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September 13, 2018 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, Le Roy, batavia, City Schools, Pavilion.

Press release:

New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced today the approval of Smart School Investment Plans for three school districts in Genesee County, including $2,543,552 for high-tech security and school connectivity. The funding is part of the Smart Schools Bond Act.

“Our children have unlimited potential to succeed, but only if our school districts get their fair share of state dollars,” Ranzenhofer said. “This investment will turn that potential into reality by ensuring Batavia City, Le Roy and Pavilion schools get the best resources to foster student success in a global economy.”

High-tech security funding has been authorized in the amounts of $1,940,585 for Batavia City School District and $348,300 for Pavilion School District. Le Roy School District has been approved for $254,667 in school connectivity funding.

Schools can invest these funds in classroom technology, school connectivity, and high-tech security upgrades to better prepare students for success in the 21st century. 

“The Batavia City School District is going to use SSBA funds to install and upgrade high tech security to assure the safety and well-being of our students and staff in all buildings to assist in maintaining a safest possible learning environment. We are planning on installing new card readers, new door contacts, electronic door strikes, wireless locksets, fixed high-definition cameras, door closers, and motion detectors," said Batavia City School District Superintendent Christopher J. Dailey.

"These improvements will allow our focus to remain on student learning while creating a safe environment for our students and staff to work, learn and grow,” 

Pavilion Central School Superintendent Kenneth J. Ellison said “Pavilion Central Schools will use the recently approved Smart School Investment Plan funds to upgrade our video security system to provide a safe and secure learning environment. The existing system was installed many years ago has limited coverage and minimal storage capacity.

"Our goal is to upgrade our system and expand coverage in all areas. These funds will make it possible to cover all targeted areas on campus with a state of the art camera security system."

The Smart Schools Review Board is responsible for approval of the plan. In 2014, voters approved the $2 billion statewide school investment to finance educational technology and infrastructure.

September 7, 2018 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Batavia Middle School invited parents to an open house Thursday evening, after the first day of school, for a chance to meet teachers and find out about their children's classes and expectations. 

There were also activities and food trucks for the families.

Above, Tricia Grillo, with her son Dom, meet with teacher Gigi Dombrowski about his eighth-grade math class.

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Spanish teacher Julie Trzaska with eighth-grader Hailey Smith, her father Charles Richmond, and her brother Noah, who is in fifth grade.

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Long-term sub Kayleigh Meyers in the ELA class with the four books eighth-graders will read this year: "Inside Out and Back Again," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Omnivore's Dilemma," and "Unbroken."

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September 7, 2018 - 12:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in school resource officers, schools, education, news, Sheriff's Office.

Press release:

This week was the first day of school not just for students returning from summer break, but for returning and new School Resource officers in Genesee County.

Students entering school doors this week at Pembroke, Alexander, Pavilion, Byron-Bergen and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s (BOCES) Batavia Campus were greeted with familiar faces and new faces as Genesee County School Resource officers begin the school year. 

New SROs Deputy Patrick J. Reeves (Pembroke), Deputy Eric J. Meyer (Alexander) and Deputy Cory W. Mower (Pavilion) are excited to embark on this new assignment.

They have recently completed School Resource Officer training and have shadowed existing SROs Deputy Chad P. Cummings (Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s –BOCES, Batavia Campus) and Deputy Matthew R. Butler (Byron-Bergen) to learn  from experiences both have had over the years in this position.

Sheriff William Sheron stated that it is his goal to establish a School Resource Officer in all county schools to ensure the safety and protection of the students and faculty.

“Although the cost associated with placing a School Resource Officer in the schools is significant, I believe the safety and security of our children should be of the utmost precedence,” the sheriff said. 

September 6, 2018 - 9:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Students arrived at Batavia High School for the first day of classes bright and early.

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Some students started the morning off with a tailgate party in the senior parking lot. That's water in those cups.

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Students picking up their class schedules.

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The traffic circle was jammed.

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September 6, 2018 - 9:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, schools, education, news.

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Students arriving at Batavia Middle School for the first day of classes. 

Photos submitted by Principal Ashley John Grillo.

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September 5, 2018 - 4:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Notre Dame, news, schools, education, batavia, notify.

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When students arrive at Notre Dame High School tomorrow, things are going to look at lot different, both inside and out of the building, plus there are a few upgrades not readily apparent. 

The front entrance of the school has gotten a makeover and the hallways, some classrooms, and the locker rooms have gotten new paint and new logos (new lockers for the boys' locker room as well).

There's also a new security system, new drainage on the roof, and new HVAC units to go with previously completed upgrades to the gym, the cafeteria and the kitchen (all new equipment).

The upgrades are the result of a capital campaign launched a few years ago. The school worked to raise $5 million, raised $4.2 million, and got busy sprucing things up and replacing what was worn out.

