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Pembroke Central School District

January 17, 2020 - 12:52pm

Unified Vision 2020 -- the proposed capital improvement plan for Pembroke Central School District -- was "soundly defeated" by the majority of those who voted on it yesterday, according to Superintendent Matthew Calderón.

There were two propositions for consideration, with Prop. 1 having to pass in order for the second one to be viable. There were 1,543 voters who cast ballots in the high school library on them and they both failed.

The cost estimate for Prop. 1 was $38,505,000 and for Prop. 2 it was $10,915,000.

Proposition 1 had 196 "Yes" votes and 1,340 "No" votes, and seven blank ballots were turned in.

Proposition 2 had 249 "Yes" votes and 1,283 "No" votes and 11 blank ballots were turned in.

"We will analyze the results of the exit poll survey and decide what our next steps are after that," Calderón wrote in an email to The Batavian.

The huge thumbs down came despite three years of public input, planning and meetings that involved more than 1,000 people and stakeholder groups as well as 17 design concepts.

Prop. 1 called for: consolidating students into two buildings, with the reconfiguration of grades in each school -- UPK-5, 6-8, 9-12 -- and a clear separation between the middle school and the high school; building a separate gymnasium for the high school; expanding spectator seating space in the existing pool area; improvement to celebration space for performing arts; making facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and up to mandated health and safety standards; replacing the bus fuel tank and adding an in-ground vehicle lift at the bus garage.​

Prop. 2 would've created an improved and expanded pool for use by students as well as the public, plus storage space and seating.

The total price tag of $49,420,000 was to be paid for with $4.9 million from the district's capital reserve and 17-year State Aid funding bonds.

For homeowners with Basic STAR, the combined cost for Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 for a home assessed at $150,000 would have been $386 a year, and $262 for homeowners with Senior STAR.

If only Prop. 1 passed -- since Prop. 2 was only passable by voters if OK'd Prop. 1 -- the cost for homeowners with property assessed at $150,000 would have been $251 annually with Basic STAR, and $170 annually with Senior STAR.

The School Tax Relief (STAR) program provides eligible homeowners in New York State whose annual income is less than $500,000 with relief on their property taxes (you receive a check in the mail from the State's Tax Department to apply to your school taxes).

Early on, the "overwhelming consensus" in the district was to consolidate three school campuses into one -- at an estimated cost of $120 million, an expensive option that was deemed unfeasible.

According to the school board, building maintenance and restoration items that were included in the proposed project are still necessary but will now have to be done "without the benefit of state financial aid."

Large asset preservation work "will need to be funded within the district's annual budget process, with local taxpayers bearing the full cost" and as a result of the mandated upgrades, envisioned improvements to the academic program, which also require funding, will have to "be postponed," according to the school board.

January 13, 2020 - 3:15pm

After three years of planning involving more than 1,000 people and stakeholder groups, voters in the Pembroke Central School District will decide Thursday (Jan. 16) on comprehensive plans for capital improvements called "Unified Vision 2020."

Voting will take place from noon until 9 p.m. in the Jr./Sr. High School Library, located at 8750 Alleghany Road (routes 5 and 77), Corfu.

There will be two propositions on Thursday's ballot and Prop. 1 must pass in order for Prop. 2 to pass.

The proposal aims to:

  • Transform the intermediate school building into an elementary school for grade Universal Pre-K through five;
  • Develop a middle school model for grades six through eight that is distinctly separate from the high school, yet under the same roof;
  • Use the primary school building as both a community center and offices of the Pembroke Central School District;
  • Improve access to gymnasiums and the swimming pool for both students and community members;
  • Expand "celebration space" for high school performing arts while creating a multipurpose space;
  • Enhance access per the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law enacted 30 years ago;
  • Reconstruct aging facilities (per the 2015 mandatory Building Condition Survey);
  • And rectify potential future health and safety issues (such as the fuel tank at the bus garage).

If Proposition 1 is approved, it would consolidate students into two buildings, with the reconfiguration of grades in each school -- UPK-5, 6-8, 9-12 -- and a clear separation between the middle school and the high school. It would also allow the contruction of a separate gymnasium for the high school, expansion of spectator seating space in the existing pool area, improvement to celebration space for performing arts, replacement of the bus fuel tank and the addition of an in-ground vehicle lift at the bus garage.

Total cost: $38,505,000

If Proposition 1 is passed, then and only then can Proposition 2 be approved. It would allow for the reconstruction and expansion of a new pool for use by students as well as the public, plus storage space and seating.

Total cost: $10,915,000

Total costs for Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 are estimated to be $49,420,000 -- paid for with $4.9 million from the district's capital reserve and 17-year State Aid funding bonds, if approved by voters.

For homeowners with Basic STAR, the combined cost for Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 for a home assessed at $150,000 would be $386 a year, and $262 for homeowners with Senior STAR.

If only Prop. 1 is passed -- again Prop. 2 is only passable by voters if Prop. 1 is OK'd -- the cost for homeowners with property assessed at $150,000 would be $251 annually with Basic STAR, and $170 annually with Senior STAR.

The School Tax Relief (STAR) program provides eligible homeowners in New York State whose annual income is less than $500,000 with relief on their property taxes (you receive a check in the mail from the State's Tax Department to apply to your school taxes).

If voters pass Unified Vision 2020, it is expected that the State Department of Education would approve the project by summer 2021 and the bulk of work would start that fall.

Thursday's vote culminates a lengthy and at times contentious process, which included early on an "overwhelming consensus" to consolidate three school campuses into one. But with a price tag of more than $120M, that option was deemed unfeasible. Seventeen design concepts and countless meetings later, Unified Vision 2020 emerged as the most doable option.

If voters do not approve Prop. 1 and Prop. 2, or just Prop. 1 by itself, "building maintenance and restoration items included in the project would still be necessary but would have to be done without the benefit of state financial aid."

Therefore, "large asset preservation work would need to be funded within the district's annual budget process, with local taxpayers bearing the full cost. ... In addition, the academic program's improvements that are envisioned would be postponed," according to an information pamphlet mailed to voters by the district Board of Education.

Qualified residents of the Pembroke Central School District can obtain and use absentee ballots. At this point in time, completed absentee ballots would have to be hand delivered by 5 p.m. Thursday to the district office. For more information, call District Clerk Sandra Lang at (585) 599-4525, ext. 1950.

For more information on plans for capital improvements in Pembroke Central School District, including pie charts and additional details, click here.

May 7, 2019 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pembroke Central School District, pembroke, news, notify.


Not too many 18-year-olds run for elective office and even fewer decide to challenge their dad's bid for reelection but that's just what Samantha Ianni plans to do in the May 21 Pembroke Central School District Board of Trustees election.

Dad, Art Ianni, facing reelection for the first time after a single five-year term, is fine with it. Though he really doesn't want to lose.

"I have a lot of respect for my daughter and her decision making has always been pretty good so I'm going to stick behind her," Ianni said. "At the same token, over the five years, I've developed a lot of relationships with people on the board. So, through my experience and knowledge, I think that I can finish."

That sounds like a challenge, he's told.

"At age 55,I might know a few more people than my daughter. But again, it'll be interesting to see what she brings."

For Sam, being young is an advantage, she said. She's only a year removed from high school and will be a student herself throughout her entire term, if elected, first as an undergrad in education at the University at Buffalo and then working on her master's in education.

She also thinks that while her classmates are pretty tied up with their own studies and possibly in college out of the area, the students who were just a year or two ahead of her might be around and they might be eager to come out and support her candidacy.

Sam was the student ex-officio member of the school board a year ago and in January one of her former teachers, Alexis Langheier, suggested to Sam that she run for the seat.

"I was talking to her about how school was going and everything and she brought it up to me," Sam said. "She was like, 'I think this could be a really cool opportunity for you. You would learn a lot. I think that you also have a lot to offer the board.' "

Art was bemused when Sam first mentioned the idea to him but quickly decided it was a good thing for her and the community.

