The Byron-Bergen Central School District is pleased to announce that the Board of Education approved the nomination of Paul Hazard as Jr./Sr. High School Principal at the Nov. 16 meeting. Hazard will fill the position left by Interim Principal Carol Stehm effective Jan. 3..
“Paul Hazard comes to Byron-Bergen with a specific set of skills that are perfect for our Jr./Sr. High School,” said Superintendent Pat McGee. “He is an insightful leader with extensive administrative and teaching experience to guide the school successfully through this transition. I am excited to welcome him to the district."
Hazard comes to Byron-Bergen from Alexander Central Schools where he served as Assistant Principal at the MS/HS and was promoted to Director of Student Life and Engagement. Prior to that appointment, he was Elementary Summer School Principal at Geneseo Central School District where he also taught Special Education and 6 th Grade Social Studies for 16 years.
“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to be a Bee!” said Hazard. “I believe there is something special about small towns and schools you can only understand if you have lived and worked within one. I am looking forward to getting to know our amazing students, staff, and parents over the next couple of months as we work together to continue the proud tradition of excellence at BB.”
Hazard holds an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from SUNY Stoneybrook and a Masters Degree in Education from Roberts Wesleyan.
All schools hold open houses. In Pavilion, the high school hosts the Gopher Gathering, a chance for the school community to come together to enjoy good food, live music, and games, and also learn about academic opportunities available at the school.
Along with a food truck rodeo, there is face painting, a petting zoo, and a dunk tank.
"It's a community thing where people can meet and greet teachers," Principal Charles Martelle said Thursday at the school grounds.
Besides learning about classes they might have overlooked, it's a chance for students and parents to learn about campus activities, including clubs students might join.
"Mostly, it's about coming out and meeting teachers, meeting people at the school, and getting a feel for the place, and having a good time," Martelle said. "Then, if they can learn something about the courses, about the clubs, and some different opportunities, then that's kind of the bonus."
Byron-Bergen Senior High School was named on the 2023 list of America’s Best High Schools as determined by U.S. News & World Report. To qualify for this title, Byron-Bergen Senior High School ranked in the top 40% of schools nationally. This is the fifth year in a row that Byron-Bergen Senior High School has earned this distinction.
“It is an honor for the Byron-Bergen Senior High School to be named an America’s Best High School again this year,” said Byron-Bergen Superintendent Pat McGee. “I remember when our High School first achieved this recognition in 2018. I’m so pleased to see that our learning community has sustained this level of distinction. It is a testament of proof that we didn’t just have an exceptional year or two, Byron-Bergen is an exceptional district.”
According to the publication’s website, the list identifies top-performing high schools based on scoring comprised of six factors:
College readiness (30 percent of the ranking): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took at least one AP or IB exam by the end of their senior year and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on at least one AP or IB exam in high school. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than simply taking the exam.
College curriculum breadth (10 percent): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took a wide variety of AP and IB courses across multiple disciplines and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on them. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than taking.
State assessment proficiency (20 percent): This measures how well students scored on state assessments that measure proficiency in reading, science, and mathematics. Passing these assessments can be required for graduation. Examples of assessments include Smarter Balanced in California and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. This state assessment proficiency indicator is either based on 2020- 2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years.
State assessment performance (20 percent): This is the difference between how students performed on state assessments and what U.S. News predicted based on a school's student body. U.S. News' modeling across all 50 states and the District of Columbia indicates that the performance percentage of students from historically underserved subgroups – defined as Black students, Hispanic students, and students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch – are highly predictive of a school's reading, science and math scores. This state assessment performance indicator is either based on 2020-2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years.
Underserved student performance (10 percent): This is how well the student population receiving subsidized school lunch and Black and Hispanic populations perform on state assessments relative to statewide performance among students not in those subgroups. This state assessment underserved student performance indicator is based on 2018-2019 state assessment data.
Graduation rate (10 percent): For the 2023-2024 rankings, the graduation rate corresponds to the 2021 high school class graduation cohort who would have entered ninth grade in the 2017-2018 school year. High school graduation rates were collected directly from each state along with the math, reading and science assessment data.
