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April 22, 2022 - 4:42pm
posted by Press Release in pembroke, schools, arts, education, news, Pembroke Central Schools.

Press release:

Pembroke Central School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  Now in its 23rd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Pembroke Central School District answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“Our K-12 music department and the consistent quality of vocal and instrumental instruction it has provided to our young Dragons has been nothing short of amazing!” said Superintendent Matthew Calderón. “Receiving this designation for three years in a row is no surprise to me and will have an ongoing positive impact on the district’s music education program.”

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs. During the pandemic, music and arts programs were a vital component to keeping students engaged in school. ESSA provides designated funding for well-rounded educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. NAMM Foundation research has revealed that these grants are being widely used by school districts to address instructional gaps in access to music and arts education. 

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

April 3, 2022 - 6:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy Central Schools, Le Roy, schools, education, news.

Administrators with the Le Roy Central School District have been working on the 2022-2023 budget for weeks and are currently proposing $27,708,988 in expenditures, an increase of $839,701 from the 2021-2022 budget, or a 3.13% increase.

Superintendent Merritt Holly said officials still need to compare revenue numbers to help finalize the budget.

School districts do not yet know how much state aid they will receive, which is a significant portion of every district's revenue. Without that number, officials cannot say what the anticipated tax levy will be and what that will mean for the tax rate on property owners in the district.

Under the property tax cap, the district can increase the levy by 2.39 percent.   

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the auditorium of Wolcott School.

March 25, 2022 - 11:38pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, oakfield-alabama, drop-outs, education, notify, schools.

New York State’s high school drop-out rate has declined in recent years, to an all-time low of 5.6 percent, USAfacts.org says.

Still, nobody wants to see students drop out, even if it’s only one or two, as is the case at Oakfield-Alabama Central, Superintendent John Fisgus said during the district’s recent board meeting.

“We hate losing these kids at the last minute. They usually drop out by 17, as a junior, and they only have one year to go,” he said. “We want to see these kids leave with a high school diploma.”

He consulted with other school districts, including Batavia City Schools and Pembroke Central, about setting a legal drop-out requirement to age 17 for Oakfield-Alabama’s district, which has a legal age of 16 currently. The feedback from both schools led him to his proposal to the board: raise the legal drop-out age to 17.

“There were no negatives,” Fisgus said. “The board has the right to make it 17.”

A board member asked how many students this change would affect, and the answer was “maybe one or two.” But, according to the American Psychological Association, dropouts face “extremely bleak economic and social prospects” from not having a high school diploma. National statistics from 2012 showed more than 1 million high school students not graduating and earning that prized diploma. 

Those dropouts, compared to high school grads, are also less likely to find a job and earn a living wage, APA.org stated. 

“Poverty and dropouts are inextricably connected in the three primary settings affecting healthy child and adolescent development: families, schools and communities,” it stated.

Batavia City Schools not only has the higher age limit but also recently touted a 96 percent graduation rate and various educational and career-related activities being offered to upper-level high school students. Pembroke’s graduation rate is 92 percent, and both are higher than the state’s average of 86 percent. August 2021 data reported Oakfield-Alabama’s rate to be 86 percent. 

The remaining districts in Genesee County include Alexander Central, at 95 percent; Byron-Bergen at 98 percent; Elba at 80 percent; Le Roy at 90 percent; and Pavilion at 83 percent.

Lake Shore High School in Erie County made a move similar to Oakfield-Alabama in 2020, citing an 11 percent dropout rate. The school board adopted a new policy that would force students to remain in school until the end of the year in which they turn 17. The only exception is if they have a full-time job.

New York State law was revised in 2019 to extend the option, initially open to larger cities such as Buffalo and New York City, to rural and suburban districts. State law also exempts students who have full-time jobs.

Should Oakfield-Alabama’s board approve this policy change — something that “affects students and families to this extent” — families would be notified through ParentSquare, the district’s communication platform, Fisgus said. 

Board votes can take a while, however, since the group is entitled to up to three readings of a policy before taking a vote. This particular policy change has an expected timeline of approval in April, he said.

“We discussed it as an administrative team, and I am in full support of such a change moving forward,” he said.

March 24, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, Le Roy Central Schools, news, education, schools, notify.

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Watching fellow students learn and grow because of the help you've given them and the friendship you've shown them is one of the most satisfying things in life, Evelyn Babcock told trustees of the Le Roy Central School District on Monday night. 

She recalled her interaction with one boy she tutored through a program called Knights Academic Access Program that she co-founded with her twin brother Brett Babcock.

"'I don't like it (school),'" she recalled a boy telling her.  "It's boring."  She added, exacerbated, "Oh, eighth-grade boys," eliciting laughter from the board, then she continued, "It's rewarding watching someone go from 19 in social studies to a 91 ... he was like ‘hey, this kind of isn’t that bad.’

"So to watch that drive sparked again, to see that drive and motivation and understanding organizational skills and understanding not just the academic portion but understanding optimism and attitude and energy and things like that that go into it, and watching a light go off in their eyes, is one of the most rewarding experiences I could ever say I had yet so far in high school."

Brett and Evelyn are highly motivated students.  They both have scholarships for Ohio State.  Evelyn is set on attending Ohio. She's even named her car "Scarlett" (one of the school's colors -- "I'm a bit obsessed," she told the board). But she doesn't know what she will major in.  She has "10,000 interests," she said.  Brett is a little less sure about Ohio but he's set on entering pre-med and becoming a doctor. 

With that degree of motivation, they found the options available for programs to help them meet their community service requirements were less than satisfying.

"My brother and I were looking for a way to give back going beyond painting rocks or chalk art on sidewalks," Evelyn told the board. "It’s pretty and all but our time is very valuable to us because we don’t have much of it and we're always busy so we wanted to put as much efficiency into our time as possible. We started contacting things like Big Brother/BigSister programs and trying to find a way and we were contacting everyone and there was no response, no results, so we were like, you know what, we’re going to start our own program.  Why not just start something?"

Sophomores at the time, it was the start of the pandemic.  It might be surprising that such motivated students felt they were falling behind academically.  

They thought if that was happening to them, what about students who were already doing poorly in school?  So they decided to start a peer-to-peer tutoring program. 

The twins contacted every person they knew, from administrators to fellow students, to try and get a tutoring program going.

Of course, the school supported it.  They cite former principal Tim McArdle especially for helping get the fledgling program off the ground, but say also Kelly Ronan, Austin Dwyer, and Jen Bertrand were supportive as well.

The reason the program has been successful, Brett told the board, is because it's student-run and there is a strong emphasis on tutors and the younger students building a friendship.

"It's not just tutoring," Brett said. "It's about having friends and having mentors."

"If we just made a tutoring program where you show up after school and you don't want to go to tutor but you're spending 45 minutes after school, I don't think it would be as successful, he said.  "We both preach, get a kid, stick with them, build a foundation, because it will be rewarding when you see them succeed in school but also see them laugh."

There are about 20 other student tutors and currently about 20 students being tutored.  And some of those tutors are ready to lead the program next year, Brett said, explaining that he's not worried about it going away after he and his sister graduate.

Not everyone who wants to be a tutor gets to be a tutor, Evelyn said.  There have been some sophomores who have applied to become tutors but they need to display both academic success and maturity. 

If sophomores are accepted, they tutor students younger than those typically assigned to juniors and seniors so that the tutor can maintain a level of separation and authority.

"The level of maturity needs to be there because you are impacting somebody’s life greatly, so we don’t want to be like, ‘hey, I want to be a tutor.’ No. That’s not how it’s going to work," Evelyn said.

Some students just need help at the end of a marking period.  Others need help all year.  Either way, the program is making a difference, the siblings said.

"We even get messages from their parents saying how it’s not just in school but at home, you can see their confidence rise due to they believe in themselves," Brett said. "They have a little bit more self-confidence because they see their grades rising and they can say, ‘I can actually do this.”  It’s so rewarding and it really shows how just a little step — this isn’t a huge program but for some people it is.  if you can save one person and help them grow as a person I would consider that win."

The board members were duly impressed.

"What you’re doing is awesome," said Trustee Rich Lawrence.  "You're planting seeds and those seeds are going to grow."

Vice President Denise Duthe said, "We're so so proud of you. The fact that you saw or thought that this was going to be something that people needed, and putting hours and hours into it is just outstanding."

The plaudits were followed by a round of applause from board members and administrators. 

Top photo: Brett and Evelyn Babcock present their tutoring initiative to Le Roy Central School Board during a meeting on Tuesday.

March 22, 2022 - 10:49pm
posted by Press Release in le roy hs, Le Roy, Le Roy Central Schools, schools, education, news, notify.

Press release:

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the Le Roy Board of Education unanimously approved Dr. David Russell as the new Jr/Sr High School Principal. Dr. Russell will start officially on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Dr. Russell is currently the assistant principal at the Cosgrove (Spencerport) Middle School, a position he has held since 2019. Previously he was the principal of the Western Wayne Summer Academy, a Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES program. Dr. Russell was also a special education teacher at Sodus Central School District and the True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School.

“We are very excited to bring Dr. Russell’s energy and passion to collaborate with our students, teachers, and parents,” said Merritt Holly, Superintendent of Schools. “He is a strong instructional leader who has consistently made positive connections with all stakeholders in his previous experiences. We look forward to Dr. Russell’s leadership as we continue to follow our vision to cultivate a world-class community of learners who exceed core local, state, national, and international standards.”

The mission of the Le Roy Central School District is to provide an exceptional, high-quality educational environment where all learners are empowered to succeed.

Dr. Russell earned a Bachelor of Arts, History, Adolescent Education from SUNY Geneseo, a Master of Education from Roberts Wesleyan College, and a Doctor of Education from the University of Rochester. Along with his special education certification, Dr. Russell also holds New York State certifications as a School Building and School District Leader.

The district posted the position on February 2, 2022, and 17 candidates applied. First-round interviews with four applicants were held on Friday, March 11, 2022. A 15-member committee consisting of students, teachers, parents, administration, and board members narrowed the field to two finalists. Second-round interviews with the administrative team took place on Thursday, March 17, 2022. A final interview with the superintendent was conducted on Friday, March 18, 2022.

Dr. Russell takes over for Mr. Tim McArdle, who left on Friday, February 4, 2022, to take an assistant principal position at Caledonia-Mumford Central School District. The district would like to sincerely thank Mrs. Beth Patton, who has been interim principal since Monday, February 7, 2022. 

March 22, 2022 - 5:24pm
posted by Press Release in Crosby's, news, John Kennedy School, batavia, schools, education.

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Press release:

Each year, ExxonMobil offers more than $2M of grant funding to its distributors to support local schools in their marketing area. 

ExxonMobil has awarded John Kennedy Intermediate a $500 Educational Alliance Math & Science Grant under this program.

Reid Petroleum, a local distributor for ExxonMobil, has also matched the $500 donation, bringing the total grant amount to $1K.

The grant is authorized for use in a number of ways, including films, speakers, or field trips to science centers; Student volunteer programs; Scholarships or awards to encourage academic or leadership excellence in math or science; Science fairs, parent/student events; Educational tools, such as computers, math or science books, calculators, software geared toward math or science.

