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January 3, 2023 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in John Kennedy, robert morris, history, batavia, City Schools, news, education.

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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.

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December 20, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in Sports, flag football, City Schools.

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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.

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“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.

December 12, 2022 - 9:34pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, City Schools, Batavia Board of Education.

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.

 

 

November 15, 2022 - 2:41pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, education, schools.

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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.

leone.jpegA 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.”

November 12, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Board of Education.

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Just as Americans across the country are eager to hit the road for post-COVID travel, Batavia City Schools staff has wanderlust in mind for student trips.

From a chorus trip to New York City and a student excursion to see the inner workings of Washington, D.C., to a competitive journey in an effort to secure a hockey championship in Albany, the trips will be up for review during the board’s meeting next week.

It’s set for 6 p.m. Monday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the high school, 260 State St., Batavia.

Teacher Melanie Case is proposing that the Mixed and Treble Chorus take a two-day trip in April 2023. This will give students an opportunity “to perform in a major city, to see a professional musical on Broadway and also to view major historical landmarks, providing a connection with the eighth grade social studies immigration unit,” her supporting materials state.

If approved, the students will not only see the Statue of Liberty, but also perform a cappella style (though still pending), and walk to see the 9/11 Memorial, have dinner at Margaritaville and watch a live theater performance. An estimated cost of about $420 per student is based on a minimum of 40 people registered with First Choice Educational Tours.

A Close-Up trip is proposed by Alex Veltz for six days in Washington, D.C. in March 2023. This program has given students “an in-depth look at the U.S. government and current issues" since it was formed in 1971, according to the supplemental material. Not merely a sight-seeing tour, this program offers learning experiences, workshops, interactive discussions and presentations.

Cost per student is $2,200, with Genesee Valley BOCES paying 60 percent, and students responsible for about $1,000 each,  materials state.

Coaches Marc Staley and John Kirkwood are pitching a trip for the Albany Academy Holiday Tournament. This two-day trip is for Batavia Notre Dame hockey team (United) to play a game on each of the two days, and hopefully ending as a tournament winner.

There will be "no cost for the school with bussing or hotel expenses," organizers said. 

Student fundraisers have begun to offset expenses, including sponsorships, community discount cards and restaurant donations.

Appointments, work change orders and contracts fill most of the remaining agenda.

File Photo of a United hockey player earlier this year, by Howard Owens.

November 10, 2022 - 5:55pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Veterans Day, notify, Batavia HS, veterans.

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Several local veterans were honored Thursday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at Batavia High School. Band Director Jane Haggett, whose father Robert was amongst the recipients, handed out tokens of appreciation for their service.

They were:

U.S. Army

  • Robert Haggett
  • William Hughes
  • Thomas Steffinella
  • Rich Favaloro

U.S. Air Force

  • Dennis Mahoney
  • Matt Lutey

U.S. Marines

  • Colin Dailey, husband of BHS social worker Lindsay
  • John Dwyer
  • Vincent Pontillo
  • John Gombos

U.S. Navy

  • Tom Cecere
  • Harold McJury
  • Rocco Pellegrino

The district also gave a proud shout-out to members of its own school community.

“The BHS community is very fortunate to have three veterans on staff. We thank them for their service to our country and for keeping everyone safe," BHS Principal Paul Kesler said. "We would like to call the three gentlemen up to the front of the auditorium to receive a small token of our appreciation."

  • Mr. Greg Ciszak, BHS School Counselor: served his country for 12 years in the 152nd Engineer Company as a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard. He was a horizontal construction engineer. His unit was activated for numerous state emergencies including snow storms, floods, and the September 11th World Trade Center disaster.
  • Christopher Gorton, a Special Education teacher: joined the Army in 1984 and was in active duty from 1984 to 1989. During a portion of his active duty, Mr. Gorton was stationed in Western Germany. He continued to be on inactive duty from 1989 to 1992. Mr. Gorton was twice awarded the Army Achievement Medal and earned a good conduct medal. His unit received its second presidential unit citation award while he was stationed in West Germany. To this day, Mr. Gorton still carries a Challenge coin from President Reagan, the Commander in Chief, that was given out to the unit.
  • BHS Earth Science teacher Christopher Weicher: served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991. Mr. Weicher completed two combat deployments during Operation Just Cause in Panama and the Gulf War 1. While serving his country, he received two combat action ribbons, a Presidential Unit Citation, and a Meritorious Unit Citation while serving with the 6th Marine Regiment.

The event included readings from students about what Veterans Day means to them. Adrien Fytros said that veterans are often defined as those who have been in the workforce for an extensive period of time, and those who have served in the military. 

"Those that have served in any branch of the military are easily the least selfish people in our community and should be treated as such. They are those who would put themselves through intense, rough, and enduring training for years to ensure that we can carry on a worry-free life, explore our interests, and pursue our own careers and dreams we’ve sought out," he said. "Veterans Day as a whole is to honor and give a spotlight to these brave and compassionate people that allow us to do everything we’ve desired to do. 

"Veterans Day is a day to honor those who put their family, community, and most of all, their country and its residents before themselves."

Photo: BHS Band Director Jane Haggett hands out tokens of appreciation the district's thanks to veterans during a Veterans Day assembly Thursday at the State Street school in Batavia. Photos by Joanne Beck.

October 21, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, staffing study, notify.

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A lack of a comprehensive and strategic staffing plan, increased teacher positions paid for with additional federal and state aid despite declining enrollment, and a larger number of school counselors per federal recommendations were some of the findings of a consultant’s study at Batavia City Schools.

Thomas Ramming of International Deliverables LLC and Thomas Ramming Consulting, Inc., presented his report to the school board earlier this week. The Batavian asked every school board member and Superintendent Jason Smith for their comments regarding the outcome, which also included suggestions to rectify some of the seemingly misaligned student-to-staff ratios and revising contract language for more effective bargaining negotiations. 

The consultant's process included using an “efficiency lens” that relies on data to review staffing issues. He also met with Superintendent Jason Smith, administrators and principals, plus reviewed master schedules, enrollment history, collective bargaining agreements, average class sizes, financial information and related research.

reigle_pic.pngOne central point, brought out by board Vice President John Reigle, and echoed by other board members, was that Ramming’s prior studies had all been before COVID hit. Batavia was his first project to measure staffing following the pandemic, school shutdowns, masks, social distancing and such. Therefore, in reference to having increased teaching staff despite a downward enrollment, Reigle believes it’s justified.

