Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

Batavia HS

March 22, 2014 - 1:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, Mr. Batavia.

In middle school, Spencer Hubbard was bullied. Today, you can call him Mr. Batavia.

The Batavia High School senior won the title Friday night during its second annual Mr. Batavia competition.

When Hubbard's name was announced as the winner, a packed auditorium of high school students, parents and faculty let out a robust cheer and round of applause.

"It shows how far we've come as people that a gay student can become Mr. Batavia," Hubbard said during his acceptance speech.

Hubbard was tops in a field of 10 in a competition that included lip syncing, a talent contest, a Q&A and a tuxedo walk. Five judges from the community awarded points to the contestants and a committee tallied up the points to pick the winner.

More than $2,200 was raised for the winner's charity. In this case, Hubbard picked Habitat for Humanity.

"I feel like it's a basic need, that people need homes," Hubbard said. "A lot of people are homeless who don't deserve to be. They really need that help."

Hubbard is planning to attend the University of Tampa on a $25,000 scholarship. He will major in journalism.

BHS Principle Scott Williams praised Hubbard as a bright student and talented actor.
As part of the competition, Hubbard performed a self-written satire of a Target clerk that had more funny lines than a Saturday Night Live skit. 

Hubbard said he thinks his acting talent and his self confidence, especially during the swimsuit competition and lip syncing, is what helped sway the judges in his favor.

Last year, Lee Johnson won the contest, in its first year, and Johnson returned Friday night to entertain the crowd while the judges' ballots were tallied. It was a regular stand-up routine, but as he began to run out of material, Williams stepped in to help entertain the crown, including setting up an Ellen-like, Academy Awards selfie.

Competing this year were Adam Weaver, Charlie Williams, Blake Carter, Jake Paine, Tim Martin, Mathew Gabriele, Kenny McMaster, Casey Grice and Michael DiBaccco.

During his acceptance speech, Hubbard praised his fellow competitors and thanked them for being so supportive of each other throughout preparations for the show.

The fact that Johnson is so different from Hubbard, Hubbard said, shows the competition is valuable to the community.

"It shows different people can win," Hubbard said. "Last year Lee won, and he's really different from me. He runs in a different crowd. He was straight and I'm gay, and that was probably a really big thing, too. I said that in my speech as well. It shows how far we've come as people."

A lot has changed for Hubbard, he said, from middle school to his senior year.

"The award means a lot because in middle school I was bullied and now, look how far I can come," Hubbard said. "I think the big thing was I was just myself when I got to high school. I didn't really care what people thought. I didn't try hard to impress people."

Hubbard being congradulated by his fellow contestants.

Mike DiBacco sings Frank Sinatra's, "I've Got the World on a String."

Hubbard performing his sketch, a satire of a clerk from Target.

Sydney Loria, Ashlee Yasses and Haley Case were hostesses for the competition.

Matt Gabriele at the front of the stage during the tux walk.

Lee Johnson, last year's winner.

Principal Scott Williams during an Ellen/Oscar-inspired selfie with the cast and crew of the Mr. Batavia competition.

To purchase prints of these photos and the photos in the slide show, click here.

March 11, 2014 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Batavia HS, Mr. Batavia.

For the second year in a row, students at Batavia High School are putting on a Mr. Batavia contest aimed at building relationships between the high school and the community, particularly local nonprofits.

There are 10 contestants this year representing 10 different charities. Money raised will go to the winner's charity.

"We weren't sure how it was going to go last year and we raised $1,700, so we're hoping to exceed that this year," said Lisa Robinson, one of the faculty advisers for student government.

Along with the 10 boys competing, 15 girls are putting together the show (not everybody participating was available for a picture late this afternoon).

The contestants begin the show with a group dance, followed by a lip-sync contest, a talent contest, a swimsuit portion and then the boys come out in tuxedos donated by Charle's Mens Shop for a question-and-answer period.

Nine of the 10 charities have committed to having displays set up in the cafeteria for the evening.

The show starts at 7 p.m., Friday, March 21. Tickets are $7, $5 for students.

December 28, 2013 - 2:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, cheerleading, Batavia HS, VA Hospital.

Batavia High School cheerleaders visited the VA Hospital this morning to visit with residents and perform their basketball cheers. One resident told the girls, "this is what he fought for" while thanking them for their visit.

Information and photo submitted by Justine Bonarigo.

December 7, 2013 - 3:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports, Batavia HS, blue devils.

The Batavia Boys basketball team beat Williamsville South today in a game scheduled as part of the Niagara Falls Cataract City Classic, an invitational tournament for the top prep teams in WNY.

