The Byron-Bergen Central School District is pleased to announce that the Board of Education approved the nomination of Paul Hazard as Jr./Sr. High School Principal at the Nov. 16 meeting. Hazard will fill the position left by Interim Principal Carol Stehm effective Jan. 3..
“Paul Hazard comes to Byron-Bergen with a specific set of skills that are perfect for our Jr./Sr. High School,” said Superintendent Pat McGee. “He is an insightful leader with extensive administrative and teaching experience to guide the school successfully through this transition. I am excited to welcome him to the district."
Hazard comes to Byron-Bergen from Alexander Central Schools where he served as Assistant Principal at the MS/HS and was promoted to Director of Student Life and Engagement. Prior to that appointment, he was Elementary Summer School Principal at Geneseo Central School District where he also taught Special Education and 6 th Grade Social Studies for 16 years.
“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to be a Bee!” said Hazard. “I believe there is something special about small towns and schools you can only understand if you have lived and worked within one. I am looking forward to getting to know our amazing students, staff, and parents over the next couple of months as we work together to continue the proud tradition of excellence at BB.”
Hazard holds an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from SUNY Stoneybrook and a Masters Degree in Education from Roberts Wesleyan.
Voters in the Le Roy Central School District will be asked to vote on a proposed $12.5 million capital improvement project that would provide upgrades to buildings and facilities in the school district and not result in additional taxes levied on properties in the district.
The vote was approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday and is scheduled for noon to 8 p.m. on Dec. 5 in the Library Media Center of Wolcott Street School.
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) voted in favor of H.R. 5110, Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act, which authorizes the use of federal elementary and secondary education funds to purchase and use weapons for purposes of training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports.
This bill, which Tenney cosponsored, passed the House by a vote of 424-1.
Currently, the Biden Administration is intentionally misconstruing Congressional intent to advance its radical anti-Scond Amendment agenda.
The Administration is warping the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” to prohibit funds authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from being used to fund hunting, archery, and shooting sports programs in schools.
This bill specifies that this prohibition shall not apply to training students in archery, hunting, or other shooting sports.
“President Biden and Governor Hochul continue to undermine our constitutional right to bear arms, but this time, they are coming after our efforts to teach students how to safely handle firearms,” said Congresswoman Tenney.
“By defunding hunting, archery, and shooting sports programs, the Left is preventing young Americans from exercising their Second Amendment right and learning important life skills. I voted in favor of the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act to defend our constitutional rights and support outdoor recreational programs!”
The Oakfield-Alabama Central School District is considering a new $23 million capital improvement project that would modernize and reconfigure classrooms, replace outdated heating and air units, upgrade locker rooms, replace and upgrade athletic fields, and add new parking.
The district would need to issue $20 million in bonds to finance the project at a cost of $7.2 million in interest.
If approved, the district would use $3 million from the capital reserve fund as a "down payment" on the expenditure.
State aid would cover 93.4 percent of the $20 million, which would be reimbursed to the district over the life of the 15-year bond. If the project is approved by the board, voters in the district will get a chance to vote yes or no in December.
Consultants from SEI Design Group, who have been working with the district's facilities committee, presented an outline of the proposal plan to the Board of Education on Tuesday.
A big reason the district can cover the local share of the school building project without a tax increase is that when the district bonded (borrowed money), the annual payment on principal was $350,000 less than budgeted, said Christine Griffin, district business manager.
That $350,000 in the 2023-24 budget was used to finance a playground. Going forward, it could help offset the cost of the new capital improvement project, negating the need for a higher tax rate to cover the local share of the project.
Existing capital reserve funds would also help cover the local share costs.
Board members wanted to know what portion of the project is critical, that it must be completed soon, and the answer is pretty much all of the school building work.
The critical portions of the project include replacing the high school and middle school HVAC rooftop units, which are 30 to 40 years old.
"The biggest thing is going to be mechanical, electrical plumbing impacts," said Richard Little, business development with SEI. "These were items that were identified during the (committee). The HVAC rooftop units are either being worked on excessively or reached the end of their usefulness. We can't get parts, so we need to replace them. Those were flagged not only by the engineers but also by (the committee)."
Then in the science classroom, the concrete slabs have settled in areas creating uneven floors.
"We're going to have to tear the rooms out just to fix the slab settlement issue," Little said.
