor and take care of children and the oppressed, and people who don’t otherwise have a voice in the world, “so we advocate for them,” she said. 

She began to work at Genesee County Jail in 2016 as a nurse and as a deacon, believing “we’re all children of God.”

“How you believe or what you believe, it’s not for me to decide. I don’t see the biases in the color of people’s skin or language. I’ve worked with people of Pakistan at Rochester General; they did not speak English. It’s just through eye contact and body language. You can still give love and hope and compassion to people; it doesn’t matter whether you speak English, there’s a way to communicate.”

Despite working with many incarcerated individuals, “I’ve never felt unsafe,” she said. Inmates have treated her respectfully, and in return, even when she’s known their criminal records, “I step back, and they’re human beings.”

“A lot of times I do know their crimes; that’s not my job, my job is to see they’re medically taken care of, and spiritually taken care of, and to be treated as a human being with dignity,” she said.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel has worked with Cox since she was a nurse there, and watched as she filled in when the full-time RN retired in May 2022. She was a “true local angel of mercy,” he said.

“This meant that Diane was our only nurse, serving what is typically a rather medically needy population of jail inmates. She served a population of anywhere from 45 to 70 inmates on a daily basis. This included doing intake health assessments, daily sick calls, making appointments for x-rays, medical specialists, dentist visits and a host of other needs. This also was during the period of the beginning of the COVID pandemic,” he said. “Diane worked daily with our inmate population and our staff to ensure the best quality response to their health care needs and safety. She did daily COVID testing of symptomatic inmates and those coming in on intake. She helped develop our response plan and oversaw the care of those inmates that tested positive. When she herself tested positive she worked from home to ensure appointments were make and kept and necessary prescriptions were ordered.

Cross made by GC Jail inmate
A cross made by an incarcerated individual for Diane Cox, she says.
Photo submitted.

“When COVID hit, visitation, church services and other programs were closed down at the jail,” he said. “With those services shut down, Diane stepped up and, with her ecumenical training and ordination in the Episcopal Church, ministered to the inmates spiritual needs as well. She held church services and helped council inmates who wished to have spiritual guidance.”

Cox works with end-of-life patients throughout Genesee and Wyoming counties under the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, in addition to being subcontracted per diem by Genesee County Jail.

“Since ordination, Deacon Diane has combined her role in the church with her role as a healthcare provider, providing counsel to a number of people in various stages of life, with special attention to the chronically ill and dying. Diane has taken a congregation in Stafford New York through significant losses and has earned their trust as they grieve their losses,” The Rev. Cathy Dempesy-Sims, Canon for Pastoral Care and Congregational Support, said. “Deacon Diane is a testament to the diaconate and her medical knowledge provides comfort and advice to scores of people in the Genesee Region.”

Cox also works part-time for Marktec Products in Batavia, where her husband Bill is CEO. He is “very proud of Diane for her accomplishments and this recognition by the RBJ,” he said.

“She spends many volunteer hours each week fulfilling her role of deacon, as well as her RN work at the County Jail, and at Marktec,” he said. “She is also a great wife.”

How does she manage her own emotions while dealing with death and the intensity of inmate issues? Dogs, food and entertaining, for starters.

“I am an avid chef, I can make you a gourmet hotdog if you want … I can put on a seven-course dinner and not be stressed. I like cooking, gardening, I exercise, go on retreats. I have three rescue dogs,” she said. “I do take me time.”

She plans to further her education by studying to become an end-of-life doula, someone that can help people at the end of their lives just as birthing doulas help with the beginning.

“So, bringing people awareness of what end of life care is and how, no, it’s not easy, but it can be talked about, like planning a birth and everybody’s excited for the birth process, and there are birthing doulas, and so we’re now coming full circle to have dying or death doulas. It’s a preparation.”

Her mom will be 92 and has a seat in the audience to watch her daughter receive this award. It's a humbling and "wow" moment, and not what Cox does it for, she said.

"I just do what I'm called to do, I listen to my heart," she said. "My mom will be quite honored to see my achievements."

Bishop, Diane and Bill Cox
Bishop Sean Rowe, Diane and Bill Cox during her ordination.
Submitted Photo
Diane Cox at Juneteenth
2023 File Photo of Diana Leiker and Diane Cox, deacons at St. James Episcopal Church.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Wrestler-to-wrestler, Hawley delivers proclamation honoring Batavia's first state champion

By Howard B. Owens
casper steward proclamation steve hawley
Assemblyman Steve Hawley presents an Assembly Proclamation to Casper Stewart, the first state wrestling champion in school history.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley recognizes a great wrestler when he sees one -- Hawley was himself a high school wrestler, good enough to make it to Division 1 in college before rib injury cut short his career -- so after Casper Stewart became Batavia High School's first state champion in wrestling, Hawley decided to deliver a special Assembly Proclamation to Stewart.

Hawley is limited to no more than 20 such proclamations during each two-year term, so, Hawley said, they go only to constituents with exceptional accomplishments.

"When we do a big one, it's for somebody, an individual or organization, that has accomplished something that is absolutely not only unbelievable but very difficult to obtain," Hawley said.

Stewart finished the season 52-3 and his wrestling career at BHS 279-20.  He is ranked fourth all-time in New York for wins and first all-time with 202 pens, ranking him fourth in the nation.

He will attend West Point, where he will continue to wrestling. After completing the military academy, he will serve at least five years of active duty in the U.S. Army.

"I am extremely proud of you," said Hawley, himself an Army veteran. 

Hawley's wrestling career started in fifth grade, and Coach Cargill told him he thought he had the makeup to be a wrestler, an offer that Hawley was initially reluctant to pursue because he didn't have much self-confidence, he said.

Wrestling helped change that.

"To make a long story short, I had a halfway decent record, a winning record, and I went from 101 to 112, to 118, or whatever the classes were," Hawley said. "I wrestled in college, and in one match against Bowling Green, Division 1, I ripped off that rib cartilage. But I never ever lost that belief that I could do anything I wanted."

casper steward proclamation steve hawley
Katie Steward, Rick Stewart, Casper Stewart, and Steve Hawley. Rick is also the BHS wrestling coach.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Antinore leads Notre Dame to win with pitching and hitting

By Howard B. Owens
notre dame baseball

Jay Antinore went the distance, seven innings, for Notre Dame against Byron-Bergen on Wednesday to help his team to a 7-2 victory.

Antoniore gave up five hits and one earned run, fanning two hitters.

He also had the only multi-hit game for the Irish, going 2-4, scoring three runs and driving in one.

Jaden Sherwood was 1-2 with two walks, scoring once and driving in a run. Charles Cummings was 1-2 with an RBI and a run scored.

For the Bees, Kinkleer (not listed on the team's roster, so no first name available) went 2-3 and drove in a run.

Photos by Pete Welker.

notre dame baseball
notre dame baseball
notre dame baseball
notre dame baseball
notre dame baseball
notre dame baseball

Alexander Schools proposes budget of $22.6 million

By Howard B. Owens

Alexander's school district board of trustees is asking voters on May 21 to approve a $22,758,728 budget.

That is an increase from the current academic year, which is $20,847,885.

The proposed budget increases the tax levy by 1.75 percent, or $109,709. The anticipated tax rate is $17.83, up 30 cents from the current rate.

The district is planning no cuts to staff or programs.

The district is not receiving an increase in state foundation aid.

There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. on May 8.

Besides the budget, other propositions on the May 21 ballot:

Proposition #2: Bus Purchases

  • 2 – 64 Passenger Buses - $340,000
  • 1 – 24 Passenger Bus - $110,000

Proposition #3: Equipment Purchase

  • Computer Hardware - $43,200
  • Chromebooks - $68,710
  • Floor Scrubbing Machine - $16,000

Proposition #4: Establish Equipment Reserve,  $500,000

Proposition #5: Establish Bus Reserve, $900,000

Pavilion set to present $19 million school budget to district voters

By Howard B. Owens

Pavilion Central School District's board of education has approved a $19,178,078 budget with a 2.9% tax levy increase.

District residents will be asked to vote on the proposed plan on May 21 in the high school auditorium lobby.

The tax levy increase is under the 3.3 percent tax cap ceiling.

Superintended Mary Kate Hoffman said The budget reflects a 1.64% increase in spending from last year.

One teaching position, created with COVID relief funds, has been reduced from one full-time equivalent to a half-FTE position.

Hoffman said the district is creating at the elementary school a 12:1:1 classroom, which is a special education class with 12 students, one special ed teacher and one aide.