Since 2000, ExxonMobil has donated close to $1.25B in grants for the Educational Alliance program. 

CEO of Reid Petroleum, Paul Reid, shares a vision of education and community involvement and has been involved with the program for close to 15 years, expanding it to include more schools in the past few years under the leadership of Meredith Reid Harris.

This is the second year John Kennedy Intermediate has received a grant from Reid Petroleum/Crosby's.

Submitted Photo: Superintendent Jason Smith, John Kennedy Intermediate Principal Brian Sutton, Pam Kilgore, Team Leader at Crosby’s Batavia, Mike McCarthy, VP of Sales and Marketing, Reid Petroleum, Jack McCarthy, John Kennedy Intermediate Student, John Kennedy Intermediate Assistant Principal Heather McCarthy. 

March 17, 2022 - 8:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, notify, City Schools, UPK program, schools, education.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten to accommodate more than 100 children for the 2022-23 school year is on the table for consideration at Batavia City Schools.

A recommendation by Molly Corey is on the school board’s agenda for this week’s meeting. It’s set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Batavia High School, Superintendent's Conference Room, 260 State St.

Corey, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, has proposed UPK sites at Imagination Station and GLOW YMCA, in addition to Jackson Primary School, in order to accommodate 112 students. The expected price tag is $672,719, to be paid with federal UPK grant funding, Corey said in a memo to the superintendent. 

In other meeting items, the board is expected to vote on a proposal from Johnson Controls of Rochester for an energy performance contract. Promising a “positive cash flow” from state rebates and energy savings, the contract is for $2,357,531, to be paid off over the course of nearly 18 years at 2.75 percent interest. 

If approved, construction would begin in September of this year with a completion date of August 2023. 

Other votes and discussions include:

  • The 2022-23 preliminary $55 million budget, which includes a 1.62 percent tax levy increase. The board had its first budget workshop on Tuesday of this week to discuss a financial plan that left a gap of $315,716 to be paid for by taxpayers.
  • Setting the official registration, voting, and public hearing dates for the 2022-23 budget.
  • Revising the description of a school social worker to replace an itinerant social worker.
  • Approval of several personnel appointments and resignations.
  • A shared services agreement between Batavia City School District and the Town of Batavia for shared services and equipment use for a five-year term.
  • The purchase of sensory room equipment for Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate from Fun & Function and School Specialty for $22,031.99.

The meeting includes time for public comments and an executive session to discuss a resolution to “assert paid leave for an employee until further notice,” followed by the vote in open session. 

To view the meeting, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sGdRzmCW2Kg

March 16, 2022 - 2:32pm
posted by Press Release in BOCES, Alexander, schools, education, news.

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Press release:

Rich Monroe describes Joe Rebmann as a self-starter. Monroe, the ElectroMechanical Trades Instructor at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, also noted that Joe tackles projects head-on and is a model student.

Joe Rebmann is a senior from Alexander and is a second-year student in the Electro-Mechanical Trades Program. Joe was recently awarded a $500 School-to-Work Scholarship from the Electrical Association of Western New York. According to the Electrical Association, the purpose of this scholarship is to be used toward the cost of tools for individuals seeking a career in the electrical trade.

Joe was recently chosen to participate in the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program and was selected for a paid co-op at Tambe Electric. Joe has high hopes for this work opportunity as his goal is to go directly into the workforce after graduation.

“After my co-op, I want to continue working and I hope that Tambe Electric hires me. I love to work with my hands, and always had an interest in anything to do with electricity. When I was young, I used to wire circuit boards,” Joe said. “I will use this scholarship to purchase any tools so I’m ready to go to work.”

Monroe is confident that Joe’s co-op will lead to employment because Monroe describes Joe as “career-ready.”

“Joe is a great student who works independently, is able to decipher directions, and follow through with any task. He is an independent thinker and is totally employable,” Monroe said.

Joe recently had a work experience during a school day at the Batavia CTE Center replacing outdoor light fixtures with exterior LED lighting.

 “I worked with five juniors and I was the group leader. I showed them how to replace the fixture from chiseling concrete to making wire pigtails. We were able to replace all the fixtures on the building with little help from adults. I feel that this experience gave me great leadership and efficiency skills,” Joe explained.

Margaret Poray is the Executive Principal of the GV BOCES Batavia Campus. Like Monroe, she believes that Joe will be successful.

“Joe is a fine example of how our CTE programs prepare students for their next step in life, whether it be college or career. Each Batavia CTE Center program integrates both applied and practical skills into the curriculum as students gain hands-on experience in their chosen field. Joe is well-prepared and ready to go to work,” Poray said.

Submitted Photo: Margaret Poray, Executive Principal of the GV BOCES Batavia Campus, Joe Rebmann, and Rich Monroe, the ElectroMechanical Trades Instructor at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center.  Note:  the photo was taken before the mask mandate was lifted.

March 2, 2022 - 5:30pm
posted by Press Release in St. Paul, schools, education, news.

Press release:

St. Paul is an accredited elementary school in New York State that educates students from 3-year-old-preschool through grade 6.It provides a Christian education that fosters academics and excellence. Children experience a caring environment in which to grow in character and knowledge. Students are treated as individuals. Their unique talents, skills, and learning needs are valued and considered.

Bus transportation is available through the child's home school district, and before-school care is available.

For more information call (585)-343-0488 or send an email to [email protected].

March 1, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, education, COVID-19.

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As Genesee County school officials responded to New York State's decision to remove mask mandates in schools, they kept civility central to their messages. Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement on Sunday that masks would be optional for districts in New York State starting Wednesday. 

