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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 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 - 6:18pm

Since April, The Batavian has been trying to understand the Alexander Central School District's policy related to free speech for members of the Board of Education.

After all this time, the district's attorney, Jennifer Schwartzott, told Robert Freeman yesterday, that the "one voice" policy or "Norm" does not prohibit school board members from expressing their personal views on matters of public interest. He is the executive director of the NYS Committee on Open Government.

How a policy that says board members must speak with one voice doesn't inhibit free speech for board members still isn't clear to us. We do know the policy has been used to shut down board members from answering questions from a reporter (see April 25 story) and that is has had a speech-chilling effect on school board candidates (see May 4 story).

Whatever fuller statement Schwartzott made to Freeman, she has never been willing to articulate clearly to The Batavian what her position is and how it differs from how "one voice" is being interpreted by Huber, the board, board candidates, and reporters. She wouldn't even make such a clear statement after being asked to do so in light of what Freeman shared with The Batavian.

When asked about it, she said, "Mr. Freeman correctly conveyed to you my opinion and the District’s opinion regarding speaking with 'one voice.' As for why you didn’t know that before having a conversation with him, I can’t speak for you or your understanding of my or Dr. Huber’s previous statements."

Here is Huber's May 15 statement:

The board should speak with one voice for several different reasons. The board by policy designates a spokesperson for the school district. We have that policy for you and I know that you've gathered those policies from other school districts as well and the board by policy has designated the superintendent as the spokesperson.

Our board has also gone a step further. 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. They would speak with one voice on matters related to the school district. Board members individually don't have power on their own. They have power and they come together around the board table.

That is not the same as their inability to express an opinion. Anybody has the ability to express an opinion. But in terms of commenting on district business, the board members only can speak with that same one voice as a board and not as individuals and they've designated the superintendent, as they probably have in most school districts, as the spokesperson for the district.

So Huber states that district has a designated spokesperson but the board has "gone a step further," explaining the board agreed it would speak with "one voice." In fact, she states, "They would speak with one voice on matters related to the school district." Then she said that's not the same as the inability to express an opinion, but immediately walks back that statement by stating, "But in terms of commenting on district business, the board members only can speak with that same one voice as a board and not as individuals."

As with Schwartzott, we have repeatedly asked Huber to make a plain, clear statement about individual board speech. She hasn't even acknowledged the emails.

We started asking Schwartzott to make a clear, unambiguous statement after she objected to our May 14 story, "Five school districts in Genesee County restrict speech for board members," stating that The Batavian misrepresented her views. Even in the comment she left on the story, however, she doesn't state clearly what her views are on the topic.

In emails about that article, she said it wasn't clear to her that the story we were working on was about the rights of individual members to express their personal views, yet in the response to our initial set of questions, she said, "Community members who are interested in what the local board members have to say can attend board meetings where the members discuss issues, share their opinions, and make decisions."

In other words, the only place the public can count on to find out what board members think is at meetings.

So, we're still waiting for a clear statement from Huber and Schwartzott about the ability of school board members to not "speak with one voice" but to speak individually as they see fit.

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."

June 21, 2018 - 9:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, news.

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Photo by Sherry Walsh.

June 14, 2018 - 12:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, sports, wrestling.

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Alexander wrestler Nick Young has committed Gannon University in Erie, Pa., a Division II school.

Young had a career record with the Trojans of 218-29 and was 53-4 last season. He won a sectional title and was second at states. He is a four-time Genesee region all-star, four-time sectional champion, and four-time state tournament qualifier.

June 13, 2018 - 10:22am

This is a transcript of an interview conducted with Catherine Huber, Ed.D., superintendent of the Alexander Central School District, on May 15. It's taken us some time to prepare the transcript for publication. It's been lightly edited for clarity.

The interview came about following publication of a story published April 25, Group of Alexander parents express frustration at how the school is handling discipline, student safety. Shortly after publication, the attorney for ACSD, Jennifer Schwartzott, e-mailed The Batavian and demanded a retraction. The Batavian did not retract the story, and the school district eventually dropped its demand for a retraction and agreed to an interview with Huber.

Context for the interview also includes the stories: Five school districts in Genesee County restrict speech for board members and NYSSBA deputy director addresses confusion about free speech rights of school board members.

Huber became superintendent of Alexander in December 2016.

