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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

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.

10 BHS seniors to vie for Mr. Batavia 2023 this Friday

By Joanne Beck

This year's Mr. Batavia contest features 10 Batavia High School seniors who are prepping to compete for the esteemed title at the 10th annual competition. It's set to begin at 7 p.m. Friday in the Frank E. Owen Auditorium at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia.

The students compete in multiple rounds of the event to display their various talents -- from singing and comedy to playing instruments and acting. Donations raised from ticket sales and donations will be given to the top three winners’ charities. Since 2013, the annual event has raised $32,719 for local organizations.  

This year’s contestants

Aidan Anderson
Batavia VA


Aden Chua
Genesee Cancer Assistance Alex Johnson
The David McCarthy Memorial Foundation
Brendan Burgess Volunteers for Animals
Cooper Fix
Ricky Palermo Foundation
Garrett Schmidt
All Babies Cherished
Ifran Armstrong Crossroads House Shawn Kimball Habitat for Humanity
    Michael Marchese
Batavia City Schools Foundation
Fabian Vazquez
Golisano’s Children Hospital

Additional members of the Mr. Batavia Committee include Julia Clark, Julia Preston, Brooke Scott, Lydia Evans, Clara Wood, Nora Wood, Olivia Shell, Cassidy Crawford, Isabella Walsh, Aleeza Idress, Grace Parker, Brie Gabriel, Jakayla Rivera, Addison Glynn, Bridget Taggart, Alyssa Talone, Anna Varland, Julia Petry, Abby Moore, and Sydney Konieczny.

Hostesses for the evening’s event include Clara Wood, Maya Schrader, and Lucy Taggart.

Staff choreographers for Mr. Batavia include Saniiya Santiago and Melania deSa e Frias. 

Tickets are $10 each and will be sold to students during school lunches the week of April 17 and at the door for the community. 

Lisa Robinson, advisor for Mr. Batavia, would like to thank the Batavia City School Foundation for its help and support in collecting and distributing funds to the local organizations. 

Photos submitted by Batavia City Schools. 

BCSD taxpayers can expect a 1 percent increase in the 2023-24 budget; 3 buses on the shopping list

By Joanne Beck


City school taxes are expected to go up again this year.

School officials and board members seemed relieved that the increase was brought down from over 3 percent to a 1 percent increase, but it still potentially means an extra $22 a year in property taxes on a home assessed at $125,000.

The Batavia school board approved the proposed 2023-24 budget of $58.9 million with a tax levy of $19,888,991 during its meeting earlier this week. That levy is below the tax cap limit, and the budget is $4.1 million more than the 2022-23 budget, or 7.6 percent.

The Batavian asked Superintendent Jason Smith why the district has an increase at all, given nearly $4 million of additional revenues and recouping state Foundation aid after its absence the last couple of years.

“For context, our allowable tax cap is 8.42 percent, and the preliminary budget presented last week had just over a 3 percent levy increase.  Based on board feedback, the proposed levy has now been reduced to just over 1 percent.  There were a few factors driving this decision.  First, this budget calls for the addition of three school buses from our transportation contractor, which, if drivers can be hired, will reduce the time for our students (to be) on buses, which has been a source of community and family concerns and one which we have listened to,” Smith said.  “Second, our transportation contract will not be renewed at the end of next year, which means the entire contract is up for renewal and is subject to price increases.  We also fully expect the state mandate of electric buses and the related costs with this requirement to be passed down to districts by our future transportation contractor, further increasing costs. The district needs to plan carefully both now and for the future for these increased costs.”

“Additionally, we expect our tax cap for the 2024-25 budget to be negative, which would yield a tax decrease and reduced revenue, and the board and I are not interested in asking our voters to override the tax cap, which would require a 60 percent approval of voters, as opposed to a simple majority,” he said. “Seeking a just over 1 percent levy increase for the 23-24 budget will provide revenue for both the current and future needs of the district.

During this week’s board meeting, Rozanski brought up the option of leaving one or more of the six buses in the budget or removing them. He cut out three to show the cost savings and explained their need to the district. They would be helpful to alleviate some overcrowding on the current buses and, as Smith said, reduce the amount of time that students are on buses to and from school.

Board member Jennifer Lendvay questioned the validity of buying the buses if there aren’t drivers available for them, as Rozanski also indicated. As with employee shortages elsewhere, drivers have been difficult to find as well, he said. There were six buses in the initial budget, and three have been cut out for a reduction of $281,268.

The group ended up voting to accept the budget, which will be presented during a public hearing at 6 p.m. May 8 in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia.  District residents will then be able to vote on the budget, three propositions, and two board candidate seats up for election from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 16 at your designated polling site.

A 1 percent tax levy increase was made by cutting $427,746 from the preliminary levy of $20,316,737 through attrition of not replacing four retirements (saving $209,478) and the reduction of three bus purchases, for a total levy of $19,888,991.

Personnel expenses are to increase by $736,084 from last year to $20,845,750, and teacher support is to increase by $587,644 to $7,049,255. According to 2022 data, the average teacher salary is $61,263, plus benefits.

Total contractual costs (general support and teaching, operations/maintenance, interscholastic athletic) are slated to increase by $1 million, for a total of 5,481,864; debt service payments are going up by $781,547; and Rozanski also put 8 percent inflationary costs on the hook for overall increases. Total salaries for the district for 2023-24 are $27,894,975.

“So these 8 percent numbers are big numbers, but they’ve been pretty consistent,” he said. “We also had three to six STA extra buses in the first draft of the budget, to go back to pre-COVID levels where Jackson buses were just servicing Jackson students, and John Kennedy buses, John Kennedy students, all contingent upon their drivers being available. We’re still in trouble, we still struggle to find drivers, not only with STA but our other contractors. So this is an area that was looked at as a possible reduction. So we took out three buses and what's presented tonight, buses and monitors, each cost about $70-some thousand.”