For more information on Byron-Bergen’s ranking on the U.S. News & World Report list, visit https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/new-york/districts/byron-bergen-central-school-district/byron-bergen-junior-senior-high-school-13565
Like every other school district in the nation, Pavilion Central School District teachers and administrators are frustrated by the distractions and problems created by students with mobile communication devices, particularly mobile phones.
"When you ask teachers, what's the one thing we could do to get kids more focused in school and in the classroom, it would probably be the removal of cell phones," said Charles Martelle, Pavilion's high school principal. "That doesn't mean we can come up with a way to do it that doesn't cause more distractions."
It's a problem even in elementary school, said principal Tom Wilson, and Carin Wade, a ninth-grade language teacher, chimed in with, "It's awful."
She added, "They can put it in their pockets and you don't even see it. They can text without looking at their phones. I mean, you've got 25 kids in a classroom and you can't -- it's terrible."
During the discussion of outright bans, Wade said it's been tried at Pavilion, and parents complained.
Parents, one administrator said, are part of the problem.
"I understand the safety side of it, but at the end of the day, parents shouldn't be texting their kids during class," he said.
"And they know they are," Wade said. "They know their kids are in class, and the kids will be like, 'But it's my mom,' and I'm like, 'OK, but you're in class. I don't understand.'"
The policy for 2023-24 will be the same as last academic year, which uses a color-coded system to let students know where and when they can touch their phones.
In the green zones -- hallways and the cafeteria, they get close to unlimited access to their phones (they're not supposed to take pictures or make audio or video clips). In gold zones, such as most classrooms, they can only access a phone with teacher permission. And in red zones, phones cannot be touched or displayed at all. This includes bathrooms, locker rooms, and the auditorium.
If a student is caught in violation of the policy, a staff member can collect the phone and leave it in the main office, where a parent or guardian must pick it up.
The discussion at Monday's meeting indicated even this policy leaves much to be desired when it comes to limiting distractions caused by electronic devices.
Schools have tried outright bans, but Martelle said there's no evidence these bans achieve favorable outcomes. Some schools have tried lockable pouches that students must store the device during the school day, getting the pouch unlocked by a staff member at the end of the day, but some school districts, Martelle said, found that students use "burner phones," phones they don't really use, to dump in the pouches.
"If there's a plan that actually worked and serves our interests that was more strict, we would use it," Martelle said. "I think a lot of schools are (implementing more strict policies), so we'll be able to look at articles and literature and studies. Right now, it's really up in the air. The studies as to whether or not schools that have done this versus those that haven't, the studies are really kind of inconclusive. We're looking at different things as to whether it actually improves anything in schools or not or whether it's effective."
He said administrators are open-minded about finding a better way of dealing with the problem.
"It's a very difficult problem right now," he said.
Ten participants from the third annual Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program graduated from this year’s six-week paid training program. The “boot camp” style program is an earn-while-you-learn model which pairs in-class instruction at the Genesee Valley BOCES in Batavia and on-the-job training at several local advanced manufacturing companies.
The Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program was created in 2021 to assist companies in the greater Rochester and GLOW Region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) with recruitment and training for one of the region’s largest industries. Participants graduated from the program with 96 hours of state-of-the-art mechatronics training and more than 100 hours of on-the-job experience at advanced manufacturing at companies in Genesee, Livingston and Monroe counties.
“This program continues to train workers of all ages, skill levels and abilities for a wide array of high-demand careers in advanced manufacturing,” said Bob Coyne, Executive Director of the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association (RTMA). “The ‘Genesee Valley Boot Camp’ is an incredible partnership between industry, academia and workforce development partners in our community.”
The Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program includes hands-on simulation training for a variety of available careers; including electromechanical trades, construction materials manufacturing, agricultural manufacturing and more. In addition to the classroom time, participants received paid, on-the-job training and a fast-track opportunity for a full-time career with local manufacturing companies.
“Enabling students to acquire hands-on skills training without incurring any costs, the Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program stands as a pivotal workforce enhancement,” remarked Jon Sanfratello, Director of the Instructional Program at Genesee Valley BOCES. “This remarkable training initiative forges a career pathway that effectively addresses workforce employment demands. Such practical skills development serves as a shining illustration of our dedication to aiding GLOW regional students and current employees while also meeting the precise needs of our local business community.”
