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May 2, 2022 - 4:21pm
posted by Press Release in BOCES, education, news, NYVirtual Academy.

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Press release:

When COVID-19 caused a worldwide pandemic in 2020, no one ever thought that school buildings across New York state would close. What was known as academic normalcy, and a typical school year changed overnight. Although school buildings were closed, instruction remained a top priority for school districts as teachers adopted new methods of how to creatively deliver instruction to students of all ages. Google Classroom, Zoom, Google Meet, Edpuzzle, Screencastify, Flipgrid and distance learning are just a few methods and strategies that teachers used to connect with students. All of these can be described as online learning.

As the pandemic progressed, teachers and administrators discovered that some students flourished in an online learning environment and, with proper guidance, some students were able to make significant academic gains.

Christopher Harris, Ed.D., oversees a number of programs at Genesee Valley BOCES, including
Model Schools, Library Media Services, Distance Learning, School Library System, and a new program launched in the fall of 2021 called NYVirtual Academy. The NYVirtual Academy was born out of a need to serve this population of students, who for many reasons, thrived in a virtual setting.

“A few years ago, we researched the possibility of creating an online learning program that would focus on college readiness.  Many students who live in this region are the first in their families to attend college. Due to fiscal constraints, the small rural school districts in this region, may not have the same college prep courses as larger more affluent suburban school districts,” Harris said. “We wrote a few grant proposals but then COVID-19 hit. This drastically changed our plan and we transitioned to supporting both remote and hybrid learning.”

First, discussions took place that framed out a rough idea of how a virtual academy would operate. As the 2020-2021 school year continued, with many school districts operating in a hybrid model, the need for this program became more evident.

 “The concern at that time was that school districts had massive numbers of students who could potentially be enrolled, so we knew that this would not be a good time to launch. We focused on supporting teachers by providing resources and tools that would best meet their immediate needs,” Harris explained. 

Throughout that school year, Harris researched and spoke with superintendents on how this concept could work.

“In June and July, we knew that there would be lingering impacts, and discovered that this virtual school concept was definitely a possibility.  The Governor and the State Education Department were communicating a ‘return to in-person learning where appropriate,’” Harris said.  “We knew that some students would not be able to return to in-person learning for a number of reasons, including health conditions, so we got to work. What made this development process work so well was the support of all the school superintendents in this region.”

The program launched in the fall of 2021 with an enrollment of 60 students. But very quickly in early September registration ballooned to 100 students.  As of March 2022, there are 125 students in the NYVirtual Academy.

How it works
NYVirtual Academy is a full-service educational program for students in grades 6-12.  The program provides all instructional components for students including core and elective courses to meet all New York State graduation requirements taught by New York State certified teachers.  Each day students are expected to spend 4-6 hours at home dedicated to their course work. Students are enrolled in their local districts, however, and should be eligible for sports and other extra-curricular activities. Additionally, it is the local district that grants credit and graduates the student based on recommendations from GV BOCES.

Patrick Whipple, Ph. D. oversees all of the Professional Learning Services (PLS) at GV BOCES.  The NYVirtual Academy is part of this department. Whipple described how this new school came to be.

“NYVirtual has its inception tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the late spring of 2020, Dr. Julie Donlon, GV BOCES Deputy Superintendent, presented the Professional Learning Services Department with a challenge-- how can GV BOCES create a service that can meet the demands for virtual learning while taking the burden off of local districts? NY Virtual was the response,” Whipple said. “The PLS Team built the proposal for the program by considering three large, student-focused buckets: effective curriculum, connectedness/mental health, and flexibility. To meet the needs of our districts, the team considered cost-effectiveness and viability as important factors; however, the cost-benefit analysis could not detract from the student-focused nature of the program.”

Whipple also noted how this unique program provides students with a new chance at learning in a protected environment.

“Some students and families are just too anxious to attend in-person school at this time - for various health-related reasons. This is the void that NYVirtual Academy fills. Our NYVirtual Academy staff provide the needed academic, social, and caring support to students who really need it right now. This program dismantles many of the barriers our students would have in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting,” Whipple said. “We focus on the kids by ensuring each student has a moderate group of classmates and a caring adult to interact with through our Advisory Model. These advisors act in a capacity of "school parent" to ensure students feel a sense of connectedness to peers and adults despite attending school from their homes. This important focus creates a warm and welcoming environment that reduces student anxiety, so they can more easily attend to academics.”

Donna McLaughlin is one of the NYVirtual Academy teachers. She applied to teach at this cyber school for many reasons.

“The advisory model was a big part of why I wanted to teach at the NYVirtual Academy. I truly believe in the idea that kids don't care what you know until they know that you care.  In my experience, students who feel safe, heard, and valued by their teachers are more motivated and engaged and, therefore, do better academically,” McLaughlin said.

McCarthy teaches a multitude of offerings including English 10, 11, 12, Career English 12, AP English 12 as well as Mythology and Folklore. It would seem that teaching students remotely would be challenging but McLaughlin disagrees.

“Being an online learning specialist provides me with a unique opportunity to work with students from all over New York state rather than just one localized school building/area.  I have flexibility with my schedule which allows me to have the freedom and opportunity to meet with students 1:1 whenever they need extra support rather than just during after-school hours,” she explained. “Another positive benefit of this position is that the Edmentum (the curriculum this cyber school follows) modules and assessments are rigorous and help students develop the skills and habits they need to be independent learners beyond high school.”

Harris explained that NYVirtual Academy supports students who each have a unique set of circumstances as to why a traditional school setting is not the best fit.  McCarthy agrees.

“I have several students who are facing really difficult, mental/emotional and environmental challenges but are thriving in our program. One student, in particular, is facing a significant number of barriers to success yet she shows up to advisory every morning with a smile and a great attitude,” McCarthy shared. “This student is on pace in all her classes and earning excellent grades despite working 30-40 hours a week to support herself.  She has shared with me that having the option to complete her schoolwork when it fits into her schedule has been critical for her success this year.”