There is also work that needs to be done on the pool and on an auditorium wall, Little said. There is also carpet that is worn out and needs to be replaced with new flooring (it won't be carpet, Little said).
"Once you go into a room and start working on it, once you've touched it, you are not going to be able to go back to that room for 15 years without being penalized or questioned," Little said, addressing state aid rules about school renovation projects. "So once we're in there, we're taking advantage of it and renovating more spaces. You can vary that if you want to. You can make different types of modifications, but it's just a good opportunity to get that funding from the state."
The school building proposal, if broken out into a separate ballot initiative, would cost $15.6 million. The athletic field portion would be $7.3 million. It would include a new oval track, new shotput and jump pits, as well as new softball and baseball fields.
The board will decide at its October meeting whether to ask the voters to approve the two aspects of the project separately or together.
Trustee Matt Lamb expressed concern that there are people in the community who are hearing rumors that the district is considering a new football stadium, which isn't the case.
"I got a phone call from somebody who wasn't able to attend the meeting tonight and described the project as the football stadium project, so we just need to be careful that this isn't seen as the football stadium capital project," Lamb said.
Trustee Jeff Hyde noted that since Batavia High built a new stadium, Van Detta is in steady use for various events, not just school events. And though this isn't a stadium project, he said he thinks an upgrade to the track and ball fields help bring more visitors into Oakfield.
"I mean, if I'm a business owner, if I'm smart, if I'm somebody who wants more people in this town, this is something that may give it to us," Hyde said.
All schools hold open houses. In Pavilion, the high school hosts the Gopher Gathering, a chance for the school community to come together to enjoy good food, live music, and games, and also learn about academic opportunities available at the school.
Along with a food truck rodeo, there is face painting, a petting zoo, and a dunk tank.
"It's a community thing where people can meet and greet teachers," Principal Charles Martelle said Thursday at the school grounds.
Besides learning about classes they might have overlooked, it's a chance for students and parents to learn about campus activities, including clubs students might join.
"Mostly, it's about coming out and meeting teachers, meeting people at the school, and getting a feel for the place, and having a good time," Martelle said. "Then, if they can learn something about the courses, about the clubs, and some different opportunities, then that's kind of the bonus."
Byron-Bergen Senior High School was named on the 2023 list of America’s Best High Schools as determined by U.S. News & World Report. To qualify for this title, Byron-Bergen Senior High School ranked in the top 40% of schools nationally. This is the fifth year in a row that Byron-Bergen Senior High School has earned this distinction.
“It is an honor for the Byron-Bergen Senior High School to be named an America’s Best High School again this year,” said Byron-Bergen Superintendent Pat McGee. “I remember when our High School first achieved this recognition in 2018. I’m so pleased to see that our learning community has sustained this level of distinction. It is a testament of proof that we didn’t just have an exceptional year or two, Byron-Bergen is an exceptional district.”
According to the publication’s website, the list identifies top-performing high schools based on scoring comprised of six factors:
College readiness (30 percent of the ranking): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took at least one AP or IB exam by the end of their senior year and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on at least one AP or IB exam in high school. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than simply taking the exam.
College curriculum breadth (10 percent): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took a wide variety of AP and IB courses across multiple disciplines and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on them. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than taking.
State assessment proficiency (20 percent): This measures how well students scored on state assessments that measure proficiency in reading, science, and mathematics. Passing these assessments can be required for graduation. Examples of assessments include Smarter Balanced in California and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. This state assessment proficiency indicator is either based on 2020- 2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years.
State assessment performance (20 percent): This is the difference between how students performed on state assessments and what U.S. News predicted based on a school's student body. U.S. News' modeling across all 50 states and the District of Columbia indicates that the performance percentage of students from historically underserved subgroups – defined as Black students, Hispanic students, and students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch – are highly predictive of a school's reading, science and math scores. This state assessment performance indicator is either based on 2020-2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years.
Underserved student performance (10 percent): This is how well the student population receiving subsidized school lunch and Black and Hispanic populations perform on state assessments relative to statewide performance among students not in those subgroups. This state assessment underserved student performance indicator is based on 2018-2019 state assessment data.
Graduation rate (10 percent): For the 2023-2024 rankings, the graduation rate corresponds to the 2021 high school class graduation cohort who would have entered ninth grade in the 2017-2018 school year. High school graduation rates were collected directly from each state along with the math, reading and science assessment data.
