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Le Roy Central School District

April 10, 2019 - 4:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Central School District, news, notify.

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The sound of music will still be heard in Le Roy in the coming school year despite concerns that rippled through choral classes that the Central School District Board of Trustees wanted to scale back the program.

In fact, school officials hit all the right notes in a boardroom packed with music students and parents who came to Tuesday's meeting in response to rumors that a chorus teaching position would be eliminated in the proposed 2019-20 budget.

Board President Jackie Whiting told the group that just as there are six teachers in the music department now, there will be six music teachers at the elementary and middle school/high school next year.

Rather than cutting position, the district is adding the equivalent of two and a half teachers, if the budget is approved by voters, in 2019/20, including a special education teacher specializing in reading for first- and second-graders, and a teacher for business education classes (such as computer science, career and finance, advertising and marketing, and accounting).

Superintendent Merritt Holly indicated that the concerns about the music department seemed to stem from a thorough and exhausting budget process that had the budget and finance committee asking a lot of hard questions about what should stay and what should go and what should be added in the coming school year.

"In our conversations we looked at every area inside this budget to provide a program that is, number one, fiscally responsible, and number two, moves up the level of our students up so they can compete, not only in our region, not just in Western New York and Upstate, but across the country and, in fact, as part of the global economy," Holly said.

Like many school boards, Le Roy's allows a forum for public comment early in its agenda and then the public is not given a chance to speak during board discussions of actual agenda items. So before budget came up for board discussion and the members in attendance actually knew no teachers were being eliminated from the music department, four people stood before the board and made their case for retaining a full complement of music teachers.

Speakers include Rita Pencilla, representing the Music Boosters, Megan Privatera, a senior, Aubry Puccio, an elementary school student, and Matthew Austin, a parent.

They all made points about the importance of music to education, the role music plays in shaping students and improving their grades and test scores, and the importance of Le Roy's music programs to the community.

"We have a large number of students who go on to study music or participate in music after graduation," Pencilla said. "This pattern shows that we are cultivating talent and these students need solid foundations in music before graduating."

She added later, "Many studies support the importance of music education and how it improves language and reasoning skills, and the spatial intelligence needed to solve advanced mathematics problems. Students involved in music education are more successful on standardized tests and get better grades."

Austin admitted he's tone deaf and owns the largest collection of guitars of anybody who can't play guitar, but said he's amazed by the progress he sees over the years of students advancing through the district's music programs.

"I’ve really come to appreciate the teachers because they’re here all the time," Austin said. "They give and they give and they give. They’re not just creating singers or dancers or players. They’re creating future citizens that are going to rock the world."

Before telling those in attendance that the budget did not include music department staff cuts, Whiting explained a bit about the budget process.

"None of the decision making is random," she said. "It’s not rash, and it definately involves our staff. They are the key to what happens here, too. In discussions with staff, scenarios may be thrown out, what if we did this, what if we changed that, what if we thought about this. What would it look like if we had one less staff? And that was a discussion that brought all of you people here today. But it was part of a discussion where there is a lot of options."

The proposed budget is $25,909,998, which is $710,770 more than the current fiscal year.

The state's cap on property tax levies would allow the district to increase its local levy 3.45 percent, said Business Manager Brian Foeller. The district is proposing a tax levy increase of 2.89 percent.

The actual proposed budget has not yet been made available to the public yet but there is a vote scheduled for May 2.

Among the highlights outlined by Holly and staff at Tuesday's meeting is the addition of a reading specialist for first- and second-graders.

"If we don’t have students ready to go at grade level by third grade, then we're fighting an uphill battle in math," Holly said.

He gave credit to Wolcott Principal Carol Messura for advocating for the position, even while he pushed back and challenged her on the need.

"Early intervention is the key and we just do not have enough staff to support that early intervention need down in the primary house," Messura said. "With the addition of a reading teacher, my focus will be my first and second grade. It will make a difference."

High School Principal Tim McArdle made the case for increasing the business instructor core from the equivalent of one and a half teachers to three.

"We've been very methodical with business and allowed the data to speak for itself," McArdle said. "We've looked at the number of students who are interested and who are going to college in this field. We're up now to 140 students for the third straight year, up from below 100, the upper 90s, in previous years."

One piece of consistent feedback alumni give is that they wish there had been more computer science instruction available when they were in school and that every student should take the career/finance course.

McArdle said he hopes to see 90 percent of the graduates with that course on their transcripts.

