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education

September 17, 2020 - 3:38pm

Press release:

LE ROY -- Established in 1992, the Student Support Services Center (SSSC) has a broad scope of programming that is aimed at supporting schools in the Western New York region.

The SSSC has a wealth of experience supporting schools and communities at the state, regional and local levels to enhance and refine school policies, practices and curricula to meet emerging needs based on data and school strengths.

“It is our goal to support school communities with building their capacity to enhance and sustainsupportive learning environments that impact student achievement as well as overall student growth and development," said Joan Vitkus, director of the SSSC. "The overall objective is to assist schools in creating an environment for students that is conducive to learning."

Technical assistance and professional development are two of the main areas of support that the SSSC provides. Programs and services include workshops and guidance on topics such as: supportive learning environments that include the implementation of New York State Education Department (NYSED) regulations related to School Counseling Program/Plans; comprehensive Health Education and the Dignity for All Students Act with social and emotional learning embedded; and NYSED Office of Teaching Initiatives required courses for certification. The latter includes child abuse identification, SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act).

The SSSC is a NYSED approved provider of the mandatory Dignity Act Harassment, Bully, Cyberbullying and Discrimination in Schools -- Prevention and Intervention training. Beside these trainings, SSSC staff assist districts with their School Wellness Policy processes as another strategy for enhancing and sustaining supportive learning environments to help students be successful.

“Our facilitative work that supports schools is grounded in collectively developing collaborative strategies by meaningfully engaging students, families, staff and community members in partnerships,” Vitkus said.

“Schools are the community gems and resources that serve the students and families of those communities. At the same time, gems and resources within the community may work in tandem with schools to serve the community’s students, families and larger community.”

Vitkus explained how the SSSC works to explore possible supports within a community. 

“The exploration often begins to lessen schools being overburden with being the end-all solution," she said. "And most importantly, we facilitate engaging multiple voices and perspectives to help the school and community identify their strengths, what they hope to collaboratively accomplish and how they would like to grow and develop to serve the community’s students and families in alignment with the district’s mission, vision, beliefs and goals."

The SSSC has a far-reaching territory that encompasses the following BOCES, Genesee Valley, Monroe 2-Orleans, Monroe 1, Wayne-Finger Lakes and the Greater Southern Tier along with other regions throughout the state.

The Center also partners with local and regional community organizations and county health departments including Wayne, Seneca counties; the Elmira, Campbell-Savona, Waverly areas, along with the Buffalo area.

The SSS Center is funded by federal, state and local contractsand its offices are located in Le Roy, New York at the Genesee Valley BOCES’ Le Roy Services Center.

“We describe this as a giant triangle for our service area and we have the expertise and capacity to do so," Vitkus said. "We’ve created a tapestry of facilitative supports and services that meets districts and communities where they are to help members move forward based on their needs and readiness for this very important collaborative work."

This summer, the SSSC has undergone some staff changes. Kim McLaughlin, director, has semiretired and she has changed roles with Vitkus, coordinator, who has assumed the position of director. This transition will be seamless as these dedicated staff members have worked together for over a decade.

Desiree Voorhies, coordinator, semiretired in 2019 and will assist with any programming and/or training needs in the coming school year.

Beth Burdick, and Heather Bachman, School, and Community Policy coordinators, will continue to serve in their respective roles with Leanne Cornell supporting the SSS Center as program assistant.

September 17, 2020 - 2:20pm

Press release:

Continuing his fight to make a college education more accessible for every New Yorker, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers.

The resolution outlines how the next president should use existing executive authority under the Higher Education Act to substantially cancel student loan debt for students in New York and across the country, and ensure there is no tax liability for federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt collection.

Schumer said addressing the student loan crisis will be one of the first legislative actions he will prioritize in the new 117th Congress in January.

“Millions of young New Yorkers and their families have been crushed by student loan debt greatly impeding their ability to begin careers and build the financial resources needed to build their futures,” Senator Schumer said. “For far too long the sunny, American optimism of our young people has been clouded by crippling student debt.

"Education is supposed to be a ladder up, but studies have shown that student loans hold people back and prevent young college graduates from owning homes or starting small businesses. This holds our entire economy back, which we cannot afford after the financial devastation of COVID. That is why I will prioritize student debt forgiveness in 2021, bringing immediate relief to millions of New Yorkers and boosting our economy.”

Schumer added, “The bottom line is that the cost of college is out of control and paying for it forces millions of students and families to take on crippling debt, which greatly impedes students’ ability to get started and succeed after graduation. It is like starting a long walk with a backpack stuffed with bricks. This plan to cancel student debt on federal loans will substantially lighten that load and give recent graduates a huge boost that will launch them into a much brighter future – that will energize the economy and substantially expand our dwindling middle class.”  

The senator noted that this plan will provide complete forgiveness of student loans for more than 75 percent of borrowers across the country and at least some debt forgiveness for 95 percent of people with student loan debt. This is especially good news for the nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers with outstanding student loans and a cumulative debt of $89.5 billion as of March, according to studentaid.gov.

Schumer explained that student debt cancellation can provide immediate relief to millions who are struggling during this pandemic and recession, and give a boost to our struggling economy through a consumer-driven economic stimulus that can result in greater home-buying rates and housing stability, higher college completion rates, and greater small business formation.

More than 100 community, civil rights, consumer, and student advocacy organizations have already come out in support of using executive authority to cancel student loan debt. 

Congress has already granted the Secretary of Education the legal authority to broadly cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1082(a)), which grants the Secretary the authority to modify, "... compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."