Jeff Redband led the Blue Devils to a 58-46 win with 18 points. Justice Fagan contributed 13 and Malachi Chenault added 11.

Batavia jumped out to an early 34-18 lead, but the game tightened in the 4th period with Williamsville closing in at 40-35. From there, Batavia pretty much controlled the game and put Williamsville away.

December 6, 2013 - 5:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, arts, theater, Batavia HS.

Batavia High School opens its performance of "The Brother's Grimm Spectaculathon: Not your Disney fairy tales" at 7:30 tonight in the high school auditorium.

Tickets are $10 at the door ($8 for students).

There is a second performance at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

(submitted photos)

November 26, 2013 - 12:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports, Batavia HS.

The 2012-13 season was a banner campaign for the Lady Devils. They won the school's first league title in girls basketball and made it to sectional finals for the first time.

But there's also some unfinished business from that championship run, according to first-year Head Coach Marty Hein.

The loss to Waterloo was ugly.

"The girls poured their hearts out in the semifinals two days before," said Hein, who was assistant coach to Bill Wade last year. "They just didn't have it in their eye that night and they know that. The girls know we didn't give 100-percent effort against Waterloo that night and that's the lesson that I hoped they learned -- give 100-percent effort all the time."

With Batavia HS moving to Class A1 and Waterloo staying in Class B, there's no hope for a rematch.

"I'm hoping to line up a scrimmage with Waterloo," Hein said. "I'd like to play Waterloo again because I don't like the taste in my mouth of how we lost in the finals."

Hein thinks with the players returning, the core of that league-leading team will be back on the court this season and they should be able to hold their own at least through the Monroe County schedule and into A2 sectionals.

The attitude is there, he said.

"They've come back with that buring desire to want to focus a little more, work a little bit harder and get back to that same spot and hopefully a little bit better," Hein said.

Senior Liz Myers and sophomores Tiara Filbert and Madison McCulley are third-year varsity players and anchor the starting line-up. Sophomore Sam Cecere, at 5' 9" tall, has made great progress playing post, Hein said.

Hein is going to be looking for a stronger defense from the girls this year.

"I want a lot more communication out of our defense this year," Hein said. "We're turning the pressure up a little bit on defense. Even if we stumble a little on offense, if we can hold our opponents to a lower number then we should still come out victorious in the end."

There will be a few changes in the team from the Wade era, but Hein has a lot of admiration for the local coaching legend.

"When the job came open (four years ago), I applied," Hein said. "Bromley (BHS athletic director) gave me a few clues about who else applied for it, and I told Mike at that point to take my name out of the hat. It was a good learning experience to be sitting behind Bill for the four years. I learned a lot."

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

September 27, 2013 - 10:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, high school sports, swimming, Batavia HS.

The Batavia girls swimming team put together a 94-63 win over Wilson at the GCC pool Thursday and the girls were clearly excited about the victory after the meet.

As the second smallest Class B team in the Monroe League, team wins are hard to come by for Batavia, but the program continues to develop promising young swimmers said Co-head Coach Sarah Geitner.

"We have a lot of very young swimmers, but everybody has fantastic attitude and wants to learn," Geitner said.

Because the school doesn't have its own pool, it can't field a modified team so it's a little tougher to build a varsity program, Geitner said.

"At the start of the season, we weren't sure if there would even be enough girls for a team and now that we're up to 14 girls, we're really excited," Geitner said.

Two girls joined the team this week.

At the top of the young roster are freshman Natalie Amico, junior Emily DiBacco, seventh-grader Elle Fulton and sophomore Brooke Leddon, the team's lone diver.

For the 14 girls on the team, team spirit was in strong supply at Thursday's match. Not only did the swimmers cheer their teammates, they cheered the Wilson swimmers as well.

Geitner said she would like to get more of the girls involved in the YMCA swimming programs to take an interest in joining the Batavia High School team.

"In order to grow a better program, we want to encourage more Y swimmers to come in and take the test," Geitner said.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

September 22, 2013 - 8:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, wbta, sports, Batavia HS.

Batavia High School hosted its annual Athletic Hall of Fame dinner Saturday night at Terry Hills.

Pictured above are: Brett Wormley, Julie Redband Varland, Mike Rogers, Wayne Fuller, Lance Cayea, Todd Cayea, Katie Barnard (John Barnard's daughter, representing him at the dinner) and Jim Barnard.

Local broadcasting and announcing legend Wayne Fuller with his guests, Jim Owen, Dan and Debbie Fischer (owners of WBTA), Fuller, Martha Bailey and Anita Strollo (both with WBTA).

September 19, 2013 - 8:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS.

Tom Hunt sent in this picture of the Batavia HS Class of 1963, which held a 50th Anniversary Reunion dinner at Bohn's this past weekend.

September 17, 2013 - 8:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, BHS Hall of Fame, Batavia HS.

These are the plaques to be presented Saturday at Terry Hills to the Batavia Blue Devils 2013 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees.


August 19, 2013 - 10:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, cheerleading, Batavia HS.

Heading home tonight, I came upon these three young ladies out on Ganson Avenue practicing their cheer routine. Tryouts for the JV cheer squad at Batavia High School are this week and they're leaving nothing to chance. Pictured are Taylor Smith, Mikey Lullo and Chloe Rapone.

August 19, 2013 - 5:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, football, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame, Batavia HS.

Today was the first day of official practice for Section V football teams and we stopped in for the practice sessions at Notre Dame and Batavia, both varsity and JV.

August 9, 2013 - 11:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, Batavia HS.

Inductees for the 12th Annual Batavia High School Athletic Hall of Fame have been announced.

This years inductees are: Wayne Fuller, Todd Cayea, John Bernard, Brett Wormley, James Bernard, Michael Rogers, Lance Cayea and Julie Redband Varland.

The hall of fame dinner is Sept. 21, with social hour at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30 each.

Tickets are available at the Athletic Directors office located at Batavia High School. For more information please call (585) 343-2480, ext. 2003.

The event is sponsored by the Batavia Coaches Association.

August 9, 2013 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Batavia HS.

Press release:

Documentary filmmaker Ramona Persaud is exploring how teachers can use brain science to engage students of all ages and academic abilities in her new film “Grey Matters,” which begins production next month at Batavia High School, in Batavia, N.Y.

The film will follow three schools over the course of the 2013-2014 school year—Batavia High School, Batavia, N.Y., Roland Park Elementary in Baltimore, Md., and Westmoreland Community College in Youngwood, Pa., — as they implement the Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, developed by Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D., co-founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Neuro-Education Initiative.

Hardiman’s teaching model, developed in 2003 and currently being practiced by more than 300 educators in schools around the world, promotes critical, divergent thinking that equips students with real-world knowledge and the ability to use it.

Persaud’s film will examine the question “Can neuroscience remake the teaching process, and if yes, what does that look like in practice?” The three teachers featured in Persaud’s documentary will implement Hardiman’s model, which designates six brain targets for the teaching and learning process. 

The film will follow these teachers in their mission to shift the learning process for their students, and transform school into a place where students learn to solve problems that require answers, instead of a place where students solve problems that have pre-determined answers.

Persaud was inspired to create this film after attempting to home-school her preschool daughter. Persaud discovered Hardiman’s Brain-Targeted Teaching Model and believed this model could be beneficial for not just her own daughter, but for all students.

“Like most parents, I want my kids to receive the best education possible,” Persaud says. “This teaching model really clarifies how kids process information. By following three classrooms over one school year, this film will illustrate what brain-based teaching really looks like, and how it can measurably improve academic performance.”

About Ramona Persaud:

Ramona Persaud is an independent documentary filmmaker, writer, and photographer. "Grey Matters" is her second film. Persaud’s first film, "It’s a Different World," explores the world of autism through the eyes of three autistic children. Visit www.greymattersdocumentary.com for more information.

About Mariale Hardiman:

Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D., is the assistant dean for Urban School Partnerships and Clinical Professor of Education at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, and the co-founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Neuro-Education Initiative. Before joining Johns Hopkins in 2006, Hardiman served in the Baltimore City Public Schools for more than 30 years. As the principal of Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Md., she led the school to its designation as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  With the use of the Brain-Targeted Teaching Model that Hardiman developed, the school was recognized by the Kennedy Center as a School of Distinction for arts programming and arts integration. Visit www.braintargetedteaching.org for more information. 

March 23, 2013 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, Mr. Batavia.

Congratulations to Lee Johnson, who won the first-ever Mr. Batavia contest held at Batavia High School last night.

Nine young men participated in the competition with any proceeds from the event going to the winner's charity of choice.

Johnson's charity was Genesee Cancer Assistance.

The other participants were Trey Abdella, Dennis Alton, Ryan Warner, Mike DiBacco, Matt Gabriele, Casey Grice, Tim Martin and Adam Weaver.

The group competed in dance, lip syncing, talent, swimsuit, tux walk and Q&A.

NOTE: None of the organizers ever contacted us about this event, otherwise we might have had more coverage. Thanks to Tammi Ferringer for telling us about Lee's win and sending in the picture.

January 21, 2013 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, cheerleading, Batavia HS.

The Batavia High School varsity basketball cheerleading squad took second place at the Monroe County Tournament held at Victor HS on Saturday.

Five teams participated in their competition.

Kayla Corp, Jessica Derefinko, Codie Grazioplene and Whitney Athoe received 2nd Team All County nominations.

The team will compete for a Section V title Feb. 23 at RIT.

Information and photo submitted by a reader.

December 7, 2012 - 8:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Batavia HS.

Submitted by Tom Ingalsbe:

Members of the Batavia Teachers' Association pose for a picture at the culmination of their "No Shave November" competition. The competition raised nearly $200 for Anna's Wish and the Kay Dean Memorial Scholarship Fund. For more information on Anna's Wish, please go to http://www.annaswish.org/.

October 22, 2012 - 7:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, cheerleading, Batavia HS.

Photo and info submitted by Justine Bonarigo:

Batavia High School's varsity cheerleading squad placed first in the Co-Ed Division at Webster Schroeder Competition held Sunday. They will take on the sectional competition this Saturday at R.I.T. for the Class B division title.

The team includes: Samantha Saraceni (captain), Codie Grazioplene (captain), Macey McCulley, Whitney Athoe, James Murphy, Megan Wilcox, Miranda Reed, Heather Lewis, Makaela Kitcho, Katie Garlock, Danielle DellaPenna, Kayla Corp, Alexandria Ernst, Allison Smith, Teiona Kemp and Alex Rebman. Coached by Marianne Sallome and Justine Bonarigo.

September 24, 2012 - 8:31pm
posted by Gretchen DiFante in batavia, schools, education, Batavia HS.

Batavia High’s Varsity Football Head Coach Brennan Briggs (2004 BHS graduate) and Science teacher Elena Chmielowiec (2006 BHS graduate) participated in homecoming each year while attending the high school.

Briggs was the starting quarterback and Chmielowiec was a varsity cheerleader. Both experienced a more permanent homecoming when they returned to their alma mater as staff members and to Batavia, a city they are proud to call home.

In addition, Briggs and Chmielowiec are both following in their fathers’ footsteps.

Jim Briggs was a Physical Education teacher and the varsity football coach at Gates-Chili for more than 30 years. 

From the time his only son, Brennan, was born, he spent his fall Friday evenings at his father's games. Brennan grew to love football and has become a continuous student of the game. When asked about his coaching mentors, he is quick to give credit to his father (first and foremost), and his own coaches.

He describes how he has been able to choose aspects from every coach he has learned from and adopt the things that fit for him. He doesn’t stop at learning all he can from the coaches he knows personally.

A copy of the book "How Good Do You Want to Be?" by University of Alabama’s Coach Nick Saban lies on the desk next to him. When asked about the book, he smiles and says, “I’ve read it, along with the books of (Auburn University’s) Gene Chizik and (Seattle Seahawks’) Pete Carroll.

“No matter how long you coach, you never stop learning. I don’t want to get to the point where I accept where I am and stop striving to improve.”

Briggs’ vision includes goals for Batavia

“I’d like to see the Batavia football program back in its winning position. We need to start with a winning record, then set our goals on a sectional championship and just keep moving on from there.”

The success of the Batavia football program is obviously important to Briggs, a true competitor; however it’s hard to tell whether it trumps his underlying motivation for the success of the individuals he is tasked to lead.

“I want to see our student athletes placed in the best position they can to succeed, not just in high school, but throughout their lives.”

It is Briggs’ former teachers and coaches at Batavia and at college in Homer that helped him develop a desire to influence student athletes.

“All my high school coaches provided guidance to me; however, Coach John Kirkwood (his modified football coach and sports medicine teacher) taught me to work hard and good things will come from it. Coach Kirkwood has always been a hard-working man, and he respected my work ethic, so we related to each other very well.”

Briggs is also quick to credit teachers with impacting him and specifically recalls the influence of Global Teacher Nan Zorn.

“Miss Zorn was strict, and she made things fun. I worked hard, and I did goof around a little bit. She appreciated my sense of humor while challenging me to learn and grow at same time.” 

Briggs can easily describe why he chose to return to Batavia. He says that he loves this community, because his family is here and he wants to continue to make this city his home. When asked about the size of his own family, he responds in an unexpected way: he first explains how many siblings each of his parents have, and then he goes on to talk about his own two sisters and nephews.

Briggs’ sense of family is broad and deeply ingrained in his sense of self. When talking about his hobbies outside of work, he is enthusiastic in his description of the family cabin in the Southern Tier and his love of hunting and fishing.

He can quickly articulate a goal for hunting -- to get a trophy buck. In speaking about his hunting record so far, it is not surprising that Briggs is patiently awaiting the perfect target -- there will be no waste to his methodical pursuit of this goal nor any other.

