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January 20, 2022 - 4:30pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia city school district, jazz concert, notify.

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There was definitely something unifying about the group of musicians rehearsing at Batavia High School (BHS) Wednesday evening.

It could have been their visible roles with instruments in hand, or the fact that many are BHS alumni. It could have also been the clearly recognizable red, white and blue Buffalo Bills face masks and shirts many of them wore. The garb was part of the concert preparation.

“I’m a big Buffalo Bills fan,” school Superintendent and trombone player Jason Smith said in the hallway next to a boisterous rehearsal. “We will be wearing Bills attire, and we’re doing (the Bills make me want to) Shout song before the Bills play that night. It will be fun to have that Bills vibe.”

The signature song for the hometown Buffalo team is one of several upbeat, jazzy tunes featured for the BHS Alumni Jazz Ensemble this weekend. Billed as a fundraiser for the school’s upcoming Scholastic Winter Guard competitions in Pennsylvania, the concert is set for 2 p.m., Sunday in the high school gymnasium, 260 State St., Batavia.

Smith, a 1990 BHS grad, has been playing trombone since the fourth grade. He initially wanted to play percussion, but since that was already taken, then-music teacher John Ranalli suggested that Smith try the trombone. He hasn’t put it down since.

A 30-year member of Batavia Concert Band and its current general manager, Smith has enjoyed playing in local bands and the alumni ensemble, he said. He has several reasons for why he has been so bonded to music throughout his life, and for why people may want to join the fun this weekend. 

“It’s a social outing, it works a different part of your brain, and there are opportunities to reconnect, and in my case, with high school friends,” he said. “Come out and support our winter guard … You can hear some great musicians, some great soloists, and Paul Spiotta, who has a very beautiful voice. There’s an opportunity to hear a wide range of music. Of course, we all love St. Joe’s Drum and Bugle Corps, and you have the wonderful staff and alumni band here too.” 

His favorite piece from the concert line-up is "Sing, Sing, Sing,"  because of its — what else? — good trombone part, he said. This song flares out with fast-moving, snappy brass and recedes in time for a brief drum solo, and back again to the toe-tapping instrumental melody. It’s hard not to imagine a couple on the dance floor performing some lively swing moves.

Music has been a large part of Batavia resident Ross Chua’s life. The 23-year-old plays several instruments and will be featured on trumpet and vocals during this upcoming concert. He teaches beginning guitar, trumpet and song-writing, and helps with engineering, maintaining equipment and playing trumpet at Old Bear Studio on Harvester Avenue. That makes for “kind of a holistic experience,” he said.

His former music teacher, Jane Haggett, who will conduct the concert, asked that he join this musical effort. Chua couldn’t refuse. 

“I like to be involved in the Batavia music scene. Jane puts in a lot of effort to develop and maintain that culture,” he said. “And she was my band teacher.”

The 2016 BHS grad performs with a few ensembles and plays upright bass for the Genesee Symphony Orchestra. He is a graduate of Syracuse University with a master’s degree in audio arts, which is more of the technical side of the field versus playing for a live concert, he said. The concert menu has a sampling of new and older pieces with the punch of brass.

“It’s a good mix of stuff; it’s really tied into the stuff I played in high school,” Chua said. “It feels very Batavia brand. It’s pretty upbeat and peppy.”

Alongside the city school district superintendent will be high school principal Paul Kesler on trumpet, and music teachers Sean Williams, Collin Murtaugh and Stuart McLean.

Alumni also include Brandon Luce, Jackie McLean, Matt Holota, Harold McJury, Frank Panepento, Joshua Pacino, Quentin Branciforte, Mark Hoerbelt, Mary Murphy, Jason Mapes and Bob Pastecki.

Joshua Pacino, 39, is a music teacher at Notre Dame High School and, out of the various instruments he plays, he favors the trombone for its endurance in his life. “That’s the one I’ve played since fifth grade,” he said.

He especially likes the ensemble’s rendition of "Land of Make Believe" by Chuck Mangione. The samba features “great flugelhorn parts,” he said. He opted to join the alumni group as a faithful Blue Devil.

“When I’m free and I can help out, I do,” he said. 

The BHS Scholastic Winter Guard is hosting this event to raise funds for its plans to compete in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Winter Guard Regionals and the WGI National Championships, respectively. Tickets 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. 

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Top photo: Jason Smith rehearses with the Alumni Jazz Ensemble Wednesday evening at Batavia High School. Jane Haggett leads the group through jazz numbers during the rehearsal; BHS Principal Paul Kesler belts out some notes on trumpet; BHS Alumni Ross Chua, left, in back. Photos by Howard Owens. 

January 12, 2022 - 10:57pm



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: https://www.bataviacsd.org/article/618522

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.

December 17, 2021 - 8:10am

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Batavia High School senior and school board student representative Kylie Tatarka prepared board members Thursday that there were both positive and negative items in her monthly report. 

The positive was that many school activities — high school football games, boy and girl swim teams, a production of Sherlock Holmes — “have been very successful,” Tatarka said. 

“And now, due to the pamphlet,” she said during the board’s December meeting at BHS. “Students have expressed a lack of safety due to that situation, which was addressed by our administration.”

That “situation” was two weeks ago, when some students, who were frustrated by what they believed was inaction to bullying by the district, created written materials and began to organize a walk-out. Social media buzzed with comments as the school ended up closing for a day following the perceptions of threats of violence and after the distribution of those materials. The district closed Dec. 3 after reports of threats of violence at buildings in the district began circulating on social media.

On the plus side, high school counselors visited classrooms to understand how students have been feeling, Tatarka said, and how the district could potentially make them feel safer. 

“This process went well, where many kids said they finally felt heard by this administration,” she said. “Students go through a lot of stress, especially right now, and we need adults to help go through this together. Communication and trust is key.”

As a senior with little time left in school before graduation, Tatarka still looks forward to seeing a change, she said, “especially for my friends, my peers and my own sibling who goes to school with me.” She was also speaking up for those younger classmates that will remain in school behind her. 

“So I urge you all to think about students first,” she said.

High School Principal Paul Kesler reiterated the student ex-officio's remarks about how counselors went into each social studies class to give all students an opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and concerns. 

“Their struggle right now is real, they’re feeling a sense of loss in many ways, our staff is feeling that also,” Kesler said. “This is a good time to get some feedback on that.”

There were positive and negative comments, and suggestions  to be followed up on next year, he said. Bullying specifically wasn’t the hot topic, he said, whereas the effects of COVID-19 and the related distancing policy this past year seemed to have a bigger impact on students, he said. 

“A lot of feedback came back in terms of student’s mental health. I have seen that mental health needs have increased. Students have felt the loss of activities, like not having traditional school dances,” he said, listing some of the students’ suggestions. “They talked about public affirmation of the great things that they’re doing; publicize those on announcements more. They want more classroom meetings. It’s important to hear from marginalized students.” 

Another suggestion, indicative of youth’s technological savvy, was to create a check-in sheet with a bar code so that students can remain anonymous while reaching out for help and/or to share concerns about someone else. The feedback so far was a good start, Kesler said, and counselors will be revisiting with students in a similar way in late January.

“All in all, I’m really proud of our students,” he said. “They’ve been really resilient in difficult situations.”

