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Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

BHS officials share concerns, raise awareness about vaping at school

post by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, education, schools

There have been four incidents at Batavia High School so far this school year involving students, vaporizers and synthetic drugs, Principal Scott Wilson said.

That isn't an epidemic by any means, but it is a cause for concern and he thinks the local community, and particularly parents and students, should be more aware of some of the possible negative consequences of vaporizers, also known as e-cigarettes.

Wilson organized a community forum in the school's library Wednesday night to help raise awareness.

"It's a concern right now, but I don't want to be a Chicken Little and say the sky is falling," Wilson said. "I also don't want to say the problem is not there, and bury my head in the sand and cross my fingers and hope it all blows away. We have to find the right balance."

Wilson assembled a panel for the forum that included Nancy Haitz, school nurse, Nate Korzelius, teacher, Nick Burk, a teacher and coach, Jennifer Zambito, from GCASA, Rich Schauf, Batavia PD, and Tom Douglas, from the fire department.

Each shared some of their experiences or research into issues surrounding vaping and synthetic drugs.

E-cigarettes were developed as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They were designed to be nicotine delivery devices, but without the health consequences of cigarettes, and give smokers a device to smoke in public that is largely unregulated.

The devices were barely available a couple of years ago, and now are commonly sold in retail shops and convenience stores throughout the area.

Not much bigger than a nice ball-point pen, the devices are easy for students to conceal. They've supposedly been hidden by students in bras and spandex undergarments.  

If it were just a matter of students smoking flavored liquid with a little nicotine, that would still be a violation of school rules and not allowed, but the problem is a bit more serious than that, Wilson said.

"We have to assume at this point that the liquid contains a substance that could cause a medical emergency and I have to take a firm stand," Wilson said.

EMTs have been summoned to the school once this year after a medical emergency involving a student who reportedly inhaled synthetic marijuana through a vaporizer.

They way e-cigs entered society, there's a common misperception that they're harmless, Wilson said. 

Both he and Schauf shared stories of talking to parents who bought vaporizers for their children, as young as 13 years old, because they saw them as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

What parents don't realize is that these devices can be used to deliver other chemicals, from ground up prescription pills to a plethora of synthetic drugs that are easily obtained online.

These are often the same drugs or closely related cousins to bath salts -- the drugs that were much in the news two years ago when the country -- and our local community -- were concerned about their health effects.

Zambito described many of the same behaviors and consequences -- paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rates, rapid breathing, even seizures.

"Students can experience symptoms that even they themselves are scared of," Zambito said.

One of the biggest concerns, several panelists said, is the possibility of students who think taking a hit from another student's vape is no big deal, without really knowing what chemical is in the e-cigarette.

It could contain a synthetic drug and there's no way to tell from merely looking at it.

"Let that sink in for a moment," Wilson said. "They don't know what is in it because it's in a liquid. That's the real concern. We want to help kids make better choices and never just blindly take that risk."

The difficulty in finding out what chemical might have caused a medical emergency is also a problem for EMTs, said Douglas.

Too much nicotine can cause an elevated heart rate, but so can other chemicals, and that can be an important distinction, Douglas said, as just an example of what EMTs must deal with in these situations.

"We've got them grinding up prescription drugs, THC, to whatever it is they find on the Internet, Douglas said. "From the EMT end, that's what we're dealing with. We can be kind of stymied. What do we treat?"

Korzelius and Burk said they now regularly inspect bathrooms, lifting up ceiling tiles, looking for hidden vaporizers.

In the days of "smoking in the boys' room," there was always a residual odor that would help teachers track down the smokers, but that isn't the case with vaping, and teachers and administrators are struggling to keep a tab on the devices.

Wilson hopes through a public discussion of the issue parents become more aware and more vigilant, but he said teens at BHS are already starting to take the issue seriously.  