What does the future hold?
It is both Harris’ and McCarthy’s hope that this school model continues.

“I think this program is an amazing example of student-centered learning where kids who don't fit into the traditional brick and mortar school are provided the chance to engage in the educational experience in a new way,” McCarthy said. “Kids who have mental/emotional issues that prevent them from being able to focus and engage in a classroom full of students and stimuli are now able to receive a quality education that values, accommodates, and supports their unique health circumstances.” 

Harris wholeheartedly agrees. 

“Our students are better prepared for their next steps in life. They understand how to work independently, have great time management skills, are able to advocate for themselves when they need help and are able to engage in online learning,” Harris said. 

-College and career-ready are common words used to describe how schools are expected to prepare students.  The NYVirtual Academy does just that and more by providing a culture that fosters learning and teaches students the necessary skills to prepare them for life.

Submitted photo: Harris and his team recently received the Genesee Valley BOCES School Board Association Excellence in Student Services Award. This award recognizes school districts, programs and staff members.  The awards were selected based upon uniqueness, effectiveness and availability to serve the population they were designed to serve. Pictured (left to right) Dr. Patrick Whipple presenting Dr. Christopher Harris with the Genesee Valley BOCES School Board Association Excellence in Student Services Award.

April 30, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Press Release in Ed Rath, news, 61st senate district, education.

Press release:

Senator Rath is asking for residents to nominate teachers that they would like to honor.  The nominations will be open during Teacher Appreciate Week, which runs from May 2nd through May 6th

“Teachers play such an instrumental role in children’s lives, many of us can recall a teacher who made a lasting impact on us.  I hope everyone will take a moment to nominate that special teacher,” said Senator Ed Rath. 

To nominate an educator from the 61st senate district, visit https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/edward-rath-iii

April 29, 2022 - 11:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, reading, education, schools, news.

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Children whose parents read to them at home are faster learners, studies show, which is one reason administrators and teachers at Jackson Primary School in Batavia put a strong emphasis on reading.

It's a goal of the school that no child graduates from Jackson to John Kennedy without reading at least grade level, said Principal Maureen Notaro.

"We're promoting early literacy with our "Wild About Reading " theme," Notaro said during the family reading night at the school on Thursday. "Family reading night brings families together to help kids be invigorated and show their love of reading."

Teachers and staff decorated the hallways in a contest to emphasize the "Wild About Writing" theme and Brian Sutton, Steve Hyde, and Officer Miah Stevens judged the wall art, with the winning team getting a pizza party.

This was the first event with a gathering of students and parents at the school in 2 1/2 years.

"Parents who read to their kids get them excited (about reading)," Notaro said. "Kids are so curious. So anything, anything you say or expose them to is just a wonderful experience for them. I always tell parents, any chance you get to read to your children, you know, do it.  Do it in the car, point things out, just involve literacy in everyday life."

Further reading:

Top photo: Miles McCracken, 5, shows off the book he chose to purchase at Jackson School's "Wild About Reading" night on Thursday.  He said, "Reading is cool." 

Photos by Howard Owens

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Officer Miah Stevens.

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Superintendent Jason Smith

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Teachers with their favorite books from childhood were featured in pictures in the foyer of the school.

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April 27, 2022 - 2:46pm
posted by Press Release in BOCES, education, news.

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Press release:

In April, the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center National Technical Honor Society (NTHS) Chapter announced the names of 31 career and technical student inductees. These students met the rigorous criteria set forth by this national organization. The minimum grade point average for acceptance is a 3.0 GPA.  Students are also selected based upon credit hours completed, attendance, volunteer service, and membership in other student organizations.

Margaret Poray, Executive Principal of the Genesee Valley BOCES Batavia Campus, was inducted as an honorary member.
The ceremony was held on April 21 at the Elba Central School District. The inductees are noted below.

The 2022 Batavia Career and Technical Education Center NTHS Inductees

  • Matthew Cecere, Alexander, Computer Information Systems
  • Devon Grunthaner, Alexander, Auto Technology
  • Olivia Colon-Mercado, Attica, Animal Science
  • Ella Dickinson, Attica, Criminal Justice
  • Alyssa Jacoby, Attica, Cosmetology
  • Tyler Strong, Attica, Criminal Justice
  • Grace Snyder, Attica, Cosmetology
  • Robert McCarthy, Batavia, Metal Trades
  • Synia Morrison, Batavia, Criminal Justice
  • Melanie Quinones, Batavia, Animal Science
  • Tyler Umlauf, Batavia, Graphic Arts
  • Alyssa Vickery, Batavia, Health Dimensions
  • Shyann Ruffino, Batavia Academy, Animal Science
  • Tyler Pangrazio, Cal-Mum, Building Trades
  • William Eschberger, LeRoy, Electro-Mechanical Trades
  • Ryan Higgins, LeRoy, Electro-Mechanical Trades
  • Josh Noble, LeRoy, Metal Trades
  • McKenna Coniber, LeRoy, Building Trades
  • Ann Navarra, LeRoy, Cosmetology
  • Ashlyn Puccio, LeRoy, Cosmetology
  • Bryceton Berry, Notre Dame, Electro-Mechanical Trades
  • James Hudson, Notre Dame, Conservation
  • Grace Mileham, Notre Dame, Health Dimensions
  • Jaylee Johnson, Oakfield-Alabama, Graphic Arts
  • Lauren Mandel, Oakfield-Alabama, Cosmetology
  • Kyra Rhodes, Oakfield-Alabama, Graphic Arts
  • Emmaly Wilkosz, Oakfield-Alabama­­, Cosmetology
  • Victoria Franks, Pembroke, Conservation
  • Karli Houseknecht, Pembroke, Electro-Mechanical Trades
  • Riley Martin, Pembroke, Computer Information Systems
  • Rylee Seelau, Pembroke, Criminal Justice

Submitted photo: The 2022 Batavia CTE Center National Technical Honor Society Inductees.

April 27, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, education, schools, Le Roy Central Schools, news, notify.

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Le Roy Central School District is planning to increase the tax levy by $66,000 after calculating how much state aid the district can expect to help cover its $27,708,988 spending plan.

The good news for residents of Stafford, who this year reportedly saw a substantial increase in their property assessments, is that if the numbers hold, their property tax rate for public education will go down about $2.37 per $1,000 of assessed value. The anticipated rate is $19.80. That's 13 cents more than it would have been had the Board of Education decided to balance the budget with reserves rather than increase the levy.

Property owners in the district in Pavilion, Bergen, and Caledonia are also looking at a projected tax rate of $19.

However, property owners in the Town of Le Roy pay the same rate they did this year, $24.14. 

State law requires that all property owners in a district share the burden of education equally so a formula will be applied to Le Roy's tax rate to make it equitable.  

Business Administrator Brian Foeller presented anticipated revenue numbers to board members at a Monday afternoon meeting and then all members of the board participated in a discussion about the tax levy before reaching a consensus decision (no motion nor vote was required) to raise the levy by $66,000.

These are all estimates because final assessment numbers will not be available until July, which will affect the total tax levy.

The tax levy is the total amount of revenue raised through property taxes.  The tax rate is the amount per thousand of assessed value that property owners are billed to pay into the levy.

Board President Jacalyn Whiting (top photo) said she was confused by the Town's decision to forego assessment adjustments this year given the state's required equalization rate and that the town must eventually get assessments up to 100 percent of fair market value.

"How is this going to make things better?" Whiting said.

The spending plan is covered by $16,135,963 in state aid, $10,663,025 tax levy, and $910,000 in local revenues.

Local revenues are:

  • Fund Balance carried forward
  • PILOTS
  • Late taxpayer penalties
  • Out of district tuition paid by other schools
  • Interest earnings of investments
  • Medicaid
  • BOCES Refund

Budget increases include:

  • Professional support and staff salaries, $364,963
  • Special Education out-of-district tuition, $282,000
  • Staff health insurance, $150,721 (a 12.5 percent increase)
  • Grounds/facilities equipment, $81,000
  • Debt payment on existing loans, $56,611

The district is adding one full-time equivalent position, replacing a part-time BOCES employee due to an increase in BOCES attendance. 

A part-time BOCES speech therapist position is being eliminated. There is also a reduction in spending on COVID-19 supplies and several retirements, with not all positions being replaced.

"We've done our part to try and keep this in mind with rising costs," said Superintendent Merritt Holly. "It's tough. These are not easy decisions."

 Whiting agreed, saying the district has done the best it can to control costs.

"This is hard, because I feel we've done a really good job, even adding $66,000 to the levy to bring it to $2 lower per $1,000," Whiting said. "But the assessment part is out of our control. By the same token, you know, we have to balance out here, too."

One thing helping the district this year is the state increased the amount of state aid, a portion called Foundation Aid, to offset shortages to the district in previous years. The increase is only temporary and the district cannot count on it in the future.

Trustee Jason Karcher expressed concern that without a levy increase, the district will face a steeper hill to climb at some point.

"That's gonna be a shock to the system when, and we don't necessarily know when, that would happen," he said. "That's lovely."

Trustee William MacKenzie agreed.

"Eventually the Foundation Aid is going to go away," he said. "It's going to happen."

Trustee Denise Duthe said she believes the district has a history of being responsible for taxpayers' money.

"I think has always done a good job of keeping things basically straight or just a little bit up, not these kinds of wild gyrations," Duthe said. "Everything costs a little bit more. Keep in mind that we want to be as fiscally responsible as we can but we also don't want to do a giant jump next year."

The budget public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10 at 6 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium.

The vote on the budget and candidates for trustees will be on May 17.

There are four candidates for three open seats.  There are two three-year terms and one two-year term open.  The candidates are  Peter W. Loftus (Incumbent), Randa Williams, Jason Karcher, and Rachael Greene.

Photos by Howard Owens

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April 22, 2022 - 4:42pm
posted by Press Release in pembroke, schools, arts, education, news, Pembroke Central Schools.

Press release:

Pembroke Central School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  Now in its 23rd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Pembroke Central School District answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

“Our K-12 music department and the consistent quality of vocal and instrumental instruction it has provided to our young Dragons has been nothing short of amazing!” said Superintendent Matthew Calderón. “Receiving this designation for three years in a row is no surprise to me and will have an ongoing positive impact on the district’s music education program.”

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs. During the pandemic, music and arts programs were a vital component to keeping students engaged in school. ESSA provides designated funding for well-rounded educational opportunities through Title IV Part A Student Academic Success and Achievement grants. NAMM Foundation research has revealed that these grants are being widely used by school districts to address instructional gaps in access to music and arts education. 

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well. Everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

April 15, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GO ART!, news, arts, education, notify.

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Willow Amherein dances in her rehearsal for a green screen video production during the final day, today, of GO Art!'s spring week-long art camp for children.

GO Art! offers art camps during school breaks -- winter and spring -- to expose children to as much art as possible.

Many of the classes during the camp were taught by guest artists. The artists included:

  • Blanca Rodriguez from Avon, originally from Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. She demonstrated and helped the campers make traditional foods: tortillas, pico de gallo and a drink, agua de jamaica (Hibiscus flower "tea".)
  • Womba Africa, a Ghanaian drumming and dance group from Rochester. Their leader is Quaye Odai, and two other members of the group came on Friday, Odai and Raymon. They came to the U.S. in 2019 and settled in Rochester. They perform for all kinds of community events, concerts and do assemblies or visits to schools.
  • Grandmaster Yuanming Zhang, who earned international recognition for his expertise in medical qigong, internal martial arts, energy painting & calligraphy, practical application of the Yi-Jing, and remote energy healing. He did Calligraphy with the kids.