While on the topic of student safety, Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping referred to a TikTok message that has been circulating nationally.  The Federal Bureau of Investigations and law enforcement concluded that any such threat is unfounded, he said. City police are aware of the post and will monitor the situation, he said.

The popular site TikTok has suggested that school shootings are to take place in a nationwide TikTok school threat challenge on Friday, apparently titled National Shoot Up Your School Day.

The post encourages students to make threats of violence against their school. Some districts are reportedly taking heavier precautions, such as Scotia-Glenville Central School and West Genesee in Syracuse.

Top photo: Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler reviews the steps taken so far to connect with students, hear them out and develop a list of potential remedies for the void left by COVID-19 protocols. Photo by Howard Owens
 

December 17, 2021 - 8:00am

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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


 

December 15, 2021 - 12:15am

Established to assist students in Batavia City School District, the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund is a cause that’s been around since the 1930s, and fund committee members are hoping the community will continue its compassionate streak of generosity this year, fund committee member Nann Zorn says.

“We’d like to have enough money to carry us through the whole year,” Zorn said to The Batavian Monday. 

The Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund uses monetary donations for the assorted needs of Batavia City School District students. Those needs include everything from medical and dental care, prescription drugs, clothing, shoes and sneakers to eye exams, glasses, counseling, and other educational needs. It is nicknamed “The Quiet Fund” because it arrives without fanfare in a yearly one-time appeal seeking community support. An effort meant to benefit local children as soon as their needs are identified, it is “a true charity in every sense of the word,” committee members said in a letter issued to The Batavian.

Contrary to many other fundraisers, this one pours all donations back into the needs of district children, Zorn said. There are no administrative costs and 100 percent of the donations received are used for the benefit of children in need. 

“Every gift is a gift of love and is an affirmation that no child should go without,” the letter states.

The fund stems from The Great Depression, an era when parents couldn’t even afford their child’s overnight stay at the hospital. School nurses noticed that some children were “falling through the cracks” when their needs of eye glasses, dental work or minor surgery went unmet. At that time, the cost for a child having his/her tonsils removed was $7.50 per each night’s hospital stay, which many families could not afford. Physicians waived their fees for the medical procedure, but that overnight fee proved to be too steep for some families to proceed. 

It was out of that tremendous need that the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund grew into existence, Zorn said.  

“Ever since, this fund has assisted children in the Batavia City Schools in complete anonymity.  No family or child is ever identified to us by name, as to preserve the dignity of the family,” the letter states.

Even though it was initially intended to help out 25 of the most needy children, the fund’s scope has become unlimited to include as many of them as possible, Zorn said. Over the years “hundreds and hundreds” of children have received assistance, she said. 

As students’ needs are identified by teachers, their school nurse, or district social worker Julie Wasilewski, the concerns are conveyed to registered nurse Nancy Haitz of the district’s Office of the Coordinator of Health Services. Haitz contacts the child’s parents, and if it is determined that they are in need of assistance, the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund steps in to help. The parents then select what care is to be provided, and by whom, in order to provide a remedy.  Bills are then submitted to the Fund for payment.  There is no red tape, no publicity, and there are no strings attached, as the only purpose is to serve the child in need.  

Anyone interested in contributing to this fund may make their check payable to: Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund, Inc., care of Nann K. Zorn, 12 River St., Batavia, NY, 14020.  

To assist a child and their parent in this way “is a wonderful and immeasurable gift,” committee members said.

“On behalf of the children and their parents, helped by your generosity and gifts of love, we extend to you a most sincere thank you and warm holiday wishes,” signed by the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund Committee members Sara Zorn Schroeder, Nancy Arras, Benjamin J. Bonarigo, Nancy Haitz, Virginia Tiede and Nann K. Zorn. 

 

 

November 7, 2021 - 8:08pm

For the fifth year in a row, Batavia City School District leaders will be taking an extra day to honor veterans in Genesee County for a Veterans Day Ceremony, Batavia High School Band Director Jane Haggett says.

“The Batavia High School community believes our veterans need to be recognized for their service to our country,” Haggett said to The Batavian. “They are the reasons why we can continue to be the home of the brave and land of the free.”

The event is set for 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, a day before the official Veterans Day, at the high school, 260 State St., Batavia. 

COVID-19 protocols have dictated a portion of the day to be outside, she said. Activities include a flag-raising ceremony by Batavia Boy Scouts, an audience participatory Pledge of Allegiance and a performance of the national anthem, otherwise known as the “Star-Spangled Banner,” by BHS Concert Band.

Amateur poet Francis Scott Key penned the first verse of the anthem after witnessing the American flag still flying proudly amidst an attack on Fort McHenry in 1814.

“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Keynote speaker Charles Williams, a BHS 2014 graduate, is slated to say a few words about his reason for serving in the United States Navy, and how that service helped shape his life. Williams is a Master at Arms Petty Officer Second Class.

Veterans will then be treated to a more formal concert and ceremony in the school’s auditorium. The high school’s band, orchestra and chorus are to give a musical tribute, and veterans in attendance will be introduced, Haggett said.

The district’s essay contest winner (yet to be announced) will recite the winning entry about “Why Veterans Day is important to me.” This event culminates with a reception for veterans and anyone else involved in the ceremony, she said.  

If you are a veteran and interested in attending this celebratory event to acknowledge the service provided to U.S. citizens, contact Haggett at [email protected] or call 585-343-2480, Ext. 2134 to make arrangements.

Ceremonies on Veterans Day, Nov. 11

Genesee County ceremonies are set to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at Genesee County Park in East Bethany, followed by Batavia VA Medical Center at 10 a.m. and the New York State Veterans Nursing Home at 10:15 a.m., both on Richmond Avenue, Batavia, the Upton Monument at 11 a.m. at routes 5 and 33, Batavia, and ending at 11:30 a.m. at the Jerome Center monument at the corner of Bank Street and Washington Avenue in Batavia. Participating organizations include Veterans of Foreign Wars of Genesee County, Genesee County American Legions, Marine Corps League - Hansen Brothers Detachment, and Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 193.

Tops markets has also announced that there will be an 11 percent discount for veterans on Veterans Day.



























 

November 5, 2021 - 2:56pm

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Batavia City School District Community Schools leaders announce the first official Community Expo, set for Nov. 9 at Robert Morris. Photo by Howard Owens.


Ever since Batavia City Schools District landed on the idea of having a central place for family support earlier this year, the effort has grown in scope and reach.

Julia Rogers is coordinator of the new effort, called Community Schools. It is based out of the Robert Morris site at Richmond Avenue and Union Street, and serves as the umbrella for the Family and Community Engagement Center, Integrated Student Supports, Enhanced Enrichment, and Leadership initiatives. It’s all about providing help where it's most needed, Rogers says. 

“That’s what we’re here to do, is to help,” she said during an interview with The Batavian. “It’s very individualized.”

Say one family is struggling to make ends meet, and could use some groceries. District Social Worker Julie Wasilewski identifies the specific needs and works with Rogers, who oversees the financial end, to get that family assistance. If there tends to be an increasing trend for Batavia families to obtain groceries, the scope will expand to help additional families beyond that first one identified.