“Pointing out again that this study, although has its positives, does not take into consideration the needs of the students, both academically and social/mental since post-COVID,” Reigle said. “I will continue to be a strong advocate of our students’ needs.  As Dr. Ramming pointed out, these additional positions were added utilizing those additional COVID funds.

“Our district was required to document how it was spent. I think that is a key factor to point out and keep in forefront of mind that some of our students, along with other students nationally, have had a learning loss due to COVID in regards to academics and their social/mental well beings,” he said. 

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.

During his talk with the board, Ramming admitted that the whole COVID scenario was not calculated into the overall findings, but he also suggested 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 said.

2022_jason_smith_bcsd_headshot.pngSuperintendent Jason Smith concurs that the suggested ratios were pre-COVID “when mental health needs were not as pronounced and as valued as they are now.” Batavia City Schools was a major recipient of “significant grant resources” that he and board members believe have been properly allocated to those needs.

As for possible remedies for staffing issues that Ramming highlighted, including certain language that hinders negotiations with the teacher’s association, and potentially excess staff, Smith said the district has “already started implementing suggestions.”

“Two vacant teaching positions (music and Spanish) were not recently filled and will not impact the instructional program,” Smith said. “We’re working closely with our music department to review schedules, and are always in respectful and professional conversations with BTA officers to promote efficiencies while recognizing the important work of our teachers.

“Additionally, each principal and district office administrator has thoroughly reviewed and analyzed this study, and it has been given prime attention at our internal meetings,” he said.

The savings by not replacing those vacant positions covered the $12,000 cost of the study, he said.

The district has been analyzing the need for “every single position as they become vacant,” he said, citing two cases of positions not being filled after ensuring that instructional programs would not be negatively affected, he said.

“Teachers whose positions are being paid through grant funds are notified right away upon acceptance of the position that it is a temporary position — this is a practice I have brought to Batavia,” he said. “It is fiscally sound to the district and fair to the employee.”

Smith argues that teaching positions are not “extra,” as they have been deemed as critical to the district’s mission and vision. And “we were thankful to have the grant money and federal funds to support these positions,” he said.

When asked how the district will assess the value and need for those additional teachers, there are "data tools" used to measure the social emotional learning needs of students, he said. 

"We can survey students and families, and there are objective tools we can utilize as well," Smith said. "In addition, the district will be using a universal screening tool and research-based tool known as DESSA. It is a standardized, strength-based assessment designed to measure social-emotional competence for students in grades K-12. This screener will provide the district with data to analyze and plan for student needs."

boe_alice_ann_benedict_1.jpegBoard member Alice Benedict said the board requested this study “to make sure our district staff was right-sized” for the educational programs being offered and when compared to enrollment figures.

“We have been assured by the Superintendent that he and his administrative staff will fully review and consider the findings of this study,” Benedict said.

“I have come to realize that with the effects of the COVID pandemic, our student population has significant mental health concerns. Our district wants to provide adequate support for our students with as much help and support as they need,” she said. “I am sure the Superintendent and his administration will look hard at our staffing numbers and make the appropriate decisions with regard to the positions of counselors and social workers in the district.”

 

Board member Barbara Bowman said that, while Batavia is amazing as a district, "I know it’s not perfect."

"This study just confirmed for me that we have the ability to continue to move forward, and it gave us concrete, objective ideas to consider," Bowman said. "The (Batavia Teacher's Association) represents a precious commodity, our teachers.  They in turn provide above and beyond services to our students.  We are always in communication with the superintendent and I feel there is always room and ability to negotiate. We’re definitely on the same team!" 

When asked for their priorities, board members shared similar sentiments about wanting to move forward and working with key players in the district for each student's benefit. 

"I see our first priority to be working together with the parents, the administrators and the superintendent to identify priorities and effective ways to address them," Bowman said. "Communication is key on the part of all stakeholders to keep moving Batavia forward and upward."

John Marucci, board president, said that he was looking forward to working with Smith and the administrative team on study-related efforts.

“My priority is still doing what's best for the students,” Marucci said.

This was a first-time study of this kind for board member Jennifer Lendvay, she said.

“Whenever a study is done, no matter what we are researching, we do so to get an objective perspective from an outside source.  I found Dr. Rammings' results incredibly informative and personally look forward to working closely with our administrative staff and Mr. Smith to carefully analyze these findings and move forward,” Lendvay said. “Being somewhat new to the board, this was the first time I have been a part of a study in regards to our operations and staffing, so hearing the information was quite insightful.”  

She disagreed with the finding that the district didn’t do much sharing of teacher services — specifically cited as having “a lack of coordinated effort to share teachers between buildings.”

“Knowing that we currently do have teachers that are shared within the district, and none of those are related to the ARPA funds,” she said. “Our teachers go above and beyond for our students and have been willing to do what is necessary to assist in their learning, including traveling between schools. 

“At this point in time, our students are still in need of additional support: academic, social-emotional, mental health, etc. Dr. Ramming corroborated that we have been able to add teachers because of the funding,” she said. “The additional funding was spent to help address the learning loss. Mr. Smith has made it a point to be transparent with our employees, that being hired under these funds, that it is temporary funding.”

Newly elected member Korinne Anderson said that she looked forward to “learning more about this study as the year progresses,” and is glad that it was completed “because it gives a different perspective.”

Board member Chezeray Rolle did not respond to The Batavian’s questions. 

Primary suggestions given to the board include to:

  • Incorporate a five-year vision with specific and measurable academic, social and emotional goals in the strategic plan.
  • Identify a central office administrator to develop and implement, with input from other administrators, principals and the board, a strategic staffing plan and process.
  • Continue to review the impact of the collective bargaining agreement on staffing, scheduling, and instruction and seek to address the most significant issues through collective bargaining.
  • Objectively assess the value of positions funded by ARPA and determine their value. Consider reallocating resources when the grant expires. Also, as any position becomes vacant, objectively determine if the position nesds to be filled long- or short-term, or perhaps part-time.

Other suggestions include:

  • Update and consistently follow class size guidelines, student-to-teacher ratios and minimum class sizes.
  • Look at sharing special area teachers, such as physical education, music, art, especially between Jackson and John Kennedy.
  • Consider coordinating the schedules for middle and high schools to facilitate sharing of teachers;
  • Evaluate the roles and responsibilities of school psychologists, school counselors and school social workers, within the framework of a comprehensive plan, to determine appropriate staffing

To watch the presentation, go to Batavia City School District on Youtube.com.

October 18, 2022 - 8:34pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, batavia, notify.
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Newly elected school board President John Marucci (pictured above) was happily surprised by some guest visitors Monday evening.

