Skip to main content

John Kennedy Intermediate School

Bugs and toads and ferris wheels help bring kids into 21st Century at BCSD

By Joanne Beck
summer program at john kennedy school
Augustus Rojo-Hallock, Logan Oxencis and Lavanya Main talk about a board game during the 21st Century Innovation Camp this week at John Kennedy School. The camp ran for five weeks, ending Friday. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

First-time business owner Ember Arend enjoyed the prospects of running a fish ’n chip shop in Batavia, she said, thought there were plenty of lessons to learn before finding success.

First, she would have to price her meals something more reasonable to turn a profit.

“I had my fish listed for $1 or $2 and had to put it up to $13 to make some money,” the 10-year-old said at John Kennedy Intermediate School. “And an employee wanted to sell burgers, and I said no, I’m lowering your payment because you said we’re selling burgers.”

Perhaps that’s why the soon-to-be fifth-grader said that the nature class was her favorite: she only dealt with toads. 

Ember is one of 45 children who participated in Batavia City School District’s inaugural 21st Century innovation camp this summer that ran along with summer school.

Meant to be a “nurturing, fun environment,” the five-day per week program offered three different courses: nature and exploration, building and engineering, and music and drama. 

The 21st Century program is grant-based and offered through the state Education Department by application.

“We applied because we wanted to have more opportunities for kids outside of the school day,” said Dr. Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction. "And it was nice the 21st Century allowed us to expand summer programming to include additional things, fun things, for kids to do in a structured environment after the extended day programming.”

Rather than a set content that is done during the school year, this is considered to be more of an “enrichment program,” teacher Alyssa Elliott said. 

summer program at john kennedy school teacher
Teacher Alyssa Elliott

“So within those three areas, the teachers have been setting up fun, different prompts. Today in the building room, they were creating a Ferris wheel and cars, and in the nature room, they were creating bug hotels with natural materials. And in the music and drama room today, they were creating board games,” Elliott said. “So they set up those prompts and see what the students do with it and ask them questions to get them to explore their interests even further. Or there's a student that is really interested in building, and they're in there, and they come up with another idea that teachers just run with it and help them explore their curiosities and what they're interested in and try to connect it back to the academic content as much as possible, but it's more of like an open-ended exploration.”

There’s an extended day-school violence grant that “allows us to do after-school activities for at-risk students, Corey said, and the 21st Century program is open to all students. 

“So we really wanted to expand based on interest,” she said. “After this summer, we’ll open it, technically it could be for K through 12. But we just did it this year, we started small with one site. But our intent is to expand it in all schools for after school in the fall and next summer.”

The grant program is for five years, and according to the state Education Department’s website, the grant is for $228,393.

Considering it’s summertime and most of the kids have been making it to school every day, that might say something about the program’s success so far. 

Augustus Rojo-Hallock has been having so much fun, he was going to be sad when it ends on Friday, he said. 

“I’ll wait to next year for summer school to come back again,” the eight-year-old said while showing his partially crafted Ferris wheel.  “This can spin by itself.”

While it may sound merely like fun and games, there’s more to the projects, Elliott said. 

“They had to be able to look at the pictures of the directions and read the words and problem solve. If something wasn't working, we had to figure out what they did incorrectly and how they can improve and personally persevere through solving it because it was really tricky,” she said. “And then with the bug hotels is the same kind of problem-solving skills, trying to design something and seeing what works and what doesn't. And then the board games, they were doing a lot of writing and thinking ahead …”

Augustus named building and engineering as his favorite space because “it does a lot of fun things,” including the Lego boat, magnet and milk carton car that he got to make by himself. 

Logan Oxencis and Lavanya Main explained how they created a board game, they titled “The Game That Never Ends (until after 20 rounds),” complete with handmade dice and board pieces. 

Logan, going into fourth grade, made a diamond card, helicopter, motorcycle, and Superman, using bright colors for each. 

“This is a little challenging,” he said. “I decided to put in some color and make it not dull. And the dice is colorful, so it’s not boring.”

They also drafted rules, which began with no cheating. That seemed to be a common starting point, as nine-year-old Mira Ferrando’s Candy Planet game also began with “Don’t Cheat!” And ended with “Don’t Quit and Have Fun.”

Did they ever hit a point where they weren’t sure what to do?

“Some parts I didn’t know what to do,” eight-year-old Lavanya said. “I just figured out what to do, I figured it out in my mind.”

Over at nature and exploration, Lucas Norman had “the most fun,” he said, building a bug hotel out of outdoor debris and household goods — leaves, moss, toilet paper rolls, part of a plastic pop bottle and a shoe box, to name a few items.

