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February 10, 2021 - 12:19pm
posted by Press Release in City Schools, schools, education, news, batavia.

Press release:

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, the Batavia City School District announced its new Community Schools Initiative.

Batavia’s Community Schools Initiative is a transformational researched-based strategy that is focused on the whole child with key participation from school and community leaders, educators, community partners, students, families and residents.

Moving forward, Batavia’s Community Schools Initiative will be rolled out and in place at all four of the district’s schools. Each school will see the community as a resource for learning and development and as a partner in the education of all children.

Batavia’s Community Schools will also develop respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with families, neighborhood residents, agencies, and community-based organizations that are focused on the well-being of children and youth.

Batavia’s Community Schools Initiative will focus on four key areas in an effort to support the whole child:

  • Expanded & Enriched Learning Time

  • Integrated Student Supports

  • Family and Community Engagement

  • Collaborative Leadership Practices

The Batavia Community Schools Advisory Board, which is comprised of various district staff, community-based organizations and partners, has developed the following vision and mission statements to help guide the work and focus of district schools moving forward.


Build a better Batavia by promoting equitable learning opportunities, cultivating healthier families, and establishing a stronger community.


Our mission is to unite our Batavia community and schools through shared resources, working partnerships, and open, collaborative communication.

The advisory board also developed a new logo that will help brand and identify events and programs that are directly aligned to the community school’s initiative and also place an emphasis on equity, opportunity and family.

Video supplied by the school district.

Previously: City schools tackling initiative to care for the community in support of education

February 9, 2021 - 1:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in John Kennedy School, batavia, schools, news, notify.

The doors at John Kennedy School are getting extra checks on a daily basis to ensure they're closing completely after a door that was left ajar was used by an unauthorized individual to gain entry and pull a fire alarm.

The man's name has not yet been released by Batavia PD. He is apparently undergoing treatment and will be charged once he has been released from care.

Det. Eric Hill confirmed the incident took place and that charges are pending.  

The incident on Jan. 28 was discussed by the Batavia City School District Board of Education during its meeting Monday night, following a school review presentation by Principal Brian Sutton.

"The first door he pulled on, it was open," Sutton said. "He entered the building. He was in the building for about less than a minute, 55, 56 seconds. He stopped, looked at a bulletin board, and on his way, walking out of the loading docks, he pulled the fire alarm. We then had a fire drill where we accounted for all the students, all the individuals.

"Mr. Smith, our head custodian, and I went and checked out the alarm and could see it had been pulled. As soon as it was deemed safe, we had a headcount on everyone, we re-entered the building. Mr. Dehm, our security aide, pulled the camera up and we got an image of the individual and contacted our SRO Officer Davis, and they then apprehended the man down the street quite a bit, a few moments later."

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. told the board a man matching the description of the subject at John Kennedy had been seen earlier around Batavia Middle School and police were already in the area looking for him when the call came in from JK.

"He happened to pull on a door that happened to work for him," Soler said. "It was definitely an unfortunate situation. No one was obviously impacted. And we did communicate immediately with families that day of the event."

Sutton said as a result of the incident, the school's custodian is now checking on the doors more frequently each day to ensure the doors are closing after people pass through them.

'It's one of those things where it's a good reminder to make sure we check in multiple times," Soler said. "Now we have an alarm set on them. If they don't close all the way, they'll hear an alarm go off in the main office."

February 4, 2021 - 11:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, Anibal Soler, live stream, video, education, schools.
Video Sponsor

We're scheduled to start at noon. We will be talking with Superintendent Anibal Soler about how things are going in Batavia city schools, get a COVID-19 update, talk about "high-risk" sports starting up, reopening Robert Morris, his experience on the Batavia PD stakeholders' group, and the district's new equity policy.

NOTE: The post has been updated with an edited version of the video that cuts out the technical problems at the start of the interview.

February 3, 2021 - 1:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, educaiton, news, covid-19, cornavirus, notify.
            Dr. Lalit Jain

Pandemic protocols at schools have been devastating on students, a pediatrician told reporters during a Zoom videoconference call on Tuesday.

Dr. Lalit Jain, chief of pediatrics at United Memorial Medical Center, said some students are falling behind and that the resumption of winter sports considered "high-risk" for the spread of COVID-19, such as basketball, will be of significant benefit to participants.

"(Taking students out of sports) affects them because you are getting social isolation, and like I mentioned, it affects them academically," Jain said. "Just by going out, they will be seeing friends in a safe environment. I think just participating and more activity is going to be very beneficial for the mental health ... of our students."

Local school superintendents seem to agree that the increase in available athletics for students will benefit the children.

"The return of sports safely is a tremendous help for our student-athletes' psyche and those benefits will translate into other areas of their school and community experience," said Anibal Soler Jr., Batavia City School District superintendent.