"The BEST Center at Genesee Community College remains grateful for the funding provided by SUNY DOL and its Reimagine Workforce Preparation Training Program that provides resources for high-demand training for industry-recognized credentials like the Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program", said Jennifer Wakefield, Executive Director of Workforce Development, "We look forward to continued collaboration in this program to expand opportunities for increased pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training."
Training was provided at no cost to the students and companies due to grants secured by Genesee Community College’s BEST Center, Genesee Economic Development Center and the Workforce Development Institute.
Participating employers for the 2023 program include Oxbo, United States Gypsum, Triton Mechanical, Goforth Electric, Diamond Packaging, Arctic Refrigeration, Maris Systems Design and more.
“This year’s Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Program offered students a unique opportunity to discover their career path and their future without the burden of college debt. Thanks to our participating employers, students have been introduced and empowered to succeed in these in-demand careers through instruction and on-the-job training,” said Chris Suozzi, Vice President of Business and Workforce Development, Genesee County Economic Development Center.
The tax rate in the Pavilion Central School District for 2023-24 is final, and the numbers are in alignment with budget projects from earlier this year, Donald Childs, school business official, told the Board of Education on Monday.
The board approved the tax warrants for the academic year.
The tax rate in the Town of Pavilion will be $16.68 per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease from $16.73 this school year.
The rate for Bethany will be $19.06, up from 18.19; for Stafford, $16.34, down from $16.73; and, in Le Roy, $20.93, up from $20.16.
Outside of Genesee County, the towns of Covington, Middlebury, Caledonia, Leicester, and York also all contribute to the total tax levy.
The total tax levy is $5,788,283, which is a $85,396 over 2022-23.
The total assessed value of property in the district is $324,875,934.
The total spending plan for the 2023-24 academic year is $18,869,393, which voters approved in May. The approved budget is 3.18 percent higher than 2022-23, for a total increase in spending of $582,042.
At the time of the budget vote, district finance officers can only estimate the tax rate because town assessments are not always final. Once the total assessed value within the district is known, school districts can finalize the tax rates.
Pavilion Central School District is looking at spending nearly $69,000 on a consultant who would visit district schools and assess their security vulnerabilities.
Most, if not all, of the expense, could be covered by state aid to school districts.
The Board of Education voted on Monday to table the proposal in order to first talk with the consultant, Don Shomette, via Zoom during its Aug. 28 meeting.
A couple of board members called the fee "pricey."
According to Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman, Shomette has previously worked for Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and Geneseo School District.
"This is something we've talked about for five years, ever since we first started the SRO program, and I think about as I'm reading through (the proposal) it's like it's got to be better than some contractor coming in and saying, 'oh, you should do the windows' or 'you should do this, or you should do that,' you know. I know it's pricey, but for me, I was ok with it," said Board Vice President Jeff Finch.
When Hoffman asked if he would like to have a meeting with Shomette, Finch said yes.
"Because we can ask him straight up, why is this so pricey?" Finch said. "I mean, obviously, he must have had that question before, so let's do that."
Hoffman described Shomette as a school violence prevention expert with 30 years of experience. She said that he would visit the school campuses -- at a price of $29,500 each -- and "really take a look at every lock, every door, the windows, check every entrance of our schools."
He would then produce a report with specific recommendations about how to improve school safety.
The proposal also includes a $9,875 fee for staff development training.
"His ultimate goal as part of this," she said, apparently quoting him, "is to 'keep away fear, anxiety and threat of violence so students and teachers can direct their efforts on classroom success instead of personal safety. By doing so, students, teachers and parents will achieve a richer experience and higher levels of physical growth.'
"Now, that sounds very interesting," Hoffman said. "His message is, 'School safety is more than a locked door, a locked window, a procedure for lockdown. It is the relationships you build between your staff and your students.'"
NOTE: The Batavian promised a follow-up story on the appointment of Deputy Trevor Sherwood to the position of school resource officer in Pavilion. We anticipated receiving a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the school district and the Sheriff's Office, which was approved by the board on Monday, and is public record, but Hoffman declined to provide it today. We also made written and telephone requests for an interview on Tuesday, which we anticipated getting, but we were unable to get that interview with Hoffman. So we have no follow-up story at this time.
Deputy Trevor Sherwood, a Batavia High School graduate who was a star athlete in baseball and basketball, was approved by the Pavilion Board of Education on Monday night as the school district's new resource officer.