"We are using existing staff to better meet the needs of our students," Hoffman said. "This classroom will allow us to keep students with special needs in the district."

The budget includes funding for a $100,000 capital outlay exception project and the purchase of two buses.  

The public hearing for the budget will be at 7 p.m. on May 13 in the high school auditorium.

Byron-Bergen school budget expected to increase more than six percent

By Howard B. Owens

The Byron-Bergen Central School District is proposing a $27,563,772 spending plan for 2024-25, up 6.13 % from the current academic year.

The tax levy is expected to increase 1.75%, from $9,223,509 to $9,385,010.

School enrollment is expected to drop from 920 students to 904 students.

The public budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on May 9 at the high school auditorium.

The budget vote is from noon until 9 p.m. on May 21.

Elba puts one in win column with no-hitter against Holley

By Howard B. Owens
elba baseball

Elba beat Holley in baseball 9-2 on Tuesday.

Captain Bing Zuber went 2-3 with RBIS and four stolen bases. Fletcher Norton went 2-2  with two RBIs and two stolen bases. Eliseo Lagunas was 3-3 an RBI, two runs scored and three stolen bases.

Sophomore Nick Scott and freshman Mason Vigiano combined for the no-hitter. Scott got the win, going four innings and fanning eight hitters.

Both of Holley's runs were unearned.

"I'm super happy and proud for our boys to get one in the win column," said Coach Andrew Boyce. "We've played some really good teams early in the season. Because of this, our record may be a little lopsided, but our boys have no quit, and I'm excited to see where this first win takes us as a group. Anytime you get outings like that from your pitchers, you're set up for success." 

Photos by Kristin Smith.

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elba baseball
elba baseball
elba baseball

GC Office for the Aging invites public to open house May 14

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Office for the Aging invites you to an exciting Open House event on Tuesday, May 14, from 2 - 4 p.m. at 2 Bank Street, Batavia.

Come meet our dedicated staff and learn about our comprehensive programs and services, which positively impact residents of Genesee County. Engage with our team, ask questions, and explore the resources designed to enhance the quality of life for older adults, individuals living with disabilities in our community, and their caregivers.

Enjoy light refreshments and participate in fun activities with chances to win exciting prizes throughout the event!

We encourage everyone to attend and discover the valuable resources available through the Genesee County Office for the Aging. Save the date for May 14 and join us at our Open House! 

For more information, please contact Maureen Estabrooks at 585-343-1611 or Maureen.Estabrooks@co.genesee.ny.us.

St. James has pulled pork on menu for Saturday

By Press Release

St. James Episcopal Church is hosting a pulled pork dinner from 4 p.m. until gone on April 27 at 405 E. Main St., Batavia.

The menu includes pulled pork, rolls, salt potatoes, cole slaw and dessert. Cost is $15 per meal. Takeout only!

Tenney calls for the NCAA to ban biological men from women's sports

By Press Release

Press Release:

File photo of
Claudia Tenney.

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) sent a letter to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President Charlie Baker urging him to change the NCAA's policies to ban biological men from participating in women's sports.

In addition to Tenney, the letter was signed by Representatives Jeff Duncan (SC-3), Nick Langworthy (NY-23), Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), Barry Moore (AL-2), Daniel Webster (FL-11), Christopher Smith (NJ-4), Neal Dunn (FL-2), Glenn Grothman (WI-6), Diana Harshbarger (TN-1), Anthony D'Esposito (NY-4), Rich McCormick (GA-6), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-1), Jim Banks (IN-3), Randy Weber (TX-14), Max Miller (OH-7), and Greg Steube (FL-17).  

While the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) recently approved changing its policy to prohibit biological men from participating in women's sports, collegiate women's sports remain under attack. The University of South Carolina women's basketball coach, Dawn Staley, recently made a statement in which she voiced her support for biological men to play in women's sports. Not only is this dangerous, but it erodes critical Title IX protections.  

"We must protect the opportunity for women and girls to compete and succeed in athletics fairly," said Congresswoman Tenney. "While I applaud the NAIA's recent decision to ban biological men from women's sports, I am deeply disturbed that the NCAA is ignoring the facts and failing to do the same. Women fought hard to earn the critical protections of Title IX, and we must continue to protect these opportunities for generations to come. I am dedicated to defending the future of women's sports and providing a level playing field for all female athletes."

Read the full text of the letter here.

Hawley critiques state budget, 'like watching an old rerun of Groundhog Day'

By Press Release

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) criticized members of the Majority today for passing a state budget that does not properly address New York’s most pressing issues. 

The budget, which came in at a total of $237 billion, is almost $10 billion more than last year and includes billions in funding for illegal migrants and inadequate spending for public safety measures. 

They also specifically authorized the Governor to have the power to close up to 5 correctional facilities within the next 5 years which experts say could leave a devastating impact on the economies of the surrounding communities. 

While the Majority has dramatically increased spending for the next fiscal year, they have not properly explained how the state will be able to pay for it. New York’s debt is currently over $400 billion and rising by the minute.

Hawley believes this budget is a sign of fiscal irresponsibility and misplaced priorities. Spending money we don’t have will only cause more problems in the long run. New York must stop this trend and work toward balancing its budgets.

“Budget season in Albany is like watching an old rerun of Groundhog Day,” said Hawley. “Every year it’s the same story time and time again. The budget is late, expensive and as always, a complete disaster. With the billions of dollars they’re spending, it's astounding the Majority is doing nothing to curb the public safety crisis in our state. We’ve had four police officers killed in the line of duty this year alone, one of them in Genesee County. Not to mention the irresponsible decision of giving the Governor the power to close up to 5 prisons with only 90 days' notice. Instead, we’re pulling money out of thin air to pay for problems we created. This is unacceptable. Families would never be this irresponsible in their personal budgets, so why are the Governor and Majority Conferences doing so?”

GO Health highlights infant immunization week

By Press Release

Press Release:

April 22-29 is National Infant Immunization Week. National Infant Immunization Week is a yearly observation that highlights the importance of protecting infants from birth to two years of age from serious childhood diseases.

Vaccines, a successful public health tool, have greatly reduced infant deaths and disability caused by 14 preventable diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox, and polio.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on-time vaccinations throughout childhood help provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Delaying vaccines leaves children unprotected during the time when they need vaccine protection the most.

“Children who may have missed or skipped vaccinations may be at an increased risk of diseases, which can be serious,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).

“It is important to stay on track with well-child visits and recommended vaccination schedules. Please check with your healthcare provider to make sure your children are up to date on their routine vaccinations.”

For more information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent, visit these resources:

For more information on GO Health’s Immunization Clinics or to set up an appointment, visit GOHealthNY.org. You can also contact your respective health department:

Follow GO Health on Facebook, Instagram and X at GOHealthNY.

Law and Order: Driver reportedly involved in accident in Pavilion charged with DWI

By Howard B. Owens

Amirose E. Hume, 35, of West Main Street, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and moved from lane unsafely. Hume was charged by Deputy Ryan Mullen following a one-vehicle accident at 1:12 a.m. on April 18 on Roanoke Road, Pavilion. Hume was transported to the jail for processing and released.

Krista Marie Penkszyk, 38, of Batavia Bethany Townline Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and harassment 2nd. Penkszyk allegedly stole an item during a disturbance at a residence on Bethany Townline Road, Batavia, reported at 7:32 p.m. on April 16. She was held for arraignment and arraigned and released on April 17.

Michael Patrick Pullinzi, 64, no street address provided, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd. He allegedly violated an order of protection out of Family Court at 6:30 a.m. on April 20. He was arraigned and released.

Daniel John Wright, 61, of Bay Village Drive, Rochester, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding, and driving without an inspection certificate. Wright was stopped by Deputy Jacob Kipler at 1:38 a.m. on April 21 on Lake Street Road, Le Roy. He was issued an appearance ticket and released.

Daniel R. Larocche, 45, of Buffalo, is charged with felony driving while under the influence of drugs. Laroche was stopped by State Police in the village of Oakfield at 7:38 p.m. on April 22. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Joseph J. Nelson, 38, of Medina, is charged with petit larceny. The incident was reported at 12:40 p.m. on April 11 in the town of Batavia. The State Police did not release further information.

Stephen D. McCarthy, 46, of Walworth, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property and petit larceny. McCarthy is accused of possessing a stolen credit card in the town of Alabama at 12:15 p.m. on March 11. He was arrested on April 19 by State Police. The State Police released no further information.

NYS Teacher of the Year and Batavia resident wants your vote for America's Favorite Teacher

By Joanne Beck
Zach Arenz with students
Batavia resident and Flower City music teacher Zach Arenz, with some of his ukulele band musicians, is competing for America's Favorite Teacher and a $25,000 prize.
Submitted Photo

In the days, weeks and months after the COVID pandemic protocols settled down and kids were able to return to school after all of that isolation, an odd phenomenon occurred, and many struggled with the desire to return.

For Batavia resident and Flower City School teacher Zach Arenz, he was able to spark student interest through the magic of music.

“I just think at the core of teaching, it's so important for kids to feel connected. And in a world where I think we're increasingly disconnected from one another, it's important to grow those relationships at the school, with their teachers, and get the kids excited to be at school each day,” Arenz says. You know, we're four years post the beginning of the pandemic … but attendance is still a big issue in schools; getting kids to want to come to school is a struggle for a lot of them. And I had one kid recently tell me that the reason he came to school that day was because he had band with me. And, I mean, in the days that I feel most stressed, and I just feel like am I doing it the right way? You hear something like that and you're like, wow, the teachers make such a huge difference in our kids’ lives.”

His work with students as a music teacher and efforts to establish a school-based Community Closet for donations at Flower City School in Rochester has earned Arenz a 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year Award and a Top Two spot so far in his group for a Readers Digest online contest that will award the final winner a $25,000 prize.

Not to boil down school absenteeism all to COVID, but a large reason was the aftermath of pandemic shutdowns and the resulting psychological and social effects, as noted by school experts, that online learning, removal of face-to-face friendships and classroom learning caused to kids. 

Add to that a school with demographics of pervasive poverty for students of color, and there are attendance obstacles, said Arenz, who has been a music teacher at Flower City since 2013. In the same way that he first became attached to an instrument — the clarinet in fourth grade and bassoon in college and now in the Genesee Valley Wind Ensemble — Arenz has been helping his students connect with music through general music and instrumental music, modern band, a garage band type model, and a ukulele band for students in grades kindergarten through six.

“Just a lot like my kids, there was a teacher who was brave enough and gave me a clarinet. And from that moment forward, my life has circled around music. I just I always find that it's the comforting spot for me to be, it's where I feel most connected,” Arenz said.  

There are certainly other needs, which Arenz has not let go unfilled. He first began to notice a student coming to school in the same white T-shirt, getting dingier day after day after day, he said. He then saw sweatshirts on clearance at a Big Box and thought, ‘I can buy one’ for this student.' Then he bought five. And then he put out a call for donations on his social media site. 

The Community Closet grew out of those simple and caring steps to fulfill students’ basic needs five years ago. The response was “more than I could have imagined,” he said.

“Because, if I could at least give them a clean shirt to feel comfortable in for the day, that's fine, I can do that. And then that has spawned into this community closet that I started at school, where I bring in donations from the community, and people will bring their trash bags and their spring cleaning. So there's all this stuff that we don't need anymore, and I have a whole closet and a portable closet rack that houses the clothes that the kids need," he said. "And the moment a kid sees me in the hallway, it may be, ‘I don't have any clean clothes at home anymore.’ But sometimes it's something just like, ‘Oh, I spilled my apple juice all over my pants. Can I have a new pair of pants?’ It's so easy now for me to just say yes, we have those things. And if it's something little like that, I can also run a load of laundry at school because there's a washer and dryer across the hallway from me. So it's doing stuff like that. It just makes the kids feel proud.”

An array of clothing filled the closet for students and their families. Then, several items were donated, including toiletries for personal hygiene. It became about more than just providing for someone in need, Arenz said; it was about providing for anyone in need at the moment. Most anyone could use a squirt of hand lotion at some point, right?

He said there hasn’t been an issue with kids being too proud to accept the goods because of the way the closet is set up. There can be, but he has instead seen “the gratefulness” that develops.

“It’s not something I hide; it’s not something I do in secret. The community closet is immediately when you walk into my door, it is to your right. So there are things that are out, and kids will get first,” he said. “And you know, I think by increasing visibility, you also increase accessibility. I will get interrupted in the middle of class (by a student asking for something). It’s not a big deal; I try to make it as shameless as possible. I also teach the difference between taking something because it’s there and it’s free or taking something because you need it.”

