Skip to main content



Welcome to "Notes from the Principal," an online newsletter to the community from Dana West Junior-Senior High School Principal Michael Jorgensen. To receive these notes from the Mr. Jorgensen as they come out, please click here.

March 13, 2020

Almost every headline and lead in the local, state, and national news has been focused on the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As the situation rapidly evolves, we are developing and implementing plans to prepare for the possibility of the virus spreading into Cayuga County and impacting Dana L. West Jr.-Sr. High School.

The maintenance staff has been keeping and will continue to keep the building as clean as possible. As Mr. O’Brien mentioned in last week’s eNews, we are disinfecting and sanitizing the building every night. Please remind your children to use strong personal hygiene habits at home and at school. It is also important to keep your child home from school when they are sick.

On the academic side of things, we have to be prepared for school closings in event we are required to be part of a quarantine. Fortunately, the 1:1 Chromebook program puts us in a better place than many of our neighbors. Teachers can use Google Classroom to assign, collect, and return daily assignments. There are also a number of different applications teachers currently use to record video instruction, facilitate classroom discussion, and assess student learning. Using technology to replace daily instruction would not be ideal, but it is better than having students go without any academic supports for an extended period of time.

To make something like this work, it is necessary for students to have their Chromebooks and chargers with them when they leave school each night. If they have lost their device and/or charger, it is important they let me or Mr. Brown know so we can try and find them a replacement. Several public school across the country have been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. At some point, we could face a similar situation, and our district could be closed at a moment’s notice. Depending on the situation, students probably would not be allowed to get into the building to grab personal items and/or school materials. Therefore, students must remember to take their things with them each afternoon when leaving school.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at school.

Thanks for your continued support!

Mike Jorgensen

March 6, 2020

If you are looking for some fun and entertainment next weekend, please come and join us for the Port Byron Drama Club’s annual high school musical. This year, Mr. Chaloux and the rest of the crew will be performing Disney’s “Tarzan” next Thursday (3/12), Friday (3/13), and Saturday (3/14). Thursday and Friday’s performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday’s performance is a matinee, and will begin at 2 pm.
Since mid-December, the cast, crew, coaches, and several parents have put in hundreds of hours practicing lines, learning songs, choreographing dance moves, learning sequences, making costumes, and preparing the set. Several cast members have juggled this production with sports and other activities outside of school. Preparing for the each high school musical is incredibly time-consuming, and I am looking forward to enjoying their performance and witnessing the fruits of their labor.
Additional information about next week’s performances can be found below…
Musical: Disney’s Tarzan the stage musical
Based upon the 1999 Disney animated film and inspired by the 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel Tarzan of the Apes, Tarzan is a classic story of adventure, love, and family. In the jungles of western equatorial Africa, an orphaned boy is saved and raised by a family of apes. As Tarzan struggles to find his place in an alien landscape, he must overcome his human instincts to win the acceptance of his ape father and tribe. When an expedition of British scientists treks into his world, Tarzan must choose between only family he has ever known or join his place as a son of man. Come enjoy a night of empowering music by Phil Collins, dazzling dance, and entertainment for the whole family!
Thursday March 12 at 7 p.m.
Friday March 13 at 7 p.m.
Saturday March 14 at 2 p.m.
Dana L. West Jr/Sr High School - High School Auditorium (Arts Entrance)
Ticket information:
Pre-sale is available at the Lehn Office of the high school
Students / Senior Citizens: $5.00
General Admission: $8.00
Father- George Ripley
Mother- Donna Todd
Kala- Grace Smith
Kerchak- Collin McLoughlin
Leopard- Pamela Rice
Young Tarzan- Sabrina Westmiller
Young Terk- Morgan Brown
Terk- Ryan Ratliff
Tarzan- Patrick Jorolemon
Jane- Natalee Reese
Porter- Kaleb Holdridge
Clayton- Xavier Heath
Snipes- Ashley Rooker
Brianna Coleman (Young Tarzan Understudy), Allie Conklin, Sean Gillmore (Father Understudy), Veronica Gould, Hannah Green, Raegan Harter (Leopard Understudy), Bethany Jump, Colleen Jump, Jenna Jump, Jada Kimball, Riley Kimball (Tarzan Understudy), Connor Lang (Clayton Understudy), Kristen Lang, Radiant Meaker (Young Terk Understudy), Hailey Miles, Grace Noga (Kala Understudy), Jack Noga (Porter Understudy), Precious Peters, Abby Rice, Delaney Rooker, Ruby Seamans, Ashley Todd, Kaitlin Van Houten, Alexis Wilbur (Snipes Understudy), Bryanna Wilbur (Mother Understudy)
Student Director:
Delaney Rooker
Stage Manager:
Katelyn Brown
Technical Crew:
Grace Applebee, Jessie Applebee, Montgomery Baran, Janelle Beaumont, Madison Cioffa, Raegan Dillon, Lonna Gallup, George Johnson, Kaylie Laird, Emiley St. Martin, Alexcia Snyder, Kali Snyder, Madison Srymanske, Samantha Taylor, Connor VanFleet
Lighting & Sound:
Luke Green, Erick McCarty, Joe McNally, Max Noga
Production Team:
Director- Jeffrey Chaloux       
Vocal Director- James Bearup
Choreographer- Stephanie Reese
Technical Director- Ben Hogan
Costumes- Mary Riley, Sharon Vitale, Cynthia Westmiller
Props- Joni Lincoln, Dewey Lincoln
Set Design- Sara St. Pierre
Set Construction / Advisors- Pete Svitavsky, John Mulcahey
Set Construction Assistants:
Stephen Dahl, Mason Stabinsky, Ike Svitavsky