"I think most of the kids want to have a healthy, clean and positive school environment," Wilson said. "I totally believe that with all my heart, and students are stepping up and reporting, because they want, not necessarily to get kids in trouble, but keep the school free from these devices. I love that cooperation and even that peer pressure. "

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

WNY Tech Academy learn some of the ways jobs are created locally

post by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, education, schools, WNY Tech Academy

Assemblyman Steve Hawley and John Jakubowski, a workforce development consultant for Genesee County Economic Development Center, spoke to students at the WNY Tech Academy at Byron-Bergen High School this afternoon.

Hawley spoke about how he works in Albany to help get legislation passed and drum up support for projects such as the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and WNY STAMP.

Cooperation and relationship building is a big part of the job, he said.

"Communication is the key to getting anything done," Hawley said. "It doesn't matter whether it's texting, whether it's e-mailing, whether it's on the phone, but the best sort of communication is what we're doing here today, looking at each other, eyeball-to-eyeball. You know who I am now. I know who you guys are."

Jakubowski, a retired educator, told students about how he uses his expertise to create job-training programs so the companies coming into the Ag Park and STAMP have a local workforce of job-ready applicants when they open their doors.

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 10:37 am

Byron-Bergen names two alumni to hall of fame

post by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, education, schools
Elizabeth Findlay David Keller

Press release:

Byron-Bergen Central Schools has named two alumni to the Hall of Fame for 2014.  Elizabeth Findlay (class of 1980) and David Keller (class of 1975) join the ranks of other distinguished Byron-Bergen alumni honored with a place in the Hall of Fame for their achievements after graduation.

The Byron-Bergen Alumni Hall of Fame recognizes the accomplishments of the district’s graduates, providing young people of our district with positive adult role models, showing that graduates of Byron-Bergen can achieve high levels of accomplishment in their lives.  This honor is in its twelfth year and has become part of our school district culture and a permanent reminder to our students about the outcome of hard work and diligence.

This year’s honorees exemplify dedication, leadership and service.

While attending Byron-Bergen Central School District, Miss Elizabeth Findlay participated in National Honor Society, Band, Chorale, Solo Festival and All County Band.  She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from SUNY Fredonia in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Reading from SUNY Brockport.  Miss Findlay started teaching at Byron-Bergen in 1985 as a kindergarten teacher for her first 5 years, becoming a 6th grade teacher in 1990 and continues in that role today.  Miss Findlay has been very active in Byron-Bergen Central School District, participating on many committees, mentoring new teachers, and is a Master Teacher for student teachers.  Miss Findlay also participated in the Bureau of Education and Research in Rochester “using guided reading to help your students become better readers.”  In the 2005-06 school year, she was selected as the Byron-Bergen Middle School Teacher of the Year.  In 2008, she was chosen as the Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year.  Miss Findlay has served on the Gillam-Grant Board of Directors and is a member of the St. James Episcopal Church.  Miss Findlay is a compassionate role model and a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to the youth of the Byron-Bergen learning community.

Mr. David Keller was active in French Club, Future Teachers of America, American Field Service, Yearbook Co-Editor, Swim Club, Concert Band, Marching Band, and hosted an exchange student from Brazil during his time at Byron-Bergen.  In 1975, Mr. Keller joined the U.S. Army Bands Program and studied music under the Navy Master Chief Mike Scairini.  Upon graduation from the School of Music, Mr. Keller served in multiple Army Bands throughout the United States and in Berlin, Germany.  In 1992, Mr. Keller was selected to the prestigious U.S. Army Field Band (the musical ambassadors of the Army) in Washington, D.C.  The culmination of his military career came when he was selected as the first musician to become a Command Sergeant Major.  Sergeant Major Keller (retired) served our nation for over 34 years and while in the U.S. Army Field Band, performed in all 50 states.  He performed for every Presidential Inaugural event from George Bush, Sr. through Barrack Obama.  During his Military career, Mr. Keller received numerous awards and medals.  Mr. Keller has performed with many symphonies and orchestras throughout the United States.  During his long and distinguished military career, Mr. Keller pursued his education at numerous universities and colleges, ultimately studying music with Karl Nitchie, Principle Bassoonist Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  Mr. Keller is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.  Mr. Keller is currently the Principle Bassoonist, Genesee Symphony; Bassoonist/Clarinetist, Batavia Concert Band; pit musician for Genesee Community College, Batavia Players, and Byron-Bergen CSD.  Mr. Keller participates in the Byron-Bergen holiday and spring concerts (2011-present), performs in the pit orchestra for musicals, and has assisted with construction/painting of the school musical sets.  Currently, Mr. Keller is the treasurer of the B-B Music Boosters, and has been instrumental in fundraising events for the group; and is an active member of Gillam-Grant.  Mr. Keller enjoys gardening, renovating his 179 year old house in South Byron, taking cruises, and being helpful to others.  Mr. Keller’s loyalty to his community/country, passion for music, and tireless volunteerism make him an outstanding role model for our youth.