Holly said he felt now is the right time to expand what the school offers to juniors and seniors in business instruction.

"We’re ready right now to make that next step for our students in offering an elective set at the junior and senior level that I would put up against anybody in our region pound for pound with our student enrollment," Holly said.

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Matthew Austin speaking.

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Jackie Whiting at the head of the table.

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Merritt Holly, superintendent.

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At the start of the meeting, Josh Englerth was recognized for his Section V title in wrestling.

March 26, 2019 - 6:14pm
Press release:
 
The NAMM Foundation has designated Le Roy Central School District as one of the 2019 Best Communities for Music Education in the nation.
 
This designation by the foundation for the National Association of Music Merchants is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. Le Roy is one of 623 districts in the United States receiving the prestigious award in 2019.
 
Congratulations to the Le Roy music teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community leaders on this distinguished designation!
 
Le Roy has received this designation 13 out of the last 14 years and continues to thrive in providing music education through many opportunities throughout the district. The program supports 320 students in chorus and 190 students in band throughout our district offering vocal and instrumental performance ensembles for students in grades 4-12 as well as a competitive marching band.
 
Annually, the program produces a 6th grade musical and a Jr.-Sr. High musical. In the classroom, general music and a variety of Sr. High electives are also offered each year.   
 
"On behalf of the Board of Education and the entire Le Roy Central School District, we are extremely proud to be recognized again as a 2019 Best Communities for Music Education. This prestigious honor signifies the continued dedication and passion our teachers and students have each day to excel in music education. Congratulations to our administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community for setting high expectations in order to achieve this tremendous accomplishment!" 
Merritt Holly -- Le Roy Superintendent   
 
"Wolcott Street School is proud to congratulate and celebrate our wonderful students, staff, and parents for earning "lucky number 13" - Best Community for Music Education! Our K-12 program works tirelessly to provide an exceptional learning experience for ALL students. We are privileged for this wonderful distinction for another consecutive year." 
Carol Messura -- Wolcott Street School Principal  
 
"We are so proud of our music students and staff who year in and year out produce high-level performances on our stages, in the pit, in competition, and on the field across many places throughout the region. Our program is so successful because of the dedicated teachers, families, and our community who continue to offer so many opportunities for our students. We thank our students for their commitment and willingness to perform at such a high level. We are a small school that continues to produce big results, and our music program is one of the many special aspects of being an Oatkan Knight!" 
Tim McArdle -- Jr.-Sr. High School Principal  
 
"We are honored to receive this wonderful designation for a 13th year, which casts a national spotlight on what all of us in the Le Roy community already knew; that the parents, teachers, school administrators, board of education, and members of this community work together tirelessly to provide a multitude of first rate musical outlets, educational opportunities, and experiences for the growth and benefit of our students. Thank you NAMM Foundation for this recognition!" 
Matt Nordhausen -- Le Roy Music Department Chair  
 
For more information, click here.
October 3, 2018 - 2:38pm

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Press release:

Le Roy Central School is proud to announce that Jr.-Sr. High School Math teacher Taryn Nole was one of the 275 educators from across the state selected to join the New York State Master Teacher Program.

Mrs. Nole is in her 17th year teaching at Le Roy and has taught eighth-grade Math, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus over her years with the Oatkan Knights. For the last five years, she has served as the 7-12 grade Math Department chair. 

Taryn Nole
"When I learned of the work the NYS Master Teacher program was doing I made it a professional goal of mine to become a part of the program. Through collaborations with other teachers, I will be able to strengthen my pedagogical skills and deepen my math content knowledge. This opportunity will allow me to share best practices with other educators as I continue to look for ways to improve my students' experiences in the classroom."

Merritt Holly, Superintendent -- Le Roy Central School
"Congratulations to Taryn Nole on being selected to join an elite group of educators in the New York State Master Teacher Program! Taryn's dedication to teaching, especially in the area of mathematics, has been a great resource for our District as she continues to encourage more students to pursue STEM studies and careers. To join a list of 275 new members and 980 total Master Teachers across New York State is a great individual honor for Taryn and for our Le Roy Central School District students."   

Tim McArdle, Principal -- Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School
"We are beyond excited to have Taryn be selected for the NYS Master Teacher Program. Taryn's willingness to grow as an educator and as a lifelong learner has allowed her to continue to expand her instructional skill set and serve our students at a high level every day. She is also a teacher leader willing to work with colleagues to enhance educational practices both in our district and regionally. Taryn positively impacts students in a myriad of ways in and out of the classroom year in and year out. Congratulations to Taryn and her family!"