THE BATAVIAN: We've heard from several parents, especially after our story a few weeks ago, who express frustration with the school district. They feel they are not being heard and they're powerless. This is more than just a few disgruntled parents. Why is this so pervasive? How did it become this way, and what changes are you making sure the parents are empowered?

CATHERINE HUBER: I just want to respond to that we listen to all concerns, questions that are brought to our attention. When I say we, I mean me, I mean teachers, building administrators, and our Board of Education. We deal with every situation that's brought to our attention and while sometimes there might not seem to be a resolution or might not be a resolution that people have all the details about does not mean that we're not responding.

TB: Is there anything you need to review that parents aren't getting -- how can you help parents feel more empowered, that they are being listened to?

CH: Do you have a specific situation that you --.

TB: Well, we're not supposed to discuss specific situations --.

CH: Correct.

TB: And, you know, there was the parents with the two meetings that had come up and then after a story posted we got so much feedback and social media emailed to me of like, "right on, finally somebody standing up for us." So, there is definitely a feeling out there that parents don't feel empowered and don't feel like they're being listened to. So, I'm wondering if there is a self-reflection of anything, anything you can do differently?

CH: I can assure you that we're always reviewing our processes and reflecting on how we conduct our business.

TB: Does it concern you to have this pop up like this?

CH: So, one of the things that is so fantastic about Alexander is that this school is the heart of the community and there is nothing like this community. This community loves its schools and there are so many outstanding things that are happening in this school every day. We have students who are successful on the stage, on the field, academically. We have community members, faculty, and staff who are engaged in all sorts of processes around the school all to make sure that people know that they have a voice in this school.

CH: One of the things that I'm most proud of, and I know that you were privy to some of this during your budget presentation last week, is that we've set up a whole system of committees. They are open to anybody -- community members, faculty, staff. We have student representatives on our committees. Some of the committees that we're working on right now, we have a capital project committee, we have members of our community, We have people from our transportation department, our administrators, our teachers, our staff, we have a student representative, who are not only talking about what we're going to be doing moving forward with our next project -- and I think you walked in through our last project, our beautiful new foyer -- but we're also talking about what's our vision for what Alexander will be in the next five or 10 years and then how our facilities can match up with that.

CH: We have community members and faculty and staff and students involved and all our hiring committees so we're about to start hiring for two of our retirements and those committees are important things that we're doing. We have our safety committee that has community members on it as well. We have a wellness committee. Again, representatives from across our community. Tim and I actually once a month meet with the mayor and the town supervisor in Alexander, again, as an opportunity to reach out to the community and to make sure that we always stay focused on the fact that this school is the heart of the community.

CH: That's what I want us to be focusing on. Our practices and the way that we communicate, the way that we are available -- those are all things that as any good professional will do. We're reflecting on all the time but what I'd really love to do is to get back to the conversation about all the great things that are happening at Alexander.

TB: I appreciate that. If there is any parent out there who feels that they haven't been heard, what would you encourage them to do?

CH: I would encourage them to follow the chain of command and the chain of command would be that you start with the classroom teacher. You move to the building administrator. If you still don't feel satisfied, you would move to the superintendent. And then, as appropriate, I could refer that to the Board of Education. That's in our policy.

CH: Being heard is not the same necessarily as getting the answer that you expect. We all know that. But I can assure you that parents are heard. Community members are heard when they reach out.

TB: Moving on, why should the board speak with one voice?

CH: The board should speak with one voice for several different reasons. The board by policy designates a spokesperson for the school district. We have that policy for you and I know that you've gathered those policies from other school districts as well and the board by policy has designated the superintendent as the spokesperson. Our board has also gone a step further. 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. They would speak with one voice on matters related to the school district. Board members individually don't have power on their own. They have power and they come together around the board table. That is not the same as their inability to express an opinion. Anybody has the ability to express an opinion. But in terms of commenting on district business, the board members only can speak with that same one voice as a board and not as individuals and they've designated the superintendent, as they probably have in most school districts, as the spokesperson for the district.

TB: Before this whole issue came up, I never, in 30 years of journalism come across agencies that said we must speak as one voice, that individual people are not their own independent agents who are responsible to their constituents. What you describe sounds like the kind of thing we would expect in Communist China where we all must be on the same page, people aren't allowed to dissent.