"Well, after I laughed a little bit I said, 'You know, I'm happy that one of the products of the school, any student, would want to be that involved in their community and want to come back is a wonderful thing,'" Art said. "That's what we do as a school board. That's what we try to accomplish. It's cool that it's my daughter but any 18-year old who would run against me I would be very proud of."

There is only one seat open in this election and Art and Sam aren't the only candidates. There's also Jeanna Clark. (Strassburg before her recent marriage). 

The natural question for Art is whether having Sam on the ballot might split any potential vote against him but he said he doesn't think Sam running helps him. She could bring in her own voters.

"I'd like to think that my experience on that board will push me all the way through," Art said. "Sam may bring in another 50 voters, which may not be the whole scale but it'll be close. Yeah, it'll be close. It'll be heartbreaking either way. Someone's losing whether it's myself whether it's Sam whether it's the other one obviously someone is losing. So, yeah, I'll feel bad but not for long."

June 5, 2018 - 1:28pm

Press release:

As part of the $2 billion Smart School Bond Act that was approved by voters in 2014, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that both Pembroke and Oakfield-Alabama Central school districts will be receiving funding to make technology and security upgrades in their schools.

“Technology is ever-changing and that means the way our students learn must be ever-changing and adaptable as well," Hawley said. "The whole idea behind the Smart Schools Investments was to provide a higher quality of education for our students and bring every classroom up to par with the digital age of tablets, laptop computers, whiteboards and high-speed wireless Internet access.”

In addition to technology and Internet capabilities, a portion of the funding will be allotted to high-tech security upgrades.

Hawley wrote Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie earlier this year asking for $50,000 per school statewide to hire armed resource officers. Furthermore, he recently introduced legislation that would make it easier for school districts to hire armed security personnel.

“The safety and security of our students is preeminent and I am glad some of this funding will go toward technological security upgrades,” Hawley said. “Our students, teachers and faculty deserve to feel safe and protected from the moment they step inside a school and that starts with taking a proactive approach.”

May 14, 2018 - 7:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, Pembroke Central School District, news, schools, education.

The Batavian emailed candidate questions to all 17 candidates in Genesee County's eight school districts that are holding elections on Tuesday. Only four returned completed questionnaires.  

This is the response from John Cima, the candidate lone in the Pembroke Central School District.

1. What is your position on your school district’s proposed budget for 2018-19? What parts do you support? What parts would you change if you could?

The Board voted unanimously to approve the proposed budget and we collectively support every part of it. We have had many discussions during the school year where we analyze budget items as a corporate body and made decisions based on that data. All board members are heard and we talk through any sticking points and concerns to reach consensus as a group. The proposed budget being presented to voters is one that all board members support without reservation. 

2. Are teachers in your district compensated adequately?

Collectively, I believe if you ask our teachers, they will tell you that Pembroke is a special place to work! As long as I have been serving on the Board we have looked at the District as a school district of opportunity for both students and staff. Being a rural school district we sometimes find ourselves having to do more with fewer resources than wealthier districts. Our teachers have risen to the occasion with creativity and a strong resolve. Our Board, I believe has done the same. While our teachers are not compensated as much as our neighbors in Erie County, we have worked hard to offer competitive salaries, and we are extremely pleased with the academic and extra-curricular achievements they have accomplished with our students.

3. Parents are more nervous than ever about school safety. Is your district’s communication to parents about school safety policies and procedures adequate? Should parents and the community be informed when a student makes a threat of violence against the school?

Safety and security are paramount and communication to parents is ongoing. When threats of violence occur, our school officials work closely with local law enforcement to determine the best course of action, including communications to parents, on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances.

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?

Yes. I hope that parents trust in the policies the Board has put in place to ensure open lines of communication when they have a complaint or concern. Sometimes parents are just looking for direction. I believe our Board has developed a policy that allows for open and honest dialog along with a proper chain of command. In most cases, this has led to the de-escalation of situations and rational solutions being agreed upon by all parties.

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

I have read a lot of books and it would be too difficult to choose which two have influenced me the most. However, if you were to ask me why I wish to continue serving on the Pembroke Board of Education I will tell you that I have been influenced by a school district and community that is open to exploring OPPORTUNITY. Our students deserve the best that we can provide when it comes to their respective educations. Our role as a school board is to set policy that ensures that this happens in the most cost-effective, efficient, resourceful, and creative way as possible. 

April 24, 2015 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, pembroke, Pembroke Central School District.

Press release:

Pembroke High School has made The Washington Post’s America’s Most Challenging High School List, published online this past Sunday.

Unlike Business First’s rankings, which consider a variety of factors in determining Western New York’s top schools, The Washington Post publishes a list of their top schools based on one factor, healthy Advanced Placement participation. If the number of students taking Advanced Placement tests is greater than the number of graduating seniors, the school makes the list.

Pembroke High School was able to meet the challenge by having 86 test takers last May with graduation for 67 seniors, an accomplishment that places Pembroke in the top 10 percent of all 22,000 high schools across America.

“We continue to embrace high expectations, and we do not shy away from challenging our students to the fullest,” stated Superintendent Matt Calderón. “We believe Pembroke students are fully capable to meet increased rigor in a variety of areas, and we are fortunate to have strong partnerships with parents and a community that also embraces that vision.

"When the NYS Commissioner of Education visited our District, it was our students that told him they wanted more rigorous and demanding coursework because they want to be prepared for life beyond high school; and they know the AP curriculum will give them a good taste of what their future holds in regard to college-level courses and career expectations.”

Ten years ago, Pembroke offered only two AP courses, Biology and Calculus AB, taken advantage of by 17 students. Now Pembroke offers AP English Literature, Psychology, Studio Art, U.S. History, World History, and Environmental Science. Music History and Physics were added for 2014-15 with a handful of students taking AP Computer Science through an online grant. For students who perform well on the AP exams, many colleges and universities offer college credit.

“No doubt, it is a lot of hard work but very rewarding when filling out that college application and vying for your school of choice. It can also be rewarding when entering college with 18 credits under your belt. That $546 investment translates to about $10,000 in savings at many of the colleges our students typically attend,” reported senior high school counselor and AP coordinator Toby Beahan.

According to high school Principal Keith Palmer, “If students want to challenge themselves, we try to provide the opportunities. We regularly work on developing an expectation with our students that a demanding and rigorous course load will be the best route in preparing for both college and career, especially during one’s senior year. And fortunately, we have talented teachers that are able to meet the challenge.”

Add to the mix student course-interest surveys, weighted grading for students who take on the challenge, recognition for students who score well, quality training for teachers, and you end up with healthy student participation in a quality AP program.

For more information about The Washington Post’s best high schools, visit http://apps.washingtonpost.com/local/highschoolchallenge/

March 23, 2011 - 4:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, pembroke, soccer, Pembroke Central School District.

Adding boys soccer to Pembroke High School's fall sports line-up needs more study -- that was the request of a couple of speakers at Tuesday's school board meeting and the decision of the board.

The board will appoint up to 16 people to a new committee to study the issue. The committee will include coaches, parents and students representing interests in not only soccer, but football, volleyball and cross-country.

The primary concern of those opposed to adding soccer is that it will detract from, if not lead to the elimination of, other sports.

Elizabeth Gabbey said if Pembroke was a Class A sport, she would fully support adding soccer and even be at all the games, but with declining enrollment in Pembroke, a Class C program, she fears even the football program could die if competing for athletes and support with soccer.

 "Are we willing to risk our football program or our volleyball program by adding a fourth sport?" she asked. "If we lose our football program, what will happen to football cheerleaders? This is an impact that not is just adding a team."

She added that boys who play soccer have club teams they can join, which still provide a path to college sports, but that's not an option open to football players.

One of the football coaches, and a teacher at Pembroke, spoke against the way the issue has been handled to this point, implying that soccer supporters were trying to push through the program without giving opposition voices a chance to raise concerns.

"I also wish to express the opinions of the thousands of concerned and unpretentious residents of this community who chose not to provoke others to bias the democratic decision making here at Pembroke with an intimidating show of force," Matthew Peterson said.

"I simply wish to have this statement read aloud to illustrate on record that many others disagree with both the means and the ends of adding an additional fall boys' sports program, and I choose to do so without the media hoopla and disruptions that surely accompany the throngs of people incited to be here tonight."

Peterson also took issue with the idea that soccer playing boys don't have an option at the high-school level in Pembroke.

"The most misunderstood idea centered on soccer is that students here greatly desire to play soccer and are being denied," Peterson said. "That assumption is entirely false! Soccer does exist here and students do have the opportunity to play from ages 5 to 19 in the spring season through PYA.

"The argument and the hidden agenda is to add another soccer team to compete in the fall, funded by the school district, and competing with and drawing from a dwindling student population. Let us not lose sight of the reality that soccer already exists at Pembroke."

(Read Peterson's full statement here)

Scott Birkby said he's coached both football and soccer in the district for years and knows pretty much all the boys who play either football, soccer or both, and when this issue came up, he surveyed the players to see if a boys soccer team in the fall would hurt football.

"I don't have proof," Birkby said. "I don't have the boys signatures, but I can say from my research, the net impact for the short term would be a total of only three players."

Birkby suspects volleyball might be the sport eventually phased out, which may happen anyway because of declining enrollment and the lack of nearby teams from similarly size schools. 

He said the team must often travel two and three hours for matches against larger schools.

"It's not a very successful program," he said.

Tina Curtis (dark hair in the middle of the top photo) and Rene Birkby, parents who have been leading the effort to reinstate soccer, said they were taken aback by the opposition.

Curtis said the soccer-supporting group is ready to do what it takes to ensure the program is not a financial drain on the district.

"These boys are not asking for fancy new equipment or jerseys," Curtis said. "They’re willing to donate soccer balls and wear old uniforms. They’re only desire is to play soccer and represent their school. We are willing to work with the district to raise the funds to offset this program."

Superintendent Gary Mix (inset photo) applauded the parents for thoroughly and honestly studying the issue and the students for showing leadership in bringing it forward. But he said, inevitably, somebody is going to be disappointed by whatever decision is reached.

"Any direction we go from this point forward is going to be a challenge," he said.

The district is facing a number of difficulties with declining enrollment and state budget cuts.  

Only a small minority of schools of Pembroke's size can run successful programs in all of its sports, and success is important, he said.

"It's easy for us as adults to believe that the important thing is not winning or losing, but rather students having fun," Mix said. "That's true to an extent, but a big part of the fun is experiencing success."

October 23, 2009 - 8:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, Pembroke Central School District.

Officials of the Pembroke Central School district announced on the district Web site this morning that a student died late Thursday afternoon (pdf).

The notification informs parents that tests for influenza came back negative and that the Genesee County Health Department determined it was safe for children to attend school today.

Counselors are available for students who need to talk about their friend's passing.

No further details were given.

Superintendent Gary Mix is currently meeting with district staff and not immediately available for comment.

UPDATE 10:36 a.m.: Superintendent Gary Mix just issued a written statement to the media, but included no new information apart from the prior statement.  It says, "It is out of respect for the family of our student that we cannot release any additional information at this time."

UPDATE 10:59 a.m.: Randy Garney, interim health director for Genesee County, said he can't legally release any information. A source tells me the death occurred in Erie County.  A woman I spoke to at the Erie Couny Health Department said that department isn't likely to release any information, and that nobody would even be able to return my call until late this afternoon.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: A spokesman for the Erie County Health Department just called. He referred me back to Gensee County, saying that even though the death occurred in Erie County, "it's Genesee County public health case."

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: Gary Mix just released this statement: "As an update, in our most recent consultation with the Genesee County Health Department and the New York State Department of Health, the District has been informed that the cause of death for the Pembroke Central School student is still to be determined."

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: I e-mailed Randy Garney asking for more information.  Here is his response: "This is a pending investigation.  Due to HIPPA Act, by Federal Law, I can not share any patient medical information.  However I will tell you that the NYSDOH or the GCHD has never ruled out influenza as a cause. "

Full announcement after the jump:

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