          Matthew Calderon

"I wholeheartedly agree that participation in sports and extracurricular activities helps students in every way," said Matthew Calderon, superintendent of Pembroke Central schools.

Jain expressed concern about the decrease in physical activity, the lack of social contact, and the general academic performance of students participating in distance learning.

Superintendents we spoke with shared mixed views on the impact of distance learning on students.

Jain said, "What we see is that kids are having problems with the online platform, a lot of them, because the kids who were before doing fantastic, who were A students, are now having difficulty sustaining attention from home and almost have seen some become school failures, or like grades going from the 90s to almost the 60s.

"And these are the kids without academic difficulties. So we are not even talking about the kids who are challenged, who need special help, and they are even more affected."

              Merritt Holly

Le Roy Central School Superintendent Merritt Holly characterized Jain's quote as "loaded." 

"I think some students have adapted well to the challenges of online learning," Holley said.

He said there are "some who struggle somewhat (would rather be in the classroom), and others who this system does not fit their learning style (struggle big-time). Really a student-by-student situation."

During the school board meeting Monday, while discussing reconfiguring the use of space in schools, Soler suggested distance learning might remain an option for some students after the pandemic subsides. In response to Jain's comment, he said some students do well while others struggle.

"The pandemic has impacted all of our students and our staff and we continue to try to find ways to support everyone either academically or socially," Soler said. "Social-emotional learning is one of our district goals and we knew that the lack of socialization would ultimately have an impact on our kids and staff.

"The numerous COVID rules that we have to implement have changed much of the experience for both our students and staff, but we continue to do as much as we can safely to bring a sense of normalcy."

In Pembroke, Calderon said, where most students participate in classrooms five days a week, the students who do participate in distance learning seem to struggle the most.

"By no means is online learning or the hybrid model anywhere close to providing students the sound basic education that the New York State Constitution entitles them to receive," Calderon said. "While teachers and support staff throughout our region are doing an amazing job within those parameters, and many students are holding their own, there is no substitute for organic in-person learning."

Calderon said about 20 percent of the district's students are participating in online learning and he's thankful the option exists for those who need it but the situation isn't ideal.

        Anibal Soler Jr.

"Our in-person learners love being in school, and many of them shed tears when they're told they need to go online for 10-14 days due to mandatory quarantines," Calderon said. "In regard to those who chose the 100-percent online option, a very small percentage are actually flourishing as they could be, and too many choose not to log on consistently despite all efforts to engage them. This may prove to be most problematic for some seniors who will not graduate as a result."

Calderon didn't mince words sharing his opinion about online learning.

"There is no way anyone will ever convince me that online learning is good for kids. and it certainly isn't sustainable," he said.

At the same time, he said, the district obviously takes seriously the need to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the district does all it can to keep the community safe.

"However," he said, "CDC hospitalization data seems to suggest that school-aged students are least at risk to be hospitalized, and therefore, I'm not sure why schools have some of the greatest restrictions in place.

"I'm obviously not a medical professional or in charge of public health, and in my role as a state-funded public school leader, I make sure our school district adheres to all the rules. At the same time, when I look at the data with my own eyes, I certainly scratch my head and wonder."

Citing similar data, Jain said he anticipates the return of "high-risk" sports to be safe for participants.

"Just following the guidelines by physicians and the authorities, I think of that will be really important," Jain said. "I don't think we're going to see that much increase in the (positivity) rate. The schools have been very safe so I think we'll do fine."

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January 28, 2021 - 4:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, schools, education, news.

The Board of Trustees for Batavia City School District has adopted a new public communications policy that Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. characterized at this week's meeting as allowing more public input into board decisions and discussions.

The initial idea for drafting a new policy came from board President Alice Ann Benedict in October. At that meeting, Soler suggested running any proposed policy change through a subcommittee.

The proposed policy came to the attention of attorneys at the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic, who drafted a letter to the school district expressing concern about some of the proposed changes, which Attorney Heather Murray said could run afoul of the First Amendment.

In the new policy, the school district seems to have heeded the advice of the clinic.

In the initial draft, a paragraph prohibited public discussion of individual district personnel and students. Murray said this policy would prevent members of the public their right to criticize public officials. She cited a case involving a school board in Virginia where similar language was struck down.

The new policy does not include language prohibiting discussion of individuals.

The original draft also indicated, “Obscene language, libelous statements, threats of violence, statements advocating racial, religious, or other forms of prejudice will not be tolerated.”

Murray informed the district this language was overly vague, noting that a basic tenet of the First Amendment jurisprudence is that speech cannot be restrained in anticipation of libel. She said the appropriate remedy for an alleged libel is a civil suit for money damages.

She also said, "Second, the quoted language as a whole, and in particular 'other forms of prejudice,' is impermissibly vague and provides too much discretion to the Board to restrain certain viewpoints. Further, because these terms are not well defined and left to the determination of the Board President, there would likely be a chilling effect on public speech at Board meetings.

