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Byron-Bergen CSD offers free Summer Food Service for pick up Tuesdays and Thursdays July 13 - Aug. 19

By Press Release

Press release:

The Byron-Bergen Central School District announces its participation in the free Summer Food Service Program, offered through the USDA.

Meals will be provided to all children age 18 and under without charge. NO PAPERWORK is necessary -- just show up for great meals!

Delicious, convenient, healthy and economical lunches will be available for pick up at the high school bus loop on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. starting July 13 through Aug. 19.

The school is located at 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen.

Each pick up includes three days of meals.

If you have questions or need more information, call (585) 494-1220, ext. 1015.

Byron Town Supervisor: Host Community Benefit pact with solar company is like winning the lottery

By Mike Pettinella

Updated: May 30, 12:30 p.m., with job creation details


While acknowledging ongoing opposition and unsightly solar panels, Byron Town Supervisor Peter Yasses said the municipality has won the lottery as a result of its Host Community Benefit agreement with Excelsior Energy Center LLC – the company proposing to build a 280-megawatt solar system in the town under Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law.

“You’ve won the lottery, but you’ve won the lottery for 20 years,” Yasses said on Friday in discussing the status of the project, which would turn 46 parcels of farmland covering about 1,600 acres into a sea of solar panels. “Every year this check comes – with a 2-percent increase. To me, that’s huge for the town.”

The check that Yasses is talking about is the $1,006,522 that Excelsior Energy would write to the town in year one of a 20-year HCB fee schedule that increases by 2 percent each year. Per the contract, the first annual check would arrive within 30 days after the start of construction.

All told, combining a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) with the Genesee County Economic Development Center, special district charges, agricultural exemption revenue and the negotiated host benefit fee, the Town of Byron – if the project receives final approval – would be on the receiving end of $24 million over the two decades.

Yasses said he and the town board took a stand to get what they felt was a fair price for the cost of losing the aesthetics of farmland and fields.

“We had to go into this with an open mind. At any means, it’s not going to be pretty for the town as far as having to look at the panels,” he said. “But it really has nothing to do with our town board. This is getting rammed down our throats by (Gov.) Andrew Cuomo through Article 10.”

The Article 10 provision (which is being replaced by Office of Renewable Energy Siting) authorizes the state’s Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to oversee development of large solar facilities, bypassing much local control.

Siting Board Public Hearing is Tuesday

On Tuesday (June 1), the siting board will be conducting a public statement hearing -- a key step toward the end of the Article 10 process – via teleconference from New York City with Administrative Law Judge Gregg Sayre presiding.

Two sessions are scheduled – 1 and 6 p.m. – for community members to participate.

A determination on a permit to proceed with the project is expected by April. Developers are anticipating the solar system will be operational by the end of 2023.

Yasses said attorneys hired by the town during this process, which started more than two years ago, told board members their hands were tied.

“When a lawyer sits you down in executive session and says, ‘It’s coming whether you like it or not and there is nothing you can do about it,’ that paints a different picture in your mind,” he said. “Again, these aren’t going to be looking pretty in our town – we know that; the town board knows that. However, we had to do what is best for the people that have to look at these things.”

Yasses: We Changed Our Game Plan

Yasses said the board changed its approach from “defense to offense,” and through five months of negotiations forged a deal that it felt was justified.

“Paul (town attorney Paul Boylan) and I were charged with the negotiation and I, knowing what these things (panels) look like, did not want to sell out my town. At first they were talking nowhere near this kind of money and some of the propaganda they were dishing out – it was something like $400,000 to $500,000 a year. That’s peanuts,” he said.

“I said, ‘No way, I want a million (dollars). I won’t say who … but there were some big people in the county and town who said, ‘You’re dreaming.’ I said that’s my threshold. I want a million dollars a year for the Town of Byron. I have to live here, my people have to live here, my kids are going to live here and my grandkids are going to live here.”

Yasses said the HCB agreement was signed on April 28 at a board meeting via Zoom.

“The board was pleased,” he said, adding that he believes about a third of the annual payment can be used for property tax relief.

“Approximately a third of it will be injected into our budget,” he said. “I can’t say that the tax rate will go down but this is going to help not to raise taxes because Genesee County cut our sales tax distribution by more than that. We took some pretty drastic measures to keep ourselves in good shape, but I’m not sure the tax rate will go down.”

Residents Will Have a Voice

He said it will be up to town residents as far as how to spend the remainder of the windfall.

“Most likely, we will hire a financial advisor and we’ll probably select a committee through the citizens to help us come up with wants and needs,” he said. “It’s the community’s money and I want the community to have a say on how they spend their money.”

A closer look at the financials involved with the project reveal that the town, Genesee County and the Byron-Bergen Central School District will benefit from the PILOT negotiated between Excelsior Energy Center and the GCEDC.

Per the HCB fee schedule, the county would get $281,775 in year one and the school district would get $675,703 in year one. The town’s share would be $120,522 and, again, these payments come with a 2-percent annual escalator clause.

The GCEDC Board of Directors is expected to vote on tax incentives for Excelsior Energy Center at its meeting on June 3. Excelsior is seeking $21,498,313 in property tax abatements over the 20 years and $11,288,287 in sales tax abatements (for construction materials).

Jim Krencik, GCEDC director of marketing and communications, said Excelsior Energy would be investing $345.55 million – with $1.82 million in the first year alone to the three taxing jurisdictions based on $6,500 per megawatt.

$84.7 Million Into the Local Economy

“Excelsior’s investment over the 20-year project horizon is estimated to generate $117.5 million into the local economy when you consider the total PILOT payments, host community agreement, estimated fire district payments and related tax reductions, and construction purchases and payroll,” Krencik said.

The solar company said 290 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during the construction phase and 3.1 FTE during project operation and maintenance (solar technician, tech leader and high voltage technician).

Krencik pointed out that when subtracting the tax incentives from the direct economic impact figure, the direct benefit in excess of costs is $84.7 million over the 20 years.

And, of course, the farmers who have signed contracts with Excelsior Energy to lease their land will reap financial rewards.

Yasses said that he and others from the town will be on the siting board public hearing call on Tuesday and expects that those in opposition will be as well.

“We have heard those against it loud and clear. But, we had to do what we felt was right for the community,” he said. “This the best deal in New York State. We had some people scratching their heads wondering how we got it. It was through tough negotiations – that’s how we got it.”

Previously: GCEDC's public hearing on the Town of Byron solar project: An 'incentive' for parties to voice their opinions

Byron-Bergen's Jr./Sr. high principal named its district superintendent, begins about July 1

By Press Release

Submitted photo and press release:

The Byron-BergenCentral School District’s Board of Education (BOE) has agreed in principle to name Patrick McGee as the next Superintendent of Schools. Formal approval by the BOE is expected at the May 11 BOE meeting. 

School Board President Debra List said McGee possesses the key qualities that the Board is seeking in a Superintendent. 

“As a visible and engaged leader, we are confident that Patrick McGee is the best choice for our district," List said. "We look forward to working with Patrick as we deliver the best education possible for our students."