Batavia City School District 
City schools Superintendent Jason Smith sent a letter out to district families confirming that Hochul’s weekend announcement means that “every county in New York State will now have control over masking guidelines,” with the qualifier that districts may still require masks if the county’s COVID-19 data supports it. 

“We support this mask optional decision and look forward to a full return to normalcy, and we will continue to advocate local control,” Smith said to The Batavian on Monday. Part of that control includes how students and families react to the actions of others. 

“On Wednesday, March 2, families may still choose to send their children to school in masks and we fully stand behind the governor’s sentiments that masking is a personal choice, and no bullying of any sort will be tolerated,” Smith’s letter stated. “We will continue to provide information in the coming days leading up to Wednesday, March 2 on how the lifted mandate will specifically affect the Batavia City School District.”

Pembroke Central School
Likewise, Pembroke Central School District families also received a letter with an outline of what and will not be acceptable behavior once the mask mandate is gone. Masks will be optional for everyone, and harassment based on wearing or not wearing a mask “will not be tolerated,” Superintendent Matthew Calderon’s letter stated.

“All individuals, whether choosing to wear masks or not wear masks, will be respectful of every individual's right to choose,” Calderon said.

Pavilion Central School
Pavilion Central School families were reminded to follow district expectations to “respect everyone and their choice, be kind and continue to follow other safety protocols to keep our school community healthy,” Superintendent Kate Hoffman said. 

Although an announcement from Hochul was anticipated, it came earlier than expected, Hoffman said in the letter she sent out to district members. The district will also shift to mask-optional starting Wednesday, she said, with the exception of school buses “until we hear differently.”

The district will monitor COVID-19 data and the district will continue its work with Genesee County Department of Health and the school’s medical director, “as has been our practice,” Hoffman said.

She suggested that parents talk to their children about this upcoming change, and understand that many people look forward to going mask-free while others may still want to wear one. Testing will be available with parent consent or request, she said. 

Byron-Bergen Central School
For Byron-Bergen Central School, Superintendent Patrick McGee reiterated why Hochul chose to lift the mandate: strong COVID-19 vaccination rates, falling positivity rates, declining hospitalization rates, and new guidance from the CDC as criteria for this decision.

“We understand that this news will bring relief to some and cause apprehension for others. Our goal during this transition is to create safe spaces for all students and staff members,” McGee said in his district letter. “Thank you in advance for being understanding of the feelings and concerns of others and their personal choice about masking. Whatever choice a student and family makes, our staff will continue to create a welcoming and affirming environment for all.”

Oakfield-Alabama Central School
Oakfield-Alabama’s board had already approved a mask-optional policy during an emergency meeting on Feb. 9. The vote was a precursor to when/if the governor decided to eliminate the mask mandate in schools. Superintendent John Fisgus sent out a letter to the O-A school community Sunday after Hochul’s announcement, and also plans to follow up with staff.

“I am meeting with our District staff over the next 48 hours to provide direction on how to proceed given the absence of this mandate,” Fisgus said.

His letter, sent out on Sunday, asked that “everyone respect the decisions of each individual within our school community.” He also recognized the difficulty of the past two years, given the “ever-changing guidance and restrictions.”

“This time is long overdue,” he said. “Please know that I will be meeting with our faculty and staff over the next two days given this announcement and to ensure our clarity with the new stated mandates.”

Le Roy Central School
Merritt Holly, superintendent of Le Roy Central School, said the district has already spread the word to students, parents, teachers, and staff about masks being optional come Wednesday. A robocall and emails were sent out on Sunday, with expectations that Monday and Tuesday of this week will provide time for parents and teachers to “discuss what is best for their child/student on Wednesday,” Holly said. 

“We will continue to offer daily testing for those that are interested,” he said. “Overall, we are supporting students, teachers, and staff in having a choice in wearing or not wearing a mask now that the mandate has been lifted.”

Elba Central School
In her letter to Elba’s “Lancer family,” Superintendent Gretchen Rosales shared the news of optional masks and urged families “to consult with your family physician to determine what your child’s best health needs may be.”

Elba Central School has a “plentiful supply of masks” for those wanting to continue wearing them, and an “abundance of rapid COVID test” on hand for any family that would like some. Regardless of an individual’s preference, “we will continue to respect the opinions of each other,” Rosales said.

“Our district’s vision of a respectful, safe, and engaging environment will always be paramount,” she said. “Above all, I want to thank all of you for partnering with us as a school district over the past two years. While not every family is at the same level of comfort, nor does each person agree with lifting a mask mandate, our willingness to work together and remain understanding has been a cornerstone of our community.”

Alexander Central School Superintendent Jared Taft did not respond to requests for comment. 

File photo: New Superintendent Jason Smith is shown with Student Co-Mayor Mackenzie Harmon and Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler during a prior Monday morning announcement at the high school. Masks will now become optional for students and staff as of Wednesday. Photo by Howard Owens.

February 27, 2022 - 10:08pm
posted by Press Release in schools, education, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting on March 2, 2022. The Governor made this decision based on the analysis of several key COVID-19 data trends and after consulting with health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers and school administrators. The announcement also follows recent changes in metrics used by the CDC to determine risk and transmission levels in communities. Other mitigation measures should remain in place.

"With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools," Governor Hochul said. "This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we've reached this milestone because of your hard work."  

New York has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Among large states, New York has the highest rate of adults fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the highest rate of teenagers fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and the second-highest rate of children ages 5-11 fully vaccinated. New York State has experienced a 98 percent decline in COVID-19 cases since the Omicron peak, and a continuous downward trend in cases for 51 consecutive days.  

