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Photos: Meet the BHS Class of 2037

By Howard B. Owens
bhs class of 2037

Batavia City Schools celebrated its Pre-K students on Monday with a moving-up ceremony at Van Detta Stadium, where members of the class are likely to receive their high school diplomas in 2037.

The Pre-K students enter kindergarten in the fall.

Photos by Howard Owens.

bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037
bhs class of 2037

City Schools celebrates Flag Day at Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate

By Staff Writer
Locals veterans unfold the flag during the morning ceremony at Jackson Primary school  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Local veterans fold the American flag during the Flag Day ceremony at Jackson Primary.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Students at John Kennedy Intermediate School, Jackson Primary School, and Batavia Middle School, on Friday were joined by the Joint Veterans Honor Guard of Genesee County to celebrate Flag Day.

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the first national flag on June 14, 1777.  It was declared Flag Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1926 and Congress made it a national holiday in 1949.

Principal Maureen Notaro noted teachers' role in teaching children about honoring the flag.

"We thank all of you teachers and all of the students here with us today to carry on the work of honoring our American flag," Notaro said during remarks to the students at Jackson.

She told the students about the way the nation is honored through displays of the flag.

"In many different ways and places, it waves its colors on government, state and public buildings all across the country, on our schools, churches and playgrounds,” Notaro said. "It's been placed on the moon by our astronauts. Did you know that? So there's a flag there on the moon. It's on so many uniforms of our law enforcement officers. If you turn around, you'll see our New York State Troopers back there with their dog. And they're here, and they have that on their work gear. You'll see it probably displayed by our veterans active and retired. Every cemetery that you drive by or visit is covered in American flags. And it's internationally recognized in every country and city around the world. But nothing touches one's heart and soul more than seeing the honoring of the flag." Local veterans unfolded the American flag during the Flag Day ceremony at Jackson Primary.

Jackson Primary students showing off Flag Day colors.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Jackson Primary students standing for Flag day presentation.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Staff at Jackson Primary along with veterans talking to students about Flag day.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Principal Maureen Notaro along with staff and local vetarans talk to students about flag day.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Jackson Primary student showing his smiles and colors for flag day.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Students from Jackson Primary waving flags.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
John Kennedy Intermediate principal Paul Kessler and assistant principal Heather McCarthy have morning announcements outside with students for Flag Day.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
John Kennedy Intermediate Principal Paul Kesler and assistant principal Heather McCarthy having morning announcements and the flag day ceremony outside the school.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
John Kennedy Intermediate principal Paul Kessler and assistant principal Heather McCarthy have morning announcements outside with students for Flag Day.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Pledge of allegiance outside John Kennedy Intermediate school  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Pledge of allegiance outside John Kennedy Intermediate School. 
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Students from John Kennedy Intermediate say the pledge of allegiancse for Flag Day.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Four candidates for three seats and a 39-cent tax increase part of city schools vote

By Joanne Beck

There may be a newcomer to this year’s Board of Education election, however, he’s no stranger to the city school district.

Retired Athletic Director Mike Bromley will be joining incumbents John Reigle, Jennifer Lendvay and Korinne Anderson in the pitch for three vacancies on the school board during this year’s budget and board election vote on May 21.

mike bromley

“Although I have never served on an elected board, I possess extensive experience in committee roles. I have been a longstanding member of both the Section V Athletic Council and the Executive Committee of the Monroe County Public School Athletic Conference. Additionally, I have chaired the Wellness and Schedule C Committees for the Batavia City School District. I take great pride in having initiated the Batavia Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame and have chaired this committee for two decades,” Bromley said Thursday to The Batavian. “As a former student, teacher, coach, administrator, and, most critically, a parent, I have greatly benefited from the educational system. My children's success as adults is a testament to their experiences within the BCSD. Now retired, my commitment to serving the school community persists, and a role on the Board of Education would allow me to remain active in the educational process.”

The Batavian asked all of the candidates questions about their run for a seat on the board. Bromley’s questions were slightly varied since he was not running again for a seat, and here are Mike Bromley's responses. 

Who will you represent?
Effective school board members work collaboratively, fostering respectful and positive interactions with students, staff, and the community. It is essential for board members to develop robust communication channels that engage all stakeholders in the pursuit and realization of district objectives. I am committed to representing all stakeholders.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges for the city school district?
In challenging economic times, strategically managing resources while providing a premier educational experience for our students is a top priority. Cultivating positive relationships across the district is of utmost importance.

Why do you deserve a vote more than one of the incumbents? What will you bring to the board that’s different?
Every BOE candidate merits recognition and esteem for their dedication to our educational community. My campaign is not a contest against the incumbents but rather a reflection of my belief in what I can contribute to the district. With over 36 years of educational experience, I am confident that my background will be beneficial in propelling the district forward.

John Reigle, the board’s current vice president, gave the following responses:

Why do you want to run again?
I am passionate about creating a positive impact in my community, and as a lifelong Batavian, I am dedicated to improving our schools and making Batavia an excellent place for families, teachers, and staff to thrive. I want to run again to continue my commitment of enhancing our educational system and ensuring that every student in Batavia receives a high-quality education.

What do you feel you accomplished while on the board so far?
Serving on the Board has given me the opportunity to advocate for our students, families, teachers, aides, clerical and custodial staff, and the community. I am proud to have contributed to the development of our District's five year Strategic Plan and be part of the hiring process of our current Superintendent, Mr. Smith, who is dedicated to making BCSD the best it can be. While being an active member of our Building & Grounds committee, I am also proud to have been part of the recently approved BCSD Reimagined capital project which includes shifting our grade levels to better serve the district.

Who do you represent when you’re on the board?
As a dedicated Board member, I represent the voices and interests of various stakeholders within our district. Most importantly, this includes our students, who deserve a high-quality education, as well as our district staff and community members, who rely on us to ensure we make fiscally responsible decisions that benefit everyone. I take this role very seriously and plan to continue to be visible and to listen to our community in order to stay connected in all of our schools.

What are the district’s biggest challenges moving into 2025 and beyond?
As we look to the future, the district's biggest challenges include maintaining a balanced budget while providing our students with the educational opportunities they deserve. This will require us to be proactive in seeking out new revenue sources, such as grants and partnerships, and to be strategic in our use of resources. Additionally, we must continue to invest in our teachers. I believe all students can learn and I am committed to helping and taking on the challenge to ensure every child has a bright future by investing in our teachers and staff. I want to be sure they are provided with support to be equipped with what they need to support our students.

Please include any comments about why being a board member is important to you.
As a Board of Education member, I believe it's important to be engaged in the community where I grew up, live and attended school. The Batavia school district is where my older children formally attended and now my youngest son attends. Being a board member gives me the opportunity to be part of the positive solution and not just the negative complaints. I have and want to continue to make a difference for our community and schools. I enjoy attending various sporting events and engaging in the community to support a variety of events. When I attend events like Mr. Batavia, I feel proud that I show my support as a board member. There are so many great things happening at each school to be proud of. Everyone is working together to make the transition from each school seamless. We have a great district with amazing students and staff, and I'm committed and excited to be a part of the continued success.

Jennifer Lendvay

Jennifer Lendvay’s responses:

Why do you want to run again?
I am running again because I feel it’s important to be part of the process rather than just a spectator. 

What do you feel you accomplished while on the board so far?
While on the board I’m pleased to have been part of the hiring our current superintendent, and having increased our SRO’s and worked on improving safety. 

Who do you represent when you’re on the board?
As a board member we represent the students, staff, parents, and community members. 

What are the district’s biggest challenges moving into 2025 and beyond? 
I feel the biggest challenges moving forward are making sure we have a consistent balanced budget while continuing to support our students with their educational needs. 

Please include any comments about why being a board member is important to you.
Being a Board of Education member is important to me for the reason stated above, along with the importance of giving back to the community. 

Korinne Anderson

Korinne Anderson’s responses:

Why do you want to run again?
I want to run again because I want to continue to further the impact I have made. I also believe that the budget will be another challenge next year and I believe myself and the existing members  should remain on because we all work really well together. 

What do you feel you have accomplished while on the board so far?

We know the issues facing us next year and are ready to work together again. 

While on the board I feel that I have been able to support teachers,  hear their voices and opinions along with students, staff and the community. I also have enjoyed attending numerous activities throughout the district in the last 2 years.

What are the biggest challenges moving into 2025 and beyond?
This year’s budget was a challenging one and I believed my fellow board members worked hard to balance it with everyone’s needs in mind. 

Who do you represent when you're on the board?
I have had three children in BCSD and still am here wanting to help the students , teachers staff and  taxpayers. Many different facets I represent while on the board. A mom, a taxpayer, a former aide. I can see many different views of the school issues. 

Please include any comments about why being a board member is important to you.
I am so thankful for the education and life lessons my children learned while at BCSD. It has been a great foundation for my children.  I want to give back  and help the district continue to improve. 

Batavia City School District residents will be voting on a $60,294,755 budget that includes a 2.26% property tax increase and for three out of four candidates for school board on May 21.

That property tax increase reflects a 39-cent increase per $1,000 assessed valuation, or an increase of $48.75 per year on a home assessed at $125,000.

According to the latest budget presentation, the 2024-25 budget maintains the current educational program and extracurricular offerings; provides additional instructional resources, social and emotional services; reduces staffing as a result of loss of COVID funding, enrollment, attrition and state aid; has a tax levy increase of 2.26 percent that’s within the tax cap; and aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The tax levy of $20,339,336 is an increase of $450,345 or 2.26 percent more than this year’s budget.