“I am honored and grateful to the Board of Education for extending me the opportunity to serve as Byron-Bergen’s next Superintendent," McGee said. "In my 14 years with the district, I have been privileged to wear many different hats as a teacher, a coach, the Junior/Senior High School Assistant Principal, and, for the last five years, the Junior/Senior High School Principal.

"I look forward to continuing Byron-Bergen’s long tradition of community connection while focusing efforts on the job at hand: helping our students grow into the best students, citizens, and human beings they can be. While we are certainly navigating through unprecedented and challenging times, I have every intention of living and breathing our district’s mission ‘to inspire, prepare, and support using the values of compassion, humility, kindness, and persistence with a vision to change the world.’ ”

McGee has spent his entire career serving the Byron-Bergen Central School District. While the focus of his experience is teaching and as an administrator, he also serves as the Byron-Bergen Administration Union/Unit President and he has coached junior/senior high school sports.

McGee is a graduate of the Leadership Genesee Class of 2017 and received the GCASA Award in 2019. This award which is presented by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) recognizes outstanding advocacy of GCASA and its programs in schools.

He is currently the Principal of Byron-Bergen Junior/Senior High School, a position he has held since 2015. From 2013 until 2015, he served as the Assistant Principal of Byron-Bergen Junior/Senior High School. Before that, McGee was the Dean of Students from 2012 until 2013.

He began his career in education in 2007 as a fifth-grade teacher at Byron-Bergen Middle School and served in this role until 2012. Throughout his career at Byron-Bergen CS, he has served in many leadership capacities including overseeing and supporting the growth of a Video Coaching Model to assist teachers with professional development, increasing the number of Advanced Placement courses offered and implementing an agriculture program, and revitalizing an FFA Chapter. Under McGee’s tenure, Byron-Bergen High School was named U.S. News Best High Schools for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

He holds a Bachelor of Science from St. John Fisher College in Elementary and Special Education, and a master’s degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction from the Buffalo State College. McGee earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from the University of Rochester and also holds New York State certifications as a School Building and District Leader, as well as Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities. 

McGee is expected to begin on or before July 1, pending successful contract negotiations.

Kevin MacDonald, district superintendent of Genesee Valley BOCES, acted as the search consultant and noted that the search process was a true collaboration between the Board of Education, district staff and community.

GCEDC's public hearing on the Town of Byron solar project: An 'incentive' for parties to voice their opinions

By Mike Pettinella

What was advertised as a public hearing on incentives being offered by the Genesee County Economic Development Center to the developer of the Excelsior Solar Project in the Town of Byron turned out to be an opportunity for parties on both sides of the issue to re-emphasize their positions.

During the 25-minute videoconference, Mark Masse, GCEDC’s senior vice president of operations, read written statements from representatives of three farms who are leasing land for the 280-megawatt, 1,600-acre system -- Star Growers Land LLC; L-Brooke Farms and Colby Homestead Farms.

Their comments supporting the project – a huge financial windfall for the Town of Byron, Byron-Bergen Central School District and Genesee County, plus the creation of 290 full-time equivalent jobs – were followed by an oral statement from Eric Zuber, Byron town councilman and community farmer, who has opposed the plan since it was introduced more than two years ago.

Excelsior Energy, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC of Vero Beach, Fla., has plowed ahead under the authority of Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law, while committing to pay the aforementioned taxing jurisdictions upwards of $44 million over the next 20 years.

The solar company is proposing to invest $345.55 million in a utility-scale solar project on multiple properties (46 parcels to be exact). It also has negotiated 20-year tax and community host agreements, including payments of $6,500 per megawatt, with a 2-percent annual escalator, to the county, Town of Byron and the Byron-Bergen school district.

$1.82 Million to Entities in Year One

What that means during year one, according to figures provided by the GCEDC, is that Genesee County would receive $281,775, the Town of Byron $862,522 and BBCS $675,703. That initial $1.82 million outlay would increase by 2 percent for each year after that for 20 years.

In return, the solar company has requested that the GCEDC approve property tax abatements estimated at $21,498,313 over that period and sales tax abatements (for construction materials) estimated at $11,288,287.

For its role as facilitator, the GCEDC receives a 1.25-percent fee – in this case, $4,319,458, which it will collect at the time of the financial closing.

Furthermore, farmers will stand to profit significantly through the leasing contracts they signed with Excelsior Energy.

Participants include Legacy Lands, LLC; Brooke-Lea, LLC; Call Lands; Lea-View Farms, LLC; Richard Colby; L-Brooke Farms, LLC; John Starowitz; Leo Starowitz Jr.; Star Growers Land LLC; John Starowitz and Andrew Starowitz; John Sackett Jr. and Charles Sackett; CY Properties LLC; and Call Lands Partnership.

Farm Reps Applaud Solar Project

In their written statements to the GCEDC board, Barbie Starowitz of Star Growers Land LLC; Jim Vincent of L-Brooke Farms, and Richard Colby of Colby Homestead Farms touted the project’s benefits for the Byron community and positive impact on the future of farming.

“The Excelsior Energy Center not only will support our farm for generations to come but also will provide new local revenue and new local jobs for our community,” Starowitz wrote, adding that the EEC has committed to hiring 90 percent of the employees (except for construction project management) from the local labor force.

Starowitz said diversification is crucial to today’s farmers.

“Farmers are trying to diversify so they can continue to stay in business in the future. Each crop year, we rely heavily on the weather. But for too many years it was either too wet or too dry. Crops have been suffering, low yields, bad quality and so on. But the farmer must still come up with the money to pay the expenses,” she wrote.

Her statement indicated that clean solar energy will help the farms to survive by reducing “economic pressures faced by farmers and encourage an approach that does not permanently remove land from agricultural production.”

She concluded by recognizing Excelsior’s “commitment to community input” by hosting monthly meetings at the Byron Hotel and reaching out to residents through other means.

“The Byron community of over 2,300 can all benefit from the solar project, working together as a positive thing for the community and future generations,” she wrote.

'Vehicle for Long-term Reinvestment'

Vincent said he and his affiliates “are advocates of green energy, innovative technology and the many advantages the Excelsior Solar Project represents, and not just because of having some of our lands involved in these solar leases … but what this means to our farm business model, providing a vehicle for long-term reinvestment, succession planning and diversification.”

He wrote that commodity prices, global trade policy, diminishing labor pool, government regulation and an unfair tax burden are making life difficult for farmers, and added that “alternative sources of income are absolutely essential if our farm businesses and the associated land base are to be sustained and provide for future generations.”

Colby wrote that while his farm is “still going strong,” technology has brought about changes to land use and the “viewscape” in the Town of Byron.

“Today, every home I know of in Byron has electricity. One hundred years or so ago, no one had electricity in their home. The Excelsior Energy Center is a good and necessary change in revenue and new local jobs for our community,” he submitted.

He acknowledged that property values could decrease, but the funding provided to the town, county and school district will be a game-changer.