Groups of primary, intermediate, middle and high school students attended the Batavia City School board's meeting to honor members for School Board Recognition Week. 

"It was great being recognized for being a member of the Batavia City School District Board of Education," he said to The Batavian Tuesday. "It was awesome to see all of those students at the meeting last night. We had students from Jackson do a cheer, JK students read personalized letters of appreciation, students from BMS thanked us, while a student from BHS read a lovely thank you card."

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It was likely one of the biggest turnouts for a school board meeting. Students also presented the board with a Certificate of Appreciation.

The New York State School Boards Association recognizes October 17-21 as School Board Recognition Week in order to "promote awareness and understanding of the important work performed by local school boards." 

Superintendent Jason Smith was in on the secret visit and introduced the group to board members. The current 2022-23 board includes Marucci, who was elected in July along with Vice President John Reigle, Alice Ann Benedict, Barbara Bowman, Jennifer Lendvay, Chezeray Rolle and Korinne Anderson.

“Our schools are the bedrock of our Batavia community,” Smith said. “Our Board of Education members devote countless hours, make important decisions, and are committed to keeping BCSD operating at a very high level. Their dedication to accountability, transparency, and to our community is inspiring. We thank them for their service.”

According to the district, Batavia's Board of Education is responsible to the State of New York and the City of Batavia residents for the education of public school students, with a role that includes:

  • Working with the superintendent to create a district vision and set goals.

  • Review, modify, and approve all district policies.

  • Adopt a budget and present it to voters for approval. It also sets school tax rates within legal limits.

  • Hire, supervise, and support the superintendent.

Marucci encourages others to run for the Board of Education.

"It is very satisfying knowing you are helping to make our schools and Batavia community better by supporting the students, staff and leadership in their efforts to reach their goals," he said. "It was truly a wonderful presentation by the students -- on behalf of the entire board, we want to say thank you!"

The group is just beginning to work on the 2023-24 budget, and will continue to do so during the next few months, he said.

"That will be a priority moving into the New Year," he said.

For more information on the BCSD Board of Education, click here

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Photos submitted by Batavia City School District.

September 26, 2022 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, batavia.

Batavia City School District residents are invited to offer comments and/or ask questions regarding the district’s proposition to use $95,000 from the Repair Reserve Fund.

A public hearing about expending the funds has been set for 6 p.m. Monday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia.

There will be a presentation about the emergency replacement of two water boilers, and the related contract for the $95,000 cost of repair. Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is to be on hand to answer questions and review the scope of work and contract award.

If approved by the board, the cost will be transferred out of the reserve fund to pay for the high school work.

Other agenda items include presentations from Trisha Finnigan, Dr. Molly Corey and board member Barbara Bowman; votes on several faculty appointments; contracts with groups and individuals related to transportation, personal day approval for the Custodial Association, an administrator’s retreat, clarifying payment eligibility for Batavia Teachers’ Association, and tuition for children with disabilities.

September 10, 2022 - 8:25am

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Armor Security staff members made their debut at Friday's home football game between Batavia and Livonia high schools. Spectators were wand-checked at the gate, and security guards were on site to ensure that the only commotion was on the field at Van Detta Stadium. Perhaps there was also some excitement in the stands as the Blue Devils blew away the competition by 42-6.

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The security company has a contract through the end of this year, and members of Batavia Police Department were also on hand to check for illegal parking and related un-gamely behaviors. Superintendent Jason Smith has been adamant -- via a letter to parents and recommending the extra security -- that home football games will be safe and without unwanted disruptions from spectators. 

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Friday's game included a moment of recognition during a dedication to honor all police and fire department and armed forces members.

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Earlier in the day Smith issued his superintendent's update to the district, sharing that he is "personally thrilled to begin my first full school year as our Superintendent of Schools, and I look forward to experiencing all the fun and joys associated with being a Batavia Blue Devil!" Certainly, players, staff and fans experienced one of those well-deserved joys with Friday night's win.

District leaders were "out and about" during the first day of school on Wednesday, he said, and they are focused on three key teaching principles: effective teaching, literacy (reading and writing) across all content areas, and providing an engaging and consistent curriculum. Smith gave some advice that is well-suited for anyone: work hard and be kind.

To read the entire update, go HERE  

Go here for prior Robert Morris story, and district security.

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Top Photo: Spectators are wand-checked as they enter Van Detta Stadium Friday evening; members of police, fire and armed forces were given a dedication to honor their service to the community. Photos by Steve Ognibene. File Photo: Superintendent Jason Smith takes board members on a tour of the revamped Robert Morris building before the first day of pre-school and UPK classes on Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck. Children arrive for the first day at Robert Morris. Photos from Batavia City Schools.

August 30, 2022 - 8:45pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Board of Education, notify, batavia.

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City school board members went back to school Monday evening.

They took a tour of the work-in-progress at Robert Morris — closed a decade ago as an elementary site — which will now be operating in full force this year for pre-school and universal pre-kindergarten students after a $225,000 investment so far.

“Pre-school numbers have almost doubled,” Superintendent Jason Smith said during a presentation before the tour. “We had a hard time finding programs to service these students.”

A Little History
District officials decided to close Robert Morris Elementary School in 2012 after it was deemed a savings measure and more efficient to consolidate and students and teachers at to Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate. The building was used either for district needs (public relations, information technology), or rented out to various organizations, including BOCES, a daycare, 56 Harvester Center, and Arc.

Pre-school numbers began to rise, and the need for space rose with them, Smith said. That resulted in rethinking the use of Robert Morris. After receiving comments that Jackson Primary was getting pretty tight due to increased enrollments, the district bumped up first grade’s eight sections to 10, which then created a need for additional space at Jackson. Four UPK sections are therefore being moved to Robert Morris.

Current Times
Using state funding and grant monies, the new offerings have shifted the physical and philosophical layout of Robert Morris at the corner of Union Street and Richmond Avenue. As Trisha Finnigan, executive director of staff development and operations, said, “we’re using every nook and cranny” of the three-floor building to make the best use of all areas.

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The main entrance will be on the east side of the school next to the parking lot, and children will exit on the opposite side at a bus loop. Classrooms are being reconfigured, including a former library, and Community Schools hours will align with the presence of security aides.

There will be five classes to support a total of 64 students in preschool for preschoolers with disabilities who will receive services in a self-contained setting and an integrated classroom with general education students. These students can be three years old for the entire school year and require more intensive interventions through special education.

Board member Alice Benedict asked Finnigan if they’ve considered labeling it something other than preschool since it is so similar to UPK ages.

“We try to be very cognizant of calling it a special education program because there are those two school classrooms also that have general education students, so we don't want people to think that they'd be getting something different than other classrooms,” Finnigan said. “And we'd like to be inclusive when we talk about what we're doing. So it is kind of nice to know that they're not just here alone. Right? They may have been if we hadn’t done this.”

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A UPK grant of $672,719 funds up to 112 students — 72 full-day and 40 half-day slots. The district has a waiting list for parents that want full days for their children, and “we are applying for an expansion grant that would convert half-day slots to a full-day slot,” Smith said.

The district is working with Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties to support the regional need for preschool students, and there are 28 enrolled in special education at Robert Morris.

A current Student Transition And Recovery (STAR) program has been moved to the third floor, and the cafeteria has been reopened and prepped to provide meals in classrooms and cafeteria style, Smith said. There has been deep cleaning of the kitchen and cafeteria space, a review of the status of equipment and electrical/plumbing infrastructures, and purchases or upgrades of necessary equipment and supplies.

New staff includes four UPK, seven preschool teachers and 11 teacher aides, plus related service providers for occupational, speech and physical therapies; school resource officer, nurse, administrative, custodial and security aide support. The board approved those new positions during Monday’s regular meeting as part of a long list of additional staff for elementary, middle and high schools.

Security aides, many of whom are retired police officers, are throughout the district for extra safety measures, Smith said. They will provide 15 hours a week at Robert Morris, plus the presence of a school resource officer.

Cost of Change
To date, the district has spent $225,000 to get RM up and running, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said.

Within that total:

  • $93,000 will be funded by a UPK grant for classroom furniture and interactive boards;
  • $20,000 to be funded by a School Lunch Fund for a dishwasher, garbage disposal, refrigerator and various carts; and
  • $112,000 from the General Fund for carpeting, cabling, a copier, classroom furniture, desks, chairs, intercom, dehumidifier, public address system and emergency lighting upgrades. 

Registration has been moved from the Robert Morris site to the high school administrative wing to reduce foot traffic, and an administrative office will be available on site near the UPK entrance.

Other work performed has included upgraded cabling, interactive boards, cleaning out storage areas, and transferring viable furniture from Jackson to Robert Morris. Walls have been patched, painted and/or repaired in class and bathrooms, carpeting has been replaced, air and asbestos tests conducted in the basement and library, a new intercom and telephone lines installed, and assorted repairs made to vents, plumbing fixtures, and electrical components and new water lines added as needed.

The first day of school is Sept. 7 for all students.

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Top photo: City school board member Alice Benedict, left, Superintendent Jason Smith, and board members John Reigle, Jenn Lendvay and Korinne Anderson begin their tour at the east entrance of Robert Morris Monday evening. Trisha Finnigan, executive director of staff development and operations, walks the group through several pre-school and UPK classrooms, and an integrated services room for occupational, speech and physical therapy, shown, as Board President John Marucci takes a peek over a makeshift wall. Photos by Joanne Beck.

 

August 30, 2022 - 9:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, van detta stadium, notify.

Batavia City Schools issued a letter this morning to parents regarding respectful etiquette and the use of security measures for football games -- including wand checks, a new security service and an age limit for attending without an adult -- at Van Detta Stadium.

The Board of Education had approved hiring Armor Security earlier this year. 

The fee is $29 an hour per guard at about five hours each, Superintendent Jason Smith said. That’s about $580 per game, or $2,900 for five games.

You can attribute at least some of the need for this to the Batavia Blue Devils’ track record, Smith said at the time of the board's vote in May. 

“That’s for special events, home football games. We’re drawing 1,000 people or more at those games,” he said to The Batavian. “With a successful team, you draw more people.”

Another change is a $2 admission fee for all varsity football games. Students and seniors 62 and older will get in for free.

The letter addressed to district families is below:

As the 2022-23 school year is upon us, we are excited to announce that our state-of-the-art facility at VanDetta Stadium will once again be hosting Varsity Football games.

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 some enhanced safety protocols, guidelines, and expectations when attending:

● 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.
● 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’re also enhancing our security presence around the stadium during events. We’ve hired Armor Security 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 & Mike Bromley, Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics

Go here for prior coverage about the security company. 

 

August 30, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Comptroller, Board of Education.

boe_alice_ann_benedict_1.jpegFollowing her assumption that city school district residents may be holding the board responsible for a state audit citing missing equipment and unnecessary spending, former Board of Education President Alice Benedict wanted to clear the air Monday.

While she reads district policies, she may not read every policy, Benedict said, but more to the point, she thought the district was on top of equipment inventories and related service fees.

“I thought the district was keeping track … and then we found out that it wasn’t,” Benedict said during the board’s meeting at Batavia High School. “I think there are some things in the district that we are making assumptions about. It was assumptions I made that it was being taken care of.”

Superintendent Jason Smith had previously issued a press release listing the state

Comptroller's findings, including nearly 300 pieces of technology equipment that were missing or otherwise unaccounted for, and a related $17,000 service fee paid for those items. 

She didn’t want any one board member to feel it was his or her fault, Benedict said.

Board President John Marucci, along with Smith, answered questions from The Batavian that were published earlier Monday. Marucci pointed to his comments in that article about feeling disappointed in the findings and encouraged by Smith's response.

“I was not happy with it at all,” Marucci said.

He also said that he has the “utmost faith” in Smith and district staff to take the appropriate corrective measures to stop this type of thing from happening again.

Smith said that systems are in place and that by working with a third-party consultant, the district is developing a plan of action to remedy those procedures that either were not in place or fell through the cracks, especially during personnel changeovers and COVID protocols.

The consultant — Webster-Szanyi law firm — was selected out of five proposals at a net cost of $8,753.13 to the district after BOCES aid was deducted. The Batavian submitted a question to Smith about the total aid received.

The law firm is providing the district with two educational consultants who specialize in school technology service reviews, Smith said. Work has already begun, and is to be finished by January, he said.

Here is the prior announcement about the audit from Smith.

August 29, 2022 - 4:30pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Comptroller, City Schools, notify, batavia.

A state audit discovered nearly 300 pieces of technology equipment missing and unnecessary service fees paid out for those items and those events resulted in a third-party consultant at an additional cost of $8,700.

District taxpayers have a right to be concerned, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith says. 

jason.jpgThe Batavian asked Smith several follow-up questions related to the audit and his response were issued on Friday afternoon. He reiterated a portion of what his original response was, that “we can and will do better going forward.”

