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June 25, 2022 - 9:05pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Batavia HS, notify, graduation.

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As Batavia High School’s Class of 2022 sat quietly Saturday on VanDetta field dressed in blue and white robes, many family members and friends hurriedly tried to find a seat in the packed stadium before the ceremony began.

It was perfect weather with no rain in sight, though the scorching temperature of 85 and climbing made for some hot metal seats. Marya Cole had found a spot to watch her niece Jaylene Dersham receive her diploma, but soon had to duck under cover for some relief.

“It was so hot up there,” Cole said, finding some shade in the stadium lobby. “I’m very proud of her. She lost her dad when she was young. But she went all the way through, and I’m really proud of her.”

Jaylene, 17, who was a notable Blue Devils Girls Basketball player, was one of 169 graduates to cross the makeshift stage and realize a dream along with her fellow seniors. She had decorated her cap in honor of her father, Jayson Dersham, with the word “Dad” across the top. Cole wasn’t certain what her niece will be doing from here but knows that the new graduate wants to go to college, possibly for nursing or something more secretarial.

That wasn't her proud aunt's concern at the moment.

"She did it; she made it," a smiling Cole said.

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Robert Lin, Valedictorian

Although they were saying goodbye to the last days and years of high school, the graduates were reminded of what they accomplished. Class Valedictorian Robert Lin spoke about the hardships of isolation, separation, and the mental and physical turmoil his classmates encountered with a pandemic. "It had a “devastating effect on us,” he said.

Despite the challenges, everyone rallied to come back and finish.

“Throughout these four years at high school, we’ve developed skills, connections, and characteristics to move forward in society,” Lin said. “These events will develop us to be harder, better, faster, and stronger. As today ends, we will all tread our own paths. As we move on, life will have many surprises or events in store for us.”

His nuggets of advice included the phrase “you only live once,” which he encouraged for those willing to take the consequences of trying something new. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shorter path or the long way, he said. Just never give up. Never let yourself down.

“We have to enjoy life to its fullest, and the changes it throws at us will keep us eager, and when they start coming, they don’t stop coming,” he said.

The 100+ average student received the E.G. Richmond Award for having the highest average in all courses of study. He also completed and excelled in 13 college or AP level courses, doing his homework assignments in between helping customers at his family’s restaurant after school.  A role model to his fellow students, he was described as always wanting to be better.

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Elizabeth McCarthy, Salutatorian

Less than one point under Lin's average was the 99.9 of Salutatorian Elizabeth McCarthy. Not only was McCarthy a high school graduate, but, due to her diligence in taking 11 AP and/or dual enrollment courses while in school, she also just graduated from Genesee Community College with an associate degree.

The past four years have been “a wild ride,” she said, also pointing to the challenges of COVID.

“I am so proud of how our class was able to overcome this huge challenge. We would not have been able to overcome such adversity without the help and support of our family and friends, as well as the exceptional staff at BHS,” she said. “I would like to remind everyone to be kind. I’m sure we can all think of someone who has brightened our lives in some way. Someone who was there for us with a helping hand -- or maybe simply a smile -- when we needed it most. I encourage all of us to be the light in someone’s day, in case that person needs it.”

At one point during the speeches, Samantha Koons had stepped into the lobby, where a nice small breeze was flowing through to the parking lot. She and her boyfriend Ed McDonald were there for his 18-year-old son Cory, she said.

“We’re a little emotional that his baby is growing up,” she said. “We’re very proud of him, very proud.”

About a dozen chaperones and security staff kept an eye on the premises during commencement. Some spectators asked about water as the blazing sun kept its heavy gaze on participants and the audience. Security guard and BHS 1997 grad Nick Burk attends every graduation, he said, and the events “traditionally are very well attended.”  He also coaches three sports and has become invested in the students' success, he said.

“It’s really exciting and awesome to see students whom I’ve known since they were 14 or 15 … some are going into the military, some are starting their careers,” he said. “It’s great to see that development and growth.”

Photos by Steve Ognibene.  To view more photos and to purchase photos, click here.

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Top photo: Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler addresses the Class of 2022 during commencement Saturday at VanDetta Stadium in Batavia. Speakers included Superintendent Jason Smith, who gave an analogy about filling one's jar first with golf balls -- the big priorities in life -- before worrying about the smaller things, represented by pebbles and sand. He later gave each student an inscribed symbolic blue golf ball to remind them "about prioritizing your goals as you move into this next exciting phase of your lives." Molly George and Laura Tenebruso -- longtime teachers at the city school district -- present a poem made up by several of the seniors' quotes. Photos by Stephen Ognibene.

 

June 17, 2022 - 1:26pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, notify, school resource officer.

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A proposal to hire a second School Resource Officer wasn’t a matter of “if” Thursday evening.

From the city schools board comments, it’s a matter of when.

Superintendent Jason Smith believes that, given “recent tragic events over the past month” in Buffalo and Texas, that school safety concerns have once again been heightened.

“I have been personally contacted by parents and staff members about adding a second School Resource Officer,” he said during Thursday’s school board meeting. “The safety of our students, faculty, and staff has always been and will always be our top priority. While our district continues to implement best safety practices, we felt there was room for improvement. Our current SRO covers four schools in our district, and with the addition of Robert Morris next year, it makes this position all the more necessary and timely.

“If approved, BCSD will fully fund both SRO positions via a contract with City Council. The SROs are employed, appointed and overseen by the Batavia Police Department.”

It’s about time, Board member John Reigle said.

“I think it’s overdue,” Reigle said. “Officer Stevens has a huge workload, and it would be beneficial for her and for our district.”

Board President Alice Benedict agreed, adding that it seems as though the current officer spends a lot of time at the high school and, due to time constraints, cannot make it to other city schools on a regular basis.

“I think we need another one to help cover those buildings,” she said.

The other question — no small detail — was about how to fund a second officer in the district. Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said that the district will be entering Phase III of the federal COVID monies distributed two years ago, and about $200,000 had been set aside for remote learning. Smith added that the money was to be used for learning needs through BOCES, but a lack of enrollment will free up the funding for other uses. Rozanski suggested that the district could use those funds for a second SRO.

“So we can reallocate those funds and put it towards the school resource officer and then work on phasing in that position to the general fund budget, it will be similar to what we did to close all the positions this year,” Rozanski said. “So the general fund budget will slowly, incrementally increase and absorb that cost over the next two years.”

These officers are not direct employees of the district, as they are subcontracted from the City Police Department. Smith has been talking to City Council, the city manager, and the police department about a possible arrangement. One officer would cover the high and middle schools while a second officer would cover Jackson Primary, John Kennedy Intermediate, and Robert Morris.

“Our current SRO has a myriad of responsibilities including providing assistance with the District on juvenile matters affecting our students, proactive interventions with families and students, general safety and security in our schools, along with our school security aides, and working in partnership with the District in general safety programming,” Smith said.

The board — Chezeray Rolle, Korrine Anderson, Barbara Bowman, John Reigle, John Marucci and Benedict — agreed to authorize Smith to pursue hiring a second SRO. The board is expected to vote on the measure in July or August.

The Batavian has reached out to City Manager Rachael Tabelski today for further clarification about the city’s role in obtaining a second SRO for the school district. This article will be updated with her response when possible.

UPDATED 6/18/22:  City Manager Rachael Tabelski recommended that City Council extend a prior agreement for the district's first SRO earlier this year, extending the contract to June 2024. If the district moves forward with hiring a second SRO, the process will involve a final vote from the school board and City Council.