The board voted unanimously to approve a new memorandum of understanding with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman told the board that a committee interviewed four deputies for the position and recommended Sherwood.
Sherwood joined the Sheriff's Office on road patrol in early 2021.
The SRO position became vacant after Deputy Jeremy McClellan was reassigned to road patrol at the end of the 2022-23 academic year at the apparent request of the school district, which was a move several parents protested.
The Batavian will have a more complete story on Tuesday.
In 2019, The Msgr. Kirby Knights of Columbus Council 325 graciously offered to start a yearly scholarship fund to celebrate and recognize some of St. Joseph Regional School's students. The recipients are nominated by the school staff and the awards are presented at the End of the Year Awards Ceremony. Two students are chosen in grades K-6 and are nominated using the following criteria:
Students who have achieved satisfactory progress and are hard working;
participation in school activities;
a dedication to strong Christian values; and
a spirit of enthusiasm.
St. Joseph Regional School has received $17,500 over the last 5 years due to the support of the Knights of Columbus. Each year we are honored to recognize some of our most deserving students and are proud of the partnership and commitment the Knights have shown to St. Joseph Regional School for many years.
The Knights of Columbus have supported Notre Dame High School and her wonderful students for over 30 years. Most recently their contributions have helped with building improvements, classroom and technology upgrades, beautification of our campus, and most importantly, tuition support scholarships.
The scholarships provided by the Knights support our mission that the incredibly unique and wonderful Notre Dame experience should be available to all families throughout the region regardless of their financial position. These scholarships have helped over 100 students graduate from Notre Dame that otherwise would not have been able to attend. The results of this investment in Notre Dame students can be seen daily here on campus with the many happy faces currently attending, as well as out in the community where Knights-funded Notre Dame graduates are making a positive daily impact throughout the Genesee Region.
At Notre Dame High School we take great pride in being the #1 Ranked High School in the entire GLOW Region, and we have equal pride in our longstanding relationship with the Knights of Columbus.
Information above by Karen Green, principal of St. Joseph School, and Business Administrator Thomas Rapone of Notre Dame High School.
Social media has been a great way for Le Roy Central Schools to reach out to the whole community about what is going on at district schools, Superintendent Merritt Holly says, but there does need to be clearer communication with parents about what information is going out on social media compared to what is being sent home in newsletters and email.
Different messages are better suited to different media, Holly said during Monday's Board of Education meeting, updating the board on recent social media survey results.
"We will do a better job of getting out -- where do parents go (to get information)?" Holly said. "Principals are still communicating through newsletters, weekly reports, things like that. Social media is not necessarily what most parents want it to be. It's not the forum they want to look for (that information), and what we want to do (on social media) is capture the moments and events that are going on."
Le Roy's robust social media effort owes a lot to former Le Roy High School Principal Tim McCardle, who is an avid and talented photographer and made good use of social media platforms. When he left, the district wanted to continue a strong social media effort, and BOCES helped out by providing a part-time social media content producer, Alecia Kaus. Kaus, a Batavia resident, is a veteran videographer in the region.
When Kaus started contributing to the social media program a year ago, the district went from one major social media presence for the high school to a combined social media presence for both the high school and Wolcott Street School.
Some people like everything on one page, and some people don't.
That seemed to be the theme of the response to the survey -- people divided into two camps about what they like.
"We got both sides, which is right where we want to be," Holly said.
Holly said the survey results show respondents are split on whether social media stories are too long or just right. They also want more coverage of some things -- say modified or JV sports -- that the district just doesn't have the resources to cover (every publisher's dilemma).
After the meeting, Holly said he likes the ability of Kaus to either capture the moment or use her visual storytelling skills to give viewers a fuller picture of campus life.
"She brings the story part of that to that component to it where, again, we've had feedback that some people don't like the length of them and other people that do -- but I think that you can find something either in the moment with a capture and picture or you can find it a true in-depth story about what's going on in our schools."
Whereas newsletters and reports deliver important information to parents about policies and programs that directly impact students, social media gives the district opportunity to shine a light on what teachers and students are actually doing on a daily basis, and that's good not just for students and parents, but also alumni and the rest of the community, Holly said.