First and foremost, how do you address taxpayers that may have either lost trust, or confirmed their distrust, in district administrators and board members as the guardians of taxpayer money?
He acknowledged that “our taxpayers — including myself as a resident and taxpayer of the BCSD, along with our board members — are right to be concerned about this audit.”

“Our role as fiscal stewards of the Batavia community is vitally important and we need to and will do better in this area moving forward. As the leader of this district, I’m taking this audit seriously and making it a high priority with our administrative team going forward,” Smith said. “I do not take any fiscal responsibility lightly, and understand and value the trust the community gives us to handle tax dollars appropriately.    

“We are developing a detailed corrective action plan — due in 90 days —  that the Board will review and approve, and will be made available to the public as part of a future board agenda. Under my leadership, we fully intend to improve our IT management, implement our corrective action plan, and then carefully monitor the results and new procedures,” he said.  “In addition, our internal and external auditors have been made aware of the comptroller audit and will also work with the district to ensure all procedures are being followed and implemented—as will I and our leadership team.”

Was the district aware of these discrepancies/issues before the comptroller report, or did the audit find these issues?
"The goal of any comptroller audit is to bring attention to areas of concern for school districts and municipalities. The audit found the majority of our IT issues, although prior to my arrival, it’s my understanding the district was generally aware of some of these IT inventory concerns," he said.

Smith included a note for context that “audits of school districts are common and occur on a regular basis, every five years or so for each district.”

According to the State of New York Office of the State Comptroller, “A top priority of the Office of the State Comptroller is to help school district officials manage their districts efficiently and effectively and, by doing so, provide accountability for tax dollars spent to support district operations. The Comptroller oversees the fiscal affairs of districts statewide, as well as district compliance with relevant statutes and observance of good business practices. This fiscal oversight is accomplished, in part, through our audits, which identify opportunities for improving district operations and Board of Education governance. Audits also can identify strategies to reduce district costs and to strengthen controls intended to safeguard district assets.”

As for the missing IT equipment, how did that happen? Were these items on loan to students/staff and weren't returned, or another scenario? What was the procedure supposed to be?
"While there is no excuse for the results found during this audit, we do recognize that the turnover in BCSD administration and our IT department since 2019 contributed to and compounded our IT management issues," he said. "Once we have completed the assessment from the third party company, we will take steps towards also establishing stronger leadership for our IT department. 

"Some items were given to families and not returned and some were given to staff and have not been located in their classrooms.  During the audit itself and as a result of surveying our staff, we found additional missing items reducing the impact of the audit results.

"The procedure should be and will be the development of a detailed inventory list that will match the inventory that has been distributed along with a process for monitoring new/out-of-service inventory and the distribution and return of all IT devices. This will be part of our required corrective action plan that I will personally oversee.

"Over the last 20 years, there have been six different IT directors and approximately six years without an IT Director, mostly due to budget constraints. Hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back, the district may have been penny-wise but pound-foolish in this approach of not having a dedicated IT director for a number of years. We look forward to the incoming recommendations from our third-party company on how best to proceed."

Who is that third party, and what is the fee for this service?
"After reviewing five proposals this past spring, the district selected the Webster-Szanyi law firm as our third-party IT consultants.  The net cost to the district is $8,753.13 after BOCES aid," Smith said. "The firm is providing the district with two educational consultants who specialize in school technology service reviews. Their work has already begun and will be concluded by January."

Doesn't the board have a role in issues like these, such as having to approve the yearly $17,000 fee and being aware of how equipment is being used and its status from the beginning to end of the school year?
"These fees are embedded in our general BOCES bill and not necessarily a separate line item for approval.  We use BOCES to reduce the local share as we receive BOCES aid. The Board should have full confidence and will have full confidence moving forward that leadership is monitoring the use of the equipment, and will be aware of related procedures and will review and approve related policies and our corrective action plan, due in November," Smith said.

How many years has that fee been paid so far? Was it 2021 and 2022 or also 2020?
"The inventory list contained items dating back to 2006. The District pays BOCES fees for each item that we lease, and the $17,000 reported in the audit reflected fees we paid for unused/lost items in our inventory for the 2021-22 school year," he said. "The audit caused us to dig deeper into our current IT inventory, and we have since reduced additional BOCES fees for our current technology equipment resulting in a reduction of $109,000 from our BOCES bill."  

If/when the missing equipment has to be replaced, how will that be funded? How were these items funded ($891,000, I believe) originally? 
"Our IT BOCES expenditures are included in our General Fund Budget but sometimes (relatively minor) items are purchased from State/Federal grants. If we use State/Federal Grants, we do not receive additional BOCES aid. We purchase/replace our IT equipment in cycles so as to not spike the General Fund Budget in any given year," he said. "There is no need to replace those items as the devices are now obsolete."

You have stepped up to take responsibility, but how will your measures put more responsibility on staff, since you can't monitor everything all the time?
"My job is to work with our team and our third-party consultants to develop and implement clear procedures, carefully monitor those procedures, and hold us accountable to those procedures.  This is true for any area of leading a school district, since I cannot monitor everything all the time, my staff will play a vital role in this moving forward," Smith said. "I can and will however monitor these procedures, do spot checks, and have frequent and regular check-in meetings with appropriate staff."

Does the school district have any intention of auditing other areas of the district where similar mishandling or lack of monitoring could also exist?
"We work closely with our audit committee, our internal auditors, and our external auditors on an annual basis. Areas of risk and improvement are identified on an annual and ongoing basis, and we regularly implement new procedures to ensure fiscal accountability," Smith said.

marucci_pic.pngBoard President John Marucci had many similar sentiments as Smith, including how the board needs to respond to these findings.

"Taxpayers have a right to be concerned in regards to this audit. The administration and the Board of Education need to and will do better moving forward," Marucci said.  "As board president, I take this audit and its findings very seriously, as do the other BOE members. Jason and his team are putting together a corrective action plan that will be reviewed and approved by the BOE. I want to assure the Batavia taxpayers that this issue is being rectified.

"Regarding additional audits for the rest of the district, we already have auditors in place to review departments on an annual basis, including an audit committee, internal auditors, and contracted external auditors. Each year, they review and identify areas that we could improve on or are of concern," he said. "These audit processes will continue to help ensure fiscal accountability."

What more can the board do to ensure that approvals for spending are necessary and accurately reflect the need?
"As a board, we expect the administration to give us accurate numbers. I trust Jason will make sure that any figures given to the board regarding need-based spending will be accurate moving forward," Marucci said. "It’s the board’s responsibility to do our own due diligence to ensure we’re thoroughly monitoring and reviewing spending requests."