The Department of Education has reportedly used this authority to implement modest relief for federal student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The resolution aims to:

  • Recognize the Secretary of Education's broad administrative authority to cancel Federal student loan debt under the existing authorities of section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1082(a));
  • Call on the President of the United States to take executive action to administratively cancel up to $50,000 in Federal student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers using existing legal authorities under such section 432(a), and any other authorities available under the law;
  • Encourage the President of the United States, in taking such executive action, to use the executive's authority under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to ensure no tax liability for Federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt cancellation;
  • Encourage the President of the United States, in taking such executive action, to ensure that administrative debt cancellation helps close racial wealth gaps and avoids the bulk of Federal student debt cancellation benefits accruing to the wealthiest borrowers; and
  • Encourage the President of the United States to continue to pause student loan payments and interest accumulation for Federal student loan borrowers for the entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Schumer introduced this resolution along with Senator Warren. The legislation follows their March effort to cancel student loan payments for the duration of the COVID pandemic and provide minimum $10K payoff for all Federal student loan borrowers.

September 16, 2020 - 4:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news, schools, education, notify.

There are any number of reasons that a child might have the sniffles, or run a fever, or get a stomachache. But since all of these ailments are also potential symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, school districts are under instruction from the State Health Department to isolate children with these and other symptoms until its confirmed that child can't spread the disease at a school, said Rochester Regional Health Pediatrician Dr. Steven Schulz today in a Zoom conference call with reporters.

"Because of low community prevalence, there's a 99-percent chance that those symptoms are due to a different virus, that it's not COVID and that's a good thing and a good place that we're starting out with," Schulz said.

"But because we don't want COVID to spread in the schools and break out, we are being very stringent. Actually, it's the Department of Health that's been very stringent with regulations on what's required to eventually return to school."

If a child goes home with a potential COVID-19 symptom, that child can't return to school unless there is a negative COVID-19 test, and the child is again symptom-free, and a doctor has cleared the child to return to school.

The reason a child must be symptom-free even after a negative test for COVID-19, Schulz said, is because of the small percentage of COVID tests that return a false negative.

Schulz serves on the Finger Lakes Region School Reopening Task Force and is one of the people responsible for writing school reopening guidelines in the region. RRH, parent hospital group for UMMC in Batavia, sponsored today's press conference on what parents should know as their children return to school.

Possible COVID-19 symptoms that could lead to a child being kept out of school include runny nose, congestion, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, poor appetite.

"There's a whole host of conditions that can cause all of those things, not just COVID," Schulz said. "And so many kids do have chronic conditions, such as seasonal allergies that can have overlapping symptomatology."

For children with chronic conditions, a doctor can verify those conditions and letters written as needed to allow those children to return to school.

What the main focus is on, he said, is the development of new, or different, or worsening symptoms. 

"Every school district has implemented a screening protocol for students and parents to go through before that student set foot sets foot on campus If they screened positive for any of those," Schulz said. "Again, focusing on new and worsening symptoms, in particular, and those would be reasons for an evaluation with the health care provider.

"Obviously, the big one would be a fever. If a child has a fever, they certainly would need to have additional evaluation. So we, of course, would encourage families if there is any concern that their child might have symptoms that are consistent with COVID to contact their health care provider for the next steps."

If a child at a school does test positive, the Health Department will take over, conduct contact tracing, and determine if any other children were exposed and take proper precautions as necessary. If proper social distancing has been maintained and masks are worn properly, it may not be necessary to quarantine other children.

One thing parents can do to help the entire community, Schulz said, is to ensure they and their children receive a seasonal flu shot.

"It's especially important this year," Schulz said. "COVID and flu have a lot of overlapping symptoms and people can theoretically be infected with both. The concern with that is that we could overwhelm our health care system not just with COVID, but also with flu. Both together could overwhelm it even more.

"So the flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect you and others around you from getting the flu. And we are encouraging everyone to get that as early as possible this year."

September 15, 2020 - 1:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, pembroke.

Letter from Ed Levinstein:

I am writing in response to your recent editorial article; “School boards get a failing grade on transparency with voters.”  Contrary to your claim of “group conformity,” I am writing this without asking for approval from my fellow Pembroke Central School District board members or our superintendent.  I want you and your readers to know, I have never felt the need or pressure to seek approval.  Speaking only for myself, but with a suspicion that my fellow board members at Pembroke and elsewhere may agree, I take exception to your article. 

I wish to begin by noting where you and I agree; that school board members are elected individually and that the public has a right to know where we stand.  I wholeheartedly agree and there is no debating this in my mind.  However, our board’s decision to ask our President to answer your questions about reopening school on our behalf, in no way equates to avoiding public accountability. Please keep in mind that the board and administration grappled with this plan for weeks.  As a team, we developed a plan that everyone had input on and is fully supportive of and unanimously approved.  The lack of any disagreement does not indicate that any of us are hiding our true opinions or having them suppressed. 

I would like to add that I did respond to Mr. Pettinella’s email after your exchange with our President, John Cima, where you asked again for individual responses.  Granted, my response was still in agreement with John, but this should not imply that I was in some way unwilling or not allowed to give my opinion.  I believe my fellow board members also replied after your second request but this was not included in your follow up Facebook post.

With all due respect to you and other journalists who play an extremely important role in our society, board members are not obligated to respond to your questions. Your inference from our individual silence that we are being stifled or manipulated is speculative at best, deceptive at worst.  The tone of your article and the responses you gave John imply that you think we are answerable to you and that if our responses don’t conform to your formatting and expectation, then we are being obstructive or just too stupid to understand our “assignment.”  This unfair treatment by some media may be why some board members and districts prefer to have a gatekeeper of sorts to prevent being misunderstood.