September 10, 2018 - 3:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy Central School District, Le Roy, news, notify.

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A new arrangement this year between the Village of Le Roy and the Le Roy Central School District will ensure both Wolcott Street School and Le Roy MS/HS will have a nearly constant law enforcement presence.

The arrangement is possible with the retirement of Officer Eric Miller, who was the School Resource Officer at the high school, splitting some time with Wolcott, since 2003, and a change in state law that allows Miller to now become an employee of the district to perform the same duties, and the willingness of the Village to continue to partially fund an SRO position.

The state has created a classification of school employees known as "special patrol officers." These are former law enforcement officers who remain qualified to perform the duties of an officer.

In Miller's case, not only is he still qualified, he has returned to Le Roy PD as a part-time officer, which will help him maintain his qualifications.

While Miller is at the high school, Le Roy PD has assigned two part-time officers to rotate coverage, one week on, one week off, at the elementary school.

"I think when we looked at what the county proposed, though we were interested in that idea, we felt that getting coverage in both buildings was non-negotiable," said Superintendent Merritt Holly. "I think the setup that we have here provides us with the opportunity to have an armed police officer in this building and a special patrol officer in the other building, so it gives us now the coverage that we're looking for."

His SRO position was created in 2003 shortly after Columbine (the April 1999 high school massacre in Jefferson County, Colo.) and he served both campuses.

His job, both as an SRO and as it's defined now, isn't just to provide security for the school. It's a job that involves getting to know students, assist them where he can, and providing information about school and personal safety.

Chief Chris Hayward said the new state law helps make the situation more flexible.

"I'm not a one of those who believes that in order to keep our kids safe there have to be uniformed police officers," Hayward said. "Do I believe that it should be someone like Eric who has that experience and has that training? Absolutely. But I don't think that it has to be an active police officer because there are requirements of Eric. Even if he hadn't been hired back by us, there are still those requirements where he has to go to the annual training with firearms, use of deadly physical force etc., so there still those safeguards, for want of a better term, in place to make sure that they're maintaining that level of training to respond in an appropriate manner."

Photo: Eric Miller, Tim McArdle, middle school and high school principal, Carol Messura, Wolcott principal, and Officer Heath Mattingly, one of two part-time officers assigned to Wolcott.

July 23, 2017 - 2:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Central School District, schools, education, news.

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This past week, students in the Le Roy Central School District participated in Camp Invention, which was a chance for kids to apply the skills and knowledge associated with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) to see what they could create from their own ideas.

This was the first year for the weeklong camp, which had 46 participants.

Lessons explored by students:

  • Duct Tape Billionaire: Students launched their own accessory business with creations made from duct tape! They learned about patents, designing a product, creating a mock-up and presenting to potential investors "Shark Tank Style."
  • Mission Space Makers: Students created new planets for human habitation. They grew crystal trees and hatched eggs in the Space Lab and created their very own planetary system through lots of teamwork.
  • Have a Blast: This module focused on engineering different launching tools such as snowball throwers, balloon catapults, a giant air cannon, bubble blasters and more.
  • Operation Keep Out: Hands down this was a camper favorite! Students brought in old items such as DVD players or VCRs, X-Box remotes, radios and used reverse engineering to take them apart. Then they used items from their Take Apart to create their very own spy gadget box equipped with an alarm.  

Part of the instructional team included seven leadership interns from Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School as well as three counselors-in-training. These students ranged from grade seven to seniors and each received 40 hours volunteer credit, a certificate and letter of recommendation.

Sponsors included: Camp Invention, Wolcott Street School, Beth Russ, Julie Cook, Brandie Rogoyski, Rotary Club of Le Roy, PARP, Le Roy Tops Market, Woody's Deli, and Woodward Memorial Library.

Information and photos provided by Jen Bertrand, instructional tech coach, at Le Roy CSD.

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September 2, 2015 - 2:30pm

Submitted photo. From left: Kim Cox (superintendent). Michael Chiulli (science teacher), Jeff Cunningham (Monsanto rep), Jackie Whiting (school board member), Tim McArdle (principal).

Press release:

Le Roy Central School District has received a $10,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund. The district will use the money to purchase new lab equipment and instructional materials, allowing teachers to incorporate advanced, hands-on experiments in upper-level science classes for high school students.

Through this enhanced science curriculum, the district will introduce students to higher-level lab activities and spur their interest in biotechnology and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

“The projects will expose students to technology they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” said biology teacher Michael Chiulli. “This experience makes them more competitive for colleges and careers, and will hopefully encourage them to stay in the region as the biotechnology sector continues to expand in western New York.”

Farmers who nominated the school district and representatives from the school and the Monsanto Fund attended a check presentation to celebrate the grant during the back-to-school assembly on Sept. 1.

This year the school district also received an educational starter kit from Monsanto Company to help establish a pollinator garden, which will give students firsthand knowledge of the critical role habitat plays in providing bees and butterflies with food, shelter and places to lay eggs.

Since 2011, Grow Rural Education has awarded more than $9 million to help keep rural public school districts growing. The program works with farmers to nominate public school districts to compete for math and science grants of $10,000 or $25,000. Grant applications are reviewed and finalists selected by a panel of teachers. Winning applications are chosen by an advisory council comprised of farmers from across the United States.

Visit www.GrowRuralEducation.com to see the full list of winners for this year. A sister program, America’s Farmers Grow Communities, is currently enrolling farmers for 2016. To sign up, visit www.GrowCommunities.com before Nov. 30.

These programs are part of the America’s Farmers initiative. The America’s Farmers campaign and programs have advocated on behalf of farmers and their efforts to meet society’s needs through agriculture. Today, consumers are more interested than ever in agriculture and how food is grown. Farmers and others in the industry are joining in on the conversation to help raise awareness about agriculture and share their stories with their communities.

Learn more at cfiengage.org

March 13, 2013 - 8:07pm

Le Roy high schoolers Margaret Kovach, Erica Parker and Ben Neumann posed in character during a rehearsal of "Anything Goes," Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School's 2013 musical production. They will be playing Reno, Bonnie and Moonface Martin, respectively.

Jackie McLean, chorus teacher for the Le Roy schools and musical director for the play, described "Anything Goes" as an intricate, laugh-out-loud funny show with great characters.

More than 80 kids are involved in this production, including cast and crew members.

With music and lyrics by Cole Porter, the show takes place on a cruise ship and features comic circumstances resulting from three love triangles.

Pictured Ashley Webb (Hope), Steven Farnholz (Evelyn) and Natalie Salphine (Mrs. Harcourt)

"The script is jam-packed with funny moments and intricacies," McClean said.

She also said that the cast, which is made up of students in grades seven through 12, "did a great job of making the characters believable."

Danny Weaver and Jayce Seeley play Mr. Whitney and Billy, respectively.

Having "believable" characters is a big change from last year's performance of "Cinderella," which had a fanciful fairy tale atmosphere. With "Anything Goes," the kids have switched to a more realistic setting.

"It was a challenge, but they've done a great job," McClean said. "It's a great group of kids."

For her part, McClean understands and appreciates the challenge of bringing these characters to life. She was in "Anything Goes" as a junior at Batavia High School, which put on its own performance of the show in 2001.

"I picked the show (for the 2013 musical) because I loved it when I was in it," she said. "I understand the challenges, and also the funny moments and the characters, because I lived it. That gives you a different perspective."

As for the music, McClean describes it as old-style jazz with a "huge choral involvement." So in addition to great sets and lots of humor, "Anything Goes" will also boast a large chorus.

Le Roy is known for setting a high bar when it comes to its school musicals. Each year, staff and students like to give audiences something new to look forward to.

This year, audiences can look forward to huge, elaborate tap dance numbers by the whole cast, as well as a six-foot platform of the cruise ship built by Patrick Patton, complete with the look of a real ship and lights that go on at night.

Patton, the father of a Le Roy High School student, has been building sets for these productions for seven years. McClean said he sets a new challenge for himself with each one.

"He's amazing," she said. "(His sets) get better each year."

Performances of "Anything Goes" will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the high school auditorium, at 9300 South St. Road in Le Roy. All performances will begin at 7 p.m.

All tickets are $8 each and can be purchased at the door, via the district Web site or at the school's main office.

Supplemental Photos: Past Performances

February 5, 2012 - 5:55pm

As promised I have been asking questions and seeking knowledge. I don’t have all questions answered yet, but here is what I do have:

For those of you who might be out of the area and do not know I am Trustee on the Village Board. I was elected in March 2010.

I have been a case manager in the adolescent mental health system at St. Joseph’s Villa of Rochester since August 2001. I don’t diagnose or treat. I work with kids and their families to unite their teams to plan to address identified underlying needs that are believed to be the cause of the behaviors we are seeing. I am also a parent representative on the Committee of Special Education (CSE) in Le Roy.