The stipulations for a School Resource Officer are:

  • The City will provide one officer to the BCSD that is a full-time City of Batavia law enforcement officer with excellent communication skills, ability to relate to children and students and planning skills.
  • The BCSD will reimburse the City of Batavia 100% of the Officers salary and employee benefits, including any overtime actually worked.
  • The City will assign a full-time SRO to the School according to a mutually agreeable schedule, between the first day of the academic year until the final day of the academic year.
  • The City remains responsible for providing a vehicle for the SRO as well as the SRO’s uniform, equipment, and training.
  • Services for the SRO will be billed based on the amount budgeted for the police officer assigned SRO duties and the actual overtime incurred during the billing cycle. Billing cycle will be on a quarterly basis.
  • The term of this Agreement commences April 11, 2022 and expires on June 30, 2024.

Photo: File Photo, 2013.  Batavia Middle School.  Photo by Howard Owens.

June 14, 2022 - 8:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, City Schools, batavia, news, schools, education.

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Students at Jackson Primary School began their day today in patriotic fashion with a Flag Day ceremony that included members of the Genesee County Joint Veterans Honor Guard and Western New York National Cemetery Honor Guard.

The veterans shared some lessons about the flag.

Students sang "God Bless America" and "This Land is Your Land."

Frank Panepento, a technology teacher at Batavia Middle School, played trumpet. 

Members of the Muckdogs organization joined the celebration.

Photos and information courtesy Batavia City Schools  Top photo: Phil Gaudy and Carl Hyde fold a U.S. flag.

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Jackson Primary students reciting The Pledge of Allegiance

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Front row, Giavanna Shultz, Gabriella Zucchiatti, Ronan McCarthy, Janielynn Roque; back row: Maureen Notaro, Jackson principal, Carl Hyde, Jason Smith, Superintendent, Phil Gaudy, Tom Cecere

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June 6, 2022 - 8:00am

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More than 40 seventh- and eighth-grade students and family members not only celebrated the end of another school year recently but also their induction into the National Junior Honor Society. 

A prestigious club at Batavia Middle School, this honor society strives for "academic excellence and prioritizes leadership and community service," Honor Society Adviser Meaghan Tederous said.

This year the group's community service endeavors included volunteering at Family Nights, Warm the Night, and the Polar Plunge at John Kennedy Intermediate School. Members organized -- and two members even plunged themselves, for -- the Polar Plunge fundraiser. They collected more than $1,500 for the Special Olympics of New York, Tederous said. 

To be eligible for NJHS, a student must have a certain GPA, and the criteria differ depending on each grade. A student must also possess qualities of community, character and leadership, and obtain a teacher recommendation, she said.

"We are so proud of our inductees and look forward to another year of celebrating academic achievements and giving back to the community," Tederous said.

Members of the National Junior Honor Society in seventh  grade are: 

  • Phoebe Beal
  • Brock Bigsby
  • Ryan Bigsby
  • Mallory Boyce
  • Genevieve Clark-Scott
  • Parker Cohen
  • Augustin Crawford
  • Andrew Davis
  • Teegan Frens
  • Thomas Gaylord
  • Ty Gioia
  • Lillian Gray
  • Jenna Higgins
  • Nathaniel Kinsey
  • Casey Mazur
  • Emma McJury
  • Emma Moore
  • Brielle Ricks
  • Aubrey Sputore
  • Trey Tryon
  • Gretchen Weicher
  • Landyn Wood
  • Kate Woodward

And in eighth grade are:

  • Aaden Caletto
  • Alora Becker
  • Ava Darling
  • Andrew Hunt
  • Bella Moore
  • Elaina Stringham
  • Elizabeth Grazioplene
  • Ella Smith
  • Julia Plath
  • Kiana Beaty
  • Lakoda Mruczek
  • Lila Fortes
  • Madeline Smith
  • Marley Santos
  • Miah Jones
  • Misael Flores
  • Noah Richmond
  • Tabitha Jett
  • Nora Wood

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Students at Batavia Middle School participate in the annual National Junior Honor Society ceremony as inductees of the club, which emphasizes academic performance, leadership skills and community service. Photos submitted by Batavia City Schools. 

May 16, 2022 - 5:40pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, City Schools, notify.

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Something you may not know about Jason Smith is that he didn’t aspire to be a school district superintendent.

In fact, his current role as head of Batavia City Schools just sort of happened with a suggestion that he should consider the next position, he says.

“The thing is there's nothing I've ever aspired to, it's kind of come to me, it's been a calling," Smith said during an interview with The Batavian. "When I was a teacher I never had any aspiration to be a superintendent. I was happy as a teacher. I was happy as an assistant principal. I was happy as a principal. I was happy as a superintendent in Lyndonville. I'm happy to be here."

His response was to one of several questions asked by The Batavian for an update on how his current role as Batavia City Schools superintendent has been going since he began Jan. 1 of this year. Smith has been a multi-district educator, going from Albion to Elba to Lyndonville, and now to Batavia.

Jack of all trades ...
He feels that he can connect with most anyone given his myriad of interests. The 50-year-old city resident plays the trombone, studies and snaps photos of birds, likes to run and participate in 5Ks, enjoys watching sports — he's a big Buffalo Bills fan — majored in history at college, and is a huge Bruce Springsteen and movie fan, especially Oscar winners.

It’s that kind of versatility that helps him to go from talking baseball and a budget to plumbing and roofing problems, he said. He has tried to finesse the art of knowing at least a little about a lot of various subjects, he said.

Jason Smith goes back to school ...
A 1990 Batavia High School graduate, Smith shared how he reminisced while walking down those Blue Devil hallways once again. He received a quick tour on his first official Monday, Jan. 3, and then did some reminiscing on a snow day later that week. He remembered classes, teachers — Mr. Trosey from English class and Mr. Hay from band -- and old friendships -- checked out the Athletic Hall of Fame and came upon fond memories.

"I walked through the hallways by myself and I tried to realign myself to the classes that I had. And as I was doing it, I was texting a couple of my friends I'm still friends with from high school, about the different spots I found. I found my old locker. I wanted to get reacclimatized to the school as a new student would,” he said. “That really wasn't my first memory because it was the first three days or so I was touring all the schools and meeting all the students and staff. And then I thought I had some time Thursday to kind of walk through very peacefully. And I just found it special for me to be back here in this capacity. I had time to kind of pause, you know, that the process of getting the job itself was very exciting. But then I had time to pause."

Smith picked up a glass crystal apple from the corner of his desk. Mr. Trosey had sent it to him following one of Smith’s opening day speeches that included credits to teachers, including Trosey, who had impacted his school career. It’s by far not alone in his collection of memorabilia. One tall bookshelf is full of notes from students and other school tidbits, plus, of course, his trombone, and there's a row of school programs that he has saved. "I'm very proud of those," he said.

Several minutes into the interview and the gloves came off: did you ever get into trouble at school Mr. Smith?

His initial answer was no, however, upon further reflection, Smith recalled when band teacher Mr. Hay “had to have a talk with me.”

“When I was a sophomore, I got my driver's license. And I was like the band treasurer or something. I was only 16 as a sophomore. So I had a car, and I was having fun driving students back and forth to home," he said. "And Mr. Hay had to pull me aside and have a talk with me: ‘Jason, I made you the treasurer for a reason. You've been unfocused.’ I'm sure that no, I didn't get in trouble. But I did have a couple of talks ensue from Mr. Hay.”

Smith often eats lunch with students and said that his old favorite was taco pizza and chocolate milk. “It still is,” he said, adding that chicken poppers and a frosted cookie for his sweet tooth also make the list. One thing you wouldn’t have found on his tray back then was broccoli, he admitted.

A little personal with professional ...
Smith has previously mentioned that he takes care of himself by getting “all of the proper components,” such as running four to five times a week, trying to watch what he eats, playing his trombone, enjoying movies, his family, the two dogs, and birds that frequent his back yard bird feeders. Family includes his wife Lori, daughter Megan, a 2020 BHS graduate, son Matthew, a BHS senior, and eighth-grade daughter Madeline. Megan may be following in dad’s footsteps by pursuing teaching at Niagara University, while Matthew wasn’t quite as excited to have his father at school as dad was, Smith said.

“I think it's fun. You know, he's enjoying his senior year. So I try to be respectful of that, but … the first day or so he wasn't so crazy about it," Smith said. "So as I said, ‘just embrace it. You know I'm here. Just in person.’”

Cooper, the family’s boxer lab mix, got a companion when the Smiths adopted Carol, a foxhound, in January. She was born in a litter named after The Brady Bunch sitcom characters, however, she was renamed from Marsha to Carol, because “we liked Carol better.”

“I enjoy walking and playing with them and try to have balance,” Smith said.

Part of his “entry process” as superintendent meant visiting with many people throughout the school district for a few months. He asked them to describe the school district in one word and found some of the answers a pleasant surprise. Words such as diversity, resilient, pride and supportive popped up.

Actually, there wasn’t really anything that surprised him as much as they “kind of also reaffirmed what I've already thought walking into the district.”

“They said things like pride, inclusive. I was proud to hear those words,” he said.

What's been the most challenging task since he started here? Being accessible to the 450 staff members and more than 2,000 students districtwide, he said.

“So a challenge I've had, and I’ve tried to overcome this by making myself accessible at games and concerts, was getting to know as many people as possible," he said. "And at smaller districts that were just as important to do. So I build time into going to as many things as I can.”

Does that ever get tiresome, having to attend so many public outings?

“It’s all I've known. It's just how I do business, you know? It's one of the pieces that people have in common as the board watches … they want to see visible superintendents in town. So it's not hard for me I don't find it challenging. I accepted it, and it's just part of my lifestyle now,” he said. “And I enjoy it. I'm going to the baseball game this afternoon. I tried to have a policy like this, as to what's going on, from pre-K all the way up to a senior baseball game.”

The public may not have connected a series of bird photos published on The Batavian as being from Jason Smith, superintendent of BCSD. His love of birds began with two parakeets he had as a kid. When he left as principal of Elba in 2011, Smith was given a bird feeder as a present because he had talked about birds. Smith now has some five bird feeders stationed at his southside home, he said. His grandfather loved birds and Smith has followed suit, to the point where he takes and submits photos consistently, compares notes about the feathered creatures with a neighbor, and generally enjoys watching them.

“It’s that moment of peace, I think,” he said.

Time to discuss the 2022-23 budget for a minute. The $54.8 million proposed budget includes an increase of $2.7 million in spending and a related 1 percent increase in the tax levy. Some social media posts have depicted voters as angry about the tax levy increase and have advocated a no vote on May 17. How do you reply to that?

“I want to say that this is not new territory for me. I recognize the challenges of building a school budget. I stand by my teeter-totter analogy and we want to have that piece there. So I would respond to that, we are conscientious of that, our board is very conscientious of that. But our board is also very conscientious of having to address the needs of our students, and ensuring we have staff and programs in place to support their needs. As I said at the board meeting last week, try to imagine a school without the (nonmandated programs). We don't have to have marching band, we don't have to have football. We want those things; those things are important.”

“So we have to balance those pieces out; it certainly ties into the social-emotional learning needs. So I would say it's a balancing act. And it's a partnership, and we recognize that. There's a task that was put in place for a reason. We recognize that, we respect that. We recognize the challenges that go into that. But we also have an obligation.”

I have neighbors that recognize the balance. And as a matter of fact, I had a conversation with one of my neighbors ... and she wanted to make sure we're still going to have good things for kids. So there's that side of it too. That's the teeter-totter," he said. "That's what I wrote in my newsletter. It's a balancing act and a partnership."

Looking ahead ...
What are your goals moving into 2023?

"We're going to announce a strategic plan in July. So Dr. Cory has been facilitating that process, we recommit the team, we're going to announce goals in June," he said. Each school is going to have its own goals that are aligned to pieces ... with respect to academic learning loss, social-emotional learning, and stronger professional collaboration with our teachers. We're forming shared decision-making teams at the building level ... So that's ongoing, I'm really excited about that, and really excited to have the opportunity to finish up this year. And then we're going to have some intense goal planning sessions this summer."

While Smith has always been proud of the district’s graduation rates — currently at 92 percent — he said there’s something equally important to leaving school with a diploma. He wants to know that students are going to look outside of themselves, be analytical thinkers and discerning readers that go beyond Facebook posts and article headlines before deciding on an issue.

"Two things that I want them to be able to do," he said. "Think critically and be good citizens."

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Top photo: Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith shows some of the items he has collected and keeps in his office. Photo by Joanne Beck. Photo above was taken by Smith in his backyard.

May 12, 2022 - 7:00pm

Batavia City Schools leaders have a “robust” summer school plan, they say.

Summer session will open July 12 and run for a month, to August 11. It’s a countermeasure for the ill effects of pandemic shutdowns. Instead of in the past, when students went to central designated sites, they will go to their own schools this year. Lessons will be taught from 9 a.m. to noon three days a week, and breakfast, lunch and transportation will be provided, said Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

“We’re being deliberate, the kids will stay at their own school. So Jackson is hosting their own summer school program, and John Kennedy and the middle school are as well. And we added extra staff for those locations, and we're combining transportation, that's a big variable as well.” she said during an interview Wednesday with The Batavian. “We want to ensure that we get kids there. And right now our numbers are looking really good. At Jackson, it’s 150, where normally we would have 50 students.”

Those grades — Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade — are the “critical grades” to reach in July, she said. They will be taught basic literacy skills so that, by third grade, students are expected to “be reading to learn” and to enjoy learning to read.

“So we hired more teachers and we have a longer day than we traditionally have had. Last summer it was a two-hour program; this summer it's a three-hour program just so we have adequate time,” Superintendent Jason Smith said.

Strategies also include pairing students with trusted adults and an element of compassion for what the students have already gone through, Corey said.  The district is targeting 500 students for the summer school program in all three schools while extended days have already been implemented at the high school.

There will also be more teachers, albeit with a more summertime feel, at the middle school. Unlike a stiff remediation vibe, the Ross Street school will offer math and literacy camps with “high engagement” for middle school students and veteran teachers serving as coaches, Corey said.   

“It’s really just hooking them into the learning,” she said. “Giving them more purposeful practice while they do so.”

Smith believes it’s essential to not only bolster students but teachers also.

“Teachers have had very, very busy days, they make thousands of decisions every single day. So we want to give them support, so they can best support our students,” he said. “And one way to do that, one effective way to do it, is to appoint math coaches. We have literacy coaches currently in place through COVID funds as well. At the high school, we’re using the extended day to help kids recover credit from where they didn't meet the expectations during credit from the previous year.”

The district applied for federal COVID funds made available to New York State in 2020. Batavia was awarded $9 million over a three-year period to afford measures such as additional personnel, programs, extended school days and transportation and meals during summer school. 

Smith feels the district must be doing something right, given its recent ranking in U.S. News as being in the top 40 percent of schools in the country.

“So we're doing well,” he said. “We're on track.”

Enrollment is still open for summer school. For more information, call the district at (585) 343-2480.

May 12, 2022 - 6:56pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, learning loss, City Schools, notify, education, schools.

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While teaching a third-grade class at John Kennedy Intermediate, Molly Corey noticed one particular little girl who said Batavia was not her first school district and most likely wasn’t going to be her last.

The third-grader was chronically absent — about one day each week — and didn’t seem terribly invested in her lessons.

“We were her fourth school, and she said she will be moving again. So her buy-in to wanting to do well really depended on the relationship. I had lunch with the girl, but teachers can’t do that every day. She thought it was special that I was working with her. Whenever she would see me she would light up,” Corey said during an interview with The Batavian. “You know what, it was that relationship that really just helped to keep hooking her; I know our classroom teachers are trying hard with that.”

dr._molly_corey.jpegCorey’s regular job is not as a teacher but as executive director of the district’s curriculum and instruction department. She taught for a while to get an idea about what teachers encounter due to family circumstances and, for the last two years, a change of learning methods due to the pandemic.

Finding meaning in 'Learning Loss' ...
Two phrases that have become the “buzz words” in many school districts are “learning loss” and “social, emotional learning.” But what do they really mean? How did hybrid and remote learning affect kids, and more importantly, what are the remedies being purchased with COVID funds?

Each issue has greatly impacted students across all grades, and perhaps most crucial for children just starting to learn foundational lessons, Corey said.

“So if we start with the littlest ones at Jackson Primary, the incoming kids are really the ones most ready to thrive. It really was merely if anything changed with loss, it was because of quarantines or them being out being sick with a positive (test). So, we really tried hard to keep them on track,” she said. “If you were the first-grader or the second-grader, kids who had gaps in learning from not being here full-time last year, and from the first year of closure, some of the foundation skills that you would expect them to receive, where they're learning to read, and they're learning about basic number zones, we didn't have the same amount of time.”

The focus for teachers has been to catch up those foundational skills that students need to get into their normal curriculum and grade level, she said. Foundational skills include knowing the letters in sounds and understanding how they blend together, she said, then putting them all together in sentences. Those skills are the basics of learning to read and write, she said.

There's a sequence of skills students have to have — the building blocks — needed in order to master those skills and “build upon one another,” Corey said. “And it's a purposeful practice that really helps them to become fluent readers.”

Superintendent Jason Smith said the evidence has been evident through observing students and having conversations with teachers and principals: there are gaps in all grades due to remote learning and losing the consistency of routine.

No matter at what age, even with a solid one-to-one teaching model, it’s a difficult task, Corey said. Just imagine youngsters, especially, sitting at home staring at the computer. Working with one person. All-day long. “You can’t,” she said.

High school students, meanwhile, are struggling with earning enough credits, passing exams and meeting specific criteria for graduating at the end. Although the state Education Department gave out “some free passes” in terms of easing up on requirements for Regents exams, students still needed to acquire certain levels of knowledge," she said.

“But the reality is, we need them to pass the class, and being in person is an important factor to really give them time to show us what they know, with regard to subject,” she said. “So we have benchmark assessments that have told us some of the assignments that they're missing when there's brokenness with their schooling. We were focusing in on our seniors, obviously, we want to help them, but we have a plan in place for what we can do with the other grade levels as well.

“So we're pairing teachers with students, by content, and we're using a credit recovery system called Apex; it guides kids through the course. Because the ultimate goal is to learn and be successful, but the practical outcome is to have X number of credits to get the diploma. It's that balance to give them the compassion that they need, and the motivation to keep them going,” she said.

For Jackson Primary, John Kennedy Intermediate and the middle school, there will be an offering of summer school, taught three days a week. (See related article, “Batavia City Schools on track for robust summer.”)

“But we have these funds available, due in large part, whose goal in large part, is to help us address those gaps or the loss,” Smith said.

The social-emotional learning piece is tied to the kids’ ability to recognize and better regulate their emotions and have ability to interact well with others. Smith learned first-hand just how out of balance some students’ emotions are. He found himself getting involved with a student whose difficulties were escalating, and a report was sent to the superintendent. He helped to connect the student with a social worker and wondered what might have happened if the distraught kid missed out on that needed counseling.

Then there was the fourth-grader who began to cry, and then sobbed uncontrollably. These instances are happening, he and Corey said, and there need to be remedies to help students adjust to more than educational losses; many have mental health needs as well. Some 100 of those students not only had a pandemic to deal with, but they were also part of an ongoing trend of transplants. Throughout the school year, a portion of those 100 kids moves into the district while another portion moves out. Those fluctuations add another layer of need to help acclimate them to a new school, Corey said.

That’s where social-emotional learning comes in. The pandemic didn’t necessarily cause mental health issues as much as it put a spotlight on that piece, Smith and Corey said. In addition to hiring four new teachers to help with the academic shortfalls, another social worker will assist with the mental and emotional issues.

Federal COVID-19 funds were distributed for school districts to play catch-up with gaps due to pandemic shutdowns. Districts in New York State had to apply for the funds, explain the loss, the solutions being put in place and how they would assess outcomes. Smith said that Batavia City Schools was allocated about $9 million for three years.

After nine years at the city school district, Corey is experiencing new territory.

“It's some of the extremes ... Things we've never ever seen before,” she said.

Top Photo: 2019 File Photo of a Moving Up ceremony at John Kennedy Intermediate. Batavia City Schools officials are stepping up lessons, personnel and amount of time available to students to ensure continued progress toward graduation. Photo by Howard Owens.

Inset photo: Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Batavia City Schools. Photo submitted by BCSD

May 7, 2022 - 7:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Batavia Board of Education, notify.

It’s a small nuance, but a public meeting is different than a meeting in public.

And as such, each has a different protocol for those wishing to speak during the session.

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith explained the difference during this week’s board meeting.

Board member Barbara Bowman had previously requested a discussion about the district’s policy to require people to sign up a week ahead of a meeting at which they would like to speak. A few people had hoped to speak during a recent meeting and were told it wasn’t allowable per district policy.

There’s a reason for that, Smith said. District officials may need some extra time to research the requested topic before the person addresses the board. That policy is for a meeting in public. A public hearing at the beginning of a meeting is conducted on a particular topic, and it allows for people to comment and/or ask questions during the hearing portion. Those speakers do not need to sign up a week ahead of time.

For a board meeting that is held in public, “there is no obligation to answer speakers,” Smith said, and he advised board members to not feel they should provide an answer on the spot, as the answer may not be fully known at that time, he said.

Bowman was more concerned about people who took the time to attend a meeting in order to speak.

“I think we should consistently acknowledge everyone who comes to speak,” she said.

Board member Jennifer Lendvay asked about speakers who do ask questions of the board. What happens if there is no immediate answer, she said.

“I think my track record is pretty good with (following up and) giving them an answer,” Smith said.

District Clerk Brittany Witkop confirmed that “our office gets a lot of calls” and also returns those calls with answers to residents' queries.

“I think acknowledgement is the most important piece,” Bowman said.

As for revising the current policy to sign up the week ahead of a regular Thursday meeting, Board President Alice Benedict didn’t think it should be done.

“I do know the attorney would advise us not to change our policy,” Benedict said.

May 6, 2022 - 6:51pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, blue devils, notify.

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Oftentimes you’ve got to pay to play, or in Batavia City Schools’ case, pay a little more.

Batavia’s Board of Education approved a contract Thursday for four guards to provide some extra security for home football games. 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 blame it on Batavia Blue Devils’ track record, he said. 

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

The extra personnel will be retained for four or five home games, he said. Those guards won’t be overlapping the district’s school resource officer and retired law enforcement personnel currently distributed throughout the four different school sites, he said.

The agreement is for services from April 1 to December 31 of this year, and is with Armor Security and Protection Inc. of Rochester. The company is to provide state certified security guards “to provide security and safety services for property located at 120 Richmond Ave., Batavia,” the contract states. Work includes monitoring venues for inappropriate, illegal behavior or actions, reporting of safety concerns within the venue and assisting with safe entry and exits. The guards are to notify law enforcement or other emergency service providers as deemed necessary. Documentation is to be provided to the school district about any incidents deemed a reportable event or at the request of the district, according to the contract.

Guards will be wearing an Armor Security uniform of black pants and shoes, and an Armor uniform shirt, layered with an Armor jacket during colder months.   

May 6, 2022 - 6:40pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, 2022-23 budget, notify.

Batavia City School officials want to make something clear about this year’s proposed $54.8 million budget.

Although the levy is to increase by 1 percent to just under $20 million, the actual tax rate may go down due to the volume of raised assessments, Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said. In fact, if assessments remain the same as they were on April 14, the projected tax rate could be $1.77 less than it is now, Rozanski said during an interview Friday with The Batavian.

School officials — including board members — haven’t been touting that lower tax rate because nothing is definite yet, Rozanski said. There’s about a month left for property owners to file grievances and argue their assessment increases, he said. Instead, Smith mentioned the “concept” of a potentially lower tax rate without talking about actual numbers during Thursday's budget presentation, he said.

"It's hard to get the tax rate right now. The assessments are still being challenged, right?" Rozanski said.  "If everything stays the same as of April 14, indirectly, we didn't say 17.46, we said it is $1.77 less, as of April 14, than the current rate."

The Batavian confirmed the process — complicated as it may be — about calculating tax levies, assessments and correlating tax rates with Kevin Andrews, deputy treasurer for Genesee County. A prior city schools board meeting included the rough figures of a 19-cent property tax increase based on the proposed 1 percent tax levy increase.

That did not, however, include the 11 percent hike in property assessments throughout the city school district entities of schools, the city, Richmond Memorial Library and Genesee County. If assessments are raised more than the proposed tax levy increase, then the tax rate itself is likely to go down, Andrews said. In perhaps oversimplified terms, if you are dealing with 10 properties, and their values go up, the distribution of tax levy would be divided by that larger total assessment for a lower tax rate. If you divided the same levy amount by lower assessed properties for those same 10 properties, the tax rate would reflect that by going up to pay the levy.

“So it could very well be that their levy is going to go up by one percent, but the tax rate is actually going to go down, because of the amount that the assessments have gone up,” Andrews said Friday. The basic calculation or way it works is that whatever the tax levy is, that is adopted by the school in this case … that levy is then distributed and spread out amongst all of the property owners within the municipality based on their assessment. So if you think about it, you know, if you look at each piece by itself, if just the levy goes up, and assessments do the same, then the tax rates are gonna go up, right? Because you're levying more tax. And on the reverse side, if the levy stays the same, and the assessments go up, then in that case, the tax rate would go down, because we're distributing that same levy amongst (the same number of property owners).”

The actual formula, Andrews said, is to take the proposed levy ($19.6 million) and multiply that by the total assessments ($1.1 billion) and multiply that number by 1,000 (assessed value).

Again, since the total assessment, before considering any readjusted assessments, is at an 11 percent increase versus a 1 percent tax levy increase, so a projected tax rate right now is $17.46, Rozanski said. That number will not be certain until after grievances are handled and assessments are potentially adjusted, he said. School tax bills are to go out in October with a final tax rate. If it is $17.46 per $1,000 assessed value, then the difference in a $100,000 property now assessed at $125,000 would be: 100 X $19.23, the current rate, = $1,923 and 125 X the estimated rate of $17.46 = $2,182.50, for an increased property tax payment of $259.50.

To view Thursday’s budget presentation, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sGdRzmCW2Kg

May 5, 2022 - 10:26pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Frank E. Owen, music, arts, notify.

It was the spring of 1927 when a “very unique”assembly program took place at Batavia High School, Patti Pacino says.

Frank E. Owen had just begun as music director, and he asked students to “sing with me.” Not only did they sing, but the school newspaper described it as something to behold, all due to Owen’s incredible influence, Pacino said.

“Because of his strength and excellence, a score of music groups have grown here,” Pacino, a city resident and councilwoman, said during the Batavia City Schools board meeting Thursday. “I’m here to represent hundreds of alumni, asking you to allow us to honor the man who started here at Batavia High School by naming the BHS auditorium after Frank E. Owen, as a show of respect and thanks.”

The board previously had a discussion about the merit of naming a piece of school property after someone notable. Most board members voiced support of the idea and Board President Alice Benedict opposed it. Owen had been suggested for the high school auditorium, and the public was invited to weigh in on the decision. His prominence has been recognized with a Musicians of Note Award in 2019 and a scholarship in his name for seniors pursuing a degree in music.

Upon his arrival, Owen formed and inspired a girls and a boys glee club, bands, an orchestra, a drumline, musical theater shows and a host of aspiring musicians throughout his time to present day, Pacino said. She wasn’t alone in her zeal to see Owen honored in this way. Melzie Case, a Batavia Middle School music teacher, and middle school band director Sean Williams each endorsed Owen as an appropriate candidate for the auditorium name.

Although Case had never met Owen — he was music director from 1927 to 1964 — she’s had a sense of who he was.

“I can feel Frank E. Owen’s work and spirit in our music department today,” she said. “(Naming the auditorium after him) will allow us to honor all past, present and future musicians.”

Williams first gave a brief history lesson on other well-known city icons, such as VanDetta Stadium named as a “fantastic testament” to the positive accomplishments of Coach Daniel VanDetta. Williams then turned to Owen. “This man graced us for 27 years,” Williams said. He added that it would be only fitting to honor him as so many athletic coaches and athletes have been recognized with the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The board required no more discussion when it came time to vote. The move was approved by a vote of yes from Barbara Bowman, Jennifer Lendvay, Michelle Humes, John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle, and the lone no vote from Benedict. Benedict had previously said she wasn’t against Owen but did not agree that pieces of school property should be named after a particular person. 

She announced the board's next move after the vote.

“We will be dedicating the auditorium to Frank E. Owen,” she said.

May 4, 2022 - 9:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, 2022-23 budget, notify.

As much as Michelle Humes would have liked a zero percent tax increase, she also realizes what comes first.

“We have to keep in mind that our students are the priority,” said Humes, a Batavia City Schools board member. “The approved budget keeps all of our existing programs intact while recognizing that there are ongoing financial challenges due to the rising costs our country is facing.”