The 2014 Byron-Bergen Alumni Hall of Fame inductees will be honored on Friday, October 17, 2014.  They will spend the day visiting with Byron-Bergen students and sharing how their school experience influenced their lives.  After an induction ceremony and dinner that evening, the two honorees will be recognized just prior to the boys’ varsity soccer game.  If you would like to attend the induction ceremony and dinner ($25.00 per person), please contact Patty Gunio at (585) 494-1220, ext. 2329 by October 10, 2014, to find out the details and make a reservation.  (Seating is limited to 80 people.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 9:25 pm

New bus company to deliver students to and from Batavia City schools this year

post by Howard B. Owens in Attica, batavia, City Schools, education, schools

Dozens of bright yellow school buses have been gleaming in the sun (when there is sun) at the corner of Dodgeson Road and Route 98 in Alexander just about all summer long.

The name on the sides of the buses -- Student Transportation of America -- is a new name to Genesee County.

STA is now in town after winning the main transportation contract with the Batavia City School District, which entered into a joint agreement with the Attica School District.

The company purchased a former rigging shop location at 3784 Dodgeson Road in an auction through Bontrager's earlier in the summer.

The state encourages school districts to review and re-bid bus transportation contracts every 10 years, explained Batavia Superintendent Chris Dailey. 

The district experienced many difficulties with the previous contract, Dailey said. 

"The Board of Education decided to bid and increase the accountability and expectations for the bus contractors while also increasing features available to the district with our bus contractors, such as more cameras and GPS," Dailey said. "We bid for 2013-14 but the bid was rejected because of cost and lack of competition."

For 2014-015, the district decided to seek another district for a cooperative bid and reached an agreement with Attica and STA won the bid for regular school transportation, field trips and sports trips.

Attica Bus Company will remain the contractor for transportation of special education students.

BCSD's transportation costs per year is more than $1 million, plus another $731,690 for special education transportation.

"In our contract, the contractor is responsible for all aspects of providing transportation: purchasing and maintaining the fleet, building, staffing, routing of the students, directly handling parent calls," Dailey said.

Two weeks ago, STA announced the release of a mobile device and desktop app that will allow parents to track the location of school buses in the fleet.

"A child’s bus is displayed on a detailed map showing its current location in relation to the child’s stop, so parents can monitor the bus along its route," the company said in a press release.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

“Registering for the SafeStop app is easy,” the company said. “Parents in select schools simply log on to www.schoolwheels.com from any computer or mobile device to register for the app. They then can link to the Apple App Store or Google Play to download on a mobile device.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 10:38 am

The potential for arrest has dramatically reduced fighting at BHS, school officials say

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, crime, education, schools

The message seems to be getting through.

Batavia school officials were alarmed at the number of fights at the high school in 2012-13, so after some consideration, they decided to do what people do to curb criminal activity: call the police.

It was a big policy swing away from the traditional approach of schools, which is to handle problems on campus through internal processes such as counseling and suspensions. 

The new policy means students who fight could be arrested, put through the criminal or family court system and potentially see their names in police blotters (last year, The Batavian redacted the names of under-18-year-old students arrested on campus from arrest reports).

The change in policy had an immediate impact.

In 2012-13, 19 fights at BHS. In 2013-14, three.

"The resources we had available weren't changing views, and we needed to do something in order to change the behavior of kids choosing to fight while at school," said Superintendent Chris Daily during a press conference Tuesday. "We took it to the next level and it's worked."

Daily knew the new policy was having an impact when he was walking through a corridor at BHS and overheard a young lady and young man talking.

"He was obviously a little agitated," Daily said. "I heard her say directly, 'if you get in a fight, they're going to arrest you and then you're not going to be around this weekend and then we are done.' "

The other component of the new program is intervention. It takes some effort by teachers and counselors to become aware of potential issues between students, some reliance on students expressing concern about potential problems (more likely with the elevated consequences), but school officials work at the effort because they would like to mediate conflicts before fights erupt. 

"Peer pressure gets a negative rep, but there is positive peer pressure and the kids, they want to take care of each other," said BHS Principal Scott Wilson. "They are now reaching out to the adults in the building and looking for other ways of resolving conflicts."

In the case of Daily's overheard conversation, a counselor got involved and mediated the dispute. It didn't necessarily make the two potential combatants friends, but it did lessen the tension.

"It's been the hardest part of the rollout," Wilson said. "We've had countless remediations to resolve conflicts. Sometimes students agree to disagree, but they do not engage."

Officials hope students learn through the program that there are better ways to solve problems than fighting.

"The kids are learning, 'I can't handle myself this way,' " Daily said.

A pair of police cruisers showing up at the front entrance of the school as the result of fight gets the students' attention. After the first fight last year, Wilson said, the chatter among students wasn't the usual recap of the altercation; rather, students were talking about the arrests.

"The kids who have been through consequences, either through youth court or criminal court, have been our best advertisements to stop this behavior," Daily said.

The old policy kept students in a bubble, isolated from societal consequences of criminal behavior, and helping students learn that whether on campus or off, they are part of a larger community is one positive of the program, said Police Chief Shawn Heubusch.

"(When a student) leaves the school, he shouldn't have to abide by a different set of standards than he does while he's in the school," Heubusch said. "By applying that consistency and that constant communication, you should see that student carry that over into his personal life and into his community."

The words consistency and communication came up a lot during the press conference.

It was communicated clearly to students at the start of the school year that there would be criminal consequences to fighting, and school officials communicated with parents, particularly parents with children involved in conflicts.

There's also an outreach component to the effort. Heubusch doesn't want students to just see his officers as the long arm of the law. He wants them to understand they're available to help.

Det. Richard Schauf has been a regular presence on campus in the mornings, in uniform, greeting students along side Daily and Wilson.

At first, Schauf said, students were wary (quite a contrast to the warm welcome from elementary school students when Schauf goes to Jackson School), but over the course of the year, many students became cordial and talkative.

Greater police involvement on campus, Schauf said, helps create a better learning environment.

"I don't care what age you are, if you don't feel safe, you're not going to learn," Schauf said. "You're not going to learn because you're going to be more concerned about protecting yourself, and we want students to learn."

The motto at the school is "Take Care of BHS" and the program reinforces that motto, Wilson said.

"It helps us deliver that message and building that culture of 'Take Care of BHS', that fighting is something we don't do in this building," he said.

Daily, a former BHS principal himself, said he has seen the new policy have a real positive impact on school culture.

"By using this, it's really helped our school community heal something that was very disruptive," Daily said. "We're hoping going forward, that message continues, and that message gets out and we're going to eliminate this kind of behavior from school. Kids are going to make mistakes and we're going to be there to help them learn, but we just took another resource and used it to help us get a better result."

Photo: Board Member Pat Burk, Wilson and Daily.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Photos: Kinder Farmin' Day at Grassland Dairy in Pavilion

Evan Stout raised his hand during a tour of the milking parlor at Grassland Dairy in Pavilion this morning because he wanted to know if it hurt the cows when they're milked.

Steven Tudhope assured him they were not hurt.