What was the board's understanding when approving or being made aware of the $17,000 annual fee for equipment that, as it turns out, was not even part of district inventory? Moving forward, how can the board protect against such wasteful spending?
"Again, we expect the administration to give the board good and accurate information. This specific IT issue began while we were in the midst of the pandemic, we had a new superintendent, and we had management turnover in our IT department. It's not an excuse, it's reality," Marucci said. "Unfortunately, mistakes happened. Jason was brought up to speed on the issue when he arrived, and he and his team are aggressively putting an action plan in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. As a board, we need to continue to ask questions to be certain that the information is accurate and gives us a full picture."

What is your overall response to the audit and its findings?
"I was disappointed, but I also understand that any New York State Comptroller audit is ultimately beneficial because it highlights areas of concern that need to be dealt with. Audits ultimately help protect the taxpayers," Marucci said. "With that being said, I believe in Jason, his team, and this board, and I’m confident this issue will be taken care of swiftly."

See previous coverage of the audit.

File photos of Superintendent Jason Smith, top, and Board President John Marucci, by Joanne Beck and BCSD website.

August 26, 2022 - 9:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Frank E. Owen, City Schools, notify, batavia.

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About 100 people gathered Thursday evening to honor the late Frank E. Owen by naming Batavia High School’s entertainment venue after him.

The Frank E. Owen  Auditorium has a nice ring to it, his son Jim said via a pre-recorded video during the live-streamed event. Jim has been battling cancer and his medical professionals wouldn’t let him leave his treatment facility. Nevertheless, he spoke proudly of his father and suggested that the honor is about more than Frank E. Owen.

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“This is to honor my father, but it’s more important to honor all the teachers and students — past, present, and future — the music department, and all those who use the auditorium,” he said. “It’s to honor the school system. He was very proud of his teachers and his students.”

A cat photobombed his talk, which brought some humor to a moment charged with emotion. Jim calmly continued talking as he acknowledged the cat’s presence with a few rubs on the head, which is an example of his kind-hearted dedication to whatever is before him. Other speakers pointed to how much they could know of Frank by watching his legendary qualities unfold within Jim.

“Jim carries on his father’s legacy by influencing the students,” High School Principal Paul Kesler said.

Frank’s former students, Patti Pacino and Liz Johnson Conway, both 1965 grads, shared how their music teacher was disciplined, down to earth and fair. He expected nothing less than a commitment from everyone.

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Music has been a strong piece of Pacino’s life, thanks in large part to the lessons instilled by Frank Owen.

“He presumed we were as dedicated as he was,” she said, listing his many requirements. There was no sheet music on stage, as everyone was to memorize their songs, and no jingling of bracelets on stage, or even the chance fainting spell without consideration not to disrupt the performance, she said.

“Why would high school students put with such rules?” she said. “Because it was magical.”

Students loved music, loved to sing, and learned about teamwork along the way, she said. They all worked toward the common goal of producing lovely choral music. On one of his very first days at the city school district, Frank invited everyone to sing, and they “sang like they never sang before,” Pacino said, reading a report from 1927.

If Mary Poppins had a brother, it would be Frank E. Owen, she said.

Conway only studied with Frank for two years, but in those two short years, “I learned to like and admire” this man of music, she said. He demanded excellence with “pitch, diction and musicality,” she said.

His conducting was classy and subtle, with no large flashy moves, she said, and his secret weapon reining kids in was “the look.”

“Danny VanDetta had the paddle, and Frank Owen had the look,” she said. “Communicating through lyrics and connected to sound, he strengthened the music in this area.”

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Superintendent Jason Smith, an avid musician himself, shared some of Frank Owen’s history:

He established the music department at BCSD in 1927 and created the first band and BHS Choristers, a well-known vocal group that reaped many accolades and awards, taped recordings and broadcasts during Owen’s 37-year career at Batavia. He then went on to serve on the Batavia Board of Education, including as president and was actively involved in community music.

“When the Board was considering naming the auditorium in Mr. Owen’s honor, I received numerous emails advocating for this to occur,” Smith said, reading some of those messages. A few snippets are below:

As a graduate of BHS and a member of the Choristers all my years at the High School, I can tell you that he not only instilled a love of music but a sense of service to community.

Mr. Owen was a humble master of music, respected and praised. My brothers and I were in choristers and band. My oldest brother became a music teacher with Mr. Owen’s urging, along with many other graduates.

Some of our fondest memories are the annual live Christmas (morning) broadcasts of the Chorus from the former Elks building on Ellicott Street, and the copies of that program on vinyl - blue records! - that each of us could purchase.  Both Jim and I have included a link to one of those albums on our Class websites.

I can't think of a more fitting honor than naming the Auditorium after Mr. Owen - a 'home' to so many of us during our years at Batavia High School and recognition of the impact he had on so many lives.

Smith also read a tribute recited to Frank upon his retirement in 1964.

“Mr. Owen’s flair as an educator has to be classed in the greater range. Music to him is not merely an abstract subject. It is something that is a very real part of life with ramifications in history, culture and the development of civilization,” Smith said. “Those who had the advantage of his teaching and leadership gained not only exceptional appreciation and understanding of music but also of the wider spectrum.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Assemblyman Steve Hawley sent representatives to present proclamations for the occasion, and City Council President Eugene Jankowski gave one from the city with the wish that the community will find the auditorium space to be a place where folks can relax and be inspired.

The evening also included a ribbon-cutting, a vocal concert of pieces chosen by current Music Director Jane Haggett, including "Adeste Fidelis," meaning come, faithful ones, and a patriotic song since Frank always typically included one for concerts, she said. He loved "America," she said, "so we're going be doing that."

 A reception cake was bedecked with the theme of the night, and memorabilia was on display for guests to see.

Top photo: Abigail Hoerbelt, who comes from a musical family, cuts the ribbon during a dedication of the Frank E. Owen Auditorium Thursday evening at Batavia High School. Music Director Jane Haggett, City Council President Eugene Jankowski, alumni and board member Liz Johnson Conway, Jenn Lendvay and Patti Pacino flank her on the left as Chamber of Commerce Interim President Tom Turnbull, Board President John Marucci, Superintendent Jason Smith and Principal Paul Kesler stand on the right. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Photo of reception cake by Joanne Beck, and memorabilia and speakers by Howard Owens.

