Monday, November 13, 2017

November Flurry

The last four weeks have been incredibly busy and have absolutely flown by at the middle school. We’ve jumped from fall sports to winter, we moved the clocks back, and we just came to the end of the first quarter. It seems like we just started and yet we are two weeks away from Thanksgiving. In that blur of a month we have had some outstanding things happening and a lot to be proud of.

Halloween Spooktacular
On Friday, October 27th we held our 2nd Annual WGMS PTA Halloween Spooktacular. Over 325 students (over half of our building) showed up to dance, play BINGO, shoot hoops, sing karaoke, and eat a lot of foods not found on the 'whole-30 diet'. It was a really terrific evening of fun! To pull off this type of event off you need great planning and you need people willing to step up and volunteer their time. We had both, and our parent & staff volunteers are simply awesome! I received several emails from parents thanking us for putting this on for our kids and many of our students were vocally appreciative as they thanked us heading out of the building Friday night. 

District Spelling Bee
This past week was the District Spelling Bee at Camillus Middle school. WGMS was very well represented with six of the final twelve spellers including 6th graders Joe Paoli & Cooper Corcoran, 7th grader Sophia Van Horn, and 8th graders Connor Dunham, Cameron Hovater & Emily Pattermann. Our 6th graders Joe and Cooper were the two finalists with Joe Paoli ultimately being crowned Spelling Bee Champ.
District Finalists: Cooper & Joe

Students of the Month
In an effort to be more consistent at recognizing our students at each grade level we created a building-wide ‘Student of the Month’ award recognizing two girls and two boys at each grade level. This recognition is presented to students for demonstrating exemplary work ethic, citizenship, character, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility, optimism and/or leadership in creating a positive school environment. This isn’t about grades and athletic or musical prowess, it’s about demonstrating all of the qualities associated with great character that we value and celebrate. Last week we recognized our October Students of the Month; 6th graders Sarah Adams, Karolina Lata, Gabriel Farino and Joseph Paoli, 7th graders Kate Kuppinger, Emilie Shoults, Gabe June and Daniel McManus, 8th graders Jessica Femano, Julia Klazco, Matthew Murdock and Brad Smith.  

Career Fair
On Friday, November 3rd we had our annual Career Fair for our 8th grade students. We had 41 participants representing 30 different careers. This was a terrific opportunity for our students to get a better understanding of what some potential careers are, but also what types of skills they will need to be successful regardless of the career that they pursue. The Career Fair is a great connection to Career and Financial Management which is a high school elective brought down to the middle school for the first time this year.  A big thank you to School Counselor Cindy Kurz and our entire Counseling Department for pulling this together.

Camillus Optimist Teacher/Students of Year
Each year we have the opportunity to recognize two 8th grade students who embody everything that we value in our young adults. It’s about being a wonderful person who exudes excellence and great character in all that they do through leadership, citizenship and service to our school community. Last week I had the honor of recognizing Julia Biggs and Connor Dunham with the 2017 David Kenna Outstanding Student Award. It has been an incredible experience watching these two young people grow over the years.

In addition to the students of the year I had the honor of recognizing Toni Abdo who received the 2017 Joseph A. Witowski Outstanding Teacher Award. What is most unique about the teacher award is that individuals are nominated by their peers for being sensitive to the needs of their students; for creating an exciting and challenging classroom atmosphere; and contributing to the quality of instruction at West Genesee. Mrs. Abdo is a champion for kids who makes a personal connection with each and every student, where she demands their best and where she never ever gives up on anybody. It is an honor working with her each and every day.

This next month will be just as exciting and equally as busy as the last. We kick it off this week with our school musical, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with show times of 7:00 PM on Thursday and Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM.

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

Continued Success,

Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Importance of Feedback

Every year, the West Genesee Strategic Planning Team asks all stakeholders (students, staff, parents, and the community at-large) to provide feedback on areas of strength and areas for potential growth.  This year, Dr. Brown has partnered with Thought Exchange - a web-based organization that will help us reach more of the community to maximize your direct input.