There have been donation drives at various locations in the city and a blood drive so far. The first major event is set for Nov. 9. Community Schools Expo, offered in conjunction with Business and Education Alliance, will run from 2 to 7 p.m. with several employers there to recruit, answer questions and discuss potential job opportunities. Job-seekers are encouraged to attend, and masks are required inside the building.

Job fair vendors include Batavia City School District, Batavia High School for student working papers, City of Batavia Fire Department, Genesee Valley BOCES, Land Pro, Liberty Pumps, Lifetime Assistance, NY Army National Guard, Horizon Health Services, Student Transportation of America, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

A second vendor fair, aptly titled Warm the Night, is set for 5 to 7 p.m. and will feature a variety of organizations with information and interactive games to engage and inform visitors about the local services available. There will be a selection of free winter items — hats, scarves, gloves, coats — for families to shop.

Warm the Night vendors include Hillside Children’s Center, Healthy Living, Genesee County Park, Genesee County Office for the Aging, Valu Home Centers, SUNY Brockport ROTC, The Manor House, United States Navy, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Genesee Orleans Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse and Literacy West.

Familiar faces from the district — Nate Korzelius, Heather McCarthy, Trisha Finnigan, Kellie Marciano — will be serving up grilled hotdogs outside. Students will receive a “passport” to take around to vendors for a mark to confirm they visited, and prizes will be given out for those that visited each site. Winners need not be present to win a prize. 

If transportation is an issue for families, a district bus will be making loops to specific destinations for pick-ups of students and families and drop-offs later in the evening. There are several pick-up sites that begin at 4:30 p.m. at 679 East Main St., and include Jackson Primary School, City Church at St. Anthony’s, 193 South Main St., 200 Oak St., 4371 Federal Drive and John Kennedy Intermediate School. Departures are to begin at 6:15 p.m. and drop event visitors off at the same pick-up sites. 

A clothing closet, chock full of donated clothes, accessories and new hygiene items for all ages, will be open for viewing in the Family and Community Engagement Center. There’s also everything from diapers, bedding and DVDs to purses, blouses, canned goods and toys. It often goes as quickly as it comes in, Rogers said.

“If someone wants to donate, there’s always a need,” she said. 

The center has a washer and dryer for clothing donations that need some freshening up. If district families are in need of laundromat facilities, help may also be available to get that done, Rogers said.

“We look at all the options,” she said. 

Those interested in shopping for all of the free goods during a quieter time can make an appointment by calling Wasilewski at 585-409-9508.

This event is open to the community. The parking lot at Vernon and Richmond avenues will be closed during this time, and parking will be available across the street at Van Detta Stadium. Look for the balloon clusters to indicate the event entrance at Robert Morris on the Vernon Avenue side. Warm the Night is scheduled for outdoors, weather permitting. 

For more information, go to bataviacsd.org and click on Community Schools, or call Rogers at 585-343-2480, Ext. 1004.

September 3, 2021 - 2:51pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district, property taxes.

Property owners in the Batavia City School District -- still trying to come to grips with hefty increases in their assessments earlier this year – can take some solace with news that the school tax rate for 2021-22 is decreasing by almost 10 percent.

Scott Rozanski, Batavia schools’ business administrator, today informed The Batavian that the tax rate for the coming school year has been set at $19.23 per thousand of assessed value – down $2.10, or 9.84 percent, from the 2020-21 rate of $21.33.

On Thursday, the Batavia CSD board of education voted to accept the tax warrant and rate determination.

Rozanski also pointed out that the tax rate in 2020-21 was about 1 percent less than the 2019-20 figure.

“That’s two years of no direct impact (on taxes) from the school,” he said.

He did, however, acknowledge the change in assessments, indicating the average increase was 10.85 percent.

“We don’t control property values, nor the equalization rate which are both used to calculate the tax rate and can fluctuate each year,” he reported.

He said the district did realize about $750,000 more of a surplus from the previous year “so we added that to the refund back to the taxpayers.”

“With all of the federal stimulus funds, we were assisted on the revenue side,” Rozanski said, noting that the district received $2.4 million for COVID relief this year. “Without that, we would have had to make more cuts or (without cutting any positions) increase the levy by about 12 percent.”

Going forward, he said it’s a bit premature to project, but doesn’t think it will be “a concern in the near future.”

The district budget for 2021-22 is $52,096,661, Rozanski said. Its fund balance currently is at the maximum 4 percent, or about $2.1 million.

August 30, 2021 - 12:26pm

Update, 4 p.m. from Paul Pettit, Genesee County public health director:

"This is a mandate that is coming from the New York State Department of Health, based on the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.  Prior to this new state wide mandate, we were working locally to develop district level re-opening plans based on the CDC guidelines, with each district making a local decision on their approach.

"We will continue to work and support the schools in our counties to have a safe and effective school year, as our priority is to have all students present for in-person learning." 

------------------------

This weekend’s announcement by the New York State Department of Health requiring mask wearing for everyone inside all school buildings essentially nullifies any school district reopening plans that recommended, but did not require, face coverings in the classrooms.

Oakfield-Alabama was one of those districts that decided to not require masks while teachers and students were in class – basing its decision on an Aug. 4 directive from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office that the state was leaving reopening guidelines up to local school districts in conjunction with local health departments.

Friday’s emergency regulation by the NYSDOH -- taking its lead from the new governor, Kathy Hochul -- is both frustrating and upsetting, O-A Superintendent John Fisgus stated this morning.

“I know the majority of this school community (and Board of Education) are extremely frustrated and upset with this turn of events,” he wrote, replying to an email from The Batavian. “So, now here we stand with a school mask mandate while indoors. It doesn't make sense to have such an umbrella mandate as every district and school community is unique.”

Fisgus said the state should be able to have confidence in local school boards, administrators and teachers to do what is right in the face of a prolonged COVID-19 situation.

“Trust us that we are smart enough to work with our local health departments to monitor COVID and do what is in the best interest (and safety) of our local towns, villages and schools,” Fisgus added.

As previously reported on The Batavian, Fisgus sent out a survey to the community about mask wearing, and the results overwhelmingly were in favor of making it a personal choice on whether to wear one in the classroom.

The O-A plan stipulates that masks are required on the bus and when entering the school buildings and reporting to classrooms, and while traveling in the hallways between classes and/or to different locations within the buildings.

Over the past two weeks, Fisgus said those in power at the state level have changed their viewpoint on face coverings to make that issue part of a statewide binding guidance for all districts.

“But, we were never part of those discussions,” he advised.

Scott Bischoping, Batavia City Schools superintendent, said the district is following through with the NYSDOH guidelines. He said Batavia held off on releasing its formal reopening plan “based on the new governor’s words that she was going to make an announcement in that area.”

“We had not come out with any plans regarding the masking other than knowing that we would be masking,” he said. “We shared with parents that for certain we’d be having to mask on the bus, but were waiting other feedback before we announced anything.”

Bischoping said the district has been operating within the county and state health guidelines regarding contract tracing and quarantine.

“We’re used to following through with that,” he said. “We’ve done that for the last year-plus, and we’ll continue to do that and hopefully at some point we won’t have to do that, regarding masking or quarantining or any of those things associated with COVID.”

Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit was not immediately available for comment.

June 22, 2021 - 8:19pm

Rebekah Daniszewski and Alex Hale received Batavia Coaches Association Athlete of the Year awards tonight at the Batavia High School Athletic Awards ceremony at Van Detta Stadium.

Athletic Director Mike Bromley presided over the event that recognized outstanding Blue Devil senior class student-athletes for their accomplishments over the four sport seasons in 2020-21.

Daniszewski, a Section V track and field champion in the shot put (indoor) and shot put and discus (outdoor), and Hale, a three-sport standout, each were given $50 and a plaque from the Coaches Association.

The Athlete of the Year award goes to a senior girl and boy for outstanding leadership, sportsmanship and athletic performance.

Daniszewski also received the Burk Family Scholarship for Excellence in Track and Community Service, a $300 award from the Batavia City School District Foundation, while Hale also was selected to receive the Daniel Van Detta Memorial Scholarship for football and baseball, a $250 award from the BCSD Foundation.

Jonah Epps III was the winner of the Thomas Ricci Memorial Scholarship for track and field and/or cross-country, a $500 check from the BCSD Foundation. He also received the Project Play WNY Multisport Athlete Award, which comes with a certificate, celebratory lawn sign and social media spotlight.

Jacob Long was named the Burk Family Scholarship for Excellence in Football and Community Service winner, earning a $300 check from the BCSD Foundation.

The Danny Lullo Memorial Football Scholarship went to Zachariah Brown, who received a $300 check from the BCSD Foundation.

Luke Rogers was selected to receive the Jason Gioia Memorial Scholarship for dedication to school and the community. The scholarship is for $500.

Other award winners are as follows:

  • Outstanding Physical Education Student Award: Alexander Childs, Mykola Bartz, Lillian Whiting.
  • Air Force Scholar Athlete: Luke Rogers, Tess Barone.
  • Army Reserve National Scholar Athlete: Cooper Mattice, Isabella Houseknecht.
  • Navy Outstanding Athlete Award: Zachary Gilebarto, Lillian Whiting.
  • Marine Corps Distinguished Athlete Award: Bannon Moore (who also received the Judd Gouinlocke Memorial Scholarship), Haylee Thornley.
  • Varsity Club Award: Chloe Torres Brown, Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Zachary Wagner, Natalie Clark, Evan Preston, Dallas Lama, Andresha Richardson, Chase Pangrazio, Jonah Luplow, Jianna Torcello, Elizabeth Kingston, Troy Helsdon, Stone Siverling, Tyler Kleinbach.
  • Dr. Pierce Sportsmanship Award: Sean Pies, Sadie Loria.
  • Batavia Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete Award: Kameron Kuszlyk, Sophie Beckman.
  • Project Play WNY Multisport Athlete Awards: Jonah Epps III, Bryn Wormley.
  • Batavia Lions Club Athletic Award: Jacob Long ($50).
  • 1947 Club Athletic Awards: Faraz Idrees, Mackenzie Reigle.
  • Certificates of Excellence: Zachariah Brown, Rebekah Daniszewski, Jonah Epps III, Ian Fuchs, Alex Hale, Faraz Idrees, Kameron Kuszlyk, Jacob Long, Jonah Luplow, Bannon Moorre, Chase Pangrazio, Sean Pies, Mackenzie Reigle, Bryn Wormley.

Several athletes were recognized for winning sectional titles. They were:

  • Boys Swimming: Cooper Mattice.
  • Wrestling: Cooper Stewart, Nicholas Lamkin.
  • Indoor Track and Field: Jamarion Richardson, Gavin Konieczny, Noah Burke, Rebekah Daniszewski, Jesse Reinhart.
  • Outdoor Track and Field: Fabian Vazquez, Isabella Walsh.
March 23, 2021 - 4:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia city school district, news, notify, covid-19.

Following a presentation by Superintendent Anibal Soler, the city schools' Board of Trustees approved a plan Monday night that could have full in-class learning for all students whose families want it starting Monday, April 19.

Families who want learning to remain 100-percent virtual will be able to continue online education for the remainder of the school year.

The hybrid model, where students split time between in-home virtual classrooms and on-campus classrooms, will be eliminated.

The decision to return to full-time learning is being driven by data and what state and national leaders are saying about the importance of in-class learning, Soler said.

"I feel, along with the board, that this is why it is time for us to take some significant steps to get us back to school the way it used to be," Soler said during the meeting.

Soler noted that the Centers for Disease Control has changed its guidance on classroom instruction, providing the option to keep students three feet apart instead of six feet. While this change makes it more realistic to get students back in classrooms, six feet is still ideal and where possible, the district will strive to keep students six feet apart, Soler said, or at least five feet, or at least four feet, going to only three feet apart where a greater distance is not feasible.

Previously, one of the issues with opening up the schools was transportation. Currently, students who are transported by bus must sit one to a bench seat. In the new plan, two students will be allowed to share a single bench seat so long as both are masked.

Students will sit on the bus according to a seating chart, so that if later a student does test positive for coronavirus school officials can identify students who were within six feet of the COVID-19-positive student. Such students will be asked to quarantine.

The buses will be disinfected between runs.

The state's Department of Health has not yet approved these guidelines, but Soler anticipates that the state will approve the changes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a Feb. 19 briefing said he believes schools should go back to in-class teaching where COVID-19 prevalence is low and that the change should be a local decision. 

One factor in the district's favor is that at least 50 percent of the staff will be fully vaccinated by April 10. Soler believes the number of staff members vaccinated is actually higher but the district only has data for those individuals who accepted their vaccination through the district. Every staff member has been offered the vaccine.

Soler has already met with leaders of the teachers' and clerks' unions and both support a reopening plan as long as safety protocols are in place.

To prepare, support staff will start moving furniture in classrooms and cafeterias during spring break, March 29 to April 2.

From now until April 9, Soler will be holding virtual meetings with staff members to roll out the plan, answer questions, and address concerns. 

"They may have ideas we haven't thought about," Soler said.

All cohorts will be in virtual classrooms on April 15-16 in order to give teachers a final two days of prep before starting in-classroom teaching.

"This will give us a full 10 weeks of in-person learning for 80 percent of the district," Soler said.

The potential barriers to carrying out and continuing the plan, Soler told the board, are: if the district receives a directive from the Department of Health; or receives a court order; or if there is a spike in community spread or some other sign of the infection rate going up in the community. 

"Then we have to reset, go back to virtual learning for two weeks before resuming the hybrid model," Soler said. "We will continue to protect staff and students if we see a large number of cases."

The timeline allows two weeks between spring break and the resumption of classes. This means if increased social contact during spring break leads to a spike in cases, the district can reevaluate whether April 19 is the right time to go back to in-class learning.

But given all the evidence experts have gathered, Soler said, the district does need to get back to normal classroom instruction. It's better for the students academically, emotionally and socially. It will also be less stressful for teachers.

"Our teachers have been burning the candle at both ends," Soler said. "They have been working hard and managing two groups of students. I commend them on what they do but it's time to get them back to doing what they do best, which is teaching kids in front of them."

February 3, 2021 - 3:06pm

Press release:

Last week, the Batavia City School District Board of Education unanimously approved the addition of an Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in Education Policy (8140) and regulation (8140R).