The number of children testing positive for COVID is declining to levels not seen since before students returned from summer break; yesterday 229 cases were reported compared to a 7-day average of 832 cases at the beginning of the school year. Pediatric hospitalizations have declined by roughly 80 percent since the Omicron peak. 

Ahead of Midwinter break, 4.8 million tests were sent to schools for children to take home. An additional 4.8 million tests will be sent this week for students to take home upon their return to school. In total, 20.8 million tests have been distributed to schools. Over the past six weeks, the State established 261 #VaxForKids sites, bringing the vaccine directly to New York families to help parents and guardians get their eligible children vaccinated and boosted.  

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, today we are able to lift the statewide mask requirement for schools. As Governor Hochul said, we will remain vigilant as New York moves forward, and our team at the Department of Health will continue to monitor the data and advance early warning monitoring systems like wastewater surveillance. We continue to urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get boosted, and we will work with our partners in education statewide to ensure our schools, teachers, and students have the support they need to keep our classrooms healthy and safe." 

State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, "I thank the Governor for her leadership. Working together we look forward to keeping our schools safe for students and educators."

Statement from NYSUT:

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement today regarding the governor’s announcement that the statewide mask requirement for schools is ending:

“We welcome this step toward normalcy. The governor is striking the right balance by empowering local officials to use data to determine if and when the mitigation strategies need to change in their areas. As the guidance changes, one thing must remain constant: It’s essential that districts work closely with educators to ensure there is confidence in their health and safety plans.”

February 18, 2022 - 6:05pm
posted by Press Release in cyberbullying, news, City Schools, education, schools.

Press release:

On Thursday, February 17, 2022, the Batavia City School District Board of Education voted unanimously on a resolution endorsing New York State Senate Bill S7600 and Senate Bill S1477A, which serve as amendments to provisions of the State Education and Penal Laws to address an increase in harassment made through the use of electronic communications. 

The State Senate has introduced Senate Bill S7600, sponsored by Senator Edward A. Rath III, amending the State Education Law to include a provision that a person who engages in a repeated course of cyber-bullying of a minor shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor, and Senate Bill S1477A, amending the State Penal Law to include contacts via text, private message, direct message, or email or other electronic communication in the definition of the offense of aggravated harassment in the second degree. S7600 is currently under review by the State Senate Education Committee, and S1477A has passed the State Senate and is awaiting passage by the State Assembly. 

The Batavia City School District's Code of Conduct expressly prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying. With the approval of the resolution, "the Board of Education hereby affirms its commitment to foster a safe and inclusive learning environment for its students free from all forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying, and supports the efforts of the State Senate to adopt legislation which is consistent with that commitment. This resolution shall take effect immediately." 

"It was important for the Board of Education to show our support for Senator Rath's cyberbullying bill. It is our top priority to ensure students in our district remain safe, healthy, and free from bullying of any kind–and the endorsement of this bill affirms that," said Alice Ann Benedict, BOE President.

"We were happy to work with Senator Rath on endorsing this important and timely initiative. We look forward to the bill passing for the safety of the students throughout New York State," said BCSD Superintendent Jason Smith.

"It is no secret that our children are facing many challenges these days. Unfortunately, with the rise in internet use comes the danger of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying incidents are on the rise, and we must do something to protect our children. That is why I have introduced legislation to make cyberbullying a misdemeanor. Teaching our children that their actions on the internet carry consequences is critical," said Senator Rath.

February 15, 2022 - 4:45pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in education, schools, news.

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Teaching has changed drastically over the years.  Teachers continue to work for our children, meeting all the demands put on them, but they also have humorous moments they will never forget in their careers.

In 1972, I was fortunate to get my first teaching job at Wolcott Street School in Le Roy. So many of my early memories took place at that school.  I always loved teaching and hopefully inspired young minds to always reach for the stars.  My memories stay embedded in my heart as a teacher. 

I will focus on the funny side of my teaching career. An early memory was teaching my third-grade students about deserts as one of the world's regions. I brought in the sand; students brought in cactus plants, we made a paper mache camel and a mural depicting life on a desert. Then, to make it seem authentic, I turned up the thermostat in my classroom to show what it was like to survive in a desert. First, I didn't realize you NEVER adjust the thermostat, and secondly, my thermostat was the main link to the 12 classrooms on my floor. 

I was prepared when I gave my first standardized test to my class. I had just clicked my husband's stopwatch when one of my students asked if she could use the restroom. Holding on to my stopwatch, I asked if she could wait.   Whether they needed to go to the bathroom or not, every child was asked to try from that day forward. I learned a sad life lesson that day. 

My very first observation by the principal was a math lesson. I was so nervous! It was about 10 minutes into my lesson when a little boy raised his hand and asked how the earth stays up in the sky. As my principal waited for my answer, I explained we would talk about that after my lesson. 

I always felt that you could turn any event into a lesson and an adventure. For example, I took my class for a walk, not knowing I needed permission first. We began walking down Main Street and approached the Wiss Hotel; Donnie Pangrazio's grandpa was outside and invited us in, so my class had a soda and returned to school.

By the time I returned, I was asked to see the principal. It seemed he had been flooded with calls about the wandering teacher and students.

One morning a 3rd-grade student shared how excited he was that his mom and dad bought a bicycle built for two; he asked me the bike's name. Unfortunately, I mistakenly told him it was a condom rather than tandem. There were many laughs over the years about that remark.

After our daughters were born, I got a job teaching in the Batavia School District. I continued to make memories.