For more information on Byron-Bergen’s ranking on the U.S. News & World Report list, visit https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/new-york/districts/byron-bergen-central-school-district/byron-bergen-junior-senior-high-school-13565
Like every other school district in the nation, Pavilion Central School District teachers and administrators are frustrated by the distractions and problems created by students with mobile communication devices, particularly mobile phones.
"When you ask teachers, what's the one thing we could do to get kids more focused in school and in the classroom, it would probably be the removal of cell phones," said Charles Martelle, Pavilion's high school principal. "That doesn't mean we can come up with a way to do it that doesn't cause more distractions."
It's a problem even in elementary school, said principal Tom Wilson, and Carin Wade, a ninth-grade language teacher, chimed in with, "It's awful."
She added, "They can put it in their pockets and you don't even see it. They can text without looking at their phones. I mean, you've got 25 kids in a classroom and you can't -- it's terrible."
During the discussion of outright bans, Wade said it's been tried at Pavilion, and parents complained.
Parents, one administrator said, are part of the problem.
"I understand the safety side of it, but at the end of the day, parents shouldn't be texting their kids during class," he said.
"And they know they are," Wade said. "They know their kids are in class, and the kids will be like, 'But it's my mom,' and I'm like, 'OK, but you're in class. I don't understand.'"
The policy for 2023-24 will be the same as last academic year, which uses a color-coded system to let students know where and when they can touch their phones.
In the green zones -- hallways and the cafeteria, they get close to unlimited access to their phones (they're not supposed to take pictures or make audio or video clips). In gold zones, such as most classrooms, they can only access a phone with teacher permission. And in red zones, phones cannot be touched or displayed at all. This includes bathrooms, locker rooms, and the auditorium.
If a student is caught in violation of the policy, a staff member can collect the phone and leave it in the main office, where a parent or guardian must pick it up.
The discussion at Monday's meeting indicated even this policy leaves much to be desired when it comes to limiting distractions caused by electronic devices.
Schools have tried outright bans, but Martelle said there's no evidence these bans achieve favorable outcomes. Some schools have tried lockable pouches that students must store the device during the school day, getting the pouch unlocked by a staff member at the end of the day, but some school districts, Martelle said, found that students use "burner phones," phones they don't really use, to dump in the pouches.
"If there's a plan that actually worked and serves our interests that was more strict, we would use it," Martelle said. "I think a lot of schools are (implementing more strict policies), so we'll be able to look at articles and literature and studies. Right now, it's really up in the air. The studies as to whether or not schools that have done this versus those that haven't, the studies are really kind of inconclusive. We're looking at different things as to whether it actually improves anything in schools or not or whether it's effective."
He said administrators are open-minded about finding a better way of dealing with the problem.
"It's a very difficult problem right now," he said.
Rex Eighmey, the director of facilities for the Pavilion Central School District, gave the Board of Education on Monday a complete rundown of all the work his staff is performing during the summer months.
It's more than just keeping the lawns mowed and the floors buffed -- which board members praised as always extra shiny -- it's repairs and upgrades, among other items.
A few of the items he mentioned:
Clean all furniture, windows, floors, ceilings;
Perform maintenance on the HVAC system;
Unpack and assemble new furniture that comes in and place in the appropriate rooms;
Retrofit some of the high-pressure sodium lights outside with LEDs;
Clean and repair concession stands at sports fields;
Maintain and repair sports fields;
Repair baseball and softball dugouts;
Replace some whiteboards and blackboards in classrooms; and,
Replace condensation pumps in the cafeteria.
Among several other items that have kept work crews busy all summer.
After a meeting with an advisor at Genesee Community College, Kyle Stefan entered the Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program with an open mind.
Stefan, a Pavilion High School graduate, believed he made the right decision to join the Batavia-based workforce program well before the six weeks of paid on-the-job training and instruction were complete.
“I would have never found my passion for a career in HVAC if it wasn’t for the pre-apprenticeship program,” said Stefan, one of ten students graduating on Aug. 24. “There’s no way to know if there is something you like to do without trying. I am able to apply what I learn in a classroom setting to my work at Arctic Refrigeration and find out this is a career I would like to pursue.”