"We need the school to look just as good as what it produces," said Principal Wade Bianco. "We all -- the board, the leadership team -- we all think it’s important that the facility is at the same standard as the academics, at the same standards as the climate and culture, at the same standard as the athletic program. Every program here is top-notch but the building, because it’s some tough times financially, needed to be upgraded."

The most noticeable change, of course, is the main entry, which has a new, modernist design, befitting the 1960s-era facility, but with a blue and gold color scheme that is striking.

Two classrooms have been painted and recarpeted with all new desks and chairs. The school is looking for more sponsors for classroom upgrades, at $10,000 each, which will include a plaque honoring the donor outside the classroom.

The school will open this year with 150 students. Enrollment is down at all schools but the goal for Notre Dame is still to attract 180 students. A Buffalo marketing company has been hired to help promote the private school.

Bianco said alumni and other donors really came through for the school, particularly Emmett and Antoinette Marchese Clancy, now California residents, but from the Class of 1970.

Originally, the school had looked at replacing the roof but school officials, he said, "sharpened their pencils" and figured out what parts of the roof needed to be repaired and upgraded and replaced the roof drainage system.

“If you’re going to fix the inside, your roof better be good because you don’t want water damage,” Bianco said.

The work was completed almost exclusively by local vendors.

"It’s been fantastic working with these people because they know our circumstances financially, so, as well as doing the work that needs to be done they’re also gracious to us," Bianco said. "They’re very kind to us, which is helpful as well."

In all, Bianco thinks the school got a lot done with the finances available.

"I think we’ve done a good job of maximizing funds with very little waste," he said.

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The revamped kitchen.

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The locker room for the Lady Irish.

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There are 94 championship trophies on display in the cafeteria.

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The weight room.

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

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 26, 2018 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, byron, bergen, sports, schools, education.

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Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexander celebrated the graduation of 68 seniors during the ceremony.

Graham noted the accomplishments and promise of her classmates.

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

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

Previously:

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Cassidy Graham

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Salutatorian Benjamin Slenker

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

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

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

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

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

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

McGee said today Pete is a very successful motivational speaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gavin Luckey (top photo) was the valedictorian.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lydia Borrelli

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James Thompson

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Donald Hobart, president of the Le Roy Board of Education

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June 22, 2018 - 6:29pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the next paragraph states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 22, 2018 - 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 - 3:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in John Kennedy School, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Teachers and aides at John Kennedy School yesterday made signs and gave students a celebratory send-off for the summer on the last day of school.

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June 20, 2018 - 12:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, news, John Kennedy School.

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Students at John Kennedy Intermediate School, members of the BHS Class of 2026, were congratulated by teachers and administrators on Tuesday as they ended the school year prepare to move up to middle school.

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June 18, 2018 - 2:41pm

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This morning the Class of 2029 participated in their “Moving Up” ceremony. This celebrated the young classes completing Pre-K to first grade at Jackson Primary and moving up to second grade at John Kennedy School.

Kia Evens, principal of Jackson primary, was host for the event that took place in Batavia HS auditorium and was attended by the Class of 2029's parents, guardians and family members. 

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June 14, 2018 - 5:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff William Sheron, Sheriff's Office, sro, schools, news, notify.

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Sheriff William Sheron today introduced the three deputies who will become the new School Resource Officers in Pembroke, Pavilion and Alexander school districts.

Those district's past budgets in May commitment to pay for the SRO positions on their school campuses in 2018-19.

Deputy Patrick Reeves, a 21-year veteran of the force, is the new SRO in Pembroke. He's pictured above with Sheron, Pembroke Superintendent Matthew Calderon, and in the back row, Legislator Gordon Dibble and Legislator Shelly Stein.

Reeves is a lifelong Pembroke resident who has children in the district and is a youth sports coach.

"I think this is just the next step for me," Reeves said, "make that connection with the kids, keep them focused, get them to the end of their goals, get a good career, and while I’m in school, try to help every kid that you possibly can."

He said he hopes he can be a positive influence on some of the students he deals with over the course of the school year.

"Most kids need some guidance, and if I can connect with one or two who might need it, that’s my fuel," Reeves said. "I win and the district wins."

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Deputy Cory Mower, also a 21-year veteran of the department, is the new SRO in Pavilion.

Mower said he wanted to work with the Pavilion district because throughout much of his career on road patrol he's covered the southeast part of the county. He knows a lot of the students and their families already.

He also worked six years in the jail and came into contact with a lot of young people and believes that experience has given him some insight on how to help teenagers today.

"Now with the schools opening up (these positions), I just think it’s a natural progression where I can use my experience to help some kids, maybe keep some kids out of trouble, maybe help them before they get addicted to drugs or make the wrong choice, the wrong move," Mower said.