Unfortunately, Briggs did not experience a homecoming win while playing football for Batavia. When asked if he thinks Batavia can defeat Hornell, Briggs lights up and says, “my dad says Vandetta Stadium is made for snapping streaks. Notre Dame High School snapped Cal-Mum’s 49-game win streak in 1981, and we are looking to snap Hornell’s 42-game win streak.”

I have no doubt that Briggs will eventually lead Batavia to a sectional championship. His pursuit will be purposefully sought and patiently waited upon.  When it does come, the opponents will be surprised -- a little like Briggs’ future first trophy buck -- unprepared and suddenly discovering itself as a bowl of venison stew at a very large Briggs family feast. 

Elena Chmielowiec “inherited” her love for science from her dad. Don Chmielowiec, an Earth Science teacher at Brockport High School, taught Elena, through his own passion, to be both amazed at and inquisitive about the Earth.

Don has supplied rocks for Ward’s Science Supply Company for as long as his daughter can remember.

“When I was growing up, we went on rock-hunting expeditions all over the Northeast. We searched for fossils or specific rocks with a certain kind of color or texture, and I loved it. My Dad loves rocks, and I love stars...I was just destined to be a nerd.”

Chmielowiec knew, from the time she was in third grade, that she wanted to be a teacher. Other than her father’s influence, she was greatly affected by Sarah Grammatico, her teacher in both third and fourth grades.

“Mrs. Grammatico is the reason I wanted to become a teacher. She had a way of teaching and caring at the same time that made you just want to do well in her class. I wanted to be able to make the same difference in the lives of students that Mrs. Grammatico had made in mine.”

During her four years at Batavia High School, Chmielowiec joined the varsity cheerleading squad.

“We were terrible when we first started, and the other squads made fun of us at competitions. Kristen Shamp (Glow) was our coach, and she was determined to build the cheerleading program into something Batavia could be proud of.”

Coach Shamp drove the team to learn all they could about cheerleading.

“We attended camps, and studied the winning squads," says Chmielowiec, “and we worked through the spring and summer to learn to stunt and improve our gymnastics abilities.”

Chmielowiec also gives credit for their success to the families of the cheerleaders.

“Every family was involved and worked together to ensure that the squad had everything it needed. It was a year-round commitment for all of us.”

The result of this hard work was that the squad won sectionals her senior year and went to nationals.

“We went from the laughing stock of the section to winning sectionals in those four years. That whole process really built up my confidence.”

When it came to homecoming, Batavia never won a homecoming game while she was in high school, but Chmielowiec is quick to point out that fact didn’t make homecoming week any less amazing.

“I loved performing at the pep assembly, attending the bonfire, the powder puff games and hall decorating. We still have most of those traditions today.”

Chmielowiec’s desire to become a teacher in Batavia seems almost destined. After graduating from Brockport with a degree in Science Education, she applied for only two teaching positions -- one in Batavia and one in Hawaii. (Chmielowiec decided to apply for a teaching position in the Maui City School District after she and her family traveled to Maui upon winning a trip from the Regis and Kelly television show.)

After completing a student teaching job in Batavia, Chmielowiec received a call that she had been granted an interview in Maui; however, in the same week, she received a job offer from Batavia High School, where she had performed her student teaching.

“There was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to be in Batavia.”

Chmielowiec was highly motivated by her dad’s approach to teaching and to life:  “When I saw my Dad being successful, even on the days he was frustrated with his job, it taught me to power through and go back the next day ready to make a difference.” 

She realized the difference her father had made in the lives of his students from the feedback he has gotten and continues to receive from former students.

“One of my former students searched and found my sister on Facebook and told my sister what a difference I had made in her life, and that kind of comment makes it easy to overcome the tougher aspects of the job.”

Chmielowiec hates to see students wish away their high school years.

“It’s important to be involved and make the most of high school,” she says. “Once it’s over, you can never get that time back, so you need to embrace each day by learning all you can, both academically and with extra curricular activities.”

When she’s not teaching, Chmielowiec enjoys spending time with her flat-coated retriever "George."

“I call him Geo, because it means Earth,” laughs Chmielowiec. “We enjoy hiking, running and walking. He’s 60 pounds, but he thinks he’s four pounds. I’m thinking of bringing him to school, because he’d be a nice addition to my classroom.”

It’s doubtful Chmielowiec’s students will spend time with Geo in the classroom. However, it’s quite possible they may run into Chmielowiec and Geo searching for rocks in a local park or marveling at their favorite constellations in a clear Batavia evening sky.

Subscribe to



Copyright © 2008-2019 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button