For the third consecutive year, the Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program has welcomed students from diverse backgrounds, levels of education, and career experiences with an opportunity to jump-start successful careers.
During the program, participants attend morning classes in the Genesee Valley BOCES classroom, training with $700,000 of mechatronics equipment funded in part by a Genesee County Economic Development Center grant. In the afternoons, and for a full day on Fridays, students apply the lessons they learn at employers in Genesee, Livingston, and Monroe counties.
“I really enjoyed the freedom to use the equipment and materials to build things and you learn and go at your own pace,” said participant Bradley Burdett. “I would recommend this program to anyone because there are a lot of opportunities. It’s beyond just a classroom education as we are learning and experiencing life lessons.”
Burdett, an Attica High School graduate, enrolled in the program on the recommendation of program instructor Rich Monroe after teaching Bradley for two years at BOCES. With student participation at Genesee Valley BOCES increasing since the launch of GLOW with Your Hands in 2019, Genesee County Economic Development Center Vice President of Business and Workforce Development Chris Suozzi sees the program as the next step in empowering students to take the future into their own hands.
“The pre-apprenticeship program offers a unique opportunity for students to discover their career path without the burden of college debt,” said Suozzi. “The jobs this program introduces students to provides them with a promising opportunity to enter into the workforce in the in-demand careers in our region.”
The Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program has grown annually since its inception in 2021. This year’s students joined pre-apprenticeship tracks at USG, Arctic Refrigeration, Turnbull Heating and Refrigeration, Radec Electric, Go Forth Electric, and OXBO.
The program and experience with Radec Electric have supported a career change for Darlene Robare-Kessler of Fairport. Robare-Kessler said she appreciates the safe learning environment and mix of classroom and real job experience.
“I love the hands-on aspects of working with manufacturing equipment and the program has helped align my experience in the food and beverage industry giving me another side of the manufacturing industry to explore,” said Robare-Kessler. “(The program) is empowering me to gain practical skills that I will be able to utilize within the workplace and hopefully throughout my career.”
The tax rate in the Pavilion Central School District for 2023-24 is final, and the numbers are in alignment with budget projects from earlier this year, Donald Childs, school business official, told the Board of Education on Monday.
The board approved the tax warrants for the academic year.
The tax rate in the Town of Pavilion will be $16.68 per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease from $16.73 this school year.
The rate for Bethany will be $19.06, up from 18.19; for Stafford, $16.34, down from $16.73; and, in Le Roy, $20.93, up from $20.16.
Outside of Genesee County, the towns of Covington, Middlebury, Caledonia, Leicester, and York also all contribute to the total tax levy.
The total tax levy is $5,788,283, which is a $85,396 over 2022-23.
The total assessed value of property in the district is $324,875,934.
The total spending plan for the 2023-24 academic year is $18,869,393, which voters approved in May. The approved budget is 3.18 percent higher than 2022-23, for a total increase in spending of $582,042.
At the time of the budget vote, district finance officers can only estimate the tax rate because town assessments are not always final. Once the total assessed value within the district is known, school districts can finalize the tax rates.
Pavilion Central School District is looking at spending nearly $69,000 on a consultant who would visit district schools and assess their security vulnerabilities.
Most, if not all, of the expense, could be covered by state aid to school districts.
The Board of Education voted on Monday to table the proposal in order to first talk with the consultant, Don Shomette, via Zoom during its Aug. 28 meeting.
A couple of board members called the fee "pricey."
According to Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman, Shomette has previously worked for Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and Geneseo School District.
"This is something we've talked about for five years, ever since we first started the SRO program, and I think about as I'm reading through (the proposal) it's like it's got to be better than some contractor coming in and saying, 'oh, you should do the windows' or 'you should do this, or you should do that,' you know. I know it's pricey, but for me, I was ok with it," said Board Vice President Jeff Finch.
When Hoffman asked if he would like to have a meeting with Shomette, Finch said yes.
"Because we can ask him straight up, why is this so pricey?" Finch said. "I mean, obviously, he must have had that question before, so let's do that."
Hoffman described Shomette as a school violence prevention expert with 30 years of experience. She said that he would visit the school campuses -- at a price of $29,500 each -- and "really take a look at every lock, every door, the windows, check every entrance of our schools."
He would then produce a report with specific recommendations about how to improve school safety.
The proposal also includes a $9,875 fee for staff development training.