"For our greater community, what better way to find out what's going on in school than to see a tweet, to get on Facebook to see an event either if it's athletics, if it's music, if it's just in the classroom, showing a moment,” he said. “I think it's so important for us to show what's going on. If not, people are going to draw their own conclusions on what's going on. What better way is there to share our experiences and what we're doing? They're authentic, they're real. And to be able to show that through social media is a great way to go."
The Le Roy Central School District Board of Education held its first meeting of the 2023-24 academic year, and part of its agenda was "reorganization" -- when board members and senior staff take an oath of office and board and committee assignments are approved.
Jacalyn Whiting, a board member since 2011, was elected to a new term this year, and the board unanimously also approved her for another year as board chair.
Denise Duthe returned to the board after winning a seat on the board in May's election. She stepped down from the board at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
Returning board members are Christine Dowell, Rachael Greene, Jason Karcher, Peter Lofus, and William MacKenzie.
Merritt Holly is superintendent, Lori Wrobel is clerk, and Teresa MCmullen is treasurer.
After hearing from nine speakers over 27 minutes express passionate -- and sometimes angry -- views on a planned change to the School Resource Officer position, no member of the Pavilion Central School District had anything of substance to say to the public.
There was no comment from the board after the public spoke, and no board member would respond to questions from reporters who followed them out of the auditorium and into the parking lot after the meeting.
Board President Marirose Ethington did thank the public for its attendance at the meeting and to the speakers who gave the board "something to think about" but offered no comment on the substance of what the speakers discussed.
The issue that brought hundreds of Pavilion residents to Monday's board meeting is a likely change in the SRO position.
Deputy Jeremy McClellan occupied the position for more than three years, and Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman confirmed with The Batavian on Monday that he won't be the SRO at Pavilion in the Fall. The district will, however, maintains its contract with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office to provide a school resource officer to Pavilion.
School officials have not publicly stated why McClelaln will not return to Pavilion in the Fall but most of the speakers at Monday's meeting indicated it had something to do with him being open about his Christian faith.
"The school district theme for the 2022-23 school year was about accepting and embracing the differences in all the people around us," said Jamie Schwartz. "But was it only for the students and not the board and administration to uphold? Officer McClellan was terminated from his position at the school because his beliefs didn't blend with someone else's. By terminating him, the administration has just shown the entire school body that they did not actually mean anything they said this year about accepting and embracing others' differences. Do we all need to accept the differences that we are told to accept? Or are we to accept everyone? What kind of example are you setting for our children, telling them to accept everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or political views, and then turn it around by firing a valued staff member because their ideology does not match with yours?"
Bryleigh Burns, a student at Pavilion, made a similar point.
"The fact that Deputy McClellan went above and beyond just raises the question as to why he is being let go," Burns said. "If some of it's due to disagreements with other staff, we must look at the fact that it has been drilled in our brain since we were kids that you must get along with people even if you don't like them. If you are adults, can you not do that as we do as students? I know some people said he made religious comments. Are you going to punish someone who is just simply expressing their religious beliefs or simple opinions? I'd like to point out that there are many teachers throughout our school that push their opinions on students and put posters in their rooms, which is perfectly fine. That's fine. But ... "
At which point she was interrupted by loud applause and cheering.
She continued, "If you want us to accept their beliefs, we can absolutely do that. You have to accept it's not a one-sided thing."
McClellan was praised for the way he interacted with students and how he's come to know the name of every student in the school, but more than that, he was praised repeatedly for specific actions he's taken to assist students and families.
According to various speakers, he's apparently helped more than one student dealing with depression and with social isolation. He's often seen at school events, even after hours. He's delivered meals and Chromebooks to students who were homesick. He's given students haircuts when apparently they couldn't afford a haircut. He participated in a walkability student and helped secure a speed trailer to help slow traffic in front of the school. He addressed an apparent drug issue at the school. He's attended funerals. He's helped in the cafeteria when there was a staff shortage. And when a family went through a house fire, he loaned them a trailer to live in in the immediate aftermath.
"He's willing to commit his personal time, money and resources to assist in any way possible and has shown nothing but love in the process," said Alex Mead.
As an example of McClellan's excellence, Rich Klancer said the deputy carries a special responsibility in the Sheriff's Office.
"Deputy McClellan is the team lead for the school resource officer program for all of Genesee County," Klancer said. "He's a teacher to his peers. He's responsible for continuous improvement of the program. To be qualified to teach means he's mastered skills as a school resource officer and can serve as an example for other officers to become a member of the special patrol."