As a Pembroke Central School Board member, I very much recognize my responsibility to the students and constituents.  I applaud that you and other publications are covering important matters including the reopening plans of districts. However, I feel you are doing a disservice to the community by creating a perception about our transparency that in my opinion, is not fair or accurate. If you had cared about the original topic, I imagine we would have seen an article that discussed the reopening plans of districts in the region. 

Your perception is based simply on our group responses to a couple open-ended questions that I imagine most board members agree on anyway by this point.  Regarding our transparency, please know that the discussions and vote on the plan were held in open meetings that you and the public are always welcome to attend.  Also, the minutes to those meetings are available on our website and upon a request. I’m also personally available to any constituent who wants to know where I stand on a school issue.

Finally, I want you and your readers to understand that aside from the satisfaction of working to provide opportunities for and improve the lives of children, being on a school board is a tough job that we take on cheerfully but very seriously.  It includes a lot of hard work, long hours, long meetings and is completely volunteer.  Most of us do not have high aspirations for public office.  We just want to help the kids in our district be successful and lead happy, productive lives.  

I feel that it is a great privilege to work with a board that is able to work so well together and I hope that the voters in my district will entrust me for another term when the time comes.  It seems almost out of place in this day and age that a group of elected officials can work so well together, which is maybe why you felt the need to create the perception of controversy where there is none.

Sincerely,
Ed Levinstein
Vice President
Pembroke Central School Board

Previously: EDITORIAL: School boards get failing grade on transparency with voters

Previously: Genesee County central school districts unveil plans for reopening this fall

September 14, 2020 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Schools, education, schools, video.
Video Sponsor

With new social distancing protocols in place, the Batavia City School District opened all four of its campuses today for the 2020-21 academic year.

September 14, 2020 - 11:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in school boards, news, education, notify.

In 2018, The Batavian reported on school district policies that prohibited school board members from talking to the public about their individual views on school district policy.

In 2020, only one superintendent -- Mickey Edwards in Byron-Bergen -- informed us that only the superintendent was authorized to speak to reporters about district issues and that any statements from board members needed his approval. If we sought their individual views, they could speak as private citizens but he informed us he didn't have their private email addresses. We issued a FOIL request for their district email addresses, which we received.

Though only one superintendent attempted to claim to be the gatekeeper for school board statements this time around, the practice of school board members continuing to avoid public accountability for their position on policy issues is unabated in 2020.

We attempted to survey every school board member in Genesee County on their views related to school reopening in the age of coronavirus. Only two school board members out of 52 in the county responded with individual answers. Alice Ann Benedict, Batavia city schools, responded via email as requested. John Reigle answered the questions as part of an interview about his appointment as a trustee to Batavia city schools.

The school boards in Byron-Bergen, Le Roy, and Oakfield-Alabama provided group responses. John Cima, board president for Pembroke, provided a response that he said was made on behalf of the board.

We did not offer school boards the option of a group response but they did anyway.

We wonder how many teachers in Genesee County would give their students a failing grade for failure to follow instructions, turning an individual assignment into a group assignment?

There was no response whatsoever from Alexander, Elba, and Pavilion.

School board members are elected individually not as groups. The voting public has a right to know -- and every reason to expect -- what each individual school board member thinks about issues of public importance related to their school districts. The failure to be transparent -- and worse yet, forced group conformity -- deprives the public of a robust public debate, something essential in a healthy democracy, about important issues.

The requirement that the views of school board members go through a vetting process -- either superintendent approval or a homogenized group statement -- clearly violates the very idea of the First Amendment, depriving school board members of their right to speak freely and the press of its responsibility to accurately report on government policy.

This new strategy of a group response under the guise of "we speak with one voice" is no less noxious to the concept of a free and open society. It requires conformity and stifles dissent. It clearly sets up a chilling effect on free speech.

School board members will tell us they willingly go along with this "one voice" policy but we have no real idea which board members secretly feel their individual viewpoints are being unfairly kept from the public. "Individuality is fine as long as we all do it together," Frank Burns said in an episode of "M*A*S*H." That's long been the cry of the conformist in their discomfort with dissent. But good policies can't be fashioned without dissent and dissent can't be tested for its durability without healthy public debate.

These policies, as we saw and reported on in 2018, can even have a chilling effect on candidates for open seats in school board elections. How does a democracy continue to function when candidates for office refuse to answer questions for voters?

The Batavian will continue to press for school board members to be open and honest with the voters who elect them.

Responses to our questions:

Here is a list, by district, of elected officials who did not respond individually to our questions.

Batavia

  • Peter Cecere
  • Shawna Murphy
  • Tanni Bromley
  • Barbara Bowman
  • John Marucci

Alexander

  • Brian Paris
  • Molly Grimes
  • John Slenker
  • Sara Fernaays
  • Chris Mullen

Byron-Bergen

  • Debra List
  • Yvonne Ace-Wagoner
  • Kimberly Carlson
  • William Forsyth
  • Tammy Menzie
  • Amy Phillips
  • Jennifer VanValkenburg

Elba

  • Michael Augello
  • Michael Riner
  • Michael Hare
  • Dean Norton
  • Travis Torrey
  • Trisha Werth
  • Michael Zuber

Le Roy

  • Jacalyn Whiting 
  • Denise Duthe 
  • Christine Dowell 
  • Richard Lawrence  
  • Peter Loftus 
  • William MacKenzie 
  • Lloyd Miller

Oakfield-Alabama

  • Timothy Edgerton
  • Lorna Klotzbach
  • Matt Lamb
  • Justin Staebell
  • Jackie Yunker Davis
  • Pete Zeliff
  • Daniel Groth

Pavilion

  • Marirose Ethington
  • Jeff Finch
  • Margaret Gaston
  • Rebecca Dziekan
  • Kevin Stefan
  • Callin Ayers-Tillotson
  • Christopher Jeffres

Pembroke

  • John A. Cima
  • Heather Wood
  • Ed Levinstein
  • Dan Lang
  • Art Ianni
September 13, 2020 - 6:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in pembroke, schools, education, news.

Here is the response received from John Cima, school board president for Pembroke for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  Cima said he was responding as school board president and the response reflected the views of the school board.

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • John A. Cima
  • Heather Wood
  • Ed Levinstein
  • Dan Lang
  • Art Ianni

Do you support the District’s policy and reopening plan? Why or Why not?
As Board President of the Pembroke Central School District, I have been asked to give you our Board’s response. At Pembroke, and across the State, school boards operate as one unit not as individuals. We set policy and work in conjunction with the Superintendent and administrative team to effectively and efficiently operate our district. Individual opinions and ideas from all are listened to and discussed as we formulate policies and plans affecting the District as a whole. It is through these rich and respectful discussions that our policies and plans are developed. By adhering to this process, we examine situations and, in the end, develop policies and plans that we feel best meet the needs of our District. So, with that being said, our Board and the individuals who serve on our Board strongly believe in and support the District’s policy and reopening plan.

The reopening plan offers options to our school community to address various comfort levels while providing our students the challenging education and safe environment they richly deserve whether they choose virtual or in-person learning. We have also provided a structure to allow parents to change the initial option chosen for their children on a quarterly basis and our district the flexibility to adjust on the fly to a hybrid or 100% virtual model should the health numbers change.

No plan developed will completely satisfy everyone’s concerns but, we listened to all stakeholders and feel that our reopening plan comes very close to addressing those concerns in a manner providing educational opportunities and a safe environment for all of our students and staff.

What feedback have you received from parents in your district?
We have surveyed parents numerous times throughout the process of developing the reopening plan and used that feedback to effectively formulate the plan. The feedback received has been extremely positive. Also, the Superintendent and administrative team held a series of question and answer sessions via Zoom to answer questions and receive feedback. The valuable feedback has allowed for some tweaking of the plan to address concerns. Our Board feels strongly that the Superintendent and Administrative team has done a highly effective job communicating the elements and expectations of our district’s reopening plan and has welcomed the community feedback we have received,

September 13, 2020 - 6:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in schools, education, news, oakfield-alabama.

Here is the response received from Matt Lamb, school board president for Oakfield-Alabama for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  Lamb said this served as a group response. A group response was not an option given to the school board members.  

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • Timothy Edgerton
  • Lorna Klotzbach
  • Matt Lamb
  • Justin Staebell
  • Jackie Yunker Davis
  • Pete Zeliff
  • Daniel Groth

"The OACS school board fully supports our district's reopening plan.  The plan originated from a district survey that went to all families.  The survey indicated that 84% of our families would approve of the decision to send their children back to school to resume full-time, in person instruction.  The administrative team concluded that our facilities have the space necessary to meet the 6 foot physical distancing guideline within the classrooms while the students receive their instruction, making the request of the families of our district possible.  The committee that helped form our plan included administrative staff, teachers, students and parents of the district.

I'm happy to say most parent feedback went directly to our Superintendent and the building Principals.  However, to your question, we'd mention that at our last board meeting some families asked to speak in our public comment section and expressed their approval and gratitude to the district for our plan.    

We'd also like to acknowledge the flexibility within the plan.   It is important to the board that families have the option to learn remotely if their concerns could not be alleviated by the district's plan.  Our school is accommodating those families that aren't ready to send their children into our facilities.  Should these families reconsider their decision, there is also a re-entry plan for students who have chosen the remote option.

Our board is incredibly appreciative to all who made themselves available to help write the reopening plan, and also to all of the district employees who will be implementing the plan.  We are excited to get the kids back in school, but at the same time, understand the anxieties this brings to both families and staff.  We expect the plan to remain fluid and for our administrative team to continue to make themselves available to hear the concerns of families and staff.  We wish everyone the best of health as we get back to the business of the education of the students of our district."

September 13, 2020 - 6:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in Le Roy, schools, education, news.

Here is the response received from Jacalyn Whiting, school board president for Le Roy for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  Whiting said this served as a group response. A group response was not an option given to the school board members.  

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • Jacalyn Whiting 
  • Denise Duthe 
  • Christine Dowell 
  • Richard Lawrence  
  • Peter Loftus 
  • William MacKenzie 

The Le Roy Central Schools Board of Education would like to reply to your questions about our district's reopening plan and policy concerning COVID 19 as a group.  We have discussed our district's reopening plans as a group with the administrative team many times over these last few months and thank you for this opportunity to share our excitement in welcoming our students and staff back to our schools next week   

Jacalyn Whiting, LCS Board of Education President
Denise Duthe, LCS Board of Education Vice President

Do you support the district's policy and reopening plan?  Why or why not?
We fully support our district's reopening plans.  Our Superintendent, Merritt Holly and our administrative team have spent countless hours surveying, meeting and speaking with parents, staff, and students for their valuable input and to fully understand the needs, concerns and wishes of our community.  Our administrators also spoke to neighboring school districts to compare and brainstorm different ideas and plans.  Then carefully following all of the mandates from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department our administrators crafted a plan for the reopening of our schools.  Our families were given a choice depending on their situations, needs and concerns to follow a hybrid plan and return to school in person for 2 days a week with one day remote learning or to be a fully remote student.  Our students and staff are also fully prepared to go to completely remote learning if the need arises.  Our district is ready to welcome our students next week with protocols and plans in place for a safe and exciting year!

What feedback have you received from the parents in your district?
The parents in our district have been extremely supportive and appreciative of the amount of thought and time that has gone into the creation of our plan and the way the reopening choices have been clearly communicated to them.  89% of our families have selected the hybrid in person model for this year.  Their trust and support of our district administration and staff is appreciated and not taken lightly. 

September 13, 2020 - 6:08pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in byron-bergen, schools, education, news.

Here is the response received from Debi List, school board president for Byron-Bergen for the questions we sent each individual board member of the school district.  List said this served as a group response. A group response was not an option given to the school board members.  

The school board members who failed to provide their own responses:

  • Debra List
  • Yvonne Ace-Wagoner
  • Kimberly Carlson
  • William Forsyth
  • Tammy Menzie
  • Amy Phillips
  • Jennifer VanValkenburg

Response:

We appreciate that you are looking for individual statements from Board members however the Byron-Bergen Board members choose to reply as one. The Byron-Bergen Board of Education fully supports the decision of our district of to bring children back to school as long as we are able to do it safely and with all the many precautions as we can provide to our students and their families. With the CDC guidelines we are able to bring  PreK-5Th grade in everyday, but unfortunately the district is not able to bring back all students in 6Th to 12th grade for in person learning 5 days a week and that we will need to do a hybrid model.

Any parent that has reached out to our board members understands the situation and knows that the Byron-Bergen school district is doing what is best for kids.

September 13, 2020 - 6:01pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in schools, education, batavia, news.

Response from Alice Ann Benedict, trustee in the Batavia City Schools District.

Do you support the district's policy and reopening plan?  Why or why not?
I am in total support of the district with the hybrid plan. It is well thought out and the superintendent and staff have worked very hard this summer to comply with the governor’s requirements and also do what’s best for all students, faculty and staff. They have been very prudent in their consideration of all involved including parents and staff. We realized, through surveys and registrations, that a majority of students wanted in-person teaching. Certainly, there was a percentage that wants virtual classes, so the district accommodated them all with a definite aim to improve academics and keep everyone safe and healthy.

What feedback have you received from the parents in your district?
The feedback that I’ve gotten is mainly positive. Parents felt more assured with the open question and answer sessions that were available, plus with all the information available on the district’s website, most questions are answered.

September 13, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, batavia, history, education, nostalgia, covid-19, St. Mary's School.

After attending school (elementary, high school and college) for 18 years and teaching school (fifth and sixth grades) for another 33, I have been a part of opening day 51 times. And that doesn't include the overlapping times when my own two children headed back to their educational journeys.

But nothing in all that time is going to compare what the beginning of this school year will be like due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking temperatures, wearing masks, social distancing, plexiglass separating panels, lots of sanitizing, and a whole lot more that teachers and students are going to face including some days at school and other days virtually, all because of COVID-19.

I have never regretted being retired, but I am even more happy about it this year and convey my best wishes to all those who will try their best to make the 2020-2021 academic year a productive one.

Back in the 1950s at St. Mary's School in Batavia, we certainly had a less worrisome time when our summer vacation ended. Some preparations had to be made, but nothing approaching what parents and kids have to do now, even before the virus.

Bow Ties and Buster Browns

There was no fretting about what to wear to impress our classmates. We had uniforms, so each kid looked as plain and mundane as every other one. For the girls, it was a light blue blouse with a dark blue skirt, and the boys wore a light blue long or short sleeve shirt with dark blue pants. The pièce de résistance for the boys was a blue clip-on bow tie. If I had a nickel for every one of those I lost I could have bought a lot of Junior Mints.

I'm pretty sure that the school had a deal with Charles Mens' Shop (which is still in business) to stock the uniforms and each year my mom would buy me two shirts and two pairs of pants. Between roughhousing on the way to and from school and outdoors at lunchtime, by June those pants would have been patched more times than a pothole at Ellicott and Main.

When it came to shoes, things were pretty simple. We'd head to Thomas and Dwyer's Downtown and Mr. Dwyer or Skinny Weiss would find a new pair of Buster Brown's in our size. We hated those goofy-looking round-toed things, but Mom was paying so that's what you got. The girls would arrive on day one with new saddle shoes or Mary Janes. I don't think sneakers were allowed.

Lunch Box and Lunchroom

In the '50s we didn't have backpacks, but choosing your lunchbox was a big deal. This was before everything was plastic and they were made from metal and most contained a Thermos.

Howdy Doody ones were a favorite of the younger kids, while the older boys wanted Davy Crockett or The Lone Ranger. By the way, those metal boxes could come in handy if you had to defend yourself from a bully.

During the first couple years of St. Mary's existence we were housed in the basement of adjoining Notre Dame High because the elementary school was still under construction. Once we got in the new building our lunch habits changed because we had a school lunchroom.

Mrs. Isabelle Suranni, who was a chef at various restaurants in the area, prepared the food right on the premises. Unlike most other lunchroom food I encountered over the years St. Mary's was tasty, especially the spaghetti. My mom worked in the kitchen for a couple of years and whenever spaghetti was served she'd bring some home for dinner.

