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Webster seniors host successful Thanksgiving food drive

4 Dec

I love hearing about it when otherwise ordinary people do extra-ordinary things. Especially when those “ordinary” people are young people.

Such is the case with three Webster Schroeder students — seniors Rachel Kucewicz, Giuliana Zane and Eve Kowalczyk — who took it upon themselves recently to make sure the school’s annual Thanksgiving food drive was not canceled by the pandemic.

Traditionally, a small group of Webster Schroeder High School students runs a food drive in the fall to provide Thanksgiving meals to families assisted by Mt. Hope Family Center. The pandemic looked to put a damper on this year’s collection,. But these three young ladies, with help from their advisor Elizabeth Gefell, came up with an alternative.

Driven by the goal to feed as many Rochester families as possible, they asked students, staff, family, and friends for tax-deductible contributions made out directly to Mt. Hope Family Center Thanksgiving Basket Fundraiser. The trio hoped to raise $1,700, enough to feed 20 families. By their deadline on Friday, Nov. 20, they had easily surpassed that goal, bringing in $1,844.

Well done, ladies!

Mt. Hope Family Center, located on Edinburgh St. in Rochester, is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families who have experienced violence, abuse, neglect, or trauma. For more information, visit their website.

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The Thanksgiving Day Parade is alive and well — at Schlegel

25 Nov

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade might be going virtual this year, but for the staff and students at Schlegel Rd. Elementary School, it was alive and well earlier this week.

Inspired by Melissa Sweet’s picture book Balloons Over Broadway about the puppeteer who invented the parade’s signature balloons, Schlegel Rd. librarian Jamie Palmer decided she wanted to create a parade of ballons of her own.

So last week she sent home a note to parents, encouraging every child in the school to create a balloon depicting a book character. She planned to make a few of her own, and was hoping that she’d receive at least a few others.

Dog Man and Cat Kid

Last Friday, the balloons started coming in. First just a few. Then five or six more, then a dozen. By the end of the day, the library’s floor and tables were covered with balloons, so many that staff members had to watch where they walked lest they step on Dog Man or Harry Potter.

By Monday afternoon, there were 70 ballons ready to parade down the hallway outside the Schlegel library.

Students from every grade level participated, and the creativity was stunning. I was delighted by how many ways students had found to use their balloons — as wings, feet, tails, ears, eyes, noses, as separate body parts, sometimes blown up, other times deflated, sometimes twisted. One even used a long orange balloon as a scarf wrapped around Penguin from Salina Yoon’s Penguin and Pinecone series.

It took Palmer almost 7 hours to string up each balloon into three separate mini-parades. The result was stunning. And it was fun to see the reactions from teachers and students as they passed by the parades. Some teachers even brought their whole classes through for a tour.

I tried to take photos of all the parade entries, so check out these individual ones, then click through the gallery below. I think you’ll be impressed, too.

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Webster community mailbag

4 Nov

I know, I know, it’s going to feel like summer again for the next few days. BUT, rest assured, Monday’s cold and snow-showery weather will be back again very soon. So now is a good time to stock up on some good reads for the winter months.

The Friends of the Webster Library are ready to help.

Beginning this week, the Friends are hosting their Bundle ‘n Bag Sale. Just like it sounds, bundles and bags of gently used books will be for sale during regular library hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be a wide variety of fun and unique Bundles ‘n Bags of fiction and nonfiction books for children and adults, starting at just $1.

The Webster Public Library is located at 980 Ridge Rd. All proceeds from the sale will benefit library programs.


Looks like it’s going to be a nice evening for the Friends of Webster Trails’ autumn Hot Cocoa Hike, this Saturday at Whiting Road Nature Preserve.

This has been an annual tradition for as long as I can remember, and thankfully the pandemic has not cancelled it entirely. There will, however, be a few changes.

As always, the event will be at night and your path will be guided by candle light. But there will be no gathering in the woods at the end of the trail while you enjoy your hot cocoa. Instead, you’ll pick up your hot cocoa packet which you can then enjoy at home with your family.

This year’s event will be Saturday Nov. 7 at Whiting Road Nature Preserve (on Whiting Rd. north of Shoemaker) and will be a loop of approximately two miles. Participants are asked to walk the trail between 7 and 9 p.m. Also, please click here to register so they have enough supplies.