The students also painted and made 3D mosaics.

At the end of an interview, Mary Jo Whitman, education/SCR director for GO Art! as a group working at paintings on a nearby table, "What is art?" and Kashmarae Wissinger spoke up immediately: "It's everything!"

"That's right," Whitman said. "It's everything and that's the goal of our program."

Photos by Howard Owens

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Jodi Fisher working with students on their green screen video projects.

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Mary Jo Whitman mixing paint for a student.

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Thera Sanchez helping a student with her art project.

April 8, 2022 - 10:11am
posted by Press Release in GCC, solar, news, education.

Press release:

Genesee Community College has officially opened enrollment into its newest offering- the Solar Electric Technician Certificate for the Fall 2022 semester. Requiring a total of just 15 credit hours, this program is designed to be completed in as little as one semester. In addition, students can apply those credits toward a concentration within an Associate in Applied Science degree in Individualized Studies.

Careers in renewable energy in the form of solar electric (photovoltaic) grid systems are expanding rapidly throughout New York State both residentially and commercially. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for solar technology workers is projected to increase 50% over the next ten years which translates into roughly 6,000 new workers.

"Solar Tech skills have never been more relevant and more needed," said Director of Mathematics and Engineering Science, Christopher Kemp. "Solar projects from residential homes to major commercial solar farms are going up across the world and in our own back yards. The Solar Tech program is unique in that it can springboard directly into high-paying entry-level installer jobs, higher-level and specialized training, national accreditations, and four-year programs in renewable energy and the sciences. It can also enhance the current marketable skills of current practicing electricians, and educate individuals on the versatility and utility of solar technology. Starting out in solar is easy to do, and the opportunities are almost unlimited."

Upon graduation, GCC students are positioned to enter high-demand and lucrative solar-related employment opportunities, including residential and commercial solar panel installer, solar sales, solar electric maintenance, and recreational vehicle solar package installer.

Further details can be found at https://www.genesee.edu/home/academics/programs/tech/solartech/

Interested individuals are encouraged to apply for FREE online at https://www.genesee.edu/offices/admissions/apply/ or to call (585) 343-6800 or 1-866-CALL-GCC, or email [email protected].

April 3, 2022 - 6:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy Central Schools, Le Roy, schools, education, news.

Administrators with the Le Roy Central School District have been working on the 2022-2023 budget for weeks and are currently proposing $27,708,988 in expenditures, an increase of $839,701 from the 2021-2022 budget, or a 3.13% increase.

Superintendent Merritt Holly said officials still need to compare revenue numbers to help finalize the budget.

School districts do not yet know how much state aid they will receive, which is a significant portion of every district's revenue. Without that number, officials cannot say what the anticipated tax levy will be and what that will mean for the tax rate on property owners in the district.

Under the property tax cap, the district can increase the levy by 2.39 percent.   

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the auditorium of Wolcott School.

March 25, 2022 - 11:38pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, oakfield-alabama, drop-outs, education, notify, schools.

New York State’s high school drop-out rate has declined in recent years, to an all-time low of 5.6 percent, USAfacts.org says.

Still, nobody wants to see students drop out, even if it’s only one or two, as is the case at Oakfield-Alabama Central, Superintendent John Fisgus said during the district’s recent board meeting.

“We hate losing these kids at the last minute. They usually drop out by 17, as a junior, and they only have one year to go,” he said. “We want to see these kids leave with a high school diploma.”

He consulted with other school districts, including Batavia City Schools and Pembroke Central, about setting a legal drop-out requirement to age 17 for Oakfield-Alabama’s district, which has a legal age of 16 currently. The feedback from both schools led him to his proposal to the board: raise the legal drop-out age to 17.

“There were no negatives,” Fisgus said. “The board has the right to make it 17.”

A board member asked how many students this change would affect, and the answer was “maybe one or two.” But, according to the American Psychological Association, dropouts face “extremely bleak economic and social prospects” from not having a high school diploma. National statistics from 2012 showed more than 1 million high school students not graduating and earning that prized diploma. 

Those dropouts, compared to high school grads, are also less likely to find a job and earn a living wage, APA.org stated. 

“Poverty and dropouts are inextricably connected in the three primary settings affecting healthy child and adolescent development: families, schools and communities,” it stated.

Batavia City Schools not only has the higher age limit but also recently touted a 96 percent graduation rate and various educational and career-related activities being offered to upper-level high school students. Pembroke’s graduation rate is 92 percent, and both are higher than the state’s average of 86 percent. August 2021 data reported Oakfield-Alabama’s rate to be 86 percent. 

The remaining districts in Genesee County include Alexander Central, at 95 percent; Byron-Bergen at 98 percent; Elba at 80 percent; Le Roy at 90 percent; and Pavilion at 83 percent.

Lake Shore High School in Erie County made a move similar to Oakfield-Alabama in 2020, citing an 11 percent dropout rate. The school board adopted a new policy that would force students to remain in school until the end of the year in which they turn 17. The only exception is if they have a full-time job.

New York State law was revised in 2019 to extend the option, initially open to larger cities such as Buffalo and New York City, to rural and suburban districts. State law also exempts students who have full-time jobs.

Should Oakfield-Alabama’s board approve this policy change — something that “affects students and families to this extent” — families would be notified through ParentSquare, the district’s communication platform, Fisgus said. 

Board votes can take a while, however, since the group is entitled to up to three readings of a policy before taking a vote. This particular policy change has an expected timeline of approval in April, he said.

“We discussed it as an administrative team, and I am in full support of such a change moving forward,” he said.

March 24, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy hs, Le Roy Central Schools, news, education, schools, notify.