And, of course, there was one other important reason.

“Because we got to explore outside, and we got to see a toad,” he said.

The 21st Century camp ran for five weeks as one of several district extended-year programs, including acceleration camps, SOAR, math and literacy camps, and My Brother’s Keeper. 

After COVID’s social distancing separated kids from the school environment, teachers and their classmates for so long, many educators had noticed setbacks in student learning. The Batavian asked how these students are doing now.

“I think one of the biggest things from COVID was the social-emotional piece. And I think that's one thing that the summer programs really helped with, just interacting with other kids and doing group work, and even just coming in school and having those conversations with teachers,” Elliott said. “And so I think that's a really important piece that the summer programs helped to address and something that I saw kids struggle a little bit with after being gone for so long. And I also see some improvement in mathematics if I know that they were at summer school.”

summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
Mira Ferrando checks out her board game, Candy Planet, during camp at John Kennedy School in Batavia. 
Photo by Howard Owens.
summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
summer program at john kennedy school
Lucas Norman and Ember Arend show off their bug hotel. 
 Photo by Howard Owens.
summer program at john kennedy school

Polar Plunge at John Kennedy raises $8,700 for Special Olympics

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
/**/ //

City School District employees, administrators, teachers, and staff, along with first responders from Batavia, participated in a Special Olympics fundraiser on Friday -- a polar plunge -- outside of John Kennedy Intermediate School.

The participants dashed -- in freezing weather -- under the spray of a fire truck's hose and got soaked.

The event raised $8,700 for Special Olympics.

Kelly Ligozio, senior development director for Special Olympics in Western New York, said the Buffalo polar plunge was last week and typically honors the school in Western New York that raised the most money for Special Olympics.  But Ligozio said she told the director, who has been in the position for 23 years, that they had to wait for Batavia's event before naming a winner.  The director wanted to maintain tradition, but Ligozio said the agency owed it to Batavia to wait because Batavia was the only school district to continue to hold the fundraising event during the pandemic.

So, they waited.

And Batavia won.  Special Olympics will host an ice cream social at John Kennedy sometime this year and the school's colors will be part of the Polar Plunge sweatshirt next year.

"It's amazing," Ligozio said. "What's amazing about it is how they've broadened it to include all the schools in the district so all the different schools can participate."

Giving some latitude for gratitude during Thanksgiving event at John Kennedy Intermediate

By Joanne Beck


John Kennedy Intermediate School Principal Brian Sutton took a little extra time to get dressed Tuesday. He sported some fancy headgear: a whimsical cloth turkey of bright yellow, orange and red, with two legs dangling over Sutton’s ears. 

He briefed excited groups of students of the day’s events in between roast turkey, expressing gratitude and just having fun. 

“Today we actually have quite a few things happening,” he said to students gathered outside. “You’ll have a half hour to do all of the activities.”

Sutton and the school community, including parents and other family members, took those 30 minutes in each group of second, third and fourth-graders to enjoy the sunshine, mindfulness exercises, a soothing cup of hot chocolate, and each other.

There were stations for the kids to visit and perform activities, which included writing something they were thankful for on index cards. Teachers carved turkey for students to enjoy beforehand, followed by a Gratitude Walk, second grade Macy’s Day parade and reading aloud the index cards filled with Thanksgiving sentiments. A book drop provided opportunity for students to bring in and/or take a book to read during the upcoming break. 

A collection effort led by school counselor Eric Knapp motivated staff and students to donate enough food items so that a dozen Batavia City School District families would have a Thanksgiving dinner. Assisted by city police and fire department members, the meals were delivered later Tuesday. 

The day was focused on one central element, Sutton said.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to reflect on what they’re thankful for, what they’re grateful for, and reflect on what’s important at this time of year,” he said. 



Top photo: John Kennedy Intermediate School Principal Brian Sutton instructs students before they participate in several activities related to Thanksgiving Tuesday at the Vine Street School. Photos by Steve Ognibene

Batavia's John Kennedy school gets two $500 STEAM grants

By Press Release


Submitted photo and press release:

The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) program at John Kennedy Intermediate School in Batavia received a $500 Educational Alliance Program grant from the ExxonMobil Corporation, which was then matched by the local distributor that had initiated the grant application, Reid Petroleum Corporation.

Mike McCarthy, vice president of Reid Petroleum, along with his grandson, Jack, currently a third-grader at John Kennedy, presented the two checks to John Kennedy’s STEAM teacher, Melissa Calandra at the Crosby’s convenience store/gas station in Batavia. Crosby’s is a subsidiary of Reid Petroleum.

Reid Petroleum had taken the lead initially by applying for the ExxonMobile grant on behalf of John Kennedy. When their office received word that the school would receive a check for $500, they decided to match it. As the money can only be used for math or science, it will go to support hands-on activities that go along with science lessons in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, which is run by Calandra.

“I am so excited, and so grateful,” Calandra said. “This will be such a big boost for our students and our STEAM program.”

Photo: Melissa Calandra, John Kennedy’s STEAM teacher, left, and Vice President of Reid Petroleum Mike McCarthy, right, with his grandson, Jack.

Families invited to annual Warm the Night event at Batavia Middle School

By Press Release

Press release:

This Thursday, Nov. 19, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Batavia Middle School and John Kennedy Intermediate are hosting a COVID-19 friendly event for all Batavia City School District families.

The annual Warm the Night will be held at Batavia Middle School at 96 Ross St.

Families are invited to come and pick out gently used and new winter clothing (including coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots) for members of their family.

In addition, representatives from many community agencies will be available with information about their programs and services. The growing list of agencies includes:

  • Community Action of Genesee and Orleans
  • Catholic Charities
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • AmeriCorps
  • Liberty Center
  • Neighborhood Legal Services
  • Connect 2-1-1
  • Batavia City Fire Department  

Also, Christina Kulesz, DC, a Batavia chiropractor, will be there for free chair massages. There will be other free giveaways as well, including free Timbits and hot chocolate.

Photos: John Kennedy School fourth-grade moving up ceremony

By Steve Ognibene


More than 170 fourth-grade students from John Kennedy Intermediate School celebrated Moving Up Day as they will enter in the Middle School this coming school year in September.

Principal Amanda Cook presented along with teachers for various academics, merit, arts, physical education and school based awards to students. Many parents, educators, family and friends celebrated today's ceremony.







Photos: 2018 John Kennedy School Pasta Night

By Steve Ognibene


Photos from last evening's 27th annual Pasta Night fundraiser at John Kennedy Intermediate School, Batavia. Many local businesses contributed to raffles, door prizes and fun for all who attended. 

Principal Amanda Cook thanked all the supporters including teachers, parent volunteers, Batavia Middle School eighth-grade mentors and scouts from Troop 6006.








Public invited to meet John Kennedy school principal candidates this week

By Mike Pettinella

Press release:

This week, students, staff and parents will have opportunities to meet with the final two candidates for the position of principal of John Kennedy Intermediate School.

Lauren Combo, currently the director of Curriculum and Instruction in the Perry Central School District, will be at the school on Wednesday, Nov. 29, and Amanda Cook, currently the assistant principal at the Byron-Bergen Elementary School, will be there on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Each will begin their respective afternoons with the current principal, Paul Kesler, for a tour of the building, then visit a second-grade class to share a story with students. Afterward, each will meet with the interview team, then staff members. The afternoon will conclude with a meet-and-greet at 2:45 for all interested parents and teachers. 

A team of teachers, clerical and custodial workers, parents and administrators narrowed the field of initial applicants down to seven interviews and then four candidates. Those four were interviewed by the District Leadership Committee, including Board members Patrick Burk and Barbara Bowman. Out of those interviews came the two finalists.

Combo began her career in Le Roy as an AIS (Academic Intervention Services) math teacher for grades two and three, then as a kindergarten teacher. During that time, she took on the position of Elementary Math Curriculum coordinator, and worked as principal for two summer programs – including Batavia’s TEAM Literacy program.

After working as an administrative intern in the Perry District, she was hired by them as the director of Curriculum and Instruction. In that most recent position, she planned, implemented and evaluated instructional programs with teachers and building administrators; facilitated monthly data meetings; oversaw intervention and enrichment activities and programs; provided professional development; assisted in conducting K-12 observations; collaborated on the creation of a K-12 instructional technology plan; and was the test coordinator for all assessments and exams.

Cook began her education career as a Special Education teacher in Pavilion Central Schools. Five years ago she was hired as Byron-Bergen Elementary School’s assistant principal where she honed skills in instructional leadership and school operations management.

In instructional leadership, she developed and earned statewide recognition for a character education program using input from district-wide stakeholders; incorporated proactive and positive behavior practices within the school-wide student management program; led the design and implementation of local curriculum and bully prevention programs; coordinated service learning programs within the community; created student leadership opportunities to enhance school culture; implemented assembly programs to support classroom character education instruction; and partnered with teachers to complete professional observations as part of the APPR process.

In school operations, she coordinated scheduling and accommodations for NYS assessments, including the field testing of computer-based testing; managed student behavior through communication with teachers and families; developed time-efficient master schedules to maximize instructional and Response to Intervention times; facilitated building safety committee to ensure thorough and efficient practices; and implemented programs to streamline professional learning and evaluation processes.