This new policy outlines the process for achieving educational equity in the district and will help to eliminate barriers that hinder every student’s success. The aim of this policy is to provide equitable, inclusive and diverse opportunities for all students to reach their highest potential.

The Board of Education and Superintendent believe that every student has the right to an equitable educational experience and a sense of belonging at school. The Equity, Inclusivity and Diversity in Education policy is an essential step forward for BCSD in fulfilling that promise to all students.

Educational equity in Batavia strives to ensure that all students have equal access to courses, teachers, school environments, regardless of a student’s race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation or native language.

This policy also places a premium on differentiating resource allocation within budgetary limitations, to meet the needs of students who require more supports and opportunities to succeed academically.

The Equity, Inclusivity, and Diversity in Education Policy allows BCSD to continue to move in a direction that reflects a community that is diverse, equitable and inclusive to all students in our learning community.

Board of Education President Alice Ann Benedict agrees that “this commitment to BCSD will impact every corner of our district from our curriculum, to our teaching and our staff, our Board of Education, and Administrators, making it imperative that we approach every situation with adiversity lens in a quest for equity and inclusion for all members of our community.”

As the district moves forward and takes courageous steps needed to promote educational equity, the Superintendent will be charged with reviewing and monitoring the progress of the district’s equity goals, and will share an annual report with the BCSD community informing all stakeholders of the district’s overall progress.

For more information you can view the new policy and regulation here:

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January 30, 2021 - 11:34am

While pleased that the Batavia City Council voted to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiative designed to help boys and young men of color with their academic progress, Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. believes that some clarification about the program is warranted.

“Regarding the My Brother’s Keeper story (that was posted on The Batavian on Tuesday – the day following the City Council meeting where the measure was discussed at length before passage), I believe there was some unfamiliarity with what the grant was requiring and the tight timeline for submission to the New York State Education Department created some additional angst,” Soler said.

According to documents provided to Council members by Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the school district came to the city, seeking a municipal partner in order to apply for the NYSED grant, with a Feb. 1 deadline being set for this year’s grant cycle.

Goals of the program, an extension of an initiative promoted by former President Barack Obama several years ago, include forging teacher/community relationships to address learning needs at every grade level; enhancing family relationships; creating a culturally diverse and engaging atmosphere for learning; and utilizing school, family and community to provide the best opportunities for academic, social and emotional growth.

As explained by Tabelski in a memo to City Council, the city’s role would include advertising the MBK program, providing public meeting room space, and providing mentors and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program.

Soler said he followed up with City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. after the meeting to “clarify any confusion or answer any additional questions he may have had, and thanked him for his support.”

“The MBK grant is supplemental funds to support the district's efforts on increasing the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color by sustaining effective relationships with families,” Soler said. “The grant doesn't obligate the city for any services; it just allows them to endorse and or partner in our efforts to pursue this funding opportunity and if we receive this grant we would be able to supplement any city efforts on family and community engagement.”

Jankowski, during Monday night’s meeting, said he was concerned about the last-minute timing of the grant and also about the cost to the city, especially considering that city officials are in the midst of developing the 2021-22 budget.

The city council president ultimately voted in favor of supporting MBK as did the other Council members in attendance, except for Rose Mary Christian, who said she was going to contact the Civil Liberties Union about the legality of an initiative that targeted a specific group.

When asked why he voted in favor of it, Jankowski said he believes the program has merit, but needed “to understand how this would impact our community, and there was a tight time deadline.”

“After doing some research, getting some answers during the Council meeting and the reassurance of Council Member Patti Pacino, a retired teacher, I felt comfortable voting yes,” he said.

When it was mentioned that it seemed to be something that the school district and Genesee County were negotiating over originally, Jankowski said he wasn’t sure of that, but is “hopeful that the city/school partnership for this program will turn out to be a positive one.”

Christian, contacted this morning, said she did call the CLU but did not receive a response.

“I just felt bad because they didn’t include girls,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what nationality they are or what heritage, it just didn’t include them. Like (Council Member) John Canale said, it’s for Hispanic, people of color, the Black community – that’s fine – but what about Caucasian?”

Christian said students across the cultural spectrum need help “and our teachers should be available to give as much help as possible to all that need it.”

Previously: Council members voice objections but vote to support My Brother's Keeper school initiative

January 26, 2021 - 1:18pm

Batavia City Council members called out the Batavia City School District over the timing and the focus of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative on Monday night -- following a somewhat strained 25-minute discussion – before approving a resolution to support the program designed to enhance educational and vocational opportunities for boys and young men of color.

“What have we been doing for five years if we knew this and why haven’t we been helping these children five years ago?” asked Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. during the board’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room.

Jankowski was referring to the My Brother’s Keeper program introduced by former President Barack Obama about six years ago.

“If I remember correctly, President Obama brought this to light in 2014-2015 and New York State adopted it in 2016, and now you’re telling me the studies already show that we have youth in our own community that are identified as having concerns or troubles, and they’re not at the same level?” Jankowski said.

“What are we doing in the school system right now to help these kids – persons of color or others that may need it – and why are we waiting a week before the deadline and trying to force this through without public input when we knew about this in 2016 since this grant was out there?”

Jankowski said his concerns centered upon the amount of money the city would be required to support the initiative through mentorships and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program and if it was really necessary since the school district is responsible for educating its pupils.

“How did we drop the ball on this especially, although it’s not your concern, (since) I get complaints from people all the time about why their taxes are so high and the school taxes are a major part of it,” he said. “And they’re expecting a service for the children of our community and I’m a little upset that we’ve not done anything for five years for these kids.”

Christian: What About Girls, Other Students?

Prior to Jankowski’s observations, Council Member Rose Mary Christian objected to the program’s targeted focus on boys and young men of color.

“How come girls aren’t included in this and all students?” she asked, directing her query to Julia Rogers, assistant principal at Batavia High School, who was in attendance. “You’re singling out a group.”

Rogers said the program is based on data that shows that students of color – children, young men – do not have the same opportunities as other groups.

“It would be one of those programs that is focused for students of color but a lot of the ideology … for instance, the mentorship – we would be continuing with other students,” she said. “My Brother’s Keeper is a program that is offered through many districts, and basically, it shows a partnership to help these students in Batavia.

"Our numbers in the UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) program are low for students of color. And to work with families from birth to school age to encourage that education and teaching how to educate your children at home. There are a lot of components to that mentorship.”

Rogers said services would be provided throughout students’ school years and could “lead to educational opportunities at the college level and also to business opportunities.”

“So, it’s basically bridging that gap – interagency possibility – for students to have opportunities,” she added.

While acknowledging Christian’s viewpoint, Rogers said that “in reality, those students are the ones who are having difficulties, and there are major gaps for those students.”

“So, what we’re looking for is to have this program and to be able to bridge from it so that our students in all aspects of school … can have a better opportunity.”

Christian wasn’t persuaded, however.

“You’re going to allow anyone to participate because if not, I find it discriminating and it bothers me,” she said. “I’m not a racist person by no means, and this bothers me. So, otherwise, I am going call tomorrow to the Civil Liberties (Union) because I want to make sure that there’s nothing that anyone is denounced in here for any person.”