The third proposition of the May vote is to establish a capital improvement reserve fund for the purpose of financing in whole or in part the “acquisition, construction, reconstruction, expansion, renovation, alteration, and improvement of building, facilities, sites and real property” by the district for not greater than $10 million.

“This budget also addresses smart and conservative financial planning for future capital construction and maintenance needs for all of our buildings, Smith said. “Finally, and most importantly, this budget preserves our academic and extra-curricular programs.”

File photo of Student Transportation of America, the bus company serving Batavia City School District, by Howard Owens.

BCSD board approves Juul settlement, lawsuit involves several claims of damages to district

By Joanne Beck


Batavia City School board members unanimously approved nearly $36,000 in settlement funds Monday from a lawsuit in which the district claimed injury, malice, oppression and fraud against Juul Labs.

As The Batavian first reported on March 7, the city school district was one of 143 districts involved in the lawsuit against the makers of the popular vaping products, alleging that the company “fraudulently and intentionally marketed” its products to children and that those products caused numerous health, financial and structural damages to the district and students.

According to lawsuit documents, the district has had to hire additional personnel, including the second school resource officer, divert current personnel to retain students on campus when possible, purchase extra equipment and supplies, repair damages, and deal with behavioral issues.

The expected proceeds were going to be invested into the city district’s “preventative and restorative” program called Vape University, Superintendent Jason Smith said. Operated at the high school, Vape U is a pilot program geared toward helping students with positive replacement behaviors for vaping.

“I will be meeting with staff in the coming weeks to discuss expanding the program,” Smith said Monday night.

High School Principal Paul Kesler said school leaders are hoping that parents “will reach out to us if they have concerns with their child vaping, so we can proactively help students before they would be caught vaping at school.”

During Monday’s meeting, high school leaders gave a brief overview of the university concept. Omar Hussain, high school assistant principal, noted that taking disciplinary action “without the restorative piece” was not found to be the most effective way to help students caught vaping on campus.

A program has been set up for every Thursday, based on referrals and a student survey, to provide education and mini-counseling sessions to help students deal with and eliminate those behaviors. So far, it seems to have helped, at least with on-site incidents.

"We haven’t had any repeats,” he said.

The settlement’s intent is to provide resources for schools to fund future expenses such as the cost of installing vape detectors in district bathrooms, hiring additional staff to supervise vaping areas on campus, hiring additional counselors to deal with what the plaintiff attorneys cited as well-documented social and emotional issues associated with nicotine addiction, and developing and operating educational programs about the harms of vaping.

In the 287-page lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, there are several paragraphs listing the ill effects of vaping and the alleged motives behind them. In one section, “JLI (Juul Labs Inc.) distinguishes itself, and established the patentability of its e-liquids, by reference to their superlative ability to deliver nicotine, both in terms of peak blood concentration and total nicotine delivery.

The rate of nicotine absorption is key to providing users with the nicotine “kick” that drives addiction and abuse. Because nicotine yield is strongly correlated with tobacco consumption, a JUUL pod with more nicotine will strongly correlate with higher rates of consumption of JUUL pods, generating more revenue for JUUL,” the plaintiff’s experts state.

“For example, a historic cigarette industry study that looked at smoker employees found that ‘the number of cigarettes the employees smoked per day was directly correlated to the nicotine levels.’ In essence, JLI distinguished itself based on its e-liquids’ extraordinary potential to addict.”

Another study, the case states, “corroborates the key result of the Phase 0 study that the 4 percent benzoate solution delivers more nicotine than a combustible cigarette. The Reilly study tested JUUL’s tobacco, crème brûlée, fruit medley, and mint flavors and found that a puff of JUUL delivered 164 ± 41 micrograms of nicotine per 75 mL puff,” it states.

“By comparison, a 2014 study using larger 100 mL puffs found that a Marlboro cigarette delivered 152-193 μg/puff. Correcting to account for the different puff sizes between these two studies, this suggests that, at 75 mL/puff, a Marlboro would deliver about 114-145 μg/puff. In other words, the Reilly study suggests that JUUL delivers more nicotine per puff than a Marlboro cigarette.”

To boil this down in layman’s terms, it would seem that if kids think they’re escaping the bad effects of nicotine by vaping, they are actually reaping nicotine rather high levels found in regular cigarettes, according to these studies. And the stronger the nicotine, the greater the pull for more, and the more likely an addiction forms.

Smith agrees with the negative impacts that vaping can have on students.

“We sadly have students that vape, and of course, it is detrimental to their overall health and well-being,” he said. “This lawsuit represented an opportunity for the District to perhaps ‘right some wrongs’ on behalf of our students.”  

Another discovery made by Juul’s own scientists in 2014 was that the amount of nicotine in its e-cigarettes delivered could be problematic, as scientists were concerned that “a Juul—unlike a cigarette—never burns out.” So the device gives no signal to the user to stop.

According to one source cited in the case, scientists “didn’t want to introduce a new product with stronger addictive power,” but upper management rejected the concerns that the scientists raised, and “[t]he company never produced an e-cigarette that limited nicotine intake.”

The defendants were found guilty of several infractions, including gross negligence, malice, and breach of duty. As a foreseeable consequence, “plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer direct and consequential economic and other injuries as a result of dealing with the e-cigarette epidemic in plaintiff’s schools, including but not limited to:

  • Discipline and suspensions related to incidents of e-cigarette use in Plaintiff’s schools have increased at alarming rates;
  • Because of the alarming rise of discipline and suspensions associated with student e-cigarette use, Plaintiff has devoted and diverted staff resources to develop a diversion program so as to allow students who are caught using e-cigarettes to remain in school and in class where possible;
  • Plaintiff has had to close certain school restrooms to deter the use of e-cigarette devices;
  • Because many students who do not engage in e-cigarette activities do not wish to use the school restrooms even to wash their hands, Plaintiff has rented multiple portable hand-washing stations that have been placed outside of restrooms in an effort to maintain student hygiene and prevent the spread of disease;
  • Students in Plaintiff’s schools have openly charged e-cigarette devices in classrooms, causing disruption and diverting staff resources away from classroom instruction;
  • Students in Plaintiff’s schools, addicted to nicotine, have demonstrated anxious, distracted and acting out behaviors, causing disruption and diverting staff resources away from classroom instruction and requiring additional time and attention for addicted students;
  • Plaintiff has had to devote and divert staff resources to intervening in student e-cigarette activities and coordinating necessary follow-up;
  • Plaintiff has had to devote and divert staff resources to conduct staff training on e-cigarette use;
  • Plaintiff has had to devote and divert staff resources to deploying student, family and parent-teacher education regarding the dangers of e-cigarette products;
  • Plaintiff has had to add an additional high-school vice principal to address issues related to student e-cigarette use;
  • Plaintiff has had to add additional school resource officer (SRO) personnel to focus on deterring and preventing student e-cigarette use.
  • Plaintiff has had to devote additional middle school guidance counseling resources to address issues related to student e-cigarette use;
  • Plaintiff has had to acquire and install numerous additional security cameras on its premises to deter e-cigarette activity;
  • Plaintiff has had to install additional signage on district premises to deter e-cigarette activity; and
  • Expending, diverting and increasing resources to make physical changes to schools and/or address property damage in schools.

When asked about the negative impacts of vaping for the March 7 story, Smith did not respond with any specifics. 

Photo: Stock image.

Checkmate: sixth-grade teacher taught life lessons through chess

By Joanne Beck

When I saw that Bradley Rogers had died, I stopped for a minute. Then I decided that I wanted to write something about him.

Admittedly, I wasn’t sure that I had enough to write. After all, it has been — well, let’s just say considerable enough years since I knew him that I wasn’t sure I could fill a page.

Mr. Rogers was my sixth-grade teacher at Batavia Middle School. I can still see him, with a round-cheeked grin sitting at his desk with a chessboard all setup. Truth is, my memories of him are as much about the circumstances at the time as they are about that grin.

Up to that point, our neighborhood of girls went to John Kennedy Elementary School, often walking together and then playing after school. When it came time for middle school, the moms of the other girls decided to send them to parochial school, and I went to middle school alone.

That was when the sixth grade was still the starter grade at BMS, and I was assigned to Mr. Rogers’ class. He seemed to be a jovial sort of guy, kind of tough at times, with a grin and a penchant for chess.

I had been learning the game and liked it to the point that my mother had made a showpiece ceramic chess set with glossy cream and red pieces on a polished two-toned wood board. I never used it; I suppose I was afraid that I would break something.

I had a cheaper plastic set but not many partners that I could corral into a game. Well, here was my chance. Mr. Rogers would invite us to a match, and I think I felt honored to be challenged by not only an adult but a teacher.

Life was kind of lonely then, and, actually, throughout the rest of school. Even though it may not have seemed it at the time — those teachers that paid attention in small ways did make an impact. Anything more boisterous would have just pushed me away, and playing chess challenged me intellectually and fed my curiosity to learn more about the game. It's a practice of patience, strategy, foresight, purposeful sacrifice when needed, and -- as fans of "The Queen's Gambit" know -- forbidden premature celebration. 

 At the time, I had no idea how active Mr. Rogers was in the community. He was a JV and Varsity basketball coach at Notre Dame HS and Batavia HS.  He was also a BHS track and golf coach.  He coached summer basketball clinics, was president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association and taught migrant education.  He was a former Genesee County Legislator, General Manager of the former Batavia Clippers, and Director of the NY-Penn Professional Baseball League. 

Mr. Rogers was a member of the St. Joseph’s Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus, the Elks Club, Batavia Country Club, and Terry Hills Golf Course (where he shot a hole-in-one on #14). 

An avid sports fan, he loved following St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, and Notre Dame basketball, along with the Yankees and the Bills, plus golfing, fishing, painting, and solving puzzles. No wonder he liked chess; it requires a calm predictive manner to outmaneuver your opponent, perhaps the ultimate puzzle. 

Turns out, his wife, Miss Tehan, was my kindergarten teacher, another wonderful example of a teacher who positively affected me by indulging my creative, spontaneous streak as a youngster. Long story short: she changed her day’s plans and allowed me to put on a puppet show with the puppets my mother brought back for me from a trip to England.

That was another sad and confusing time, as my mom’s trip was when her father -- the grandpa I barely knew -- had died. The puppet show was a fantastic outlet for pain. Miss Tehan made learning fun, enjoyable and, obviously, memorable. She was a good match for Mr. Rogers.

And to add just one more layer to this family affair of educators, little did I know that years later, I would be covering the city school district as a reporter and interacting with Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers. It seems apparent that this family has a sincere passion for teaching, and I am thankful for the likes of Mr. Rogers to be in classrooms teaching lessons in math, English, and even chess.

Batavia City Schools to receive $35K as part of mass action lawsuit against Juul

By Joanne Beck

Editor's Note:  A list of school districts has not been officially distributed, however, The Batavian had obtained a copy of the lawsuit and therefore was aware and was the first to report that Batavia City Schools was one of the districts in the lawsuit. Each district's Board of Education will need to approve the settlement amount before it becomes official, the city school district's communications spokesperson said Tuesday.

Batavia City Schools is slated to receive $35,000 as part of a class action lawsuit that was settled with Juul Labs, Inc. for $3.6 million for its alleged participation in marketing vaping products to children.

The settlement with 143 school districts and BOCES throughout New York State was announced Tuesday. The lawsuit alleged that Juul Labs, makers of popular vaping products, “fraudulently and intentionally marketed” the products to children.

“We sadly have students that vape, and of course it is detrimental to their overall health and well being,” Batavia Superintendent Jason Smith said to The Batavian. “This lawsuit represented an opportunity for the District to perhaps ‘right some wrongs’ on behalf of our students.”  

Smith did not elaborate on the specifics of how the negative effects of vaping were assessed, as asked by The Batavian. 

The city school district has been monitoring bathroom use at the high school, Smith said, and using vaping detectors. Bathroom doors are locked for maintenance and cleaning reasons when needed during the school day, but “that is the only time,” he said. The Batavian asked about locking the bathroom doors in response to receiving some anonymous complaints from the public.

The $35,000 from lawsuit proceeds will be invested in “our preventative and restorative program called VAPE University.”

“It is essentially a program that we pair with traditional consequences for students who have violated the Code of Conduct with respect to vaping,” he said.

BHS Principal Paul Kesler added that Vape University is a program that’s being piloted “to help students with positive replacement behaviors if they are stuggling with quitting vaping.”

“We are hoping that parents will reach out to us if they have concerns with their child vaping so we can proactively help students before they would be caught vaping at school,” Kesler said.

The news release issued Tuesday named Ferrara Fiorenza PC as the plaintiff attorneys representing the school districts in the lawsuit, coordinated with firm partner Jeffrey Lewis in joining a mass tort action seeking recovery for past and future damages relating to student vaping, including money spent on vaping-related issues on campus.

“Vaping among children is an extremely harmful and pervasive problem that our school district clients are facing every day,” Managing Partner Joseph Shields said in the release. “We were thrilled that 143 of our clients opted to stand together and join this mass-action lawsuit to advocate for students and taxpayers throughout the state. This settlement will go a long way in helping our communities, and school districts develop the resources needed to combat the student vaping epidemic.”

The settlement provides resources for schools to fund future expenses, for example, the cost of installing vape detectors in district bathrooms, hiring additional staff to supervise vaping areas on campus, hiring additional counselors to deal with well-documented social and emotional issues associated with nicotine addiction, and developing and operating educational programs about the harms of vaping.

Does Smith believe the district can make an impact on students’ vaping behavior?

“Of course, we always believe that, and that is a core mission--to impact positive change for students,” he said. “Families are encouraged to be part of this process, and their feedback is always welcomed.”

File photo of Jason Smith from Batavia City Schools.

Notes of remembrance: farewell to former music educator Ken Hay

By Joanne Beck


Ken Hay, one of the most relentless, unforgettable and endearing forces behind the music program at Batavia City Schools, passed away Tuesday, Feb. 28. He is being remembered by former students, staff and friends for his inspiration, talent, confident swagger, and compassionate spirit.

Joshua Pacino, a 2001 Batavia High School grad, has lots of fond and funny memories of Hay, who was band director at the high school from 1982 to 2003.

"Ken Hay was full of bombast and bluster, but he was an incredibly kind teacher. In my freshman year of high school, I was hanging out with my girlfriend at the football game and missed the bus back to school,” Pacino said. “After walking into the band room 30 minutes late, I was expecting to be thoroughly reprimanded. Instead, he just gave me a look and told me my uniform and trombone were by the door and needed to be put away.

"He could be tough on his students. During a rehearsal, he would yell and holler about wanting more from us or explaining that his grandmother could do it better and she was dead,” Pacino said. “But, he was also a champion for them. You would often hear him yell out ‘Nice!’ or ‘Great job!’ in the middle of a piece, sometimes even during the concert, because he wanted you to know you had done well.”

Not only has Pacino walked away with musical lessons and memories from a beloved teacher, but he too is a music teacher, at Batavia Notre Dame High School.

“Most of the music teachers I know chose their profession because one of their own music teachers had a profound impact on their lives. I have been fortunate to have had several such teachers over the years. Each shaped who I am as a teacher, a musician, and as a person,” Pacino said. “When I left music school, I was afraid he was going to think I was a failure. He was, as I should have known, incredibly understanding, kind, and supportive of my decision. That kindness would continue over the years as I finally decided to return to music school, earned my degrees, and began my teaching career.

"We lost Ken Hay today, but I know that his talent and compassion will live on through the decades worth of students that he taught and the uncountable number of lives upon which he had a profound impact,” Pacino said.

A positive influence
Tom Jones played trumpet and met Hay in the summer of 1984 as a freshman in marching band. The 1988 BHS grad played in field marching, concert, jazz, and parade marching bands, and “anything else Mr. Hay requested of me,” he said. That included playing “Taps” at the end of Memorial Day parades in his junior and senior years, and “Amazing Grace” at a service for Terry Anderson, who was being held hostage in Iran.

“Mr. Hay was always providing ways, for me at least, to help me grow as a young man and encourage me.  For example, every Batavia Pageant of Bands, a senior band member was chosen to be his second in charge, attend meetings, coordination of adult volunteers, all band students,” Jones said. “I was with the program all four years at BHS.  Band was my favorite subject, and Mr. Hay was my most influential teacher.  I saw him every day, some evenings for jazz or marching band practices, home football games, occasional weekends for pageant competitions, parades, etc. 

“He was a very big part of my life growing up, and one the reasons why I have continued to play in multiple musical organizations since graduating BHS,” Jones said. 

Michael Muller posted his online condolences, crediting Hay for making Alexander into "a fabulous band program, in the 70s, before he came to Batavia."

"He inspired me to be the Band Director I am today. He got me started with HS NYSSMA Solos, my college auditions, all of it. The last time I saw him was when we honored him at the 2003 Batavia Pageant of Bands, which was the year he retired," Muller said. "He was a fabulous educator, conductor, leader, mentor and friend. He was the real deal, no excuses, and always got us to do great things, be it in concert band, marching band, pit orchestra, or jazz ensemble. RIP Hayster!!"

The year 1987 was a hard one for Jason Mapes, just a teenager at the time, and it was Hay who lifted him from constant pain by being attentive and caring.

“My father passed away unexpectedly in February of 1987, and that was a dark time for me, I was only 13. I had just learned how to play the trumpet a few years back under his wife, Melinda. That summer, just a few months before starting high school, Mr. Hay kept me busy and distracted. I helped him put in his swimming pool on Ellicott Street,” Mapes said. “This one time, at band camp, I learned patience and discipline and hard work. I began to gain confidence and friends and shared such wonderful memories. I participated in everything I could: band, marching band, jazz band (my favorite), chorus, orchestra. I was in the pit for two school musicals and almost became a music educator. I would have put my horn down for good before high school had it not been for Mr. Hay.”

He said he’ll never forget the manner in which Hay taught him how to shake hands. He never let you do it without putting all you had into it.

“To this day, I still play in a few local music groups, and whenever I shake someone's hand, I almost rip it off!” Mapes said. 

Lifelong lessons
Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith obtained music education from not only Hay but also other deep-rooted instruction, he said.

“As a proud BHS music alumnus, Class of 1990, I am saddened by the passing of our beloved Mr. Hay. He was not only an excellent music teacher of mine for four years, I learned valuable life and leadership lessons from him that serves me well to this day,” Smith said. “He was one of the first to contact me when I was named superintendent here, and his message of congratulations meant so much to me. Music has been and is an important part of my life, and Mr. Hay has been an integral part of the strong BCSD music tradition.”

You can tune a tuba, but you can’t tune a fish. That was one of Hay’s final true/false exam questions that Bob Pastecki remembers from his student days in 1986-87. Pastecki played trumpet for concert and jazz band, and mellophone for marching band.

What did it mean to be part of the music program?

“My younger brother was the athlete. This gave me something to do as an extracurricular activity,” Pastecki said.

“I now run The Mark Time Marchers, a fire department marching band that does 25-30 parades a year," he said. "I also serve as the Finance Manager for The Batavia Concert Band. So music is still a big part of my life.”

Playing mellophone was interesting, he said, because it is in a different key than trumpet, and his music teacher never told him that.

“He only told me that the notes on the staff were the same fingerings for both instruments. That meant I played the wrong scale to warm up,” Pastecki said. “He looked right behind me and said, ‘One of you trumpets is AWFULLY flat.’ It took me 15 years to tell him it was me. We had a good laugh at that.”

Batavia Board of Education member Alice Ann Benedict knew Ken Hay not only through the board but also because her daughter Emily had him in the band throughout her years in the district.

“Mr. Hay was a wonderful person and a very capable director of the music department. He was enthusiastic about introducing music into the lives of many of the students, starting at a very young age,” Benedict said. “Emily said to me that Mr. Hay was one of her favorite and most influential teachers. I will remember that he always had a smile on his face. He was always positive about improving the music department, and he was a dedicated teacher to the students of the district.”

Kenneth “Ken” Hay was a 1966 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School and participated in Concert Band, Concert Choir, Yearbook Club, and Wrestling. After graduating high school, he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Fredonia State College, after which he continued with graduate work at Fredonia, Brockport and Geneseo state colleges, and the University of New Hampshire at Durham.

He taught music at East Irondequoit, Alexander and Batavia school districts. He started working as Batavia City High School band director from 1982 until his retirement in 2003, being named Music Department chairman in 1991. Hay played a significant role in the success of Batavia’s concert and marching bands, jazz ensemble, and the musical pit orchestra.

For many years, he organized the Pageant of Bands in Batavia to show the musical talents of high school bands. He directed the pit orchestra for Batavia Rotary Club productions for many years.

Hay served as president of the Genesee-Wyoming Music Educators’ Association and was a member of the New York State School Music Association. Accolades include Paul Harris Fellowship (awarded by the Rotary Club), the University of Rochester’s Teaching in Secondary Schools Award (1995), recognition by Warner School of Education as being a Teacher of Excellence (2003) and earned a GO ART! Genesee-Orleans Community Arts Award (2003).

Hay shared his musical passion, inspiring students to "make music, not just play music,” and was a 2020 Musician of Note, a wall of fame to honor past BHS graduates in music.

As Jason Mapes said, “RIP Mr. Hay — you will be missed!”

Schumer announces grant for Batavia City Schools to increase mental health support

By Joanne Beck

A five-year grant of just under a half million dollars per year will fulfill the city school district’s ambitions to hire more social workers for each school building, focus on family engagement and work to increase student mental and behavioral support, district leaders said Thursday.

The grant was announced by Senator Charles Schumer as part of $3.6 million of Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants distributed by the U.S. Department of Education. Batavia City Schools was the only district in Genesee County to receive this funding.

“We’re incredibly proud to have been recognized and selected by the U.S. Department of Education for this generous Community Schools grant,” Superintendent Jason Smith said. “Our Community Schools program is an essential part of our school district and is a touchstone for many of our at–risk students, families, and community members. With this funding, we’ll be able to decrease the educational gaps we’re experiencing and set our students up for success well beyond their time here in our school district.” 

The grant of $488,761 is for the first year, with an expected total of  $2,499,777 during the course of the five-year grant period.

Other areas of the overall student mental and behavioral support goals will be to “increase readiness for school, increase student attendance and achievement and increase student community connectedness,” Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers said.

“These goals also include encouragement of family engagement in each student’s education,” she said. “We will be using the funds to hire additional social workers at each of our school buildings. These positions will allow us to expand the reach of our Community Schools program with the goal of breaking down barriers for students and families to help ensure student success.

“We will continue to focus on family engagement activities that are culturally responsive, empowering, and provide support to families,” she said.

Buildings include Robert Morris, Jackson Primary, John Kennedy Intermediate, Batavia Middle and High schools, and district leaders “hope to sustain this plan after the grant period,” Rogers said.  