The final policy alters the language from the first draft, too, "All speakers are to conduct themselves in a civil manner. Obscene language, threats of violence, statements advocating racial, religious, or other forms of prejudice on the basis of protected class will not be tolerated."

Federal and state law establishes what constitutes a "protected class" when it comes to discrimination.

The board did retain a requirement that people wishing to speak at meetings first fill out a form, that includes a request for identifying information. Murray's letter suggested requiring people to identify themselves violates the state's open meetings law. However, the new policy does strike a proposal giving the board president the ability to rule on what topics were "generally appropriate." 

Murray noted that giving the board president power to silence people on certain topics prior to them speaking would constitute unlawful prior restraint.

Previously, Benedict had suggested the questions submitted by the public for the board be prescreened. Murray recommended against such a practice since it could constitute viewpoint discrimination and that pre-writing answers to questions submitted prior to the meeting could violate the open meetings law.

Overall, Murray said today she is pleased that the board seems to have listened to the clinic's recommendations.

“The Board’s decision to make revisions to the proposed policy prior to its adoption is a great example of elected officials making decisions with input from the public," Murray said. "Providing the opportunity for members of the public to address school board members on matters of public concern is critical to maintaining trust during this unprecedented time for us all.”

December 23, 2020 - 11:12am
posted by Press Release in Le Roy, le roy junior high, news, schools, education.


Aaric Luce won Le Roy Junior High's spelling bee on Tuesday by correctly spelling “Rectangular” in the final round.

Second place went to Jax Burnside.

Aaric advances to the regional competition.

Photo and information submitted by Tim McArdle.

November 8, 2020 - 1:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, news, notify, schools, education, batavia.

Two employees at Jackson Primary School tested positive for COVID-19 and were symptomatic while on campus so Superintendent Anibal Soler today announced that the school will be moving to 100-percent virtual learning for the next two weeks starting tomorrow.

Jackson, with pupils in grades pre-kindergarten through second, is the only school in the City School district moving to virtual learning for the time being.

"This has caused a growing number of students and staff to be identified and deemed in “close contact” and they will need to quarantine for a 14-day window immediately," Solar said. "Staff and students who have been identified as 'close contact' will be notified by both school administration and the Genesee County Health Department starting today."

Virtual learning will be in effect until Nov. 30.

"This decision was extremely difficult as I know the impact that this has on our students and families," Solar said. "As positive cases continue to grow in our Genesee County region, please know that this decision was done out of extreme caution to protect our youngest learners, families, and staff."

Letter to parents and staff:

I am writing to provide you an important update regarding COVID-19 and Jackson Primary School.  

I have been notified and in contact with the Genesee County Health Department and the District’s Medical Director that there have been two positive COVID-19 cases on the Jackson Primary campus. The employees were in school while exhibiting symptoms. As a result, this has caused a growing number of students and staff to be identified and deemed in “close contact” and they will need to quarantine for a 14-day window immediately. Staff and students who have been identified as “close contact” will be notified by both school administration and the Genesee County Health Department starting today. 

Out of an abundance of caution, we will be moving Jackson Primary School to 100-percent Virtual Remote Learning effective immediately and will return back to our hybrid in-person learning model on Monday, Nov. 30.

This decision was extremely difficult as I know the impact that this has on our students and families. As positive cases continue to grow in our Genesee County region, please know that this decision was done out of extreme caution to protect our youngest learners, families and staff. 

This extended period of in-person learning closure is our attempt to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 on our Jackson Primary campus and will hopefully avoid us having multiple interruptions or closures to our school programming as we continue to await additional test results.

Please also note, all non-identified staff will report to work tomorrow as normal to continue to teach and support students remotely. Access to meals including breakfast and lunch, will continue to be provided daily for any individual 18 and under in the household.  

New York State has launched the “School COVID Report Card” site, where you can view COVID-19 data associated with all schools in New York. To protect the privacy of students and staff, we will never release personally identifiable information.

Please continue to be vigilant in your efforts and help us prevent the spread of COVID-19. For additional reliable information on preventing the spread of COVID-19, please go to www.cdc.gov or www.health.ny.gov

Please also don’t hesitate to contact Jackson Primary School or the District if you have any questions or concerns. 

Better Together… WE are Batavia!

Anibal Soler Jr.

Superintendent of Schools

October 30, 2020 - 6:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, schools, education, news, wolcott school.


Today was pumpkin patch day for students at Wolcott School in Le Roy.  Students walked through the patch and picked their own personal pumpkins to take home.







October 28, 2020 - 7:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in John Kennedy School, Jackson School, video, batavia, schools.
Video Sponsor

First responders turned out to Jackson and John Kennedy schools today to hand out candy to the students.