“This will enable many public enhancements to the community, which, I believe, will drive up the values and make it not only that people want to live but also stay in Byron,” he wrote. “It may be a short-term inconvenience but a significant boon to local businesses – restaurants, et cetera. I see it as adding a bit of excitement to the town.”

He contends that the solar panels will cover less than half of the project’s fenced area, and much of his land will be “highly accessible along existing roads.”

In closing, he wrote that he is researching other uses for the land, including U-pick fruits and nursery stock, and even installing a hops yard to have a locally sourced input for beer brewing.

Zuber: It's Bad for the Environment

Zuber, a member of Byron Association Against Solar, then joined the meeting – expressing his dissatisfaction with GCEDC and Excelsior’s handling of the public hearing. He said he was unaware up to a half hour before the videoconference that he had until last Friday to submit written comments about the project.

“It seems like, and it isn’t quite right, that the people that are pro-solar had the opportunity to write in comments and now the comment period is over, and we were unaware of it,” he said. “I guess I knew this was going to take place, but I didn’t know the format (of how) it would work … and that has been quite typical since this whole thing started with the COVID. The transparency to communicate Excelsior’s plans is at best poor.”

Communication problems aside, Zuber said the solar project will harm the environment and will take away prime land needed to handle an increasing amount of manure.

“We’ve done an ag impact study, which the county apparently is not interested in. I am very concerned about the environmental situation,” he said. “Especially with the Cider project now coming out of the west (a similar project in the towns of Elba and Oakfield) … if the dairy industry is going to survive – I don’t see how it survives with these two big solar projects.”

Zuber said he also is concerned about waste generated by the food plants in Batavia.

“Right now, we’re spending $7 million at O-At-Ka (Milk Products) to handle the waste,” he said. “The city and the town are overwhelmed. We’re going to have the sludge come out of those plants (with) no place to go. The best place for it to go is where you’re putting these solar panels on the ideal ground … but I think the environmental (problems) are a very, very negative situation.”

'A Negative Carbon Effect on the County'

He also cited a university study that indicated that this project would have “a negative carbon effect on Genesee County.”

“This will make the carbon situation worse, does not accomplish anything that the global warming people want, and I think it is very poorly structured … I think it’s bad for the environment for the county, the town and probably the state.”

Starowitz then got on the call, rebutting Zuber’s remarks about the manure situation.

“… the gas from the manure is being pipelined directly into being sold on his property, which is located on Chapel Street Extension,” Starowitz said about Zuber’s operation. “Also, if there is concern for spreading manure on land that is now being put into solar ... I have addressed to him many times that we have farmland that would use his manure. To this day, he has not taken advantage of that. So, there are other options and other farmland for his concern of spreading manure.”

Looking ahead, the state Department of Public Service has scheduled a public statement hearing – a key step toward the end of the Article 10 process – for June 1 via teleconference from New York City with Administrative Law Judge Gregg Sayre presiding.

Previously: Byron 'mega' solar project moves forward despite opposition; virtual open houses scheduled for Aug. 31

Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School announces second quarter 2020-21 honors

By Billie Owens

From the Byron-Bergen Central School District:

The second quarter High Honor and Honor Rolls have been released for Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School by Principal Pat McGee.

McGee and the Byron-Bergen Central School District staff offer their congratulations to these students.

Additionally, the District would like to correct three mistakes in the original publication of the first quarter Honor Roll listings (published on The Batavian Dec. 1, 2020). Logan Czachorowski achieved High Honor Roll, Kayden Crocker and Pearl Jolliff both earned Honor Roll. Their absence from the original publication of first quarter listings was a data input error and the District congratulates them on their hard work and academic dedication. 

Grade 7

HIGH HONOR ROLL -- Katelyn Ball, Sara Bishop, Liam Boyle, Sarah Campbell, Gianna Clark, Connor Copani, Laura Curts, Justin Deleo, Cole DiQuattro, Gary Donofrio, Ava Goff, Gianna Graff, Mia Gray, Megan Jarkiewicz, Carter Kuipers, Sidney Maher, Grace Mundell, Bradley Pocock, Colin Rea, Allison Rimmerman, Katherine Rogoyski, Simone Scharvogel, Rayne Sheard, Hayden Starkweather, Elizabeth Starowitz, Aubrey Stein, Evan Williams, Emma Wolfe.

HONOR ROLL -- Kayden Crocker, Logan Czachorowski, Grace DiQuattro, Nial Johnson, Malacai McGrath, Maryn Meier, Paige O'Brien, Evan Orto, Solomon Smith.

Grade 8

HIGH HONOR ROLL -- Ryan Benstead, Zachary Brookhart, Deborah Catalino, Kendall Chase, Abigail Cook, Amber Cromey, Isabella Davidson, Craig DiQuattro, Lea Donofrio, Peyton Goodenbery, Ava Gray, Samuel Hersom, Eli Kupfer, Ella Lewis, Jackson Lundfelt, Martin Mac Connell, Anna McLaughlin, Connor Moran, Meghan Muscarella, Adam Piper, Sydney Salmonds, Ashley Schlenker-Stephens, Olivia Senf, Trent Sheard, Roman Smith, Lily Stalica, Rose Wilson, Mikayla Yohon

HONOR ROLL -- Isabelle Best, Noah Clare, Chesney Fregoe, Haylee Gartz, Landon Kent, Arianne McLaughlin, Kasey Pagels, Natalie Prinzi, Ian Pulcini, James Starowitz, Ruger Starowitz.

Grade 9

HIGH HONOR ROLL -- HannahRae Amador, Brody Baubie, Tyler Chapman, Grayson Erion, Gabrielle Graff, Mackenzie Hagen, Makala Hoopengardner, Kaidance Kimble, Hanna Loewke, Colin Martin, Stephanie Onderdonk, Carter Prinzi, Victoria Rogoyski, Riley Sharpe, Malachi Smith, Emma Starowitz, Gabriel Vallese.

HONOR ROLL -- Jeffrey Borycki, Chloe Gilbert, Callista Kinkelaar, Lincoln McGrath, Travis Shallenberger, Liliana Vanegas, Connor Windhauser, Lydia Zaffrann, Megan Zwerka.

Grade 10

HIGH HONOR ROLL -- Alyssa Ball, Cassidy Ball, David Brumsted, Dayanara Caballero, Cameron Carlson, Kendan Dressler, Frank Hersom, Alec Kulikowski, Ryan Muscarella, Valerie Pastore, Kendall Phillips. Elizabeth Piper, Austin Salmonds, Emily Salmonds, Zoey Shepard, Matthew Tanner, Ava Wagoner, Lillian Walker, Leyna Wheeler, Hannah Wies, Emily Yun. Sydney Zastrocky.

HONOR ROLL -- Jack Benstead, Jason Bleiler, Hailey Canfield, Caris Carlson, Robert Gaylord, Andrew Rimmerman, Alexandria Schuck, Julia Will, Nicholas Zwerka.