"His ultimate goal as part of this," she said, apparently quoting him, "is to 'keep away fear, anxiety and threat of violence so students and teachers can direct their efforts on classroom success instead of personal safety. By doing so, students, teachers and parents will achieve a richer experience and higher levels of physical growth.'
"Now, that sounds very interesting," Hoffman said. "His message is, 'School safety is more than a locked door, a locked window, a procedure for lockdown. It is the relationships you build between your staff and your students.'"
NOTE: The Batavian promised a follow-up story on the appointment of Deputy Trevor Sherwood to the position of school resource officer in Pavilion. We anticipated receiving a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the school district and the Sheriff's Office, which was approved by the board on Monday, and is public record, but Hoffman declined to provide it today. We also made written and telephone requests for an interview on Tuesday, which we anticipated getting, but we were unable to get that interview with Hoffman. So we have no follow-up story at this time.
Deputy Trevor Sherwood, a Batavia High School graduate who was a star athlete in baseball and basketball, was approved by the Pavilion Board of Education on Monday night as the school district's new resource officer.
The board voted unanimously to approve a new memorandum of understanding with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman told the board that a committee interviewed four deputies for the position and recommended Sherwood.
Sherwood joined the Sheriff's Office on road patrol in early 2021.
The SRO position became vacant after Deputy Jeremy McClellan was reassigned to road patrol at the end of the 2022-23 academic year at the apparent request of the school district, which was a move several parents protested.
The Batavian will have a more complete story on Tuesday.
In 2019, The Msgr. Kirby Knights of Columbus Council 325 graciously offered to start a yearly scholarship fund to celebrate and recognize some of St. Joseph Regional School's students. The recipients are nominated by the school staff and the awards are presented at the End of the Year Awards Ceremony. Two students are chosen in grades K-6 and are nominated using the following criteria:
Students who have achieved satisfactory progress and are hard working;
participation in school activities;
a dedication to strong Christian values; and
a spirit of enthusiasm.
St. Joseph Regional School has received $17,500 over the last 5 years due to the support of the Knights of Columbus. Each year we are honored to recognize some of our most deserving students and are proud of the partnership and commitment the Knights have shown to St. Joseph Regional School for many years.
The Knights of Columbus have supported Notre Dame High School and her wonderful students for over 30 years. Most recently their contributions have helped with building improvements, classroom and technology upgrades, beautification of our campus, and most importantly, tuition support scholarships.
The scholarships provided by the Knights support our mission that the incredibly unique and wonderful Notre Dame experience should be available to all families throughout the region regardless of their financial position. These scholarships have helped over 100 students graduate from Notre Dame that otherwise would not have been able to attend. The results of this investment in Notre Dame students can be seen daily here on campus with the many happy faces currently attending, as well as out in the community where Knights-funded Notre Dame graduates are making a positive daily impact throughout the Genesee Region.
At Notre Dame High School we take great pride in being the #1 Ranked High School in the entire GLOW Region, and we have equal pride in our longstanding relationship with the Knights of Columbus.
Information above by Karen Green, principal of St. Joseph School, and Business Administrator Thomas Rapone of Notre Dame High School.
Social media has been a great way for Le Roy Central Schools to reach out to the whole community about what is going on at district schools, Superintendent Merritt Holly says, but there does need to be clearer communication with parents about what information is going out on social media compared to what is being sent home in newsletters and email.
Different messages are better suited to different media, Holly said during Monday's Board of Education meeting, updating the board on recent social media survey results.
"We will do a better job of getting out -- where do parents go (to get information)?" Holly said. "Principals are still communicating through newsletters, weekly reports, things like that. Social media is not necessarily what most parents want it to be. It's not the forum they want to look for (that information), and what we want to do (on social media) is capture the moments and events that are going on."
Le Roy's robust social media effort owes a lot to former Le Roy High School Principal Tim McCardle, who is an avid and talented photographer and made good use of social media platforms. When he left, the district wanted to continue a strong social media effort, and BOCES helped out by providing a part-time social media content producer, Alecia Kaus. Kaus, a Batavia resident, is a veteran videographer in the region.
When Kaus started contributing to the social media program a year ago, the district went from one major social media presence for the high school to a combined social media presence for both the high school and Wolcott Street School.
Some people like everything on one page, and some people don't.