CH: You have the policies and I know you have the policies from the other school districts as well.

TB: Do your members have a right to dissent?

CH: Absolutely, they do.

TB: So why are they not allowed to speak those opinions if asked?

JENNIFER SCHWARTZOTT: That isn't what she said. She didn't say --

TB: I'm asking this, this because this has been my experience. Nobody can speak their opinions individually, from my experience in dealing with this school district. So I don't know, why that is?

CH: Can you maybe use a different word than allowed? Where are you finding that nobody can speak?

TB: That's comes from your statements and her statements to me.

JS: That is certainly not my statements as we've -- I'm not part of this interview, so if you want to ask Dr. Huber what her statements are you certainly can but she can't speak for me --

(NOTE: Since this interview, The Batavian has twice emailed Schwartzott offering her an opportunity to clarify her position. She hasn't acknowledged the emails.)

TB: When the first time I tried to talk to you the clear message as we speak with only one voice.

CH: Correct.

TB: Which is negating dissent or individuals’ views.

CH: It's in keeping with our policy. An important thing to keep in mind, too, is that one of the central jobs of a Board of Education is that they get to approve a policy. So, Boards of Education approve the policy that talks about things like who is the spokesperson for the board.

Continued after the jump (click "read more" below or the headline):

June 11, 2018 - 2:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Bethany, Le Roy, elba, alexander.

Joshua David Sumeriski, 33, of Buffalo Street, Alexander, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, uninspected motor vehicle, driver's view obstructed, and disorderly conduct. Sumeriski was charged after Deputy Mathew Clor responded at 3:21 a.m. Thursday to Transit Road, Bethany, to investigate a complaint of a man lying in the roadway.

Carrie A. Poray, 40, of Oatka Trail, Le Roy, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear. Poray was located by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and taken into custody for failure to appear on two traffic tickets in City Court. Poray was ordered to pay a fine before her next court appearance and released.

Jordan S. Thomas, 19, of East Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant. Thomas is accused of failing to comply with conditions of supervised release. Thomas was arraigned and jailed.

Joseph D. Berry, 32, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with menacing, 2nd, and harassment, 2nd. Berry allegedly held a large rock and threatened to inflict bodily harm to a store clerk at 7-Eleven in Batavia at 8:15 p.m. on June 6. He was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Maya Samanta Wright, 23, of East Ridge Road, Rochester, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Wright allegedly struck a patron of a business on Park Road, Batavia.

Chelsea Lorraine McEwen, 19, of Fleetwood Drive, Brockport, is charged with harassment, 2nd. McEwen is accused of punching another person in the face during an argument reported at 8:53 p.m. Sunday at a location on Bloomingdale Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

Laura Jean Santiago, 55, of Hundredmark Road, Elba, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Santiago was stopped at 8:56 p.m. Friday on Main Street Road, Batavia, by Deputy Mathew Clor.

William George Horner, 67, of Bank Street Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal obstruction of breathing and harassment, 2nd. Horner is accused of grabbing another person by the throat and applying pressure and pushing that person during an incident reported at 10 p.m. Friday on Bank Street Road, Batavia.

Todd A. Rich, 47, of Webster, and Justin T. Rich, 24, of Webster, are charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. The two men were stopped by State Police at 1:15 a.m. this morning on Route 19 in Le Roy.

June 8, 2018 - 5:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, schools, education, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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Alexander Central School hosted its second annual Jazz Invitational on Thursday night, which featured performances of Alexander's brass band, the Alexander Jazz Cadets (photos), and the Alexander Jazz Experience, along with a performance by the Warsaw Jazz Ensemble.

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June 7, 2018 - 1:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, alexander, pembroke, schools, news, notify.

By the fall, three deputies with the Sheriff's Office will become school resource officers in Alexander, Pavilion and Pembroke, so the County Legislature is being asked to add three new positions to the Sheriff's Office staff.

Sheriff William Sheron said the three deputies who will become SROs have been interviewed by their respective school districts and approved. He plans to announce their names next week after the Legislature approves the new positions and the contracts with the school districts.

The deputies will join Deputy Matt Butler, serving Byron-Bergen, and Deputy Chad Cummings at BOCES.

Pavilion has budgeted for a deputy serving as SRO for 12 months. Alexander and Pembroke, for 10.

The members of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday had questions about what happens with the SROs when school is out of session.