Sheriff William Sheron hasn't responded to emails from The Batavian about the situation, and we have another one in to him to try and confirm McClellan's status as an SRO in the department.
Kirsten Galliford recalled the first time she came across the SRO at the school.
"My first impression of Deputy McClellan was hearing his mantra," Galliford said. "He was leaving the school as I was going in, and someone asked him how he was. He responded, 'dedicated and motivated.' It made me pause. While his response had a ring to it, what really struck me was his sincerity."
She said McClellan has shown he is dedicated professionally and motivated personally, which is a good example for Pavilion students.
The statement by Cynthia M. Baltz was short and to the point.
"This man is kind, he's honest," she said. "He's caring. He knows every single parent. He knows every single kid. How dare you? How dare you do this change. We're mad. We're angry. Okay. And I hope to never see any of you again on this board in our school district because shame on you."
One speaker said Deputy McClellan's pictures were removed from the Gopher Pride page on Facebook. The Batavian scrolled through the page and did not see any pictures of McClellan, but we cannot confirm that there were pictures on the page previously.
After the meeting, when The Batavian approached board president Ethington for an interview, she said, "I really don't have any response at this point. We have things to think about and to discuss as a board together."
When asked if the topic would be on a future agenda, she said, "I can't discuss that right now."
Board Vice President Jeff Finch declined to comment, as did board member Margaret Gaston. Other board members walking with them did not say anything.
The Batavian has additional questions via email out to board members and the superintendent and will either update this story or provide a follow-up story as appropriate. We're also attempting to clarify the district policy on the expression by staff and faculty of political and personal beliefs.
In his three years as the school resource officer in Pavilion, Deputy Jeremy McClellan has apparently made quite an impression on parents and students.
Parents and students have learned that the Pavilion Central School District doesn't plan to have McClellan back as SRO, and they've started an online petition drive to support his return and in online postings and in emails to The Batavian many said they plan to attend tonight's (Monday) school board meeting to protest his removal from the position.
More than 640 people have signed the petition on Change.org, and a few have stated their reason for supporting the petition.
After recounting how McClellan has impressed her children, and even talking one through some difficult times, Renee Gurbacki wrote, "Officer McClellan is so genuinely kind-hearted, and genuinely cares for the well-being and safety for each and every kid, in our district or out of district. Everything he did or does is to only make this place a better place. He is the perfect role model for each and every one of us."
Several parents have posted online about their appreciation of McClellan.
There has also been some misunderstanding expressed that Pavilion is eliminating the SRO program. That's not the case, said Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman. The district still has a contract with the Sheriff's Office to employ a deputy as an SRO.
Asked if McClellan was "fired," as many parents have phrased it, and whether he was told he wasn't a "good fit," as some parents have claimed, Hoffman did not directly address those comments. She provided The Batavian with the following statement:
The Pavilion CSD, in consultation with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, announces the reassignment of School Resource Officer Jeremy McClellan. We express our gratitude for Deputy McClellan's valuable contributions to the Pavilion Central School District and to the community of Pavilion. Our collaboration with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and the SRO program will persist, and we are thankful for their assistance during this period of change. As this concerns a personnel matter, the district will refrain from providing any additional comments.
Variety, choice, quality ovens, a modern menu system, and health options are helping the Le Roy Central School District deliver nutritious and popular breakfasts and lunches to students, Melissa Saunders told the Board of Education at its regular meeting on Tuesday night.
Saunders is the district's school lunch manager.
During her presentation, she ticked off a number of accomplishments for the cafeteria staff during the current academic school year.
Among the accomplishments was a switch in online menu distribution from PDFs to a database-driven menu platform called Nutrislice.
"This has made my job a lot easier," Saunders said. "It's given me a lot more flexibility with the menu. It allows me to make real-time changes to the menu that everyone can see instantly."
The system allows her to store all the different food items that can go into making up a school day's breakfast and lunch menus as well as add products. When compiling a menu, she can include nutritional information along with allergens.
"It's a really big project, adding all that information for every single product," Saunders said. "I mean, just tracking down nutrient analysis for some of these products is this challenging, but it's something we've been working on. It's something that we will continue to work on through the summer."