That seemed to be the theme of the response to the survey -- people divided into two camps about what they like.
"We got both sides, which is right where we want to be," Holly said.
Holly said the survey results show respondents are split on whether social media stories are too long or just right. They also want more coverage of some things -- say modified or JV sports -- that the district just doesn't have the resources to cover (every publisher's dilemma).
After the meeting, Holly said he likes the ability of Kaus to either capture the moment or use her visual storytelling skills to give viewers a fuller picture of campus life.
"She brings the story part of that to that component to it where, again, we've had feedback that some people don't like the length of them and other people that do -- but I think that you can find something either in the moment with a capture and picture or you can find it a true in-depth story about what's going on in our schools."
Whereas newsletters and reports deliver important information to parents about policies and programs that directly impact students, social media gives the district opportunity to shine a light on what teachers and students are actually doing on a daily basis, and that's good not just for students and parents, but also alumni and the rest of the community, Holly said.
"For our greater community, what better way to find out what's going on in school than to see a tweet, to get on Facebook to see an event either if it's athletics, if it's music, if it's just in the classroom, showing a moment,” he said. “I think it's so important for us to show what's going on. If not, people are going to draw their own conclusions on what's going on. What better way is there to share our experiences and what we're doing? They're authentic, they're real. And to be able to show that through social media is a great way to go."
The Le Roy Central School District Board of Education held its first meeting of the 2023-24 academic year, and part of its agenda was "reorganization" -- when board members and senior staff take an oath of office and board and committee assignments are approved.
Jacalyn Whiting, a board member since 2011, was elected to a new term this year, and the board unanimously also approved her for another year as board chair.
Denise Duthe returned to the board after winning a seat on the board in May's election. She stepped down from the board at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
Returning board members are Christine Dowell, Rachael Greene, Jason Karcher, Peter Lofus, and William MacKenzie.
Merritt Holly is superintendent, Lori Wrobel is clerk, and Teresa MCmullen is treasurer.
After hearing from nine speakers over 27 minutes express passionate -- and sometimes angry -- views on a planned change to the School Resource Officer position, no member of the Pavilion Central School District had anything of substance to say to the public.
There was no comment from the board after the public spoke, and no board member would respond to questions from reporters who followed them out of the auditorium and into the parking lot after the meeting.
Board President Marirose Ethington did thank the public for its attendance at the meeting and to the speakers who gave the board "something to think about" but offered no comment on the substance of what the speakers discussed.
The issue that brought hundreds of Pavilion residents to Monday's board meeting is a likely change in the SRO position.
Deputy Jeremy McClellan occupied the position for more than three years, and Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman confirmed with The Batavian on Monday that he won't be the SRO at Pavilion in the Fall. The district will, however, maintains its contract with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office to provide a school resource officer to Pavilion.
School officials have not publicly stated why McClelaln will not return to Pavilion in the Fall but most of the speakers at Monday's meeting indicated it had something to do with him being open about his Christian faith.
"The school district theme for the 2022-23 school year was about accepting and embracing the differences in all the people around us," said Jamie Schwartz. "But was it only for the students and not the board and administration to uphold? Officer McClellan was terminated from his position at the school because his beliefs didn't blend with someone else's. By terminating him, the administration has just shown the entire school body that they did not actually mean anything they said this year about accepting and embracing others' differences. Do we all need to accept the differences that we are told to accept? Or are we to accept everyone? What kind of example are you setting for our children, telling them to accept everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or political views, and then turn it around by firing a valued staff member because their ideology does not match with yours?"
Bryleigh Burns, a student at Pavilion, made a similar point.
"The fact that Deputy McClellan went above and beyond just raises the question as to why he is being let go," Burns said. "If some of it's due to disagreements with other staff, we must look at the fact that it has been drilled in our brain since we were kids that you must get along with people even if you don't like them. If you are adults, can you not do that as we do as students? I know some people said he made religious comments. Are you going to punish someone who is just simply expressing their religious beliefs or simple opinions? I'd like to point out that there are many teachers throughout our school that push their opinions on students and put posters in their rooms, which is perfectly fine. That's fine. But ... "
At which point she was interrupted by loud applause and cheering.
She continued, "If you want us to accept their beliefs, we can absolutely do that. You have to accept it's not a one-sided thing."
McClellan was praised for the way he interacted with students and how he's come to know the name of every student in the school, but more than that, he was praised repeatedly for specific actions he's taken to assist students and families.
According to various speakers, he's apparently helped more than one student dealing with depression and with social isolation. He's often seen at school events, even after hours. He's delivered meals and Chromebooks to students who were homesick. He's given students haircuts when apparently they couldn't afford a haircut. He participated in a walkability student and helped secure a speed trailer to help slow traffic in front of the school. He addressed an apparent drug issue at the school. He's attended funerals. He's helped in the cafeteria when there was a staff shortage. And when a family went through a house fire, he loaned them a trailer to live in in the immediate aftermath.
"He's willing to commit his personal time, money and resources to assist in any way possible and has shown nothing but love in the process," said Alex Mead.
As an example of McClellan's excellence, Rich Klancer said the deputy carries a special responsibility in the Sheriff's Office.
"Deputy McClellan is the team lead for the school resource officer program for all of Genesee County," Klancer said. "He's a teacher to his peers. He's responsible for continuous improvement of the program. To be qualified to teach means he's mastered skills as a school resource officer and can serve as an example for other officers to become a member of the special patrol."
Sheriff William Sheron hasn't responded to emails from The Batavian about the situation, and we have another one in to him to try and confirm McClellan's status as an SRO in the department.
Kirsten Galliford recalled the first time she came across the SRO at the school.
"My first impression of Deputy McClellan was hearing his mantra," Galliford said. "He was leaving the school as I was going in, and someone asked him how he was. He responded, 'dedicated and motivated.' It made me pause. While his response had a ring to it, what really struck me was his sincerity."
She said McClellan has shown he is dedicated professionally and motivated personally, which is a good example for Pavilion students.
The statement by Cynthia M. Baltz was short and to the point.
"This man is kind, he's honest," she said. "He's caring. He knows every single parent. He knows every single kid. How dare you? How dare you do this change. We're mad. We're angry. Okay. And I hope to never see any of you again on this board in our school district because shame on you."
One speaker said Deputy McClellan's pictures were removed from the Gopher Pride page on Facebook. The Batavian scrolled through the page and did not see any pictures of McClellan, but we cannot confirm that there were pictures on the page previously.
After the meeting, when The Batavian approached board president Ethington for an interview, she said, "I really don't have any response at this point. We have things to think about and to discuss as a board together."
When asked if the topic would be on a future agenda, she said, "I can't discuss that right now."
Board Vice President Jeff Finch declined to comment, as did board member Margaret Gaston. Other board members walking with them did not say anything.
The Batavian has additional questions via email out to board members and the superintendent and will either update this story or provide a follow-up story as appropriate. We're also attempting to clarify the district policy on the expression by staff and faculty of political and personal beliefs.
In his three years as the school resource officer in Pavilion, Deputy Jeremy McClellan has apparently made quite an impression on parents and students.
Parents and students have learned that the Pavilion Central School District doesn't plan to have McClellan back as SRO, and they've started an online petition drive to support his return and in online postings and in emails to The Batavian many said they plan to attend tonight's (Monday) school board meeting to protest his removal from the position.
More than 640 people have signed the petition on Change.org, and a few have stated their reason for supporting the petition.
After recounting how McClellan has impressed her children, and even talking one through some difficult times, Renee Gurbacki wrote, "Officer McClellan is so genuinely kind-hearted, and genuinely cares for the well-being and safety for each and every kid, in our district or out of district. Everything he did or does is to only make this place a better place. He is the perfect role model for each and every one of us."
Several parents have posted online about their appreciation of McClellan.
There has also been some misunderstanding expressed that Pavilion is eliminating the SRO program. That's not the case, said Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman. The district still has a contract with the Sheriff's Office to employ a deputy as an SRO.
Asked if McClellan was "fired," as many parents have phrased it, and whether he was told he wasn't a "good fit," as some parents have claimed, Hoffman did not directly address those comments. She provided The Batavian with the following statement:
The Pavilion CSD, in consultation with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, announces the reassignment of School Resource Officer Jeremy McClellan. We express our gratitude for Deputy McClellan's valuable contributions to the Pavilion Central School District and to the community of Pavilion. Our collaboration with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and the SRO program will persist, and we are thankful for their assistance during this period of change. As this concerns a personnel matter, the district will refrain from providing any additional comments.