Long-term goals for the grant funding include:

  • Increase the educational case management for students who are academically at-risk or chronically absent.  
  • Increase student access to mental and behavioral health support.
  • Increase student readiness for school and student academic achievement.  
  • Ensure that graduating seniors are college and career ready.   
  • Work to reduce the academic achievement gap between demographic groups and increase student-family-community connections

Community Partners include:

  • BCSD Foundation
  • Genesee Community College
  • Genesee County Business Education Alliance
  • Genesee County Departments of Health and Mental Health
  • Richmond Memorial Library
  • United Way
  • Partners in Restorative Initiatives
  • Children's Institute
  • GLOW Workforce Investment Board
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension 
  • Along with our 90+ informal partners  

“Social workers will assist school counselors and psychologists with expanded mental health support for students, but they’ll also be able to expand their reach to assist students’ family members as needed,” Rogers said.  “Our community partners will join us as part of this grant to expand our collective reach. This aligns with our Community Schools' vision:  Build a better Batavia by promoting equitable learning opportunities, cultivating healthier families, and establishing a stronger community.”

The grants will provide funding for New York’s community schools to hire more social workers, expand mental health services, offer high-quality tutoring for students who need extra support, and foster trust and support within the community through family programming, Schumer said in a press release issued Thursday. New York State was awarded four grants, which will go towards improving the quality of education in Batavia City School District, Belleville Henderson Central School District, Sodus Central School District, and Booker T. Washington Community Center of Auburn.

“I am proud to deliver this funding to New York’s students, families, and communities, and I will always fight hard to ensure that the next generation has the tools they need to build prosperous and fulfilling lives,” Schumer said.

Dr. Molly Corey, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction, believes this grant provides an opportunity “to strengthen the core foundation” of Batavia City Schools.

“A top goal for BCSD is to create a school environment where all students, staff, families, and community members feel welcomed, valued, and empowered to achieve their maximum potential,” she said. “And this grant will help us do just that.”  
Photos of Jason Smith, Julia Rogers and Molly Corey from Batavia City School District.

Batavia superintendent recommends F-T tech director as strategic move

By Joanne Beck

It was done to save money. Two and a half years ago, and three superintendents back, the Batavia City School District decided to eliminate its IT director position. 

Nobody around now can explain that decision precisely, but the result -- at least in large part -- was hundreds of missing units of technology equipment and unnecessary fees, and a negative Comptroller's audit.

Superintendent Jason Smith -- who just last month celebrated his one-year anniversary at the district -- recommended that the school board consider reinstituting the full-time technology director position to provide “clear, strong and strategic direction” for the district. Although this conclusion stemmed from a Comptroller audit last August of 2022, it came more directly from a series of district surveys and interviews with students and staff.

“What prompted this study was the Comptroller's audit. And what I found from our studies is that … not having that position turned out to be detrimental. For review, I wanted to write a full review of the whole instructional technology area, not just the laptops missing, which, obviously, is a great concern. I wanted to dive deeper than that.”

The state Comptroller audit found that nearly 300 pieces of technology equipment were missing, unnecessary service fees were paid for those items and an additional amount of $8,700 was paid to a third-party consultant.

At the time, Smith acknowledged the issue and promised that “we can and will do better going forward.” Since that audit, the district has reduced its service fees by an additional $109,000, he said.

A few of the recommended steps the district has taken include:

  • Engaged a third-party company specializing in IT services to conduct an assessment of our entire IT department, including our inventory and staff. 
  • An internal team has taken the results from the audit and gone above and beyond to reduce the district's BOCES service charges by purging and returning unused inventory. 
  • The district is working closely with the Board of Education to adopt a comprehensive written policy for establishing and maintaining controls to track and inventory IT equipment. 

The board approved a plan of action in November and submitted it to the state, which approved the corrective measures. Smith, however, opted to take it further with the series of interviews and surveys to more fully flesh out what’s going on with technology across the district as a whole.

A sampling of survey questions were:

  • I believe that the use of technology (digital resources) in my classroom or my teaching positively impacts student learning and achievement.
  • I believe that the use of technology (digital resources) in my school positively impacts student learning and achievement.
  • I believe that the use of technology (digital resources) in my classroom or my teaching promotes student critical thinking.
  • I believe that the use of technology (digital resources) in my school promotes student critical thinking.
  • I have the required knowledge and skills to integrate technology (digital resources) into my instruction successfully.
  • I believe that the use of technology (digital resources) in instruction provides for the needs of students with disabilities to successfully access the curriculum.

The full-time director of technology position had been eliminated in 2020, during Superintendent Anibal Soler's rein, apparently due to concern that finances might get tight with COVID protocols. The city school district then shared a director part-time with BOCES.

Other identified needs included resurrecting the Instructional Technology Committee, working on WiFi/connectivity problems throughout the district, investigating the usefulness and practicality of Chromebooks versus laptops, adding Microsoft, giving the technology curriculum more teeth “to ensure our students are being provided with the essential skills needed upon graduation,” and thoroughly reviewing existing technology staff and related use of BOCES services, Smith said.

Of all of the information that he garnered during this time, he was most surprised to hear kids’ comments about Chromebooks. Although they have been a popular device used in school districts, kids weren’t quite so enthused about them, he said. He first heard his own children’s remarks about Chromebooks, and perhaps didn’t take them so seriously until the surveys in school, when kids echoed similar sentiments. He had to smile and admit, “hey, my kids were right,” he said during an interview with The Batavian.

Chromebooks are less expensive than laptops; however, laptops offer more options for students, which could be more helpful as they prepare for college or work.

“But you know, you get what you pay for some time,” he said. “So, we have to be thoughtful.”

While many of his suggestions and recommendations are just that at this point, the full-time director of technology is a firm statement with hopes of board approval. Smith and the business administrator will be working on the budget to present more definite details of how salary and benefits will impact the next year’s budget, he said. That vote will be coming up in May.

Another position to consider is a part-time data protection officer to handle duties for the Data Protection Privacy Act. This may not be a new position and person, he said, but additional job responsibilities assigned to an existing employee once the technology director gets on board to organize the department. Smith and Trisha Finnigan, executive director of staff development and operations, will be writing the job description for the tech director, and they plan to check in with other local city school districts for guidance. 

Smith wants the public to know that district leaders take the Comptroller’s audit “very seriously,” and they recognize it as a concern in the community.  He listens to the questions, answers them, and understands the significance of the audit findings, he said.

“We haven't hid behind that. I said to the public and to the media, we're going to enact a comprehensive study. We've done that, here are the nine key findings that I took from that, that I've shared with the board, and we're going to go beyond, we're going to make sure we have processes in place to protect our assets. And that's important, you know, for our school district and for our public, but also, we went beyond and looked at our overall technology program as a whole,” he said. “So, we met the obligation, we did a corrective action plan in November, that's what we were required to do … I wasn't happy with that, we allowed to go beyond checking the boxes. I was looking at the overall program for our students, and this Comptroller’s audit prompted us to do that.

“So I'm optimistic that we're going to have some good results come out of this,” Smith said. “We've already implemented some changes as far as inventory control goes. But we want to have a good overall technology, robust program for our students, and support our staff.”

His draft timeline for action includes:

March 13 for board approval to reestablish a full-time administrative position in the technology department

Throughout March for budget implications to be reviewed and adjusted for that recommendation. He expects implications to be negligible since the position has been in the budget to date.

April and May for the posting and recruitment process. 

May and June to fill the appointment of director of technology (or whatever the official title will be, which is to be determined). 

Prior coverage:

File photo of Superintendent Jason Smith from Batavia City Schools.


BCSD: Free pianos to good homes

By Press Release


Via Batavia City School District:

BCSD has a surplus of pianos!

We didn't receive any bids on our lot of pianos at a recent auction, so we're offering the pianos to individuals and organizations in the community who may want one free of charge.

The pianos are available on a first-come-first-served basis, and they will need to be picked up by the interested party (we will assist with removal from our facility). Their condition is as-is with no expressed, written, or implied warranty. BCSD is not responsible for providing personnel, tools, or heavy equipment to aid in removal.

If you're interested, please contact Jim Jacobs via email ([email protected]) by Friday, February 17. All pianos must be picked up by March 1.

Photos courtesy Batavia City School District.



Remembering John Kennedy, educator who shaped Batavia's school system

By Anne Marie Starowitz


John Kennedy was born in England on September 17, 1846. He was one of a family of 14 brothers and sisters. He moved to a farm in Iowa in 1875.  John served in the Civil War; after the war, he became superintendent of an Iowa school district.

In 1890 the Batavia School District asked Mr. Kennedy to come to Batavia and serve as superintendent for the village school system. He served as superintendent for 23 years. His system for the village school was known as the Batavia System. He believed that if children were stimulated, they could educate themselves. 

John Kennedy was also a famous author and had many books to his name. His book, The Genesee Country, was published in 1895, during his time as superintendent from 1893 to 1913.

John was a writer with quite a descriptive flair. The chapter I found very interesting was called "Patriot-Not Financier." In this chapter, John Kennedy was distraught. He did not want Robert Morris to be remembered as a financier of the American Revolution. In John Kennedy's eyes, Robert Morris was a patriot who wanted America to be independent. He wanted the American government to stand with the firmest foundation. To achieve this, Robert Morris put everything in jeopardy: his good name, his life, and his fortune. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He rescued George Washington's troops in 1777 and prevented the army's dispersion by raising $50,000 of his own money for the war.

In Kennedy's opinion, if Morris had not appeared on the scene or had died during the struggle, the revolution would have collapsed.   It is upsetting to read that Robert Morris died in debtor's prison in the United States of America within a few years after the adoption of the Constitution, which he helped frame.    

We have a Constitution and a Union primarily because George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Morris sat in the convention that devised our great document.

As John Kennedy ended his chapter on Robert Morris, he said, "We are living here on his beautiful farm, the famous Holland Land purchase, and more famous still by having had for its first owner the patriot Robert Morris." 

John Kennedy and Robert Morris are still remembered today, with the John Kennedy Intermediate School on Vine Street and the  Robert Morris Primary School on Union Street. What is impressive is that John Kennedy had the foresight in the 1800s to write about Robert Morris' legacy in the hopes that he would be remembered as a true patriot.  

John Kennedy has to be acknowledged not only for the many books to his name but for his outstanding reputation as the school superintendent for the Village of Batavia. His system emphasized individual instruction of students, which was copied by school districts nationwide.


Is Girls Flag Football on the horizon for spring? Sign-up for interest to be available

By Joanne Beck


Endorsed by the Buffalo Bills, Nike and the state Public High School Athletic Association earlier this year, Girls Flag Football has emerged as an up-and-coming spring sport that just might land on the city school district’s playing field.

Batavia’s Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Mike Bromley, presented the idea during Monday’s school board meeting. A while ago, he began to receive emails from prospective female players about the possibility of adding flag football to the city school district, he said. Ten girls from grades nine to 12 sent those notes asking if the sport would be offered in the spring.

A line of female students stood next to him as proof of that initial interest.

“Here are six future flag football players,” Bromley said. “There are 14 male sports, one unified sport of bowling for both boys and girls, and 13 female offerings. This would bring us into balance if that’s what we decided to do.”

In early 2022, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association sanctioned the sport, and eight teams in Section V were piloted this year, with 22 other regional districts indicating that they may form a team, Bromley said. Rules dictate a minimum of seven girls to a team, and Bromley believes 12 to 15 players would be a good starting number.

Games would cover a football field, and play would consist of two 24-minute halves plus a five-minute half-time. Equipment would include certified flag belts and youth-sized football.

The difference between regular football and one using flags is the lack of physical contact. While tackling is a huge part of the American game, flag football does not allow it. Players can kick, carry, and throw the ball to move it up the field. A defender may knock down a pass that’s in the air. If the player with the ball has his -- or, in this case, her -- flag pulled or if she goes out of bounds, she is called “down,” and the ball is dead.

Anticipated costs include a head and assistant coach, uniforms, officials’ services, two chaperones and a clock/video board operator, and transportation for four away games. The estimated total adds up to $9,391, which Bromley said could be offset with unexpended funds.

Board member Alice Benedict asked how many young women are interested in dual sports, and all six students raised their hands. They said that track is the other sport and that is first on their list, prompting Bromley to add, "so we have some challenges."

How can it work here? Bromley suggested that dual sport participation is possible and doable, with late practices, Saturday contests and two to three practices per week. He’s also cognizant of spring coaches’ concerns that adding a spring sport may be a conflict for girls already in one of the other two offerings, he said.

With the season to begin in March 2023, there’s not much time to waste, Board President John Marucci said.

“Get your sign-up list going and see if there’s an interest,” he said.

The matter will return for a board vote in January.

Top 2020 File Photo of an impromptu flag football tournament at Williams Park in Batavia, by Howard Owens. Photo of Mike Bromley from the city school district website.

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

By Joanne Beck

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

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

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

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

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

A full agenda for the meeting is not yet available.



BMS has focus on literacy with daily goal

By Joanne Beck


Ninety to 120 every day.

That’s a goal that Batavia Middle School has set for students: to do purposeful reading, writing and interactive talking for 90 to 120 minutes each weekday. Principal Nate Korzelius introduced that as one part of the middle school’s strategic plan.

“So we've spent a lot of time this year looking at and reflecting on our vision and mission, as well as our strategic plan and empowering students, and within the vision statement, working with the community, creating a nurturing environment for our students,” he said during a presentation to the school board Monday evening. “So that was our starting point, as we were looking at our middle school goals for the year. And then, in the past year, establishing the strategic plan: create and maintain a safe and orderly school environment, collaborative culture theory, accessible curriculum, and effective teaching in every classroom.”

A leadership team activity during the summer led middle school staff “to come up with tangible things to meet our students where they are, trying to adjust for some gaps that have occurred as a result of COVID.”

“And also just find ways that we can creatively build a culture of learning and also try to break down some barriers for students,’ he said. “So, beginning this school year, this was the goal that I outlined for the staff on day one. Our goal is to promote authentic literacy practices by increasing purposeful reading, writing and discussion as moments of both learning content and critical thinking. 

A daily dose of literacy
"So specifically, what we've worked on the most so far this year are ways we can ensure that students will participate in 90 to 120 minutes of purposeful reading, writing and discussion every day,” he said.

That’s likely good practice for anyone. A quick online search produces several articles about the benefits of reading, such as Healthline’s claim — using MRI scan results — that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As one’s reading ability matures, “those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated,” the site states. 

Teachers will introduce various methods for kids to accomplish the daily goal, such as having guest readers, creating reading quizzes, writing letters or a daily diary, hosting debates and asking open-ended questions.

“We have data meetings every couple of months. But then we want, now especially that we have more access to data post-COVID, to focus on those, and establish the needs for our students to make sure that we can individualize things as much as possible to meet students where they are,” Korzelius said. “Those teams are focused on the individual needs of students and customizing the approach for students within their teams.”

Beginning Tuesday (Nov. 15), students will have a task during Lunch Learning Lab, which means at the beginning of the second marking period, each student “is to drop everything and read” a book for 20 minutes. District officials contacted each household to notify parents of this initiative, and to encourage them to find out what might engage their child.

“Half the battle is to find something that they’ll enjoy reading,” he said.

Teaching strategies
The focus isn’t just on students, though. A shared Google Classroom will begin in the next month for all middle school faculty. It will provide a list of various strategies for teachers to try — one at a time for a month — and then report back on how it went and offer suggestions for improvement before selecting another strategy the next month.

A key piece that has become more prevalent since the pandemic is SEL: social-emotional learning. That piece includes providing useful resources for students to help manage their emotions, set positive goals, work on proper attitudes and behaviors, have healthy relationships, be able to feel and show empathy, make responsible decisions, plus an ideal academic correlation to each student’s SEL success, Assistant Principal Lindsey Leone said.

“And really, what I found through all my experiences, if you don't have that SEL piece, it's going to be really hard to get that academic piece. And I think in general, we've all learned that from COVID times, and so we've spent the last year or so really establishing our SEL committee,” she said.

Circle Up Fridays happens on the first Friday of every month, and includes an extended homeroom time so that students and staff can literally “circle up” to engage in meaningful conversations, she said.

This work is about “creating connections at school,” she said, amongst students and teachers. Two years of COVID, isolation and social distancing seem to be ebbing away.

“I really think they're excited that it feels a little bit more, a little back to normal for them like they have loved the opportunity to have dances again … and options to look at trips and those types of things. So I think it's a lot for them on an energy level, you know, it's a much different day coming every day to school versus some of what we were doing in a hybrid setting,” she said. “I think every day that we're getting better and more comfortable.”

Data — a huge component amongst school districts — has been part of the strategic plan, Korzelius said. Pulling people together through regular faculty meetings of about 80 people has also been a positive step, he said.

“We really try hard to focus on our strategic plan,” he said. “Where our goal of mission and vision is 90 to 120 minutes for every student throughout the school day.”

The mission is to empower students to achieve their maximum potential, and the vision includes providing a safe and nurturing environment. The targeted end result is to help students become socially responsible citizens who are able to successfully meet life’s challenges.

School board member Alice Benedict wanted to know if and how data would be collected to show how well the SEL lessons were working. Yes, it will be collected through DESSA, a social-emotional learning measuring tool, and student surveys, Korzelius said.

“It's something that I want us to build on, and just continue to find new and better ideas. I mean, this is a great idea, which is our first time,” he said. “We have to take a look at it at the end instead of just gauging success.”

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