She is a city homeowner who is also facing rising assessments and cost of living hikes, she said, but she voted for the proposed $54.8 million budget and related 1 percent tax levy increase as a good move for district residents. Echoing what other board  members have said, the decision was not an easy one, Humes said.

“We spent many hours reviewing the budget and working with Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski analyzing the numbers. I voted to approve the budget because of the hard work of Mr. Smith and Mr. Rozanski in getting the increase down to 1 percent,” she said. I feel that a 1 percent increase after having a zero percent increase in five out of the last 10 years is a win for the community, especially since it is still below our tax cap of 1.62 percent. I fully support our BOE decision to approve this budget.’ 

Given that the preliminary budget had a 5.5 percent levy increase to support it, Humes and fellow board members have expressed relief that it’s now down to 1 percent. That is not only a win for the community, Humes said, but “most importantly for our students.”

District residents will have an opportunity to hear the budget presentation and ask questions at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia. Those wanting to speak do not need to have signed up before the meeting date.

There will also be time to meet Board of Education candidates Korrine Anderson, a newcomer vying for one of three seats; and incumbents John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle. Board member Michelle Humes is not seeking re-election.

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Korrine Anderson, center, in a photo used in her election materials. 

A Le Roy High School graduate, Anderson has a bachelors in science from Elmira College, is a health and wellness coach and is ready “to give back in another way” besides volunteering for parent groups throughout her children’s time in elementary and middle schools, she says. She and her husband Michael have three children, Zachary, Aidan and Ava.

“I know what it involves to be an effective member. I am looking to be a part of this side of the education system,” she said in the district’s newsletter. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to learn and share more of what the school board does to the parents and neighbors and community I know. I am so ready to serve.”

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John Marucci. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page

Marucci is currently the board vice president, having served three years, and has “thoroughly enjoyed serving the students, parents and staff of the BCSD,” he said in the newsletter. Marucci’s son Kaden is a senior and Damien a freshman, while two older step-sons are graduates of Batavia High School. A customer service rep with Orcon Industries, he would like to continue serving students as a member of the board, and he believes “we have some unfinished business.”

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Chezeray Rolle. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page.

A BHS graduate, Rolle left Batavia to serve in the U.S. Army, which is when he met his wife Bianca. They have three children who are now “walking the same halls that I once did,” Rolle says.

“I love being a voice and serving the people of this community that I live with,” he said in the newsletter. “It will be a great honor to be one of the candidates chosen to sit and make discussions (SIC) on behalf of the citizens of Batavia.”

The agenda includes a counseling plan presentation by counselor Sherry Crumity, a vote on dedicating and naming the high school auditorium for former music director Frank Owen, and a board discussion about the public speaking policy to sign up by 1 p.m. the Friday prior to a Thursday board meeting.

April 25, 2022 - 8:00am

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John Marucci would have loved to have had a 0 percent tax increase, falling in line with the district’s last two years, but student needs prevailed, he says.

“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get there,” he said this past weekend in response to The Batavian’s questions to the board. “I’m very happy that (Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski) were able to get us to 1 percent. The BCSD BOE and administration have saved Batavia city property owners $25 to $30 million over the past seven to 10 years.”

Those savings, according to Rozanski, were calculated based on small or no tax rate increases over the last decade. 

Marucci and fellow board members Barbara Bowman and Jennifer Lendvay were not able to respond to questions before the weekend, they said, and those answers are being provided here. 

Additional teaching positions are federally funded with stimulus funds, Marucci said, and will “help to address the students with a learning loss due to Covid over the past couple of years.” This budget was not easy, he said. 

“And a lot of hours were put in by all to get it to where we are now,” he said. “I think it’s a good budget for the students and taxpayers.”

That “learning loss” is at the top of the other two board members’ concerns as well. Transitioning out of a pandemic has meant discovering how hybrid and remote learning affected students during the last two years, Lendvay said.

“A vast number of our students in the elementary and intermediate level are receiving assistance in literacy, math and reading,” she said. “We are fortunate to be able to utilize federal funds to focus directly on this issue. While the kids are back in the swing of ‘normal’ school again, it was important to maintain the programs that the students want to take advantage of.”

Those programs include extracurricular activities, athletics, arts, drama, music, Advanced Placement and ACE and academic, special education and counseling support services, she said. All of these offerings are being maintained within the current budget she said. 

Bowman spoke not only a board member but as a counselor “who oftentimes works with marginalized people within our district.” Intervention and literacy are important pieces of addressing student losses in learning, she said, and she is very supportive of using federal Covid relief funds “to help all our students catch up and move forward.”

“I worked hard at this process and was grateful to reduce overall tax increase to 1%, keeping it under the state tax cap,” Bowman said. 

Lendvay emphasized that the budget decision was not made lightly.

“We understand the financial challenges the community and taxpayers are facing during this time and worked diligently to get our figure well below the 1.62% tax cap,” she said. “Looking at the past 10 years we have been able to adjust to a 0% tax cap half of the time; unfortunately with the rising cost in utilities and health insurance, we did not see that as an obtainable figure for this budget.”

“It is important to understand that while this is education, it is still a business, and sometimes businesses are forced to make tough financial decisions,” she said. “This is the decision of the BOE and again, I stand behind it completely.” 

To recap the board’s vote at this month’s recent meeting, it was to approve the $54,802,593 budget for 2022-23. That was an increase of $2,705,932 from the current budget or a 5.194 percent increase. That includes a tax levy of $19,688,898, which is an increase of $1.94 million, or a 1 percent property tax increase. The board unanimously approved/adopted the budget. It will go up for a public vote by district residents on May 17.

 The levy put the district under the tax cap of 1.62 percent by $120,776, Superintendent Jason Smith said. Expenses reflect the signs of inflation and increased utility and medical insurance costs, he said.

Up to four new positions are “100 percent federally funded” through stimulus funds, he said, and two other positions have been added due to increased enrollment. Those stimulus funds are designated to specifically address the learning loss of students as a result of the reduced time in school from 2020 through 2021, he said.  

“The District is currently engaged in a formal study to determine future staffing needs based on enrollment trends,” Smith said. “While our students were on a hybrid program last year, we are still in the process of addressing learning loss and making sure our students are on pace with essential math and literacy skills.  We appreciate the additional federal funds that have allowed us to provide additional and needed support for our students.”

There was an additional $2.08 million in state aid for this next year’s budget, however, overall revenues are flat, he said. The appropriated fund balance received a one-time boost of $520,800 from the stimulus funds.

City schools board members and administration staff worked on the budget for the past several months, which has resulted in this proposed $54.8 million budget, “that we are pleased to present to our community for review,” he said. 

“This budget closely aligns to our mission, vision, and core beliefs of the Batavia City School District and preserves all existing programs while recognizing the ongoing financial challenges,” he said. “In addition, we are using our federal funds (COVID relief) to address learning loss in our students, focusing on intervention and literacy at the elementary grade level.”

He listed several program components that will remain “firmly in place,” including: 

● All extracurricular activities and athletics
● Advanced Placement and dual GCC enrollment courses
● Music, arts, and drama
● Counseling services
● Academic supports
● Special Education services
● School safety, including our School Resource Officer
● Gifted and Talented programs (ACE)

“The Board of Education and I fully embrace our important roles as financial stewards, along with the importance of balancing an exceptional and well-rounded educational program with the needed support from our community,” he said. “This budget is a community partnership, with the tax levy under our allowable cap, as it has been for the past several years.”  

In other school news, Tim Batzel, Alexander Central School’s business administrator, also addressed the issue of “learning loss” due to the remote, off-campus learning that students faced during the last two years of a pandemic. 

“The goal is to continue addressing learning loss, and the social and emotional impacts caused by pandemic to all students,” Batzel said in response to The Batavian's questions.

Alexander’s proposed 2022-23 budget is $19,404,099, which is a 1.18 percent increase from the current budget. This includes a 0 percent tax levy increase, which falls below the 2.26 percent tax cap. The district’s revenues increased by 3.98 percent and there are no additional or eliminated positions in the budget, he said. 

All school budget votes are on May 17. 

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2022 File photos of Jennifer Lendvay, top, and Superintendent Jason Smith during a Batavia City Schools Board of Education meeting. Photos by Howard Owens.

April 23, 2022 - 8:00am

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2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Board President Alice Benedict. Photo by Howard Owens

 

After Thursday’s Batavia City Schools board meeting and budget vote, The Batavian emailed each board member for comment about the budget itself and/or the process, plus any additional comments anyone wanted to make.

Most board members have been quiet during public budget talks, including regular meetings in March and April and a budget workshop in March. Due to the enormous depth of a $54.8 million budget, The Batavian attempted to obtain remarks about it and any particular aspects of interest that the financial plan entailed. 

Board President Alice Benedict — who has been a reliable source for comments throughout these last few months of budget talks — said the board “has had several open discussions about the BCSD budget, including our budget workshop that was streamed on YouTube.” The Batavian viewed the YouTube video of the budget workshop for a second time to make sure that some board discussion wasn’t missed the first time. Benedict was the only consistent speaker throughout the nearly two-hour session, and in subsequent board meeting talks about the budget. 

Benedict was the only board member to respond to The Batavian’s email.

Board members are elected by district residents. The trustees who didn't respond to The Batavian's request for comment are John Marucci, Jennifer Lendvay, Barbara Bowman, Michelle Hume and Chezeray Rolle.

The city schools board “is acutely aware of our responsibility to the community,” Benedict said, “and we know the economic times could not warrant a large increase in school taxes.” The group asked Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski to whittle the initial 2022-23 budget and 5.5 percent increase down to meet the tax cap of 1.62 percent. 

A unanimous vote Thursday adopted the proposed $54.8 million budget and 1 percent tax levy increase. Some posters on a social media site said the increase didn’t include recently raised assessments throughout the city, so “what’s the real increase?” they asked. 

The Batavian used a property assessed at $100,000 as an example, and that would mean a property tax increase of $19 from the prior year. However, if that home has just been assessed at $30,000 more than last year, that homeowner will see an increase of $601.60 in property taxes. ($100,000 at $19.23 per $1,000 compared to $130,000 at $19.42 per $1,000 assessed value.)

“We had previously had Budget Ambassadors, but the community, in the last few years, has not wanted to participate in the budget process. So we changed the process,” Benedict said. “It was successful this year, but the Board is more than willing to extend an invitation to the community to participate if that’s their interest.

“Five out of the last 10 years, the BCSD had no increase in the tax levy, but giving an exceptional and well-rounded education costs money, so we felt, at this time it was appropriate to ask for a slight increase,” she said.

A budget hearing has been set for 6 p.m. May 5 at Batavia High School, 260 State St., to be followed by a district vote on May 17. 

April 22, 2022 - 1:37pm
posted by Press Release in news, Batavia Middle School, City Schools, notify.

Press Release

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On Thursday, April 21, 2022, upon recommendation from Superintendent Jason Smith, the Batavia City School District Board of Education approved the appointment of Nathan Korzelius as principal of Batavia Middle School, effective immediately. 

“I’m proud that Nate Korzelius is my first administrative appointment during my tenure as superintendent,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “His dedication to the students and staff at BMS is unparalleled. He has big plans for the Middle School, and I look forward to working alongside him in achieving them.” 

Mr. Korzelius has served as interim principal of Batavia Middle School since July 1, 2021. He began his career in the Batavia City School District 23 years ago as a high school science teacher. After 14 years in the classroom, he joined the administration and served as assistant principal of Batavia High School for five years.

“I would like to thank Mr. Smith and our Board of Education for the opportunity to continue my work at Batavia Middle School. I’ve spent my entire educational career here at Batavia, and it’s been an honor to lead a fantastic staff and amazing group of students at BMS. I look forward to building upon our ongoing goals of making BMS a safe, supportive, and engaging educational environment for our community,” said Nathan Korzelius.   

“Mr. Korzelius’ commitment to the Batavia City School District is commendable,” said Board of Education President Alice Ann Benedict. “We love to see administrators who come from our classrooms—they have a unique understanding of our students, families, and community. We look forward to seeing Mr. Korzelius achieve great things at Batavia Middle School.” 

April 22, 2022 - 9:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, budget, City Schools, notify.

Batavia City School District residents will be voting on a $54.8 million budget and a 1 percent tax levy increase since the school board adopted those final numbers at Thursday’s meeting.

With no discussion or questions after hearing the proposed 2022-23 budget presentation, board members  Alice Benedict, Jennifer Lendvay, John Marucci, Chezeray Rolle, Barbara Bowman and Michelle Hume cast yes votes. Member John Reigle was absent. The 1 percent tax levy increase means a total of $19,688,898 to be raised through local property taxes. 

If approved by public vote in May, that will push the tax rate from $19.23 per $1,000 assessed value to $19.42. The increase of 19 cents more per $1,000 would result in an extra $19 for a home assessed at $100,000, or a total of $1,942 in property taxes. 

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski walked the board through a brief explanation of how retirements, fewer buses and grant funds helped to lower the preliminary budget of $55 million by $877,225. The initial budget increase from the current year was 5.5 percent, which was lowered to 5.19 percent, Rozanski said.

The related tax levy increase of 1 percent falls under the tax cap of 1.62 percent, which is what the board asked for, President Alice Benedict said.

“Thank you for getting us to a place we requested,” she said. “You’ve done a lot of work getting us to a 1 percent.”

The Batavian has emailed each board member — a publicly elected figure — for comments about the budget and reasons for his/her yes vote since not one offered comments during the meeting. Even though New York State’s Open Meetings Law “generally permits you to converse with your fellow board members outside of board meetings,” according to the state Board of Education Handbook, “you should ensure that such informal chats do not substitute for full deliberation in a public meeting.”

A public budget hearing will be at 6 p.m. on May 5, and the vote is on May 17. 

April 22, 2022 - 8:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Batavia Board of Education, notify.

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Contrary to the district's yearly financial plan (See "Batavia City Schools board adopts $54.8 million ..."), the topic of naming parts of school buildings and property reaped a hearty discussion during Thursday's board meeting.

Board President Alice Benedict emphasized that she was against the practice of honoring a district employee or resident by naming something, such as a school auditorium, after a notable citizen. Her argument is not about recognizing someone's good works, she said, but about selectively putting one's name on a district fixture and potentially bypassing so many others who have also contributed to Batavia City Schools.

"I have expressed to all of you that I am not for naming buildings after community members," she said.  

At issue right now is a request to name the middle school auditorium after former music director Frank Owen. Apparently, prior conversations with board members indicated that some of them are for the move, and have received emails endorsing Owen for his contribution as the district's first music director. Benedict encouraged her fellow members to speak up about the opinions they expressed during talks outside of the public venue. 

Member Barbara Bowman related the request to previous namings, including Anderson Field and VanDetta Stadium. Music and art are not often given the attention they deserve, she said. Member Jennifer Lendvay was a school athlete and supported the naming of Anderson Field after a former teacher and coach, she said. 

The group opted to postpone a vote and allow for public input. A resident attended the meeting hoping to talk about the issue during the public portion of the meeting, however, those wanting to speak must fill out an online form and submit it by 1 p.m. the Friday prior to a Thursday board meeting. The Batavian had posted in a previous article that people can speak by signing up before the meeting begins, which is true for public hearings.

For the regular public comments portion of a meeting, prospective speakers need to sign up at:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScyKRcezlrZtf_o2bN8j7DyfLhYxYrDfGl3tYJyoeTJ87ZuKQ/viewform

Top photo: By Howard Owens. 2014 File Photo of the renovated baseball field at Batavia High School that was dedicated as Anderson Field after Coach Anderson.

 

April 21, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, budget, City Schools, notify, batavia.

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Batavia City schools board members have quite a full agenda for this week’s meeting, beginning with a public hearing about spending reserves for a roof repair.

There is to be a presentation about the $140,000 tab, to be taken from district reserves, for a Batavia High School roof repair. The public will be given time to voice questions, comments and concerns before the board is scheduled to vote on the work later in the meeting. It is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the BHS library, 260 State St., Batavia.

Other agenda items include a review of the tentative 2022-23 budget, followed later by a vote to adopt the $55 million financial plan. The most recent preliminary budget in March included a nearly $3 million increase or 5.75 percent more than the current budget. The tax levy was at $20.57 million for a 5.5 percent increase, overriding the tax cap levy by $756,449. 

Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is expected to go over the proposed budget up for board vote during Thursday’s meeting. The preliminary plan included spending increases of $692,575 for teacher/administrative support salaries, $481,970 more for support salaries and nearly $1 million more for fringe benefits. Those total increased numbers are $19.9 million for teacher salaries, $6.5 million for support salaries and $12,306,449 for fringe benefits.

Total salaries have gone from $19,312,386 in 2011-12 to $26,440,590 in 2022-23, or about $7 million more in the last decade. Administrative salaries have risen from the superintendent in 2015-16 at $148,92 to $165,000 currently, and for business administrator, it has increased by $40,000 in the last six years, from $123,913 in 2015-16 to $163,488. The role of department chairman has also been increased from $64,000 to $85,800 in that same time period. 

There are a few decreases in spending, such as $100,820 less for operations/maintenance, $21,248 for textbooks and a $1.15 million decrease in debt service payments. 

The packed agenda also includes time for the public to be heard about matters other than the roof repair, and:

  • Presentations from Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers with an update and Counselor Julie Wasilewski on a Jackson Primary project.
  • An Energia Johnson Controls energy performance contract update.
  • Reports from each the superintendent and student ex-officio.
  • Votes on resignations and appointments.
  • Contracts with the Batavia Administrators’ Association; Batavia City Police Department; Genesee County Department of Social Services and the Student Transformation and Rehabilitation (STAR) program; Thomas Ramming Consulting, Inc.; Gates Chili Central School District’s Health Services; Dwyer Stadium; Campus Construction Management; Genesee Valley BOCES; GLOW YMCA; University at Buffalo Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic; and a revised contract with Kimberly Gingrich. 

Photo: Batavia City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is on tonight's agenda to present a proposed 2022-23 budget for the board's vote. File photo in 2022 by Howard Owens.

April 19, 2022 - 10:12pm

Press release:

BATAVIA, NY– In an effort to ensure the safety of students and staff during arrival and dismissal periods at Jackson Primary, the Batavia City School District, Batavia Police Department, and City Church have joined together to create a new recommended pickup route for the City Church Community Food Distribution program at St. Anthony’s. 

The City Church currently hosts a bi-monthly food distribution program for community residents at St. Anthony’s Church. Due to the program's popularity, some traffic concerns have emerged around Jackson Primary, resulting in serious safety issues along with traffic backups during school arrival and dismissal periods. 

In response, a new route has been established to access the Food Distribution Program pickup line. The new route will be in effect starting with the April 27 distribution date. Those community members who wish to participate in the program must access Liberty Street via South Swan Street, Osterhout Avenue, or Otis Street. All food distribution traffic will be redirected to avoid Liberty Street between South Jackson and Sumner Streets and South Jackson between South Swan and Liberty Streets (the areas directly in front of and adjacent to Jackson Primary). Please see the attached map for the updated route. 

The City Church Community Food Distribution program is scheduled every two weeks for the following dates: April 27, May 11, May 25, June 8, and June 22.

“The Batavia Police Department is asking for the cooperation of all motorists in the area of the Jackson Primary during arrival and dismissal times to adhere to all parking and traffic regulations. Specifically, we want to ensure that motorists do not create unsafe conditions near the school during the City Church's food distribution dates as they wait in line. Therefore, we are requiring anyone attending the food distribution program to avoid the area of South Jackson between South Swan and Liberty Streets. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation to ensure the children remain safe during arrival and dismissal times,” said Shawn Heubusch, Chief of Police. 

“I applaud the City Church for providing an important and valuable resource to our community. Our collective priority must also be the safety of our students, staff, and bus drivers at Jackson Primary. I’m happy the school district, City Church, and BPD were able to come together to reach a collaborative and mutually beneficial resolution. I also want to thank Batavia residents for their cooperation as we roll out the new route,” said Jason Smith, BCSD Superintendent of Schools. 

 

 

April 11, 2022 - 11:30am
posted by Press Release in pre-K, batavia, City Schools, news.

Press release:

The Batavia City School District (BCSD) has announced a plan to relocate the district’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program (UPK) from Jackson Primary to the Robert Morris building for the 2022-23 school year. 

The decision was made in an effort to address space concerns caused by increasing enrollment numbers at Jackson Primary.

The four classes relocating to the Robert Morris building for the 2022-23 school year will accommodate approximately 72 students and will operate as part of the Jackson Primary family. Students and staff will continue to be included in programming, fundraising, assemblies, and specials. Jackson Primary administration will oversee the new location, and student meals and transportation will continue to be provided. 

Once the district determines UPK enrollment transportation needs, it will release school day start and end times for the 2022-23 school year for the entire district.

The Batavia City School District is proud to provide four-year-old children in our community with a universal opportunity to access high-quality pre-kindergarten programs that set them up for future educational success. Registration is now open through May 1, 2022. Parents can pick up registration packets at the BCSD Registration Office at 80 Union Street. Parents will be notified over the summer regarding screenings for class placement.

BCSD owns the Robert Morris building on 80 Union Street, and it currently houses various district staff offices and the Community Schools resource center. The building’s classrooms and multi-purpose rooms are currently fully operational.

“At Jackson Primary we pride ourselves on the education our students receive during these formative years and will continue to give the rich experience to students in UPK, just at another location,” said Jackson Primary Principal Maureen Notaro.

“We’re thrilled to see increasing enrollment numbers here in the Batavia City School District,” said Jason Smith, Superintendent of Schools. “We’re fortunate to have a fully operational building on hand to help us accommodate our space needs, and I’m certain our students and staff will find the Robert Morris location a warm and welcoming extension of our Jackson Primary family.” 

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