Remember to social distance, bring a mask, dress for the weather and bring a flashlight.


Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Village of Webster will hold a Bring a Can or a Case Food Collection and Hat, Mitten and Scarf Collection on Saturday Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon.

One of Immanuel’s biggest social ministries is the Backpack Program, which provides food to more than 50 children in five Webster elementary school buildings. This drive will support the Backpack Program and the church’s Little Free Pantry.

Immanuel Lutheran Church is located at 131 W. Main St., at the corner of Daniel Drive.


Lots of news from the Webster Museum!

The Webster Museum is presently closed to the public, but there has been a buzz of activity within. Volunteers Deb Oakley, Bill Schoff, Carol Yahoodik and Diana Strassman have been inventorying the attic and found a number of duplicate items not related to Webster’s history. In September, a “Vintage Sale” of some of those items was held in the museum parking lot and sales totaled $677.

The annual Barn Sale was held in September on Jan and Andy Naujokas’ historic property, which earned another $2,900.

Now would also be a great time to become a member of the Webster Museum or renew your membership. In honor of Susan B. Anthony’s visit to Webster, the museum will be giving away a limited edition Susan B. Anthony Barbie doll, unopened and in its original box.

To enter, simply join or renew your Webster Museum membership by December 14. On December 15, one entry will be selected at random with the hope of Susan arriving at the winner’s home before Christmas.

Stay tuned for details about the museum’s online Christmas program. If you make your own ornaments, dress up your pets or decorate your yard, they’ll be looking for your photos. More details about that, and about the Susan B. Anthony doll giveaway can be found on the museum’s website.


Do you know a great teacher who deserves to get some extra special recognition? How about nominating him or her for an Oak Tree Award?

Co-Sponsored by the Webster Teachers’ Association (WTA) and the Webster Central PTSA, the Oak Tree Award recognition program is an annual award that is designed to recognize teacher excellence in Webster Central Schools.

Any Webster resident or district employee, current or former student, parent, teacher, or administrative colleague may nominate a teacher for the Elementary or Secondary Teacher of the Year Oak Tree Award.

Award nominees must meet the following criteria:

  • Currently teaching in a full-time position in Webster Central School
  • Have a minimum of 5 years teaching experience in Webster Central Schools
  • Plan to continue to teach the next school year in, or retire from Webster Central Schools
  • Be a member of both the Webster Central PTSA and the Webster Teachers’ Association

Nominations must be submitted by February 1. Click here for the nomination form.

By the way, congratulations to the 2020 Oak Tree winners, Joan Bardanis in secondary and Tamara Schell in elementary.

Bardanis is a special education teacher at Thomas High School and has been a teacher in Webster for 17 of her 31 year career in education.

Schell is a 2nd grade teacher at Plank South Elememetary, and has spent all of her 23 years in education in the Webster Schools.

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Were you at Plank North in 1976? You’re in this time capsule.

18 Oct
The time capsule was actually a large Thermos cooler.

Do you remember 1976? Happy Days was one of the most popular shows on TV. A first-class stamp cost 13 cents. The $2 bill was introduced with great fanfare. Ross Willink was Webster School District’s superintendent.

And, of course, 1976 was the year of our nation’s bicentennial. It was probably that fact in particular which motivated Plank North Elementary School to create a time capsule, filled with items depicting world events, school life and pop culture of the time.

The school chose to “plant” its time capsule — actually a large, red, white and blue Thermos cooler — on June 14, 1976, where the event took center stage at the annual Flag Day ceremony. Each class had chosen a different object to include in the capsule. The objects were presented one at a time, along with an explanation of why each had been chosen.

Some of the more than two dozen items included in the time capsule. Click below to see a gallery of everything.

No one seems to know where the time capsule spent the next 25 years. But we do know that in 2001, on the appointed day, it was opened at a school-wide assembly to the delight of students and teachers alike.

That was not the end of its travels, however. Some time after that assembly, the time capsule found its way to the Webster Museum, where is has spent much of the last 19 years in the museum’s attic.

Last week, it came back home to Plank North again, courtesy Bill Schoff, a former Plank North second grade teacher, and currently a volunteer for the Webster Museum.