So, that was about it -- uniform, shoes, lunchbox. Maybe a couple pencils and a box of eight crayola crayons. There was no list sent home of all the things the parents needed to buy.

As far as teacher preparations that were made for school's opening, it was certainly a big deal for me when I was teaching. We'd head back to our classrooms a week or two early to get the classroom ready. Desks were arranged, bulletin boards decorated, name tags made, lessons prepared, and so on.

'Convent'-ional Classroom

For seven of my eight elementary school years, my teacher was a nun -- a Sister of the Holy Cross (inset photo below right from the 1950s). I don't know how many of them had formal teacher training but I'd guess not many.

I could be cynical and surmise that the nuns spent their summer sanding and honing their rulers and yardsticks to use on us little delinquents.

But, since most Catholic schools had 40-50 students in a class, more likely they were catching their breath and recuperating from the previous semester.

Maybe they had nun spas where they would go to get refreshed. Probably not.

I don't recall much about bulletin boards or decorations, but with 50 desks there probably wasn't room for any. There were always a bunch of strategically placed statues though. Some saint was always looking over your shoulder when you were about to launch that spitball.

A Long Year Ahead

I can't imagine having more than 30 kids in a class, but it must have given the nuns some preopening day anxiety. Actually, I could identify with that feeling somewhat because my very first teaching job after graduating from college in 1969 was in a Catholic school, Sts. Peter and Paul in Rochester.

I was also similar to the nuns in that I really didn't have much preparation for teaching. I had, quite honestly, taken the job in order to secure a deferment from the military draft. I had only taken a couple education classes at St. John Fisher and never did any student teaching. Essentially, I was winging it.

My very first day I started out by handing out index cards to my sixth-graders and asking them to write down their name, address, phone number, and parents' names. I had a boy in the class who was from Lebanon named Toufik. 

As I circulated around he raised his hand. “Yes, Toufik,” I said. “How can I help you?”

“Mister,” he replied. “How do you make a T?”

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What have I gotten myself into?

First Days

Only two of my St. Mary's opening days stand out in my memory of boyhood, both of which I mentioned in a previous story.

In first grade, school started on a Wednesday, but because I had strep throat, I didn't arrive until the following Monday. I was a shy kid so I was probably terrified to come in on my own.

A boy named Lenny, the briefest of classmates, had the absolute greatest opening day entrance in my 51 years when he showed up with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and promptly got expelled. There was an ad at the time which said, “I'd walk a mile for a Camel.” Lenny only got to walk about 50 feet before the black-habited arm of a nun whisked him off the premises forever.

On my first opening day after retiring, I took my boat and went fishing. On the first opening day of my longtime girlfriend's retirement, we took a day trip to the pretty little Finger Lakes Town of Skaneatles.

What will we do on the first day of school this year? I'm not sure except that it won't involve little kids. Or nuns.

Photos and images courtesy of Dave Reilly.

September 10, 2020 - 1:59pm

Submitted photo and information:

Today officials of the (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 students in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Le Roy Central School District proudly announces that Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School senior Andrew "AJ" Schmidt (inset photo, left) has been named a Semifinalist in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Competition!

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for more than 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

More than 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Nationwide, the pool of semifinalists represents less then 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, and it includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

"I am speechless, all of my hard work has led up to this point!" AJ said. "I am very honored to be in this position."

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

"AJ does an outstanding job both in the classroom and the school community," said Jay Laitenberger, AJ's AP U.S. History teacher/coach. "He always puts his best effort into everything he does and it shows in all aspects.

"It is a true privilege to work with a student-athlete like AJ and see him grow throughout the year. It was a lot of fun to see him take on the challenge of cross-country and track last year and excelling in it as well."

Austin Dwyer, Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School counselor, said "I could not be more proud of AJ for being selected as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist and could not think of anyone more deserving of such an honorable recognition. AJ's success in the classroom is a pure reflection of his work ethic and desire to achieve at an exceptionally high level.

"His passion to discover and continuously learn new things is inspiring to not only his peers, but also the adults in our building. It is a privilege to serve as his high school counselor and I am so excited to see what the future holds for him.

Tim McArdle, principal Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School, said "We are so proud of AJ as he continues to excel and reach new heights. His work ethic and attention to detail are remarkable both in the classroom and beyond.

"AJ is an amazing Knight who continues to challenge himself both in and out of the classroom. We cannot wait to see what life has in store for him!"

About National Merit Scholarship Corporation

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955, specifically to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC's goals of honoring the nation's scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

September 2, 2020 - 11:58am

From Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer:

As schools prepare to open in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, there are many strong opinions regarding how it should be handled.

I have always relied heavily on the opinions of the residents who I represent.

Please take a minute to complete my brief five question survey to share your thoughts on reopening schools.

Thank you for taking the time to complete my survey. I hope you and your family are well.

Sincerely,

Michael H. Ranzenhofer

State Senator -- 61st District

September 1, 2020 - 8:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, batavia, City Schools, notify.

In March, school districts were forced to quickly throw together a remote learning plan with the pandemic forced students to stay home, but after a summer to prepare, the Batavia City School District has developed a more comprehensive plan to educate children in the age of coronavirus.

Molly Corey, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction, outlined the virtual learning guidelines for the 2020/21 school year for members of the city schools' board of trustees on Monday night.

At the heart of the plan, Corey said, is SEL -- social and emotional learning.

"There is a variety of feelings around everything we're doing," Corey said. "We want to make people comfortable with what we do."

SEL is, according to the virtual learning guidebook, "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

Corey said SEL includes self-awareness, self-management, being responsible for decision-making, social awareness, and developing relationship skills.