Evan was one of more than 200 area school children who toured Grassland, owned and operated by Brent Tillotson, as part of Kinder Farmin' Day (formerly Dairy Day), sponsored by the Genesee County Farm Bureau. 

"It's important for today's generation to learn about agriculture because they're going to be tomorrow's consumers and tomorrow's ag workforce," said Barm Sturm of the Farm Bureau.

Tillotson said he hosted the tour this year because he thinks it's important for children to learn firsthand about dairy farming.

"We do as much for kids as we can," Tillotson said. "It's good for them to come out and see that food doesn't just come off a truck."

Steven Tudhope explains to a group of Pavilion students how cows are milked.

Chad Tillotson shows a group of Wolcott School students the different kinds of organic feeds used on Grassland, which is a certified organic dairy farm.

Kara, of Wolcott School, holds a chick.

Melissa Thater with her young goat and a group of children.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Byron-Bergen students get visit from local veterans

post by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, education, schools, veterans

Press release:

On May 27, Byron-Bergen first-graders learned about the history and meaning of the United States' flag from people who proudly fought for it – prominent members of the Genesee County American Legion and Auxiliary. The students welcomed Genesee County American Legion Commander Dave Henry, Chaplain Don Nagle, Post & County Adjutant Jim Neider, and Auxiliary President Jane Fox, and listened intently to their presentation.

Neider, who was recently named to the New York State Veterans' Hall of Fame in honor of gallantry in the Armed Forces and service to the community, made history come alive with stories of Betsy Ross and the first flag. He explained that Flag Day – June 14 – celebrates the birthday of our national symbol. He described the meaning of the flag’s stars and stripes, and the significance of the red, white, and blue. He also encouraged the young patriots to remind their parents and other adults of the many ways to honor the flag.

“As vets, we enjoy helping children connect with history, and get an understanding for the importance of our flag and our country,” says Neider, who also taught elementary school for 30 years at Alexander Central School. “The kids at Byron-Bergen are especially knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They make doing this a lot of fun.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

Photos: Notre Dame HS graduation

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, education, Notre Dame, schools

Notre Dame High School held its graduation service Saturday evening outside on the north side of the campus. Bishop Richard Malone spoke at the commencement ceremony.

To purchase prints, click here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Photos: Students drive tractors to school at Byron-Bergen for ag appreciation day

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, byron-bergen, schools

It was Agricultural Appreciation Day at Byron-Bergen High School. Senior students drove their tractors to school.

Photos submitted by Gayla Starowitz.

Connor Nesbitt

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm

In Chef K's kitchen, if it's not right, it's wrong

Even without the profanity, celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay is profane. He’s mean even when his soliloquies aren’t bleepin’ tirades.

Some of the students in the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES compare Chef Chef Nathan Koscielski to Gordon Ramsay. Even "Chef K" himself makes the comparison.

“I do yell in the kitchen sometimes,” Koscielski said.

Of course, Chef K never drops f-bombs. No teacher would. But neither is he mean. There are no insults tossed around like pizza dough in Chef K’s kitchen. If he raises his voice, it’s more like a stern version of Hugh Beaumont than a a vein-popping drill sergeant.

Chef Nathan Koscielski's favorite cooking shows

Ramsay — star of such shows as "Hell’s Kitchen" and "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" — has high standards and high expectations, which seems to be the fuse that ignites his expletive-deleted critiques of other chefs and restaurant owners.

Driving home those same points about quality and consistency is also the growl in Chef K’s bark.

“There have got to be standards,” Koscielski said. “Everything has to got be uniform and everything has got to be high quality. It’s got to be done the right way, the perfect way, or it’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we’re not going to sell it to a customer.”

The emphasis on the right way over the wrong way is one of the reasons Koscielski has been able to guide his students to three consecutive wins in an annual culinary competition in Buffalo.

The wins in the Taste of Culinary Competition hosted by the American Culinary Federation of Greater Buffalo are impressive. Koscielski high school students have notched their consecutive victories competing against college students who come backed by three, four and even five instructors, while for the BOCES students it’s just them and Chef K. This year, the Batavia contingent even outscored all of the pros from Erie County’s top restaurants and country clubs.

“I’m a member of the American Culinary Federation, I know all the chef instructors at the local colleges; we kind of grew up in the food services industry together, and the fact that I’m there by myself with 15 high school students and we’re beating the faculty and staff of colleges, it’s a great honor,” Koscielski said. “To do it three years in a row means it wasn’t beginner's luck.”

It’s more than just fate that has brought Koscielski to Batavia. It’s a bit more like destiny.

Growing up in Derby, Koscielski said by high school he was well down the path to nowhere, just another ne'er do well in a small rural town.

“My Culinary Arts teacher in high school saved my life,” Koscielski said. “If it wasn’t for that man, his name was Leroy Good — and, again, I was a very troubled student in high school — if it wasn’t for Leroy Good and Culinary Arts I would be living in my parents' basement, be thrown out of my parents' house and in jail or dead. BOCES saved my life, honest to God.”

Or perhaps it wasn’t destiny. Growing up, there was no cooking in Koscielski’s home. At dinner time, his parents would pull out the menus from local restaurants and everybody would decide what to order and dad would go pick it up. After he started taking culinary classes, he was eager to cook for his mom and dad, but found there weren’t even any pots and pans in the kitchen.

“My parents oven is still picture-perfect clean to this day,” Koscielski said. “It’s about 40 years old, but they never use it.”

Despite this handicap, or perhaps because of it, Koscielski became passionate about cooking.

Koscielski holds a degree in Culinary Arts from the the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu and a bachelor’s in Career and Tech Education from SUNY Buffalo. He’s been a sous chef at the Niagara Club and Templeton Landing. He was also a banquet chef at the Buffalo Club.

He started teaching at BOCES 1 in Erie County, but as the low man on the totem pole, when spending cuts came, his was the first job lopped off.

When a long-term substitute teaching position opened in Batavia, Koscielski accepted the job offer.

He was immediately impressed with the school. The kitchen, he said, with its professional stoves and industrial-grade mixers and wide assortment of pots and pans and utensils, is one of the best equipped he’s come across in an educational setting. He’s also been treated very well by the administration, he said.

“One thing that really hit home for me was in my first week of substitute teaching here, I got a knock on my door and it was Dr. Glover, our former superintendent, and he was just introducing himself and said if I ever needed anything let him know,” Koscielski said. “That hit home with me because I worked at Erie 1 BOCES for two years and for two full years of working at Erie 1 BOCES I never met the superintendent once.”

Five years ago, Koscielski was promoted to the full-time, permanent instructor position in Culinary Arts and quickly became a student favorite.

“Chef K is the smartest person I’ve ever known,” said second-year culinary student Bob Zien. “He’s literally a teacher of not only culinary arts, but life skills. The guy is a genius. He’s a genius. It makes me proud to be able to say I was in his class. It’s not often you have a teacher who is as smart and as caring about his students as Chef K is.”

Gina Muroff, also a second-year student and this year’s class president, said she was both surprised and impressed her first day of class with Koscielski.

“That first day of class you come in and you think, ‘ok, I’m going to learn about culinary, but on that first day, everything he taught was about life,” Muroff said. “He said nothing about culinary. He talked about, what do you want to do when you get out of here, how are you going to succeed? He showed us that you need to have motivation to pursue your own dreams, whether it’s going to be in culinary or not.”

Chef K talks a lot with his students about passion — passion for cooking, but more, passion for doing your best in every aspect of life, and by all accounts Koscielski is a zealous mentor.

“Any program starts with the teacher,” said Batavia BOCES Principal Jon Sanfratello. “He’s passionate about what he does. What attracts kids to his program is his passion and his drive.”

Chef K’s passion is one of the great lessons former student Peter Boylan said he got from his two years in BOCES Culinary Arts Program. Boylan is now at the American Culinary Federation.

“I learned you don’t get into this industry for the money,” Boylan said. “You really have to care about what you’re doing. I may have to start off as a dishwasher and work my way up to a line cook or a sous chef and so on before I become a chef, but I think it’s worth it.”

“I’ve wanted to be a chef since kindergarten,” Boylan added. “I never did anything about it until Chef K introduced me to all the aspects of cooking. That’s when I definitely fell in love with the industry. He showed me it’s not always going to be fun, but it’s worth it. I would say I found a much larger passion for the industry because of him.”

From life lessons, Chef K’s class moves to safety and sanitation. That’s four weeks of intense lessons on foodborne pathogens, food storage, cooking temperatures, cuts, burns and slips and falls. Next, students learn how to make breads and pastries, which overlaps with instruction on overall culinary skills.

The fun kicks up a notch with the lessons on knife skills as students learn how to chop, slice and dice. Knife skills segues nicely into soups, broths and stews.

“Soups are a good way to learn about culinary arts because you have knife skills with cutting vegetables, and you have to understand the cooking of the stock or the broth of the soup,” Koscielski said. “If you’re making cream soups, then you go into the realm of thickening agents, white rue, cornstarch slurry and stuff like that. So soups are a really good devise to squeeze in a lot of culinary education into one unit.”

After soups, students move into grilling, roasting and frying, and, of course, desserts.

As the lessons coalesce, Chef K opens the annual teacher’s cafe. For 25 weeks, teachers need not pack their own lunches or take a quick run to the deli during their afternoon break. They can saunter into the department’s dinning room for a buffet of brimming with culinary variety.

As winter melts into spring, it’s time for the entire student body of BOCES to get a chance to sample the cooking of their peers. The student dining experience moves beyond self-serve dishing at a buffet, as students learn about food service — taking orders, delivering dishes and ringing up sales.

In the kitchen, the aspiring chefs flip burgers, fry fries and drop pancakes — or whatever else is on the menu that day — and to get all the hot food plated up at the right time takes teamwork. The cooks must coordinate and communicate. There might be some Chef K yelling involved.

“The more this team works together, just like a basketball team, the better they’re able to understand where each other is going to be on the kitchen floor or the court,” Koscielski said. “Once they understand not only how they work themselves but how each other works, then you have a kitchen that is a well-oiled machine. “

It’s all about establishing good habits, Koscielski said.

“There’s a famous line by a famous teacher, Harry Wong, that procedures will become routine, and I base my teaching philosophy of that,” Koscielski said. “You set up a lot of procedures at the beginning of the school year or the beginning of the lesson and after a while those procedures become routine for the students. Once those become routine you have a good educational environment for the students.”

During one cafe day, when a student brought over an ice cream sundae intended for a customer, Chef K told him flat out he got it wrong. There was chocolate on the edge of the plate. The cherry juice was dripping down the whipped cream. The brownie wasn’t in the center of the plate. It wasn’t made right, so it was wrong.

But Chef K didn’t yell. He sent the student back to the dessert table and made him do it over. The yelling commenced when the student returned.

“That’s a thousand times better,” Koscielski bellowed, his voice ringing off the stainless steal hoods. “It’s a thousand times better. A thousand times better.”

Talking about the incident later, Koscielski said it’s important to emphasize standards with each and every dish that might leave the kitchen.

“Once the student understood how to properly plate the item up, it was thousand times better,” Koscielski said.

Lesson learned.

Muroff said the fact that Chef K has such high standards shows that he cares about the future of his students. He knows what real life is like and he wants them to be ready for the what the work world is like.

“He’s definately the best teacher I’ve ever met because as I said, he cares about our future,” said the Oakfield-Alabama student who plans to pursue two years of study as a pastry chef before enrolling in a four-year culinary college. “He knows that if he doesn’t show the kids how to succeed in their future, then they don’t know what they’ll be doing when they graduate. He teaches us everything that we’ll need in our future.”

Boylan thinks Chef K is harder on the students who are serious about culinary as a career. Once Chef K learns you aspire to double-breasted jackets, jaunty scarves and toques, he’s going to lean on you, call on you to learn every day and do your best to be the best.

That challenge to mastery has proven a big advantage, Boylan said, as he’s advanced in his studies.

“I’m on the hot food team in college now,” Boylan said. “I think without him pushing me the way he did in class I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be where I am now.”

Culinary arts isn’t just about cooking. Students can also earn math and science credits, and next year they can also earn English credits. One way or another cooking involves math, science, reading and writing, and Koscielski said students will often take a lot more interest in those subjects when they’re tied to a topic they care about.

“They’re more willing to do the homework,” Koscielski said. “They’re not necessarily interested in their English class at their home school, but when we take that English credit and we make them read cookbooks and do homework assignments off of cookbooks they’re more engaged.”

Television also plays a part in Koscielski’s lesson plans. Chef Ramsay, or his shows, is a frequent topic of discussion during class time. Students will be instructed to watch a particular show — one of Koscielski’s favorites for teaching is Iron Chef — and then dissect the show the next day.

“One of the greatest tools I have right now is the Food Network,” Koscielski said. “Students turn on the TV and they have an entire channel dedicated to cooking. The sounds, the lights, it gets them interested, it gets them going. I find the Food Network has helped my enrollment dramatically throughout the years.”

When it comes time to pick the students who will be on the culinary competition team, Koscielski has put his class through months of intense training, held them to high standards and instilled in them a pride for their work. These high school students come into the competition with the respect of the college kids they hope to beat, said Boylan, who has been both on Chef K’s teams and competed against him as a college student.

The college kids don’t feel shown up when they get beaten by Batavia BOCES students.

“We all understand that chef is giving those high school students a different level of learning,” Boylan said. “He really does give a college-level education. It really doesn’t make too much difference that they’re BOCES students. The material he gives them is what you would be learning in your first year of college.”

Sometimes, though, even college students never learn the biggest life lesson of all, the one Chef K will pound on a stainless steel table to emphasize if he must. The lesson is perhaps the most common thread between Chef K and Chef Ramsay and anyone who aspires to master a craft: You’ve got to care.

“It’s not about grade-point average,” Koscielski said. “It’s about passion. It’s about having heart. It’s having good attendance. It’s being professional. That’s what makes a good student.”

And a good chef.

Facts about BOCES Culinary Arts

A career in a kitchen is a good choice, said Chef Nathan Koscielski, because “everybody loves to eat.”

Until scientists learn how to create Star Trek-like food replicators, the world will need cooks.

It’s also a career a young person can enter without necessarily taking on a lot of student debt.

Jobs that could be available to BOCES graduates right out of high school include:

  • Baker’s Assistant
  • Breakfast Cook
  • Chef’s Assistant
  • Dietary Aide
  • Health-care Cook
  • Pantry Worker
  • Line Cook
  • Waiter/Waitress

The BOCES brochure lists the following jobs and potential salaries in the culinary profession:

  • Pastry Chef: $35,000 and up
  • Banquet Chef: $40,000 and up
  • Sous Chef: $40,000 and up
  • Banquet Manager: $50,000 and up
  • Maitre d’: $50,000 and up
  • Executive Chef: $70,000 and up
  • Food and Beverage Director: $75,000 and up
  • General Manager: $80,000 and up

Some of these jobs, at least to reach the upper levels of the pay scale, will require post-secondary education. Culinary schools in the region that have accepted BOCES students include:

  • Johnson and Wales
  • Culinary Institute of America
  • Paul Smith’s College
  • Niagara Community College
  • Erie Community College
  • Le Cordon Bleu

Notable local graduates of the Culinary Arts Program at BOCES:

  • Bill Cultrara, head chef at the Genesee County Jail, former owner of Delavan’s; education included Sullivan County Community College in Catskills and apprenticeships at the Greenbrier Restor in West Virginia and the Palace Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland.
  • Hassan Silmi, executive chef at Alex’s Place; education includes GCC and Alfred State.

So far, none of Chef K’s students have become an executive chef or restaurant owner, but he said, “I’m sure someday there will be.”

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