Grade 11

HIGH HONOR ROLL -- Corin Abdella, Jared Barnum. Madison Burke, Caleb Calhoun, Caleb Carlson. Aidan Clark, Sadie Cook, Leanna Curts, Connor Gale, Christian Haller, Grace Huhn, Brooke Jarkiewicz, Danyel Nowatchik, Madelynn Pimm, Elli Schelemanow, Sasha Schramm, Aleigha Shallenberger, Grace Shepard, Alayna Streeter, Ella VanValkenburg. Alexandra Vurraro, Ashley Weit, Kaitlyn Windhauser, Corden Zimmerman.

HONOR ROLL -- Camryn Brookhart, Alexander Donnelly, Makenzie Eccleston, Meghan Kendall, Mikaylah Pocock, Elyssa Robbins, Jorie Strzelecki, Kaitlyn Zastrocky.

Grade 12

HIGH HONOR ROLL --Nicholas Baubie, Bianca Brumsted, Jonah Clare, Tylor Coats, Richard Denson, Jay Doyle, Veronica Duell, Joshua Fleming, Eden Goff, Sara Goodman, Devon Heick, Hope Hersom, Kelly Ireland, Carli Kirkwood, Colby Leggo, Logan Lewis, Julia Pangrazio, Andrew Parnapy, Bryanne Puma, Matthew Rada. Alaura Rehwaldt, Skylar Sharpe, Deacon Smith, Sarah Sue Streeter. Devon Zinter

HONOR ROLL -- Carleigh Buell, Zoey Chambry, Adriana Guzman. Aiden Kulikowski, Jaden Pocock. Joshua Swapceinski.

Byron-Bergen School District now accepting registration for UPK and kindergarten this fall

By Press Release

Press release:

Registration is now available for kindergarten and prekindergarten students in the Byron-Bergen Central School District.

The District plans to once again offer a half-day universal prekindergarten (UPK) program at the Byron-Bergen Elementary School. The UPK program is focused on socialization, learning through play, and self-exploration.

Children learn through a hands-on learning environment that includes activities, learning centers, concrete materials, and manipulatives. Students learn through a nurturing environment that is enriching, challenging, and developmentally appropriate.

Students must turn 4 years of age by Dec. 1 to be eligible for the program.

Those with an eligible child interested in attending the UPK program should send a letter of interest by Friday, April 9 with child’s name, parents’ names, address, phone number, and date of birth to:

Brian Meister

Byron-Bergen Elementary School Principal

6971 W. Bergen Road

Bergen, NY 14416-9747

Those who have already contacted the Elementary School by phone will still need to send in a letter to be eligible for UPK. If interest exceeds allowed capacity, students will be selected using a lottery system.

Children who will be 5 years of age, on or before Dec. 1 are eligible for entrance to kindergarten in September of 2021. New families in the school district should notify the school if they have a child that will enter kindergarten in September.

Parents may contact the Elementary School Office by calling 494-1220, ext. 1301. Information may also be sent to the Byron-Bergen Elementary School, 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen, NY 14416-9747.

All children registering for kindergarten will be scheduled for a screening appointment this summer. The results of this screening will be used to plan for the 2021-2022 kindergarten program.

The following items are necessary to complete the registration process: child’s birth certificate; certificate of immunization; proof of residency; and completed registration packet.

Additional information and kindergarten registration packets are available here.

Byron-Bergen schools to have fully remote learning for first half of January

By Press Release

Press release:

In anticipation of increased COVID-19 transmission over the Winter Recess, Byron-Bergen Central School District announced that all learning will be fully remote for the weeks of Jan. 4th and 11th. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with the Genesee County Public Health.

“It is a difficult decision, but I believe it is the most responsible course of action,” said Byron-BergenSuperintendent Mickey Edwards. “We are announcing the schedule change now in an effort to give families as much time as possible to arrange for childcare.”

As well as precautionary measures for the health and safety of the students and staff, Edwards cites staffing and logistical challenges as a reason for his decision. In recent weeks, neighboring districts to Byron-Bergen have moved to fully remote learning. While BBCSD was able to remain open to in-person education, a spike in cases would necessitate the immediate move to fully remote learning.

“I know that parents will be concerned about the quality of education,” Edwards said. “I want to assure families that our staff has worked tirelessly to develop and implement remote teaching strategies that will deliver the standard of learning for which Byron-Bergen is well known.”

The District is scheduled to reopen for full in-person or hybrid education on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

“Our ability to reopen our doors to students in January is dependent upon the actions of the community while we are closed,” Edwards said. “I implore everyone to wear masks, wash hands, and practice socialdistancing so that we can be together again.”

Byron-Bergen, GV BOCES get new student resource officers

By Press Release


In photo from left, Superintendent Mickey Edwards, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur, Deputy/Byron-Bergen SRO Joshua A. Brabon, Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr.

Submitted photos and press release:

Due to the recent retirement of the Genesee Valley BOCES School Resource Officer, Deputy Richard S. Schildwaster has been assigned to fill this position. He is a six-year veteran of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and was the former SRO at Byron-Bergen Central School District.  

The Byron-Bergen Central School District has selected Deputy Joshua A. Brabon as its new SRO. Deputy Brabon is a 2012 Advanced Regents graduate of L.A. Webber High School in Lyndonville, and a 2016 graduate of SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Environmental Studies. Deputy Brabon brings with him experience as a former SRO at the Perry Central School District and is a two-and-a-half year veteran of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. 

Additionally, the Oakfield-Alabama, Pembroke, Alexander, and Pavilion central school districts also renewed their commitments for this year’s School Resource Officers on campus. 

Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. has previously stated that it his goal to establish a School Resource Officer in all county schools to ensure the safety and protection of the students and faculty.

“Although the cost associated with placing a School Resource Officer in the schools is significant, I continue to believe the safety and security of our children should be of the utmost precedence,” Sheriff Sheron said.

Below, from left, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur, Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., Deputy/ Genesee Valley BOCES SRO Richard S. Schildwaster, and Executive Principal Jon Sanfratello of Genesee Valley BOCES.


Legislative committee supports SRO pacts with B-B, Genesee Valley BOCES

By Mike Pettinella

Contracts for school resource officers at the Byron-Bergen Central School District and Genesee Valley BOCES* were approved on Monday afternoon by the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee.

At a meeting at the Old County Courthouse, the committee endorsed memorandums of understanding that place county sheriff’s deputies in the schools as follows:

  • Byron-Bergen, 12-month pact from Sept. 1, 2020 through Aug. 31, 2021, at a cost of $96,720.86, which includes salary, fringe benefits and medical insurance;
  • GV BOCES, 10-month pact from Sept. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, at $77,327.70, and from Sept. 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, at $78,191.89, which includes salary and fringe benefits.

County Sheriff William Sheron said that Deputy Josh Brabon will be assigned to Byron-Bergen and Deputy Rich Schildwaster will be assigned to GV BOCES.

Appointments at both schools changed recently with the retirement of Deputy Chris Erion.

The discrepancy in the contract figures stem from the fact that Schildwaster is not taking the medical insurance, instead opting for a “buy-back," Sheron said.

The actual dollar amounts could change after ratification of hourly rates negotiated with the Genesee County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, and yearly retirement and health insurance rates. All costs associated with the SROs are paid for by the school districts.

In other action, the committee:

-- Approved allocating $28,900 from the 1 percent sales tax fund to advance a capital project for improvements at the Genesee County Animal Shelter at 3841 W. Main Street Road.

The county received a $200,000 grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets under the Companion Animal Program and proceeded to solicit bids from qualified contractors for the renovation.

Committee approval awards the job to Testa Construction Inc., of Rochester, which put in a bid of $209,900. Since the balance in the project after architectural costs is $181,000, the amendment to take an additional $28,900 was necessary.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said that improvements include installation of mobile kennels, properly winterizing the facility (ventilation system modifications), flooring, caging and fencing.

-- Accepted a grant from the NYS Office of Victim Services in the amount of $130,104.49 to cover the period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 to continue Genesee Justice’s Victim Assistance Program.

Genesee Justice Coordinator Catherine Uhly said the award represents a 23-percent increase from last year.

The animal shelter and Genesee Justice resolutions will be considered by the Ways & Means Committee at a meeting scheduled for 4:30 this afternoon at the Old County Courthouse.

*BOCES is the acronym for Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Eight drive-thru food distributions scheduled countywide

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Salvation Army in partnership with The United Way, City Church, Byron-Bergen Central School District, Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and Foodlink would like to announce the schedule for the upcoming drive-thru food distributions.

When participating in this distribution please have your trunk/hatch/backseat cleared out to receive three to four boxes of food. Volunteers are not permitted to move your property due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Should you need to pick up for a friend or neighbor you may do so by providing their photo ID showing a separate address. Please wear a mask. 

You will remain in your car and volunteers will load the food.

Should you have any questions about a specific distribution contact that organization directly.


July 15 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284

July 22 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

July 29 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284


Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 14 Liberty St., Batavia, (585) 343-6895

Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

Aug. 19 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284

Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284


Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 114 Liberty St., Batavia (585) 343-6895

Byron-Bergen Central: Voters say 'yes' to budget, bus purchase, Menzie, Phillips

By Mike Pettinella

Voting on Byron-Bergen Central School's $24,599,800 budget, bus purchase and board of education election:

Proposition #1 – Budget
Yes – 751
No – 396

Proposition #2 – Bus Purchase
Yes – 758
No – 397

School Board (Two Open Seats)
Tammy Menzie – 793
Amy Phillips – 737
Lynn Smith – 553

Five questions for board of education candidates: Byron-Bergen Central School

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavian has reached out to school board candidates in Genesee County to get their answers to five questions prior to voting on June 9.

At Byron-Bergen Central School, three people are running for two open trustee positions – incumbents Tammy Menzie and Amy Phillips and challenger Lynn Smith. The terms are for three years, beginning on July 1.

The questions are as follows:

1 -- What is your position on your school district’s proposed budget for 2020-21? What parts do you support? What parts would you change if you could?

2 -- Are teachers in your district compensated adequately?

3 -- With what we know now about COVID-19, should schools reopen in the fall?

4 -- Are you satisfied that your district responds to parents’ complaints and concerns in a way that ensures the parents know they have been heard?

5 -- What two books published since The Enlightenment have influenced you the most?


1 -- I support our proposed budget. I support our strong educational program. In 2020 we were ranked among the Best High Schools. I support student involvement in extracurricular activities. We want to produce college and career ready graduates that are involved in our community. I also support the school bus proposition because we receive approx. 90 percent state transportation aid on the purchase. The part I would change is to be able to provide our community members with a long-term fiscal idea about the level of state aid that actually will be granted by our governor to each district.

2 -- Yes. Compensating our teachers adequately is important. If we want high quality educators for our students, we must offer them appropriate compensation. If we do not, we may lose them to other districts.

3 -- I think we will return. However, "school" might not look the same. First and foremost, we have a responsibility to student and faculty safety and we should follow all of the health guidelines recommended. There will be more health and sanitation measures. I do worry about students' learning gaps and their social and emotional well-being from several weeks of remote learning.

4 -- The lines of communication between our district and our families is always open. This pandemic has really shown what our district and community are made of. They have come together in true partnership and our students are the focus.

5 -- I enjoy reading about strong women. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton and I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb are among my favorites.


1 -- Given all the circumstances and constraints that the school district is under I believe the budget that was developed and presented to the community is a very good option. I fully support the budget as presented. If I could change one thing it would be the guarantee of aid that we would be receiving from the state. This is the first year that there will be periodic checks by the Governor at which time aid can be adjusted, which makes budgeting for a year very difficult.

2 -- I believe we have had positive interactions and great success in negotiations with all our constituent groups.

3 -- Realistically, we will have to wait and see what this summer holds and what the recommendations of the CDC and governing bodies are. Personally and professionally, I would like to see students and teachers back in the classroom. I have been teaching middle school science for 22 years and miss being in school with my students and feel schools offer so much more than an education. They offer opportunities for connections and opportunities that are not easily replicated in remote learning. That being said safety is my number one concern.

4 -- I believe parents are given a fair and ample opportunity to express concerns and be heard. As in any case there is always room from growth and improvement as different situations arise.

5 -- The two books that jump out to me immediately are books that I had the opportunity to read with my children and include Bud, Not Buddy by Christian Paul Curtis and Restart by Gordon Korman. While the books are fantastic, the chance to read them with my children and share in the emotion of the book and share the message the books send make them very influential to me.


1 -- After reviewing the budget presentation on the Byron Bergen School District website, it appears the district is moving forward a thoughtful and reasonable budget. I am in support of the goals the district has outlined, particularly the health & safety of students, providing support/training for staff and the continuation of the district’s capital improvement project which started in 2017. I wish I could change the financial forecast for our district to one that is certain and reliable. While it appears the district has proposed a solid budget for 2020-21, the impact beyond this next school year is yet unknown. Additionally, what adds to the uncertainty is the governor’s spending reduction plan which could potentially remove state aid from districts if the state’s revenue and expenditures exceed 1 percent.

2 -- When it comes to compensation, most families probably wish they had a little extra in their pocket, particularly during these recent times when many families are experiencing a loss of income, jobs, etc. Teachers work hard to plan, instruct, support, manage, and tend to children’s whole health in school. Because the district and teachers’ union have agreed to the teacher’s contract and salaries, we can only assume teachers are being adequately compensated. I cannot speak to whether or not teachers feel compensated adequately however I would think that districts benchmark teacher salaries and adjust for salary increases appropriately/fairly.

3 -- What we know now and what we may know two to three months from now will look different. These are uncertain times and while districts/schools have begun thinking about what school will look like in the fall, the decision whether schools will open is one that is made by the governor and still remains unknown until we know the path this virus takes over the next several weeks.

4 -- I can speak to my experience as a parent of a 5th grade Bee in the district. I feel fortunate to have built relationships with staff and teachers in the elementary building. This collaboration has been vital to supporting my child during his school years and will be just as important as he continues into 6th grade and beyond. I do feel as though lines of communication are open and have been able to work collaboratively with his teachers at supporting his learning and expressing what is working and any concerns that I might have. In fact, kudos to the district/administration and teachers, during these last several weeks! Communication has been consistent in informing parents of updates, expectations and opportunities for students.

5 -- It’s hard to pick just two! The first that comes to mind quickly is: Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten, these “Golden Rules” about sharing, taking turns, being fair and nice, being respectful and aware of others are critical when we teach and model these for young children and they are the foundation of what makes us well-rounded adults!

The other, a colleague recently gave to me this past Christmas and is titled A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness. This book came to mind as I am writing this because during these last several weeks this “pause” during the pandemic has forced families to stop, take time, be in the present and balance this new way of being at home, finding fun in simple things and connecting.

All school district budget votes set for June 9 by absentee balloting

By Mike Pettinella

As Genesee County school districts gear up for 2020-21 budget voting and school board elections, The Batavian is providing the following capsule summaries to keep residents informed about key dates, propositions and candidates.

Per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, all school districts in New York State will hold annual budget voting and board elections on June 9 through absentee balloting.

Absentee ballots will be mailed to eligible voters and must be returned to the district offices by 5 p.m. on June 9 or they will not be considered or counted – no exceptions.

It is essential to remember that additional state aid cuts could be coming and would affect districts’ budgets going forward.

Details about the schools’ budgets and candidates as well as contact information can be found on their respective websites.


Budget by the numbers -- The proposed budget is $18,540,258, an increase of $315,497 from the 2019-20 plan, with no increase in the tax levy. The budget (virtual) hearing is set for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom using the log-in details posted on the district website, and will be available for viewing on the website’s BOE link starting on May 27.

School board election – One position is up for election for a term of five years commencing July 1, 2020 and expiring on June 30, 2025 to succeed Richard Guarino, whose term expires on June 30, 2020. Candidates are Christopher Mullen and Diane Steel.


Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $51,470,725 spending plan with cuts in staffing and other items but no property tax increase. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on June 2.

Additional propositions – Richmond Memorial Library trustee voting, with Kristi Evans the only candidate at this time for a five-year term starting on July 1, 2020. As two seats are open, the other will be filled via the write-in candidate process. Jackson Primary playground, a $618,000 capital project to construct an age-appropriate playground at Jackson Primary School.

School board election – Incumbents Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley along with recent appointee Alice Ann Benedict are running for three board seats. The candidates receiving the most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023, while the third-place candidate’s term will be June 9, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a proposed budget of $24,599,800, including a tax levy of $9,024,961 – an increase in the property tax rate of 1.99 percent. The public hearing on the budget is set for 5 p.m. on May 28, and will be recorded and placed on the district website.

Additional propositionsBus purchase, proposal is for two 70-passenger school buses at a maximum cost of $246,000, with 90 percent covered by state aid. The tax income is estimated at $2 per year on a house assessed at $100,000, according to Superintendent Mickey Edwards.

School board election – Three people are running for two open trustee positions – incumbents Tammy Menzie and Amy Phillips and challenger Lynn Smith. The terms are for three years, beginning on July 1.


Budget by the numbers – The board is meeting tonight via Zoom to consider the $10,269,322 spending plan that calls for a slight tax increase that equates to an increase of $39 for the entire year based on a house assessed at $150,000. The public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. on May 27, also via Zoom.

Additional propositionRe-establish a vehicle and transportation reserve and school bus purchase. Superintendent Ned Dale reporting that the district wishes use existing reserve funds to purchase a 65-passenger bus and a 24-passenger bus with a handicap lift.

School board election – Incumbent Michael Riner is the only slated candidate for his seat, which expires this year.



Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $26,334,488 budget that includes a 1.99 percent property tax increase (which is below the district’s tax cap of 2.8 percent) and does not add new positions or programs. The budget hearing presentation will be posted on the district's website at on June 2.

School board election – Incumbents Richard Lawrence and Jacalyn Whiting are running for the two three-year terms.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $21,123,746 budget, up 1.4 percent from last year, with a zero percent property tax increase. Superintendent John Fisgus reported that the budget preserves all educational programs and extracurricular activities, adding that tiered plans are in place if the state makes additional cuts in aid. The public hearing on the budget is set for 10 a.m. on June 1 and will be considered “adjourned” as it will be conducted remotely.

Additional propositions – Capital improvement project, $15.3 million, with no impact upon taxpayers. Major goals of the project include safety/security measures, code and handicap accessible updates, building repairs, infrastructure upgrades and landscaping. School bus purchase, $135,000, to be financed.

School board election – Five candidates are running for three open positions – Jackie Yunker Davis, Daniel N. Groth, Douglas Russo, Shanda Spink and Pete Zeliff. The candidate receiving the most votes will begin serving on June 10 with the term ending on June 30, 2023. The terms of the two candidates with the second and third most votes will be July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $17,684,182 budget with no change in the tax levy and no major changes beyond contractual increases and expected costs related to the coronavirus. The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom. Links will be provided in the district newsletter and on our web page once they are created. 

Additional propositions – Change of board of education term, with the proposal calling for making all seven seats five-year terms – an increase of two years from the current term.

School board election -- Incumbents Margaret Gaston and Callin Ayers-Tillotson are running for re-election.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $23,679,522 budget with a zero percent tax levy increase and no property tax increase. The budget hearing will be held remotely on May 26, and the adjourned budget hearing will be available to view on the district website BoardDocs link beginning on May 27. The district's Dragon Tales publication will be mailed next week with all the details.

Additional propositions – Purchase of buses, with no impact upon taxes.

School board election – Dan Lang is running for a one-year unexpired term and Heather Wood is running for a new five-year term. Additionally, an election to fill three seats on the Corfu Public Library is scheduled. Kristie Miller, Julie Hengenius and Tony Kutter are up for election for three-year terms.

Byron-Bergen students put positive messages on face shields for healthcare workers

By Billie Owens


Above, Byron-Bergen STEAM Lab teacher Craig Schroth with printed mask in his home print shop.

Submitted photo and images and press release:

If a healthcare worker puts on a face shield inscribed with the words “Heroes wear scrubs, not capes,” it might have been designed by a Byron-Bergen fifth- or sixth-grader.

STEAM -- Science, Technology, Engineering And Math -- Lab Teacher Craig Schroth recently dropped off 100 face shields designed and donated by students to Face Shields ROC, an organization collecting face shields to distribute to medical facilities and first responders in the Rochester area.

Before Byron-Bergen Elementary School closed its doors in March, Schroth was granted permission to move the District’s three 3-D printers to his home with the idea of avoiding a backlog of printing student work when school recommenced. Three weeks later, he proposed a new project to his students.

“Many healthcare workers are short on personal protective equipment at hospitals and healthcare facilities,” Schroth said. “One thing that people are doing to help is using 3-D printers to print face shields. I wanted to give our students an opportunity to get involved with this project.”