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August 23, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, schools, education, notify, batavia.

dr._molly_corey.jpegAfter more than 18 months with three “key phases,” and input from dozens of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students and community members, Batavia City School District is ready to launch its five-year strategic plan.

Such a plan isn’t required by New York State, but is a recommended “best practice” for any school district, said Dr. Molly Corey, director of curriculum and instruction.

“Our intention is to bring parents, community members, students, and staff together to plan and prioritize student success in every classroom,” Corey said in a press release Monday. “We’re still evaluating and discovering the depths of learning loss our students experienced due to the pandemic. A Strategic Plan like this will be a beacon grounding us during uncertain times, and it will allow us to comprehensively think, discuss, and prioritize the needs of our students.” 

A main portion of the report, referred to by staff as “a curriculum and instructional roadmap” for reaching each student’s goals, involves a family component, which undoubtedly is a valuable piece. That part of the plan is to ensure “Our families will: make education a priority in the household, support the school in promoting a good work ethic and personal responsibility, as well as encouraging health and wellness and provide the necessary time, space, and supplies at home for homework and studies to be completed.”

The Batavian asked Superintendent Jason Smith how the district plans to get families on board with the wellness aspect, given their busy lives, technology and such easy access to fast meals and sedentary lifestyles. Smith said that promoting health and wellness has become even more important post-COVID.

2022_jason_smith_bcsd_headshot.png“And we learned that loud and clear coming out of this pandemic,” he said. “We have Social Emotional Learning teams at each school that promote health and wellness among both our students and staff. Good nutrition and exercise are reinforced in our Phys Ed and health curriculum, and is a key part of the New York State learning standards.”

He also emphasized that family engagement will continue to be “an integral part of our mission at BCSD.” Therefore, two-way communication between schools and families is critical, he said.

“We encourage our families to reach out to us with comments, suggestions, and questions as we implement this plan,” Smith said. “Additionally, each school partners with our parent groups, and just this year we have added a parent representative component to our newly formed shared-decision making teams at each school.  We will also consider tools such as surveys and other feedback mechanisms.”

Even before COVID — about 26 years prior, to be exact — Smith said that he focused his teaching on individual ownership in one’s own behavior and contributions.

“Since I first began teaching in 1994, teaching students personal responsibility and work ethic has been a core mission of schools,” he said. “While it may be explicitly taught at times, teachers, coaches, and advisors continually reinforce this important message through high expectations and accountability, coupled with support and guidance.”

That’s how he expects to reach families, and therefore equip students to fulfill plan goals to: contribute to creating a safe and respectful environment; put forth their best effort; and be independent learners and competent problem-solvers who seek help when needed.

Four components of the plan include:

  • A safe and orderly school environment
  • A collaborative culture
  • Clear and accessible curriculum
  • Effective teaching in every classroom

There are benchmarks for every objective, such as planning for communication across all district groups, developing a schedule for progress checks, and creating an efficacy report by asking “how are buildings in the district doing?”

The Board of Education has approved the plan, which will begin to unfold this fall. While BCSD developed this plan to cover a five-year period from 2022-2027, school staff will continue to review and refine it to “achieve success for years to come.”

Even though Smith began in January at the tail end of the planning process, he has enjoyed the catch-up process of all that has been done, he said.

“I’ve been thrilled at the work Dr. Corey and all of our stakeholders have done in preparing this guide,” he said. “It shows a solid understanding of our students’ diverse needs and will certainly set every child up for success going forward.” 

Newly elected Board President John Marucci concurred, adding that Corey and her team “have been well ahead of the curve” by initiating the strategic plan in 2019.

“The Board of Education has been actively discussing learning loss with the administration since the height of the pandemic,” Marucci said. “We’re confident that they’re addressing the concerns that parents have expressed and will continue to evaluate their systems going forward to ensure BCSD continues to strive for academic excellence in every grade and every classroom.” 

The complete Strategic Plan, which runs from 2022 to 2027,  can be found on the Batavia City School District website here

August 6, 2022 - 1:33pm
posted by Press Release in Frank E. Owen, Batavia HS, batavia, City Schools, news.

Press release:

On Thursday, August 25, 2022, the Batavia City School District will host the official dedication ceremony for the Frank E. Owen Auditorium at Batavia High School. 

The ceremony will begin at 7:00 pm in the auditorium and will include an official ribbon cutting, and performances by Batavia High School music students, alumni, staff, and community members.  

The evening will feature remarks from Superintendent Jason Smith, Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler, and Batavia High School Music Department Chair Jane Haggett. The ceremony will also include an appearance by Frank E. Owen’s son, Jim Owen.

On May 5, 2022, the Batavia City School District Board of Education officially approved the renaming of the Batavia High School auditorium to the “Frank E. Owen Auditorium.” 

Frank E. Owen started his career with the Batavia City School District in 1927, where he directed the orchestra and was appointed the head of the music department. Owen was responsible for many musical “firsts” across the district: the first BCSD band was formed in 1930, and he founded the Batavia High School Choristers in 1935. He directed the first school musical in 1937 and formed the first jazz/swing choir in the 1960s. Owen retired in 1964, completing a career that spanned 37 years of dedication to the students of Batavia. He passed away on July 9, 1978, in Batavia, and shortly after, a scholarship was set up in his name and is awarded each year to a student pursuing a career in music education.

For anyone who is interested in joining the performance in celebration of Frank E. Owen, more information can be found here.

Admission to the event is free. The Frank E. Auditorium is located at Batavia High School, 260 State Street, Batavia, New York.  

July 13, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Board of Education, notify.

John Marucci has a message for his district citizens.

He is an open book, he says. And the newly elected Batavia City Schools board president intends to lead the board with a commitment to “honesty and transparency.” That means don’t be afraid to contact him when necessary.

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“Please reach out to me should you have any questions or concerns. I’m here to assist the members of the district in any way I can,” he said to The Batavian. “I’ve lived in Batavia for eight years and absolutely love this community. I look forward to serving you in this new capacity.”

What do you see as priorities for the board president?
My priorities as BCSD Board of Education president include ensuring that Superintendent (Jason) Smith and our school administration have everything they need to successfully execute the programs and initiatives outlined in our recently passed budget,” Marucci said. “I’m proud to work alongside my fellow BOE members, who are very committed to supporting the BCSD and doing what's best for our students, staff and community.”

Marucci was recently sworn into his new role, which officially began July 1. Each board term runs through June 30 of the following year. This is Marucci’s second three-year term, and it expires in 2025. He will be coming in as the board leader with prior experience as the vice president for a year. As 2022 progresses onward toward 2023, he looks forward to working through the budget process and planning for the future, he said.