I loved to take my students for a walk. We would walk over to Batavia, visiting the Holland Land Office Museum, Historical Batavia Cemetery, and other landmarks. One day, we stopped at Kibbe Park to talk about how important the Tonawanda Creek was to our early settlers. Unfortunately, the trip was cut short when I realized we were at a particular part of the park where young lovers would park.   As my students discovered the protection of their lovemaking, I realized immediately that we must leave the park.

I loved taking my class on field trips, and I was so lucky to have had an administrator who supported my overnight trips to Albany and New York City. A highlight of one of my NY trips was taking my class to Yankee stadium. I think every father in that class went as a chaperone. I have to admit I was not a baseball enthusiast. We had a tour of the stadium. I can still remember my class sitting in the Yankee dugout as I walked backward on the field to take their picture with my panoramic Instamatic camera. I noticed all the dads were smiling. I thought that was unusual until two burly men were at my side on the field out of nowhere. They were questioning me on what I was doing on the field. I thought that was a silly question explaining I was taking a picture of my class. They weren't impressed with my explanation and kept saying; you are on the Yankee Stadium field. After being escorted off the field by the unfriendly security, I noticed the fathers were laughing. Walking on the Yankee Stadium field is only reserved for the Yankees.

It was a huge responsibility to take children on an overnight field trip. I would do a room check every trip to ensure the children were ready for bed. Every room had a parent as a chaperone. One night on my room check, I kept knocking on the door to make sure the children in every room were ready for bed.  Finally, the door opened, and a young adult was staring at me with his girlfriend behind him, saying, no, we are not ready for bed. As I was trying to apologize, I made sure I put a post-it note on every student's door. I mistakenly thought we had the entire wing.  

I was constantly learning life lessons as a teacher. I always had classroom pets. I felt it taught the children responsibility, and for many, it was the first time they had a pet. For example, we had a hamster that would frequently escape, so I just left food out for Fluffy. One night I was told our hamster visited a parent's meeting in the faculty room and scared many of the members as he paraded around. That particular pet also attacked student permanent record folders, munching on the records.  

I hope some of my memories brought a smile to your face, and please understand my students did succeed academically.  I just felt if I made learning fun, they would also remember and create their memories. I know many of my colleagues have their humorous stories. I hope some of them will be inspired to share after reading this article. Times have changed drastically since the beginning of my career. First of all, you would never take your class on a walk without permission from the administration and the parents. Today, not many districts would grant an overnight field trip to 4th-and 5th-grade students. The only safe classroom pet is a fish, and you never adjust a thermostat. Most of all, bathroom breaks before any test are a must!

I am still teaching and creating memories. I hope mine brought a smile to your face.

February 1, 2022 - 10:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, notify, COVID-19.

All 13 school district superintendents in Genesee and Orleans counties have signed a joint letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul asking that local control over public health protocols be fully restored to school districts.

The letter was written in response to a request from superintendents from Saratoga Springs for the NYS Health Department to develop a "Pathway to Normalcy" so that schools have an "exit strategy" from universal masking.

The letter states that local superintendents support the request but suggest it doesn't go far enough.

"We believe the pathway should come in the form of guidance that school districts, working closely with their local health departments, can use to develop plans that work best for their respective communities," the letter states. "With that in mind, local control should be fully restored to all school districts in New York State because the needs of each region differ, and we are fully capable of navigating the remainder of the school year with input from our local DOHs, as needed."

The letter notes that over the past two school years, the state has implemented "one-size-fits-all mandates" that caused unnecessary challenges for the predominately rural districts in Genesee and Orleans counties.

"As the pandemic transitions to become endemic, those unnecessary challenges are becoming more acute," the letter states.

To read the full letter, click here (pdf).

January 26, 2022 - 11:14am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, education, COVID-19.

Being superintendent of Elba Central School during a pandemic the last two years has made Gretchen Rosales mull what her inherent role is, she says. 

What it’s not is to be a doctor, scientist, or another virus expert, though current times have hinted otherwise, she said.

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Elba Central School Superintendent Gretchen Rosales

“I sometimes reflect upon the fact that I did not study to be an epidemiologist;  I studied to become an educator,” Rosales said to The Batavian as part of a district round-up in Genesee County. “But COVID has consumed so much of school and what we do here.  Education is my passion and I can talk for days about what my vision of a high-achieving school looks like.  But COVID has been the topic of conversation for the past two years, and I think that we are all ready to move on and focus on what school should really be about: learning and growing.”

And how does one do that in the thick of ever-shifting recommendations and mandates dealing with all things COVID-19? Rosales has a focus on keeping her school community physically and mentally healthy. That means maintaining a routine, keeping students in school, and offering extracurricular activities that allow for meaningful engagement, she said. 

“And providing opportunities for them to make a difference in their community is an important measure in positive mental health,” she said.   

Her district recently had a dozen students and/or staff members out sick with COVID-19, which is more than what’s been seen in the past, she said. On the other hand, that hasn’t been too surprising given “the trends that we have seen in the community,” she said. Part of those trends involves a new routine.

“Our school nurse does have a testing protocol and she spends a good portion of her day testing students or staff, either due to the mandated testing of the unvaccinated or due to symptomatic cases,” Rosales said.  “We follow all DOH protocols for universal masking, testing, and quarantine.”

When asked what advice she would give to district families, Rosales had nothing specific other than to regularly wash one’s hands and stay home when ill. Aside from that, though, is her more serious concern: “that all schools are focusing on the mental health of our entire school community.” 

January is the traditional time for New Year’s resolutions, and Rosales is looking forward to what the 2022 school year will bring. Her goals for the district include “continuing to refine our instructional programs,” she said.