Schroth invited students to add a positive message to the basic face shield design. Using the skills they gained while designing keychains and jack-o-lanterns in class, and guidance from Schroth via email, students worked on their designs from their homes.

They submitted their finished files electronically and Schroth printed them on the 3-D printers now in his basement.

Fifth-grade student Rena Wilson has submitted 55 designs with a goal of designing 100.

"I was glad to have the chance to thank these health workers by giving them a nice message that would brighten their day," Rena said.

“I’m very proud of our students for their enthusiasm in this project,” said Byron-Bergen Elementary Principal Brian Meister. “Mr. Schroth has shown amazing initiative in not only stepping up to produce needed resources for the medical community but creating a meaningful experience for his students.

"They will not forget this. Neither will the recipients of these unique face shields.”

As more designs are submitted, Schroth will continue to print and deliver the face shields on behalf of his students.




In tough times, local farmers donate food to help keep our families fed: 'It's what we do'

By Billie Owens


Above: Byron-Bergen Central School District staff at food distribution site. Photo courtesy of Mickey Edwards.

Submitted photos and information from Byron-Bergen Central School District:

BERGEN -- In the wake of school closings, mandatory social distancing, and the economic downturn, food insecurity is a rising concern. Byron-Bergen Central School District has organized meal pickups to provide breakfast and lunch to school-aged children five days a week, but some local farmers decided to take it a step further.

On Thursday (April 2) a trailer piled with potatoes, onions, carrots, and cabbage pulled into the Byron-Bergen High School parking lot -- a gift to the community from five farms in Genesee County: Mortellaro Farms, Star Growers, Stymus Farms, Torrey Farms, and Triple G Farms.

The produce was distributed directly to community members during their regular school meal pickups for about 300 students at the High School bus loop.

The drop-off was organized with the help of Byron-Bergen Central School District's kitchen manager Rozanne Klycek, who got the idea from a family member at Star Growers in Elba, Barbara "Barbie" Starowitz.

The Byron-Bergen alumna has been in contact with other local farmers, eager to help in these uncertain times. Since the District was already distributing food, the farmers thought it was the perfect way to reach community members in need.

"It's just all of us farmers helping each other out," Starowitz told The Batavian this evening. "We always help out the community in times like this. It's not unusual. It's what we do."

In the space of a mere week, hundreds of pounds of produce has been donated by the farmers help people fight food insecurity -- at the giveways at Northgate Church in Batavia, to help stock Harrington's Market and local food pantries, which many seniors increasingly rely on. They plan on donating to Elba Central School on Monday.

“This community never ceases to amaze me,” said Byron-Bergen Superintendent Mickey Edwards. “I am truly humbled by the generosity of these farmers. It was an honor to help carry 10-pound bags of potatoes out to cars, knowing the relief it will provide to our families.”

Below, produce donated by local farmers being prepared for distribution. Photo courtesy of Susan Kuszlyk.

Bottom: Byron-Bergen kitchen manager Rozanne Klycek and Adam Starowitz from Star Growers during produce drop off. Photo courtesy of Susan Kuszlyk.



Byron-Bergen Fall athletes and coaches awarded regional and division honors

By Billie Owens


Photo: Byron-Bergen Player of the Year honorees (l-r) Bryce Yockel, Maddie Farnsworth, Kelsey Fuller and Sam Pringle.

Submitted photo and press release from Gretchen Spittler, Byron-Bergen Communications Specialist.

BERGEN -- Congratulations to our Genesee Region and Section V Class C Players of the Year. Four Byron-Bergen athletes were selected by sport-specific committees of coaches and league officials from a pool of all of the players on all of the teams within these divisions.

“These are incredible honors,” said Athletic Director Rich Hannan. “These athletes were chosen fromhundreds of candidates. They stood out for their talent, hard work, and unending dedication.”

  • Bryce Yockel was voted Offensive Football Player of the Year for Section V Class C;
  • Kelsey Fuller was voted Genesee Region and Section V Class C1 Girls Soccer Player of the Year;
  • Sam Pringle was voted Genesee Region Boys Soccer Player of the Year;
  • Maddie Farnsworth voted Genesee Region and Section V Class C Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.

Congratulations also to Coach Kenneth Rogoyski, who was named Genesee Region Boys Soccer Coach of the Year; Coach Wayne Hill, who was named Genesee Region and Section V Class C Girls Soccer Coach of the Year; and Coach Cindy D’Errico, who was named Genesee Region and Section V Class C Volleyball Coach of the Year.

Visiting artist shares basketmaking and Haudenosaunee culture with Byron-Bergen fourth-graders

By Billie Owens


Above, Tonia Galban teaches weaving.

Submitted photos and press release from Gretchen Spittler, Byron-Bergen Central School District:

BERGEN -- Alyson Tardy’s fourth-grade class has been studying Haudenosaunee culture. Their studies included a special classroom guest -- Tonia Galban, who is a member of the Mohawk Bear Clan and a celebrated basket maker.

Today (Nov. 18), Galban is teaching the students how to make a woven, decorative, sunflower bookmark out of strips of black ash wood and raffia.

Galban and Tardy came together as part of a workshop called Culture, Community, and the Classroom, offered through Genesee Valley Educational Partnership by Local Learning: The National Network of Folk Arts. The workshop paired artists with classroom teachers to explore the mutually beneficial aspects of collaborating.

Today was the second, and last, of Galban’s visits. On her first visit she discussed ties between arts and Haudenosaunee culture. During the final visit, she chose to teach the hands-on activity in a traditional way. Galban gathered the students around the front table where she taught, not the students, but Tardy and her two teacher aides how to weave the bookmark.

“Children will watch the adults working,” Galban said. “Sometimes they won’t even realize that theyhave learned the skill – just by watching. All people have to develop patience. Calm insides and calm minds. Use your senses first, listen, and follow directions.”

After the demonstration, each student returned to their own desk to try weaving. As they worked, the adults helped them until, at some point, they began to help each other.

“Not everyone is a basket maker,” Galban said to the class. “You might be a singer or a dancer. Some sunflowers are big, some are small. You have your family to depend on – your friends can help.”

After some hard work and concentration, each student held up their completed sunflower.

“You have taken part in an in-depth dialogue with your teachers and me on big concepts,” said Galban as the lesson concluded. “The basket weaving is an analogy for how to be in your mind and in your heart. Patience and cooperation. Being a balanced human being. Kudos to you guys – you learned more than I could have even hoped for.”

“Niá:wen,” the students thanked Galban in Haudenosaunee. “Io, you’re welcome” she replied.

In addition to Galban’s visit, the students’ study of Native American culture included a field trip to Ganondagan State Historic Site. Also known as Boughton Hill, it is a Native American historic site in the present-day Town of Victor in Ontario County. It was the largest Seneca village of the 17th century.

During the field trip, the children experienced song, dance, storytelling, traditional arts, and culture during the annual Haudenosaunee Day celebration. They also presented their Haudenosaunee cultural artifact projects to other students.