Each candidate will begin her session with a brief biography and then respond to questions from attendees.

At the next Board of Education meeting on Dec. 5, Superintendent Christopher Dailey will recommend the appointment of one of these candidates to the Board of Education, with the intention of having the new JK principal begin work by Jan. 1.

John Kennedy School to host inaugural three-mile community-wide 'color run' to raise money on Oct. 21

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The students of John Kennedy Intermediate School will host its inaugural community-wide My School Color Run on Saturday morning, Oct. 21, to raise money for their school. Check-in begins at 9 and the race starts at 10.

Cost is $25 for preregistration; $30 day of the event.

The My School Color Run is an untimed three-mile fun run for everyone in the community, of all ages and fitness abilities. Along the route, participants pass through vibrant color zones, making it a “colorful experience.”

Additionally, each pre-registered participant is provided with a single powder color packet that will be thrown in the air at the final color celebration at the finish line.

“Rather than sell goods, we want to engage the entire student body in a fitness initiative that aims to encourage a lifelong healthy way of living,” says run coordinator Courtney Marsh.

Participants who register by Oct. 2 will receive a T-shirt, race bib, and individual color packet.

You can sign up for the run by visiting or by completing a paper registration form.

Business sponsorship opportunities are also available. Please contact the event organizer (Courtney Marsh) for more information.

At a glance:
WHAT: My School Color Run for John Kennedy Intermediate School

WHEN: 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 21
WHERE: John Kennedy Intermediate School, 166 Vine St, Batavia

CONTACT: Courtney Marsh – 585-343-2480, ext. 5000

Photos: Fun in the mud

By Steve Ognibene


Have you heard of Dirty Girl? How about Tough Mudder? Well, the second annual John Kennedy School “Sons and Mudders” event kicked off last night. More than 300 sons and moms participated in the half-mile obstacle course. Some of the course events consists of sprinklers, tug-of-war, slip-'n'-slide to name a few, but most of the entertainment happens when they go through the mud crawl, said Allision Chua who is co-chair of tonight’s event.

David Chua came up with the “Sons and Mudders” name last year when they had 225 participants.

“It’s to promote and improve fitness for all age levels and to have some fun with our sons," said Allision Chua. "We have our annual father-daughter dance in February and our JK parent group got together to come up with some ideas with Jennifer Houseknecht who co-chaired the event last year and thought this would be a big hit and tonight showed it."


Three different time slots were broken up by grades from second to fourth to accommodate everyone.

Allison said, "We could not do it without our sponsors."

Muller Quaker, donated the yogurt and Artic Refrigeration, the ice and water for after each group finished. 

T-Shirts Etc. printed the shirts and nearly 30 local businesses donated toward the costs of the event. 


Dave Fisher runs the “Mud Crawl” and if you don’t get mud on you, he makes sure you do. AD Call & Sons helped with the covering costs for the dirt used for the event.

For more photos and to purchase go to: Steve Ognibene Photography




John Kennedy Teacher Linda Restivo’s Day Was Made Better

By Kathie Scott

It was a pretty good day to begin with for fourth grade teacher Linda Restivo, but it was made better, thanks to Office Max,, and John Kennedy Principal Paul Kesler. Mrs. Restivo received a surprise visit from OfficeMax representatives, Mr. Kesler, and Superintendent of Schools Christopher Dailey to be awarded $1,000 worth of classroom supplies. In addition to a new and very comfortable chair, there were two huge boxes filled with everything imaginable on a back-to-school list, and then some – from pens, pencils, composition notebooks, and paperclips to a Kindle Fire HD and digital camera.

The gift was part of the OfficeMax A Day Made Better advocacy program which was started to ease the financial burden on American teachers who, according to Office Max, spend approximately $1000 of their own money each year on essential classroom supplies. OfficeMax and its nonprofit partner,, joined together in 2007 to create A Day Made Better and, since then, have paid surprise visits to approximately 100,000 classrooms nationwide. Teachers are nominated by their principals and selected based on demonstrated passion, dedication and innovation in the classroom.

“Mrs. Restivo is always positive which makes her a wonderful part of our school staff,” said Mr. Kesler. In nominating her, he highlighted her dedication and enthusiasm, saying, “Mrs. Restivo continually connects with each student to help them feel like part of the classroom community and to help them meet their academic potential. In addition, she co-facilitates our School Improvement Team, helps coordinate school events, is very approachable with parents, and volunteers for many Parent Group events.”

After making so many days better for others, Mrs. Restivo has a particularly memorable one of her own. 


(See pictures at

Authentically Local