The other key elements to the learning plan include communication, instructional time, and feedback.

About 75 percent of the district's students will split time between virtual learning and in-class instruction, while the parents for 20 percent of the students have chosen virtual-only learning. The remaining 5 percent are students with special needs who will be on campus every day.

The guidebook includes a chart that highlights the differences between the hastily compiled plan for distance learning last spring and the more thoughtful plan for the new school year.

For example, "teacher check-ins" is now "Teacher-led instruction with SEL as the cornerstone of what we do," and the flexibility of daily and weekly requirements has been replaced by a scheduled and planned school day.

"Monitored attendance" becomes "attendance taken daily."

Students, and their parents, will now be expected to focus grade level/course standards using pacing guidelines.

While there were no formal assessments given last spring and grades were credit/no credit, this year will include scheduled assessments and grades and "growth-producing feedback."

All students will have a Chromebook. Middle school and high school students will use Google Classroom, while younger students will be introduced to a new program for online learning called "Seesaw."

To make all this work, communication will be key, Corey said. Teachers have to produce written communication plans for the school year to ensure students and parents have a clear idea of the process, expectations, standards and progress.

"I want parents to know that this is really a true partnership," Corey said. "To make this work, we need them with us."

August 26, 2020 - 6:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, news, schools, education, le roy hs.

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Pat Crowe, an English teacher at Le Roy High School has retired after 49 years of lecturing kids on Shakespeare and grading their essays on To Kill a Mockingbird.

Photo submitted by Principal Tim McArdle.

August 26, 2020 - 5:25pm
posted by Press Release in Child Nutrition Program, Chris Jacobs, news, covid-19, USDA, education.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs has sent United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue a letter, with 24 Republican members, calling for the review and swift implementation of flexibilities within the Child Nutrition Program. 

“As we head into the 2020-2021 school year, we need to be sure schools can accommodate the needs of children, many who may be observing hybrid or fully online classes this fall,” Jacobs said.

“As someone who has consistently advocated for quality education, I know that during this time when parents are stressed about children completing classwork, they shouldn’t have the extra burden of worrying about school meal services for their child.”

Originally, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA utilized flexibilities within the Child Nutrition Program to allow schools to provide meals to children as they were learning from home. As it stands now, these flexibilities, though within the legal bounds of the program, have not been authorized for the 2020-2021 school year.

“With the variety of plans different districts are implementing, it is critical that schools have the appropriate tools and flexibility to ensure they can carry out quality meal service and delivery for all students who need it,” Jacobs said.

August 26, 2020 - 12:32pm

Press release:

New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has introduced a bill (S.8935) that will create a new category of projects eligible for funding under the Smart Schools program and shorten application time to help protect students and teachers from the threat of COVID-19.

“Our schools need our support during this trying time," said Senator Mike Ranzenhofer. "Making Smart School grant funding available for schools, in a timelier way, while they work to safely welcome back students, either in person or virtually, is extremely important.

"This funding can help with social distancing measures, distance learning or any other needs that arise. We must do all we can to protect our children."

“I applaud Senator Ranzenhofer’s bill to add flexibility and efficiency to the Smart Schools Bond Act process," said Pavilion Superintendent Kenneth Ellison. "The current Smart Schools funding process, while well intentioned, has been extraordinarily slow in application. The technology needs created by COVID related closures are many.

"Enhanced flexibility in securing these funds for technology purchases, in a timely way, will be very beneficial to educators and students during these difficult times."

The “Smart Schools” grant program was funded by bonds and created in 2014. In the past, the application process has been lengthy, taking up to a year for approval.

This bill will provide a fast-tracked way to allow schools to use this funding to find safe ways to fight COVID-19 and safely welcome students back to school. Schools across New York are working on their reopening plans with the safety of our students at the center of everything they do. Whether going back virtually, in person or a hybrid model, this funding will help alleviate some of the financial burdens school districts are facing.

The bill was introduced on Aug. 21st and is in the Senate Committee on Rules for consideration.

August 19, 2020 - 12:41pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Seven members of the Genesee Community College team have been recognized by the State University of New York for outstanding contributions to their profession, the campus and the community.

The SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence is given in recognition of consistently superior professional achievement and encourages the ongoing pursuit of excellence.

The following faculty and staff members earned SUNY Chancellor's Awards for 2019-2020.

GCC is proud to announce Carolyn Caccamise and Kari Heidemann have received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes consistently superior teaching at the graduate, undergraduate or professional level of the highest quality. To say that Caccamise has been an integral part of GCC's veterinary program would be an understatement. Director and Associate Professor of the College's Veterinary Technology program, Caccamise played an integral role in building the program to what it is since she started as an adjunct instructor in 2011.

Armed with a bachelor's from Eisenhower College and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and extensive ongoing learning, Caccamise maintains veterinary practices which helps ensure her students are at the cutting edge of practical learning and application. Caccamise resides in Alexander.

Heidemann has been an instructor of Human Services at GCC since 2006 and began teaching full-time in 2016 when she also began coordinating the program's internships, advisory board, scholarship opportunities and advising the Human Services Student Club. Heidemann graduated Summa Cum Laude from Niagara University with a bachelor's degree, earned a master's from SUNY Brockport and received a NISOD (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development for community and technical colleges) Award. Heidemann resides in Barker.

The SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching recognizes consistently superior teaching at the graduate, undergraduate or professional level of the highest quality. This honor was earned by Adjunct Instructor Ruth Rigerman. Rigerman has taught math courses at GCC for nearly 40 years. She received the NISOD Award for Excellence in Teaching to Adjunct Faculty in 1993, 1998 and 2017. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Education, Mathematics from SUNY Brockport and later earned her MS in Education there as well. Today, Rigerman resides in Batavia.

For Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, Director of Fine and Performing Arts Maryanne Arena received a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence. An award-winning educator, director, entertainer, public speaker, and police officer, Arena was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary Club and received three Medals of Valor -- including one for capturing one of the New York Police Department's "Ten Most Wanted" criminals.

Since she joined GCC in 2004, Arena established GCC's Children's Theatre tour, Black History Month/ Social Justice productions and produced numerous performances. Arena also received a YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Racial Justice in 2015, a citation from Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties for producing, directing, and acting in " 'Night, Mother" in 2012, and SUNY Chancellor's Award recipient for Excellence in Professional Service in 2009.

Arena became a Licensed Police Officer in NYC, a PD Officer Certified in East Stroudsburg, earned a bachelor's degree from East Stroudsburg University and then a master's degree in Acting & Theatre from Brooklyn College. She currently resides in Le Roy.

The SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, which recognizes consistently superior service contributions of teaching faculty over multiple years, was awarded to Professor of Business Lauren Paisley. Paisley first began her relationship with GCC in 2002 as an adjunct faculty member and a part-time trainer in The BEST (Business & Employee Skills Training) Center -- a role she still plays.

However, in 2006, Paisley added full-time professor of Business at GCC to her resume. Since then, Paisley has served on the College's Global Education Committee, International Student Organization (advisor), Academic Senate, accreditation work groups and committees for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, multiple scholarship committees and numerous search committees to fill vacant positions within GCC.

Her work with student organizations has resulted in thousands of dollars to local animal shelters, food pantries, and programming designed to encourage humanity and kindness. Paisley earned her bachelor's degree from D'Youville College and a master's degree from SUNY Buffalo in Business Administration. Paisley resides in Middleport.

Human Communications and Behavior Department Secretary Michelle Forster received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Classified Service. This award is a system-level award established to give recognition for superior performance and extraordinary achievement by employees in the Classified Service. These awards demonstrate SUNY's commitment to individuals who provide superior service to its students and the community at large.

Forster has served as a secretary in GCC's Human Communications and Behavior department for 11 years. She has trained other secretaries on many operational processes, covered for other staff positions during absences, and provided superior customer service to students, faculty and staff in all circumstances. She regularly volunteers to participate on College committees and fully embraces GCC's passion to go "beyond expectations." Forster resides in Oakfield.

Recognizing consistently superior professional achievement, the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service was awarded to Kathryn Meloon. Meloon joined the Business Office at GCC in 2000 as a staff accountant, became assistant director of Finance in 2002 and in June of 2007 she was promoted to her current role of bursar where her primary focus is leading the Student Accounts Office.

However, Meloon consistently goes above and "beyond expectations" for GCC and its students. For the past three years (2016-2019) she wrote and was awarded the President's Innovation Award which allowed GCC to create its New York City Extended Student Visit initiative. The NYC Extended Student Visit brings approximately 20 already accepted NYC residents with limited financial means, on an overnight visit to experience GCC and Batavia firsthand. The visit allows these NYC students to envision themselves at GCC in an attempt to positively influence their decision to enroll.

Meloon earned a bachelor's degree at Houghton College and a master's degree at Keuka College. She currently resides in Batavia.

August 18, 2020 - 1:49pm
posted by Press Release in news, education, Le Roy, st. ann's community, nursing careers.

Press release:

LE ROY -- St. Ann’s Community is proud to announce the addition of a Graduate Practical Nurse (GPN) Residency Program to its lineup of employee benefits. The program is designed to help support and advance individuals interested in becoming Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN).

Applicants of the GPN Residency Program at St. Ann’s Community will receive hands-on training from some of the area’s leading experts in nursing and education while working and being paid as an LPN.

This training will coincide with the applicant working towards their board licensing exam. Graduates from the program will be reimbursed for exam costs, and they will be promoted to a higher paying LPN position within St. Ann’s Community upon completion of their residency.

“The Graduate Practical Nurse (GPN) Residency Program at St. Ann’s is designed to acclimate and welcome the new LPN graduate into the increasingly complex long-term care environment,” said Chrisann Fennessey, director of Education at St. Ann’s Community and head of the new GPN Residency Program.

“Graduate Practical Nurses will work on the units and in our nursing classroom and lab with nurse educators who have diverse experience in long-term care, acute care, occupational and community health, and leadership and teaching roles at local schools and colleges. They will also work with nursing staff on various units under Registered Nurse (RN) supervision and interact with other disciplines to gain a better understanding of their roles.”

Prospective Licensed Practical Nurses interested in the GPN Residency Program at St. Ann’s Community are encouraged to apply directly to Amanda Falzone, Talent Acquisition Specialist. A resume, official transcripts, and two letters of recommendation are needed to apply. Application materials can be sent directly to Amanda at:   [email protected]

About St. Ann’s Community

St. Ann’s Community is the seventh largest nonprofit senior living provider in New York State and Rochester’s leading senior housing and health services continuum. With campuses in Irondequoit, Webster and Le Roy, St. Ann’s offers a complete range of care that includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, transitional care/rehab, hospice/palliative care, and adult day programs.

One of Greater Rochester’s largest private employers, St. Ann’s has more than 1,200 employees who are Caring for the "Most Important People on Earth." For more information, call (585) 697-6000 or visit www.stannscommunity.com

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