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robert morris

Remembering John Kennedy, educator who shaped Batavia's school system

By Anne Marie Starowitz


John Kennedy was born in England on September 17, 1846. He was one of a family of 14 brothers and sisters. He moved to a farm in Iowa in 1875.  John served in the Civil War; after the war, he became superintendent of an Iowa school district.

In 1890 the Batavia School District asked Mr. Kennedy to come to Batavia and serve as superintendent for the village school system. He served as superintendent for 23 years. His system for the village school was known as the Batavia System. He believed that if children were stimulated, they could educate themselves. 

John Kennedy was also a famous author and had many books to his name. His book, The Genesee Country, was published in 1895, during his time as superintendent from 1893 to 1913.

John was a writer with quite a descriptive flair. The chapter I found very interesting was called "Patriot-Not Financier." In this chapter, John Kennedy was distraught. He did not want Robert Morris to be remembered as a financier of the American Revolution. In John Kennedy's eyes, Robert Morris was a patriot who wanted America to be independent. He wanted the American government to stand with the firmest foundation. To achieve this, Robert Morris put everything in jeopardy: his good name, his life, and his fortune. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He rescued George Washington's troops in 1777 and prevented the army's dispersion by raising $50,000 of his own money for the war.

In Kennedy's opinion, if Morris had not appeared on the scene or had died during the struggle, the revolution would have collapsed.   It is upsetting to read that Robert Morris died in debtor's prison in the United States of America within a few years after the adoption of the Constitution, which he helped frame.    

We have a Constitution and a Union primarily because George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Morris sat in the convention that devised our great document.

As John Kennedy ended his chapter on Robert Morris, he said, "We are living here on his beautiful farm, the famous Holland Land purchase, and more famous still by having had for its first owner the patriot Robert Morris." 

John Kennedy and Robert Morris are still remembered today, with the John Kennedy Intermediate School on Vine Street and the  Robert Morris Primary School on Union Street. What is impressive is that John Kennedy had the foresight in the 1800s to write about Robert Morris' legacy in the hopes that he would be remembered as a true patriot.  

John Kennedy has to be acknowledged not only for the many books to his name but for his outstanding reputation as the school superintendent for the Village of Batavia. His system emphasized individual instruction of students, which was copied by school districts nationwide.


Community Expo offers job and vendor fairs, winter clothing and opportunities for families to warm the night

By Joanne Beck


Batavia City School District Community Schools leaders announce the first official Community Expo, set for Nov. 9 at Robert Morris. Photo by Howard Owens.

Ever since Batavia City Schools District landed on the idea of having a central place for family support earlier this year, the effort has grown in scope and reach.

Julia Rogers is coordinator of the new effort, called Community Schools. It is based out of the Robert Morris site at Richmond Avenue and Union Street, and serves as the umbrella for the Family and Community Engagement Center, Integrated Student Supports, Enhanced Enrichment, and Leadership initiatives. It’s all about providing help where it's most needed, Rogers says. 

“That’s what we’re here to do, is to help,” she said during an interview with The Batavian. “It’s very individualized.”

Say one family is struggling to make ends meet, and could use some groceries. District Social Worker Julie Wasilewski identifies the specific needs and works with Rogers, who oversees the financial end, to get that family assistance. If there tends to be an increasing trend for Batavia families to obtain groceries, the scope will expand to help additional families beyond that first one identified.

There have been donation drives at various locations in the city and a blood drive so far. The first major event is set for Nov. 9. Community Schools Expo, offered in conjunction with Business and Education Alliance, will run from 2 to 7 p.m. with several employers there to recruit, answer questions and discuss potential job opportunities. Job-seekers are encouraged to attend, and masks are required inside the building.

Job fair vendors include Batavia City School District, Batavia High School for student working papers, City of Batavia Fire Department, Genesee Valley BOCES, Land Pro, Liberty Pumps, Lifetime Assistance, NY Army National Guard, Horizon Health Services, Student Transportation of America, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

A second vendor fair, aptly titled Warm the Night, is set for 5 to 7 p.m. and will feature a variety of organizations with information and interactive games to engage and inform visitors about the local services available. There will be a selection of free winter items — hats, scarves, gloves, coats — for families to shop.

Warm the Night vendors include Hillside Children’s Center, Healthy Living, Genesee County Park, Genesee County Office for the Aging, Valu Home Centers, SUNY Brockport ROTC, The Manor House, United States Navy, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Genesee Orleans Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse and Literacy West.

Familiar faces from the district — Nate Korzelius, Heather McCarthy, Trisha Finnigan, Kellie Marciano — will be serving up grilled hotdogs outside. Students will receive a “passport” to take around to vendors for a mark to confirm they visited, and prizes will be given out for those that visited each site. Winners need not be present to win a prize. 

If transportation is an issue for families, a district bus will be making loops to specific destinations for pick-ups of students and families and drop-offs later in the evening. There are several pick-up sites that begin at 4:30 p.m. at 679 East Main St., and include Jackson Primary School, City Church at St. Anthony’s, 193 South Main St., 200 Oak St., 4371 Federal Drive and John Kennedy Intermediate School. Departures are to begin at 6:15 p.m. and drop event visitors off at the same pick-up sites. 

A clothing closet, chock full of donated clothes, accessories and new hygiene items for all ages, will be open for viewing in the Family and Community Engagement Center. There’s also everything from diapers, bedding and DVDs to purses, blouses, canned goods and toys. It often goes as quickly as it comes in, Rogers said.

“If someone wants to donate, there’s always a need,” she said. 

The center has a washer and dryer for clothing donations that need some freshening up. If district families are in need of laundromat facilities, help may also be available to get that done, Rogers said.

“We look at all the options,” she said. 

Those interested in shopping for all of the free goods during a quieter time can make an appointment by calling Wasilewski at 585-409-9508.

This event is open to the community. The parking lot at Vernon and Richmond avenues will be closed during this time, and parking will be available across the street at Van Detta Stadium. Look for the balloon clusters to indicate the event entrance at Robert Morris on the Vernon Avenue side. Warm the Night is scheduled for outdoors, weather permitting. 

For more information, go to and click on Community Schools, or call Rogers at 585-343-2480, Ext. 1004.

City school officials consider bringing Robert Morris back to school

By Joanne Beck

Nine years after closing Robert Morris Elementary, city school officials are mulling the idea of resuming it as a school once again.

The idea is in tandem with recommending Request for Proposals of completely renovating the well-used Batavia Middle School. The Board of Education unanimously agreed to move forward with the school’s construction assessment and a cost estimate during Thursday’s board meeting.  

Board member John Reigle spoke on behalf of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which has been conducting a district facilities review. 

His mission was to ask the board “to direct our contractors” to conduct a complete review of the middle school to find out how much work and money it would take to renovate and abate the site, he said, and the cost to “bring Robert Morris up to date to facilitate student use.”

Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping added that it would be ideal to do this site study before any discussions about the next capital project take place. 

“Just to get an idea of the cost and what the community would like to do,” Bischoping said. “Eventually you’re not going to be able to put Band-Aids on that building. Many districts have totally gutted and rehabbed their buildings, but there’s a price tag to that.”

The middle school building has been around for quite a while, tucked into the residential neighborhood along Ross Street. It was initially built in 1926 to be used as a high school until Batavia High School was built in 1961 on State Street. Wear and tear and an estimated “significant amount of abatement” would be part of the renovation, which has become clear to the board, Benedict said.

“There’s a lot of dealing with abatement, and it puts a lot of expense on the project,” she said. “Probably in the future, we’re going to have to get some kids back to Robert Morris.”

Abatement, a word commonly used for cleaning up toxic materials such as asbestos, has been identified for the middle school. Bischoping said that it has been very difficult to do any work in the building without disturbing those materials. After the scope and costs have been determined for construction and abatement of the middle school, and any work necessary to get Robert Morris up to speed for full use, the Buildings and Grounds Committee will put forward a recommendation for board vote, Benedict said. 

In 2012, city school district officials closed Robert Morris Elementary in an effort to consolidate students and merge the west side school’s population into Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate. The defunct building at Richmond Avenue and Union Street then became host of a childcare facility and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (BOCES) classes. The childcare facility has since moved out to another location and Covid ceased the other activities, Benedict said, rendering the site “an empty building.”


