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oakfield-alabama central school district

Voters approve O-A's capital project Monday

By Joanne Beck

District residents approved Oakfield-Alabama Central School's $23 million capital project in a vote of 129 to 114 Monday, district officials say.

The official voting results were tallied by 9 p.m. Monday for the capital project of $23,065,000 for construction to update the middle-high school instructional spaces -- science labs, technology, agriculture, art, FACS, and STEAM, repair the HVAC systems, and construct a new community multi-purpose field including a new eight-lane track with high-grade artificial turf. 

Included in this project are upgrades to the district's varsity baseball/softball infields with artificial turf, new concessions with an outdoor accessible bathroom facility, and additional parking adjacent to the new multi-purpose stadium.

O-A board hears presentation on $23 million capital improvement project

By Howard B. Owens
Richard Little SEI oakfield-alabama presentation
Richard Little, business development with SEI Design, during a presentation Tuesday to the Board of Education for the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District on a capital improvement project proposal.
Photo by Howard Owens.

The Oakfield-Alabama Central School District is considering a new $23 million capital improvement project that would modernize and reconfigure classrooms, replace outdated heating and air units, upgrade locker rooms, replace and upgrade athletic fields, and add new parking.

The district would need to issue $20 million in bonds to finance the project at a cost of $7.2 million in interest.

If approved, the district would use $3 million from the capital reserve fund as a "down payment" on the expenditure.

State aid would cover 93.4 percent of the $20 million, which would be reimbursed to the district over the life of the 15-year bond.  If the project is approved by the board, voters in the district will get a chance to vote yes or no in December.

Consultants from SEI Design Group, who have been working with the district's facilities committee, presented an outline of the proposal plan to the Board of Education on Tuesday.

A big reason the district can cover the local share of the school building project without a tax increase is that when the district bonded (borrowed money), the annual payment on principal was $350,000 less than budgeted, said Christine Griffin, district business manager.

That $350,000 in the 2023-24 budget was used to finance a playground.  Going forward, it could help offset the cost of the new capital improvement project, negating the need for a higher tax rate to cover the local share of the project.

Existing capital reserve funds would also help cover the local share costs.

Board members wanted to know what portion of the project is critical, that it must be completed soon, and the answer is pretty much all of the school building work.

The critical portions of the project include replacing the high school and middle school HVAC rooftop units, which are 30 to 40 years old.

"The biggest thing is going to be mechanical, electrical plumbing impacts," said Richard Little, business development with SEI. "These were items that were identified during the (committee). The HVAC rooftop units are either being worked on excessively or reached the end of their usefulness. We can't get parts, so we need to replace them. Those were flagged not only by the engineers but also by (the committee)."

Then in the science classroom, the concrete slabs have settled in areas creating uneven floors.

"We're going to have to tear the rooms out just to fix the slab settlement issue," Little said.

There is also work that needs to be done on the pool and on an auditorium wall, Little said.  There is also carpet that is worn out and needs to be replaced with new flooring (it won't be carpet, Little said).

"Once you go into a room and start working on it, once you've touched it, you are not going to be able to go back to that room for 15 years without being penalized or questioned," Little said, addressing state aid rules about school renovation projects. "So once we're in there, we're taking advantage of it and renovating more spaces. You can vary that if you want to. You can make different types of modifications, but it's just a good opportunity to get that funding from the state."

The school building proposal, if broken out into a separate ballot initiative, would cost $15.6 million.  The athletic field portion would be $7.3 million.  It would include a new oval track, new shotput and jump pits, as well as new softball and baseball fields.

The board will decide at its October meeting whether to ask the voters to approve the two aspects of the project separately or together.  

Trustee Matt Lamb expressed concern that there are people in the community who are hearing rumors that the district is considering a new football stadium, which isn't the case.

"I got a phone call from somebody who wasn't able to attend the meeting tonight and described the project as the football stadium project, so we just need to be careful that this isn't seen as the football stadium capital project," Lamb said.

Trustee Jeff Hyde noted that since Batavia High built a new stadium, Van Detta is in steady use for various events, not just school events. And though this isn't a stadium project, he said he thinks an upgrade to the track and ball fields help bring more visitors into Oakfield.

"I mean, if I'm a business owner, if I'm smart, if I'm somebody who wants more people in this town, this is something that may give it to us," Hyde said.

For a PDF of the SEI presentation, click here.

O-A school superintendent hoping for quick resolution to village, town fire protection squabble

By Mike Pettinella

As would be expected, the superintendent of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District is keeping a close eye on the fire protection dispute between the Village and Town of Oakfield.

“I’m hesitant to throw the District into the mix of this debate. However, I am very concerned about the suggestion of not responding to an emergency call here if it was on our campus,” John Fisgus said today in response to an email from The Batavian.

As reported as part of an update to a story on Sept. 28, Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, indicated that the fire company has been in contact with its attorney regarding the situation.

Downing said that if the disagreement over money that Village Mayor David Boyle said is owed by the town isn’t settled by a Nov. 30 deadline, the fire department, “by written order of the mayor or the board of trustees of the Village of Oakfield, we will not be able to respond into the town, which includes the elementary and the high school.”

Contacted today by telephone, Boyle said he has not heard recently from anyone representing the Town of Oakfield – neither Supervisor Matt Martin or the town’s attorney. Martin has indicated that the matter has been turned over to the town’s lawyer.

Previously, Boyle said the village is suing the town in an attempt to secure $78,648 that was charged to the town for fire protection provided by the village during the 2020-21 fiscal year. The village also said it would withhold fire protection from the town if the bill isn’t paid by Nov. 30.

The village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street, Boyle said.

Fisgus concluded his brief statement with words that likely mirror what Oakfield village and town residents are thinking:

“I hope there is a resolution soon and both the town and village can come to an agreement,” he said.

Previously: Village of Oakfield threatens lawsuit, withholding fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

O-A superintendent: We're 'frustrated and upset' with NYS DOH's mask requirement for all in classrooms

By Mike Pettinella

Update, 4 p.m. from Paul Pettit, Genesee County public health director:

"This is a mandate that is coming from the New York State Department of Health, based on the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.  Prior to this new state wide mandate, we were working locally to develop district level re-opening plans based on the CDC guidelines, with each district making a local decision on their approach.

"We will continue to work and support the schools in our counties to have a safe and effective school year, as our priority is to have all students present for in-person learning." 


This weekend’s announcement by the New York State Department of Health requiring mask wearing for everyone inside all school buildings essentially nullifies any school district reopening plans that recommended, but did not require, face coverings in the classrooms.

Oakfield-Alabama was one of those districts that decided to not require masks while teachers and students were in class – basing its decision on an Aug. 4 directive from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office that the state was leaving reopening guidelines up to local school districts in conjunction with local health departments.

Friday’s emergency regulation by the NYSDOH -- taking its lead from the new governor, Kathy Hochul -- is both frustrating and upsetting, O-A Superintendent John Fisgus stated this morning.

“I know the majority of this school community (and Board of Education) are extremely frustrated and upset with this turn of events,” he wrote, replying to an email from The Batavian. “So, now here we stand with a school mask mandate while indoors. It doesn't make sense to have such an umbrella mandate as every district and school community is unique.”

Fisgus said the state should be able to have confidence in local school boards, administrators and teachers to do what is right in the face of a prolonged COVID-19 situation.

“Trust us that we are smart enough to work with our local health departments to monitor COVID and do what is in the best interest (and safety) of our local towns, villages and schools,” Fisgus added.

As previously reported on The Batavian, Fisgus sent out a survey to the community about mask wearing, and the results overwhelmingly were in favor of making it a personal choice on whether to wear one in the classroom.

The O-A plan stipulates that masks are required on the bus and when entering the school buildings and reporting to classrooms, and while traveling in the hallways between classes and/or to different locations within the buildings.

Over the past two weeks, Fisgus said those in power at the state level have changed their viewpoint on face coverings to make that issue part of a statewide binding guidance for all districts.

“But, we were never part of those discussions,” he advised.

Scott Bischoping, Batavia City Schools superintendent, said the district is following through with the NYSDOH guidelines. He said Batavia held off on releasing its formal reopening plan “based on the new governor’s words that she was going to make an announcement in that area.”

“We had not come out with any plans regarding the masking other than knowing that we would be masking,” he said. “We shared with parents that for certain we’d be having to mask on the bus, but were waiting other feedback before we announced anything.”

Bischoping said the district has been operating within the county and state health guidelines regarding contract tracing and quarantine.

“We’re used to following through with that,” he said. “We’ve done that for the last year-plus, and we’ll continue to do that and hopefully at some point we won’t have to do that, regarding masking or quarantining or any of those things associated with COVID.”

Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit was not immediately available for comment.

'It's cool to be part of the revitalization,' says first tenant of City View Residences on Ellicott Street

By Mike Pettinella


A week away from cementing their place as the first tenants of the new City View Residence, Jonathan Bates said the two-bedroom apartment above Save-A-Lot on Ellicott Street provides everything that he and his brother, Jake, desire at this point in their lives.

The Oakfield-Alabama Central School graduates – Jonathan is 27 and Jake is 26 – signed a one-year lease with VJ Gautieri Constructors Inc. and are scheduled to move into their new home on Aug. 28.

Jonathan Bates (pictured above), in an interview with The Batavian on Thursday, expressed his pleasure with being the first to rent one of the 10 units that were constructed as part of the City of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Award initiative.

They will be living in one of the three two-bedroom apartments; the others have one bedroom.

“It’s cool to be a part of the revitalization of Batavia. This project is kind of the culmination of all the efforts that have taken place so far, and it’s exciting to be part of that,” he said. “Family members saw pictures of it (on The Batavian), and when they did, they said, ‘Jon and Jake, this is right up your alley. You’ve got to check this place out.’”

Bates said the monthly rent for the market rate apartment is well worth it, considering the modern and varied furnishing, and the access to downtown businesses.

“You go up there and each space, each unit has a unique view of the city, the downtown life,” he offered. “You take a look around where we are and we’ve got gyms, restaurants, banks – everything within walking distance. And a (grocery) store right down here on the first floor. It’s worth every penny.”

The brothers work for the same company in the construction management field.

“Being in the industry, I know exactly what VJ Gautieri has been going through to open this place up, and all the challenges in the industry right now with getting material and labor shortages due to COVID. But they have done a fantastic job getting this thing done on schedule,” Bates said.

He said they were put in contact with Victor Gautieri, president of VJ Gautieri Constructors, and, after receiving a tour, signed on the dotted line.

“We were sold immediately,” he noted.

When asked if he sees himself as a millennial, part of a group born from 1981-1996 that is said to be enthralled with city living, Bates said he didn’t pay much attention to categories.

“To be honest with you, I don’t even know what I’d be considered,” he replied.


Gautieri reported that City of Batavia Code Enforcement Officer Ron Panek issued the facility’s certificate of occupancy last week.

“Mr. Panek did a complete inspection of the facility, and we also had to provide several documents, including an elevator inspection certificate, fire alarm system certificate, sprinkler system certificate and an electrical certificate showing that the wiring was inspected by a third-party,” Gautieri said.

He said Panek did a “complete walk-through,” as did Batavia Fire Department officers to familiarize themselves with the facility.

The certificate of occupancy came about a year after Gautieri secured the additional financing needed to complete the $3.1 million project.

Gautieri said he is in the process of reviewing applications and scheduling tours for those who are interested in learning more about the apartments. For more information, contact the VJ Gautieri Constructors’ office at 585-343-0852.

Previously: A first look: City View Residences (aka Ellicott Place) on the second floor of Save-A-Lot building

Oakfield-Alabama CSD offers free Summer Food Service for pick up Tuesdays and Thursdays July 13 - Aug. 19

By Press Release

Press release:

The Oakfield-Alabama Central School District announces its participation in the free Summer Food Service Program, offered through the USDA.

Meals will be provided to ALL children age 18 and under without charge. NO PAPERWORK is necessary -- just show up for great meals!

Delicious, convenient, healthy and economical lunches will be available for pick up at Triangle Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. starting July 13 through Aug. 19.

The park is located at 5 N. Pearl St., Oakfield.

Each pick up includes three days of meals.

If you have questions or need more information, call (585) 948-5211, ext. 4234.

(Children registered for summer instruction are served breakfast and lunch daily. Park/Rec registered students are served lunch only daily at Elroy Parkins Park.)

Universal prekindergarten registration is open for Oakfield-Alabama, all paperwork due March 5

By Press Release

Press release:

Children who reside in the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and who will be 4 years old by Dec. 1 are eligible to be registered for our Universal prekindergarten (UPK) program for the 2021-2012 school year.

The children attend five days per week, each day, for 180 days, at no cost to you. Transportation is provided for students who are 4 years old

Students that start the program at 3 years old must be transported by the family until they turn 4.

Registration packets have been mailed. If you do not receive a packet by Feb. 15 please call the elementary office at (585) 948-5211, ext. 3211, or email to request one.

Registration paperwork needs to be returned by mail or in person to the elementary school office by March 5.

Space is limited so please return your paperwork as soon as possible in order to avoid being placed on a wait list.    

O-A school district selects new resource officer with 'wealth of knowledge and experience'

By Press Release

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. is pleased to announce that the Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education selected Youth Officer Timothy G. Wescott at this week’s meeting as its new School Resource Officer for its district.   

Youth Officer Wescott is a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. He was hired as a Correction Officer in 1998, and was then appointed to Deputy Sheriff in 2000. He has held his current position as Youth Officer since 2013. During his tenure, he has earned an Officer-of-the-Year Award, a Meritorious Award, and a Commendation.

“Youth Officer Wescott is dedicated to the safety of our children and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Sheriff Sheron said. "The Oakfield-Alabama School District is fortunate to have Deputy Wescott as their new SRO."

Photo, from left: Oakfield-Alabama School Superintendent John Fisgus, Deputy/SRO Timothy G. Wescott, Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr.

Genesee County teachers in scrubs? It's already a reality in the great state of Texas

By Mike Pettinella

It’s happening in Texas. Could it happen in our neck of the woods?

The Garland Independent School District and Lancaster ISD in Dallas County, Texas, reportedly will allow their teachers to wear scrubs once schools reopen.

According to a story on WFAA, the ABC television affiliate in Dallas, Garland ISD Superintendent Ricardo López said that teachers had requested the change to the dress code in light of the fact that they will be responsible for health-related measures to combat the coronavirus.

“Scrubs are easier to clean. You don’t have to worry about ruining them. You put them in high-temperature hot water and if they come out a little faded, you are not going to worry that it is not your best clothing. So, we said why not,” López said.

As far as teachers in scrubs in Genesee County, depending upon how things go in September, it is a possibility.

“I did have a teacher this past week who ‘joked’ about it to me,” said John Fisgus, superintendent of Oakfield-Alabama Central School District. “The funny thing is, I don't know how ‘joking’ they were. I basically stated, ‘Well, we don't have a formal dress code for teachers, staff, and faculty, so as long as it looks appropriate for work, do what you think is best for you!’ ”

Fisgus added that if everyone wore scrubs, “it could look bad,” but said that in certain instances for faculty and staff, he wouldn’t mind it.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said scrubs or protective gear might be allowed if a teacher believed that he or she needed that type of clothing to feel safe.

“We just expect them to dress professionally, but if they wanted to wear something that they felt they needed then, obviously, we would want to work with them,” Soler said. “Hopefully, that would come from some kind of recommendation or accommodation, but again we want our staff to feel safe and we want to feel safe.

“If they feel that’s what they need to come in to teach, we just would want to be aware of that -- as far as the optics are concerned -- and make sure that is truly necessary. We’re not necessarily opposed to it, but that’s not something we’re out there promoting.”

Soler said Batavia teachers haven’t brought up the issue.

“I think Texas is in a different spot right now – they’re a major hot point while they’re opening schools, whereas in New York our infection rate is lower,” he offered. “I know there are serious concerns around the virus, legitimately so, but that has not come up in terms of folks wanting to wear anything of that nature.”

Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, concurred that the subject has not come up yet.

“If people wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it hasn’t come up in discussions with the district,” he said. “I don’t think there would be a rule against it. I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t be allowed.”

Teachers in all districts will be wearing masks, social distancing and, to some degree, assisting students with the proper protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

Proponents of scrubs say that type of clothing has its advantages for the following reasons:

  • They present a clean and neat appearance;
  • They are durable;
  • They are easy to care for and disinfect by washing and drying;
  • They have pockets for storage;
  • They aren’t that expensive.

It is said that a good pair of scrubs holds up through at least 30 washes, so in theory, teachers can buy uniforms once each school year.

Soler said he will be wearing a suit and tie – as well as a facemask – and adhering to all the other requirements mandated by the governor’s office and the state Department of Health.

“We’re not saying, hey, go out and get a full hazmat suit and come into work,” he quipped. “We’re hoping to make this feel as normal as possible.”

Eight drive-thru food distributions scheduled countywide

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Salvation Army in partnership with The United Way, City Church, Byron-Bergen Central School District, Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and Foodlink would like to announce the schedule for the upcoming drive-thru food distributions.

When participating in this distribution please have your trunk/hatch/backseat cleared out to receive three to four boxes of food. Volunteers are not permitted to move your property due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Should you need to pick up for a friend or neighbor you may do so by providing their photo ID showing a separate address. Please wear a mask. 

You will remain in your car and volunteers will load the food.

Should you have any questions about a specific distribution contact that organization directly.


July 15 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284

July 22 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

July 29 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284


Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 14 Liberty St., Batavia, (585) 343-6895

Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

Aug. 19 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284

Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284


Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 114 Liberty St., Batavia (585) 343-6895

Oakfield-Alabama Central: Voters pass budget, propositions; Yunker Davis, Zeliff, Groth elected

By Mike Pettinella

Voting on Oakfield-Alabama Central School's $21,123,746 budget, propositions and board of education election:

Proposition #1 – Budget
Yes – 706
No – 276

Proposition #2 – Capital Improvements Project, 2020
Yes – 567
No – 393

Proposition #3 – Buses
Yes – 663
No – 295

School Board (Top Three Elected to the Board)
Jackie Yunker Davis – 654
Pete Zeliff – 601
Daniel N. Groth – 599

Governor's executive order delays school budget, board ballot tabulations until June 16

By Mike Pettinella

Over the past couple weeks, Genesee County school districts -- like others throughout the state -- have been gearing up for Tuesday’s counting of paper ballots that will determine the outcome of 2020-21 budgets, propositions and board of education elections.

Now, per an executive order signed on Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it looks as though they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

The legislation extends the deadline for submitting school budget absentee ballots by mail through June 16, while retaining the requirement that ballots can be delivered by hand to school offices through 5 p.m. tomorrow.

“Obviously, it will delay our process by a week,” said Scott Rozanski, Batavia City School District business administrator. “Tentatively, we will begin to count on June 16 once mail is received.”

Rozanski said he has yet to receive specific guidance on the legislation, which also extends the deadline to submit absentee ballots for the Primary Election until June 23 -- the day of the election.

In a press release, Cuomo said “the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world, and while we are making great progress and the numbers keep going down, no New Yorker should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

Robert Schneider, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said, in a press release, the delay muddles the school budget process even further.

“The executive order will likely cause confusion among voters in districts that did not face supply chain issues, thereby adding to what has been an extremely frustrating, costly and cumbersome board election and school budget vote process,” Schneider said.

Rozanski and John Fisgus, Oakfield-Alabama Central School superintendent, said they are ready to count their district’s ballots, and both are reporting a significant increase in voter participation.

“We received over 300 ballots a day for the first four days (since May 29) and now they're coming in at around 150 per day,” Rozanski said. “This will be the highest number of votes since I arrived in 2003. We have already exceeded the highest number, which was in 2012-13.”

Last year, about 550 votes were cast in Batavia.

At Oakfield-Alabama, Fisgus said that more than 700 ballots had been received as of last Friday – more than three times the number of voters in 2019.

As far as counting the ballots is concerned, both districts have their teams in place and will be forming an “assembly line” with different people assigned to specific tasks – opening the envelopes, distributing the ballots and counting the votes separately for the budget, other propositions and school board election.

They also said that guidelines are in place to ensure voter anonymity since the outside of the envelopes have to be signed in order to be considered. 

“(Starting at 5 p.m. on June 16) we will open the envelopes but the ballots will remain folded as not to see the information checked as it must remain anonymous and separated from the envelope,” Fisgus said.

He said the ballots will be placed in a secure lock box, and the two teams counting the ballots will be charged with tallying the budget votes, capital project vote, bus purchase and board member votes.

“Once all the legal ballots have been counted, the teams will come together for a final tally of the propositions and board candidates,” said.

Rozanski said the Batavia district is using a local vendor to assist in the process.

“We have partnered with ABS (Applied Business Systems) to have the mailed ballots delivered to them using their Business Reply Mail permit,” he said. “Each day we receive notification of the ballots received and an employee picks up the mail. In addition, ballots could still be dropped off at the Administrative wing at Batavia High School (by 5 p.m. tomorrow).”

To be eligible to vote, persons must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older, and be a resident of the school district for at least 30 days prior to June 9 – all in accordance with the provisions of section 5-106 of the Election Law.


Reigle to Run for Batavia Spot

The Batavia City School District has another candidate for the school board as John Reigle has thrown his hat into the ring as a write-in.

He joins incumbents Tanni Bromley and Barbara Bowman as well as recent appointee Alice Ann Benedict in the race for the three open board seats.

The two candidates receiving the most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023, while the third-place candidate’s term will be June 9, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Five questions for board of education candidates: Oakfield-Alabama Central School

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavian has reached out to school board candidates in Genesee County to get their answers to five questions prior to voting on June 9.

At Oakfield-Alabama Central School, five candidates are running for three open positions – Jackie Yunker Davis, Daniel N. Groth, Douglas Russo, Shanda Spink and Peter Zeliff.

The candidate receiving the most votes will begin serving on June 10 with the term ending on June 30, 2023. The terms of the two candidates with the second and third most votes will be July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023.

The questions are as follows:

1 -- What is your position on your school district’s proposed budget for 2020-21? What parts do you support? What parts would you change if you could?

2 -- Are teachers in your district compensated adequately?

3 -- With what we know now about COVID-19, should schools reopen in the fall?

4 -- Are you satisfied that your district responds to parents’ complaints and concerns in a way that ensures the parents know they have been heard?

5 -- What two books published since The Enlightenment have influenced you the most?


1 -- I am in favor of the proposed 2020-21 tax neutral District budget. Considering the current status and economic downfall of NYS, I cannot, however, be in favor of a Capital Improvement project that relies so heavily on a state that has such an enormous deficit. I do support the district’s ability to scale back appropriately as needed pending state cuts. The concept of "doing more with less" is here and real. Change is inevitable. I would certainly like to see proactive measures versus reactive measures in how we handle this change as a district.

2 -- I fall somewhere in the middle here. I would certainly like to see compensation relative to performance. As with many businesses/schools, you will have the high performing educators who go above and beyond their duties, day in and day out, and are under compensated in comparison to their value. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the middle or low performers who are overcompensated.

3 -- School should absolutely resume in the fall. Will it be the same as it was? No, certainly not, given what we know about COVID. I do think it's possible if we are willing to change how we’ve always done things, and have an open mind ... to make it happen. OACS has very dedicated, responsible, highly-educated, and caring individuals as part of their administration and staff, that I am confident will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of all.

4 -- I can speak only from what I know through my own experiences with the district, and what is voiced to me from others. I do believe OACS has done an excellent job of addressing the needs of both parents and students during these trying times. They have offered several different platforms of communication. They are visible and supportive. I have heard many complementary remarks of how OACS has worked through this and I am very proud to be in this district!

5 -- So many books to choose from however, I would say the two books that I find worthy to keep on my bookshelf, and often re-read or reference, are Who Moved My Cheese? Dr. Spencer Johnson. A classic. Change is constant. Adapting to change is a must. Always pertinent to our lives, and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. I absolutely love that our O-A students are getting such early exposure to timeless principles of what it takes to be “good humans.”


1 -- I feel it is appropriate given the current economic situation. I support all parts of the proposed budget. There are no parts of the proposed budget that I would change.

2 -- At this point in time, I think it is too early to make that decision. Schools will need more guidance, data and feedback. I’m confident the right decision will be made for all schools.

3 -- I feel teachers are compensated fairly.

4 -- I am satisfied and any communication I have had, the district responded in an appropriate and timely manner.

5 -- Eisenhower in War and Peace, Trail of Tears


1 -- I feel that the proposed budget is prudent and fiscally responsible for the taxpaying citizens. Therefore, I will support the budget for approval. I recommend the budget because it offers a 0 percent tax levy increase to our district property owners. Meanwhile, there is an increase in funding for instruction, which I believe is essential for our students. As we move forward, there is a grave concern regarding a reduction in (New York State) aid to our school district. If there are any changes to the school budget, I will work hard to ensure funds are allocated in a fiscally responsible manner and that the monies are well spent for our children. As a board member, I will advocate for fiscally sound (future) district budgets and, along with the rest of the board, will monitor our school organization's financial well-being.

2 --Teachers are compensated according to the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the teachers association. I can tell you firsthand that the profession as a teacher is challenging while rewarding. Teachers hold an essential function in our community that impacts our children's learning and students' success. Maintaining and recruiting extraordinary teachers that are responsible for student achievement is a priority for our school system. As a board member, I will advocate that our school district provides equitable compensation, not only to our teachers but to all school staff members. I am devoted to working with the other board members and the administrative team, creating policies for a school environment that fosters a safe and positive workplace for all of our staff members and that it encompasses a collaborative culture with a growth mindset focusing on student achievement. 

3 -- I was saddened by the sudden school closing this year. As a father, my daughter Kiera, who is an Oakfield-Alabama Senior, missed-out on her senior events. As a teacher, I had 34 high school seniors in my class, and they missed out on essential activities. Most seniors were in the process of performing an internship at their designated worksite. We need to get students back to school as soon as possible in the fall. However, we must be diligent and cautious. Safety to our educational community is Priority-1. The COVID-19 is undoubtedly a harmful virus, and we must take the necessary steps so that students and staff and their families remain safe by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York State guidelines. Thereby, we must work together and be innovative in the learning process to discover new ways and solutions to teaching our students, implement safety measures and continuously monitor the well-being of our community regardless if school resumes or shutdown continues.

4 -- Speaking for myself as a parent, Oakfield-Alabama School District has always listened to and addressed my concerns promptly and adequately. Every parent and student should be treated with the utmost respect, understanding, and dignity by our school district. One of my main objectives as a school board member is to listen to all stakeholders' interests and concerns in our district and our educational community effectively. As a board member, I will bring forth ideas to assist in developing and constructing district policies that will enhance and ensure a high level of student equity, equality, and excellence for ALL of our students and that it encourages parent involvement. 

5 -- I recently read the autobiography, On the Brink by Henry [Hank] M. Paulson, Jr. Hank Paulson was an American banker who served as the 74th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the 2008 financial crisis. Paulson speaks in detail about his experience as a leader contending with the crisis. I am intrigued about the crisis that I lived through and how a leader would handle such a disaster. Paulson was a bona fide capitalist and believed in moral hazard, whereas each business determines their destiny (succeed or fail) without government intervention or interference. Paulson's objective was to change the economic climate quickly. Despite Paulson's ideology and political resistance (including friendly colleagues, which became not so friendly), Paulson sanctioned the U.S. government to annex many large corporations to obtain the objective. This book demonstrated how a leader must put ideologies aside and do what's best for the organization he or she serves.

The second book that I am influenced by is Michael Fullan's Change Leader. In short, Fullan speaks about a leader being resolute with a purpose while demonstrating empathy for others. Having a seat at the board table, I will apply the things that have impacted me through my readings. I will do what is in the best interest of the Oakfield-Alabama School District and its students. I am devoted to working with the other board members, the administrative team, and our community to establish a clear vision to create a dynamic school system.


1 -- I support OACS's proposed budget for 2020-21. Given recent events with employment for so many, the fact that our school's budget proposes a 0 percent tax levy increase to our local community members is a blessing. I believe that the Capital Improvement Project is necessary and one that will provide our children with a safer and better learning environment. The only aspect of the budget that I would change is proposition #3 to acquire more school buses. I do not feel the need to have new buses. However, I would support the purchase of them, should the school decide to have the HS/Middle and Elementary start and end at the same time as other districts around us.

2 -- After comparing OACS's district average pay for last year to other districts, I do not think that our teachers are paid enough. I do believe that we provide amazing benefits, as I experienced them first hand when my mom was a school employee. However, I believe that teachers, especially in today's age with more work behind the scenes, deserve to be paid closer to the state average, like districts and counties around us.

3 -- As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I do not feel that schools should reopen, given the guidelines that the CDC has given at this point. We need to take into account the emotional health of our students, not just physical. I do not believe the guidelines set will give my children the best education experience possible. School is not just about the information taught. I believe that a major part of school is the interactions with other students, teachers, and staff. This helps our students to be well-rounded citizens. It helps our students feel a part of something bigger than themselves. If schools should open under the CDC guidelines, our children would be missing out on many interactions that help to shape them into the people we want to see in the world. Should the CDC have new suggestions, I would consider going forward to reopen schools in the fall.

4 -- For our family personally, it depended on the situation. I have felt heard at times and ignored at others. I believe that when the problem is addressed, Oakfield does an outstanding job of making you feel heard and together come up with a solution. However, as time goes on, the solution to the problem seemed to have been pushed aside and I would have to bring up the situation again to remind them of our previous solution.

5 -- The first book that has influenced me is Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. This helped me find the courage to be brave and stand-alone in what I believe instead of trying to fit in and be the person others wanted me to be. The book talks about how true belonging is not about fitting in, pretending, or making the people around us comfortable. Instead, we need to be who we are and stand strong in what we believe in. It talks about how we need to follow our hearts and protect them from the constant evaluation you get from others when doing what you are led to do ... even if it is a little outside the box. Brené Brown says our belonging to each other can’t be lost, but it can be forgotten. Her research has reminded the world in recent years of the uncomfortable, life-giving link between vulnerability and courage. This book draws attention to the fact that we walked into the crisis of our life together and how we can move beyond it: with strong backs, soft fronts, and wild hearts.

The second book is a book that I read after attending the Global Leadership Summit, a few years ago, called Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. It was a fresh perspective leadership book that talked about how to lead with courage then follow with character. The book helped me pinpoint and acknowledge my strengths as a leader. It also allowed me to see what my weaknesses are so that I can delegate those activities to someone else who has them as a strength. The book does an amazing job of how to be a leader in today's society. According to Stanley, "You have to courageous. You have to be clear in the midst of uncertainty. You need to have a leadership coach yourself. And along the way, it is absolutely essential that you maintain your character."


1 -- I feel our administration has done a great job on the budget and I fully support it. They always keep the taxpayers in mind while making sure our kids have everything to succeed. Managing the budget is going to be more crucial in the next year with not knowing where the state is financially and we may have to make adjustments based on that as the year goes on and pull back in certain areas. One example would be the bus purchase. I would want to know that the kids are coming back to school for sure before we made a purchase like that. 

2 -- I believe our teachers are our most valuable asset and that money isn’t the only thing that motivates people. We have a very unique community and school district that does a lot of little things other communities and schools don’t do which to me has a lot of value. Our teachers should be compensated competitively with other school districts but I also want our teachers to be drawn to us as a district and community, and I believe our school district has more to offer than just a paycheck. Seeing how a lot of these teachers come out support their students at things like sporting events, plays, and how great they have been during the corona pandemic with personally reaching out to students, leaving messages on the driveways, and so many other things is what I believe we are all investing in and I feel the board needs to make sure we are recognizing what these teachers do and to make sure they have everything they need to get the job done.

3 -- My initial reaction is yes but I feel we need to continue monitoring the situation before making that decision. As of right now that should be the plan and we should be gearing up for that to happen. I believe it is important to get these kids back into a class room and a normal or as normal as it can be routine but we also have to think of the safety of all of our children and be working on plan B as well so we are prepared.

4 -- Yes, I have felt our administration has always been willing to take the time to listen to your concerns and that they are always looking for community feedback and input. The fact that they look for community members to sit in on teacher and administration interviews, committees for construction projects, and other school agendas shows that they really want to hear from us. 

5 -- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Capital Gains by Chip Gaines.

All school district budget votes set for June 9 by absentee balloting

By Mike Pettinella

As Genesee County school districts gear up for 2020-21 budget voting and school board elections, The Batavian is providing the following capsule summaries to keep residents informed about key dates, propositions and candidates.

Per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, all school districts in New York State will hold annual budget voting and board elections on June 9 through absentee balloting.

Absentee ballots will be mailed to eligible voters and must be returned to the district offices by 5 p.m. on June 9 or they will not be considered or counted – no exceptions.

It is essential to remember that additional state aid cuts could be coming and would affect districts’ budgets going forward.

Details about the schools’ budgets and candidates as well as contact information can be found on their respective websites.


Budget by the numbers -- The proposed budget is $18,540,258, an increase of $315,497 from the 2019-20 plan, with no increase in the tax levy. The budget (virtual) hearing is set for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom using the log-in details posted on the district website, and will be available for viewing on the website’s BOE link starting on May 27.

School board election – One position is up for election for a term of five years commencing July 1, 2020 and expiring on June 30, 2025 to succeed Richard Guarino, whose term expires on June 30, 2020. Candidates are Christopher Mullen and Diane Steel.


Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $51,470,725 spending plan with cuts in staffing and other items but no property tax increase. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on June 2.

Additional propositions – Richmond Memorial Library trustee voting, with Kristi Evans the only candidate at this time for a five-year term starting on July 1, 2020. As two seats are open, the other will be filled via the write-in candidate process. Jackson Primary playground, a $618,000 capital project to construct an age-appropriate playground at Jackson Primary School.

School board election – Incumbents Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley along with recent appointee Alice Ann Benedict are running for three board seats. The candidates receiving the most votes will serve from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023, while the third-place candidate’s term will be June 9, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a proposed budget of $24,599,800, including a tax levy of $9,024,961 – an increase in the property tax rate of 1.99 percent. The public hearing on the budget is set for 5 p.m. on May 28, and will be recorded and placed on the district website.

Additional propositionsBus purchase, proposal is for two 70-passenger school buses at a maximum cost of $246,000, with 90 percent covered by state aid. The tax income is estimated at $2 per year on a house assessed at $100,000, according to Superintendent Mickey Edwards.

School board election – Three people are running for two open trustee positions – incumbents Tammy Menzie and Amy Phillips and challenger Lynn Smith. The terms are for three years, beginning on July 1.


Budget by the numbers – The board is meeting tonight via Zoom to consider the $10,269,322 spending plan that calls for a slight tax increase that equates to an increase of $39 for the entire year based on a house assessed at $150,000. The public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. on May 27, also via Zoom.

Additional propositionRe-establish a vehicle and transportation reserve and school bus purchase. Superintendent Ned Dale reporting that the district wishes use existing reserve funds to purchase a 65-passenger bus and a 24-passenger bus with a handicap lift.

School board election – Incumbent Michael Riner is the only slated candidate for his seat, which expires this year.



Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $26,334,488 budget that includes a 1.99 percent property tax increase (which is below the district’s tax cap of 2.8 percent) and does not add new positions or programs. The budget hearing presentation will be posted on the district's website at on June 2.

School board election – Incumbents Richard Lawrence and Jacalyn Whiting are running for the two three-year terms.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board approved a $21,123,746 budget, up 1.4 percent from last year, with a zero percent property tax increase. Superintendent John Fisgus reported that the budget preserves all educational programs and extracurricular activities, adding that tiered plans are in place if the state makes additional cuts in aid. The public hearing on the budget is set for 10 a.m. on June 1 and will be considered “adjourned” as it will be conducted remotely.

Additional propositions – Capital improvement project, $15.3 million, with no impact upon taxpayers. Major goals of the project include safety/security measures, code and handicap accessible updates, building repairs, infrastructure upgrades and landscaping. School bus purchase, $135,000, to be financed.

School board election – Five candidates are running for three open positions – Jackie Yunker Davis, Daniel N. Groth, Douglas Russo, Shanda Spink and Pete Zeliff. The candidate receiving the most votes will begin serving on June 10 with the term ending on June 30, 2023. The terms of the two candidates with the second and third most votes will be July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $17,684,182 budget with no change in the tax levy and no major changes beyond contractual increases and expected costs related to the coronavirus. The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 26 via Zoom. Links will be provided in the district newsletter and on our web page once they are created. 

Additional propositions – Change of board of education term, with the proposal calling for making all seven seats five-year terms – an increase of two years from the current term.

School board election -- Incumbents Margaret Gaston and Callin Ayers-Tillotson are running for re-election.

Website –


Budget by the numbers – The board adopted a $23,679,522 budget with a zero percent tax levy increase and no property tax increase. The budget hearing will be held remotely on May 26, and the adjourned budget hearing will be available to view on the district website BoardDocs link beginning on May 27. The district's Dragon Tales publication will be mailed next week with all the details.

Additional propositions – Purchase of buses, with no impact upon taxes.

School board election – Dan Lang is running for a one-year unexpired term and Heather Wood is running for a new five-year term. Additionally, an election to fill three seats on the Corfu Public Library is scheduled. Kristie Miller, Julie Hengenius and Tony Kutter are up for election for three-year terms.

O-A to roll out the red carpet for youngsters on first morning back to school Sept. 5

By Billie Owens

The Oakfield-Alabama Central School District will welcome its young stars in the making by rolling out the red carpet, literally, on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 5.

They have been busy gearing up for another exciting academic year and the Red Carpet Welcome is just the ticket to kick things off spectacularly.

Friends and family are welcome to be there to greet students beginning at 8:15 a.m., with the actual back-to-school walk down the red carpet at 8:45 ("Lights! Camera! Action!") 

(Alas, autographs would only hold up the line...)

Feel free to bring your cameras, and signs welcoming students back and encouraging them. Flash your biggest smile and employ your loudest cheering voice, say Elementary Principal Lynn Gehlert and Interim Assistant Principal Jennifer Stearns.

In other words, make a big, auspicious spectacle.

Oakfield-Alabama announces vacancy on its school board

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The Board of Education of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District has a vacancy on the board. This vacancy will be filled by a special election on Jan. 24.

The newly elected member will serve the remainder of a three-year term set to expire on June 30, 2015.

Qualifications for membership on a school board include:

  • Must be able to read and write;
  • Must be a qualified voter of the district; that is, a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years of age or older;
  • Must be and have been a resident (but need not be a taxpayer) of the district for a continuous and uninterrupted period of at least one year;
  • May not have been removed from any school district office within the preceding year;
  • May not reside with another member of the same school board as a member of the same family;
  • May not be a current employee of the school board;
  • May not simultaneously hold another incompatible public office.

All interested candidates are invited to pick up a Petition for Board Member Nomination form from the district office, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

O-A casts nearly unanimous vote for Prom Queen with Down syndrome

By Billie Owens

Colleen Fisher just may be the most popular Prom Queen ever selected at Oakfield-Alabama High School.

In a landslide of ballot votes, the 18-year-old garnered all but about two votes to be crowned at the junior/senior prom held at Stafford Country Club.

She is a graduating senior, very well liked, who happens to have Down syndrome.

“She is a wonderful young girl,” said High School Principle Lynn Muscarella.

Colleen’s teacher says Colleen’s thrilled with the honor.

“She’s on Cloud 9,” teacher Adrienne Fuore told Muscarella. “Being named Prom Queen has made her whole year.”

And it has been a busy one. She studies basic life skills for a half-day, then takes vocational classes --called the West Program – at Boces.

In addition, she’s been active in Drama Club and this year she started learning how to play clarinet.

For the spring musical presention, the musicians all learned a song that Colleen could perform on her clarinet. It was the traditional standard “Hot Cross Buns.” She also played the final song with the group and the audience was delighted.

“I’ve never seen or heard of anyone with Down syndrome being named Prom Queen,” Muscarella said. “I am just so proud of my kids here. It tells you a lot about them.”

Colleen's mother, Dawn Fisher, said the event was the highlight of her daughter's senior year.

"She was excited about the prom in general, about life, and when she won she yelled 'I won!'" Dawn said. "It is awesome that the kids chose her. They recognized her. It was very selfless of them."

Prom royalty pictured on top, from left: Princess Randi Zakes, Prince Nathan Klos, Queen Colleen Fisher and King Kevin Beuler.

Inset above, the royal couple, King Kevin and Queen Colleen.

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