BATAVIA — Jason Smith’s first year as superintendent of the Batavia City School District came to an end early in January. The Batavia High School graduate said he’s appreciated the support from the Board of Education, faculty and staff, and students over that time.
“I was having lunch with some students yesterday (Monday) and they indicated that they enjoy seeing me at all the events, so the seniors themselves commented on that,” he said Tuesday.
The superintendent, whose contract the board voted to extend through June 2027, said he’s pleased with the way things have gone in his first year.
“Our board has been very supportive of myself, our staff and our students,” he said. “There’s always things we can do better. We want to see every child graduate. We want to see every child pass. We want to see every child read. We want to see every child be successful in and out of school. That’s what drives me.”
A constant challenge in any district he’s been in, he says, is making sure the district meets the needs of its students, both academically and socially.
“The other thing we’ve seen, too, is we’ve seen an increase in mental health needs for our students — making sure we have counselors and social workers ready to meet their needs as well,” Smith said.
At a December board meeting, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Molly Corey gave an update on state English Language Arts (ELA) and math assessment data for grades 3-8. According to the state Education Department, when students perform at level 3 on the assessments, they are proficient in standards for their grade. Students at level 4 excel in standards for their grade.
In 2021-22, 47% of Batavia students in grade three got a 3 or 4 on their English Language Arts (ELA) assessments. In grades four through eight, the results were 31%, 19%, 55%, 38% and 50%. These percentages were lower than the percentages reported for 2020-21. The results in grades three through eight from that year were 50%, 48%, 36%, 61%, 34% and 64%.
In math assessments, the percentages of students who performed at level 3 or 4 in 2021-22 were: third grade, 47%; fourth grade, 31%; fifth, 19%; sixth, 55%; seventh, 38%; and eighth, 50%. The results in most grades were down from 2020-21. The 2020-21 results in grades three through eight from that year were 50%, 48%, 36%, 61%, 34% and 64%.
In fifth grade, for both ELA and math assessment results, students went from 36% with a level 3 or 4 in 2020-21 to 19% last year.
In December, Corey showed another chart that compared the ELA scores of Batavia students in those grades to their counterparts in 15 other school districts. The results showed that in 2022, Batavia was first among third-graders, sixth-graders and eighth-graders; fifth among fourth-graders; 11th among fifth-graders; and second among seventh-graders. In math assessments, Batavia was first in third grade, second in fourth grade, ninth in fifth grade, second in sixth grade, sixth in seventh grade and third in eighth grade.
“We compare ourselves to districts our size, in small cities, and we found that, by and large, our test results were highly competitive, if not the best, in several categories. The areas that we’ve fallen short in, we’re addressing those as we speak,” Smith said Tuesday. “We’re looking at, say, for example, fifth grade as an area we want to concentrate on. We’re putting some plans in place in fifth grade. We also look at our graduation rates.”
Regarding the scores presented at the board meeting in December, Smith said, “We really celebrated those. We were pleased with the ranking we received. The areas we fell short in, it’s more than just fifth grade.”
“There are other areas that we’ve identified. We’re going to have plans in place to address those, such as giving students the services that they need, making sure we have the correct training for staff, the correct reading programs,” he said. “Dr. Corey’s working very hard on that as we speak.”
The superintendent said there was a lot of hiring done in June.
“We had some retirements. We were able to use some grant money to add some new positions such as social worker. It was a very busy hiring season,” he said. “The staff that I have here — some of the staff, my own children have and have had — I have been very pleased with our staff as a whole.”
This past year, the district hired seven new teachers and staff.
“Some of that was through grants, some of that was through needs of students. I meet with every teacher that we hire prior to them being sent to the board,” he said.
Smith said the district always has to be conscious of its budget planning.
“That wasn’t necessarily a tough issue, but we have to balance the needs of our students and our staff with our taxpayer community. We’re trying to find ways to balance that,” he said. “Certainly, another challenge is the comptroller’s audit that we had in September.
Smith said budget preparation will begin in February and March with a couple of budget workshops. District Business Administrator Scott Rozanski is preparing a budget draft right now, the superintendent said.
“I’ve had meetings with the principals the central office staff regarding budgetary needs. That’s being addressed internally,” he said. “At the end of February, March, we’ll go out to the board with some information on that that the public will be able to see as well.”
The district will have to account for rising costs, Smith said before adding that the district has not received projected state aid amounts for next year.
“That’s going to be an important factor,” he said. “Certainly we have utility bills, too, like we have in our homes. We have gasoline bills that our bus company will bill us for. We’re not immune to the cost of inflation and we recognize that. We try to control costs too … by watching what we spend, looking at the comptroller’s audit again, making sure we can account for all of our assets that we have.
An audit the state Comptroller’s Office released Aug. 26 found that the Batavia City School District lost 229 staff computers and 62 tablets, paying about $17,000 in service fees for those missing devices in 2021-22. Smith said at the time that the district is working closely with the Board of Education to adopt a comprehensive written policy for establishing and maintaining controls to track and inventory its IT equipment.
“We’re addressing that as we speak. That’s something that I had inherited. A plan is underway that I’ll be sharing next month that will address technology as a whole and also the comptroller’s report. That was certainly a challenge,” he said. “I think, also, an ongoing challenge for any superintendent is addressing the academic needs of our students. That hasn’t changed.”
Smith said it’s been a great first year and that he looks forward to many more.
About a year since he was formally appointed superintendent, Smith said he’s been able to attend his share of school activities and events. He pointed to the programs he has in his office.
“I keep every program — all the concerts, the art show, some of the athletic events. It affords me the opportunity to see our students and see our teachers, our parents,” he said. “I follow up with notes to the students afterwards, compliment them on their work.”
Smith said he enjoys all the events he attends. In the spring, the Drama Club will perform the musical, “Les Miserable.”
“I’m playing in the musical this year. I’m playing in the orchestra, so I’m excited about that,” he said.
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