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Watching fellow students learn and grow because of the help you've given them and the friendship you've shown them is one of the most satisfying things in life, Evelyn Babcock told trustees of the Le Roy Central School District on Monday night. 

She recalled her interaction with one boy she tutored through a program called Knights Academic Access Program that she co-founded with her twin brother Brett Babcock.

"'I don't like it (school),'" she recalled a boy telling her.  "It's boring."  She added, exacerbated, "Oh, eighth-grade boys," eliciting laughter from the board, then she continued, "It's rewarding watching someone go from 19 in social studies to a 91 ... he was like ‘hey, this kind of isn’t that bad.’

"So to watch that drive sparked again, to see that drive and motivation and understanding organizational skills and understanding not just the academic portion but understanding optimism and attitude and energy and things like that that go into it, and watching a light go off in their eyes, is one of the most rewarding experiences I could ever say I had yet so far in high school."

Brett and Evelyn are highly motivated students.  They both have scholarships for Ohio State.  Evelyn is set on attending Ohio. She's even named her car "Scarlett" (one of the school's colors -- "I'm a bit obsessed," she told the board). But she doesn't know what she will major in.  She has "10,000 interests," she said.  Brett is a little less sure about Ohio but he's set on entering pre-med and becoming a doctor. 

With that degree of motivation, they found the options available for programs to help them meet their community service requirements were less than satisfying.

"My brother and I were looking for a way to give back going beyond painting rocks or chalk art on sidewalks," Evelyn told the board. "It’s pretty and all but our time is very valuable to us because we don’t have much of it and we're always busy so we wanted to put as much efficiency into our time as possible. We started contacting things like Big Brother/BigSister programs and trying to find a way and we were contacting everyone and there was no response, no results, so we were like, you know what, we’re going to start our own program.  Why not just start something?"

Sophomores at the time, it was the start of the pandemic.  It might be surprising that such motivated students felt they were falling behind academically.  

They thought if that was happening to them, what about students who were already doing poorly in school?  So they decided to start a peer-to-peer tutoring program. 

The twins contacted every person they knew, from administrators to fellow students, to try and get a tutoring program going.

Of course, the school supported it.  They cite former principal Tim McArdle especially for helping get the fledgling program off the ground, but say also Kelly Ronan, Austin Dwyer, and Jen Bertrand were supportive as well.

The reason the program has been successful, Brett told the board, is because it's student-run and there is a strong emphasis on tutors and the younger students building a friendship.

"It's not just tutoring," Brett said. "It's about having friends and having mentors."

"If we just made a tutoring program where you show up after school and you don't want to go to tutor but you're spending 45 minutes after school, I don't think it would be as successful, he said.  "We both preach, get a kid, stick with them, build a foundation, because it will be rewarding when you see them succeed in school but also see them laugh."

There are about 20 other student tutors and currently about 20 students being tutored.  And some of those tutors are ready to lead the program next year, Brett said, explaining that he's not worried about it going away after he and his sister graduate.

Not everyone who wants to be a tutor gets to be a tutor, Evelyn said.  There have been some sophomores who have applied to become tutors but they need to display both academic success and maturity. 

If sophomores are accepted, they tutor students younger than those typically assigned to juniors and seniors so that the tutor can maintain a level of separation and authority.

"The level of maturity needs to be there because you are impacting somebody’s life greatly, so we don’t want to be like, ‘hey, I want to be a tutor.’ No. That’s not how it’s going to work," Evelyn said.

Some students just need help at the end of a marking period.  Others need help all year.  Either way, the program is making a difference, the siblings said.

"We even get messages from their parents saying how it’s not just in school but at home, you can see their confidence rise due to they believe in themselves," Brett said. "They have a little bit more self-confidence because they see their grades rising and they can say, ‘I can actually do this.”  It’s so rewarding and it really shows how just a little step — this isn’t a huge program but for some people it is.  if you can save one person and help them grow as a person I would consider that win."

The board members were duly impressed.

"What you’re doing is awesome," said Trustee Rich Lawrence.  "You're planting seeds and those seeds are going to grow."

Vice President Denise Duthe said, "We're so so proud of you. The fact that you saw or thought that this was going to be something that people needed, and putting hours and hours into it is just outstanding."

The plaudits were followed by a round of applause from board members and administrators. 

Top photo: Brett and Evelyn Babcock present their tutoring initiative to Le Roy Central School Board during a meeting on Tuesday.

March 22, 2022 - 10:49pm
posted by Press Release in le roy hs, Le Roy, Le Roy Central Schools, schools, education, news, notify.

Press release:

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the Le Roy Board of Education unanimously approved Dr. David Russell as the new Jr/Sr High School Principal. Dr. Russell will start officially on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Dr. Russell is currently the assistant principal at the Cosgrove (Spencerport) Middle School, a position he has held since 2019. Previously he was the principal of the Western Wayne Summer Academy, a Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES program. Dr. Russell was also a special education teacher at Sodus Central School District and the True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School.

“We are very excited to bring Dr. Russell’s energy and passion to collaborate with our students, teachers, and parents,” said Merritt Holly, Superintendent of Schools. “He is a strong instructional leader who has consistently made positive connections with all stakeholders in his previous experiences. We look forward to Dr. Russell’s leadership as we continue to follow our vision to cultivate a world-class community of learners who exceed core local, state, national, and international standards.”

The mission of the Le Roy Central School District is to provide an exceptional, high-quality educational environment where all learners are empowered to succeed.

Dr. Russell earned a Bachelor of Arts, History, Adolescent Education from SUNY Geneseo, a Master of Education from Roberts Wesleyan College, and a Doctor of Education from the University of Rochester. Along with his special education certification, Dr. Russell also holds New York State certifications as a School Building and School District Leader.

The district posted the position on February 2, 2022, and 17 candidates applied. First-round interviews with four applicants were held on Friday, March 11, 2022. A 15-member committee consisting of students, teachers, parents, administration, and board members narrowed the field to two finalists. Second-round interviews with the administrative team took place on Thursday, March 17, 2022. A final interview with the superintendent was conducted on Friday, March 18, 2022.