October 23, 2020 - 5:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Make A Difference Day, batavia, Batavia HS, schools, education, news.


For Batavia High School seniors, today was Make a Difference Day, the day seniors fan out around the community completing a variety of volunteer projects for community organizations.

Photos are from the seniors' clean-up project at the Batavia Cemetery.

Seniors also helped out at:

  • All Babies Cherished Genesee ARC (participate in activities with individuals with disabilities) 
  • Batavia First United Methodist Church (organizing and possible yard work)
  • Genesee Cancer Assistance (organize office inside the hospital)
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension (recording books for kids, assembling soil kits, organizing storeroom)
  • Crossroads House (organizing kitchen cupboards, general indoor cleaning)
  • Batavia First United Methodist Church (organizing and yard work)
  • Genesee County Park (yard work at the outdoor learning center)
  • Genesee County Youth Bureau (decorating Halloween bags)
  • Genesee Orleans Art Council (help with artistic mural painting, landscaping, cleaning, wall painting)
  • Habitat for Humanity (construction work)
  • Holland Land Office (yard work) 
  • Kiwanis Park
  • Manor House (gardening and landscaping)
  • Batavia Peace Garden (yard work, painting)



October 15, 2020 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Joe's, batavia, news, Batavia Cemetery, schools, education.


St. Joe's teacher Anne Marie Starowitz got to take her class on a field trip for the first time since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic today, walking her students over to the Batavia Cemetery to visit the gravesites of many of the historically important people buried or memorialized there.

Students are undertaking projects that include researching and writing about these people as well as created related artwork.

Above, students learn about Philemon Tracy, who was a colonel in the Confederate Army. His uncle, who lived in Batavia, had his body disguised in a Union officer uniform and transported to Batavia to be buried here. He's the only Confederate officer who died in action who is buried north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Below, students visit the William Morgan monument, a one-time Batavia resident who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after publishing a book that purportedly revealed Masonic secrets. His death helped ignite the Anti-Masonic Party.


October 10, 2020 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, notify, City Schools, batavia.

A 3-percent pay raise for City School's Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. was primarily a cost-of-living adjustment, a couple of members of the board of education told The Batavian in response to a set of emailed questions.

But not all board members responded to the request for comment.

Not responding were:

  • Shawna Murphy
  • Barbara Bowman
  • John Reigle

Trustee Tanni Bromley provided the most detailed response.

During the annual review process, the Board approved the raise of Mr. Soler after thorough discussion during the executive session. The Board felt it was justified for a few reasons which included cost of living increase, the longevity bonus would support and promote Mr. Soler's tenure in education. And finally, the Board did feel that Mr. Soler provided a well-structured plan for our district's reopening. 

The Board always takes the public's thoughts and feelings into account when making such decisions however it is also known that our decisions will not please every community member. Our objective always remains to provide our kids with the best educational experience possible, especially during these difficult and unprecedented times. 

The board approved the raise for Soler, lifting his annual pay from $160,000 to $164,800, unanimously near the end of the same meeting where Soler outlined a looming financial crisis for the school district. The governor's office is withholding at least 20 percent of state funding because of the pandemic and that could lead to a revenue shortfall of more than $5.4 million.

The seeming incongruity of the revenue discussion and the board approving a raise for Soler was questioned by members of the local community, so The Batavian asked each board member to provide their individual reasons for approving the raise.

Board President Alice Ann Benedict first responded:

As per School law, we discuss any employee issues in executive session. We had an in-depth discussion. We then put it on the agenda under consent items and voted on the raise. It is a cost of living increase. Three percent of $160,000 is $4,800.

In an attempt to get Benedict to expand on her answer, The Batavian, in a response email, noted that state law allows elected officials to discuss personnel matters in executive session (what some call "secret session") but doesn't require personnel matters be discussed behind closed doors, nor does state law prohibit elected officials from publically discussing their thoughts on matters taken up in executive session.

In a subsequent email, Benedict said the board held a thorough, in-depth discussion about the raise in closed session.

In a follow-up, we asked Benedict about the size of the raise -- 3 percent -- when the inflation rate in 2020 has been less than 1 percent and the consumer price index in 2019 was less than 2 percent.

"We choose a combination of cost of living, merit, and equity," Benedict said. "This was all decided during a very lengthy executive session meeting." 

Peter Cecere apologized for the delayed response because of a significant family matter. He again cited that the discussion was an executive session matter:

All decisions we arrive at are done with the utmost of thought and consideration from all angles and all sides. Many times not easy and often very laborious.

Rest assured we negotiated as a group, of one voice, and consent.

In response, The Batavian again noted that as a matter of law, he is not prohibited from discussing his decision to support a raise. We got no response.

John Marucci also apologized for a delayed response, citing long hours at work, and said:

What I can tell you is that any and all decisions made by the board of education are discussed thoroughly and we come together as a group on decisions that are made. Anything that is discussed in executive session is confidential.

In response, The Batavian again informed Marucci that we were seeking his individual thoughts on the raise and that state law does not prohibit him from answering questions for the public about matters discussed in executive session. He did not respond.

As for Anibal Soler Jr., he acknowledges that the optics of the raise being approved at a meeting where he spoke about the revenue issue -- the executive session where the raise was discussed was at a prior meeting -- don't look good, but he pointed out that:

  • His contract includes an annual raise;
  • The board was supposed to approve a raise for him in July but Soler asked that the matter be delayed because he was busy dealing with pandemic-related issues in the district;
  • Every bargaining unit in the district, the various unions, and other individual administrators have contracts that mandate annual raises. "Should I be the only one to go without a raise?" he said.

Yes, he said, the timing of the meeting, the optics, do not look good but the district, he said, is facing such a serious revenue shortfall that forgoing a $4,800 raise isn't going to fill in the hole.

He said last year he offered to skip a raise if all the other bargain units would forego their raises and the unions didn't take him up on the offer.

October 7, 2020 - 2:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, batavia, City Schools, notify.
                  Alice Ann Benedict

Alice Ann Benedict is in only her fourth month as president of the Board of Education for Batavia city schools but she's already looking to make a significant change to a board policy that she said has bothered her for a long time.

Under the previous leadership of Pat Burk, who resigned suddenly over the summer, if a member of the public came to a board meeting and asked a question, Burk would inform the speaker, "We don't answer questions from the public."

Benedict wants to provide the public with public answers to board questions.

She brought the issue to the board's attention at Monday's meeting and Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. suggested after the board discussion that the board hold off on changing the policy until staff can formalize the language and make a recommendation.

If the board adopts Benedict's suggestion, the district will offer a form on the district's website where members of the public could ask questions of the board. If the question is submitted prior to a set deadline -- such as 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the board's Monday meeting -- then either the board president or the superintendent would prepare an answer. At the next board meeting, during the "public speaks" portion of the agenda, the question and answer would be read aloud. 

Currently, Benedict said, if a question is sent to the district, either she or Soler answer it and the board never sees the question unless Benedict forwards it to them. Benedict would like the entire board to be informed of questions from the public.

During COVID-19 restrictions, members of the public are not attending meetings but once restrictions are lifted, Benedict wants the board to have in place a policy that would allow members of the public to ask questions. If questions are submitted in advance, they will be answered at the meeting. If not, the board president or superintendent will answer the question at a subsequent meeting.

Benedict expressed concern that some people, like herself, are not "quick on their feet" when it comes to answering questions, which is why she wants a built-in delay on answering questions so there is time for research and consideration.

"I always felt like before when I was on the board, I never liked the idea that if a community member took time to come to the board to make a comment or ask a question, we would never answer," Benedict said. "We would never answer the question. That really bothered me."

At first, Trustee Shawna Murphy seemed a little confused by the suggestion, noting that the public has always been allowed to speak at meetings.  After Benedict spoke more about her idea, Murphy said, "sounds beautiful."

Soler said it usually takes two readings for the board to adopt a new policy. He said the policy should incorporate best practices for dealing with public speakers and also suggested the policy should mimic what he said other districts do, which requires public speakers to sign up to speak hours in advance of the meeting "so people can't come and disrupt the meeting."

October 6, 2020 - 8:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, news, notify, batavia, schools, education.

Batavia city schools are looking at a nearly $5.5 million revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year due to the global pandemic that has caused an economic retraction, and dealing with that shortfall is likely to mean the district needs to cut services and personnel, Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. informed school board members on Monday night.

Soler told the board that state aid has been cut by 20 percent, or $425,000, so far. The state says it is "withholding" the funds but there's no guarantee the funds will be backfilled, nor that there won't be more "withholding" during the remainder of the year.

The state is facing a $16 billion budget shortfall and the deficit over the next four years is expected to grow to $66 billion.

That doesn't bode well for the future of school funding, Soler said.

The superintedent said he was trying to present the board and the community with a realistic picture of the situation the district finds itself in through no fault of its own.

"If we don’t sound the alarm now and it gets sounded for us, we may be seen as not being as transparent as we can," Soler said.

While a lot of people suggest cutting things like supplies and materials, that's only 2 percent of the school district's budget. The biggest portion of the budget goes to payroll and benefits -- about 70 percent, so if it becomes necessary to cut spending, that will be the area where the district can make up much of the projected shortfall.

"At $5.4 million, you start doing the math and that's a significant number of services or employees we have to change," Soler said.

The total district budget is $51,470,726 and is supported by $27,477,066.

The unknowns at this point is: Whether there will be a round of 20-percent withholding in August and December and whether Congress will at some point approve a stimulus package that includes funding for schools.

Soler said state education officials are leaning heavily on the idea of waiting to see what happens after the election.

If the cuts turn out to be permanent, Soler outline several possible responses:

  • Cut teacher aides to four days a week for a savings of $301,210;
  • Cut custodial work to four days a week for a savings of $246,126;
  • Go to 100-percent remote learning to cut transportation costs by $576,000;
  • Eliminate activities such as music for a savings of $143,551;
  • Cutting athletics could save $284,089;
  • Increasing class size to 28 pupils per teacher, the maximum allowed by the current union contract, could save $630,000;
  • Eliminating non-mandated staff, such as teachers for elective courses, non-graduation requirement courses, extra librarians, some tutors and counselors, an administrator, and some aides, could lead to another $3 million in savings;
  • Eliminating the school resource officer would save $54,000.

What to cut and how much is a matter of priorities and a balancing act, Soler said. For example, eliminating transportation would mean a cut in state aid for transportation in future years.

Also on the table for discussion, Soler said, is a dramatic tax increase. He took notice of the possible 89-percent property tax increase in the Town of Batavia as an example of the tough budget choices the pandemic is forcing on local governments.

"Obviously, I'm not saying that's our approach but we're probably not going to be able to come out of this with no tax increase," Soler said. "It's tough because they're (property owners) are also struggling with these economic conditions."

Board Member Shawna Murphy wondered out loud why the idea of a tax increase was such a heinous idea. She suggested most people in Batavia could handle a tax increase.

Another board member spoke up (it was hard to identify the speaker on the livestream of the meeting) and said many older residents have already put their children and their grandchildren through school and now live on a fixed income. She was hesitant to burden them with a tax increase.

"I have more concern for the older property owner," she said. "Their home is the last thing they're clinging to and we're asking them to make quite a sacrifice when they have no children in the system."

The district does have about $1.75 million in reserves but that money will run out quickly if other action isn't taken, Soler said.

The district will know much more about its financial situation by the Nov. 23 board meeting, Soler said. Until then, he said, the district needs to remain "stay the course and remain Batavia Strong" and study its options.

On another budget item, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the superintendent's contract that granted Soler a $4,800 annual raise, bringing his compensation to $164,800 per year. The board did not discuss the salary increase prior to the vote.

September 24, 2020 - 10:01am
posted by Press Release in Le Roy, schools, education, news.

Press release:

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, residents of the Le Roy Central School District will be asked to participate in a capital project referendum. Two separate capital project propositions will be offered on the ballot for their consideration and vote.

Proposition 1 consists of district-wide building and site improvements focused on safety, asset preservation, and academic program enhancements. Critical needs addressed in this part of the project include exterior building reconstruction, such as masonry repointing, window replacements, roof replacements at the Wolcott Street School, and the Jr.-Sr. High School, and reconstruction of the deteriorating parapet at the Wolcott Street School.

Water accumulation in the Wolcott Street School boiler room and at the Lapp Building would also be addressed, as well as age-related deterioration to various stairways and entryways at both schools. Window film would be applied at both school buildings to enhance student safety and security.

Program enhancements would include gymnasium refinishing and locker room improvements at the Wolcott Street School, plus improvements to the existing soccer field at the Jr.-Sr. High School, including a multipurpose playing surface, lighting, and new bleachers. Both schools would also receive auditorium house lighting upgrades, plus theatrical lighting improvements at the High School.

Proposition 2, which is contingent on approval of the first proposition, incorporates additional improvements to our physical education and athletic programs. A multipurpose playing surface would be added inside the existing track at the Jr.-Sr. High School, along with new stadium field lighting and a pedestrian path leading from the school to the field. This work would put the final touches on our stadium.

Both propositions put forth in this proposed project represent an important continuation of the facilities planning initiatives we began with the R.I.T.E. project.

We encourage you to learn more about the project propositions at the public information meeting on Oct. 14 and to cast your vote on Oct. 28.

The public information meeting on Oct. 14 is in the Jr-Sr High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. and the referendum vote is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 28 at Wolcott Street School.

Download: Information sheet (pdf).

NOTE: The referendum was originally scheduled to go before voters in May. The video was made for the school district before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

September 16, 2020 - 4:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news, schools, education, notify.

There are any number of reasons that a child might have the sniffles, or run a fever, or get a stomachache. But since all of these ailments are also potential symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, school districts are under instruction from the State Health Department to isolate children with these and other symptoms until its confirmed that child can't spread the disease at a school, said Rochester Regional Health Pediatrician Dr. Steven Schulz today in a Zoom conference call with reporters.

"Because of low community prevalence, there's a 99-percent chance that those symptoms are due to a different virus, that it's not COVID and that's a good thing and a good place that we're starting out with," Schulz said.

"But because we don't want COVID to spread in the schools and break out, we are being very stringent. Actually, it's the Department of Health that's been very stringent with regulations on what's required to eventually return to school."

If a child goes home with a potential COVID-19 symptom, that child can't return to school unless there is a negative COVID-19 test, and the child is again symptom-free, and a doctor has cleared the child to return to school.

The reason a child must be symptom-free even after a negative test for COVID-19, Schulz said, is because of the small percentage of COVID tests that return a false negative.

Schulz serves on the Finger Lakes Region School Reopening Task Force and is one of the people responsible for writing school reopening guidelines in the region. RRH, parent hospital group for UMMC in Batavia, sponsored today's press conference on what parents should know as their children return to school.

Possible COVID-19 symptoms that could lead to a child being kept out of school include runny nose, congestion, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, poor appetite.

"There's a whole host of conditions that can cause all of those things, not just COVID," Schulz said. "And so many kids do have chronic conditions, such as seasonal allergies that can have overlapping symptomatology."

For children with chronic conditions, a doctor can verify those conditions and letters written as needed to allow those children to return to school.

What the main focus is on, he said, is the development of new, or different, or worsening symptoms. 

"Every school district has implemented a screening protocol for students and parents to go through before that student set foot sets foot on campus If they screened positive for any of those," Schulz said. "Again, focusing on new and worsening symptoms, in particular, and those would be reasons for an evaluation with the health care provider.

"Obviously, the big one would be a fever. If a child has a fever, they certainly would need to have additional evaluation. So we, of course, would encourage families if there is any concern that their child might have symptoms that are consistent with COVID to contact their health care provider for the next steps."

If a child at a school does test positive, the Health Department will take over, conduct contact tracing, and determine if any other children were exposed and take proper precautions as necessary. If proper social distancing has been maintained and masks are worn properly, it may not be necessary to quarantine other children.

One thing parents can do to help the entire community, Schulz said, is to ensure they and their children receive a seasonal flu shot.

"It's especially important this year," Schulz said. "COVID and flu have a lot of overlapping symptoms and people can theoretically be infected with both. The concern with that is that we could overwhelm our health care system not just with COVID, but also with flu. Both together could overwhelm it even more.

"So the flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect you and others around you from getting the flu. And we are encouraging everyone to get that as early as possible this year."

September 15, 2020 - 1:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, pembroke.

Letter from Ed Levinstein:

I am writing in response to your recent editorial article; “School boards get a failing grade on transparency with voters.”  Contrary to your claim of “group conformity,” I am writing this without asking for approval from my fellow Pembroke Central School District board members or our superintendent.  I want you and your readers to know, I have never felt the need or pressure to seek approval.  Speaking only for myself, but with a suspicion that my fellow board members at Pembroke and elsewhere may agree, I take exception to your article. 

I wish to begin by noting where you and I agree; that school board members are elected individually and that the public has a right to know where we stand.  I wholeheartedly agree and there is no debating this in my mind.  However, our board’s decision to ask our President to answer your questions about reopening school on our behalf, in no way equates to avoiding public accountability. Please keep in mind that the board and administration grappled with this plan for weeks.  As a team, we developed a plan that everyone had input on and is fully supportive of and unanimously approved.  The lack of any disagreement does not indicate that any of us are hiding our true opinions or having them suppressed. 

I would like to add that I did respond to Mr. Pettinella’s email after your exchange with our President, John Cima, where you asked again for individual responses.  Granted, my response was still in agreement with John, but this should not imply that I was in some way unwilling or not allowed to give my opinion.  I believe my fellow board members also replied after your second request but this was not included in your follow up Facebook post.

With all due respect to you and other journalists who play an extremely important role in our society, board members are not obligated to respond to your questions. Your inference from our individual silence that we are being stifled or manipulated is speculative at best, deceptive at worst.  The tone of your article and the responses you gave John imply that you think we are answerable to you and that if our responses don’t conform to your formatting and expectation, then we are being obstructive or just too stupid to understand our “assignment.”  This unfair treatment by some media may be why some board members and districts prefer to have a gatekeeper of sorts to prevent being misunderstood.

As a Pembroke Central School Board member, I very much recognize my responsibility to the students and constituents.  I applaud that you and other publications are covering important matters including the reopening plans of districts. However, I feel you are doing a disservice to the community by creating a perception about our transparency that in my opinion, is not fair or accurate. If you had cared about the original topic, I imagine we would have seen an article that discussed the reopening plans of districts in the region. 

Your perception is based simply on our group responses to a couple open-ended questions that I imagine most board members agree on anyway by this point.  Regarding our transparency, please know that the discussions and vote on the plan were held in open meetings that you and the public are always welcome to attend.  Also, the minutes to those meetings are available on our website and upon a request. I’m also personally available to any constituent who wants to know where I stand on a school issue.