The transportation contract calls for a $556,263 increase for $3.3 million, a 20 percent increase, and a general support increase of $514,943, and an employee benefits increase of $313,405, for a total raise in expenses of $1,323,981.

A mental health grant is used to add back three full-time instructional coaching and two full-time emotional learning positions into the budget.

The ballot includes Proposition #1 to approve a general budget of $60,294,755 and to vote for three board members.

A public hearing presentation will be at 6 p.m. May 14 at the District Office at the high school, 260 State St., Batavia. The vote is from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 21 at Batavia High School, 260 State St., and Robert Morris School at 80 Union St., depending on the voter’s residence. 

For residents living north of Route 5 (Main Street), vote at Robert Morris, 80 Union Street  (Multi-Purpose Room). Enter on Union Street at the entrance across from Notre Dame.

For residents living south of Route 5 (Main Street), vote at Batavia High School, 260 State Street (High School Library).

If you need clarification on where to vote, check the street-by-street guide on our website or call the Business Office at 585-343-2480, Ext. 1002.

Eclipse provides teachable moments for students before arrival, county schools closed on Monday

By Joanne Beck
Julia Rogers with students
Julia Rogers, community schools coordinator for Batavia City School District, with students.
Submitted Photo

All county schools will be closed on Monday because of the total solar eclipse. The village of Corfu has booked activities at Pembroke Intermediate School beginning on Saturday, while Elba Central School will host several activities on Monday. 

The decision to close Batavia City Schools was made “to prevent any potential risks associated with walking home in reduced visibility and to cut down potential driving hazards during the eclipse,” said Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers. “While no formal events have been planned for the district, we have shared many resources and safety tips with our families and have included them in our community schools' local activities calendar so that our families can participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

The district formed a Total Eclipse Planning Committee of 25 people from all school buildings, she said, including administrators, teachers, aides and clerical members who worked with their buildings on developing awareness for students.

“We have been teaching students about the Eclipse since January throughout various lessons, such as:

  • Read-alouds of “Genny SEES the Eclipse” during library time and Family Nights 
  • Astronomy units in science classes  
  • Building-wide art contests 
  • Guest visits from Genny the cow
  • Discussions of cloud formations and how to be a scientist with Kelly March from Richmond Memorial Library 
  • Safety during the Eclipse
  • STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) lessons dedicated to the eclipse
  • Designing pinhole viewers
  • Space exploration in 21st Century Learning Center's after school programming
  • Playing eclipse games and singing eclipse songs during physical education and music classes 
BCSD eclipse games
Batavia City Schools students playing eclipse-themed games with Marc Anthony Bucci of United Way.
Submitted Photo

John Kennedy Intermediate School focused on the eclipse during school family meetings, students played a trivia game to share their knowledge, took photos with Genny the cow, and sang a rap that music teacher Robin Crowden wrote about the eclipse.

Middle School students in Spine Support Club, a student volunteer group based out of the school library, Junior National Honor Society and Mentor Club, along with library staff and faculty, put together over 900 Make and Take craft bags for students to take home during the break, Rogers said.

“After the eclipse, middle school students will be sharing information about what they saw, heard, and what they'll always remember and add it to an interactive bulletin board,” she said.

Genny visit BCSD
Genny the Cow.
Submitted Photo

The Chamber of Commerce gave copies of “Genny SEES the Eclipse,” a children’s book about how animals experience the eclipse, to the school libraries, “and each level used it in a variety of ways and they also provided our students with the safety glasses they would need to look at the eclipse,” she said.

United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes and Paychex provided us with 600 more glasses, so that we were able to distribute them to families on Wednesday, she said. 

Word had it that many people would be taking the day off from work to participate in eclipse viewing activities, and some employers, such as the school districts, made the decision easy by closing. Genesee County will close government offices by noon on Monday, and the board of Western New York Independent Living Family of Agencies voted to give the staff of most of their offices in Batavia, Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Niagara Falls, Lockport, and Albion a paid day off for the occasion, a press release stated.

Independent Living officials want to remind those who are blind or have a visual impairment that the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, in conjunction with NASA, can provide an alternative way to experience the eclipse.

Radio Reading has secured 10 oversized braille books from NASA, and these books “allow people to feel what an eclipse will look like with their fingers and use them to trace the path of totality across a map of the United States,” said Michael Benzin, executive director of the service.

Radio Reading encourages its listeners and others with smartphones and tablets to get in on the event and download the free Eclipse Soundscape app. The app provides a multi-sensory experience where users will find a countdown, real-time narration of the event with illustrative audio descriptions and even a “rumble strip” that allows users to hear and feel the eclipse on their device as the eclipse progresses through each stage.  Plus, NFRRS will have a special program featuring local and national experts for two hours that afternoon, Radio Reading stated in a release issued Thursday.

For more information, go to www.nfradioreading.org.

As for eclipse events happening sooner, there is a special visit from the “Genny Sees the Eclipse” artist Andy Reddout, who will be at the Chamber’s Visitor Center from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday. Chamber staff want folks to know that the Visitor Center will also be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Monday for those looking to purchase a pair of Genesee County Commemorative ISO-certified solar viewing glasses while supplies last. 

For more eclipse activities, go to our Eclipse Calendar 

phases of moon activity
Submitted Photo
BCSD student with Genny the cow
A Batavia City Schools student with Genny the Cow.
Submitted Photo

BCSD superintendent answers questions of staffing at school district

By Joanne Beck

Batavia City School’s board met earlier this week and discussed the latest proposed budget, which includes a 2.26 percent tax rate increase, the use of a mental health grant for five positions, and the prospective use of additional state aid for more personnel and/or to reduce the amount of reserves being used to offset expenses. 

To summarize the budget as of Monday evening, the board is expected to vote on a proposed $60,373,861 plan during its meeting on April 22. That’s a 2.38 percent increase, or about $1.4 million more than this year’s budget. This spending plan would include a tax levy of $20,339,336 for a tax rate increase of 39 cents per $1,000 assessed value. That would be an extra $48.75 a year on a home assessed at $125,000.

The Batavian reached out to Superintendent Jason Smith with some questions about the newly introduced mental health grant and other items, and here are his answers:

Jason Smith

1. The five positions being added with the mental health grant: that remaining $1.1 million is expected to retain those positions for how long? Will the funding go toward salary, benefits and teacher retirement? What's the plan once that funding runs out? 

Answer: The District will plan to allocate as much of the funds as possible to cover all costs with these positions.  

Not all of them are “new” positions, however, as three of them are instructional coaches who currently provide valuable support to our students and teachers—these positions are, in essence, being retained. The remaining two new positions will provide Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programming to our students across the District.

Once the funding runs out, we can either pursue a new grant, consider placing some or all of these positions in the general fund, or combine the two. Another option would be to eliminate the positions upon the grant's expiration.

2. Can I please get a list of the types/locations of positions that aren't being retained at the district (similar, I believe, to what John Reigle requested), including the seven full-time that were COVID grant-funded, five reduced due to enrollment and four retirement/resigned positions?

Answer: Yes. That list is being developed and finalized as I write. Once I share it with the Board per their request and they have had time to review it, I will provide you with this information (likely next week).

3. If the district receives more state aid, and it's $300,000, how many teachers would that add, and how do you account for future expenses? Do you calculate cost per position for a year plus benefits and then hope to acquire more funding the next year, or calculate it for a few years out? 

Answer: Should this come to fruition, we could conceivably restore 2-3 teaching positions back into the budget. We estimate the costs per position and will need to plan accordingly in future budgets with respect to state aid projections, use of reserves, tax levies, or some combination thereof.

4. With decreasing enrollment projections and class sizes remaining at or around 20 according to staff and a board member's statements, why the need for more teachers? Are other types of staff needed according to the district?

Answer: To be clear, the request is not to add “more” teachers but rather to try to keep our existing staff as close to current levels as possible.  

While we are proud of our academic achievements, student needs continue to rise. As I have stated in previous articles, public schools currently provide a wealth of essential resources and services to our families across the community.

5. Do you feel the district has adequate staff coverage with the budget as it is?

Answer: I have been a Superintendent since 2012 and have consistently presented a budget to each Board with adequate staff coverage, which is fundamental to providing students with the quality education they deserve. Creating the district's budget is a comprehensive and collaborative effort involving close coordination between the District administration and the Board of Education. Our approach is holistic, aiming to balance the essential elements of student needs, staff levels, infrastructure maintenance, and innovative educational programming.

The current level of staffing was in part driven by COVID grant funding, which was designed to be used to close learning loss gaps through additional instructional support as well as to reduce class size.

We strive to make decisions that are not only educationally sound but also fiscally responsible to our tax-paying community. This necessitates a delicate balancing act, as our resources must be allocated in a way that maximizes educational outcomes while being mindful of our fiscal constraints.

The Board of Education ultimately has the responsibility of approving the budget, but this is done through discussions and a shared commitment to meeting our community's educational aspirations within our financial means. The question of staff coverage is not about adequacy in isolation but is one piece of a larger puzzle we diligently work to solve each year, aiming to strike a balance that serves the best interests of our students, staff, and community.

If state increases aid, Batavia school board leaning toward adding staff vs. cutting taxes

By Joanne Beck

Monday’s latest round of city school board budget discussions ended with a theoretical question for the group: If the state provides $300,000 more in Foundation Aid for the district, how do you want to spend it?

Choices included putting the money toward reserves to lower the amount being put toward the 2024-25 expenses, lowering the tax levy and related 2.26 percent property tax increase, or shuttling it toward personnel to hire more teachers.

As it is, a mental health grant and five additional full-time positions have been added to the budget to be effective July 1, and three bus routes that had previously been cut to save money were put back in, Business Administrator Andrew Lang said, because of feedback about how those changes would lengthen the time for students to be on a bus and that could result in behavioral and disciplinary issues.

Still, it seems as though the most vocal board members have eyes for more staff.

As has been the case during each budget talk so far, Vice President John Reigle made no bones about his stance. He previously shared his disappointment and concern about losing seven full-time equivalent grant-funded positions that were added with COVID-19 funds given to the district to assist with post-pandemic measures, five full-time positions that were reduced due to decreased enrollment, and four positions that were not replaced for retired or resigned teachers.

“I’m trying to save some of these positions or to refill some of the retirements or grant positions. It’s a hard pill to swallow to see all the losses,” Reigle said.

Board member Jenn Lendvay agreed with Reigle about where any extra state aid should go.

Board member Alice Benedict suggested a dual purpose, putting the money toward hiring staff and also some into the reserve fund.

Smith said that he didn’t want to “give you false hope … but there have been intense lobbying efforts” at the state level to loosen the purse strings in Albany and free up more funding for school districts.

“There's more negotiations to happen just as we're doing here in this session, same thing, same kind of stuff there,” he said.

He introduced David Lowery, Area 1 director of the New York State School Boards Association representing school boards in Genesee, Erie, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Lowery urged board members to appeal to their legislators before the budget is finalized.

NYSSBA’s talking points include to:

  • Reject executive proposal to eliminate the state’s save harmless provision by cutting Foundation Aid for 337 school districts. Save Harmless stipulates that districts could not lose money if their estimated need declined.
  • Reject executive proposal to amend the inflationary factor in the Foundation Aid formula.
  • Support Legislative proposals to provide a minimum 3% Foundation Aid increase for all districts.
  • Support legislative proposals to provide funding to the State Education Department to conduct a study on the Foundation Aid formula.
  • Reject executive proposal to freeze the school aid database and cap aid payments.
  • Reject executive proposal to permanently shift certain CSE special education costs from the state to school districts.
  • Support executive and Legislative proposals to exclude certain external funds from the calculation of transportation aid for zero-emission bus purchases.
  • Support legislative proposals to fund a full universal school meals program.
  • Support legislative proposals to increase career and technical education funding through increases in the BOCES aidable salary cap and special services aid.
  • Support executive proposal to remove “supplement, not supplant” language from pre-k funding.
  • Support legislative proposals to increase funding for pre-k full-day and half-day programs.
  • Support Senate proposal to increase investments in preschool special education programs and special act school districts.

Lang said that if the district were to receive a conservative estimate of $200,000 more in Foundation aid, putting that toward the fund balance would reduce the amount being used for the budget from $3.7 million to $3.5 million.

“That still, in my opinion, as a school business official, that's still an exceedingly high number of appropriated fund balance,” he said. “I would be cautious as to continually appropriate that amount of funding and relying on it to balance the district's budget with a 1 to 2%. You'd have to go back to that allowance of considerably less than one out of that fund balance of about $1.2 million.”

The board needs to focus on the expenses side of the budget, he said, and move towards a vote to adopt that on April 22. Reigle asked for a list of what types of positions had been cut and where they were located within the district, such as a social sciences teacher in the middle school, “just so we can kind of have an idea of where we're looking at what we're talking about,” he said.

The question was asked how reducing staff affects class size. Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said that tools are used to assess such dynamics, and although the state says there can be 28 kids in a class, “we’re really not making super large class sizes anywhere,” she said.

Jackson Primary between 18 to 24 kids, John Kennedy Intermediate has 20 to 24, and Batavia Middle School has 24 to 28. Smith added, “We’re really trying to concentrate on classes at the lower grade levels for obvious reasons.”

“I think this school district has done really well at keeping class size under 20,” Benedict said.

Lang had previously reviewed overall enrollment projections, which are expected to gradually decline. Numbers had dipped to 2,006 in 2021-22, and then rose back up to 2,031 in 2022-23, 2,072 in 2023-24, and then slipped back down to 2,047 in 2024-25, and are projected to fall to 2,034 in 2025-26 hover around there in 2026-27, fall again to 2,022 in 2027-28 and bounce back to 2,046 in 2028-29.

Reducing the staff was still “a big concern of mine,” Reigle said.

A $1.4 million mental health grant that Corey said her staff didn’t know it was receiving in August 2022 and still has access to will allow the district to add five more full-time positions. The same number of positions were reduced due to declining enrollment. They will be added on in July this year.

“We are pleased to say we can look at a couple new positions for next year,” Smith said. “A purpose of the grant is to expand our services,” he said.

About $286,000 has been spent so far, with $1.1 million remaining for the staff expense, Lang said.

As of Monday evening, the board is expected to vote on a proposed $60,373,861 budget during its meeting on April 22. That’s a 2.38 percent increase, or about $1.4 million more than this year’s budget. This plan would include a tax levy of $20,339,336 for a tax rate increase of 2.26 percent or 39 cents per $1,000 assessed value. That would be an extra $48.75 a year on a home assessed at $125,000.

A public presentation is set for 6 p.m. on May 14, to be followed by a budget vote on May 21.

City Schools administrators will have decisions to make about teacher charged with resisting arrest

By Howard B. Owens

Each situation is weighed individually when a school employee is arrested, City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith told The Batavian in response to a query about the apprehension of a teacher and her husband on March 2.

Both are charged with resisting arrest, and the husband, Aaron Fix, 50, is accused of assaulting a police officer.

Fix has been a volunteer assistant varsity football coach and was the head coach of the flag football team. He resigned from that position following his arrest, Smith said.

Kristen Fix, 49, is a teacher at Robert Morris, which Jackson Primary School administers.

"Many factors are considered in determining how school districts respond to an employee’s arrest, including the nature of the charges, whether and to what extent the charges/conduct are related to the school/students, whether the employee has any prior discipline or related conduct, whether the employee is cooperative in sharing information related to the arrest, among others," Smith said.

He added, "Each matter is reviewed on an individual basis, consistent with applicable provisions of New York State Law and the collective bargaining agreement."

He did not directly address Kristen Fix's status, the status of any investigation, or how the district is proceeding in this individual case.  

While Kristen Fix has been charged, she has not been convicted of any crime. Her case is pending in City Court, and her next scheduled appearance before Judge Andrea Clattenburg is April 4.

While a matter is under review, under state law, it is a personnel issue. When there is disciplinary action against a government employee, it is generally public record.

The incident involving the Fixes began at 10:22 p.m. on March 2 with a traffic stop by Deputy Zachary Hoy in the area of 561 East Main St., Batavia. 

According to a report by Hoy obtained by The Batavian from City Court, Kristen Fix was driving a vehicle that was observed moving out of its lane of travel, almost striking a curb, and stopping in the middle of the roadway.

Kristen was charged with DWI (first offense), resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, moving from lane unsafely, and unlicensed driver.

The resisting arrest is based on an allegation that she walked away from officers while being advised she was under arrest.

On the report for refusal to submit to a chemical test, the section listing evidence of alleged impairment includes being "abusive."  

Aaron Fix is charged with assault in the second degree, resisting arrest, criminal mischief in the fourth degree, and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree.

Based on court documents, Aaron is accused of interfering with the arrest of Kristen. He allegedly got in and out of the vehicle multiple times.

He is accused of resisting arrest by stiffening his arms when officers attempted to place handcuffs on him.

He is charged with assault in the second degree with intent to injure an officer based on alleged injuries sustained by Officer Andrew Mruczek.  Mruczek reportedly sustained injuries on his neck and the right side of his forehead.

The charge of criminal mischief is based on an accusation that Aaron intentionally damaged Mruczek's uniform collar brass.

Aaron's next court appearance is scheduled for April 17 before Judge Durin Rogers.

Richmond library takes over, pays for financial duties once performed by city school district

By Joanne Beck
Beth Paine Feb. 2023
2023 File Photo of Richmond Memorial Library Director Beth Paine
Photo by Howard Owens

For the first time in decades, Richmond Memorial Library will be taking care of its own financial duties versus allowing the city school district to provide an in-kind service as part of its landlord-tenant relationship.

The district was made aware of the change with a letter from library Board President Jessica Ecock-Rotondo, who wrote to inform the district that as of 2024, the library “will be departing our accounting and payroll from the Batavia City School District” and will be working with RPM Payroll and Rupert Accounting. 

Given that the library had receive this as an in-kind service at no extra charge, The Batavian asked library Director Beth Paine, who just celebrated her first year in Batavia, about the additional costs now being incurred, and how to explain that to taxpayers. 

Paine said that this new arrangement was something that she had been used to from her previous position before coming to Batavia.

“The board and I agreed that we prefer to have everything in-house so that we have direct control over our finances. In my previous director position at a school district library, all financial functions were done in-house and it made the whole process more streamlined and it was much easier to deal with time-sensitive issues,” Paine said. “It could be difficult to deal with any changes that needed to be made quickly when we needed to contact the district each time before we could proceed. We also preferred to do our own payroll as it was easier to track our staff leave time and again to make any changes that were needed immediately.”

She has taken over the payroll and related duties, she said, and the library accounts payable clerk and accounts receivable clerk have taken over the bookkeeping tasks. The library has hired an outside accountant to “oversee all of these functions, and we have hired a payroll company to process our payroll.,” she said.

“The cost of the change was minimal, as we were already paying Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES for the financial software and administration of the accounting functions,” she said. “We also recently switched from a higher-priced human resources company to a company with a much more reasonable pricing scale for the same services. The savings from that change more than cover the small increase in our accounting costs.” 

Batavia School Superintendent Jason Smith said the district has a “long history of providing this in-kind support to and for the Richmond Library.”

“And have been glad to do so, as the library was bequeathed to the district by Mary Richmond many, many years ago,” he said. “We essentially have a "landlord/tenant" relationship with the library, where we provide for upkeep (a part of our recently approved Capital Project includes improvements at RML), and up until Dec. 4, 2023, provided in-kind financial support.”

The district has been providing these financial services to the library for “a very long time,” he said and also performed purchasing on behalf of RML before that was taken back as well. 

“The district has the capability, understanding and staff to perform the accounting and payroll functions for RML,” he said. “These are the main reasons why the district performed these tasks on behalf of RML.”

The library’s tax levy this year was $1,381,469, with a tax rate of $1.19 per $1,000 assessed value. So for a house assessed at $100,000, that’s an extra $119 a year for library services in addition to city school taxes of $17.18 per $1,000, or $1,718.

First Amendment question left unresolved in plea deal for Batavia mother accused of harassing school officials

By Howard B. Owens

A Batavia mother charged with harassment in the second degree for sending a series of angry emails, including one with profanity, to City School officials will not need to admit to any wrongdoing under terms of a plea agreement reached in City Court on Wednesday.

Kate Long, 39, accepted an offer from the District Attorney's Office to get the charge against her dismissed if she can avoid any additional criminal charges over the next six months.

That would wipe the slate clean, as if she was never charged in the first place. It would also mean no legal challenge to her arrest, which could have very well violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances.

It makes perfect sense that Long would accept the plea offer, said Constitutional scholar Jared Carter, but the plea could also potentially mean government agencies remain free to use the harassment 2nd statute to silence critics.

"My initial reaction, from a pure First Amendment perspective, is this was always a troubling case based on the facts as I understand them," Carter told The Batavian on Wednesday evening. "On one hand, there is some vindication of the First Amendment on the basis of the dismissal.  Of course, you don't have a ruling from a court saying this arrest was unconstitutional, so does the school district or law enforcement or whatever (agency) have any check on power? Can they again do what they want to do, and the short answer is, 'Yes.'  That's the unfortunate aspect of all of this."

Carter is counsel with the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic, based in Ithaca, and a professor of Law at Vermont Law and Graduate School. Carter specializes in First Amendment cases.

Long, a mother of three children, was issued a summons in November and charged with a single count of harassment in the second degree, a violation of Penal Law 240.26(3), which reads:

He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.

The charge was based on a criminal complaint filed with Batavia PD by John Marucci, president of the Board of Education for the Batavia City School District.

The complaint cited a Nov. 8 email that contained profanity and noted that Long had sent a series of emails over a short period of time complaining about how her son's Spanish class at Batavia Middle School was being handled.

In order to comment on the charge for an article The Batavian published on Dec. 18, Carter reviewed the emails and the charging documents and offered the opinion that Long's conduct would likely be viewed as protected speech by any court asked to rule on the constitutionality of her arrest. 

"They're (prosecutors) skating on very thin constitutional ice if any ice at all," Carter told The Batavian in December when discussing the arrest and prosecution of Long. "The First Amendment robustly protects Freedom of Speech, and the freedom to criticize government action. That would include criticizing the way that a school handles itself."

In 2014, the state's aggravated harassment statute, which contained similar language but specifically targeted speech, was ruled unconstitutional.  The state Legislature changed that law the following year but left open the ability of police to arrest individuals engaged in speech that is deemed offensive conduct under the harassment 2nd statute. 

Buffalo attorney Tom Trbovich, retained by Long to represent her in City Court, told The Batavian after her initial court appearance that he wasn't likely to mount a constitutional challenge to her arrest, suggesting an easier resolution could be negotiated with the District Attorney's Office.

"I think this was a good resolution," Trbovich said after court on Wednesday. "Right now, we were circling the wagons and making sure that nothing goes wrong. And hopefully, this will be taken care of in six months as if it never happened."

Asked if he thought his client committed a crime, Trbovich offered a slight smile and said, "I don't want to antagonize the office. I got a good disposition."

There are no conditions on Long over the next six months other than she avoid a criminal conviction, though Trbovich offered in court that Long would agree to have no further contact with school employees at Batavia Middle School.

Her son has transferred to Notre Dame, and her husband would have remained free to talk with school officials.

Judge Durin Rogers rejected the condition because there are typically no additional conditions on an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.

Carter said Trbovich getting a potential dismissal of the charge for his client was understandable.

"Criminal defense attorneys try to get the best outcome for their clients by keeping them out of harm's way," Carter said. "It totally makes sense to tread carefully, to get the best outcome for his client as he can. I totally get that. I'm not second-guessing that at all."

But, he said, the First Amendment is still in play for Long if she wishes to pursue it as a civil matter, meaning, filing a lawsuit against the school district or the police department, if she feels her arrest did her harm or that it has a chilling effect on her future speech.  The fact she offered to have no future contact with the school, Carter indicated, suggests her arrest does indicate she is willing to self-censor out of fear of repercussion.

"You have to have some sort of injury to get in the courthouse door," Carter said. "Would a chilling effect be enough if she wanted to bring a First Amendment case? It could be injury enough to get in the courthouse door."

Batavia City Schools to deal with reduced funding as COVID grants come to an end

By Joanne Beck
Jason Smith

During his superintendent’s report, Jason Smith updated Batavia City Schools board members Monday about project decreases in revenue for this year’s budget, including several federal grants that will be winding down in September and state-issued Foundation aid recently laid out in Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget.

“With the Governor's current budget proposal, BCSD is slated to receive $24,177,919, which is a $13,936 reduction from last year's Foundation Aid. However, had the Governor not adjusted the current law, BCSD would be receiving, and I would argue is entitled to receive, an additional $277,141 in Foundation Aid,” Smith told The Batavian Wednesday. “It is especially frustrating that this was changed with very little notice to school districts, further hampering our ability to plan our budget and programs for students accordingly.”

Smith plans to review options for how to deal with a decrease in aid, and those expiring three-year grants that were given to the district during COVID to provide additional support to students. 

The COVID funds are that of the American Rescue Plan Act, which divvied up additional monies for municipalities, and for school districts to apply toward student-needed measures in the current post-pandemic era.

The district dedicated a large portion to the hiring of a second school resource officer and several new teaching positions and placed a focus on students’ mental health and social-emotional learning.

In October 2022, Thomas Ramming of Thomas Ramming Consulting, Inc., presented his study on the district that found “a lack of comprehensive and strategic staffing plan, increased teacher positions paid for with additional federal and state aid despite declining enrollment, and a large number of school counselors per federal recommendations,” based on at least some of those increased hirings.

When school board members raised the point that his study was conducted after the pandemic, Ramming admitted that the whole COVID scenario was not calculated in the overall findings. 

He did suggest, however, that the district continuously assess whether the extra personnel will be warranted in the future. And if that’s the case, the district needs a plan for how to pay for those salaries and benefits, Ramming had said.

It would seem that time is coming, for dealing with both reduced aid and grant funding.

"Recommendations will be provided to the board over the upcoming budget preparation season, slated to begin in February," Smith said.

In other district financial news, the board approved a four-year contract with the Batavia Administrator’s union that provides them with:

  • A four percent raise each year;
  • Increased starting salaries for assistant principals “to recruit exceptional talent,” Smith said;
  • The removal of an incentive that was related to the graduation rate; and
  • Increased health insurance rate premiums by 2 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent for current contribution rates of between 14 to 25 percent, depending on the selected plan.

“The Batavia Administrators Association last rolled over its agreement in 2021, so this is truly a new contract for them since 2018 when the last contract was negotiated,” Smith said.

The board also approved:

  • Payment of $42,400 to Mollenberg-Betz, Inc. for the emergency repair of sump pumps at John Kennedy Intermediate School. 
  • In early October 2023, the Buildings and Grounds staff discovered that the sump pumps located in the JK basement had failed, and the Board of Education approved an emergency project during its Dec. 19, 2023 meeting. 

    The state Education Department approved the emergency project designation, normal bidding procedures were suspended in order to proceed, and the necessary electrical and plumbing work was completed.

  • A compensation adjustment of $8,000 for Clark Patterson Lee as an amendment for the company’s professional services agreement of April 27, 2022.

BCSD board approves three transportation contracts with STA worth more than $11M

By Joanne Beck

The Batavia City Schools' board approved five-year contracts Monday with Student Transportation of America for transportation from home to school, field and sports trips and during the summer worth more than $11 million that will be part of this year’s budget vote in May.

Business Administrator Andrew Lang explained, in a memo to the board, that the district engaged in a bid process this past November to procure student transportation services for the next five years. Prior to this, he said, the district had extended a previously awarded contract with STA for a period of five years. 

The bid process included a detailed specification outlining the district’s transportation program and current transportation needs. The bid included five separate contracts for home-to-school, special needs and homeless, field and sports trips, summer special needs and homeless, and summer home-to-school.

There was only one bid, which came from STA, and only for three contracts of home-to-school, field and sports trips, and summer home-to-school, Lang said. 

“As this is a multi-year contract, voter approval is required,” he said. “This is done by noting the estimated five-year contract cost in the 2024-25 public budget document.”

He recommended that the board award the bids to STA for the designated amounts as follows:

  • Home-to-school transportation for a total five-year cost, including bus monitor/attendant, of $8,438,451.10. Rates range from up to three hours at $360 in this school year up to $437.58 in 2028-29, and $386.45 for four hours plus $74.28 per hour after that, up to $469.73 plus $90.29.
  • Field and sports trip transportation for a total five-year cost, plus bus monitor, for $2,099,470.78. Driving rates are $98 for this school year, up to $119.12 in 2028-29 for in-district, plus an extra cost of $1.58 per mile this year, up to $1.92 in 2028-29 for out-of-district trips.
  • Summer home-to-school and bus monitor/attendant total five-year cost of $607,982.44. Prices are the same as regular home-to-school until after four hours, when rates change to $405.02 for 4.5 hours for 2024-25 up to $492.30 in 2028-29 and $423.59 for five hours up to $514.88, with $74.28 per hour after that, up to $90.29 during the fifth year of the contract.
  • Bus monitor/attendant rates are the same for all contracts, at $34.93 per hour in 2024-25 up to $42.46 in 2028-29.

The board approved a motion as part of the consent agenda during Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

The contract runs from the 2024-25 school year through 2028-29.

Charge against Batavia mother for emails sent to school officials raises First Amendment concerns

By Howard B. Owens
district office Batavia City School District
Batavia City School District, District Office.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Free speech and the right to petition your government over grievances: two rights clearly protected in the United States by the First Amendment.

But when does complaining to government officials cross the line into harassment?

That's a high bar to cross, and should be, according to Constitutional scholar Jared Carter.

Carter is counsel with the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic, based in Ithaca, and a professor of Law at Vermont Law and Graduate School. Carter specializes in First Amendment cases.

Wherever that line is between protected speech and harassment, a Batavia mother who became upset in November with how her son's Spanish class at the Middle School was being taught didn't cross it, Carter told The Batavian after reviewing available documents.

The Batavian provided him with documents received from Batavia City Schools, which included emails sent by Kate Long to Superintendent Jason Smith, School Board Vice President John Reigle, along with other district officials, and the charging documents obtained from Batavia City Court.

The Charge
Long, 39, mother of three children, was issued a summons in November and charged with a single count of harassment in the second degree, a violation of Penal Law 240.26(3), which reads:

He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.

Carter said the language of the statute is too vague and overly broad to fairly apply to speech and is the same language that was once part of the state's aggravated harassment law, which was struck down by a federal court as unconstitutional in 2014.

The former aggravated harassment statute dealt specifically with spoken and written communication that was likely to "cause annoyance or alarm ... for no purpose of legitimate communication." 

In People v. Golb, the court ruled that the former statute violated both the state Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A similar case, People v. Dietze, struck down Section 240.25 dealing with language that was abusive or obscene with "the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person."

In the Golb case, the court held that both cases examined state statutes and said both failed to provide necessary limitations on the scope of communications that were criminally prosecuted. 

"They're (prosecutors) skating on very thin constitutional ice, if any ice at all," Carter said of the arrest and prosecution of Long. "The First Amendment robustly protects Freedom of Speech, and the freedom to criticize government action. That would include criticizing the way that a school handles itself. Now, are some of her emails obnoxious? Perhaps. But the First Amendment very clearly, in my view, protects even obnoxious and, quite frankly, ugly speech, and unless speech fits into one of the very narrow few exemptions to the First Amendment, then it's going to be protected."

Carter said while we're talking about different statutes, they're essentially the same exact language that makes the harassment 2nd statute, when it involves prosecuting speech, is not likely to be found Constitutional if challenged.

Chain of Emails
The trail of events that led to Long's charge began in the middle of September when Batavia Middle School Principal Nate Korzelius informed parents that the teacher originally assigned to teach Spanish would be taking a long-term leave of absence.  He said the district conducted a comprehensive search to find a certified Spanish substitute but was unable to find a qualified teacher to take over the class. 

Instead, he said, "We will utilize an online program called AcceleratedU. This program has been thoroughly vetted and widely used by students nationwide, demonstrating its effectiveness in enhancing students' learning experience."

He invited parents to contact school officials with any problems or concerns.

A couple of weeks later, according to emails obtained from the district through a Freedom of Information Law request by The Batavian, Kate Long did express her concerns.

She said AcceleratedU was not a "long-term solution" for a sub.  

"I think by now, you know this based on the grades of students," she wrote in an email to school officials on Nov. 1.

"The school needs to start looking for a long-term sub and put some actual effort into it," she wrote. "I'm getting pretty sick of spending every single evening being my son's unpaid Spanish teacher. Oh yeah, and I don't get a break on my taxes, either."

Superintendent Jason Smith responded the next morning and wrote, "We fully understand that there have been concerns with this, and despite our efforts to find a sub, including speaking with three retired teachers, networking across several counties for candidates, we literally had no one apply or who was even interested. There is, in fact, a severe shortage of Spanish teachers."

He also said the district had contacted the software company several times with complaints about the program, and while the company responded, "We know issues remain."

Long was not satisfied with the response and began a series of emails, often snarky, accusing district officials of not caring, of not doing enough, and of her role as an "unpaid" teacher.

She sent 16 emails over eight days. (The charging documents say 12 emails over eight days,  but The Batavian counted 16 emails sent by Long in response to its FOIL request.)

Long, who studied Spanish in college and told district officials she lived for a year with a Spanish-speaking family, had specific complaints about grammatical errors she found in the program. 

On Nov. 3, the board's vice president, John Reigle, responded and again reiterated the efforts undertaken by the district to hire a Spanish sub and noted that Smith had replied to her email the day before and invited her to meet with school officials.

That night, she wrote district officials and board members and said, "Hope you all are sleeping very nicely every night. I'm not. Look forward to more messages every single day that you lack to get a Spanish teacher."

She wrote individually to Reigle and said, "What a very eloquent way to say,  'I don't care.' Thanks a lot. That was sarcasm.  Look forward to more emails until you DO SOMETHING."

In all, she sent 11 emails on Nov. 3 alone, concluding one that read, "I guess it would have been in my best interest to say, 'I don't care,' like all of you."

In his sworn complaint, Board President John Marucci quoted from Long's second-to-last email, sent on Nov. 8 at 9:37 p.m. 

"Fuck you all. You are all jokes. You call yourselves educators. You reap what you sow.”

Marucci wrote, in his statement, that Long was complaining about online learning of Spanish in her emails but also stated that she sent "these emails with no legitimate meaning or purpose to the point that we as the City of Batavia School Board of Education feel like we're are being harassed by Kate Long by her alarming and annoying emails. I would like to pursue any and all legal charges against Kate Long."

Political Speech
Carter said Long's emails are political in nature, seeking correction to what she believes is a wrong perpetrated by a government body and is, therefore, protected speech.

"I think it's fair to say that is some of the most protected speech that there is," Carter said. "I'm not saying at some point, you can't have emails becoming harassment. But I think 16 emails over the course of eight days? I don't see how we've crossed that line. And I think courts are going to look at it very skeptically if she were indeed to be prosecuted."

The Batavian emailed several questions to District Attorney Kevin Finnell.  We wanted to know if Batavia PD consulted with his office prior to the arrest of Long and if he had any Constitutional concerns about the case.

"Our office does not generally participate in the investigation of criminal matters," Finnell said. "While we remain available to consult with law enforcement during an investigation, my office did not offer any input or advice in this particular case.  Even in cases where we do offer advice during an investigation, the choice of what offense(s) to charge is ultimately determined by law enforcement."

As for the Constitutional issue, Finnell said he and all of his ADAs are sworn to uphold the Constitution and are mindful of that in prosecuting every case.

In 2015, former District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, in response to the Golb ruling, sent a memo to local law enforcement warning the departments to no longer arrest people under the portion of the aggravated harassment law that was struck down.  He did not raise concerns about the similar language contained in the harassment 2nd statute, and Finnell noted that there is, in fact, a difference between the statutes.

In the Dietz and Golb cases, Finnell said, the courts were reviewing statutes that dealt specifically with speech. 

"The statute charged here is different in that it does not target pure speech but rather proscribes behavior," Finnell said. "It is a violation of Penal Law 240.26(3) to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts which serve no legitimate purpose and which have the effect of alarming or seriously annoying the targeted individual.  While that conduct could include speech, it is the act or conduct itself that constitutes a violation of law."

Carter said that calling Long's emails "conduct" bypasses the fact that she was engaging in speech, and no matter what other word you apply to it, whether you describe hitting the send button an email as "conduct," it's still speech.

"I don't think that's going to carry a lot of water," Carter said. "These are emails, and there's plenty of case law out there that talks about expressive conduct, which I don't even think this is, I mean, these are emails, this is communication, plain and simple. And I just don't think they're going to be able to convince a court, and quite frankly, the material that you sent that the district attorney shared, to my mind -- I just don't see this being prosecuted. I don't know how you could possibly criminalize 16 emails, even one that used a cuss word and be consistent with the First Amendment under a harassment statute, the bulk of which I think has been essentially struck down."

Cases that involve the Supreme Court upholding conduct as speech:

Profane speech, in Cohen v. California (1971), is also protected.

District Response
The Batavian also asked Superintendent Jason Smith and Board President John Marucci questions regarding the Constitutional issues raised by the case. 

Both said they thought Long's emails crossed a line, and they turned to the police to help bring the communications to a halt. Smith said it is up to the justice system to decide whether Long's rights have been violated but that she was arrested within the scope of existing state law. 

Marucci said he and the board respect the legal process and Constitutional rights but that they were facing an escalating concern and needed the assistance of the legal system, which will decide how best to deal with the case.

"Our decision was not about seeking charges against a citizen," Marucci said. "Instead, it was a necessary response to escalating inappropriate emails despite our attempts at dialogue. We value and address all respectful and constructive conversations with parents and community members. In this specific instance, it was essential for us to take a firm stance to protect our administration and staff from unnecessary harassment; we could not stand idly by, and therefore, we made the decisive choice to speak up and act in defense of our school community's well-being."

Smith said there are proper ways for residents to raise issues with the administration and school board, and the district respects the right of residents to disagree with their decisions. He doesn't believe, he said, that administrators and elected officials should necessarily be protected from annoying and upsetting speech but that this was an exceptional case. He said it is important to maintain a respectful and safe environment for everyone in the school community.

"While we fully support the right of individuals to ask questions and hold our school leadership accountable, this does not extend to the point of harassment or the use of inappropriate and inflammatory language," Smith said. "In this particular case, our decision to involve legal action was not taken lightly. It was a response to a pattern of communication from the parent in question that had escalated beyond acceptable norms of civil discourse. Our actions are in no way intended to infringe upon civil rights or to discourage constructive feedback and engagement from our community. Instead, they are a necessary step in protecting the well-being and safety of our school board members and staff and upholding a standard of respect and civility in our communications."

To read the full Q&A with both Smith and Marucci, click here.

Prior Restraint
Among the documents obtained by The Batavian from the school district is a letter from Smith to Long. It is dated Nov. 10 and informs Long that the matter has been referred to Batavia PD. It's the first time, at least in the communications obtained by The Batavian, that anybody with the district notified Long that officials found her emails annoying. 

In it, Smith informs Long that her email address has been blocked, prohibiting her from communicating with any other district official except Smith, that she is not to contact any other district employee, and that she may not use the district's app, Parent Square, to contact staff members.

Carter said this letter is also Constitutionally problematic, though the case law on the matter is not settled.

"I could see a strong argument that blocking a member from the public from being able to send emails to government officials would have First Amendment implications," Carter said. 

A case against former President Donald Trump regarding his practice of blocking people on Twitter never made it to the Supreme Court because he left office before the matter was settled. A lower court had previously ruled against Trump, saying he couldn't block people from using a public forum to criticize him. 

There are two other cases pending before the Supreme Court regarding government officials and agencies blocking communication on social media platforms. 

We couldn't find any cases dealing specifically with individual emails to the government or elected officials or using a government-run platform such as Parent Square.

The letter could potentially constitute "prior restraint." Courts have consistently held that the government cannot restrict speech and publication, regardless of any concern about future communication, that has not yet occurred.

It's this block to communication, along with Long's three children still attending school, that may be why her attorney, Tom Trbovich, from Buffalo, seems hesitant to fight a First Amendment case.

He said he would love to have a case he could take to the Supreme Court and win. It would help his career.  But his first obligation is to his client and what is in the best interest of her and her family. He said while he's willing to do whatever his needed, it's also important to be realistic about the situation.

"As a secondary goal, I want to make sure that, you know, it'd be nice to make sure that relations and stuff like that with the families in the school workout, as well," Trbovich said after Long's initial court appearance, where she entered a not-guilty plea. "I want to make sure it's a win-win situation for everybody. And it's just going to take a little bit of time. I don't want to just do something quick in court. I want to do what's in the best interest of everybody."

Q&A with Superintendent Jason Smith and Board President John Marucci regarding the arrest of Kate Long

By Howard B. Owens

For Related story, see: Charge against Batavia mother for emails sent to school officials raises First Amendment concerns

Jason Smith
Jason Smith

Jason Smith:

Should public officials, especially elected officials, be seeking to have citizens/constituents arrested for expressing their concerns over the conduct of public business (in this case, how courses are taught)?

Provided that the dialogue is respectful, fair and reasonable, of course not. The Board and I regularly receive emails from parents in which the dialogue is cordial and respectful.

In this particular case, however, we responded to a situation that called for a firm response. The Board of Education received numerous emails in a very short period of time from Ms. Long with inappropriate and inflammatory language, including one that said, '"Fuck you all.  You all are jokes.  You call yourself educators.  You reap what you sow," and we had no indication that they were going to cease until the issue was resolved to the complete satisfaction of Ms. Long—which we could not do after numerous attempts to find a qualified teacher.  In addition, she explicitly indicated that the Board should "Look forward to more messages every single day..."

In Ms. Long’s case, she received two emails from our Board Vice President and two emails from me, so her concerns were in fact heard and responded to in a timely and respectful manner. 

While Ms. Long initially stated her concerns in a respectful manner, they quickly escalated.

Are you concerned that her arrest may have violated her constitutional rights?

We brought the concerns to the attention of the Batavia Police Department, and an officer looked into it and determined that her behavior warranted the arrest.

It is the job of the courts and legislature to determine if these laws violate constitutional rights, and while some might disagree with the law’s reach, it continues to be a valid law in New York State.

As educators, are you concerned that her arrest sends the wrong message to students about civil rights?

No, there is no concern regarding the message sent to students about civil rights. This incident actually serves as an educational opportunity. We want our students to learn the importance of engaging in civil discourse in a respectful, reasonable, and fair manner.

Unfortunately, Ms. Long's approach did not reflect these values, which are essential in public education and have been upheld for decades. As an educator and leader, my role includes actively listening to all members of our community and striving to foster mutual understanding and respect.

What balance do you think should be struck in regards to a parent/citizen/constituent raising concerns and responding when they feel like their concerns are not being heard? Any suggestions for not restricting First Amendment rights while avoiding harassment (in the context of the question, in common use of the word, not the legal definition)?

There are channels that individuals can follow when addressing their concerns, which our District and Board of Education members consistently follow and encourage. 

To be clear, Ms. Long’s concerns were heard, again as evidenced by my response and that of our Board Vice President. BMS Principal Nate Korzelius also corresponded with her.

In fact, due in part to her concerns, we course-corrected and made a few changes to the way the online Spanish class was being taught—changes which Ms. Long acknowledged and appreciated. 

Should public officials be shielded from annoying and upsetting speech?

No, not at all, but when it crosses the line, as it did in Ms. Long’s case, there are laws on the books that are designed to prevent this type of inappropriate behavior, as well as the BCSD Code of Conduct, where parent behavior is also addressed.

Our Board of Education and our District communicate and listen to our families and students every single day. Is every single situation resolved to the satisfaction of all? Of course not—that is nearly impossible. And again, in Ms. Long’s case, we responded to her concerns, and addressed them to the best of our ability in a timely and respectful manner.

As a school district, we deeply value the rights of parents and community members to express their concerns and opinions. We understand and respect the importance of open dialogue and encourage our community to actively participate in discussions about our schools' operations and policies.

However, it is equally important to maintain a respectful and safe environment for everyone in our school community, including our board members and staff. While we fully support the right of individuals to ask questions and hold our school leadership accountable, this does not extend to the point of harassment or the use of inappropriate and inflammatory language.

In this particular case, our decision to involve legal action was not taken lightly. It was a response to a pattern of communication from the parent in question that had escalated beyond acceptable norms of civil discourse. Our actions are in no way intended to infringe upon civil rights or to discourage constructive feedback and engagement from our community. Instead, they are a necessary step in protecting the well-being and safety of our school board members and staff, and upholding a standard of respect and civility in our communications.

We remain committed to transparency and accountability in our operations and continue to welcome and value input from our community provided it is expressed in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of all individuals involved.

john Marucci 220

John Marucci:

Should public officials, especially elected officials, be seeking to have citizens/constituents arrested for expressing their concerns over the conduct of public business (in this case, how courses are taught)?

Our decision was not about seeking charges against a citizen. Instead, it was a necessary response to escalating inappropriate emails despite our attempts at dialogue. 

We value and address all respectful and constructive conversations with parents and community members.

In this specific instance, it was essential for us to take a firm stance to protect our administration and staff from unnecessary harassment; we could not stand idly by, and therefore, we made the decisive choice to speak up and act in defense of our school community's well-being.

Are you concerned that her arrest may have violated her constitutional rights?

As a Board, we respect the legal process and constitutional rights. Our role was to report an escalating concern; the legal system, guided by New York State law, determines the rights and violations. We trust in this process and its ability to uphold the law and protect rights.

As educators, are you concerned that her arrest sends the wrong message to students about civil rights?

There's no concern about a wrong message on civil rights. This situation highlights the importance of respectful and civil discourse when expressing concerns.

Our entire community, including the Board, administration, teachers, staff, and parents, are working together to foster a thriving and supportive educational environment. To do this, we must engage in more constructive conversations.

What balance do you think should be struck in regards to a parent/citizen/constituent raising concerns and responding when they feel like their concerns are not being heard? Any suggestions for not restricting First Amendment rights while avoiding harassment (in the context of the question, in common use of the word, not the legal definition)?

We believe in open, respectful dialogue with all community members. 

We always strive to balance the need for respectful communication with the right to express concerns, ensuring everyone is heard but within the bounds of civility.

Should public officials be shielded from annoying and upsetting speech?

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our community values, but it comes with the responsibility to maintain a respectful and safe environment. 

While we listen and respond to all concerns, there is a line where speech becomes disruptive or harassing. 

Our actions, in this case, were to protect the well-being of our school community and uphold a standard of respect and civility, not to suppress free speech or discourage community engagement.

More votes come in for B-B library, support is strong for new tax, city school district

By Joanne Beck

Overall, citizens throughout Genesee County supported measures to keep incumbents in place, add a tax to ensure services at Byron-Bergen library, and include Batavia and all small city schools in removal from special constitutional debt limits.

The totals for Byron-Bergen Public Library’s proposition vote have changed, though citizens of the towns of Byron and Bergen are still leaning toward approval of a new tax, with votes of 689 yes to 618 no.

Results from the general election were not complete in the Town of Byron as of Tuesday night, according to the Board of Elections. 

The library vote for Proposition 3 to establish an annual 55-cent per $1,000 assessed valuation was supported at the time by a vote of 545 yes to 467 no. As of Wednesday afternoon, those numbers shifted to 689 yes to 618 no from the towns of Byron and Bergen.

Library board President Sally Capurso has not responded to requests for comment about what that will mean for the library as of Wednesday afternoon.

Genesee County Republican Committee Chairman Scott German stepped into the role for his first general election, filling the seat of resigning chair Dick Siebert.

Several Republican incumbents retained their seats, and German was “obviously, very pleased” with Tuesday’s results, he said.

“First, I’d like to thank our previous county Republican chairman Richard Siebert for providing us with excellent candidates. Then once in office, our Republican candidates do a great job, starting with our chair of the legislature Shelley Stein, who provides great leadership to our county government,” German said Wednesday. “Our legislators have led our county through some tough times while keeping our county taxes under the tax cap for several years. I think the voters of Genesee County appreciate what a great job Republicans do for the taxpayers of this great county.” 

Likewise, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith was happy with the news that voters, not only locally but across New York State, approved Proposition 1, which will have a direct impact on small city schools.

The Batavian asked Smith a few questions about the vote and related new law.

Jason Smith

Are you surprised at the outcome? What does this mean for Batavia City Schools?
“Given the positive advocacy and support that occurred for this proposition, I am not surprised at today’s outcome. We at BCSD are grateful for the support of the voters of New York for supporting this important proposition,” Smith said. “The passage of this ballot will essentially place small schools on equal footing as our other district counterparts, where we are now allowed to borrow an additional 5 percent of our assessed value for future capital projects. However, this will not impact the current capital improvement project we recently proposed.” 

Why do you think voters went this way, given that it means small city districts can incur more debt to take on more/bigger capital projects?
“It is an antiquated law that needed to be updated, and again, we at BCSD are grateful that voters recognized that,” Smith said. “Small city school districts should have the same limits as others, and our students and programs will only stand to benefit.” 

What realistic impact will this have on future tax rates if school districts are acquiring more debt to do more projects?
“As with the project that we have currently proposed, which if passed will result in no tax increase, our Board and I recognize the need to be conservative in planning for budgets and capital projects,” Smith said. “That being said, had this law been in effect for this current project, we would have been able to borrow additional funds to support more improvements and upgrades while keeping our commitment to no additional taxes.” 

Do you already have ideas for what BCSD needs in terms of future capital projects? When could Batavia put this new debt limit change into effect, given you have a capital project on the books and up for vote right now?
“There are several items on our recently completed building condition survey that did not make it into the  BCSD Reimagined Project (our current proposal), and we will undoubtedly revisit those items again,” he said. “However, essential and critical safety items were included in this project. I would suspect it would be at least three to five years before we consider another capital project, assuming we have a positive vote on Thursday, December 14.”

Unofficial voting across the state showed that nearly 57 percent of residents supported the measure of Proposition 1 to allow for the removal of small city school districts from special constitution debt limits, with 1,381,911 voting yes and 31.4 percent, or 766,036 voting no.

Locally in Genesee County, district residents also approved, with 3,153 yes votes and 2,460 voting no. 

Photos: Halloween at Batavia City Schools

By Howard B. Owens
batavia city schools halloween 2023

Students at Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate schools went for a trick-or-treat in costume on Tuesday morning, getting treats from police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, and city public works personnel.

The kids at Robert Morris visited a petting zoo, picked out a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch, and enjoyed a snack of doughnut holes and apple cider.

Photos by Howard Owens.

batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023
batavia city schools halloween 2023

Fall, football, and security is back at VanDetta

By Joanne Beck
batavia blue devils
File photo from 2018 by Howard Owens.

Fall is in the air, with the return of school, football games, and security guards at VanDetta Stadium.

The city school district issued a reminder letter this week about proper protocols during games at the sports venue, including extra security, wanding for “unauthorized” items, and monitoring parking. 

The district’s Board of Education has hired the firm Armor Security for the past two years to provide on-site security and wanding checks at the entrance, and Batavia City Police officers also provide coverage during games.

“Security at large gatherings has become more of a focus for police departments and school districts across the country as well as ours. We have increased security efforts or police presence at nearly all our special events and details, including BCSD’s home football games and other BCSD events that are projected to draw larger attendance,” Chief Shawn Heubusch said. “The ability to respond quickly and to effectively address any matter that may present itself at large gatherings is key to keeping the event safe and orderly. We take the safety and security of these events very seriously and enjoy a great working relationship with the District to make them as safe as possible.”

The district’s school resource officers also provide “enhanced security” in and around Van Detta and at other large events, he said. Their salaries and overtime costs are paid through the district as part of an agreement with the city of Batavia, he said. 

Superintendent Jason Smith said that this year’s letter is a reminder of similar policies as last year, with the addition of also sending a copy to each school that Batavia will be hosting this year. The Blue Devils will be hosting Wayne Central at 7 p.m. on Friday. 

“We continue to draw a large crowd at each home game, and the District is being both proactive again and reminding our supportive community members of our procedures that we successfully implemented last year. We also want our fans to park courteously to our neighbors, and I know our neighbors appreciate these efforts,” Smith said.  “Safety continues to be a major district priority, and with our home games drawing such large crowds, it only makes sense that we continue to implement these proactive measures.” 

The district began to charge a $2 fee for games last year, which is used to cover costs associated with hosting home football games, Smith said. 

All of these security efforts have a price tag — a fee of $29 an hour per Armor Security guard at about five hours each per game, plus the time/overtime of city police officers and SROs. Those numbers were not available by the time of publication.

The district letter is below:

Dear BCSD Families, 

With the 2023-24 school year in full swing, we are excited to announce that our state-of-the-art facility at VanDetta Stadium will once again be hosting athletic events.

We continue to make safety our number one priority for students, staff, and community members attending events at VanDetta Stadium. We’re anticipating large crowds throughout the season, and we want to make you aware of the enhanced safety protocols, guidelines, and expectations when attending our Varsity Football games:

  • All attendees will be wand-checked by our security team to ensure no prohibited items are brought into the facility.
  • VanDetta Stadium is located in a neighborhood, so please be courteous and do not block driveways, throw trash on the ground, or use foul language. Please be a good neighbor. Parking regulations will be strictly enforced by the Batavia Police Department.
  • All students ages 12 and under should be accompanied by an adult.
  • We will be charging adults a $2 admission fee for all Varsity Football games. Students and seniors ages 62 and over will have free admission.
  • We suggest you arrive early to avoid security delays upon entry.
  • We’ll also continue to have a security presence around the stadium during events. We’re once again collaborating with Armor Security this year to help support our administrators, athletic event workers, and the Batavia Police Department to make sure safety remains a priority at our events.  

We cannot wait to welcome you back to VanDetta Stadium for another exciting season of Blue Devil events and cheer on our wonderful student-athletes. Let’s all do our part to keep our school grounds, students, faculty, staff, and community safe. 

Thank you,

Jason Smith, Superintendent
Timm Slade, Acting Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics

Bugs and toads and ferris wheels help bring kids into 21st Century at BCSD

By Joanne Beck
summer program at john kennedy school
Augustus Rojo-Hallock, Logan Oxencis and Lavanya Main talk about a board game during the 21st Century Innovation Camp this week at John Kennedy School. The camp ran for five weeks, ending Friday. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

First-time business owner Ember Arend enjoyed the prospects of running a fish ’n chip shop in Batavia, she said, thought there were plenty of lessons to learn before finding success.

First, she would have to price her meals something more reasonable to turn a profit.

“I had my fish listed for $1 or $2 and had to put it up to $13 to make some money,” the 10-year-old said at John Kennedy Intermediate School. “And an employee wanted to sell burgers, and I said no, I’m lowering your payment because you said we’re selling burgers.”

Perhaps that’s why the soon-to-be fifth-grader said that the nature class was her favorite: she only dealt with toads. 

Ember is one of 45 children who participated in Batavia City School District’s inaugural 21st Century innovation camp this summer that ran along with summer school.

Meant to be a “nurturing, fun environment,” the five-day per week program offered three different courses: nature and exploration, building and engineering, and music and drama. 

The 21st Century program is grant-based and offered through the state Education Department by application.

“We applied because we wanted to have more opportunities for kids outside of the school day,” said Dr. Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction. "And it was nice the 21st Century allowed us to expand summer programming to include additional things, fun things, for kids to do in a structured environment after the extended day programming.”

Rather than a set content that is done during the school year, this is considered to be more of an “enrichment program,” teacher Alyssa Elliott said. 

summer program at john kennedy school teacher
Teacher Alyssa Elliott

“So within those three areas, the teachers have been setting up fun, different prompts. Today in the building room, they were creating a Ferris wheel and cars, and in the nature room, they were creating bug hotels with natural materials. And in the music and drama room today, they were creating board games,” Elliott said. “So they set up those prompts and see what the students do with it and ask them questions to get them to explore their interests even further. Or there's a student that is really interested in building, and they're in there, and they come up with another idea that teachers just run with it and help them explore their curiosities and what they're interested in and try to connect it back to the academic content as much as possible, but it's more of like an open-ended exploration.”

There’s an extended day-school violence grant that “allows us to do after-school activities for at-risk students, Corey said, and the 21st Century program is open to all students. 

“So we really wanted to expand based on interest,” she said. “After this summer, we’ll open it, technically it could be for K through 12. But we just did it this year, we started small with one site. But our intent is to expand it in all schools for after school in the fall and next summer.”

The grant program is for five years, and according to the state Education Department’s website, the grant is for $228,393.

Considering it’s summertime and most of the kids have been making it to school every day, that might say something about the program’s success so far. 

Augustus Rojo-Hallock has been having so much fun, he was going to be sad when it ends on Friday, he said. 

“I’ll wait to next year for summer school to come back again,” the eight-year-old said while showing his partially crafted Ferris wheel.  “This can spin by itself.”

