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Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools

Grounds and emotional maintenance priorities for O-A, Pembroke school districts

By Joanne Beck


Editor's Note: The Batavian has reached out to all public school districts in Genesee County to check on how the budget season has been going so far. School district responses will be published as they are received.

While neither Oakfield-Alabama nor Pembroke school districts plan to eliminate any jobs, each would like to add at least one position, including a social worker and maintenance person, to the 2022-23 budget.

First up is Oakfield-Alabama Central School, which reports a tax levy “way under” the cap of 1.97 percent. With a proposed 2022-23 budget of $23,589,606, or a 10.45 percent increase, the district is looking at a 1.1 percent tax levy increase, Superintendent John Fisgus said.

Although expenses for this next year are “hard to manage and estimate at times,” the district has proposed adding three positions: one elementary school special education teacher, one maintenance worker and one guidance office secretary.

During the school board’s March 15 meeting, the need for a maintenance worker was reviewed and explained. There have been two grounds and one maintenance staff to tend to the district’s property, sports fields and building maintenance. The proposed additional position is “no reflection on staff,” Fisgus said, but is called for given the amount of work to be done. 

There are 70 acres to maintain and landscape, which gives each of the two grounds people 35 acres each. Adding a maintenance position would reduce that to about 23 acres each. Maintenance also does the winter snowplowing in addition to grooming the baseball and football fields and other outdoor areas, he said. This person would also serve as a backup for the existing staff. As it is, the district is down one grounds person, which will be replaced, he said.  

“I always thought the size of this district was small and rural, but wow, do we have land,” he said. “Especially with the capital project. We want to make sure our maintenance can keep up with the (work to be done). If someone called in … we’re very worried.”

The current staff has been doing “quite a bit of overtime” to get tasks done, Director of Facilities Jordan Yager said. “They’ve done an awesome job; they just can’t get to everything they need to get done.”

Hiring the additional position would cut down on overtime, he said. 

Good news for the district is a state aid boost of $1.5 million more or an 11 percent increase, Fisgus said. As for predicting future costs, “it's a guessing game when we don't know the outcome of the Governor's Budget,” he said. 

“With the increased costs of gasoline, electricity, and other utilities, we have to forecast out how much longer these increased expenses might continue,” he said. “The inflation rates along with the allowable levy growth factor play into our decision-making when calculating our expenditures.” 

Although revenues are up by $2,168,785 from this past year, he is concerned about Foundation Aid, which has tentatively reflected a decrease of about $100,000 from what the district expected, he said.

“That’s huge for a small rural school. We will need to wait and see what the Governor’s budget entails,” he said. “Our Board of Education is well informed to make the most appropriate and fiscally responsible decisions for our community. I praise their work and commitment to our students, staff, teachers, administrators, and school community. It also helps to have the best Business Adminstrator around to navigate these waters.”

This year’s budget ballot will include a proposition to add a student representative to the Board of Education in 2023. Fisgus is “excited for the opportunity” to have a student on the board, he said. Student ex-officios provide input and updates from the student community, and typically do not vote on district matters. 

“We will have a separate proposition on the ballot for our community to vote on this,” he said.

Pembroke Central School does not have a proposed budget as of yet, Superintendent Matthew Calderon said. District officials usually recommend a tax levy increase of about 2 percent, even though “there are times when the tax cap is far above that,” he said.

Since the tax cap formula includes a calculation for a capital outlay project, he is proceeding with caution before determining a tax levy and related increase or decrease.

“We are waiting for the state budget to pass to determine whether or not we can include a capital outlay project in the proposed budget. That decision will affect our final allowable tax cap and is to be determined,” he said. 

Total expenses are also to be determined, he said,given that “there are expenses that are out of our control.” Those expenses include the rising costs for utilities and health insurance, “which limits our capacity to expand programs for students.”

An increase in state aid, based on the governor’s initially proposed budget, was not enough to cover the district’s preliminary budget, Calderon said. That may mean some belt-tightening if necessary.

“We are prepared to reduce costs to eliminate any deficit,” he said. “And a few retirements may assist in doing that.”

Pembroke is looking at adding one social worker position to “better support the social-emotional needs of students, families and employees,” he said. There are no plans to eliminate any positions.

As for the budget process, there is one big, unanswered question.

“It is challenging to propose and finalize a school district budget when the state budget is late,” Calderon said. 

School budget votes are on May 17, and each school district will conduct a hearing/presentation at least one week prior to the vote. Oakfield-Alabama's hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 10  and Pembroke's hearing is at 6:30 p.m. May 10.

File photo: A new tennis court at Oakfield-Alabama is one of the items needing maintenance at the district, officials say. Photo by Howard Owens.

Genesee County central school districts unveil plans for reopening this fall

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County central school districts have sent their reopening proposals to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and to the New York State Education Department.

It must be noted that the governor ultimately will determine whether or not schools may reopen. He is expected to announce his decision sometime next week.

Complete reopening plans can be found on the schools’ websites. All plans must comply with guidelines set forth by the state Education Department, Center for Disease Control, Genesee County Health Department and the governor’s executive orders.

The Batavian posted the Batavia City School District’s hybrid reopening plan on Tuesday.


Superintendent Catherine Huber said the district is proposing a hybrid reopening plan, based on the building capacity and in alignment with the aforementioned guidelines.

It includes designating Wednesdays as a virtual day for all students “to allow us to engage in scheduled deep cleaning on a weekly basis in addition to our regular daily cleaning routine.”

  • Prekindergarten through fifth grade – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in school.
  • BOCES CTE – Monday and Tuesday at BOCES, Thursday and Friday in school.
  • Sixth through eighth grade – Monday and Tuesday in school, Thursday and Friday virtual.
  • Ninth through 12th grade – Monday and Tuesday virtual, Thursday and Friday in school.
  • Special education/English language learning – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in school.


Superintendent Mickey Edwards released the B-B plan, which (like Alexander’s plan) divides students into five groups – one with 100-percent in-school learning, three with a combination of in-school and remote learning and one with 100-percent remote learning.

  • Universal Prekindergarten through fifth grade (elementary school) – All students in school.
  • Cohort 1, sixth through 12th grade – Students with last name A-L – Monday and Tuesday in school; Wednesday through Friday remote learning.
  • Cohort 2, sixth through 12th grade – Students with last name M-Z, Monday through Wednesday remote learning; Thursday and Friday in school.
  • Cohort 3, sixth through 12th grade students with special considerations – Every day except Wednesday in school.
  • Virtual Cohort, K-12th grade – 100-percent remote learning for students whose parents have opted not to send their children back to school.


Superintendent Ned Dale said his committee “collectively agreed that the safest plan would be to have 50 percent of the students come every other day.”

He said the goal is to review the wellness of our students and staff on Oct. 1 and then every two weeks after that to increase capacity.

Two groups of students, Maroon and White, have been established based on last names to “allow them to sit on the bus together, possibly sit at a cafeteria table together, as social distancing is not required with members of the same household.”

Dale said that a 50-percent model will allow students to not wear a mask when they are seated in the classroom. He also noted that districts are required to accommodate students and families that choose to do distance learning and that students with special needs may be required to attend more often.


Superintendent Merritt Holly advised that the district has formulated a hybrid plan model, dividing the students from kindergarten to 12th grade into two groups – Team Jell-O, which will be in school on Monday and Tuesday, and Team Oatka, which will be in school on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday has been set aside as a full remote or virtual learning day for all students.

  • Team Jell-O – Monday and Tuesday in school; Wednesday through Friday, remote learning.
  • Team Oatka -- Thursday and Friday in school; Monday through Wednesday, remote learning.

“This allows us to have half our student population (in school) on Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday,” he said, adding that if parents don't feel comfortable sending their child back to school, the district is offering remote learning five days a week.

He said parents can choose one option for their child, either in-person instruction on two days, remote three days OR full remote five days.

The reopening plan is divided into the following categories as recommended by the state Education Department and Department of Health -- communications, operations, health & safety, transportation, food service, facilities/building procedures, academics/schedule, social emotional learning, athletics/extracurriculars.


Superintendent John Fisgus said the plan is to have 100-percent in-person learning and teaching for the fall.

The start of classes is delayed until Sept. 11 for extra training and guidance for staff. Fisgus said that this is made possible by utilizing two additional superintendent conference days at the beginning of the year.

“We are in a lucky spot that we can social distance our students while in the classrooms so students can remove their masks during instruction time,” he reported.

The O-A reopening plan is divided into seven categories – communications, operations, health/safety protocols, building procedures, academics, athletics, social/emotional supports.


Superintendent Kenneth Ellison said the school’s reopening committee hasn’t reached a final decision on which of the three options submitted to the state – in-school, remote learning or a mix of the two – will be set into motion at the outset of the school year.

“We will continue to work on what school will look like in September once Governor Cuomo makes his final decision on school reopening on August 7th,” he said. “Despite the scope of the state Education Department document, we still have many logistics to sort out to strike the balance between offering a program that is both educationally strong and meets the numerous health and safety requirements dictated by the state.

Ellison noted that the state Education Department defines these plans as “living documents” so changes will be made as new information becomes available.


Superintendent Matthew Calderon reported that the district is giving all K-12 parents the option for 100-percent online/remote learning or in-person learning, with the district set to send parents a summary of the details in an automated message before the plan is posted to its website.

He issued the following information:

  • Students who participate in 100-percent online/remote learning must commit to do so at least on a quarterly basis, and will use the Google Classroom Suite and ClassTag to participate in lessons and receive information about learning expectations.
  • Students who participate in-person will follow a normal schedule. Teachers will use the Google Classroom Suite and ClassTag to enhance the learning experience for students who attend in person. The district will rearrange classroom spaces and use clear desk shields to maximize social distancing and reduce the need to wear masks.
  • By using the Google Classroom Suite and ClassTag, the district will be prepared to quickly transition to a hybrid/alternating-day schedule and/or 100-percent online/remote learning for all, if needed. In such cases, students with disabilities and students with extenuating circumstances would be prioritized to continue with in-person learning to the fullest extent possible, if permitted.

Photos: Notre Dame High School's 'Make Some Noise Area-Wide Talent Show'

By Daniel Crofts

In this short video, St. Joe's fourth-grader Andres Mateos demonstrates the use of a Bo, a martial arts weapon from Korea.

Andres was one of many talented youths from Genesee County competing in the "Make Some Noise Area-Wide Talent Show" at Notre Dame High School last night.

Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Western New York chapter of "Make Noise 4 Kids," a nonprofit organization that raises money and awareness in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Here are some of the other performers:

Natalie Matuszak (Notre Dame) singing and playing the guitar for "I Wouldn't Mind" by He is We.

Nathan Beck (Notre Dame) singing and playing the original song "Can't Wait."

Kathryn Fitzpatrick (John Kennedy School) singing a cappella "Wizard and I" (from the Broadway musical "Wicked").

Matuszak and Gabrielle Linsey (Notre Dame) dancing to Rihanna's "Right Now."

Peter Kehl (Notre Dame) singing "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables" (dressed as Jean Valjean).

Laura Guiste (Batavia High School) singing "Love Story" by Taylor Swift.

Jon Korzelius, Tyler Hamm and Tristan Korzelius (all from Oakfield-Alabama) performing "The Pit and the Pendulum," a rock medley of original and popular rock songs.

Hailey Natalizia (Pembroke) singing "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" by Martina McBride.

Due to some technical difficulties, I was unable to take pictures of all the performers. My apologies and congratulations on a job well done to the following:

Keara Zerillo, Erin Phillips and Serena Strollo-DiCenso (St. Joseph School), who sang "Wings" by Little Mix.

Kyle Kendall (John Kennedy School), who performed a ball spinning act.

Fiona Beck (St. Joseph School), who sang and played "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones.

Jake Krajewski, Tyler Barrett, Peter Kehl, Janelle Fancher and Lydia Moens (Notre Dame), who performed a short play called "The Legend of Krately House."

Tyler Hamm and Jon Korzelius (Oakfield-Alabama), who performed a drum duet.

Tracy Read and Beth Johnson-Walsh (Oakfield-Alabama), who sang and played the piano for "Hometown Glory" by Adele.

The winners of the contest were, left to right, Beck (first place), Cheverie (honorable mention), Phillips, Strollo-DiCenso and Zerillo (honorable mention), Kehl (third place), Korzelius and Hamm (second place) and Natalizia (pictured separately).

So as to fit them all in clearly, here is a picture from the other side:

Natalizia was happy to be another honorable mention.

As first prize winner, Beck was awarded $150. He donated his entire winnings to "Make Noise 4 Kids."

Oakfield-Alabama names new school superintendent

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The Board of Education is proud to announce our unanimous selection of
Mr. Mark Alexander as the next superintendent of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District. Mark began his career as a third-grade teacher at the Churchville-Chili Central School District before joining the faculty at Oakfield-Alabama in 2000. He was promoted to the position of elementary principal in 2008.

Mark has also served as an adjunct instructor at Genesee Community College where he was awarded the prestigious National Institute of Staff Development and Organizational Development Award for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership.

Mark earned degrees in mathematics education and curriculum specialization at the College at Brockport before pursuing his certification in school leadership through the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. 

Mark has served in many leadership positions while a member of the Oakfield-Alabama team, including: chair of the Safety, Health and Wellness Committee; Anti-Bullying Committee member; past chair of the District Advancement Team; past chair of the Career Day Committee; and past president, treasurer, and Negotiations Team member of the Oakfield-Alabama Teachers’ Association.

Most importantly, Mark is an educational leader who has a demonstrated record of commitment to the children of this community, their families, support staff members, teachers, administrators and the broader school community. He is a leader of great character, passion and intelligence.

The board would also like to take this opportunity to express our community’s gratitude to Chris Todd for his outstanding leadership over the past five years. We wish Chris and his family well as he begins his new position as district superintendent of Oswego County BOCES on June 1. We also would like to welcome Mr. Ed Orman, our interim superintendent, who will stay on board with Oakfield-Alabama through our transition in leadership.

Mr. Alexander is a uniquely talented educational leader who will be leading a wonderful school system. He attended and graduated from Oakfield-Alabama and has deep roots in our community. The board looks forward to welcoming Mark and his family with great anticipation and enthusiasm.

Please join us in welcoming Mark on Tuesday, June 12 for a light refreshment reception, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Middle-High School Community Room.

Oakfield-Alabama inducting four grads into alumni hall of fame

By Howard B. Owens

Four outstanding grads of Oakfield-Alabama High School are being honored this week through induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame.

The honorees include a military hero, a wildlife biologist, a fingerprint expert and an infant cardiology specialist.

The Alumni Association will host a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Caryville Inn in Oakfield. The honorees will also be recognized Friday night during O-A's Homecoming football game against Pembroke.

More information about the honorees after the jump:

Oakfield-Alabama Alumni Hall of Fame 2010

Colonel Ernest B. Shepard, 1934
Ernest B. Shepard was born in Presque Isle, Maine, but moved to the Town of Alabama at an early age. He graduated from Oakfield High School in 1934. After graduating from college and a short teaching career, Ernest decided to serve his country and enlisted in the Air Force where he served in active duty from Nov. 3, 1941 until his retirement on Aug. 1, 1968.

Shortly after his enlistment, the United States entered World War II where Ernest served with distinction as a fighter pilot with the 316th Fighter Squadron. As WWII progressed, Ernest was attached to the 384th Fighter Squadron. Here he served as a fighter pilot and fighter squadron leader on 35 combat missions. Because of his leadership skills, Captain Shepard was selected to serve as squadron operations officer and was promoted to the rank of Major by February 1945.

Col. Shepard went on to become a P-51 Mustang pilot and squadron operation officer, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross "for extraordinary achievement while on bomber escort missions over Germany and German-occupied countries from September 9, 1944 to January 3, 1945." He was recognized for demonstrating an unfailing initiative and exemplary devotion to duty. Ernest B. Shepard served with distinction as lead pilot of a fighter group and fighter squadron on 14 missions. His outstanding leadership and outstanding airmanship resulted in the successful completion of these operations without loss of personel.

During his career, Ernest also received the: Air Medal with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters; Distinguished Unit Citation; European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with seven Bronze Stars: Air Force Longevity Service Award with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star; Viet Nam Service Medal; and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.

David Odell, 1965
David Odell is a retired NYS Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist. Early in his life, David decided he would devote his career and energy to protecting our natural resources. His love of the outdoors began with his earliest childhood experiences exploring the fields and forests around the Town of Alabama, studying and collecting everything from fossils to live animals.

David received his B.A. in Zoology from Houghton College in 1969 and then went on to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, where his major was Zoology. He received his Master of Science, with an emphasis in Wildlife Management, in 1974.

After high school and college, some interesting employment opportunities came his way, but David was convinced that he could make the greatest difference in the field of natural resource conservation. When offered a job with the DEC, David gladly accepted and became a career employee.

As project coordinator of the Montezuma Wetlands, David played a significant role in the expansion of land protection, restoration, enhancement and management of the Montezuma Wetland Complex. In his role as program director of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, David has worked with a variety of partners, including Ducks Unlimited, DEC, The Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Friends of Montezuma, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. His lifelong commitment to and passion for waterfowl conservation has made a difference for all New Yorkers who enjoy wildlife.

In addition to his work with the DEC, David has also served as an assistant professor (adjunct) with the Houghton College Department of Biology. In this role, he taught courses including Wildlife Biology, Field Ornithology, Ecology of Alaska (two trips) and Animal Ecology Lab. David has also authored numerous conservation-related materials. Outside the workplace, Dave is active in his church, and (together with his wife) has taken part in two short-term missions trips to Honduras. Dave is a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International, having served as local club president and literacy chairman.

Valerie Palone McDonald, 1974
After graduating from OA with the Class of '74 Valerie Palone went to work for GTE Sylvania where she remained until August 1978. During that time, she attended night classes at Genesee Community College where she studied Business Administration and Accounting. A move to Washington, D.C., later that year would prove to be a major turning point in her life; she has several decades of experience with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice, and Federal Bureau of Prisons since that time.

Val began her career in Washington as a fingerprint examiner with the FBI. By February 1981, she was an FBI Space Management Specialist managing over 300 FBI offices located west of the Mississippi, including Hawaii and Alaska. In May 1986, she was assigned as a facilities planning specialist for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 1987 Valerie was selected as the first female construction project administrator for the Department of Justice (DOJ), Justice Management Division, Facilities and Administrative Services Staff.

Beginning in July 1992, Val served as a facilities management officer at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. One of her responsibilities in that capacity was to direct the development and implementation of a nationwide Long Range Master Plan to address federal prison facilities' physical plants and infrastructure of older institutions.

In 1999, Val was promoted to the chief of Facilities Programs, becoming the first female ever to hold this high position. One national program that she managed was the energy and water conservation program. In May 2006, Val was selected as the chief of Facilities Management for the Drug Enforcement Administration. In this position she was responsible for acquisition, design, construction and operation of 379 DEA domestic offices nationwide. On Dec. 6, 2009, Val was again promoted and selected as the first female ever to serve in her current capacity as DEA Chief Facilities Operations Section, for DEA Real Property worldwide, including DEA presence in 86 countries. Over the course of her federal career, Valerie has written many policies, manuals, reports, budgets and project papers. From February 2005 to October 2005, Val authored the FBOP Real Property Assessment Plan to comply with a Presidential Executive order. This Asset Management Plan became the model for the Department of Justice and was ultimately submitted to and approved by the Office of Management and Budget, Congress and the President.

Dr. Gul Dadlani, 1990
After graduating from OACS, Gul went on to the State University of New York at Buffalo where he earned his bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1994. Four years later, Dr. Dadlani received his medical degree from the University of Buffalo. From 1998 to 2001, he completed a residency in pediatrics at Children's Hospital, Buffalo, where he received the Resident Teaching Award for three consecutive years as well as the University of Buffalo Medical School Siegal Teaching Award in Pediatrics.

Between 2001 and 2004, Dr. Dadlani completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and twice received a Fellow Teaching Award from Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong.

Dr. Dadlani is board certified in pediatric cardiology. His special interests include heart failure, cardiomyopathies, pulmonary hypertension, fetal echocardiography and Kawasaki disease.

Dr. Dadlani is the medical director of Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiology Echocardiography laboratory director at All Children's Hospital located in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Safebeat Initiative, a current research project directed by Dr. Dadlani, involves All Children's Hospital community outreach program partnering with the Cardiac Arrhythmias Syndromes Foundation. The initiative provides cardiovascular education and free screening EKG's to high school students along the west coast of Florida with the goal of preventing sudden cardiac death.

Since February 2005, Dr. Dadlani has been the clinical assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of South Florida. He has also presented numerous lectures relating to infant cardiology, authored a chapter in a medical textbook, and is credited as author of several medical publications.

Oakfield-Alabama on lock down in pre-planned drill

By Howard B. Owens

Parents who have heard that the Oakfield-Alabama school is on lock down need not be concerned, according to a school official.

Leanne Brogan, business administrator, said the lock down is a pre-planned drill.

"The children are not in any danger," she said. "It's just routine."

According to the O-A district website, there is also an emergency evacuation drill scheduled for Thursday.

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