Finally, I want you and your readers to understand that aside from the satisfaction of working to provide opportunities for and improve the lives of children, being on a school board is a tough job that we take on cheerfully but very seriously.  It includes a lot of hard work, long hours, long meetings and is completely volunteer.  Most of us do not have high aspirations for public office.  We just want to help the kids in our district be successful and lead happy, productive lives.  

I feel that it is a great privilege to work with a board that is able to work so well together and I hope that the voters in my district will entrust me for another term when the time comes.  It seems almost out of place in this day and age that a group of elected officials can work so well together, which is maybe why you felt the need to create the perception of controversy where there is none.

Ed Levinstein
Vice President
Pembroke Central School Board

Previously: EDITORIAL: School boards get failing grade on transparency with voters

Previously: Genesee County central school districts unveil plans for reopening this fall

September 14, 2020 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Schools, education, schools, video.
Video Sponsor

With new social distancing protocols in place, the Batavia City School District opened all four of its campuses today for the 2020-21 academic year.

September 13, 2020 - 6:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in pembroke, schools, education, news.

Here is the response received from John Cima, school board president for Pembroke for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  Cima said he was responding as school board president and the response reflected the views of the school board.

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • John A. Cima
  • Heather Wood
  • Ed Levinstein
  • Dan Lang
  • Art Ianni

Do you support the District’s policy and reopening plan? Why or Why not?
As Board President of the Pembroke Central School District, I have been asked to give you our Board’s response. At Pembroke, and across the State, school boards operate as one unit not as individuals. We set policy and work in conjunction with the Superintendent and administrative team to effectively and efficiently operate our district. Individual opinions and ideas from all are listened to and discussed as we formulate policies and plans affecting the District as a whole. It is through these rich and respectful discussions that our policies and plans are developed. By adhering to this process, we examine situations and, in the end, develop policies and plans that we feel best meet the needs of our District. So, with that being said, our Board and the individuals who serve on our Board strongly believe in and support the District’s policy and reopening plan.

The reopening plan offers options to our school community to address various comfort levels while providing our students the challenging education and safe environment they richly deserve whether they choose virtual or in-person learning. We have also provided a structure to allow parents to change the initial option chosen for their children on a quarterly basis and our district the flexibility to adjust on the fly to a hybrid or 100% virtual model should the health numbers change.

No plan developed will completely satisfy everyone’s concerns but, we listened to all stakeholders and feel that our reopening plan comes very close to addressing those concerns in a manner providing educational opportunities and a safe environment for all of our students and staff.

What feedback have you received from parents in your district?
We have surveyed parents numerous times throughout the process of developing the reopening plan and used that feedback to effectively formulate the plan. The feedback received has been extremely positive. Also, the Superintendent and administrative team held a series of question and answer sessions via Zoom to answer questions and receive feedback. The valuable feedback has allowed for some tweaking of the plan to address concerns. Our Board feels strongly that the Superintendent and Administrative team has done a highly effective job communicating the elements and expectations of our district’s reopening plan and has welcomed the community feedback we have received,

September 13, 2020 - 6:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in schools, education, news, oakfield-alabama.

Here is the response received from Matt Lamb, school board president for Oakfield-Alabama for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  Lamb said this served as a group response. A group response was not an option given to the school board members.  

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • Timothy Edgerton
  • Lorna Klotzbach
  • Matt Lamb
  • Justin Staebell
  • Jackie Yunker Davis
  • Pete Zeliff
  • Daniel Groth

"The OACS school board fully supports our district's reopening plan.  The plan originated from a district survey that went to all families.  The survey indicated that 84% of our families would approve of the decision to send their children back to school to resume full-time, in person instruction.  The administrative team concluded that our facilities have the space necessary to meet the 6 foot physical distancing guideline within the classrooms while the students receive their instruction, making the request of the families of our district possible.  The committee that helped form our plan included administrative staff, teachers, students and parents of the district.

I'm happy to say most parent feedback went directly to our Superintendent and the building Principals.  However, to your question, we'd mention that at our last board meeting some families asked to speak in our public comment section and expressed their approval and gratitude to the district for our plan.    

We'd also like to acknowledge the flexibility within the plan.   It is important to the board that families have the option to learn remotely if their concerns could not be alleviated by the district's plan.  Our school is accommodating those families that aren't ready to send their children into our facilities.  Should these families reconsider their decision, there is also a re-entry plan for students who have chosen the remote option.

Our board is incredibly appreciative to all who made themselves available to help write the reopening plan, and also to all of the district employees who will be implementing the plan.  We are excited to get the kids back in school, but at the same time, understand the anxieties this brings to both families and staff.  We expect the plan to remain fluid and for our administrative team to continue to make themselves available to hear the concerns of families and staff.  We wish everyone the best of health as we get back to the business of the education of the students of our district."

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