My role here is as a leader in the community to try to help alleviate the very real fears that people have and reunite my fractured community.

Was soil from the derailment site on Gulf Road used as fill for the school? No! The DEC expert I spoke to said that given there has only ever been about one inch of soil on top of the lime rock layer at said site, there is no way that there was ever enough to harvest and use elsewhere.

Was rock from the site used? It is important to note that TCE is air soluble. This means that once rock is crushed or broken any TCE it might contain immediately evaporates into the air. We do not KNOW for certain if any rock from the derailment site was used, BUT if it was it wasn’t contaminated because the TCE would have evaporated out of it.

Is there fracking liquid leaking out of the gas well? No. These wells are too old to have any fracking liquid left in them. There were dead trees at the site before the wells were put in. There may have been some liquid from the Medina salt layer that has leaked out at some point. This is basically salt water. Salt kills grass, trees, plant life, just like when our grass is killed by the salt thrown up by the snow plows onto it. I was at the meeting yesterday at school and want to remind everyone that the school’s wells are in compliance with all codes. They are of no concern to the DEC.

What was the liquid spill at well 6? It was largely salt water with a little gypsum. It’s possible there was some iron and sulfur in the form of sulfides. Iron can stain, as you probably know, but the rest would wash away with the first good rain. Similar brines that come out of wells like these is permitted to be used on roads for de-icing and is similar to in chemistry to rock salt.

Why aren’t they burning chemicals out of the gas before using it in the school? The gas harvested here is clean. It is under the Medina salt layer, which is impermeable to liquid. There is no way chemicals have leeched into it out of the ground.

On my last post Bill Elsasser commented-The marshy end of Bunnell Park, just west of the fence line, near where the pond is located, seems like an area of interest. Who was the excavating contractor? Wasn't an excavator "buried" in the muck somewhere around here and then retrieved? Must have made the newspaper at the time. Where was the fill for that retrieval pit sourced? Is the playground and sports area of the Park a potential "common denominator"? The "natural" area, just northwest of the playground and east of Summit Street, draws the runoff from the sports fields, any need to sample soil or water here? The response I received was that the fill came from a farm near the Le Roy-Pavilion line on Summit Street. The land was poor for farming and only suitable for pasture, so there is no need to worry about fertilizers and pesticides. Track equipment gets stuck on daily basis during construction, so that specific even should not be of concern either.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please feel free to email me at [email protected]. Thank you very much to everyone who responded last time both here and through email. Thank you, Howard Owens, for the fine work you have been doing here and providing us this forum.

February 2, 2012 - 9:54pm

It is clear to me that there is a lot of pain in our community and that people are looking to the leadership to better understand what is going on and what to do. Here’s my perspective.

I would like to start by saying that my heart truly goes out to the children and families directly affected by the Tourette's-like symptoms. I cannot even imagine how hard and possibly devastating this is for you! As a parent I do know what it is like to have your dreams for your child shattered (even if only temporarily) by forces with more power than you.

What I understand is that everyone would like answers. I am with you on this. We have some answers, but many of our questions are currently unanswered. It is very clear that there are a few students in our district of high-school age that are experiencing very real symptoms that resemble Tourette's. They and their parents are looking for answers as to why this is happening to them. I am not a doctor, neither is the school district. I do assume, though, that the reasons may not be the same for everyone and that everyone directly affected is desirous of a clear conclusion. While we search for answers we should keep in mind that the human brain is an extremely complex organ that we still do not fully understand.

Initially it seemed like this was an issue strictly affecting the school district and the high school specifically. My reaction as a community leader was that everything was being taken care of and under control, no need to worry. As the numbers of students affected began to increase it started to look like maybe there was a need for concern, but the school district was on top of it, so no need to panic. In the last few days, though, the situation seems to have escalated and spiraled rapidly out of control causing many rumors that have resulted in panic.

I am here to say that I do not have the answers. I know only what you already know. I've read Superintendent Cox's publications, read The Batavian and the Daily online, watched some of the Today Show and Dr. Drew, and listened to the opinions of others. What is clear to me is that there is more than one issue going on here and that the first brought the others to light. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of some very strong parents who desperately want answers, we now know that the site of the train derailment 40-plus years ago was not properly cleaned up. It seems this is now being addressed. We also learned that there is another Superfund cleanup site in the area. The experts believe that these sites do not have anything to do with the Tourette's-like symptoms that are being exhibited by some of our youth. It is a good thing, though, that this was questioned otherwise we might not be seeing action at the derailment site. Clearly the contamination is not even near the school. I was speaking with someone today who served on the conservation committee at the time that the school was built, it seems very unlikely that any contaminated soil from the derailment site was used at the school site. I say it seems very unlikely because the site was already known to be contaminated before the school was built, but I take nothing for granted and support testing to put that question to bed for everyone.

Howard Owens, owner of The Batavian, did some research on some of the rumors that have been floating around. You can read what he found here: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/le-roy-high-school-property-rumors-a.... I also recommend looking at: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/follow-information-epa-and-dec-situa.... Finally, this statement was released yesterday in regard to water tests: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/nih-offers-no-cost-consultations-bet.... It also includes an offer from NIH and NIHM, that was reiterated on Dr. Drew last night, for free consultation through these agencies. I hope that the families will take this offer as it seems that with these two agencies working together on their behalf answers will be found. Also I would like to call your attention to the Le Roy Pennysaver this weekend as I happen to know that there will be a well researched piece in regards to the derailment in there. To satisfy my own curiosity I have also asked my own DEC contact if the school is built on a swamp or just swampy and will let you know when I have an answer.

I am not an expert on the environment. Those of you who know me know I am a relentless recycler that even throws toilet paper and paper towel cores in the recycle bin with used tissues rather than into the landfill; I try to guilt people into saving Terra Cycle items for the school because it earns PTSO money, when truly I just am grateful to keep it out of the landfill; that I carry paper coffee cups around with me for hours and hours until I find a recycle bin; I freak out a little on my family if they buy water in plastic bottles (ok, a lot); and I also know a great deal about VOCs in regards to paint and stain and would like to see more no-VOC products used in our public facilities. Even so, the Superfund sites and the environmental questions at the school are beyond my area of expertise.

What I can say for certain is that I do not believe in any way that there is a conspiracy to cover something up. You know that if I am proven to be wrong about this I will be the first to step up and admit it. I understand why people might believe there is a cover up, though. I support productive questioning of everything. Does the (swimming) pool ring a bell? All of us live here together in the same small community, shop at the same stores, go to the same gyms and restaurants, and most of us even drink the same water, including Mrs. Cox. I do not believe that anyone is trying to maliciously cover up. I do believe, though, that none of us are experts on how to deal with the situation, particularly the resultant media spotlight.

Above all else, I believe that together as a community we can find answers, overcome this, and heal. We are strong as a team. Perhaps one of the most important ways we can do this is to try to stop the rumors. Rumors tend to be inflammatory and divisive. They can be productive if we look at them as being a tool to finding answers, but if we look at them as truth then we stall our own efforts to move forward and find real answers. Please let us not point the finger of blame, but instead unite around the truth we have and the questions we want answered and around the families who have brought all of this to our attention. Human beings are incredibly strong and resilient in the face of adversity. Let’s show our strength to each other and the rest of the country and heal as a community. United we stand, divided we fall, has been proven true after all.

Below I will paste several links to recent Batavian coverage of this issue so that you have quick references to look at. Earlier today I posted on my FB page that I was considering blogging about this and asked for my friends’ input on what I should include. I believe I have covered much of it; more of it will be covered in the Pennysaver this weekend. I would like to know from the rest of you what you would like to see from your community leaders, particularly those of us who are elected. I want to know your ideas. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing them here please feel free to confidentially contact me via email me at [email protected].

As always, I appreciate your reading this and your input. Thank you, Howard, for providing us with this forum to update people and to discuss issues on.

Today: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/hawley-issues-statement-le-roy-illne... Yesterday: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/le-roy-illnesses-todays-efforts-gath... http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/le-roy-superintendent-releases-lette... Monday: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/photos-drive-down-gulf-road-le-roy/3... http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/hochul-responds-question-about-situa... http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/statement-released-le-roy-central-sc... Over the weekend: http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/statement-released-le-roy-central-sc... http://thebatavian.com/howard-owens/specialist-questions-scientific-vali... (This is not an exhaustive list.)

January 12, 2012 - 1:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, health, Le Roy, Le Roy Central School District.

In a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss an unusual outbreak of tics among female students at Le Roy High School, a state health official steadfastly refused to reveal the cause of the outbreak.