Tabelski: Municipal Support Required

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski proposed the city join forces with the school district in a memo dated Jan. 22, and emphasized that the grant had to be submitted by the end of this month. That’s why it was on the agenda of both the Conference and Special Business meeting that followed last night.

She said that the district obtaining a municipal partner was one of the requirements set forth by the New York State Education Department.

“The program, from my understanding of it … is to support residents of color from birth to graduation of high school to achieve better outcomes through mentorship, through community involvement, through college preparation and all other aspects,” Tabelski said. “It is a targeted program; it’s new for Batavia. I don’t believe we ever had this before and we’re asking that the city sign on and say, ‘Yes, we support this and we think it’s a good idea.’ ”

Tabelski said that the city’s commitment would include advertising on its bulletin boards, introducing students to other community groups they might need to partner with, providing opportunities for students to meet with mentors at the Liberty Center for Youth and providing the homework assistance “that we do at our free afterschool program when it is running at Liberty Center for Youth.”

She also revealed that initial talks about the grant were between the school district and the Genesee County Youth Bureau.

“There was once a conversation with folks from the County Youth Bureau and the youth director. I came in last minute, so forgive me. I’m just trying to help them move this through,” she said. “But originally the plan was to partnership mainly with the county-run programs – the Youth Court and the Youth Leadership program … and to let them know that the city – we do direct programming, we don’t actually run those programs although we participate.”

Tabelski said the agreement was amended to highlight the city’s potential involvement.

“I am the one who suggested that these programs would be something that we would be willing – the City as we move forward, depending on COVID, depending on budget, depending on staffing -- to partner and to allow that center to be a place where the mentors and mentees, and homework can continue to happen.”

Bialkowski: Who Will Provide Homework Help?

Council Member Robert Bialkowski, citing the city’s role in the partnership that includes providing homework assistance, asked who would be providing this service.

Tabelski responded that the city already does this at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“So, whether we contract with the contracting agency in the (proposed) RFP (request for proposal) or we have our own city staff there, it’s already going on. It’s a continuation of what we already are doing,” she said.

Bialkowski then mentioned that city youth services are on hold at this point, and suggested language in the contract that shielded the city from financial obligations if the money wasn’t there.

“We could certainly add that language in there,” Tabelski said, but City Attorney George Van Nest disagreed, saying he didn’t think it was necessary because any private sector agency (or an entity such as a school district) would be subject to any government restrictions in place.

Jankowski said he thought it was “odd” that the school district is the fiscal agent but was asking the city for in-kind support.

Rogers replied that the district already has a “multi-care system approach” to education and mentioned its “great graduation rates.”

“This is another program that we felt would assist us as a school district and as a community to bridge that gap and offer more opportunities to students,” she explained. “It is a program that helps bridge the gap and enhance and cultivate those educational, workforce opportunities for students.”

Jankowski: Why is This Being Pushed Through?

Jankowski noted the school’s budgetary shortfall and, again, questioned why this was “getting pushed through tonight and we haven’t even done our budget yet. We’re voting on this resolution to partner in a grant and these things might not be here.”

Council Member Al McGinnis called it an important issue and encouraged public input before voting to support it.

““We need public input on this. I don’t think we can proceed without having public input, and I’d like the language changed to say all children,” he said.

Again, Jankowski voiced his displeasure with the last-minute notification that put Council on the spot.

“The timing is the problem here,” he said. “We don’t even know what our budget is like. As far as supporting it and moral support … I’m comfortable with that part of it. I don’t know where we’re going to end up from here (with the budget). I don’t what them to apply for that grant and then something comes up beyond our control, and now we’re not able to meet our obligations.”

Council Member John Canale asked Tabelski if there would be any additional cost to the city once the youth center gets up and running. Tabelski said there wouldn’t, prompting Canale to urge his colleagues (Jeremy Karas and Paul Viele were absent) to vote to support it, contingent upon available funding.

That seemed to change Jankowski’s mind as he then commended the program’s priorities and benchmarks, while noting that “people of color” encompasses a larger group of people than just those of African-American descent.

Pacino: If We Can Help, Then Let's Help

Then Council Member Patti Pacino, a longtime educator, spoke in favor of the initiative.

“For all this time, before this came along, we take care of kids who come from families who are Muslim, kids that come from parents who only speak Spanish, kids that come from Black families that have no money. That’s all been going on,” she said. “Now, we can say wait, here’s another program that we can add to our programs.”

“Yes, this one belongs to Black young men that happens to be one where these kids are having problems and these kids are getting into trouble. That does not mean that other kids aren’t. It’s an expansion – one more great thing to do for kids. I’m all for saying we support it and we’ll come up with the money if we can come up with the money. It’s not that we’re taking it over, and it’s not that they haven’t been doing it.”

After Jankowski asked how many students would participate in the program (Rogers said she estimated around 100), Canale said this was an opportunity to “invest in our youth to improve our youth in Batavia -- some of these underprivileged, underserved youth that will stay in Batavia, (and) will be more productive community members as they become adults.”

The resolution was then moved to the Special Business meeting where Christian tried to proposed an amendment to include girls and any students of any color.

That was dismissed, however, due to the parameters of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

A vote to support the school district was taken with all Council members except Christian voting in favor of it. McGinnis said he was voting yes, “with reservations.”

In other action, Council:

  • Forwarded resolutions concerning the 2021-22 budget ordinance and tax levy; establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and amendment of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District Plan to its Feb. 8 Business meeting, with expectations that public hearings for all these measures by scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 22.

Currently, the budget calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate, from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, with a tax levy of $5,864,597.

A budget workshop took place following last night’s Business meeting and another is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Monday.

Water rates and quarterly meter service fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent, with quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Amendments to the BID Plan focus on three capital projects in the pipeline for 2021-22 -- downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000) – and the amount of the BID’s assessment charge to its members.

  • Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

Tabelski said the city is looking at obtaining grant funding for “several infrastructure projects,” specifically mentioning rehabilitative work at the fire station and bureau of maintenance, and a water line project.

  • Appointed Lydia Schauf, a former city youth bureau employee, to the City Youth Board advisory group for a term extending through Dec. 31, 2023.
January 23, 2021 - 9:17am

Update: Jan,. 25, 2 p.m.

Please be advised that Batavia City Council will be holding the 2021/22 budget work sessions on the following dates:

Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. -- Conference Council Meeting, Special Business Meeting &  Budget Work Session (Department of Public Works)

Monday, Feb.  1, 6 p.m. -- Budget Work Session (General Gov’t, General Admin Services, Fire & Police)

Wed., Feb. 3, 7 p.m. --If needed – 3rdBudget Work Session

Monday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. --- Business meeting, introduce budget ordinance

Monday, Feb 22, 7 p.m. -- Conference Meeting, (Last opportunity to make budget amendments)

Monday, Mar 8, 7 p.m. -- Adopt Budget and Related Resolutions.

-----------------

The process of achieving a 2021-22 spending plan for the City of Batavia is expected to move forward on Monday night with the introduction of resolutions to schedule public hearings on the budget ordinance and establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.

City Council is scheduled to meet in Conference and Business sessions at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

In a memo to City Council dated Jan. 14, Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski indicated that public hearings are necessary prior to any execution.