Above photo: Sheron, Mower, Pavilion Superintendent Ken Ellison, Stein, and Legislator Gregg Torrey.

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Deputy Eric Meyer, who attended Alexander Central Schools all the way through high school and still lives in Alexander has been assigned to his home school district. He is the new SRO in Alexander.

"I like the idea of keeping the children safe in my own district, in my own community," Meyer said. "I also live in the community so I thought it would be a great opportunity for me and for the school to be a positive role model for these kids."

He's already visited the elementary school and many of the students recognized him, said Meyer, who joined the Sheriff's Office three years ago.

"I already see the kids looking up to me and giving me high-fives and a hand clap," Meyer said.

Above photo: Sheron, Stein, Meyer, Alexander Superintendent Catherine Huber, Torrey.

Below, a press release from the Sheriff's Office:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. announces the newest School Resource Officer assignments in three local school districts.

Pembroke Central School District has chosen Deputy Patrick J. Reeves as its School Resource Officer. He graduated from Pembroke in 1992 and is a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Reeves will start in this position on Sept. 1.

Alexander Central School District has chosen Deputy Eric J. Meyer as its School Resource Officer. He graduated from Alexander in 2006 and is a three-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Meyer will start in this position on Sept. 1.

Pavilion Central School District has chosen Deputy Cory W. Mower as its School Resource Officer. He is a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Mower will start in this position on July 1.

Additionally, the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (BOCES) and the Byron-Bergen Central School District also renewed their commitments for next year’s School Resource Officers on campus.

Sheriff Sheron stated that it his goal to establish a School Resource Officer in all county school districts to ensure the safety and protection of the students and faculty.

“Although the cost associated with placing a School Resource Officer in the schools is significant, I believe the safety and security of our children should be of the utmost precedence," Sheron said. "I applaud the tremendous support received from the school administrators, school boards, and the Genesee County Legislature, which ultimately made this possible.”

June 13, 2018 - 6:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, news, batavia, schools, education.

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Carson Watts -- Outstanding Student Award

Carson had a phenomenal year of growth in kindergarten. From September to May, Carson improved in English Language Arts skills, growing 77.46 percent, to an astounding score of 94.8 percent on the regional assessment. Not only are Carson’s academic achievements impressive but he is a caring, hard-working student, who is a good friend to others, offers help, and compliments his peers. We are so proud of Carson!  

Nominated by Mrs. Amerine.

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Chase Turner -- Outstanding Student Award

Chase had a phenomenal year of growth in kindergarten. From September to May, Chase showed growth in English Language Arts skills, growing 45.08 percent! Chase is hard-working and pays close attention to details. He has grown as a reader and writer, and shows that he really cares to always do his best. His handwriting is among the nicest in the classroom, and he is always trying to improve. He loves learning, and we love seeing him grow!

Nominated by Mrs. Amerine.

Casey Richardson -- Outstanding Student Award (no photograph available)

Casey also had a phenomenal year of growth in kindergarten. From September to May, Casey showed growth in English Language Arts skills, growing 57.81 percent! Casey has worked very hard this year to learn all her letters and sounds, and just recently became the newest member of the classroom Alphabet All-Stars. She continues to work hard, is determined, and loves learning. We are proud of you, Casey!

Nominated by Mrs. Amerine.

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Clara Pierce -- Outstanding Student Award

Clara has also had a phenomenal year of growth in kindergarten. From September to May, Clara showed growth in English Language Arts skills, growing 60.11 percent! Clara is a very caring and is a good friend to others. She works hard and is an eager learner. We are excited to see her grow.  Good job, Clara!

Nominated by Mrs. Amerine.

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Myloh Kemp -- Outstanding Student Award

Myloh had a phenomenal year of growth in kindergarten. From September to May, Myloh showed growth in English Language Arts skills, growing 52.02 percent! Myloh has worked very hard this year to learn all his letters and sounds, and is becoming a good reader, and even better writer! He pays attention to details, and ensures that he takes the time to listen to and produce each sound he hears as he writes, and is learning more and more sight words. He is a good friend to others, and he really loves learning. We are proud of you, Myloh!

Nominated by Mrs. Amerine.

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Superintendent Chris Dailey read the following letter for senior Michal Lullo, who finished her term as student ex-officio member of the school board:

Dear Mikey:

It has been a pleasure to have you serve as the Ex-Officio Student Representative on the school board for the 2017-18 school year. On behalf of the Board of Education Members and the Batavia City School District, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you.

The input you brought to the meetings was a true expression of your professionalism, care and knowledge in regard to the student activities. Your high regard for the welfare of the student population is a sure sign of your support for our schools and community. You have strong presentation skills evident through good articulation and explanation of the topics discussed.

Thank you for the time you devoted to the district. It is my hope that you will consider continuing to serve your community after graduation. Good luck with college and your future endeavors.

Take Care of BCSD!

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