Dr. Russell takes over for Mr. Tim McArdle, who left on Friday, February 4, 2022, to take an assistant principal position at Caledonia-Mumford Central School District. The district would like to sincerely thank Mrs. Beth Patton, who has been interim principal since Monday, February 7, 2022. 

March 22, 2022 - 5:24pm
posted by Press Release in Crosby's, news, John Kennedy School, batavia, schools, education.

3.21.22_reid_petroleum_jk_grant.jpg

Press release:

Each year, ExxonMobil offers more than $2M of grant funding to its distributors to support local schools in their marketing area. 

ExxonMobil has awarded John Kennedy Intermediate a $500 Educational Alliance Math & Science Grant under this program.

Reid Petroleum, a local distributor for ExxonMobil, has also matched the $500 donation, bringing the total grant amount to $1K.

The grant is authorized for use in a number of ways, including films, speakers, or field trips to science centers; Student volunteer programs; Scholarships or awards to encourage academic or leadership excellence in math or science; Science fairs, parent/student events; Educational tools, such as computers, math or science books, calculators, software geared toward math or science.

Since 2000, ExxonMobil has donated close to $1.25B in grants for the Educational Alliance program. 

CEO of Reid Petroleum, Paul Reid, shares a vision of education and community involvement and has been involved with the program for close to 15 years, expanding it to include more schools in the past few years under the leadership of Meredith Reid Harris.

This is the second year John Kennedy Intermediate has received a grant from Reid Petroleum/Crosby's.

Submitted Photo: Superintendent Jason Smith, John Kennedy Intermediate Principal Brian Sutton, Pam Kilgore, Team Leader at Crosby’s Batavia, Mike McCarthy, VP of Sales and Marketing, Reid Petroleum, Jack McCarthy, John Kennedy Intermediate Student, John Kennedy Intermediate Assistant Principal Heather McCarthy. 

March 18, 2022 - 7:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in techwars, GCEDC, news, education, notify.
Video Sponsor

During Tech Wars at GCC on Thursday, The Batavian spoke with Chris Suozzi, VP of business and workforce development for GCEDC, about how companies that are opening new operations here -- such as La Fermière and PlugPower -- as well as those that are expanding.

With labor markets tight, Suozzi said the future workforce of Genesee County can be found at events like TechWars, among the kids being turned on to engineering and technology.

He pointed to the $700,000 mechatronics training equipment acquired by BOCES on display at TechWars as one of the ways Genesee County is leading the state in workforce development.

GLOW with Your Hands, he noted, has also been a huge success and is also setting the pace in New York for workforce development. 

This summer, GCEDC starts up the Cornell in High School Program, which will provide training and job experience to 40 high school seniors in dairy science and sanitation in a boot-camp format.

Also this summer, people 18-24 will be able to participate in a tech-job training program that includes 16 hours of free classroom training and a 24-hour paid internship, each week for six weeks, that will lead to a paid apprenticeship with a participating local company. 

Both Suozzi and Rich Monroe, who is leading the mechatronics program at BOCES, mentioned several students who have successfully completed workforce development programs.  One went from selling car parts at $12.50 an hour to an apprenticeship at Barilla Pasta at $15 an hour and in less than a year with the company is now making $28 an hour.  Another student went from working at a convenience store to a job at USG where he started at $22 an hour and is now making $25 an hour.

All with student debt, Suozzi noted.

"It’s not to just go get a job," Monroe said. "It’s to further their education and to get more skills and make them more viable in the workplace."

March 17, 2022 - 8:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, notify, City Schools, UPK program, schools, education.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten to accommodate more than 100 children for the 2022-23 school year is on the table for consideration at Batavia City Schools.

A recommendation by Molly Corey is on the school board’s agenda for this week’s meeting. It’s set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Batavia High School, Superintendent's Conference Room, 260 State St.

Corey, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, has proposed UPK sites at Imagination Station and GLOW YMCA, in addition to Jackson Primary School, in order to accommodate 112 students. The expected price tag is $672,719, to be paid with federal UPK grant funding, Corey said in a memo to the superintendent. 

In other meeting items, the board is expected to vote on a proposal from Johnson Controls of Rochester for an energy performance contract. Promising a “positive cash flow” from state rebates and energy savings, the contract is for $2,357,531, to be paid off over the course of nearly 18 years at 2.75 percent interest. 

If approved, construction would begin in September of this year with a completion date of August 2023. 

Other votes and discussions include:

  • The 2022-23 preliminary $55 million budget, which includes a 1.62 percent tax levy increase. The board had its first budget workshop on Tuesday of this week to discuss a financial plan that left a gap of $315,716 to be paid for by taxpayers.
  • Setting the official registration, voting, and public hearing dates for the 2022-23 budget.
  • Revising the description of a school social worker to replace an itinerant social worker.
  • Approval of several personnel appointments and resignations.
  • A shared services agreement between Batavia City School District and the Town of Batavia for shared services and equipment use for a five-year term.
  • The purchase of sensory room equipment for Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate from Fun & Function and School Specialty for $22,031.99.

The meeting includes time for public comments and an executive session to discuss a resolution to “assert paid leave for an employee until further notice,” followed by the vote in open session. 

To view the meeting, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sGdRzmCW2Kg

March 16, 2022 - 2:32pm
posted by Press Release in BOCES, Alexander, schools, education, news.

j._rebmann_scholarship.jpg

Press release:

Rich Monroe describes Joe Rebmann as a self-starter. Monroe, the ElectroMechanical Trades Instructor at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, also noted that Joe tackles projects head-on and is a model student.