Solar-powered sign is Batavia elementary school's first step toward 'Going Green'

By Daniel Crofts

Digital signs are nothing new for area schools -- but Robert Morris Elementary, at 80 Union St. in Batavia, is the first school in the Genesee Valley to have a solar-powered digital sign, which was unveiled last month.

The new 3x8 sign, which shares important information with the school community, is fully powered by the sun's energy, collected and converted into electricity by solar panels on the school's roof.

This environmentally friendly and money-saving technology allows the sign to store energy and stay powered up even at night and in overcast weather. 

The sign is part of Robert Morris' "Going Green" project, which is being coordinated by the all-volunteer parent group FORM (Friends of Robert Morris).

The "green" project, in turn, is part of the school's committment to educating students and keeping them informed about renewable energy and environmentally responsible technology.

As the current school year drew to a close, Principal Diane Bonarigo went to each of the classrooms and explained the new solar sign to students -- including how it would turn the sun's energy into electricity, etc.

"Our students are very excited about learning how solar energy is powering this sign," Bonarigo said in a news release. "(It) will engage (them) for years to come."

FORM co-chair Roseann Quinn said that they would like to focus more intensely on "green" education in September. She mentioned the possibility of having professionals come in and speak to the kids about different renewable energy technologies, as well as basic education in the classrooms.

"Now with the solar sign, the kids have something they can see and touch (to go along with lessons)," Quinn said.

Quinn also said that FORM and Bonarigo would like to put the students in charge of the sign when the next school year starts. Right now, Bonarigo controls what words appear on the sign from her laptop computer; in September, they hope to give the kids more input into the way words appear and change.

At Robert Morris, going green also involves lots of landscape planting on school grounds. Here are some pictures of new trees and bushes that have been put in already: 

FORM chair Lorie Reinhart came up with the idea for this project early in the 2008-2009 school year after looking online and reading about an education grant offered by Lowe's.

"We wanted to do something different," Quinn said. "We wanted to actually try to do something that a lot of schools talk about but never get around to doing."

Reinhart and Quinn wrote the grant proposal along with co-secretary Michelle Turnbull. In response to FORM's request, Lowe's granted the school $5,000 for the solar sign.

The project also received funding from the New York State Power Authority -- which was unprecedented, since NYSPA does not, as a rule, give money to schools. But the NYSPA president was so intrigued by the idea that he contributed $5,000 to the project.

Seven or eight local businesses also donated money to the purchase of the sign. Quinn said that the total cost came to about $18,000.

In addition to being a valuable educational venture, Quinn sees the construction of the sign as a grassroots effort to promote renewable energy, which she calls "the way of the future."

FORM wanted to make this as locally focused an effort as possible. The sign was produced by LeRoy-based Unitech Applications, in collaboration with XPress Signs and Agile Displays.

If you would like more information on the solar-powered digital sign or the "Going Green" project, see the FORM webpage for contact information.

Students' artistic abilities showcased at close of academic year

By Daniel Crofts

For a year-end project, I thought it would be cool to take some video and pictures of music- and arts-related activities -- respectively -- in the Genesee County schools.

The following video is 20 minutes long and divided into two parts (Youtube limits most users to about 10 minutes per video). It features concert footage from various schools in the county.



I have to make a quick apology for the poor video quality in a couple of instances. I had to be very careful to protect the identity of the kids (the ones photographed without parental approval), so I made sure none of the students' faces appeared too clearly on camera; plus, to be honest, the first camera I used turned out to be pretty awful when it came to taking video (even while taking decent pictures).

I also feel bad that I couldn't include every group I filmed in the video. My selections were based on a combination of different criteria, including:

  •  making sure the best songs were included
  •  making sure all of the schools I visited were included
  •  arranging the selections in a way that flowed nicely

So there's the music part. Here are some pictures I was able to take of art work done by Elba and Leroy students:


Kindergartener Cody Soules stands in front of his drawing of a tree branch (top right).

First-grader Taylor Augello stands with her rendition of Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" (right above her head).



Both of the following pictures were submitted by Dan Carnevale. Sophomore Sydney Gallup (top photo) and two unidentified students stand with their drawings.



Also, see the May 27 announcement on the winners of the Architectural Drawing contest for fourth-graders.

Congratulations all of the students for a job well done!

School's craft show on Saturday was fun and educational, too

By Daniel Crofts

Kelly Mountain was a happy camper on Saturday.

Along with fellow Robert Morris Elementary School parent Kim Gloskowski, Mountain had just chaired the 4th annual Vendor Blender & Craft Show at the school, located at 80 Union St.

“We had a steady stream of people come this year,” Mountain said. “And we had a wonderful response to our Chinese Auction.”


Pictured Kelly Mountain, left, and Kim Gloskowski

The Chinese Auction featured one item donated by each of the event’s vendors/crafters. Along with a contribution of $25 for table space from each vendor, the proceeds of the auction went to F.O.R.M. — “Friends of Robert Morris” —  a parent volunteer organization which funds student field trips and classroom supplies. A total of 31 vendors/crafters representing various organizations in and around Batavia participated.

Here are some notable examples:

HOT SHOTS CAFÉ  Owner Shari Dressler (left) and Clara, the manager (right), promoted their local franchise, which has locations on West Main Street and Woodrow Road as well as a bistro on Harvester Avenue. They sold samples of their coffee (flavored and unflavored), tea and smoothies.

PERSCHKE ENTERPRISES  Steve and Catie Perschke, of Pavilion, offered free samples of healthy, sugar-free Nutrilite beverages marketed through Catie’s website ( and provided information about Steve’s gift options website ( Pictured above are Steve and his daughter, Hannah.

USBORNE BOOKS  Educational Consultant Supervisor Kelly Ferchen represented Usborne Books, an international publisher of educational children's books. Products and information about job opportunities were available for Craft Show patrons. Please visit for more information.

MAKING MEMORIES TRAVEL OF WNY  Mary Hendry and her son provided information about Mary’s independent local travel agency. For more information, please visit

Meanwhile, in the multi-purpose room, RMS parent Erin Martin and several student volunteers ran the holiday gift shop, where children could buy Christmas gifts.

“We send envelopes home through the school,” Martin said, “and parents set spending limits. But the kids make their own lists and do all the shopping. We try to make this a learning experience for them.”

Eric Davis Jr. (upper right) gets help selecting a Christmas present from volunteer Ryan Bowen (lower right) and Notre Dame High School volunteer Seth Meshach (upper left) and RMS student volunteer Hannah Martin (left).

In the afternoon, the Robert Morris Chorus treated everyone to Christmas carols ranging from “The First Noel” to “Jingle Bell Rock.” They then had the honor of posing for the cameras with Santa Claus, before he got around to hearing Christmas gift requests.

An additional feature this year was the Family Reading Workshop presented by former Channel 4 news anchor Lisa Scott. She held three half-hour sessions for parents and children in the RMS Media Center. Drawing upon her experience as a commercial voice actor, Scott gave presentations on how to encourage literacy by infusing storytelling with excitement and energy.

“Taking written material and making it oral doesn’t come naturally to anybody,” Scott said. “The challenge is to channel that natural delivery you have in everyday conversation into pre-written material.” For more information on Lisa and her story time ideas, please visit her website (

Parent Workshops at Robert Morris

By Philip Anselmo

The parent group at Robert Morris Elementary has completed three of six workshops that are being presented to parents. These workshops are designed to reach out to parents in our community. Workshop topics already covered included a Math Night, Internet Safety Workshop, and Study Skills and the Home Environment.  Future topics include Practical Financial Hints to Help Save on January 27, 2009, Anxiety in Children on February 24, 2009, and Communicating with Your Child on March 31, 2009. All workshops are from 6:30p.m.until 8:00p.m. These presentations are open to all parents and the materials are sent to each principal. F.O.R.M. provides refreshments for each workshop and the parents put forth a great deal of effort to ensure that these workshops are a success. Reaching out to parents and providing opportunities for involvement is the goal of this year's workshops.

Information provided by Allison Chua

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