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Here’s an awesome way to support our teachers

19 Feb

I think you’ll agree with me that our teachers are superheroes.

I mean, recall that last March, on a week’s notice, they were asked to finish up the year by going completely online. Even this school year, they’ve been juggling Covid restrictions, remote lessons, half days or half weeks, doing their best to deliver as much learning as possible. And given all those challenges, I think they’ve been doing an amazing job.

So now more than ever, we should show them how much we appreciate them, and throw as much support behind them as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to join the Webster Central PTSA and — better yet — get involved as a volunteer.

The PTSA has sent out an urgent request for anyone interested in filling one of several open committee and executive board positions for the 2021-2022 school year. Committee positions include PACE, Community Arts Day, Reflections competition, PTSA Calendar, Recognition (Oak Tree and other district-wide recognition programs), Grants, Advocacy and Programming.

All of these committee lead positions are OPEN for the coming school year. Plus, on the executive board, both co-presidents, 1st VP (elementary), 3rd VP (communications) and secretary positions are open.

The need is great. Please consider lending a hand. For more information you can email

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More about the Thomas radio play, and a preview of the upcoming school musicals

11 Feb

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being in the very small audience for The Webster Thomas Radio Hour, a collection of short, very humorous plays written and acted by students.

Given the restrictions caused by the pandemic, not a whole lot of people could see the play live. But DO NOT DESPAIR. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you too can now enjoy this very clever walk back through memory lane.

The Webster Thomas Radio Hour is now on YouTube, and you can access it by clicking on this link.

If you love live theater, then you’ll be excited to know that all four of our secondary schools are preparing right now to stage plays this spring. Here are the details:

Students in the Spry Drama Club rehearsing Pajama Party

Spry Drama Club will be presenting its first-ever One Act Play Festival from March 18 to 20. Four plays will be performed, including “Pajama Party,” “Four Little Words,” “Goldilocks on Trial” and “Not so Grimm Tales.” Each play features between 10 and 14 cast members and accommodating them all for rehearsals has been quite a trick.

Artistic director Bill Ambler explained, “Rehearsal days coincide with the students’ cohort days. Each play has its own rehearsal day during the week. The kids have been amazing about social distancing and wearing masks while rehearsing.” Several soloists and small group ensembles will entertain the audience during the intermission.

Each play will give two performances for a intimate audience. The plays will also be streamed on the internet. More details to come about that.

Willink Middle School is preparing a Disney musical review, featuring selections from many of the shows the school has performed in previous years, with a mix of singing, acting and dancing. Shows will be scheduled for May 14 and 15. They’re hoping they can host small audiences, but even if not, the production will be shared online.

Webster Schroeder High School is currently rehearsing for their spring production of The Addams Family. They’re planning two shows, on April 23 and April 24.

They’re hoping to accommodate small audiences at these performances, but most patrons will be able to see the production live through a professional streaming service. Details about that haven’t been hammered out yet, but I’ll let you know when they do.

Some of the accommodations Schroeder Drama has made for their musical this year include a smaller cast; having no permanent on-stage set, which will allow for social distancing; and having the orchestra perform from the band room. More adjustments may have to be made if the currect restrictions aren’t lifted soon. .

The Webster Thomas Players have come up a creative way to beat the Covid: they’re taking their musical outdoors.

Webster Thomas will be presenting Cabaret at the Penfield Amphitheatre from June 17 to 19, with June 20 as a rain date. All shows will begin at 7:30 and tickets will be $12. Tickets will go on sale the beginning of May.

Director Brenda Nitsch writes,

The show will be more about the issues surrounding racism and political fanaticism and less around the unorthodox liberal lifestyles of the time. The show will be appropriate for all ages. The music is by the amazing John Kander and includes such greats as “Cabaret,” “Money Makes the World Go Around,” “Perfectly Marvelous” and “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

Stay tuned for more information about each one of these productions as it becomes available.

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Snow day at Schlegel!

6 Feb
School administrative assistants Sharon Nairy and Debbie Jackson with their Covid snowman

What’s a bunch of Covid-weary school staff and teachers to do on a beautiful, sunny, 40-degree February day? Go out and play in the snow!

That’s what happened a few days ago at Schlegel Rd. Elementary School, on that glorious Thursday we had (remember all that sunshine?). The idea was the brainchild of Schlegel principal Francine Leggett and Assistant Principal Kate Hesla. They’d heard about another school giving their teachers a chance to strap on some snowshoes and get outside for a little exercise. So they put out a school-wide snowshoeing invitation for Thursday during the time between the morning and afternoon class sessions.

As word got around, they learned that the P.E. department only had child-sized snowshoes. Undaunted, Leggett borrowed more than a dozen sets of shoes from Willink Middle School, and the play date was back on. (“Mr. Lamonica saved the day,” Leggett said.)

Perhaps 15 or 16 teachers and staff members took advantage of the snow day, and one teacher brought out her whole class for a stroll. Several people strapped on some snowshoes and lumbered around the front lawn. Others built snowmen or just took a long walk through the parking lots. It’s possible a snowball was even tossed through the open main office window.

The time to head back inside came too soon. But in the meantime, much fun was had, laughter happened, and there were a lot of smiles under the masks. It was a well-earned and well-deserved break.

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Webster community mailbag

6 Feb

Blood drives coming up

Three local blood drives are coming up in the next two weeks. The first is Monday Feb. 8 from 1 to 7 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 1460 Ridge Rd., and the second on Tuesday Feb. 9 from 1 to 6 p.m. at St. Martin Lutheran Church. 813 Bay Rd.

If you can’t make it to either one of those, a third one will be held on Tuesday Feb. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the American Legion, 818 Ridge Rd.

You’ll want to make an appointement so that the Red Cross can keep everyone safe, and so you’ll be in and out quicker. Click here to do that.

Aside from saving up to three lives with your donation, here’s another reason to take the time: The Red Cross is currently testing all blood donations for Covid19 antibodies, providing donors insight into whether they have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Important information from the school district

The Webster Central School District has expanded this year’s parent/teacher conference days, which will now take place over four days, March 11, 12, 18 and 19.

On Thursdays March 11 and 18, AM students will attend school during their regularly scheduled class time, while PM students will not meet for class and that time will be set aside for conferences. And on Fridays March 12 and 19, the PM students will have class, while the AM time will be set aside for conferences. This schedule also applies to remote learners.

Transportation will run as usual when class is in session.

If you have children entering kindergarten this September, you should know that kindergarten orientation and registration are open and have gone remote.

If you have a child who will be 5 years old on or before December 1, 2021, that child is eligible for kindergarten enrollment for the 2021-22 school year. In lieu of traditional in-person orientation, Student Registration has a video for parents/guardians of incoming kindergarteners to watch at their leisure, which explaines the registration and entrance process. You can see it at

The district is also now accepting completed kindergarten registration packets for the 2021-22 school year. Go to to follow the link enabling parents/guardians to complete a 100% online registration process. If you’d like to print out and fill in the registration packet by hand, you’ll also print off the packet from that site. School registration is based on residency. Webster students attend the school assigned to their home address. Use the School Locater Tool on the Student Registration website for placement information.

The safest method to submit registration paperwork is online, but the district understands this is not possible for all parents/guardians. Packets are available for pick-up and drop-off at the Student Registration Office at Spry Middle School, 119 South Avenue, Webster, Door 2 (next to the main entrance). A secure drop box is located in the vestibule from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please do not drop off any original documentation; only copies will be accepted.

Call or email Carla Watkins with any questions: 585-216-0029 or

February Break magic show

It’s time to start thinking ahead to February Break and how to keep the kids entertained. Here’s a good start.

The Webster Recreation Center will host Rich the Magic Man on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. for a Valentine’s Day Virtual Magic Show. Cost is $10 per family. Visit the Recreation Center website and search for program #101207A.

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Pandemic or not, the show must go on

28 Jan

When you’re in theater and a global pandemic keeps you from packing an auditorium with people who want to see your show, what’s a director to do? Create a show which people don’t actually have to be able to SEE.

That’s exactly what the students at Webster Thomas have done with their production of The Webster Thomas Radio Hour.

As the name implies, the show — which actually runs about two hours — is modeled after a 1940s-era radio show, complete with serials, commercials and a musical guest.

The main program is a collection five short plays, all written and performed by students. They begin with a crime drama (The Case of the Missing Mallets), followed by some science fiction (The Adventures of the Time-Traveling Athenians and The Return of Professor Z to the Planet of the Beyond), a murder mystery (Terror Train) and a ghost story (Francis Fisher — Ghost Hunter). Tucked in between the features are several very creative commercials and short subjects. And, in keeping with the old-time radio variety show format, all of the sound effects and musical cues are performed live.

Even though the the play couldn’t be presented in front of a packed auditorium, director Mark Stoetzel has tried to give his young actors as much of a normal school play experience as possible. It is being presented on the Thomas stage, for example. But all of the actors will wear masks and maintain social distancing as they act out their lines, something that isn’t possible with a traditional production.

Stoetzel wrote,

Our students, especially the seniors, really do miss the regular performances with all that entails (tech week, set building days on weekends, creative concession tables, cast parties, much longer rehearsals, etc.). These things were stressful, but in a good way. Naturally, we cannot do most of these things, but we can recreate some of the trappings.

We’ll put a display in the trophy case outside the auditorium like always, with cast head-shots and bios. We’ve put the show’s poster on the kids’ lockers (thanks to Denise Warren, Tanya Yost, and Brian Phares for that – everyone is pitching in!). And we’ve scheduled the recording sessions at night like a regular show, and have allowed each student to invite their immediate families (spread out throughout the whole auditorium). There won’t be a cast party, but they’ll still keep certain traditions alive, like paper-plate awards.

The ensemble held their final rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon. I was pleased to be invited, mostly because I was a little unsure about how this radio-play-on-a-stage would work.

Basically, the Thomas stage became the “recording studio.” Actors’ chairs, microphones and script stands were scattered around the stage, with a table in back filled with sound effects materials for two Foley artists. Signs announcing each feature were stacked in front of the stage for the benefit of the studio audience. And of course, one dedicated cue-card holder stood at the ready to let audience members know when to laugh, applaud, boo or gasp!

Jenna Dow and Brynn Smith perform as Alex Ramirez instructs the audience.

I enjoyed the production tremendously. Each of the features was very well written and very funny. The actors actually acted out their roles as they read their lines, and they were all quite good. There were some humorous references to Rochester and the commercials poked fun at several of the students’ beloved teachers. And the poor musical guest … well, you just have to see the show yourself to see what happens to her.

And you will be able to see the show. After presenting the play to very small, invitation-only audiences Thursday and Friday, it will be posted on YouTube and other media platforms. I’ll let you know the details as soon as I know them, but in the meantime, you can stay up to date by following the cast on Twitter at @wthsfallplay.

It’s a very family-friendly production, by the way, so everyone will enjoy it.

Director Mark Stoetzel, right, gives some final instructions to his cast before a performance.

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Celebrating our 2021 senior class

25 Jan

You may recall that last year, after the pandemic shuttered the schools in March, our seniors lost out on a lot of the fanfare and celebration normally marking the end of high school. Even though things still aren’t back to normal, everyone is hoping the experience for this year’s seniors will be much more positive.

Our Webster Central PTSA has plans to make sure that’s the case.

Once a month through June, the PTSA will be surprising each senior with a fun gift or special event, planned for on or around the 21st of each month (in honor of 2021 of course). Every student at Webster Thomas and Schroeder high schools, whether remote, hybrid, GOAL or other, will be included.

According to Webster Central PTSA programming co-chair Stacie Peters, the effort is part of a movement happening all around the country, where PTSAs are celebrating the senior class of 2021. She first heard about it from Schroeder parent Amy Peterson. From there, Peters, Schroeder High School PTSA/WTA liaison Linda Law, Thomas PTSA/WTA liaison Denise Warren, and Thomas PTSA Chair Bridget Ziskind organized a team of parents to brainstorm ideas.

Each senior received a baggie like this one (S. Peters)

The PTSA got things rolling last Thursday and Friday, handing out small bags of Hershey’s Kisses, complete with inspirational messages, to almost 360 Schroeder seniors and 335 Thomas seniors. They included in-school and 100% remote students, EMCC students, early senior graduates, early-graduating juniors, and a dozen GOAL students.

The whole undertaking was “more complex than we thought,” Peters wrote.

“Since most every senior has to take a social studies and English class, we used those teachers to pass Kisses out,” she wrote. “We had them bagged up and dropped off to teachers with senior names on them. … The awesome secretaries in both buildings broke lists down for us” to help with the distribution.

“(Schroeder principal) Mr. Benz, (Thomas principal) Mr. Widor, and all the teachers in the buildings have been supportive in helping us with this effort,” Peters added.

The whole idea is to do something special for the class of 2021, and inject some excitement into their final year of schooling. Judging by the smiling eyes you see in these pictures, the effort so far has been a success. (Thank you to Jen Calus for the student photos.)

Stay tuned in the next several weeks to find out what the next senior surprise will be.

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A wonderful sound is spreading through our schools

22 Jan
This Schlegel hallway was quiet before the school day began, but would soon be filled with the sounds of children in nearby classrooms.

It’s noise.

I’m not talking about construction noise or clanging HVAC equipment. I’m talking happy noises, like the sounds of children laughing, chatting, and learning.

Those are sounds I didn’t hear much back in September when we returned to school.

We entered the new school year with much trepidation. Everyone — students, teachers and staff — was delighted to be back after months of working remotely. But we encountered all sorts of new rules and precautions to keep everyone healthy. We tiptoed hesitantly through our days, carefully navigating new protocols and systems, afraid that any misstep would send us back to 100% remote learning.

And what that all sounded like was … silence.

But it struck me the other day as I was walking through the halls of Schlegel Elementary that the school was back to sounding like a school again. I think we’re all relieved and a little surprised that we made it this far without having to go fully remote again, and you can sense that feeling in how comfortable everyone has gotten with the new schedule, distancing and masking requirements.

You can see it especially in the students. They’re smiling (you can tell by their eyes), chatting animatedly with their friends, giggling at knock-knock jokes, and skipping through the halls, tossing a carefree “hello!” as they pass.

In short, kids are being kids again.

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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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