A board member asked if she makes a menu change is a notification sent to parents. She said there is no automatic notification, but if it's a significant change, she does send out a notification.
A new purchase this year is combi-ovens.
"They can add a precise amount of steam or a precise amount of browning to any food product," Saunders said. "My cooks love them. It has the capability of cooking with steam or cooking with heat, or cooking with a combination of steam and heat to get a precise moisture and browning on food products."
The ovens the district purchased, she said, were manufactured in Germany and are the #1 combi-ovens on the market.
Saunders has also been trying to serve students more fresh fruit, a program partially funded by the federal government.
"We've been really scaling back on the amount of canned fruit we use," Saunders said. "It still has a place within the menu. There's still some products that the kids really like, and we will continue to use, so it's not that I'm not going to use it or the goal is to never use it but to really ensure that the majority of what they're getting is fresh. The reason for that is that during the canning process, food loses its nutrients. We've been using for fresh fruit this year -- we've used strawberries, we've used cantaloupe, leeks, honeydew, melon, watermelon, kiwi, clementines, blueberries, pears, oranges, apples, bananas. We've been trying to give them a really good variety."
Saunders is also working on scaling back the number of food items that include whey protein as filler.
"It's in a huge amount of products to use across the board," Saunders said. "Personally, from my interest in nutrition, I feel like it would be an improvement to our program to use less of (whey protein filler). Again, just like with the canned products, we won't necessarily be able to completely get rid of it, but can use some cleaner products without whey protein fillers."
She said she is now buying products like chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, and popcorn chicken, that doesn't use whey protein fillers. She's also found a nearby New York company that makes meatballs without whey protein filler. They're also allergen-free meatballs.
"That's a focus for next year," She said. "We were awarded some money from a local food and school cooperative grant that's going to allow us to purchase some more New York foods. I can put it towards things like the meatballs."
For breakfast, the staff had been serving prepackaged meals, but during the recent National Breakfast Week, the staff went in a different direction.
"It didn't allow for a lot of choice," Saunder said. "So during National School Breakfast Week, we discontinued using those, and they now have a variety of different cereals, cereal bars, and little snack options that they can create their own breakfast bag."
The number of meals the district served increased when meals were free during the pandemic, Saunders noted, but the district is still serving more meals than it did before the pandemic.
Districtwide participation in breakfast is up 45 percent over the 2018/19 school year, and participation is up seven percent for lunch.
The variety of choices for students, which always includes warm foods and things like yogurt and fresh fruit, is helping to drive meal participation, she said.
In April, The Batavian reported about issues the district was facing with unpaid meal bills for some families. Superintendent Merritt Holly told the school board that staff was trying to work with families to handle the topic in a sensitive manner. The district at the time was owed $2,751.58 for meals that had not been paid for at the time they were served (the district has a policy of providing a meal to every student who wants one, requiring students who don't have any money with them to pay for it).
The Batavian's story promoted two people to come forward and offer to make donations toward paying the unpaid bills. This evening after the school board's regular meeting, Holly said the district has yet to work out how best to accept those donations, and he isn't sure how much those people are planning to donate. He doesn't know, he said, if the donations will cover all of the unpaid bills, which have likely gone up in the past month, he said.
Get off the couch, put down the phone and get out of the house to make a difference in the world. Some rudimentary but important words of wisdom from this year’s commencement speaker for Genesee Community College’s Class of 2023 this weekend.
As keynote speaker, retired attorney and GCC alum Benjamin Bonarigo mused about how and what one can say to this generation of graduates full of excitement and possible angst about how to storm the life before them and make a worthwhile impact.
After all, Bonarigo’s mom accepted his early decision to return home after one college semester, due to family circumstances, with the admonishment to continue his education. Her words were understanding but moving, to the point that her son eventually fulfilled his promise to carry on with his schooling as a first-generation college student, graduating first from GCC in 1977.
For the next four years, he studied at the State University of New York at Buffalo, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business management in 1979 and then his Juris Doctorate in 1982.
So he knows that words matter. And Bonarigo listened not only to what his mom said, but knew that she “recognized the importance of education, even though hers was limited,” he said.
“I’m so grateful to her and to GCC because she provided the direction and GCC the foundation for me to continue up the educational ladder. I wouldn't be standing here without both of them in my life. For those of us here, like myself, who lived a good portion of our lives. I know what you may be thinking, as I am, that we should be using our life experiences to direct these graduates like my own mother did to tell them what to do, how to do it, and what to look out for along the journey to come,” Bonarigo said during the 55th annual commencement ceremony at the Richard C. Call Arena in Batavia. “After all, who better to lay out a plan for them than those of us who have been through many of life's ups and downs and who have had to face many of life's challenges. No doubt.
“We have an obligation to help them down life's winding pathway. But my question to all of us here today is, do we have that right? Our world has made tremendous advances in our lifetime. We can fly rocket ships to Mars with regularity. A driverless car can chauffeur us anywhere we want to go,” he said. “Almost all of us have in our pockets that computer that we use to research to buy anything in a day or to call, text or do math, or email anyone in the world. It's been said before, and most would agree, that we live a more affluent lifestyle than generations before us.”
He added that, despite all of those remarkable developments, “We leave this generation with several problems,” such as mental health issues, dramatically increased suicide rates over the last decade, and unyielding spikes in drug addiction.
“Even with all the affluence and wealth we have acquired, social unrest is out of control, and the politics of the day just adds fuel to the fire,” he said. “People are dying all over this world, for reasons that none of us can really comprehend. And that's just the shortlist. As we look at this, are we really in the best position to lay out the plan for these folks? What has become clear to those of us who have lived long enough is that material things don't bring us true happiness.
In fact, those of us like me who have seen the sun rise thousands of times, are desperately trying to get rid of stuff that in earlier days meant so much to us. We have lived the dream of chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Are we really better off for it? Are we fulfilled by our success and acquiring things?” he said. “Graduates, would you believe us if we told you that unless you have a higher purpose in life than acquiring worldly goods, you may be unfulfilled in this life? This seems contrary to everything that you've been taught, which is to be like PacMan, acquiring everything that comes your way.”
He quoted England’s late Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Dr. James Sunset, GCC’s president, talked about “what we give” — more specifically, about what those on campus have given to students by their very own accounts. Graduates have shared with him how parents, family, friends and others have helped along on their educational journey, and he asked for a round of applause to thank them all on this culminating day of all efforts. But they weren’t the only ones, he said.
“You've also told me about another group of strong supporters that have helped you along the way, that pushed you and challenged you and encouraged you to achieve your best,” Sunser said. “They're the faculty and staff of the college. They believe in you and were willing to give you the best they had by sharing their knowledge, and especially their time.”
It’s about taking a stance to care that matters, Bonarigo said. Not being involved breeds indifference, he said, pointing to the big picture of life.
“Indifference to the greatest democracy in the world occurs when we don't feel our vote is worthwhile. When we feel it is more comfortable to complain about the way things are run, than to make a difference by running them ourselves,” he said. “So I say to you, get off social media, get off the couch, get out of the house, make a difference in this world, do the things that we may not have been so good at. Maybe, ladies and gentlemen, our problems are not as great as I make them out to be today.
“I’ve taken a very close look and studied these graduates. And they're actually smarter and more aware than we ever were. They are energetic and bright. This will allow them to recognize easily our shortcomings and failures. I see in them a strength, a commitment and resolve to seek a better way forward to see the need to live in peace and harmony, not only with their neighbors, but all the people of the world,” he said. “They will find a way to smooth out the bumps in the path that we leave behind with their intelligence, hard work and ability to give more of themselves than we ever did.
"My hope is that we can all live long enough to see and appreciate the differences that they will make. Let me take this final moment to tell these graduates something we all believe and that we know we have a right to say: that we are also very proud of you and how much we believe in you, and the future you will create.”
Bonargio has been a well-worn name in this area, Batavia especially, having founded Bonarigo and McCutcheon Law Firm 40 years ago, and also previously working as an attorney for the city and town of Batavia and village of Oakfield, president of Genesee County Bar Association and several other professional and civic involvements, including Batavia youth football, Holland Land Office Museum, Paolo Busti Cultural Foundation, Literacy Volunteers, and Little League Baseball.
Adhering to the motto "Once a Cougar, always a Cougar," he ended his speech with those words and firmly placed a GCC Cougar-themed baseball cap on his head.
To view more than 60 photos from GCC's commencement ceremony on Saturday, click here.