While it may sound merely like fun and games, there’s more to the projects, Elliott said. 

“They had to be able to look at the pictures of the directions and read the words and problem solve. If something wasn't working, we had to figure out what they did incorrectly and how they can improve and personally persevere through solving it because it was really tricky,” she said. “And then with the bug hotels is the same kind of problem-solving skills, trying to design something and seeing what works and what doesn't. And then the board games, they were doing a lot of writing and thinking ahead …”

Augustus named building and engineering as his favorite space because “it does a lot of fun things,” including the Lego boat, magnet and milk carton car that he got to make by himself. 

Logan Oxencis and Lavanya Main explained how they created a board game, they titled “The Game That Never Ends (until after 20 rounds),” complete with handmade dice and board pieces. 

Logan, going into fourth grade, made a diamond card, helicopter, motorcycle, and Superman, using bright colors for each. 

“This is a little challenging,” he said. “I decided to put in some color and make it not dull. And the dice is colorful, so it’s not boring.”

They also drafted rules, which began with no cheating. That seemed to be a common starting point, as nine-year-old Mira Ferrando’s Candy Planet game also began with “Don’t Cheat!” And ended with “Don’t Quit and Have Fun.”

Did they ever hit a point where they weren’t sure what to do?

“Some parts I didn’t know what to do,” eight-year-old Lavanya said. “I just figured out what to do, I figured it out in my mind.”

Over at nature and exploration, Lucas Norman had “the most fun,” he said, building a bug hotel out of outdoor debris and household goods — leaves, moss, toilet paper rolls, part of a plastic pop bottle and a shoe box, to name a few items.

And, of course, there was one other important reason.

“Because we got to explore outside, and we got to see a toad,” he said.

The 21st Century camp ran for five weeks as one of several district extended-year programs, including acceleration camps, SOAR, math and literacy camps, and My Brother’s Keeper. 

After COVID’s social distancing separated kids from the school environment, teachers and their classmates for so long, many educators had noticed setbacks in student learning. The Batavian asked how these students are doing now.

“I think one of the biggest things from COVID was the social-emotional piece. And I think that's one thing that the summer programs really helped with, just interacting with other kids and doing group work, and even just coming in school and having those conversations with teachers,” Elliott said. “And so I think that's a really important piece that the summer programs helped to address and something that I saw kids struggle a little bit with after being gone for so long. And I also see some improvement in mathematics if I know that they were at summer school.”

summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
Mira Ferrando checks out her board game, Candy Planet, during camp at John Kennedy School in Batavia. 
Photo by Howard Owens.
summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
Lucas Norman and Ember Arend show off their bug hotel. 
 Photo by Howard Owens.
summer program at john kennedy school

City Schools names experienced educator new BHS principal

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

jennifer-wesp-liestman
Jennifer Wesp-Liestman

On Monday, July 10, upon recommendation from Superintendent Jason Smith, the Batavia City School District Board of Education approved the appointment of Jennifer Wesp-Liestman as Principal of Batavia High School, effective August 1, 2023.

Wesp-Liestman has served as assistant principal at both Spencerport High School and Greece Odyssey Academy. She also served as a special education teacher in the Churchville-Chili and Greece Central School Districts. She received both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Concentration in Elementary and Special Education and a Master of Science Degree in Inclusive Education from Nazareth College. She has a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Administration from the State University of New York College at Brockport. Wesp-Liestman also serves as an adjunct professor at Roberts Wesleyan College in the Pathways to Teaching Program.

“I am excited to welcome Jennifer Wesp-Liestman to Batavia High School and our BCSD community,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “Jennifer comes to us with an exceptional administrative background and an impressive foundation in education. I look forward to watching her execute her vision for Batavia High School, and she’ll be a welcomed addition to our leadership team. I want to also thank our faculty, staff, students, and parent representatives who participated in our interview process—it truly was a collaborative experience.”   

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the Batavia City School District as the new principal of Batavia High School. From the moment I set foot on campus, it immediately felt like a family,” said Wesp-Liestman. “I have a special place in my heart for BCSD as my father proudly attended John Kennedy School when he was a young boy. As we look ahead to the new school year, I am eagerly anticipating working with our exceptional students, dedicated staff, and inspiring teachers. Together, we will make this year a remarkable journey of learning, growth, and success for all.”

Omar Hussain and Jessica Korzelius will return as assistant principals, joining Jennifer Wesp-Liestman to complete the BHS leadership team for the 2023-24 school year.

From minions to murals, wellness was creative Saturday at Robert Morris

By Joanne Beck
Teddy Bear Clinic at RM 6/17/23
Takara Odom, 3, with her minion, Laurie Ferrando of Healthy Living, and Takara's sister Emeli Lopez, 8, enjoy the Creative Communities Interactive Health Fest, including the Teddy Bear Clinic, Saturday at Robert Morris School in Batavia. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Takara Odom may not have realized it Saturday, but her minion’s emergency repair may one day help the three-year-old deal with her own medical needs.

Takara, of Batavia, attended a Teddy Bear Clinic during the Creative Communities: Interactive Health Fest Saturday at Robert Morris School.

With a focus on whole body health, including physical, mental, social and emotional well-being, the event was to provide opportunities to learn about ways to strengthen one’s overall fitness, including when dealing with doctor and emergency room visits, said Laurie Ferrando of Rochester Regional Health’s Healthy Living program.

“This offers exposure to some of the things they might have to come into contact with,” she said. “It really does help with those things to make it not so scary.”

Takara brought in her baby minion for some TLC and, while wearing her own surgical cap, was allowed to see various procedures and touch the instruments used to help her baby get better. Ideally, that will ease Takara's mind down the road when and if she may need her own medical treatment because she has been exposed to objects and procedures that will now be more familiar to her in the future, Ferrando said.

Addison Forsyth, 12, and Madelyn Demena, 12, of Batavia
Addison Forsyth, 12, and Madelyn Demena, 12, both of Batavia, show their colorful artworks made Saturday during the Creative Communities event at Robert Morris School in Batavia. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Art teacher Linda Fix was at another table, where she offered a creative workshop for the day. Students Addison Forsyth and Madelyn Demena, both 12 and going into seventh grade at Batavia Middle School this fall, were each finishing up their crafts.

The girls had visited all of the tables earlier and played some games but spent the majority of their time fine-tuning their pieces — a brilliant butterfly scene for Addison and a colorful flower masterpiece for Madelyn.

Thanks to a grant through GO ART!, Fix is working on a project titled “Kindness, Empathy and You,” which will end up as a traveling exhibit of her work.

Art Teacher Linda Fix
Art Teacher Linda Fix overseeing her workshop Saturday at Robert Morris School. Photo by Joanne Beck.

“My primary goal is to paint a large mural on the wall at John Kennedy (Intermediate) School on Vine Street in Batavia. The mural will then be professionally photographed, and will be transferred to canvas and become a traveling mural in the Batavia School system,” she said. “The workshops will concentrate on the theme of the project with expressions, and creativity through art.”

A marketing company based in Buffalo will be reproducing the mural, which is to be ready for travel by mid to later July, she said.

The second half of Saturday provided families the opportunity to visit the Just Kings Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Williams Park.

City Schools cancels outdoor activities for Wednesday

By Press Release

Statement from Batavia City School District Superintendent Jason Smith:

Dear BCSD Families and Community, 

As you may have seen on the news, experts believe the air quality issues we’ve been experiencing due to the fires in Canada will continue in the coming days. 

Therefore, all BCSD outdoor activities are canceled on Wednesday, June 7

We are in talks with Section V regarding tomorrow’s Sectional Flag Football game. As of right now, the game is scheduled to go on as planned, but please keep an eye on our BCSD Facebook page for the most up-to-date information, as the status may change. 

We’ll continue to provide district-wide updates should the air quality issues continue. I’ve also discussed the situation with our Buildings and Grounds team, and they assure me there are no concerns with indoor air quality at this time. 

For additional information on the status of individual school-based activities, like class field trips, you will get more information from your child’s school directly. Please reach out to your child’s main office if you have any questions.  
 
Thank you.
Jason Smith
Superintendent of Schools

UPDATE 10:11 p.m.: The Batavian has asked other district superintendents for their plans for Wednesday. We will update this post and information is released to us.

  • Le Roy: Superintendent Merritt Holly said that the district's participation in the Kinderfarmin event in Pavilion, an outside event, has been canceled. Also, physical education classes and recess activities will also remain inside unless the projected air quality levels improve.

UPDATE June 7 at 9 a.m.: 

  • Oakfield-Alabama: Superintendent John Fisgus sent the following message to the school community: "The recent forest fires in Canada have significantly impacted the air quality in our WNY region. Based upon the guidance we have received from our various health and weather authorities and out of an abundance of caution, we will be limiting all outdoor activities today, Wednesday, June 7." Some information for today: The ES KInderfarming trip has been canceled. All outdoor activities (recess, PE classes) are canceled for today. Students will remain indoors. The HS Sports Awards Ceremony will continue tonight as scheduled.
  • Elba: From Superintendent Gretchen Rosales, "We have been carefully monitoring the air quality index and have been in contact with the Department of Health regarding safe practices for our students and staff.  At this time, we have postponed one outdoor field trip and are holding PE and recess indoors today.  Otherwise, we are holding off on wider cancellations as the air quality index can fluctuate.  While we are taking a wait-and-see approach, we also encourage our Lancer family to always make the best decisions for their children; should any parent or guardian wish to have their child remain indoors for the time being, we will certainly honor their decision."

UPDATE 1:25 p.m.: Elba is holding all activities indoors.

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