He’s also excited to be able “to work in a closer capacity with Superintendent Smith,” he said, adding that he thinks Smith was a “fantastic hire” who is going to do great things for the city school district.

“I think he's done a phenomenal job during his first few months with us and I can't wait to see what he does in the future,” Marucci said.

What goals would you like to set for the board and its role with the district for this next year?
“The BCSD BOE actually sets our goals collectively each fall,” he said. “We have an upcoming retreat planned where we'll all come together a

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nd collaborate on what we hope to prioritize for the upcoming school year.”

Marucci has been a resident of Batavia since July of 2014. Three of his children are Batavia High School graduates and a son is in the Class of 2025 at the school. Marucci has served on the Batavia Bulldawgs Board and as a coach for seven years. He is a recipient of the Jim Ellegate Memorial Award by The Niagara / Orleans Football Association for “The Love  of the Game and More Importantly The Love of Children." He previously served as the head coach for the BCSD Modified Wrestling Team and also assisted in coaching Batavia Little Devils Youth Wrestling Club. 

Giving credit where it's due
Aside from his own personal and professional goals, Marucci wants to thank former board President Alice Ann Benedict for her leadership during the last two years. Being a veteran board member who also served on the board for several years before this stint, Benedict provided an education for other members, he said.

“She is a seasoned member of the Board of Education, and I certainly learned a lot about being president by sitting beside her. I was always impressed with how she ran meetings, how professional she was, and (how) she presented herself and the district,” he said. “I’m extremely happy that she has another year with us on her current term, where she'll continue to be able to contribute her knowledge and passion for education and the district.” 

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Benedict’s term is up on June 30, 2023. Member John Reigle, whose term is up in 2024, was voted in as vice president during the group’s recent reorganizational meeting. 

Reigle was appointed to the board in August 2020 to fill a vacancy.  He and his wife, Ashlee, have three children – one who graduated in 2020, another who attends BHS, and one who attends John Kennedy Intermediate.

A lifelong Batavia resident, he earned a football scholarship to South Dakota Tech upon his graduation from BHS, and he played there for three years, studying business before returning home. He is currently the manager of Timebuyer Auto Sales and has remained active in youth sports as a founding member and commissioner of the Batavia Bulldawgs Youth Football and Cheer program. 

Reigle believes that, with his relationships with the district families, teachers, and faculty members, that "I will contribute towards the continued success of our district both academically as well as with our extracurricular activities such as athletics, arts, and music," he said. 

July 11, 2022 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Liberty Street, City Schools, batavia, news.

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A building at 245 Liberty Street was demolished today.

According to county tax records, the 2,590-square-foot commercial structure was built in 1950 and was acquired by Batavia City Schools in 2017.

School officials were not available today to answer questions about the property.

UPDATE: See previous coverage about this building HERE. The property was donated to the school district and the land will provide additional parking for Jackson School.

Top photo by Howard Owens.

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County tax records photo of the structure.

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Most recent Google Streetview photo of the building.
 

July 7, 2022 - 10:57pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, notify, batavia.

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Neither the outgoing nor incoming president was at Batavia City School board’s reorganizational meeting Thursday, but the remaining board members voted to put John Marucci in the role.

He was sworn in via Zoom. Marucci was the board vice president, having served three years, and had previously said that he “thoroughly enjoyed serving the students, parents and staff of the BCSD.”

Marucci, a resident of Batavia for five years with one son in the school system, is an active coach for the Batavia Bulldawgs Youth Football organization, and is head coach for the Vartsity team. He was previously head coach for the BMS modified wrestling team and helped coach Batavia Little Devils’ youth wrestling. His term ends in July of 2025, and has said that serving Batavia’s youth is a main reason for his participation on the school board. 

Marucci was not able to answer questions from The Batavian about his new title and position Thursday evening, as he is visiting family out of state. He will be available to do so on Wednesday, he said.

Former president Alice Benedict’s term is up in July 2023 after being appointed in May 2020 to fill out a vacated position. Benedict is no stranger to the Board of Education, having served from 1995 to 2006, and for three terms as president.

reigle_pic.pngBoard member John Reigle, whose term ends in July 2024, was elected vice president.

Two public hearings — about the Code of Conduct and hiring a second school resource officer — followed the reorganizational meeting. No one from the public spoke at the hearings, and both topics were approved later by the board.

Superintendent Jason Smith said that the Code of Conduct has received a thorough review by the school attorney “to make the code in line with current law and or current recommendations.”

“Our attorneys gave us some key updates that needed to be modified other than updated definitions for bullying, or harassment, to comply with the current Dignity For All Students Act,” Smith said. “Some modifications there, I think, we added definitions as to what is a tobacco product, what under the influence means and … illegal substances, that has been clarified as well.”

They have also revised the definition of "weapon," and when and if students would face certain consequences. Section three’s language was clarified and cleaned up, he said, to state that “students have a right to learn in a safe and supportive school environment.”

A lot of the pieces that were in there have been removed because it's covered with the Dignity For All Students Act, and we modified some language regarding privacy and public restrooms and locker rooms, and expectations for that as well,” he said.

Section five reflects “a nice presentation in June by (BHS Principal) Paul Kesler and his students” about the dress code. Their work and attorney input focused on a gender-neutral dress code that didn’t particularly target guys or gals.

Other revisions included cyberbullying and virtual learning code of conduct, plus the addition of some legal updates to the prohibition against discrimination, harassment and or bullying. Long-term suspensions were considered, and families have the right to appeal the board on a five-day suspension.

“In the rare event that those are challenged or appealed, that clarifies that language,” Smith said. “It also clarifies long-term suspension appeals.”

Click here to view the Code of Conduct 

The school board also approved the move to hire a second resource officer for the district and a related contract with the city of Batavia.

“The proposal is to use additional COVID funding previously designated for learning … and use some of those funds. And we can gradually build a budget over time (to afford the positions when COVID funding is gone),” he said.

Given the tragedies this spring of mass shootings at a school in Texas and earlier much closer to home in Buffalo, the awareness of staff and families has been heightened of such possibilities. Smith received several emails from families and staff members regarding the district’s safety, he said.

Reigle said there’s been support for the current resource officer and now for a second one as well.

“It's nice to work in conjunction with somebody who is looking out for your safety,” Reigle said. “So we're in support of it.”

Each officer costs the district approximately $100,000 in salary and benefits, which will be paid to the city for use of two police department employees.

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