“To offer a high quality, rigorous education for all Lancers. We are looking at ways to continuously expand our academic and extracurricular opportunities for all students,” she said. “Personally, I feel that it is important to continue to grow as an educator myself, which includes making time to read current research, visit other schools, and engage in professional development.”

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith, who began his role at the district on Jan. 3, resolves to balance his new job requirements with a “full and balanced lifestyle, including continued regular exercise, healthy eating and rest and relaxation.”

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Batavia City School District Superintendent Jason Smith

For his district, Smith, a 1990 Batavia High School grad, is placing his own stellar expectations onto all students as a New Year's resolution for 2022. His personal mantra has been to "raise the bar, set high goals," and he believes that it's "our job as the adults" to help students achieve those high expectations. He has been open to questions from the district population and hosted a community forum online for a Q&A with him and other district leaders. One question was regarding the wearing of masks, and he acknowledged that some people like them and others do not. Personal preference aside, though, Smith said that masks are to be worn as a state and district protocol. Batavia's Board of Education also recently approved the purchase of portable air purification devices. 

As far as cases being reported for the district and in Genesee County, Smith feels they reflect those numbers cited at a national level. His district’s goal is to keep students in the classroom.

“But as we’ve shared with our families, it will take a combined effort,” Smith said. “We continue to ask families to keep children home if they’re not feeling well, and to reinforce good hygiene habits. We were grateful to receive a supply of at-home testing kits to distribute to the district (a week ago), and we’re working with the Health Department on implementing ‘Test-To-Stay’ in our schools.”

The Test-to-Stay procedure has begun at school districts in an effort to keep as many students in school while rooting out positive cases for required isolation and/or quarantine. 

Smith added his thanks to the school staff, “who have been a tremendous source of support during this challenging and evolving time.”   

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Pavilion Central School Superintendent Kate Hoffman

In addition to what school districts do, there’s the “why” behind that work for Pavilion Central School Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman. 

“When things are stressful, difficult or overwhelming it is important to remember (and to help those around you remember) that the reason we do what we do each day is to give our students the best education and school experience we can,” Hoffman said.

Similar to other districts, Pavilion has experienced “a significant rise” — up to 10 percent — of student and staff absences. Although not every absence is related to COVID-19, she said, the majority are due to positive cases or being quarantined from exposure at the home.   

Pavilion follows all Department of Health guidelines and ascribes to universal masking recommendations. Communication, testing for those with symptoms, and promoting vaccinations and masks have also been key, she said.

“We have reached out to our community to ask that they keep their children home if they are sick.  Getting vaccinated and wearing masks helps us keep our kids in school,” she said. “We also have amazing school nurses who are working extra hard to keep our whole school community healthy, and we are very thankful for the work that they are doing for us.”  

Matthew Calderon’s resolution is as superintendent of Pembroke Central School: “To continue to pursue and promote a UNIFIED (he emphasized in all caps) approach in everything we do here in Pembroke.”

As for COVID-19 protocols, the Pembroke district’s attendance 10 days into January was at 87 percent, with only six employees absent. Employees have been tested on a weekly basis since early November, and so far, “it’s going well.”

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Pembroke Central School Superintendent Matthew Calderon

“Our Continuation of Operations Plan includes all the standard protocols for masking, testing, and quarantines, as required by the NYSDOH Commissioner's Determinations,” Calderon said. “In Pembroke, we track and communicate student COVID numbers on a monthly basis.  In September, three students tested positive district-wide.  In October, nine students tested positive district-wide. In November, 26 students tested positive district-wide.  In December, 45 students tested positive district-wide.  I will not have January's numbers until the first week of February, but I think it's safe to say they may be higher than December.”

The district peaked in positive COVID-19 cases in January, he said, but remained open every day. The coronavirus is “clearly transitioning to become endemic” he said, and the district is in a much better place overall than last year at this time. 

“We are confident we will remain open every day this year as well,” he said, offering some advice to the district community for keeping healthy. "Take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, and have hope as we start 2022!"  

He takes some reassurance from the Centers for Disease Control data for New York State showing “significantly lower” numbers so far this year for COVID-related hospitalizations, as compared to January 2021.

“While increased testing and the newest strains of COVID certainly caused a dramatic increase in the number of positive COVID cases identified, the CDC Data for the week ending January 1, 2022, shows that hospitalizations throughout New York State are significantly lower than when they peaked in January 2021,” he said.

For more information about state hospitalization numbers, go to: https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/COVIDNet/COVID19_3.html

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Oakfield-Alabama Central School Superintendent John Fisgus

Oakfield-Alabama Central School never had to switch learning modes to a hybrid format of part in-school and part at home, Superintendent John Fisgus said. Likewise, the district didn’t have to pack three students per seat on the bus as other districts such as Batavia have had to. The city school district heard some parental concerns about the close-knit quarters on buses, which prompted Batavia Board of Education President Alice Benedict to encourage worried parents with the option to drive their students to school instead.

Oakfield-Alabama had no such experience, Fisgus said.

“We were able to accommodate one kid to a seat, and they have to wear masks,” he said. “The bus drivers disinfect buses before the next run. Our buses are not overcrowded; we never had that issue.”

There has been “a lot of testing,” he said, and the district, as other towns, villages, and schools in Genesee County have done, has offered COVID-19 testing kits to families. Despite the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases early this year, he has taken note of a bright side.

“We’re struggling, like any district, with an increase in COVID cases,” he said. “The good news is that symptoms don’t seem to be as severe. People seem to be getting over it, with a day or two of symptoms, and then they’re ready to go.”

Fisgus and other superintendents emphasized how helpful and valiant their school nurses have been. The school nurse has played a central role in most districts as the starting point for prospective COVID-19 cases. 