For BOCES and Byron-Bergen, there are events, as well as summer school, where the deputies' presence is possible.

In Butler's case, Sheron said the deputy will also build up a lot of comp time over the course of a school year, primarily from covering sporting events, and that Butler will take his comp time and vacation time during the summer. He will also work some road patrol and assist with Darien Lake security.

This will be the first summer for Cummings since becoming SRO at BOCES.

Each deputy will decide how to balance ongoing school needs, vacation and comp time during the summer, Sheron said.

In the case of the district's with only 10-month contracts, those deputies are more likely to wind up back on road patrol during the summer.

"Historically, both these schools that have them now, started off with 10 months but went to a whole year," said Legislator Gordon Dibble, former chief deputy for the Sheriff's Office. "I don’t think there is any reason these other schools won’t experience the same thing and eventually absorb that cost. I think it’s getting your foot in the door. It’s a lot easier to get your foot in the door for 10 and then add 12 after, from what I've seen."

Patrick McGee, principal at Byron-Bergen High School, attended Wednesday's meeting to discuss his school's experience with an SRO. He said Butler is more than a cop on the beat. He's a mentor, a positive influence, and a deterrent.

"He was at the prom," McGee said. "That’s the ultimate thing — no kids are going to come to the prom under the influence when you have a drug recognition expert. They know he’s standing right there. It’s not to scare them but it is a deterrent to certain behavior."

There's no price you can put on the safety of children, Sheron said, and such deterrence is invaluable.

"That’s the thing with deterrence," Sheron said. "You don’t know what you’re stopping. You’ll never know."

June 6, 2018 - 12:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, alexander.

A caller reports hearing a screech and looking out her window and saw a car off the road with steam coming from the engine on Hunn Road at Brookville Road, Alexander.

A deputy on scene reports a driver with a head injury but conscious and alert.

Alexander fire and ambulance responding. Units responding can respond non-emergency. Mercy EMS was dispatched but can go back in service.

UPDATE 1:22 p.m.: Alexander back in service. Patient sign off.

June 4, 2018 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, news, accident.

A man either had his arm run over or otherwise entangled in a vehicle in the area of 4116 Broadway, Alexander.

The vehicle is off the road and has a trailer attached that is now blocking Route 20, westbound.

Alexander Fire dispatched.

June 1, 2018 - 10:29am
posted by Billie Owens in alexander, poaching, crime, turtles, DEC, news.

Law enforcement responded to Cookson Road in Alexander and the vicinity to look for a green or light blue van whose driver was reportedly poaching turtle eggs. They are with the vehicle now.

The call to dispatch came from Department of Environmental Conservation "Officer Wilson," whose office received a recorded phone message tip about the alleged poaching. He has a 30-minute ETA to the scene.

The van's data comes back to an address on Buffalo Street in Attica and the female license holder "has a history of violations."

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: "We are out with her and she has a bucket of eggs," says an officer. "She is the registered owner of the vehicle."

May 30, 2018 - 4:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in alexander, jazz, music, entertainment, news.
From Danny Allen:
 
The public is cordially invited to the second annual Alexander Jazz Invitational starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 7.
 
Members of the "AJE" -- Alexander Jazz Experience -- will host the event in the school cafeteria, located at 3314 Buffalo Road, Alexander.
 
Pre-sale tickets are $3 for students and $4 for adults; tickets at the door are $5.
 
Hear some great jazz, enjoy some refreshments and see how popular this jazz scene is.
 
Perfoming are:
  • Alexander Jazz Experience
  • Alexander Jazz Cadets
  • Warsaw Jazz Band -- directed by Phil Briatico
Featured Guest:
  • The Genesee Wyoming Music Educators Association All County Jazz Band
May 26, 2018 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, news, Memorial Day, veterans.

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Today, Alexander students assisted local veterans in placing U.S. flags on the gravesites of deceased military personnel at the cemetary in Alexander.

Photos submitted by Eric Radder.

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May 21, 2018 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, corfu, bergen, notify, byron, alexander, Bethany.

Brooke L. Brumber, 18, of Washington Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal trespass, 2nd. Brumber was arrested on a warrant. She allegedly entered a residence on Washington Avenue at 8:01 p.m. May 3 without permission after being told she was no longer welcome there.