Joe Rebmann is a senior from Alexander and is a second-year student in the Electro-Mechanical Trades Program. Joe was recently awarded a $500 School-to-Work Scholarship from the Electrical Association of Western New York. According to the Electrical Association, the purpose of this scholarship is to be used toward the cost of tools for individuals seeking a career in the electrical trade.

Joe was recently chosen to participate in the Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program and was selected for a paid co-op at Tambe Electric. Joe has high hopes for this work opportunity as his goal is to go directly into the workforce after graduation.

“After my co-op, I want to continue working and I hope that Tambe Electric hires me. I love to work with my hands, and always had an interest in anything to do with electricity. When I was young, I used to wire circuit boards,” Joe said. “I will use this scholarship to purchase any tools so I’m ready to go to work.”

Monroe is confident that Joe’s co-op will lead to employment because Monroe describes Joe as “career-ready.”

“Joe is a great student who works independently, is able to decipher directions, and follow through with any task. He is an independent thinker and is totally employable,” Monroe said.

Joe recently had a work experience during a school day at the Batavia CTE Center replacing outdoor light fixtures with exterior LED lighting.

 “I worked with five juniors and I was the group leader. I showed them how to replace the fixture from chiseling concrete to making wire pigtails. We were able to replace all the fixtures on the building with little help from adults. I feel that this experience gave me great leadership and efficiency skills,” Joe explained.

Margaret Poray is the Executive Principal of the GV BOCES Batavia Campus. Like Monroe, she believes that Joe will be successful.

“Joe is a fine example of how our CTE programs prepare students for their next step in life, whether it be college or career. Each Batavia CTE Center program integrates both applied and practical skills into the curriculum as students gain hands-on experience in their chosen field. Joe is well-prepared and ready to go to work,” Poray said.

Submitted Photo: Margaret Poray, Executive Principal of the GV BOCES Batavia Campus, Joe Rebmann, and Rich Monroe, the ElectroMechanical Trades Instructor at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center.  Note:  the photo was taken before the mask mandate was lifted.

March 2, 2022 - 5:30pm
posted by Press Release in St. Paul, schools, education, news.

Press release:

St. Paul is an accredited elementary school in New York State that educates students from 3-year-old-preschool through grade 6.It provides a Christian education that fosters academics and excellence. Children experience a caring environment in which to grow in character and knowledge. Students are treated as individuals. Their unique talents, skills, and learning needs are valued and considered.

Bus transportation is available through the child's home school district, and before-school care is available.

For more information call (585)-343-0488 or send an email to [email protected].

March 1, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, education, COVID-19.

e2434402-a252-45ac-a067-d2b4f7a6ba1f.jpeg

As Genesee County school officials responded to New York State's decision to remove mask mandates in schools, they kept civility central to their messages. Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement on Sunday that masks would be optional for districts in New York State starting Wednesday. 

Batavia City School District 
City schools Superintendent Jason Smith sent a letter out to district families confirming that Hochul’s weekend announcement means that “every county in New York State will now have control over masking guidelines,” with the qualifier that districts may still require masks if the county’s COVID-19 data supports it. 

“We support this mask optional decision and look forward to a full return to normalcy, and we will continue to advocate local control,” Smith said to The Batavian on Monday. Part of that control includes how students and families react to the actions of others. 

“On Wednesday, March 2, families may still choose to send their children to school in masks and we fully stand behind the governor’s sentiments that masking is a personal choice, and no bullying of any sort will be tolerated,” Smith’s letter stated. “We will continue to provide information in the coming days leading up to Wednesday, March 2 on how the lifted mandate will specifically affect the Batavia City School District.”

Pembroke Central School
Likewise, Pembroke Central School District families also received a letter with an outline of what and will not be acceptable behavior once the mask mandate is gone. Masks will be optional for everyone, and harassment based on wearing or not wearing a mask “will not be tolerated,” Superintendent Matthew Calderon’s letter stated.

“All individuals, whether choosing to wear masks or not wear masks, will be respectful of every individual's right to choose,” Calderon said.

Pavilion Central School
Pavilion Central School families were reminded to follow district expectations to “respect everyone and their choice, be kind and continue to follow other safety protocols to keep our school community healthy,” Superintendent Kate Hoffman said. 

Although an announcement from Hochul was anticipated, it came earlier than expected, Hoffman said in the letter she sent out to district members. The district will also shift to mask-optional starting Wednesday, she said, with the exception of school buses “until we hear differently.”

The district will monitor COVID-19 data and the district will continue its work with Genesee County Department of Health and the school’s medical director, “as has been our practice,” Hoffman said.

She suggested that parents talk to their children about this upcoming change, and understand that many people look forward to going mask-free while others may still want to wear one. Testing will be available with parent consent or request, she said. 

Byron-Bergen Central School
For Byron-Bergen Central School, Superintendent Patrick McGee reiterated why Hochul chose to lift the mandate: strong COVID-19 vaccination rates, falling positivity rates, declining hospitalization rates, and new guidance from the CDC as criteria for this decision.

“We understand that this news will bring relief to some and cause apprehension for others. Our goal during this transition is to create safe spaces for all students and staff members,” McGee said in his district letter. “Thank you in advance for being understanding of the feelings and concerns of others and their personal choice about masking. Whatever choice a student and family makes, our staff will continue to create a welcoming and affirming environment for all.”

Oakfield-Alabama Central School
Oakfield-Alabama’s board had already approved a mask-optional policy during an emergency meeting on Feb. 9. The vote was a precursor to when/if the governor decided to eliminate the mask mandate in schools. Superintendent John Fisgus sent out a letter to the O-A school community Sunday after Hochul’s announcement, and also plans to follow up with staff.

“I am meeting with our District staff over the next 48 hours to provide direction on how to proceed given the absence of this mandate,” Fisgus said.

His letter, sent out on Sunday, asked that “everyone respect the decisions of each individual within our school community.” He also recognized the difficulty of the past two years, given the “ever-changing guidance and restrictions.”

“This time is long overdue,” he said. “Please know that I will be meeting with our faculty and staff over the next two days given this announcement and to ensure our clarity with the new stated mandates.”

Le Roy Central School
Merritt Holly, superintendent of Le Roy Central School, said the district has already spread the word to students, parents, teachers, and staff about masks being optional come Wednesday. A robocall and emails were sent out on Sunday, with expectations that Monday and Tuesday of this week will provide time for parents and teachers to “discuss what is best for their child/student on Wednesday,” Holly said. 

“We will continue to offer daily testing for those that are interested,” he said. “Overall, we are supporting students, teachers, and staff in having a choice in wearing or not wearing a mask now that the mandate has been lifted.”

Elba Central School
In her letter to Elba’s “Lancer family,” Superintendent Gretchen Rosales shared the news of optional masks and urged families “to consult with your family physician to determine what your child’s best health needs may be.”

Elba Central School has a “plentiful supply of masks” for those wanting to continue wearing them, and an “abundance of rapid COVID test” on hand for any family that would like some. Regardless of an individual’s preference, “we will continue to respect the opinions of each other,” Rosales said.

“Our district’s vision of a respectful, safe, and engaging environment will always be paramount,” she said. “Above all, I want to thank all of you for partnering with us as a school district over the past two years. While not every family is at the same level of comfort, nor does each person agree with lifting a mask mandate, our willingness to work together and remain understanding has been a cornerstone of our community.”

Alexander Central School Superintendent Jared Taft did not respond to requests for comment. 

File photo: New Superintendent Jason Smith is shown with Student Co-Mayor Mackenzie Harmon and Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler during a prior Monday morning announcement at the high school. Masks will now become optional for students and staff as of Wednesday. Photo by Howard Owens.

February 27, 2022 - 10:08pm
posted by Press Release in schools, education, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting on March 2, 2022. The Governor made this decision based on the analysis of several key COVID-19 data trends and after consulting with health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers and school administrators. The announcement also follows recent changes in metrics used by the CDC to determine risk and transmission levels in communities. Other mitigation measures should remain in place.

"With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools," Governor Hochul said. "This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we've reached this milestone because of your hard work."  

New York has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Among large states, New York has the highest rate of adults fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the highest rate of teenagers fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and the second-highest rate of children ages 5-11 fully vaccinated. New York State has experienced a 98 percent decline in COVID-19 cases since the Omicron peak, and a continuous downward trend in cases for 51 consecutive days.  

The number of children testing positive for COVID is declining to levels not seen since before students returned from summer break; yesterday 229 cases were reported compared to a 7-day average of 832 cases at the beginning of the school year. Pediatric hospitalizations have declined by roughly 80 percent since the Omicron peak. 

Ahead of Midwinter break, 4.8 million tests were sent to schools for children to take home. An additional 4.8 million tests will be sent this week for students to take home upon their return to school. In total, 20.8 million tests have been distributed to schools. Over the past six weeks, the State established 261 #VaxForKids sites, bringing the vaccine directly to New York families to help parents and guardians get their eligible children vaccinated and boosted.  

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, today we are able to lift the statewide mask requirement for schools. As Governor Hochul said, we will remain vigilant as New York moves forward, and our team at the Department of Health will continue to monitor the data and advance early warning monitoring systems like wastewater surveillance. We continue to urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get boosted, and we will work with our partners in education statewide to ensure our schools, teachers, and students have the support they need to keep our classrooms healthy and safe." 

State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, "I thank the Governor for her leadership. Working together we look forward to keeping our schools safe for students and educators."

Statement from NYSUT:

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement today regarding the governor’s announcement that the statewide mask requirement for schools is ending:

“We welcome this step toward normalcy. The governor is striking the right balance by empowering local officials to use data to determine if and when the mitigation strategies need to change in their areas. As the guidance changes, one thing must remain constant: It’s essential that districts work closely with educators to ensure there is confidence in their health and safety plans.”

February 18, 2022 - 6:05pm
posted by Press Release in cyberbullying, news, City Schools, education, schools.

Press release:

On Thursday, February 17, 2022, the Batavia City School District Board of Education voted unanimously on a resolution endorsing New York State Senate Bill S7600 and Senate Bill S1477A, which serve as amendments to provisions of the State Education and Penal Laws to address an increase in harassment made through the use of electronic communications. 

The State Senate has introduced Senate Bill S7600, sponsored by Senator Edward A. Rath III, amending the State Education Law to include a provision that a person who engages in a repeated course of cyber-bullying of a minor shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor, and Senate Bill S1477A, amending the State Penal Law to include contacts via text, private message, direct message, or email or other electronic communication in the definition of the offense of aggravated harassment in the second degree. S7600 is currently under review by the State Senate Education Committee, and S1477A has passed the State Senate and is awaiting passage by the State Assembly. 

The Batavia City School District's Code of Conduct expressly prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying. With the approval of the resolution, "the Board of Education hereby affirms its commitment to foster a safe and inclusive learning environment for its students free from all forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying, and supports the efforts of the State Senate to adopt legislation which is consistent with that commitment. This resolution shall take effect immediately." 

"It was important for the Board of Education to show our support for Senator Rath's cyberbullying bill. It is our top priority to ensure students in our district remain safe, healthy, and free from bullying of any kind–and the endorsement of this bill affirms that," said Alice Ann Benedict, BOE President.

"We were happy to work with Senator Rath on endorsing this important and timely initiative. We look forward to the bill passing for the safety of the students throughout New York State," said BCSD Superintendent Jason Smith.

"It is no secret that our children are facing many challenges these days. Unfortunately, with the rise in internet use comes the danger of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying incidents are on the rise, and we must do something to protect our children. That is why I have introduced legislation to make cyberbullying a misdemeanor. Teaching our children that their actions on the internet carry consequences is critical," said Senator Rath.

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