Tabelski is proposing that the budget and water rates resolutions, along with a third resolution dealing with amendments to the Business Improvement District Plan, be considered at Council’s Feb. 8 Business Meeting and that public hearings be set for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 – the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting.

Earlier this month, Tabelski proposed a 2021-22 tentative budget – a $27.7 million all-funds spending plan – that calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate (from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value). According to a resolution on the table for 2021-22, the amount to be raised by taxes is $5,864,597.

Tabelski has said that a combination of revenue losses due to COVID-19 and decreased sales tax and state aid have resulted in a $1.2 million gap compared to the previous fiscal year.

In the area of water and meter fees, the resolution introduces a local law to establish new rates, with water rates and quarterly meter service fees going up by 3.5 percent and quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Changes to the BID Plan, outlined in red in Council’s packet of information, indicated that the BID has about $260,000 in its capital infrastructure fund to be used for capital projects. Three such projects earmarked for 2021-22 are downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000).

Other amendments show that the BID’s district assessment charge (a revenue source) – excluding debt service – can’t exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the BID. Thus, it is currently estimated that that figure is $58,000, and the BID’s assessment is estimated at $1.810873 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Other items of note on this Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

Tabelski is suggesting that Council look over the plan and issue it for public comment, and then move it forward to the March 8 Business Meeting where she and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will review the public comments with Council, prior to the board adopting the plan and sending a certified copy to the New York State Office of Management and Budget.

  • A request by the City of Batavia School District for the City to support the district’s application for funding that the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a NYS Education grant program.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski wrote that the partnership is designed “to increase the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color.”

The memo indicates that the City will support the program, provide “parent engagement and education, mentorship, college and career pathways, and other evidence-based strategies,” provide display space on bulletin boards and brochure racks, provide ADA-accessible public meeting room space, provide mentors at the City’s Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program, and provide homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth.

  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski explained that proposals must meet at least one of two national objectives – at least 51 percent of the persons who would benefit from implementation of the plan are low- or moderate-income persons or the plan addresses a slum or blighted area in the community.

She wrote that the City is reviewing possible projects that align with its strategic plan, primarily infrastructure ventures related to water, wastewater and facilities.

Tabelski is suggesting that both the My Brother’s Keeper and the CDBG resolutions be moved to the Business Meeting this Monday night due to timing issues.

January 16, 2021 - 12:12pm

The Batavia City School District is asking families to make a final selection of which learning model — in-person hybrid or 100-percent remote — they want for their children in preparation for the start of the second semester of the 2020–21 academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Jan. 13 statement from the district, Superintendent of Schools Anibal Soler Jr. requested that families submit changes to their students’ learning modalities by Jan. 22. He said that this deadline will afford the district enough time to make adjustments to academic programming and transportation services before the semester begins Feb. 1.

“It may not change our numbers a lot, but at least we know moving forward that that is the final in-person hybrid and the final remote rosters that principals could use to kind of lock in the rest of their year,” Soler said at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Families that would like to select a different learning method for the semester should complete the second semester Learning Model Form for each child in their household who seeks the change. Requests for changes can also be made via phone call to students’ respective schools. Those who do not want to modify their students’ academic format do not need to take action.

This survey process aims to strengthen the teacher-student experience for both in-person hybrid learners and remote learning students. The statement said that this learning model selection will allow teachers and administrators to plan more effectively for a stable end to “a difficult and fluid” school year.

“We don't want to burn out our teachers because they've already flip-flopped so much in the way that they teach,” Board Member Tanni Bromley said. “So if they can have a consistent roster, it would be easier for them to decide how they're going to move forward.”

The district’s in-person hybrid students shift between receiving face-to-face and at-home online instruction based on the cohort they are in. All remote-only learners complete their classes entirely in a virtual setting. Board members said at Monday’s meeting that some families have switched between these models multiple times throughout the first semester.

“Consistency for the student is probably best, too, in that if a parent chooses one, then it would be best to kind of ride that out,” Board Member Shawna Murphy said. “Get them through this year and hopefully we won't even be dealing with this next year. But the flip-flopping for the kid isn't good either.”

As of Jan. 15, BCSD reported that 92 individuals, on or off campus, among its students, teachers and staff members are currently testing positive for COVID-19. The district’s statement noted that it may need to transition to 100-percent virtual instruction for all students if an issue related to COVID-19 arises during the second semester. 

BCSD previously switched to fully remote instruction from Dec. 7, 2020 to Jan. 4, 2021 because of staffing shortages related to a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among its students, teachers and staff, and throughout Genesee County. An influx of family requests to move children from hybrid to remote learning was cited as a challenge the district faced in the days leading up to this switch.

“All of our teachers are feeling burned out,” Soler said. “I mean it is tough to navigate this virtual and remote, and it's just a harder year. So our teachers are working like maniacs. They're planning. They're trying to prepare.”

Changes to instruction methods will take effect Feb. 1 and remain in place for the duration of the school year. However, according to the statement, a student’s school may contact parents and guardians at any time during the semester to suggest a modification to the child’s learning format to accommodate their academic needs.

In terms of exceptions to learning model commitments, Soler said he wants families to understand “that if there's a situation that comes about, that they would need to go through their principal first, prior to seeking approval to change, but that only extreme extenuating circumstances would be considered.”

A mandatory quarantine period does not alter the second semester learning method of an in-person hybrid student who tests positive for COVID-19 or has been in close contact with someone who receives a positive test result.

“If that child is quarantined, then he has to go out,” Board Member John Reigle said. “If they test positive, they're out for a certain period. But that person committed to in-person [instruction]. Once they're cleared, they can come back.”

Board members expressed optimism at Monday’s meeting about the sense of normalcy and ease of mind that the second semester learning model selection can potentially bring to everyone.

“To kind of know what's going to be happening for the rest of the school year in February, I think that's a good thing because it's kind of getting back to normal,” Murphy said. “Regardless of what you choose, it's going to stay the same.”

The next board meeting will be livestreamed at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 on the school district’s Board of Education YouTube channel.

December 8, 2020 - 12:52pm

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” have taken on a new meaning for Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., who has had to make the difficult decision of implementing 100-percent virtual learning at all four district buildings prior to the holiday break.

“I think these 12 school days off (Dec. 7-22) will allow us to get a little bit of the staff back and hopefully limit the number of people needing to quarantine since there are no kids in the building and there are no additional staff members needing to congregate or walk by each other or be in the same place,” Soler said today. “We should be able to have our staffing back to the levels that they need to be to and be able to reopen Jan. 4.”

Soler said that the inability to adequately staff the classrooms drove him to shut the schools down, adding that 81 teachers, aides and other employees have had to quarantine since the start of the school year.

“The issue is not so much students, it’s the staff members,” he said. “If a teacher has to quarantine at home for 14 days, then I need another adult to cover the class for the in-person kids because the teacher is now home. It makes it extremely hard knowing that we already struggle with the substitute teachers, so it also makes it hard to deliver a quality program. We gratefully have some of our teachers who are willing to tele-work, but we still needed another adult to supervise the kids in front of them.”

The superintendent said he was not under any statewide pressure to enforce all distance learning, but pointed to a couple variables – the rolling seven-day average for positive cases in Genesee County at around 8 percent and the daily calls from students and staff needing to quarantine.

He said that 21 staff members and 21 students have tested positive “and every single one of those positives results in a group of people that have to quarantine for 14 days.”

“It becomes unmanageable and we’re at a breaking point. Definitely 50 percent of our buildings would have been significantly impacted,” he said. “By having kids home, we wouldn't have to worry about substitute coverage and teachers could still teach remotely during these next 12 days.”

Soler said that most students will miss five in-person days (due to a schedule that features a mix of in-person and remote learning).

“That was a heartbreaking thing because we prided ourselves on being able to offer at least some in-person learning to our students, unlike other communities that have been shut down all year,” he offered.

He also mentioned that people continue to gather socially, which makes it even tougher to provide in-person learning.

“As we work with the Genesee County Health Department on contact tracing, we find out that people did go to somebody’s house for Thanksgiving or kids did have a sleepover at someone’s house,” he said. “We know these things are occurring, unfortunately, but when they do occur, they come back into the building and make it hard for us to staff the building.”

Only about 20 students – those who have special needs -- are being allowed in school buildings, he said.

Soler said he believes strongly that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should classify school personnel as “essential workers.”

“If the governor were to label all school staff members as essential employees then they wouldn’t need to quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. We’d really like to see that rule changed because then we could have had in-person learning – keep school open,” he said. “We should be able to designate them as essential and not make them quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. As it stands now, that seems pretty harsh.”

He said Cuomo has said on multiple occasions that schools are the safest place … “so why not give us some additional leverage and leeway with the guidelines?”

Soler said he expects that the buildings will reopen on Jan. 4 unless there is a resurgence and the governor deems otherwise.

“Right now, we’re working on increasing the number of parents to give us consent to do the Binax rapid testing in school in case that is required for us to stay open,” he said. “And we’re also focusing on delivering a high-quality virtual experience for the next 12 days.”

December 6, 2020 - 1:20pm

Submitted photo and press release:

City of Batavia Firefighters Local 896 has teamed up with Batavia city schools to assist in a holiday toy drive for the 2020 holiday season.

We are asking for new toy donations from members of the community and businesses for kids of all ages and families.

We look forward to a successful campaign.

Toys can be dropped of at City Fire Headquarters on 18 Evans St. now -- until Monday Dec. 21.

December 2, 2020 - 4:20pm

From the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund Committee:

With the chill in the air and the hours of sunlight diminishing each day, it is a reminder that the days of winter and the Holiday Season are nearly here. But this is a far different year in so many ways. And no doubt, but that for many of us 2020 is a year far different from any that we have ever experienced. With these thoughts in mind the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. makes its annual appeal to the many good people in our community and beyond.

The Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. came into existence during another very difficult time -- the days of the Great Depression, about 1933. It was then when Batavia City School District physician, Dr. Dexter Pierce, saw a need that was the inspiration to the founding of the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. The intent of the fund was to help the 25 most needy children in the Batavia City School District.

At that time, the cost of having tonsils removed involved an overnight stay, which cost families $7.50. The physicians graciously waived their fee but the cost of the overnight stay still proved too much for some families. It was then that the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. came into existence.

While the original intent of the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund was to help the 25 “most needy” students, over the past 80-plus years we have always helped as many as possible. There are no efforts made to apportion the funds equally among the schools. We simply help when a child’s need exists.

Traditionally our fund has assisted with medical and dental care, eye exams and glasses, prescription drugs, clothing, shoes and sneakers, counseling, and other educational needs. However, this year has challenged the fund to stretch ourselves beyond our usual assistance and we have additionally helped with food, air mattresses, beds, and educational toys to help children who are in need throughout this coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of this fund remains to provide for the needs of children in the Batavia City School District when no other means are available.

As students’ needs are identified by teachers, their school nurse, or Julie Wasilewski, the district’s social worker, the concerns are conveyed to Mrs. Nancy Haitz, R.N., C.P.N.P., Batavia City School District’s Office of the Coordinator of Health Services. Mrs. Haitz contacts the child’s parents and if it is determined that they aren’t able to provide what it is that their child needs and if the family does not qualify for any special services or assistance that is available, the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. steps in to help.

The parents then select what care is to be provided, and by whom, in order to provide a remedy. Bills are then submitted to the Twenty-five Neediest Fund for payment. There is no red tape, no publicity, and there are no strings attached, as the only purpose is to serve the child in need. No one helped by this fund is ever identified by name, it is strictly confidential, and the name of the child receiving services is not known by the Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund.

This fund has been dubbed “the Quiet Fund” as we only make one annual appeal at the Holiday Season and it seeks no public acknowledgment or fanfare for the work which is done for the children of the Batavia Public School system. The Quiet Fund is a true charity in every sense of the word. There are no administrative costs! 100 percent of the donations received are used for the benefit of children in need.

We are fortunate that this good community continues to remember the Quiet Fund during the season of giving, and some kindly remember us throughout the year. Every gift is a gift of love and is an affirmation that no child should go without.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Quiet Fund may make their check payable to the Twenty-five Neediest Children’s Fund Inc. to be sent to:

Nann K. Zorn, 12 River St., Batavia, NY 14020

To assist a child, and their parent, in this way is a wonderful and immeasurable gift. On behalf of the children, and their parents, helped by your generosity and gifts of love, we extend to you a most sincere thank you and warm holiday wishes, and blessings to you and yours in the hope of a better 2021! Stay Safe and Stay Strong!

Twenty-five Neediest Children's Fund Committee,

Sara Zorn Schroeder, Chairperson,

Nancy Arras,

Benjamin J. Bonarigo, Esq.,

Nancy Haitz,

Virginia Tiede,

Nann K. Zorn

November 19, 2020 - 12:22pm

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. today said that multiple factors came into play in his decision to restrict instruction next Monday and Tuesday to 100-percent virtual remote learning days for all students, except those who attend classes at the Genesee Valley BOCES campus on State Street.

“It’s a combination of things,” Soler said. “Erie County went 'Orange' (a COVID-19 level, which is part of Gov. Cuomo’s micro-cluster zone structure) and so a lot of our employees live in Erie County, which sometimes impacts our ability to get quality substitutes, and it impacts our ability to get substitute teachers in general as there has been a shortage of substitute teachers.”

Soler said several students and staff members are finishing their days in quarantine, “so that also impacts us from having some in-person. We also have a growing number of cases in the region and in the county, so that was another variable that I looked at as well.”

And there’s the close contact piece, even if you’re not infected, he said.

“If you’re exposed to somebody for 60 minutes … you get deemed as close contact and you have to quarantine,” he explained. “And then we just have anybody who just feels ill – a headache, or sniffles or don’t feel well and can’t come into work; just regular absences.”

He said considering all of that, leadership determined to have no students in any of the district building on the two days prior to Thanksgiving.

“Hopefully, this will allow kids and families to have a good holiday without having more kids in quarantine or more positive cases coming up,” he said. “It’s just preventative. We’re still having remote instruction, and our kids are used to that model since they’re in that model every other day – with the hope that we go back to normal on the 30th.

A letter to district families concerning this change can be found on the school’s website.

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