Using the email you have shared with us already for SchoolTool, you will be given a link to take part in the first stage of this survey, the Share Stage. You can tell us what we are doing well and what can we improve. This step will take approximately 5 - 10 minutes. A few weeks after that, you will be asked to take part in the Star phase where you will see others’ responses.  You have the opportunity to “rate” the comments that resonate with you. The final stage, Discover, is where you will have a chance to see what concepts are most important to all participants.

Please know that your submissions are confidential, but not anonymous to Thought Exchange. Thought Exchange will not share the authors of comments with the District. Your name will not appear on your submissions. This allows you to answer fairly and honestly. However, responses that are demeaning to any individuals will be removed by Thought Exchange.  

The members of the Strategic Planning Team will use this information in evaluating our successes as well as our areas in need of improvement when we begin planning for 2018 - 2019 school year.

Please take the time to complete the survey when it is sent to you. Although the link can not be forwarded, there are directions on how to get other community members on the list if they don’t receive an invitation. We truly want to hear from as many people connected to West Genesee as possible.

We do terrific things for our students and community at-large, but there is always room to improve. Your feedback, regardless of your role or connection to the district, is an important part of that continuous improvement process. Thank you!

Continued Success,

Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Friday, September 29, 2017

Open House 2017 Re-cap

One of my favorite nights of the school year has always been Open House. This is an opportunity for parents to "check us out" and “kick the tires” so to speak. As a school it is our opportunity to show off and promote our brand. Last night was my third year as being both a parent of a student in the building (actually two of them this year: an 8th grader and 6th grader) while also wearing my administrator hat.  

I couldn't be more impressed with what I saw from our staff throughout the evening and I couldn't be more proud to say that my kids go to school here. Over the two hours I shook a lot of hands and had many conversations throughout the night that included countless positive comments about what we do and how we do it.

Hallways and classrooms were packed and I joked that we were shuttling people in from Fairmount Fair. After talking to a few people that parked a good distance off campus, providing some type of shuttle from the high school in the near future might not be so farfetched. Crowded hallways and traffic congestion are good problems to have. It speaks to the involvement of our families and the priority they put on their children’s education.

We know that not all of our families are able to make it to Open House so a few years ago I started posting my comments that I made to kick the evening off so you get a feel for the tone of the night. Below is the welcome message that I gave everyone at the start of our Open House: 

“First of all, thank you for being here this evening. 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 faculty and staff as well as involved and supportive parents. 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. And it needs to be. 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 your support in helping us to maximize the potential in all of our students as they make that challenging journey through the middle years.

Throughout the evening you should get an overview of the curriculum and expectations in the different classes that your children are in, but you should also get a feel for the amazing, caring and talented people that work with our kids each day, who are going to do whatever it takes to help them to be as successful as possible.

I encourage you to stop by our library. It is open and has been a very busy place already this year. To date, just over 1,000 books and magazines 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. In all three grades reading is a significant component of our English classes and such a critical component of building knowledge. So please help support us by encouraging and hounding if needed to get our kids to read! We have over 2,400 items in our digital library, and over 450 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 also 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. The library….it’s much more than just books and a woman saying “shhhh”.

We also have our PTA and Special Education 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 allows them to better support our students and staff.

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 and to stay connected with other events like our dances, 3 on 3 Basketball tournaments, and everything else that we have to offer. 

We talk to them about the importance of doing these four things each day: Be Nice, Work Hard, Think Big and Be Present. What you do and say to people matters – so Be Nice, things are not always easy & things don’t always go as you planned, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do, but we need to step up and do it anyway…life is about continuing to grind in the face of adversity– that’s Work Hard, you can be anything you want to be in life IF you work for it – So Think Big – anything is possible, and lastly, you have to show up and be on time for things in life – school is no exception. Be PresentSimple, but effective. Each day: Be Nice, Work Hard, Think Big, Be Present. That’s what we expect. That’s who we are. That’s the message we all need to be consistently communicating to our middle school students.

You can expect us to support them, but also to push them to be their best; to not accept 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. We look forward to working and getting to know all of you throughout this school year. It’s going to be a great year, a wonderful evening, and it’s always a great day to be a Wildcat!! Thank you and enjoy your night.”

Thank you again for the incredible turnout and continued support of our students and staff at WGMS. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Continued Success,
Steve Dunham
Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms