Friday, September 27, 2019

Open House Re-Cap 2019

Last night was our WGMS Open House & Title I Information night. As a teacher and administrator I have always loved Open House. It’s one of those rituals that makes up the ‘circle of life’ of a school year. As a school it is our opportunity to open our doors, show off and promote our brand - who we are, what we do and how we do it. Last night was my fifth year in a row as being both a parent of a student in the building while also wearing my administrator hat.

I was really impressed with what I saw sitting in classrooms and what I heard from teachers throughout the evening. Teachers set a tone that was welcoming, supportive and caring while making it clear that we have high expectations. As a parent I couldn't be more proud to say that my kids go to school here. Throughout the evening I had a lot of conversations with people that wanted to share what a great start to the school year their kid(s) was having. It’s especially satisfying to hear from those 6th grade parents about how well the transition to middle school has been for their children.

We know that not all of our families are able to make it to Open House so a few years ago I started posting the comments that I made to families at the start of evening over the PA while getting situated in homerooms. Hopefully it helps you to get a feel for the tone of the night and for school year ahead. Below is part of the welcome message that I gave everyone at the start of our Open House minus some bad jokes (I’m told it’s time to update my material a bit!) and some of the logistics we covered: 

“Thank you for being here tonight. For those of you that are new to our building welcome to the WGMS family. We are excited to have you here! For those of you that are returning, welcome back. We have an incredible community here at West Genesee Middle School made up of a dedicated and talented staff, as well as involved and supportive families. Your presence this evening and your ongoing involvement with your child’s education is a testament to the commitment you have made to make education a priority. We thank you for that. The journey from a young child in elementary school to a young adult in high school is not an easy one and we certainly need to work together as a team in order to maximize the potential in all of our students as they make that challenging journey through the middle years.

I encourage you to stop by our library. It has been a very busy place already this year. To date, just over 1,300 books and magazine have been checked out which is awesome so please help us continue to encourage our students to get into the library, to read, and to take advantage of its’ many resources. Reading is a significant component of all classes: our students need to read like historians, scientists, mathematicians & engineers each and every day. Literacy is a part of everything that we do, not a stand-alone skill - so please help support us by encouraging and hounding if needed our kids to read! We also have over 450 items in our digital library, and over 2,400 titles of audiobooks available for our students to download. Please stop in and talk with our librarian about how you can utilize audio resources to foster even more success in your child’s reading. While in the library this evening you can pick up a list of the different databases with logins and passwords that we use so you can assist your children with research and you can also pick up a list of books with reading levels that are new to our collection. 

We also have our PTA located in the main lobby on the first floor. We have a tremendous PTA at West Genesee Middle School that is incredibly supportive of our students and staff. Please consider joining and/or volunteering your time. Your membership and involvement in the PTA helps to make us a stronger community.

Again thank you for being here tonight. We are passionate about what we do here at WGMS, we care about your children, and we all want this to be the best year that they have ever had in school. A focus of ours is continuous improvement; trying to get better at everything that we do, constantly reflecting on our practices, listening to feedback and having a willingness to evolve and grow.  We ask the same of our students. We continually talk with students about the role that they play in doing the things necessary to be as successful as possible and we try to build a capacity in them to have a willingness to try new things, strive to get better and continue to work hard especially when things get difficult. Together we need to continue to encourage them to get involved with sports, music, clubs, and other activities.

You can expect us to support our students, but also to push them to be their best; to not accept “not doing” as an option or doing just the minimum, to challenge them and encourage them to be extraordinary. Your role as parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and older brothers and sisters is vitally important. Your involvement and commitment to making your child’s education a priority is crucial. We can’t do this alone, we have to do it together. The job is just too important and the stakes are too high. The time is now to help our middle school students build positive relationships, establish effective study skills and lock in healthy habits for the rest of their lives. We look forward to working with you and getting to know all of you throughout this school year.

I’ll end this as we do each morning on the announcements:


That’s what we expect. That’s who we are. That’s the message we all need to be communicating to our middle schoolers. It’s going to be a great year, a wonderful evening, and it’s always A Great Day To Be A Wildcat!!”

Thank you again for the great turnout last night and continued support of our students and staff at WGMS. The “Wonder Years” of middle school are not always easy and the road can be challenging at times, but when we work together and we keep our focus on what is best for kids and what matters most, the results are worth it. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Continued Success,
Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Fast September

It is hard to believe that next week we turn the calendar to October. This has been a really fast month and a wonderful start to the school year. We are looking forward to finishing this month strong.

Week 3 of the Positivity Project has us focussed on the character trait of TEAMWORK. Teamwork is the ability and willingness to place overall group success as a higher priority than individual achievement. 

Being part of a TEAM takes work. Whether is sports, a school or business, you need to be selfless, you need to be giving and you need to be willing to put the needs of the group over your own. You cannot expect to be successful on a TEAM, or as a TEAM, if individuals are consumed with themselves. That is the Disease of Me: a selfish mindset where the needs of the group are brushed aside for your own personal interests. We all rely on others to be successful and we all need to embrace the Other People Matter mindset in order to be a great teammate! Simply put, we need Less ME and More WE!

Here is the link to the Positivity Project character card on TEAMWORK.

You can view the calendar of when we study each character trait by clicking here.

WGMS Open House/Title I Night
We are really excited for our Open House on Thursday night! Students should be bringing home a copy of their schedule for you to follow throughout the evening. A copy of the schedule will be also be available in your student's homeroom. Sometimes things don't get brought home by middle school students (shocking I know!) so we do have a backup plan. You do need to know your student's homeroom number and we will have people available to help you if you do not. We start the evening off right at 6:30 PM and Open House runs until 8:30 PM. Please try to arrive early as parking is always a challenge due to outstanding parent involvement. Full parking lots are great problems to have! 

Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please give me a call or send me an email. We are looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night at Open House!

Continued Success,
Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Back in the Flow

Just like that we are into our second full week of the school year. A chill in the evening air has us breaking out our sweatshirts, the push is on for the MLB playoffs and we are already looking at week 3 of the NFL season. The summer seems like a distant memory at this point in time. We are certainly back in the flow and having a terrific start to the year.

We are two weeks into the Positivity Project at WGMS. We have had some terrific conversations and we have seen students stepping up and embracing the idea that ‘Other People Matter.’ I know that families are eager to partner with us in increasing your child’s character strengths and in helping them to continue to develop positive relationships. Each week I will provide an overview of our character trait of the week, as well as resources to help you reinforce what we are doing here at school.

This week our focus is on the character trait CURIOSITY. As a building we have been discussing what curiosity is all about:

"This is a crucial component of one’s character. Our innate urge for discovery and exploration is a key element of our human desire for wisdom and knowledge. It’s what pushes us to try new things or travel to new places. It’s what brought us to the New World and to the moon! Curiosity is a form of courage - asking questions & trying new things means we might fail..and it’s ok! 

Here is the link to the Positivity Project character card on curiosity.

You can view the calendar of when we study each character trait by clicking here.

Talk with the Superintendent
The West Genesee Board of Education will join David C. Bills in a “Talk with the Superintendent” on Tuesday, September 24, starting at 7:00 p.m. in the Large Group Instruction room at the high school
This is a terrific opportunity for community members to meet the Superintendent and ask questions of interest. The Board and the Superintendent remain committed to ongoing dialogue and solid communication to further their work on behalf of the youth of our community. We hope to see you next Tuesday!

WGMS Open House/Title I Night
Our Open House/Title I Night is next Thursday, September 26th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Like many of our events, there is tremendous turnout by our families so please try arrive early as parking is always tight. Students will be bringing home a copy of their schedule for you to follow throughout the evening and one will also be available in your child's homeroom where you will be starting your night. We are looking forward to seeing all of you next Thursday!

To help you to stay informed and keep track of everything going on during the day and at night, we put all of our daily announcements on the WGMS web page for you to access from your computer or mobile device. From the West Genesee home page select ‘West Genesee Middle School’, scroll down to ‘School Links’ and select ‘Announcements’.

Under ‘School Links’ you can also access a lot of very useful information specific to WGMS. Another useful place to stay connected is the ‘Connect’ section of our home page to the left of ‘School Links’. Check out my Twitter feed (@Sdunhamwgms) to get an inside look at some of what goes on throughout the school day. Also, make sure you are signed-up for the West Genesee App and that you are receiving notifications that we send out routinely as a building.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our students and staff. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please give me a call or email me.

Continued Success,
Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms