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Batavia Board of Education

BCSD celebrates school board recognition week Oct. 16-20

By Press Release
Submitted photo of Batavia City School District Board of Education.

Press Release:

The New York State School Boards Association recognizes Oct. 16-20 as School Board Recognition Week. This is a time to promote awareness and understanding of the important work performed by local school boards. 

Public schools form the bedrock of our communities and our country. Democracy thrives with educated citizens capable of critical thinking and civil discourse. And it is our local school boards who are ultimately responsible for student success.

“Our Batavia City School District Board of Education consists of seven dedicated volunteers who literally put the ‘public’ in ‘public education’ and play an important role in our community,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. 

“They are charged with reviewing and approving numerous policies, monitoring our Strategic Plan and academic goals, overseeing the superintendent (the only employee of the Board of Education), and serving as financial stewards for our community—all on a volunteer basis, with their only motivation to serve our students, staff, families, and our Batavia community.” 

Please join us in thanking and appreciating our Board of Education members here in Batavia: 

  • John Marucci, President

  • John Reigle, Vice President 

  • Korinne Anderson 

  • Alice Ann Benedict 

  • Barbara Bowman 

  • Jennifer Lendvay 

  • Chezeray Rolle 

For full access to our Board of Education information, agendas, and policies, click here: BCSD Board of Education, and if you want to learn more about our members, please visit this page: BCSD Board of Education Members.

Batavia/ND United gets go-ahead for yearly trip, to play Queensbury

By Joanne Beck
Feb. 17, 2023 Batavia United
2023 File Photo of a Batavia/ND United Hockey game at the David McCarthy Ice Arena in Batavia, by Steve Ognibene

It’s a rite of fall, when the pitch goes in for the boys Batavia/ND United Hockey team trip for an away game, and coaches Marc Staley and John Kirkwood made their presentation to the city school board this week.

The team saw a lot of action during the course of a season, Staley said, hosting Pittsford, Victor, Williamsville East, Grand Island and others at the David McCarthy Ice Arena in Batavia. This past year they were invited to Glens Falls Civic Center to play in January against Queensbury. 

“This is a no-joke trip,” Staley said. “This will really test our kids.”

The trip would include a two-game weekend on January 5 and 6, and would require an early dismissal on that Friday for a 5 p.m. start time for the first game. 

Considered to be traveling in “true hockey fashion,” the players would stay with their parents in a hotel per the usual arrangement, in a no-frills excursion to play hockey and return home on Saturday, he said.

The accompanying materials for the trip state that participation in these two games “will provide an opportunity from Batavia, Notre Dame, Oakfield-Alabama and Elba Central school athletes to compete against solid competition.” 

“Being an independent Class B team playing out of Section V, we do not have a league per se to play in,”  the coaches state in the document. “This has forced us to go out and generate our own 20-game schedule. The coaches agree wholeheartedly that the freedom and luxury of scheduling games outside of our section gives our student-athletes and our United program greater exposure to high school hockey across the state. Aside from the excellent competition, it’s also a lot of fun for the kids and families and helps build a unique culture.”

Only one board member had a question, and that was, what if a parent cannot make the trip — what happens to that student? When that has happened in the past, another family usually lets the student stay with them, Staley said. 

“We went to Albany last year. We typically like to travel once a year,” he said. “We had 11 home games and nine away games.”

Part of no-frills means that the parents provide the transportation and the lodging and meals during the trip, so there is no cost attached. The school board unanimously approved the trip. 

In a related vote, the board also approved a license agreement with Batavia Sports Facility Management for use of the David McCarthy Ice Arena, with rental fees of $225 per hour for weekday afternoons after 3 p.m. and for all weekend practice times and $150 an hour weekdays between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. The district/licensee will also pay $265 per hour for all game times. 

Batavia City Schools board approves new athletic director

By Press Release
Ryan Winchip
Ryan Winchip
Photo courtesy of Batavia City School District

Press Release:

On Monday, September 18, upon recommendation from Superintendent Jason Smith, the Batavia City School District Board of Education approved the appointment of Ryan Winchip as Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics, effective October 19, 2023.

 Winchip most recently served as the Warsaw Central School Middle and High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. He also served as the Coordinator of Physical Education, Health, Athletics, and Dean of Students at the Pembroke Central School District. He began his career as a teacher, obtaining K-12 physical education and health teaching experience in New York and North Carolina. 

He has extensive coaching experience throughout his career, having led teams from the modified to varsity levels since 2013. In 2015, he was awarded two “Coach of the Year” accolades in North Carolina. 

Winchip has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education and Coaching from St. Bonaventure University. His advanced degrees include a Masters in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education and a Certificate of Administration & Study from Broome Community College.

"We're thrilled to welcome Ryan as our new Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics. He brings an exceptional blend of expertise and enthusiasm that will invigorate our programs. With a strong commitment to both athletic excellence and holistic well-being, we're certain Ryan will help elevate the experience of our students in significant ways. Thank you to our staff, parents, and students who participated in the interview process. Welcome to the Blue Devils, Ryan!” Said Superintendent of Schools Jason Smith.   

“I am extremely excited to be joining the Batavia Blue Devils family as the new Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics,” said Ryan Winchip. “I have always admired Batavia's program, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to join in the district’s tradition of excellence. I hope to build upon all the great things that Mr. Mike Bromley has put in place over his illustrious career. Moving forward, I can't wait to immerse myself into the role and get to know all the amazing members of the BCSD community.”

Batavia Middle School Physical Education teacher Brennan Briggs will continue to serve as the BCSD Athletics Program Assistant.

BHS principal returns to JK role again after five-year stint

By Joanne Beck
Paul Kessler
Paul Kesler during an interview with The Batavian in March.
Photo by Howard Owens.

When Paul Kesler was about to embark on another level of his career at Batavia City Schools five years ago, he was filled with mixed emotions about leaving the staff he had come to regard as family at John Kennedy Intermediate School.