Citing not just HIPPA as a reason for keeping the diagnosis of 11 girls private, Dr. Gregory Young said that as a matter of principle he didn't want to see the girls "labeled" by what their doctor has found.

Young, from the NYS Department of Health, said the cause (or causes) isn't related to the environment; it isn't anything a person "catches"; it doesn't come from exposure to something, or from anything ingested. Nor does the cause stem from prescribed drugs or illicit drugs.

State health officials know what is behind the outbreak, but Young would not disclose it. Yet he tried to reassure parents that it's safe to send their children to school.

In all, according to Young -- though some in the audience disputed the number -- at least 11 girls have come down with the "tic manifestations" (Young cautioned against calling it a syndrome). 

The doctor's explanation, and a stone barrier he put up regarding the cause, didn't go over well with parents or students.

James Dupont Jr. spoke passionately about the need for officials to be more forthcoming about what physicians have found. Dupont complained that although Young said the cause has been diagnosed, nobody's told him what caused his daughter to develop tics.

After he spoke, he went into hallway and was mobbed by reporters.

"We all have to respect that (keeping medical information private), but I tell you what, if my daughter had a diagnosis and I knew that, as a parent, I would tell you -- because I’m not a doctor and I don’t care about HIPPA," Dupont said. "I care about getting these kids better or finding what’s causing it so it doesn’t get any worse."

Later, from the back of the auditorium, Dupont called out Young on his repeated insistance that a diagnosis has been completed for the 11 students. 

Dupont asked parents in attendance whose daughters had developed tics to raise their hands. More than a half dozen adults raised their hands. Then Dupont asked how many had been told by their daughters' doctors what caused the tics. Several said they had not been given a diagnosis.

One parent spoke up and said he was told the cause was "conversion disorder."

Young said he couldn't respond to that comment.

Conversion disorder is a neurosis usually brought on difficulties in a person's life, according to Wikipedia. It is marked by numbness, blindness, paralysis or fits. Britannica.com lists tics as a manifestation of conversion disorder.

After more questioning about conversion disorder, Thomas Wallace, from the state's mental health office, said it isn't really a diagnosis. He said it can be a symptom of other issues and that it can be found in clusters of patients.

The number of patients is not out of line with national statistics for tic manifestations among a group of 500 youngsters (in fact, in a group of 500, there should be at least 20 children with tics, based on national statistics).

What is unusual, he said, is that all of the patients are girls (boys develop tics at a 4-1 ratio over girls, according to national statics, Young said) and that they all developed the manifestations at about the same time.

Several students got up to ask questions or speak out, including a girl who said her name was Jessica.

"You think it's unethical for you not to give us the cause," Jessica said. "I think it's wrong for you not to tell us."

"If you were one of the individuals involved, you might feel differently," Young shot back.

"We're friends with these people," Jessica said. "Half of them haven't even been diagnosed yet. You're not telling us the truth because you don't really know what's going on."

Young repeated that he feels uncomfortable sharing private medical information. Later, he spoke about how he's always hated bureaucrats and he realized he was being one, but he said he simply couldn't share private medical information.

The one commonality Young said he could share was that all of the girls showed a greater manifestation during times of stress.

It's not unusual, he said, for people to manifest tics in time of stress, and there are a lot of stress factors in a young person's life. All people deal with stress differently, but it's well documented that stress can cause a number of physical reactions.

One big stresser for kids today is social media.

"There's a lot that goes on in social media today that parents don't know about, that schools don't know about," said Young, noting that the community meeting coincides with the start of the school session, and the students susceptible to tics will be under a new round of stress.

Just announcing the meeting created stress for the students involved, he said, and parents should be prepared for an increase of tic activity as reports about the meeting hit the media.

Dupont and other parents afterward said they don't believe it all boils down to stress especially since, for some of the students, the tics don't seem to become less frequent when school is out (though one mother who spoke said her daughter didn't have tics over Christmas vacation).

Among Dupont's suggestions is that a parent support group be formed. Then, perhaps, parents could share more information and find commonalities among their daughters (not all of the girls know each other or necessarily had contact with each other prior to the tic manifestations arising).

Young agreed this would be a good idea and also said that in a closed group of just the parents involved, he could speak more freely about what physicians have found.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: The mention of types of drugs above wasn't meant to exclude from the meaning, as it does, that designer drugs weren't investigated as a cause. They were and subsequently ruled out as a cause. PANDAS has been ruled out as a cause. HPV vaccine has also been ruled out as a cause, according to Dr. Young. ODD or ADHD can make a child more susceptible to tics, but that isn't a cause. One thing Young intimated is that there is no one cause for all the girls.