Schoff is part of the museum’s “attic and inventory” crew, who are working on clearing out a lot of stuff to make more space. When they came across the cooler, they thought Plank North would like it back, and perhaps share some of the items with today’s students.

Schoff was on staff at Plank North that day in 2001 when teachers and students gathered for the assembly to open the 25-year old time capsule.

He remembers, “When the poster of Fonzie was pulled out, we asked the kids if they knew who it was. One student replied, ‘One of the teachers?'” We adults got a kick out of that one.”

Sharing the cooler with the Fonzie posted was a TV Guide with Sonny and Cher on the cover, a Holly Hobbie doll, copies of the Democrat and Chronicle and the Webster Herald, and almost two dozen other items. Each class’s written description of their object was included in a folder with a class photo. And someone had compiled a scrapbook of playground photos, complete with captions.

I took photos of everything in the time capsule, so you can check them all out for yourself. CLICK HERE to see that photo gallery.

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone you know who attended or taught at Plank North back then (I was out of town, graduating high school). And if you have any stories to share about the assembly or the time capsule, drop me a line!

It’s very interesting to read the explanations of why each object was chosen and what children thought the world would look like in 2001.

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Things are looking good this COVID school year

3 Oct

So we’ve made it to October.

We’re several weeks into the new school year and things — at least from my perspective — are going pretty well.

I’m sure I’m not the only one pleasantly surprised that we’ve gotten this far before having to shut down again due to the virus. I credit that success to the behaviors I have seen in the two elementary schools I work at.

When classes move through the halls, often times the children have their hands out in front of them to maintain social distancing. They are paying attention to the little spots on the floor which tell them where to stand when they’re waiting in line for the restroom. They don’t seem to mind sitting widely spaced from their friends while they’re in their room.

But I’m particularly impressed by the way young students have come to accept the need to wear masks.

The teachers have done a wonderful job making the need for masks seem normal, incorporating it into their class songs and bulletin boards. I haven’t heard about any pushback from the students about the masks (even though the pre-K and kindergarten kiddoes often have to be reminded to pull it up over their noses). Clearly, putting on a mask for school has become as normal for them as bringing their backpack. (Thank you also to parents for supporting that!)

There have been some rough spots, of course. Elementary school arrival and dismissal procedures were rather inefficient for the first week or so as schools tried to streamline their procedures for the large number of children being dropped off and picked up by parents. But things seem to be running pretty smoothly now, allowing teachers their maximum opportunity to be with their morning and afternoon classes.

I understand that accommodating the large number of remote students at the middle and high school levels has also been a challenge which we’re still trying to work through.

Most definitely this year has dealt some very real difficulties to our Webster CSD families, especially those with very young children. But, given the circumstances, I think everyone is doing the best they can.

We just have to keep doing that for as long as we need to. We will weather this storm together.

Schlegel Elementary School staff members rocking their masks for a group photo on opening day.

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The best gifts a teacher could ask for

9 Sep
Plank North Principal “Mr. B” greets a young student

“This is like Christmas Day, and the presents are going to keep coming until 3:00.”

That’s the way Plank North Elementary School Principal Craig Bodensteiner put it yesterday morning, as he greeted students arriving for the school’s pre-opening-day meet-and greet, a chance for the kids to drop off some supplies and check in with their new teachers.

That feeling was evident in room after room as teachers enthusiastically welcomed their students back into their classrooms. You could almost feel the entire school heave a huge sigh of happiness as rooms were — finally — filled with laughter and chatter once again.

Some of Plank North’s youngest students check out their new kindergarten room.

As Plank North Assistant Principal Heather Balsamo said, “We’ve been waiting for this day since March 16.”

Teacher and student smiles were so big, they almost burst through the masks. Clearly the students were as excited as the teachers to be back.

Things are going to be different this year, in so many ways. But one main thing will not have changed: how much our teachers and staff members love our students, and how dedicated they are to making sure every single one gets a quality education this fall, whether they’re in a classroom or studying remotely.

Plank North’s kindergarten students even got a chance to check out a school bus during their visit.

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Immanuel Lutheran food drive a big success

28 Aug

Thank you to everyone who took the time to stop by Immanuel Lutheran Church last weekend to donate to the church’s food drive. Ed Huehn, one of the drive’s organizers, reports that it was a great success.