“My whole experience in 13 years in Batavia has been here. That's going to be the struggle, saying goodbye,” he had said when preparing to leave for a role as principal of the high school in October 2017.

During Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, the group approved Kesler’s latest appointment, which may mean more of those emotional goodbye moments. But this time he’ll be returning to familiar faces as principal of John Kennedy once again.

“Thank you so much to the board. I've been an administrator in Batavia since 2005. And one of the really exciting pieces about being a high school principal is some of your children that I had in elementary school, and to hand them their diploma. And so, I've just been extremely grateful to have such a long career here in Batavia and to continue that at John Kennedy,” Kesler said. “But it's also at the same time bittersweet just because of, I just saw the positive things that we've been able to do together with the high school students.

"And so I just wanted to say thank you, and I really appreciate your ongoing support.”

Earlier this month Superintendent Jason Smith had recommended John Kennedy Principal Brian Sutton for the position of Director of Educational Technology, effective July 1. Smith then recommended Kesler for that soon-to-be vacant role, with qualifications as “an exceptional leader” in the district for the last 18 years.

“Paul started his career at John Kennedy, and I was thrilled when he approached me about returning,” Smith said. “Paul’s steadfast commitment to BCSD and the Batavia community is admirable, and I look forward to his return to JK and thank him for his memorable and impactful five years leading BHS.”

With the departure of Kesler as Principal of BHS, Smith and the BCSD leadership team will immediately begin the search process to name a replacement. 

City school board has private session to discuss building modifications

By Joanne Beck


This week’s city school board meeting was rolling along until member Alice Benedict began to ask questions related to half a million dollars worth of late-stage, safety-related modifications to each of the district’s schools as part of the 2020 vision capital project.

After motions were on the floor, Benedict asked for details about the “window film installation/window hardening work.”

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said that it’s “a security measure to prevent unauthorized access,” and then Superintendent Jason Smith suggested that the board go back into executive session to discuss any further details.

The group had come out of an executive session minutes prior to that for “matters relating to the medical, financial, credit or employment history or a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.”

This second private meeting was needed to discuss “matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed.”

The Batavian reached out to Smith for an explanation, citing that second description as somewhat ominous and possibly confusing to parents and the general public.

Were the executive session and late-stage window modifications related to a current, past, or potential threat to the district?
“A board member asked for more detailed information on the window film project. It is not related to a current, past or potential threat, but is part of our overall safety program throughout the district. We do not discuss matters regarding safety and security projects in public sessions while the project is ongoing or has not yet started,” Smith said.  “The board was voting on a resolution to authorize the expenditure for the window film project from remaining funds from the most recent capital project. The project does include all of our buildings, and for safety reasons, I did not want to discuss the exact details of the project, including when, where and how the film will be installed, in public session. 

“Once the project is completed, we look forward to sharing more detailed information with our BCSD community and the media regarding our buildings’ safety enhancements,” he said. 

Why was this a late addition to the capital project? And why the executive session in the middle of a regular board meeting (for items that members are going to vote on)?
“This was not a late addition, as this has been discussed at our Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting. There are numerous prior steps that must be taken in order for the board to vote on this resolution,” Smith said.  “Given the safety concerns nationwide, we proceeded as expeditiously as possible to begin this important project.

“It is not unusual to have an executive session in the middle of the meeting, as we did this twice this meeting, and has been done before when needed,” he said. “A board member asked a question regarding the window film project, and for the reasons I stated above, the answers to the question did not belong in a public session, but will be discussed openly upon completion of the project.”

Smith said that the window treatments are a proactive safety measure. The Batavian wanted to make sure that the public has the most up-to-date information about the district’s safety, so the following question was asked again about threats and swatting — an action of making hoax phone calls to report serious crimes to emergency services, which results in SWAT teams responding to an address.

Has the city school district had any threats or swattings recently, or in the past year? If so, how many and when? Were any of them credible?
“We have received no credible threats, swatting or otherwise, this year. We were among several districts across the country that were part of a swatting hoax during our February recess—this was communicated to our families and with the media,” he said. “Per the Batavia Police Department, the threat was deemed not credible.”

The school board approved the resolution to spend no more than $520,000 of the remaining funds in the capital account for the window project at the district’s high and middle schools, Jackson Primary, John Kennedy Intermediate and Robert Morris. The $26.7 million 2020 capital project was voter-approved in March 2017.

File Photo of Batavia Middle School, by Howard Owens.

BCSD board extends superintendent contract to 2027

By Press Release


Press Release:

At a meeting on Monday, the Batavia City School District’s Board of Education unanimously approved an amendment to extend Superintendent Jason Smith’s contract through June 2027.

“After a stellar first year leading the Batavia City School District, the Board of Education is thrilled to offer Superintendent Jason Smith a contract extension that will keep him in our District through June 2027, with the option to extend,” said Board of Education President John Marucci. “Consistency, goal setting, long-term planning, and execution are key components to any successful school district, and we’re proud of Jason’s commitment to seeing his vision for Batavia through.”

In exchange for Smith’s long-term commitment to serve the Batavia City School District, the Board granted Smith non-salary benefits, including a $3,000 per year stipend increase should he elect not to enroll in the District’s health insurance plan, a $2,000 per year increase of his 403(b) retirement contribution, as well as compensation for unused vacation and sick days, which will only be received upon his retirement from the District.

“Batavia is my home. Having walked our halls from first grade through senior year, our District has always held a special place in my heart,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “It was the honor of my career to be offered the position of superintendent here, and I look forward to working with our students, staff, and community to achieve our shared vision of success for years to come. I thank the Board of Education for their trust in me, and I’m proud to see everyone in our educational community coming together for the good of our District. It continues to be a personal and professional honor to serve the Batavia community, families, staff, and students.” 

“The Board of Education, along with the BCSD leadership team, have made a commitment to our District’s vision and strategic plan,” said Board of Education Vice President John Reigle. “The high bar that we’ve set for this District can only be achieved through consistent leadership. I applaud my fellow Board members' commitment to this vision in approving Jason’s contract extension.”    

All terms (with the exception of the health insurance opt-out stipend) of Superintendent Jason Smith’s contract amendment will take effect on July 1, 2023. All other terms and conditions of the agreement remain unchanged, including the option for both the Board of Education and Jason Smith to extend the contract on an annual basis beyond June 2027.

Bells are a-ringing, but not on time at BHS; repairs approved for the high school and RM

By Joanne Beck


Bells are a-ringing, or so the holiday song goes, but at Batavia High School they’re not doing it as efficiently lately.

City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski reviewed the needs of a 19-year-old clock and public address system at the high school, and security updates at Robert Morris this week.

“So the first item, our project is the PA, public address and clock system … it’s been rapidly failing for the past year or so. The bells, the PA itself and the clocks, are integrated into one system. And so the clocks are affected at the high school, they do not track the appropriate time. And it's not even aligned with the satellite systems,” Rozanski said during the Board of Education’s meeting Monday. “So we're making the adjustments on a weekly basis, we lose about four or five minutes a week. And the bells aren't ringing as scheduled. They're inconsistent and have variable times, and it's difficult to determine if a student's late or not.”

The district is therefore looking at a full replacement of that system, he said. There are no health, safety or code concerns, and the estimate falls under state contract pricing, and would not need to go through the state Education Department for approval.

A total of $118,860 is expected to get the job done, he said.

The second project is at Robert Morris, which has been a flurry of activity since reopening the doors to pre-schoolers this fall. The site closed down the elementary school in July 2012, but due to increased enrollment numbers, the district opted to use the building again for its own education programs.

There has been no significant door hardware replaced in that decade, Rozanski said. A mantrap — that square of space that can contain a visitor between the outer door and door leading into the building — is also needed in door entry number two to provide extra security, he said.

“So it's a manual process versus an automated process to close doors in case of a lockdown. This aligns with the other upgrades that we've done with the smart school project about four or five years ago in the other buildings. We would also create a man trap, and the electronic door locking equipment is needed to do this,” he said. “This will provide additional increased security. We do currently secure the exterior of the building automatically. A mantrap will further enhance any interior potential threats.”

The Robert Morris project estimates have come in at $35,543, he said, and it may need to go to the state for approval. 

His request is for a total of $244,000 from the repair reserve to the general fund to ensure enough cushion for possible change orders and unexpected items that come up during the repair, he said. If all goes as planned, that would leave $89,597 in the fund.

“We have currently met all safety and security measures to get Robert Morris up and functioning from the beginning of the school year in September,” he said. “We know what the cost is; it should only be $35,543 … if the $89,597 is needed, that allows us flexibility if we run into problems.”

He reminded the board about the elevator repairs at the middle school, and how extra work and materials were needed, causing him to go back to the board for approval of extra spending.

The repair reserve — set up to pay for repairs that don’t recur on a yearly basis — would be left with anywhere from $90.87 up to $89,687.78 if no unexpected costs arise during repair at both schools.

“And we will replenish funds as they’re available,” he said.

Board member Alice Benedict wanted to confirm that “you’re saying you just want to use that $89,000 as a cushion?” Yes, Rozanski said.

“We will only spend what we need to spend,” he said.

No one spoke during the public hearing about the expenditure. The board approved the repairs and transfer of up to $244,000 to pay for them.

Top File Photo of board members and Superintendent Jason Smith taking a tour of the revamped Robert Morris building earlier this year before the fall season began, by Joanne Beck. File Photo of school Business Administrator Scott Rozanski, by Howard Owens.

Public hearing set for spending $244,000 on repairs at BHS

By Joanne Beck

Next Monday looks to be a busy one for Batavia City School District, with  three meetings and a public hearing about spending more than $200,000 for repairs have been scheduled for the Board of Education.

The Audit Committee is set to meet at 4:30 p.m. in the Superintendent’s Conference Room, followed by the Policy Committee at 5:15 p.m. in the Superintendent’s Office, and a regular board meeting at 6 p.m. will also meet in the conference room on Monday at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia.

The hearing is related to the proposed spending of $244,000 from the Repair Reserve Fund to pay for the replacement and repair of the public address/clock system and entry and classroom door hardware at the high school. Awarding contracts for such work is also part of the resolution that will go to the board for vote.

For in-person attendance, people are asked to arrive at least five minutes early and sign in legibly. This is an opportunity for qualified voters of the district to participate in a discussion about the repairs.

For anyone wanting to view from home, the meeting is on YouTube.

A full agenda for the meeting is not yet available.



Three for Three: each Batavia City Schools candidate earns seat in budget vote

By Joanne Beck

Batavia City Schools' recent budget and board vote put candidates Chezeray Rolle, John Marucci and Korinne Anderson in place for a seat on the Board of Education, however Marucci and Anderson had a tied vote count of 346. Anderson has conceded the three-year term to Marucci and she will take the two-year term, Superintendent Jason Smith said

Rolle, with a top vote of 368, with take his seat with a three-year term.

A public meeting versus a meeting in public: superintendent says subtle but important difference

By Joanne Beck

It’s a small nuance, but a public meeting is different than a meeting in public.

And as such, each has a different protocol for those wishing to speak during the session.

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith explained the difference during this week’s board meeting.

Board member Barbara Bowman had previously requested a discussion about the district’s policy to require people to sign up a week ahead of a meeting at which they would like to speak. A few people had hoped to speak during a recent meeting and were told it wasn’t allowable per district policy.

There’s a reason for that, Smith said. District officials may need some extra time to research the requested topic before the person addresses the board. That policy is for a meeting in public. A public hearing at the beginning of a meeting is conducted on a particular topic, and it allows for people to comment and/or ask questions during the hearing portion. Those speakers do not need to sign up a week ahead of time.

For a board meeting that is held in public, “there is no obligation to answer speakers,” Smith said, and he advised board members to not feel they should provide an answer on the spot, as the answer may not be fully known at that time, he said.