A transplant from Long Island, Arenz, 36, settled into Batavia as a comfy midway point between Buffalo and Rochester after Fredonia State College pulled him closer to Western New York. He first taught music for a middle school class in Sweden (the country) for a year before landing the Rochester job.

A believer in supporting local business, Arenz is no stranger to the Downtown Batavia and Genesee County trivia circuit and considers Eli Fish one of his home bases to hang out. He will proudly wear a Charles Men’s Shop tux to his New York State Teacher of the Year Award dinner at the White House on May 2.

The Board of Regents named Arenz for the 2024 honor based on his being “an exceptionally skilled and passionate educator.” He will also serve as an ambassador for the state teachers and become a nominee for the National Teacher of the Year program.

“Zachary Arenz is the embodiment of a dedicated and inspirational teacher. His ability to engage with students and inspire and ignite a passion for lifelong learning through music is exceptional,” Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said. “His determination to help all students achieve success by providing them with a safe and supportive environment is a model for all schools across the state.”

For Arenz, “It was the dream job I never knew I wanted,” he said. 

“I went in growing up in the suburbs, unsure what it was going to be like,” he said. “But my first school, I fell in love with my colleagues, I fell in love with my students. I’m very lucky to have the job that I have. It’s not a position that I take for granted ever.”

When he more recently came across an advertisement for the America’s Favorite Teacher contest and, more notably, the $25,000 prize, he thought, “I could effect some change with that money.” 

“I would love to be able to pour money into building up a sustainable classroom or not even just a classroom closet, but a true community space where it's not just in my classroom, it's not something that's mine, I think one for my school," he said. "I think what I would dream of is having a space that is more central, something that is more accessible, not just by the kids, but also a community space, a sort of, if I was dreaming, maybe it's a space that includes a food pantry, maybe it's a space that includes a shopping experience sort of thing, where we do have a variety of donations that are available to anybody. So when I do my spring cleaning, I would love to return my stuff to the school.”

Voting for this round ends at 7 p.m. Thursday before the next level goes on to compete. Arenz is hoping to continue with the support of everyone’s vote. To do that, and for more information, including about the Teach For America fund and boosting your votes even more, go to America's Favorite Teacher.

Pembroke Central Schools to present $27 million budget to voters

By Howard B. Owens

At Monday's board of education meeting, the Pembroke Central School District board approved a $27,289,194 spending plan for the district.

Pembroke Superintendent Matthew Calderon said the state provided the district with no increase in foundation aid.

He said the tax levy will stay within the tax cap limit, with an increase slightly below the cap for the 13th consecutive year.

"We needed to pair down our initial budget draft by $870,000 to get down to the final number," Calderon said. "Thankfully, no current full-time employees were cut."

The proposed budget will be presented at a public hearing at 6 p.m. on May 14 at Pembroke Central School.

The budget vote is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. noon to 8 p.m. on May 21 in the high school auditorium.

HomeCare & Hospice seeks volunteers for United Way Day of Caring

By Press Release
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Submitted photo of the Pathway of Life Garden located at Grandview Cemetery in Batavia.

Press Release:

HomeCare & Hospice will be participating in the Genesee County United Way Annual Day of Caring on May 23. 

United Way volunteers will be matched to local agencies and non-profit organizations to assist in hands-on projects in their communities. 

HomeCare & Hospice of Batavia will be seeking volunteers to assist in cleaning the Pathway of Life Garden at Grandview Cemetery which is a memorial brick garden surrounded by beautiful foliage, flowers, benches, and a place of relaxation and quiet reflection. The bricks are a lasting public tribute to your loved ones.

Volunteers are needed on May 23 beginning at 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. to complete pruning trees, pulling up the walkway to remove roots, weeding, grass removal, and power washing of benches and walkways.

Individuals or teams can sign up to volunteer by contacting Caitlyn Farnung at caitlin.farnung@unitedwayrocflx.org or by calling 585-242-6517. Volunteer registration is open until May 10.

If you or someone you know could benefit from hospice, please contact HomeCare & Hospice at 585-343-7596 or visit homecare-hospice.org.

Byron-Bergen career day is focused on the future

By Press Release
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Students interact with representatives from the Gillam Grant Community Center during the Opportunity Fair.
Photo by Jada Atwood.