Below, Tonia Galban working with student.


Below, students help each other with a weaving project.


Below, the class displays their finished projects.


Byron-Bergen schoolchildren learn about smart eating and healthy living

By Billie Owens


Submitted photos and press release:

Bergen -- Byron-Bergen Elementary School received some very special guests on Nov. 1. Representatives from the American Heart Association and Bonduelle USA kicked off Eat Smart Month by visiting every classroom and delivering vegetable seeds and a message about the importance of eating and living healthily.

Marc Natale and Robin Swan from the American Heart Association were joined by Janette Bonstead, Diane Cholowsky, Kortney Connell, April Fox, Michelle Hoffman, and Beth Scroger from Bonduelle USA to greet the elementary students as they entered the school. Each child went home with vegetable seeds and an informational brochure about eating healthy including a recipe for Simple Chicken Pot Pie.

“It’s important for us to be involved in the community,” said one of the Bonduelle participants. “We are located right here and it’s exciting to share information on healthy eating with our families and neighbors.”

As the guests visited classrooms, students became very excited to grow their own vegetables to eat.

“We want to inspire families and kids to talk about what it means to eat healthy, offer healthy meal options and seeds to start their own garden,” said Lorri Harkins, IT Service desk manager, Bonduelle Americas Long Life.

The message of eating healthy was reinforced in the lunchroom where Friday’s lunches included a special side dish.

“We are serving peas and carrots in the cafeteria today,” said Byron-Bergen Food Service Director Mary Della Penna. “This is a very nice community outreach project and we’re happy to participate.”

Byron-Bergen was one of three districts chosen for a November visit. Bonduelle provided more than 1,500 seed packets of peas and carrots for distribution

 during the first week of November to Byron-Bergen, and two Rochester elementary schools -- Fyle and Lakeshore.



Byron-Bergen fifth- and sixth-graders design custom 3-D 'pumpkins'

By Billie Owens


Photos and information from Gretchen Spittler, Byron-Bergen Communications Specialist.

BERGEN -- Craig Schroth’s fifth- and sixth-grade STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) Lab classes are carving pumpkins. But, there are no pumpkins in the room.

Students sit at their computers and each one builds and carves their own virtual pumpkin in a three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) program. When they are complete, Schroth will print them on a 3-D printer.

“It takes a long time, but it’s cool,” said one student.

“Cool” is the word most students use to describe the project.

The pumpkins start to take shape. Students “group” repeated elliptical spheres to create scalloped edges, then add a cylindrical stem. On each screen, orange shapes come together to form what is, unmistakably, a pumpkin.

To hollow out the pumpkin, students place a sphere in the middle. It does not affect the surface design but “it makes printing more efficient,” Schroth explains. “I have two printers and many students and I want to fill the display case with as many projects as possible.”

The students have been following instructions up to this point, but now they get creative. Students add jack-o-lantern faces using various shapes and designs. Eyes appear as stars and hearts. One pumpkin has sunglasses and a mustache.

When compared with traditional pumpkin carving, one students argues that she doesn’t like getting pumpkin guts on her hands. Another argues that virtual pumpkins have no seeds, a favorite snack of hers. When asked if he would like to continue working in 3-D design in high school, another student simply blurts, “Yes!”

“This project has been a great way for students to explore the use of computer-aided design programs in 3-D modeling and prototyping,” Schroth said. “Students are applying skills that they have learned in math class through angles, measurement, and geometry to design a model they can actually hold on to with 3-D printing.”

In the front hallway of the Elementary School, a large display case holds a tractor and wagon, both built by third-grade students. The tractor is driven by the STEAM Lab robot mascot, named Byron, and the tractor displays rows of 3-D printed jack-o-lanterns. Picked fresh daily. Well, printed fresh daily.






Byron-Bergen capital project draws backlash from sixth-grade parents unhappy with busing plan

By Lauren Leone

Elizabeth Mundell was not pleased to find out her daughter will ride the school bus four times each day next year. And she let a reporter from The Batavian know it in no uncertain terms at the Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School on Thursday night.

Her sixth-grader will take the bus to Byron-Bergen Elementary, then go to the high school, back to the elementary school again, and head home after that.

Mundell worries her daughter and other sixth-grade students will be missing valuable learning due to extra transportation time.

The reason for all the busing back-and-forth? To accommodate the ongoing $20.5 million Capital Improvement Project, which began last summer and concludes next year.

The project is largely state-funded, and it aims to increase long-term school safety, energy efficiency and educational opportunities for students.

Yet in the short-term, until it is completed, sixth-graders will apparently bear the brunt of the transitions prompted by it.

Mundell, along with other parents, only recently received information about changes to sixth-graders' schedules for the upcoming academic year.

The central focus of the project is the elementary school classrooms.

For the past half century, since the summer NASA astronauts landed on the moon, they have not been updated to meet the NYS Education Department’s codes and regulations.

The sheer scope of the long-overdue renovations means they'll still be at it once school resumes in the fall.

As a result, it is the sixth-grade classrooms that will be relocated to the Jr./Sr. High School for the 2019–20 academic year.

Sixth-graders will be shuttled about between the elementary and high schools for different classes and activities at the beginning and end of each day.

Parents are learning more details about the poor conditions that necessitated the project as it moves along.

Classrooms were significantly smaller than the recommended size. According to an informational handout produced by the district, students have been receiving instruction in cramped spaces as narrow as closets and hallways.

Other district-wide improvements will include fire alarm and kitchen equipment replacements, removal of deadly asbestos, roof repair and ADA-compliant toilet facilities that will be wide enough for children's wheelchairs to access them for the first time. (The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.)

The Capital Building Project was voted down on March 31, 2017, and did not receive enough support until the next vote on Sept. 21, 2017.

But many parents now say they were poorly informed about how the capital improvements, though badly needed, would impact their children's schedule when they cast their votes.

“We’ve been given so little information about what else was explored,” Mundell said. “Personally, I never would have voted for this capital project if I had known it would mean kids spending a year being bused back and forth.”

Parents also wonder if all the time spent on the road will interfere with daily instruction in classrooms.

Mundell said sixth-grade students may not be emotionally prepared for the turbulent schedule, and changes in learning environments may be particularly difficult for students with special needs.

“I recognize this is an easy solution, it’s convenient,” Mundell said. “I just don’t feel it’s in the best interest of these kids.”

In the midst of the changes, Jr./Sr. High School Principal Pat McGee and Assistant Principal Scott Bradley said sixth-grade supervision and administrative responsibilities will remain the same. Sixth-graders will be accompanied by teacher aides throughout each transition period, and students and teachers will still follow the elementary schedule.

In reference to the temporary, separate sixth-grade wing at the high school, McGee said, “What’s nice about that is it does keep them out of the way, they’re not caught up in the middle of the junior high area. They’re away from most of the high school activities.”

Mundell said parents seek more communication and transparency from the school board, administration and families.

School administrators intend to discuss the project with parents, answer questions and receive feedback before the next Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 20.

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