March 30, 2011 - 4:06pm

Students at Le Roy's Wolcott St. School spent the last two weeks raising money for those less fortunate. They did this as part of the Pennies for Peace campaign, a program of the Central Asia Institute.

It is designed to raise funds for community-based education and literacy programs -- esepcially for girls -- in remote, Central Asian mountain communities.

The grand total raised by Wolcott St. School -- calculated with the help of the Bank of Castile -- was $1,600. Here is a grade-by-grade count:

Pre K -- $52
K -- $149
Grade 1 -- $183
Grade 2 -- $210
Grade 3 -- $157
Grade 4 -- $325
Grade 5 -- $275
Grade 6 -- $241

 

Kids collected and brought in pennies over a two-week period. Pictured above are the graphed results as of Friday morning (each jar represents $10 in pennies).

What is particularly impressive about this is that the students were not rewarded for the number of pennies they brought in. From the very beginning, there was an understanding that the class that collected the most pennies would not get a pizza party or anything like that.

"What we're looking to do is help the students become intrinsically motivated," said Principal Casey Kosiorek.

He said the overall goal as it pertained to the kids was to help them grow into good citizens who will want to do the right thing without being rewarded.

"I never expected it to have such an impact," said Carol Messura, assistant principal and chair of the project. She said that the students were "extremely enthusiastic" about the whole deal.

"If you were here earlier this morning, you could hear little hoots and hollers with the sound of change being poured into the buckets (pictured at the top)."

Kosiorek said that the money will go toward supplies, teachers' salaries and the building of schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"They have pretty much nothing," he commented.

March 18, 2011 - 7:17pm

Lights were dimming for the beginning of dress rehearsal when I took this picture -- it's of the poster for Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School's 2011 musical production, "Little Shop of Horrors."

Based on the Broadway rock musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, "Little Shop" is the story of a shy, nervous store clerk who dreams of finding a way out of the lousy job and circumstances he's stuck in, a young girl with low self-worth and an abusive boyfriend, and a plant that talks, sings and eats people.

This is the latest performance in a district known for its high standards for school musicals. Le Roy has been selected as one of the top 100 communities for music education in the country on multiple occasions, according to Bradley Meholick, director of music for the district.

He attributes this honor to the high level of dedication on the part of students, staff, administrators and parents, all working together in support of music in the schools.

February 15, 2011 - 1:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Central School District.

Something happened two weeks ago involving a few Le Roy High School basketball players.

As near as we can tell, it was a serious matter.

Judging by the reaction of some students the following Tuesday (wearing T-shirts in support of one of the alleged aggressors in the situation) and the reaction of the father of the possible alleged victim, emotions were running high around this issue.

WHAM-13's Sean Carroll has been looking into this matter, and I have had numerous conversations with sources as well. There have also been other reporters looking into the issue.

At this point, it appears everybody has lawyered up and clammed up. 

Given the seriousness of the allegations on both sides, it's hard to just shrug and say, "well, it's just some sort of private matter."

It's especially difficult to take that stance when several, shall we say, well-placed Le Roy residents and community leaders keep telling me, "there's more to this," and "you need to keep digging," and "don't let this go."

Kim Cox, the Le Roy Central School District superintendent, cites student confidentially for her unwillingness to discuss the situation, but not all of the questions either Sean or I are asking are covered by student confidentially laws or policies. 

For example, she refused to answer a question regarding some sort of public conflict at a basketball game saying, "the matter is under investigation." The problem with that answer is that it isn't under investigation as far as we can tell. Supposedly, students have been told not to talk to anybody about that incident (or the other) and the police have not been called in to investigate it.

The school board is no less uncooperative. I called four school board members. Two did not return messages, a third said repeatedly "no comment" and a fourth hung up on me.

It's troubling when people whom we regard as highly credible and responsible people are telling us "there's more to this" and "keep digging" and at the same time the school district appears to be taking every step possible to keep a lid on it.

There are serious allegations here involving young people, so it is a very sensitive situation, but it's hard to be confident that it's being handled appropriately when district officials put up a stone wall.

Sean Carroll put out a call in his blog post for witnesses to come forward. I would also welcome information from direct witnesses to either of these incidents. It's hard to say if any this will ever lead to a "story."

But given the requests of knowledgable people not to let this drop, it seems important to let readers know we're concerned that these events may just get swept under the rug.

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