Immanuel Lutheran, located at 131 W. Main Street in the Village of Webster, has been a longtime sponsor of the Webster Schools’ Weekend Food Backpack Program, which provides bags of food for more than 70 children in all seven of the district’s elementary schools.

The church also is home to one of the town’s several Little Free Pantries. These tall cabinets, which resemble very large Little Free Libraries, are placed in parking lots or other public places, and packed with food and toiletry items. Based on a “take what you need, leave what you can” philosophy, community members in need can stop by at any time and help themselves to whatever they can use.

When the schools all closed in March, and backpack food deliveries could no longer be made, the church community shifted distribution to the Little Free Pantry in their parking lot.

Before last Saturday’s food drive, Ed said, both their pantry and storeroom were almost empty. But by the end of the day, they were full again thanks to the generosity of our Webster community members. All the donations will be used to restock the pantry daily, and start up the Weekend Food Backpack Program again when school buildings reopen.

WHAM-Channel 13 stopped by and posted a short story on the effort. You can see that here.

How you can help

If you missed the food drive but would still like to help out, the church continues to accept donations for their hunger ministry initiatives. According to their website,

Items that can be donated to the pantry include non-perishable foods such as pasta, cereal, pancake mix, soups, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, sugar, and flour. Personal hygiene and toiletry items such as soap, tooth paste, deodorant, toilet paper and diapers. Children’s coloring books and crayons can also items that can help out a family.

Just recently, Immanuel Lutheran added a large produce stand next to their pantry. If you have an extra garden vegetables this summer, they would also be very welcome.

Immanuel Lutheran Church’s Little Free Pantry, located in the church’s parking lot, with a brand new companion produce stand.

Webster’s other Little Free Pantries are located at St. Martin on Bay Road, Webster Baptist Church in the Village of Webster and the United Church of Christ on Klem Road. Any one of these organizatons would greatly appreciate your donations.

PN kindergarten teacher makes the news

5 Aug

Capture

As the the very uncertain beginning to the school year draws near, our local TV stations are naturally trying to gauge the mood of students, parents, and teachers as well.

When WHEC Channel 10 went looking for a teacher to interview, they came up with the a perfect spokesperson for all teachers everywhere who are missing their students terribly: Plank North kindergarten teacher Peggy Garritano.

Click here to see the piece.

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Snag some deals, support Webster Schroeder Musicals!

4 Aug

auction 10

This “movie night” basket is one of almost two dozen goodie packs the band is auctioning off.

Webster Schroeder Musicals has come up with a creative way to raise a little money. They’re holding an Facebook-based online auction for almost two dozen gift packs featuring snacks, pet supplies, items for the home, craft supplies and more.

The auction can be found on Schroeder Musicals’ Facebook page.  You’ll find photos there or each package or basket, and you can make your bid by clicking on the photo and putting your bid in the comments.

All items are labeled with a minimum bid amount and minimum bid increments. The auction ends at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday Aug. 5. If more than one individual bids at the same time upon closing, the item will go to the first person who posted their bid.

Once the auction is over, send the band a private message with your name and email address. They’ll email your invoice and information for your electronic payment. All payments will need to be made via PayPal. Items will be available for pick up in Webster.

For more information and to see all the goodies, check out the Facebook page, and if you have any questions, you can message the band through the page.

All proceeds from this auction will benefit students participating in Webster Schroeder Musicals.

Here are a few more samples of the available packages:

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Library collecting school supplies

30 Jul

school supplies

It’s that time of year, and it looks like plans for this coming school year are finally being sorted out. So everyone’s thoughts are beginning to turn once again to school supplies.

While you’re out and about in the stores, please consider picking up a few extra supplies to help out those families who have a hard time affording their own. (And there are probably more families in that boat this year thanks to the economy.)

The Webster Public Library has begin its annual school supplies collection to make donating easy. There’s a big box right in the library’s lobby where you can drop your supplies. They’ll be accepted through Aug. 21, then delivered at HOPE Ministry, who will distribute them to Webster families with children and teens.

If you have any questions, email webster.reference@libraryweb.org.

For a complete list of requested supplies, click on the image below.

individual bookmark 2020 front & back (1)

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