Bowman was more concerned about people who took the time to attend a meeting in order to speak.

“I think we should consistently acknowledge everyone who comes to speak,” she said.

Board member Jennifer Lendvay asked about speakers who do ask questions of the board. What happens if there is no immediate answer, she said.

“I think my track record is pretty good with (following up and) giving them an answer,” Smith said.

District Clerk Brittany Witkop confirmed that “our office gets a lot of calls” and also returns those calls with answers to residents' queries.

“I think acknowledgement is the most important piece,” Bowman said.

As for revising the current policy to sign up the week ahead of a regular Thursday meeting, Board President Alice Benedict didn’t think it should be done.

“I do know the attorney would advise us not to change our policy,” Benedict said.

Budget process is a teeter totter of balances

By Joanne Beck


School budgets are like teeter-totters, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith says.

The old kids’ playground toy — that seated a person on each end and they’d push off when their feet hit the ground — is a balancing act. Likewise, school officials try to have a budget with no one end greatly outweighing the other, he said.

“We’re not just pulling pieces out of thin air,” he said during Thursday’s budget hearing at Batavia High School. “(It’s about) having school programs … and what our taxpayers can afford.”

Teeter totter process …
After board budget sessions and a meeting on April 21, the board adopted a proposed 2022-23 budget of $54.8, which is an increase of $2.7 million from the current year’s budget.

A tax levy of just under $20 million will mean a 1 percent tax increase, which Smith believes is a good deal considering all of the program offerings at BCSD, he said.

During his first few months as superintendent, Smith has heard “over and over” how many opportunities there are, from fishing and skating clubs to academic, athletic and other extracurricular activities, he said.

The district’s focus is mainly on getting kids caught up from prior “learning losses” due to the pandemic’s shutdowns and remote and hybrid education methods, he said. As for the offerings, many of them are not mandated by the State Education Department, including art, laptops, musicals, athletics, smaller class sizes, Community Schools, and even school counselors, he said.

Can anyone imagine school without these amenities, he said.

“These are the pieces we don’t have to have,” he said. “Pieces that really make our school our own school.”

Potential tax rate …
A 1 percent property tax increase would add 19 cents to the current tax rate of $19.23 per $1,000 assessed property value. Comparing apples to apples, the property tax for a home assessed at $100,000 would mean an increase of $19 a year. However, if that same property has been reassessed to $125,000, the yearly property tax would increase by $504.50 ($100,000 X $19.23 versus $125,000 X $19.42).

CLARIFICATION: Because of how tax levies actually determine the tax rate, the tax rate, with increased assessments, could actually go down.  For an explanation, see this story.

The district assessing changing enrollment numbers and the teacher-to-student ratio, he said, to be “conscientious” about the needs and expenses of the district. He emphasized that the district isn’t responsible for setting certain items that can upset taxpayers.

‘We don’t control assessments, we don’t control the tax rate,” he said. “We control the tax levy.”

Taxing entities within the district include the schools, city, library and Genesee County. There is a proposed $100,000 Capital Outlay project included in the budget, which would be reimbursed with about 90 cents for every dollar spent, he said.

What about a ‘no’ …
Smith did not mention, or answer the question from The Batavian previously, about what would happen if district residents should vote this budget down. As Benedict said in response to The Batavian’s question, “I am optimistic that our BCSD proposed budget will pass.”

“However, State Education law provides every school district with options if their budget is rejected,” she said after the meeting. “I am hopeful that this budget passes because it best supports the students of the district.”

The New York State School Boards Association lays out the protocol in case the voters reject a school budget. The school board can prepare and adopt a contingency budget or go to the voters again on June 21, the statewide uniform budget revote day.

If the voters have twice rejected a board-proposed budget for a given fiscal year – either the same budget or a second version – the law prohibits submitting a budget or other expenditure propositions to the voters a third time. The school board must then adopt a contingency budget for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1, NYSSBA states.

Boards may pass multiple resolutions to approve contingency budget appropriations, it states, for specific purposes until the board adopts the overall contingency budget. A contingency budget funds only teachers’ salaries and those items the board determines are “ordinary contingent expenses,” the association states.

Ordinary contingent expenses have been defined under law to include legal obligations; expenditures authorized explicitly by statute; and other items necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property and ensure the health and safety of the students and staff.

Expenditures that do not constitute "ordinary contingent expenses" include new equipment, public use of school buildings and grounds, except where there is no cost to the district, nonessential maintenance, capital expenditures (except in an emergency) and consultant services to review district operations and make recommendations necessary for the creation of the budget.

The school vote is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17 at one of two sites, depending on what side of the city voters reside. For more information, go to:

Top photo: 2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith. Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia City Schools Board leader explains budget process and increase

By Joanne Beck


2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Board President Alice Benedict. Photo by Howard Owens


After Thursday’s Batavia City Schools board meeting and budget vote, The Batavian emailed each board member for comment about the budget itself and/or the process, plus any additional comments anyone wanted to make.

Most board members have been quiet during public budget talks, including regular meetings in March and April and a budget workshop in March. Due to the enormous depth of a $54.8 million budget, The Batavian attempted to obtain remarks about it and any particular aspects of interest that the financial plan entailed. 

Board President Alice Benedict — who has been a reliable source for comments throughout these last few months of budget talks — said the board “has had several open discussions about the BCSD budget, including our budget workshop that was streamed on YouTube.” The Batavian viewed the YouTube video of the budget workshop for a second time to make sure that some board discussion wasn’t missed the first time. Benedict was the only consistent speaker throughout the nearly two-hour session, and in subsequent board meeting talks about the budget. 

Benedict was the only board member to respond to The Batavian’s email.

Board members are elected by district residents. The trustees who didn't respond to The Batavian's request for comment are John Marucci, Jennifer Lendvay, Barbara Bowman, Michelle Hume and Chezeray Rolle.

The city schools board “is acutely aware of our responsibility to the community,” Benedict said, “and we know the economic times could not warrant a large increase in school taxes.” The group asked Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski to whittle the initial 2022-23 budget and 5.5 percent increase down to meet the tax cap of 1.62 percent. 

A unanimous vote Thursday adopted the proposed $54.8 million budget and 1 percent tax levy increase. Some posters on a social media site said the increase didn’t include recently raised assessments throughout the city, so “what’s the real increase?” they asked. 

The Batavian used a property assessed at $100,000 as an example, and that would mean a property tax increase of $19 from the prior year. However, if that home has just been assessed at $30,000 more than last year, that homeowner will see an increase of $601.60 in property taxes. ($100,000 at $19.23 per $1,000 compared to $130,000 at $19.42 per $1,000 assessed value.)

“We had previously had Budget Ambassadors, but the community, in the last few years, has not wanted to participate in the budget process. So we changed the process,” Benedict said. “It was successful this year, but the Board is more than willing to extend an invitation to the community to participate if that’s their interest.

“Five out of the last 10 years, the BCSD had no increase in the tax levy, but giving an exceptional and well-rounded education costs money, so we felt, at this time it was appropriate to ask for a slight increase,” she said.

A budget hearing has been set for 6 p.m. May 5 at Batavia High School, 260 State St., to be followed by a district vote on May 17. 

What’s in a name? Enough to warrant discussion by Batavia’s Board of Education

By Joanne Beck


Contrary to the district's yearly financial plan (See "Batavia City Schools board adopts $54.8 million ..."), the topic of naming parts of school buildings and property reaped a hearty discussion during Thursday's board meeting.

Board President Alice Benedict emphasized that she was against the practice of honoring a district employee or resident by naming something, such as a school auditorium, after a notable citizen. Her argument is not about recognizing someone's good works, she said, but about selectively putting one's name on a district fixture and potentially bypassing so many others who have also contributed to Batavia City Schools.

"I have expressed to all of you that I am not for naming buildings after community members," she said.  

At issue right now is a request to name the middle school auditorium after former music director Frank Owen. Apparently, prior conversations with board members indicated that some of them are for the move, and have received emails endorsing Owen for his contribution as the district's first music director. Benedict encouraged her fellow members to speak up about the opinions they expressed during talks outside of the public venue. 

Member Barbara Bowman related the request to previous namings, including Anderson Field and VanDetta Stadium. Music and art are not often given the attention they deserve, she said. Member Jennifer Lendvay was a school athlete and supported the naming of Anderson Field after a former teacher and coach, she said. 

The group opted to postpone a vote and allow for public input. A resident attended the meeting hoping to talk about the issue during the public portion of the meeting, however, those wanting to speak must fill out an online form and submit it by 1 p.m. the Friday prior to a Thursday board meeting. The Batavian had posted in a previous article that people can speak by signing up before the meeting begins, which is true for public hearings.

For the regular public comments portion of a meeting, prospective speakers need to sign up at:

Top photo: By Howard Owens. 2014 File Photo of the renovated baseball field at Batavia High School that was dedicated as Anderson Field after Coach Anderson.


Batavia High School seniors are finding success with engagement post-COVID

By Joanne Beck

Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler


Batavia High School seniors are on the right path, Principal Paul Kesler says.

Kesler added a number along with his comment: 96. After having a graduation rate of 85 percent in 2011, fluctuating from 89 to 94 percent through 2020, seniors are at a 96 percent graduation rate, Kesler said. The increased percentage is proof that career initiatives and student attitudes are pushing kids on to greater success, he said.

“It’s a testimony of the work done in K through 12,” he said during this week’s board meeting. “We’re finding the right pathways.”

Some of those pathways include  early college opportunities with Genesee Community College and now Daemen College, which is new this year. Daemen hosted a cartooning class free of charge, with the school district paying for supplies. Students became engaged in the class, and it was a success in providing other possible avenues for them to pursue, he said.

A Leave to Learn program exposes students to various career possibilities, such as first responder, manufacturing, counseling and educational occupations. 

“Students are going to be able to select one of six buses, and on that date they’re going to have an opportunity to be with an adult and have an awesome work session,” he said.

The past two years have not only been frustrating for most, but have introduced socialization issues to district leaders, Kesler said. 

“It has caused us to realize that, not only as a district but as a nation, some of the focus needs to be on helping students be able to interact … our mental health is really important,” he said.

A post-graduation program — a Cornell University boot camp offered in collaboration with Genesee County Economic Development Center — will be available to seniors after they graduate. The camp is three days a week of concentrations in manufacturing jobs, Kesler said. Other improved partnerships include local dairy companies for hands-on learning and training, he said.

“We’re seeing more engagement of students,” he said, compared to when kids were remote due to COVID-19. 

May 2 will be “Decision Day” for graduating seniors to have the spotlight to announce their choices of college or career options. Fellow district students will be on hand to cheer them on, he said.

Tax levy increase questioned during Batavia City Schools budget workshop

By Joanne Beck

A two-hour budget presentation that meant plenty of numbers, percentages and calculations for Batavia City Schools board Tuesday left board President Alice Benedict unsure it added up to a yes vote. 

Given a proposed tax levy increase of $315,716, or 1.62 percent, and uncertain enrollment projections, Benedict mused if an increase was really necessary.

“I’m wondering if our numbers are down, why are we adding more?” she said during the board’s first 2022-23 budget workshop in the district office conference room. “Once we get (additional teachers) into the district … are we at the right levels that we should be, enrollment versus teachers?”

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski had been laying out the $55 million budget for about 90 minutes, complete with a proposed $1.2 million increase in salaries for teachers, administrators and support staff. The increase supports new assistant principal and community schools coordinator salaries plus nine additional teachers. 

Benedict referred to a former board meeting guest who reviewed a report that included district enrollment projections. Although it wasn’t all bad news, the data told “a bitter tale,” consultant Paul Seversky had said. 

Genesee County births are still taking place, though at low numbers, more kids transferred to a private school — 174 in 2021 versus 137 in 2020 — and one out of 10 students leave the district within the school year, he said.

Increased expenses of nearly $3 million include additional personnel and bumping up bus purchases from 15 to 21 as a “worst-case scenario,” Rozanski said, as there has been a hike in numbers due to “foster care needing services.” 

This overall 1.62 percent tax levy increase would be within the state-mandated tax cap, he said. It translates to a tax rate increase of 31-cents per thousand assessed valuation, or an extra $27.90 for a home assessed at $90,000.

Benedict asked if the district buses 100 percent of its students now.

“No, we bus about 50 to 55 percent now,” he said. “We tentatively could bus 100 percent if we tier (the bus runs and students). We don’t have to transport everyone per State Education Department guidelines; for a small city school, it’s not mandated.”

He presented some of the district’s history and emphasized that remaining within the tax cap has saved taxpayers a cumulative $29.7 million over the last decade.

“Are you trying to convince me?” Benedict said, as Rozanski quickly replied: “No, I’’m not trying to convince you … it all plays into the big picture.”

“This tax levy increase is a wish list, and we as a board can say we don’t want any increase whatsoever,” she said. “I just don’t want to get to a point where we have more staffing than we need.”

Superintendent Jason Smith said that he and Rozanski have “identified some areas for reductions” and will provide them per the board’s directives. This is a preliminary budget and may be revised before a public vote in May. 

To view the session, go to:


Allegany State Park serves up a more cost-friendly trip for Batavia students

By Joanne Beck


With some $6,000 less money raised due to pandemic challenges, the 2022 senior class had to take their dream trips down a notch.

After slightly more lavish possibilities of visiting Boston or Cleveland, the class has put forth two options that better meet budget constraints, Batavia High School special education teacher Lorraine Gammack says.

“We don’t have a lot of money because of COVID,” Gammack said during this week’s school board meeting. “In a class budget, a senior class typically has $10,000 at this point. We’re just $50 shy of $4,000; that’s a big deficit.”

Class President Mackenzie Lavrey reviewed the two choices made by class vote after floating the suggested ideas for a trip to Boston ($700 a person) or Cleveland (just over $600 each). Both of those trips were deemed too expensive, Gammack said. She in turn thought that a three-day visit to Allegany State Park was a great one, given that she has taken students there before. 

Due to the vast expanse of property, Gammack wanted to have a bus that could take some kids to destination spots, such as Quaker Lake, once they were at the park, but that wasn’t feasible with the current budget, she said. 

Despite the shortage of funds — or perhaps because of them — a Connect Kids to Parks grant program could potentially pay for nearly everything, she said. The grant would cover everything from a Dumpster service to laser tag activity. The trip is tentatively slated for June 15, 16, and 17 at a park facility with two dormitory complexes, a classroom, picnic pavilion, and activities of swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and laser tag. 

The trip cost is “super affordable,” she said, at “$100 per student.”  The grant is in progress, she said. There would be one chaperone for every eight students and meals will be on a creative budget, such as the beach party dinner one evening with district personnel doing some of the cooking. 

One caveat so far is that the facilities have a limit of 34 boys and 33 girls for the class of 164 students, with 38 girls and 10 boys being signed up so far, she said.

Dormitories are large and could accommodate both boys and girls in one building if necessary. 

“The dorms have an east and a west end,” she said. “We could make it work.”

The board gave preliminary approval for the trip, and a second one-day excursion to Conesus Lake, tentatively set for June 6. 

Other approvals included:

  • A 2020 capital project to expand outdoor amenities at Jackson Primary School by knocking down 245 Liberty St., a former bakery donated to the district in 2017. The plan is to create additional parking and green spaces, and a pedestrian walkway adjacent to Jackson Primary School.
  • A resolution that supports the state Senate bill S7600 regarding cyberbullying. This amended bill establishes that “any person who knowingly engages in a repeated course of cyberbullying of a minor is guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by a period of imprisonment not to exceed one year, or both.” (See related article, "City schools trustees back proposed cyberbullying law.")
  • The purchase of portable two-way radios as part of public safety communications in school buildings. The price to buy the radios from Saia Communications Inc. is $41,277.22.
  • A proposed baseball trip to Florida. (See related article, "Spring baseball trip a go for Batavia City Schools’ athletes.")
  • A revised emergency roof repair plan from Campus Construction Management and the proposed bid from Spring Sheet Metal and Roofing, LLC for Batavia High School.

Top photo: From Allegany State Park website

Consultant provides numbers, reasons and optimism for shifting enrollment at Batavia City Schools

By Joanne Beck

Housing shortages, homeschooling, COVID-19 and private institutions all play a part in enrollment projections for Batavia City School District, Paul Seversky says. 

An overall decline of nearly 5 percent from 2016 to now isn’t all bad, the SES Study Team consultant said during Thursday’s school board meeting.

“There’s some good news for how that 4.9 percent comes about,” he said. “Grades seven to 12 has had a minor decrease compared to K to six. That’s not good news because they’ll become your seven to 12 kids. Your real good news is your K to one enrollment. Your youngest students increased over the past four years.”

After analyzing school enrollment and grade size, number of births, local demographics, real estate trends and potential growth factors such as new business, Seversky reviewed the ups and downs of future projections. 

Batavia’s district had 75 children being homeschooled in 2020, up nearly 30 students from 2019. He found the silver lining in that with a drop to 52 kids in 2021. 

“What does that say? It says well, COVID was the factor why you had that jump likely in 2020. More households had their children attending school in 2021,” he said. 

A conclusion wasn’t so clear with the increase of students leaving the district for a private school, he said. In 2020 there were 137 departures to private school in grades nine through 12, versus 174 in 2021.

“That’s something you may want to look at,” he said. “You may want to have a communication strategy with current non-public families.”

One out of 10 students, or 10 percent, leave the district within the school year, he said, which is a challenge for teachers and district teams. The district is responsible for every student — those that move into and out of the district — and each one’s education, he said. 

“How can we mitigate that kind of change?” he said. “Those early years are critical for children. You may want to look at why they move during the school year.”

All totaled, the data “tells a bitter tale,” he said. He referred to a New York Times article stating that between 2019 and 2020, there was a “7.5 percent decrease” of births nationally, though Genesee County’s numbers have remained stable, he said. 

“What’s happened in the past six years, you’ve had small, small, but still growth, in live births,” he said. “Taking Genesee County in whole, this is outstanding news. Families are having kids in Batavia.”

What that potentially means is more future students entering the city school district, he said. After talking to real estate agent Lynn Bezon he realized that the local housing market has been steady, leaving few — a total of eight — homes up for sale in Batavia. If “empty nesters” were to downsize, their larger homes could be put on the market for growing families, he said. 

Offering conservative to optimistic predictions, he said it was possible to gain some 20 students in grades kindergarten through one over the next five years. Given the overall decline in the state, “that’s actually pretty good,” he said, despite a small class in each of grades nine through 12 during the next 10 years. 

“My goal is to help you use this as a tool to help your planning,” he said.

The SES Study Team focuses its work on “customized studies that deal with identifying opportunities to provide quality educational programs more effectively and in a cost-effective manner,” according to the company website. Seversky’s contract with Batavia is through June. 

Top photo: Paul Seversky of SES Study Team. 

Spring baseball trip a go for Batavia City Schools’ athletes

By Joanne Beck

Junior and senior Varsity athletes can plan to resume Batavia City Schools’ annual tradition down south after the school board’s votes of approval Tuesday. 

Batavia Middle School physical education teacher and coach James Patric waxed a bit nostalgic during his presentation to the board. For at least 15 years, school athletes had taken a trip to Florida for an extensive training experience, he said.

“The feedback I get back from everybody is it’s an awesome trip,” Patric said to board members in the Batavia High School library. “They practice their skills … enjoy the good weather, they enjoy the camaraderie. It’s positive feedback.”

Once COVID-19 reared its unrelenting head, the trip was cancelled the past two years due to related restrictions, he said. He has done the legwork: research about where to go, how best to get there and what and who to take. 

“We’re here today proposing to go to Fort Pierce, Florida,” he said alongside Mike Bromley, director of health, physical education and athletics. “We haven’t stopped doing fundrasing since 2019; we have a considerable amount of money that we can contribute toward the trip.”

Patric has been working with Vincent “Vinny” Carlesi, president and director of operations at the Florida Coast Spring Training camp. Batting cages and well-groomed fields await eager athletes wanting to get in some focused practice. Carlesi is also a former professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a major league scout with the New York Yankees. He provides trusted guidance for how to have a successful trip, Patric said. 

It would be an estimated $800 to $900 per student, and Patric is confident that students can raise that through continued fundraising efforts. He checked into airfare, and the price tag of at least $700 a person was “not fair to ask,” he said. Air travel also didn’t have any security, which was a “risky” investment, he said, versus bus fare that is refundable. 

An alternative is ground transportation that will accommodate the junior and senior Varsity teams on a 56-passenger bus. With just over 30 people planning to attend, that will allow for space to social distance during travel, Patric said. 

The trip –– tentatively slated for early April –– would also include student tours, hotel accommodations, one scheduled stop for a driver switch, and testing participants for COVID-19 before they board the bus.

“Hopefully, all test negative and we can all go on the trip,” he said.  

Board member Alice Benedict questioned the ratio of only three chaperones for 25 kids. Patric explained that there are three paid chaperones, plus coaches and assistant coaches. Benedict agreed that six chaperones for 25 kids seemed much more reasonable. 

Another board question was about the virus: is there a plan for how to handle testing and isolation protocols while on the trip?

There is a hospital close by in case anyone needs to get tested or treated for illness, Patric said. Rooms at the hotel, a Comfort Inn, would be blocked off to allow for a positive COVID-19 case to quarantine, he said. The bus company has put up a plexiglass shield in the bus to protect healthy passengers from anyone who may be infected. 
Another option will be for parents that have also traveled to the Florida site drive students home. All of that would take “a lot of communication” with district officials, he said. 

Board member John Reigle pointed to the activity of doing things with kids.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. 

In other board news, newly hired Superintendent Jason Smith thanked the board, students and faculty for the “very warm welcome” he received in the form of hugs, cards, songs and a tour of each of the four city schools. He thanked Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping for helping to make a “very smooth transition to this district,” Smith said.

More tests, revised protocols ...

The district expects to receive more COVID-19 test kits for an ongoing “test-to-stay” initiative for students. Quite simply, if someone tests positive for the coronavirus, it’s time to go home and isolate per health department guidelines. If the test is negative, students may remain in school. Updated procedures now include being able to test asymptomatic and unvaccinated students who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

This is for people in school. Household exposures are not eligible for this program at this time, per New York State.

The following protocol will be implemented at Batavia City Schools, with support and approval from the Genesee County Department of Health:

  • The school nurse will test the exposed student.
  • If the student tests positive, we will send the student home, report the positive test, and require the student to isolate for five (5) days. The student may return to school as long as they are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) at the end of the period of isolation. 
  • If the student tests negative and as long as they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, they may continue to attend school but will be required to: 
  • Quarantine from all other activities outside of the regular school day for five (5) days (athletics, after-school clubs, etc.)
  • The school nurse will test the student again six (6) days after the initial test.

Quarantine and isolation protocols include:

The isolation period for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be five days as long as the individual is asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) at the end of the period of isolation. Quarantine periods for individuals exposed to COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Unvaccinated: Five days 
  • Fully vaccinated, eligible for a booster, but not yet boosted: Five days 
  • Fully vaccinated and boosted, or not yet eligible for a booster: Zero days. 

Should symptoms appear, be sure to quarantine and seek testing. If you have any questions about the new protocols, contact your child’s school nurse at 585-343-2480.

Batavia High School: Nancy Haitz – [email protected] Ext. 2004

Batavia Middle School: Jennifer Caudill – [email protected] Ext. 3003

John Kennedy Intermediate: Cheryl Wagner – [email protected] Ext. 5001

Jackson Primary: Theresa Pellegrino – [email protected] Ext. 4001

Community forum, musical role ...

Smith will be the featured guest for an online community forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. 40 questions had been submitted by Tuesday and he and colleagues will be answering those during the streamed event, he said. For more information, go to:

The superintendent, a 1990 BHS graduate, will also be playing “a mean second trombone” during an upcoming BHS Alumni Jazz Ensemble at 2 p.m. on Jan. 23. Serving as a fundraiser for the BHS  Scholastic Winter Guard, the concert includes other district notables BHS Principal Paul Kesler on trumpet, and music teachers Sean Williams, Collin Murtaugh, and Stuart Mclean in the ensemble. Additional BHS alumni, including Paul Spiotta, Brandon Luce, Jackie McLean, Matt Holota, Harold McJury, Frank Panepento, Joshua Pacino, Quentin Branciforte, Mark Hoerbelt, Ross Chua, Mary Murphy, Jason Mapes and Bob Pastecki. 

Tickets for the concert are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and may be purchased at the door. Money raised from this event will defray the cost of winter guard trips in March and April. This will be the Scholastic Winter Guard’s first appearance at the WGI National Championships. 

Top photo: Batavia Middle School physical education teacher James Patric. BCSD staff photo.

Batavia City Schools to consider disinfection devices, other spending at board meeting next week

By Joanne Beck

Although the year is new, an old acquaintance is tagging along and costing Batavia City School District more money to deal with its effects. 

Yes, COVID-19 is on next week’s Board of Education meeting agenda. The board is expected to review a bid from Enviro-Mist for portable medical-grade airborne disinfection control devices. According to the company’s website, Enviro-Mist is “a high-level disinfecting and sterilizing firm recognized as a leader in our industry.”

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Batavia High School’s library, 260 State St.

Other financial business includes a vote to approve $8,500 to Campus Construction Management for construction management services and $43,000 to SEI Design Group Architect Services, both related to the emergency repair of the BHS roof. Estimated winds of up to 76 miles per hour damaged the roof on Dec. 11, 2021, and the board is being asked to approve a two-phase repair of $28,000 and $15,000.

Other votes include:

  • A Memorandum of Understanding with each business administrator, executive director of staff development and operations, executive director of curriculum and instruction; the Batavia Teachers’ Association for a Schedule D stipend; and Genesee Community College for the TRIO Upward Bound College Preparation Program.
  • To accept a bid of $94,400 from Kircher Construction Inc. for the window repair and replacement at BHS as part of a 2021-22 capital outlay project.

The agenda also includes time for the public to be heard (sign up before the meeting), and presentations from John Kennedy School Principal Brian Sutton; Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Mike Bromley and Batavia Middle School physical education teacher James Patric; Business Administrator Scott Rozanski; and new Superintendent Jason Smith. 

Board meetings are typically on the third Thursday of every month, however, scheduling conflicts caused a shift for the board and district staff to meet on Tuesday. Meetings will resume the regular Thursday schedule in February, District Clerk Brittany Witkop said. 

Every meeting is live-streamed via YouTube at:  

Batavia City Schools interim superintendent says goodbye and provides plan for roof repair at BHS

By Joanne Beck


A severe wind storm. Damage to the high school roof.  A COVID-19 pandemic. Student upheaval about not feeling safe from bullying.

For Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping, it was six months of doing business as needed at Batavia City School District.

For Board of Education President Alice Benedict, it was impressive to watch the district leader in action, she said.

“I’ve been a board member for a number of years and been a part of having other superintendents. I have never met a calmer person  in my life, with some of the things that have gone on in this school district in the last few months,” Benedict said during Bischoping’s last official meeting Thursday at Batavia High School. “And I totally appreciate it, and I give you a lot of respect for all of the information you have given us, and the leadership. And it’s very nice knowing you.”

The board is sad to see him go, she said, but also happy to have a new permanent superintendent. The board later approved a reorganizational appointment for incoming leader Jason Smith to take on the role of superintendent and chief emergency officer Jan. 3 of next year.

”I just wanted to say a big thank you to Mr. Bischoping; this will be his last board meeting before a new superintendent comes on board,” Benedict said. 

For one of his last pieces of administrative duty, Bischoping briefed the board about recent wind damage sustained to the high school roof this past weekend. Extensive damage forced the temporary closure of the auditorium beneath it, and a three-pronged approach has been recommended for the roof’s repair, Bischoping said. 

First up is to make sure the building is watertight and immediate damage is being take care of. Work will also include covering up any holes, to the tune of “probably close to 6,000 blocks holding the roof piece down now,” he said.

The second part involves some replacement hoods that will allow dampers to work, he said. That in turn enables outside air to be brought in so the auditorium can be used.

“We’re hoping to be able to do that in the next few weeks,” he said.  

The actual repair is the third prong, which will need an estimate of cost. A section of roofing is about 20 years old, he said, and a portion of it is no longer up to code. So the repair will include removing all insulation beneath the roof and replacing it with new insulation material. Replacement insurance may cover a piece of that work, with state aid filling in the gap, he said.

As for the immediate response to the damage caused by winds up to 75 miles per hour, Bischoping credited the maintenance staff for doing “a great job.”

He also thanked the board for its work and assistance, and credited the district community for its role in his return after a prior interim stint. 

"There are great people in this district which made it very easy to come back here," he said. "This is a challenging time for school districts and for most entities, and I think we’re entering uncharted territory. This has made rookies of us all. I look forward to the work that Mr. Smith will be doing with your district and the things that will be happening at Batavia City School District." 

Top photo: Batavia City Schools Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping conducts business during his last official Board of Education meeting Thursday at Batavia High School. Photo by Howard Owens


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