Press Release:

Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School College and Career Counselor Rob Kaercher is helping students get inspired for their futures. On March 28, students in grades 6 through 12 took part in Career Day which included 75 guests from local companies, organizations, colleges, unions, and military branches. 

The goal of the event was to introduce students to career opportunities across a broad spectrum of skills.

“The focus for a long time was on just getting students enrolled in college and that’s no longer the case,” said Kaercher. “We want the students to explore options and think about what they want their future to look like. From there, we can help them get the tools they need, whether it be a degree or certificate or apprenticeship.”

Students rotated through a variety of presentations including a young alumni panel where recent graduates discussed their diverse paths after graduation. Other presentations highlighted college degree programs, careers in the military, trade unions, agriculture, civil service, and not-for-profits.

One panel presentation with a local twist focused on jobs and career paths in Genesee County. It was moderated by Chris Suozzi, VP of Business and Workforce Development from the Genesee County Economic Development Center, and included Deputy Director of Human Resources in Genesee County Tracy Augello, Director of Human Resources for the City of Batavia Rebecca McGee, New York State Department of Labor Workforce Program Specialist Robert Coe, and President of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Brian Cousins. 

They discussed local jobs, who is hiring, what is important in landing a job, and how different careers have different training requirements.

"The Byron-Bergen approach to Career Day is a refreshing change from the traditional choices of college or trade school,” said Jr./Sr. High School Principal Paul Hazard. “Mr. Kaercher and our team are helping students identify their goals and skill sets, and then find the right path to achieve their aspirations. That is also why Coach Fitch was an ideal keynote speaker.”

The students attended a keynote address by Fairport Basketball Coach Scott Fitch. He talked about his experience coaching Team USA and his involvement in Section V. He also shared personal stories from his players that illuminated the damage social media can do to career paths for students who are not careful with the content they post and curate. He emphasized staying positive on social media.

“Through the lens of social media, I challenged the kids to be better,” said Fitch. “To be better people, students, and friends. Many of the kids were nervous at the thought of us looking at their social media. The kids really resonated with the message and were a great audience. Byron-Bergen is a special place because people care. I was very excited to be a part of Career Day. Few schools offer a day like this to their students.”

“Coach Fitch’s presentation was really impactful,” said Kaercher. “Our students may not think they have much of a digital imprint, but everything they post or comment on can affect their future.”

The day rounded out at the Opportunity Fair. Veering again off the well-worn path of a traditional career fair, the Opportunity Fair featured career paths as well as summer jobs, volunteer opportunities, representatives from colleges, the military, unions, local non-profits, government agencies, and entrepreneurs. The Opportunity Fair was a chance for students to seek out and learn more about their areas of interest in a casual setting.

“It’s so important to be exposed to companies and speakers and network with people who could inspire you on a career path that you love,” said Kaercher.

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Keynote speaker Scott Fitch presents to high school students.
Photo by Jada Atwood.
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Students learn about emergency rescue services.
Photo by Jada Atwood.
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Students attend a presentation about careers in the military.
Photo by Jada Atwood.

Elba tops Kendall in softball, 9-4

By Staff Writer
softball elba

Elba picked up its fourth win in the team's fifth game of the softball season on Monday, beating Kendall 9-4.

Brea Smith picked up the win. She K'd five hitters and walked only one.

Maddie Thompson was 2-3 with an RBI.  Lydia Ross scored twice and drove in a run, going 2-4 and walking once.

Photos by Kristin Smith.

softball elba
softball elba
softball elba
softball elba

Top Items on Batavia's List

The City of Batavia is accepting applications for a Full-time Water Treatment Plant Operator/Trainee (Salary $23.65/hr.) This is a trainee position involving responsibility for learning the duties and routines in the operation and maintenance of a water treatment plant.  The work is performed under the immediate supervision of a qualified operator. Does on-the-job training to become qualified as an operator of a water treatment plant. Does related work as required. Applicant must be a graduate of a senior high school or possess a New York State high school equivalency diploma. Please submit a completed Civil Service Application to Human Resources, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY 14020 or tdean@batavianewyork.com. Background check, psychological assessment, physical and drug testing are required. Candidate must become a resident of Genesee County or any adjacent town to the County of Genesee within 6 months of the date of conclusion of the probationary period for the City of Batavia. EEO. Applications can be found at https://www.co.genesee.ny.us
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