“The school nurses have been unbelievable,” Fisgus said. 

The Batavian contacted all districts by email and phone with questions regarding board meeting agendas, New Year’s resolutions, and the impact of COVID-19 so far in 2022. Alexander, Byron-Bergen, and Le Roy district superintendents did not respond. Byron-Bergen’s communications person did reply with information about board agendas. Board of Education agendas may be found at each respective district’s website, and meetings are open to the public.

The most recent COVID-19 numbers are in a related article, “COVID-19 numbers for Genesee County School Districts.” 

January 26, 2022 - 10:51am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, COVID-19.

As of Jan. 24, Le Roy Central School district had the highest current number of positive COVID-19 cases, with 18 students, three teachers and three staff members testing positive. National news reports have cited the latest Omicron variant to be more prevalent but with less severe symptoms than the prior Delta variant. As of Jan. 17, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 was 169 in Genesee County.

New test-to-stay procedures and take-home testing kits have been put in place for Genesee County school districts, and Genesee County Health Department’s guidance, as of Jan. 13, recommends several precautionary measures for students to remain healthy and in school.

These include getting the COVID-19 vaccine, following universal indoor masking protocols; maintaining at least three feet of physical distance between people; following test, isolation, and quarantine procedures; stick to hand washing and respiratory rules; and stay home when sick and when getting tested for suspected illness.

The following numbers are from New York State’s School COVID Report Card. Numbers are for positive cases from Jan. 11 to 24 in Genesee County public school districts:

Alexander Central School
Students - 8
Teachers - 1
Staff - 0
Total: 9

Batavia City Schools
Students - 15
Teachers - 0
Staff - 2
Total: 17

Byron-Bergen Central School
Students - 12
Teachers - 0
Staff - 1
Total: 13

Elba Central School
Students - 8
Teachers - 0
Staff - 3
Total: 11

Le Roy Central School
Students - 18
Teachers - 3
Staff - 3
Total: 24

Oakfield-Alabama Central School
Students - 13
Teachers - 4
Staff - 3
Total: 20

Pavilion Central School
Students - 4
Teachers - 0
Staff - 2
Total: 6

Pembroke Central School
Students - 7
Teachers - 3
Staff - 2
Total: 12

School districts report their numbers each week to the state site. For more information, go to: https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/#/searchResults
 

December 22, 2021 - 11:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School, Le Roy, news, schools, education.

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Braiden Tower won first place, and Bryar Biracree, second, in the 7th-grade spelling bee today at Le Roy Middle School.

Mr. Knisley was the moderator and Mrs. Cain was the judge.

Braiden correctly spelled Zeppelin in the round for the win and will now advance to the regional competition.

To watch a video of the entire spelling bee, click here.

Photos and information submitted by Tim McArdle.

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December 21, 2021 - 12:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, batavia, schools, news.

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It is Christmas Sweater Day at Batavia Middle School.

Top photo: Evan Patrick, 5th grade, models his sweater.

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Demarius Johnson, 5th grade

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Reid Presley, 5th, and Robert Thurston, 5th.

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EIghth-graders Kritina Buchanan, Alora Becket, Mimi Weicher, and Paige Harmon.

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Vice-principal John-Martin Cannon and Principal Nate Korzelius.

December 20, 2021 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, batavia, news, schools.

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Jackson Primary School hosted a drive-thru Christmas parade this evening for Jackson students and their families.

In the top photo, Jaxon Noonan reacts to seeing Santa while his parents Gemma and Kevin Noonan enjoy the moment.

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December 17, 2021 - 2:20pm
posted by Press Release in Jackson School, batavia, City Schools, schools, education, Christmas.

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Press release:

Students at Jackson Primary worked very diligently on ornaments for festive Christmas trees that were purchased by the Jackson Parent-Teacher group in every community.

Our teachers Jessica Kolb and Mallory Flanagan helped to create these beautiful decorations for the trees. The students based their ornaments on a themed book. Community 1 read “The Smiley Snowman”, Community 2 read “Santa Bruce”, and Community 3 read “The Library Gingerbread Man.” 

After the students completed the ornaments they were hung on the trees for everyone to see. Teachers participated in a hallway decorating contest with students to showcase their theme. The students created work that complimented their themes. There were pictures of snowflakes, running gingerbread men, and festive sweaters with students' faces on them.

Every staff member and community participated in this holiday wonderland.  Students strolled the halls to see the beautiful and creative scenery all throughout Jackson Primary. 

On December 14th, three community members; Michelle Humes (Batavia Board of Education Member Assigned to Jackson Primary), Firefighter Tedford (Batavia Fire Department), and School Resource Officer Miah Stevens, visited Jackson Primary to be the judges of the Hallway Decorating Contest. 

It was a very tough decision due to the creativity in every hallway, but they decided after a long deliberation that community 3 (Gingerbread Men) was the most creative community in the school. 

Teachers in Community 3 are: Mrs. Amerine, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Ellingsworth, Mr. Ferri, Mrs. Koukides, Ms. Mattice, Mrs. Peterson, Mrs. Reeves, Mrs. Restivo, Mrs. Wolff, Mrs. Richenberg, Mrs. Sprague, Mrs. Wohlers, Mrs. O’Campo, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Wolff, Mrs. DiMartino, Mrs. Conroy, and Mrs. Grasso. The students in that community won a Timbit party donated by Tim Hortons on East Main Street.  All teachers and staff won a pizza party from the administration for their camaraderie and team-building efforts as a Jackson Family.

Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo: Principal Maureen Notaro, left, and Nancy Okoniewski, far right, with students in a UP-K class.

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