Matthew James Cratsley, 42, of Buell Street, Batavia, is charged with failure to report a change of address and failure to complete verification form. Cratsley allegedly moved and failed to notify the NYS Sex Offender Registry. He is also accused of failing to complete the annual registration form. 

Jonathan Peter Smith, 40, of Little Canada Road, East Bethany, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, moving from lane unsafely, and failure to signal. Smith was stopped at 1:28 a.m. May 13 on Main Street, Batavia, by Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello.

Sammy Lee Domthongmivanh Jr., 29, of Halstead Road, Alexander, is charged with: DWI; driving with a BAC of .18 or greater; failure to keep right; moving from lane unsafely; failure to attach registration sticker to vehicle. Domthongmivanh was stopped at 11:49 p.m. Saturday on Main Road, Pembroke, following a complaint of traffic offenses, by Deputy Eric Meyer.

Riecha B. Morris, 34, of Hawks Nest Circle, Greece, is charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs. Morris was stopped at 9:33 a.m. Friday on West Main Street, Batavia, by Officer Kevin DeFelice following a complaint of erratic operation.

David L. Castaneda Trejo, 19, of Byron, is charged with criminal trespass, 2nd, and making a false written statement. Castaneda was arrested on an incident reported at 11:22 a.m. Sunday in the Town of Byron by State Police. No further details released.

Matthew J. Lamkin, 36, of Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Lamkin was arrested in connection with an incident reported at 11 p.m. Sunday in the Town of Batavia by State Police. No further details released.

Alexandria C. Pisarek, 25, of Corfu, is charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child. Pisarek was arrested in connection with an incident reported at 11:50 a.m. May 9 in the Town of Bergen by State Police. No further details released.

May 16, 2018 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Fire, news, batavia, alexander, notify.

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There are few firefighters at age 23 who come into City Fire with a resume to match Ryan Hinz.

He's been a volunteer in Alexander since he was 16. He twice won Firefighter of the Year. He rose to the rank of EMS captain and won awards for his EMS work. He also won a chief's award.

Fire Chief Steve Napolitano said Hinz scored high on his civil service exam and his agility test and excelled at the fire academy.

Perhaps this isn't a surprise. He's the son of career firefighter Marty Hinz, currently a captain with City Fire, and the grandson of a firefighter who also served for several years as Genesee County's emergency coordinator.

Marty Hinz said he almost sees Ryan through his father's eyes.

"I remember when I joined the Alexander Fire Department and became chief down there and how proud my father was," Marty said. "And now I can empathize with his feelings, you know, just the look on his face -- now I understand where he was coming from and now I understand how proud he was. Now I'm just as proud of Ryan."

Napolitano was quick to emphasize that Ryan -- who is assigned to the First Platoon with Marty is assigned to the Third Platoon -- wasn't hired because he was Marty's son. He earned it.

"We're expecting big things from him," Napolitano said. "You know, he's got a good 30-year career out of here. We're expecting the same things that he's done from 16 to 23 to continue over the next 30 years."

Marty, understandably, but with good reason, thinks Ryan is qualified to be a career firefighter.

"Ryan has a certain pride, the intelligence, the humility that it takes to be a good firefighter," Marty said. "He's just a great kid."

Ryan said while he was inspired by his father to pursue a career in fire services, that isn't the only reason he took this career path.

"I like being able to help people," Ryan said. "I know that sounds like a cheesy response but it's just what I enjoy doing."

He said he is proud to follow in his father's footsteps and that serving an Alexander was a great experience that gave him a good idea what a career in firefighting might be like, plus, he said, he formed lasting friendships with his fellow volunteers.

Whatever inspired Ryan to become a career firefighter, Napolitano said it is what will make him an asset to the department.

"We're very fortunate in the fact that we have someone that has that internal desire to want to continue the family lineage and someone that it's not just a job for him," Napolitano said. "That is pretty much everyone in this department. It's a passion. It's not just a job. And that translates to the service delivery that we're able to provide. It's not just going through the motions. It's they live they breathe it and that they value the opportunity to work here. That translates to the service product that we're putting out there.

"To have Ryan, who, again, this is what he wants to do, this is where he comes from. It just enhances our service delivery."

Previously: 

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Chief Steve Napolitano, Ryan Hinz, and Capt. Marty Hinz.

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The first platoon: The new mentors for Ryan Hinz.

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