February 28, 2020

Each of our daughters have different sleep patterns on weekends. Our oldest, Ella, usually goes to bed at a decent hour and wakes up, on her own, between  8 and 8:30 a.m. Ava, at the early age of 10, already has a desire to follow a “typical” teenager’s sleep schedule. She is a night owl. If Krissy and I would allow it, Ava would stay up all night and sleep until lunchtime on weekends. Our youngest, Sophia, has the best routine of our three children. After her nightly bath, she settles down rather quickly, and is asleep by 9 p.m., if not a little earlier. That being said, Sophia almost never sleeps past 8 a.m. and is up helping me make pancakes or going with me to pick out breakfast pastries while the older two are still fast asleep.

Because of the differences in their sleep patterns, they are also impacted differently when they have to wake up on Monday morning for school. Because Ella’s and Sophia’s weekend sleep schedules are not terribly different from their school week sleep schedules, they bounce back into her school routine rather well on Monday mornings. Ava, on the other hand, struggles a bit more than her sisters when Krissy walks in her room at 7:30 a.m. each Monday morning.

Weekends are one thing, but coming back from a week off (like all of our children did this past week) is a routine wrecker for all of us! That was evident in our hallways on Monday and Tuesday morning this week. Students (and staff) were quiet as they came back to school, and that is most likely due to having fallen out of our typical school/work sleep schedules.

On Tuesday afternoon, Maggie Sayre, our Licensed Mental Health Counselor, left an article on my desk about the importance of helping our teenagers develop healthy sleep patterns. There is a link to the article below, but I wanted to share points/tips that the Jorgensen family (and perhaps many of you) should try and do better with…

  1. Have a sleep routine
  2. Keep a sleep schedule
  3. Turn off all screens at least an hour before sleep time

Tips #1 and #2 will be tough for us on weekends, solely because, like many of you, we are busy on weekends. Family events, sporting games/practices, birthday parties, etc., fill up many of our Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. That being said, if we want to make sure our kids get enough sleep to be ready to learn at school on Monday mornings, we should try harder to get our children on a better routine/schedule.

Tip #3 will be a serious challenge for us! All three girls like to fall asleep with the television set turned on. I have read, on more than one occasion, that sleeping with the television on has a negative impact on the quality of sleep we are able to get at night.

While the sleep tips I listed above may be challenging to implement, making sure our children get a good night’s sleep has a positive impact on their mood, focus, ability to perform academically, and their social interactions with peers. Please take some time to review the short article I have referenced by clicking here. I think you will find it worth the few minutes it takes to read.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

February 14, 2020

On Thursday morning, I had the honor of announcing the valedictorian, salutatorian, and the overall top 10 students for the Class of 2020. Of all the great things I get to do each day, recognizing students for academic excellence is always one of my favorite responsibilities.

Jenna Mapley is the valedictorian for the Port Byron Central School District’s Class of 2020. Jenna is looking forward to pursuing a degree in either education or psychology when she heads off to college next fall. Before that, Jenna will have a difficult choice to make this spring between her top choices for college: Colgate University, SUNY Geneseo, Nazareth College and Niagara University. Wherever she decides to attend, I am certain she will be successful. Jenna also excels outside of the classroom. She was an integral member of the New York State Section 3 Championship Field Hockey team, and she is a leader on the postseason-bound varsity basketball team, as well. Jenna is also an active member for the Student Government Association (as vice-president), jazz choir, yearbook club, and international club. She’s also a member of the National Honor Society, and was selected as first-chair for the all-county band (clarinet). Congratulations, Jenna!

Anna Vincent is this year’s salutatorian. Anna has already been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Maryland, and Rochester Institute of Technology, and she is waiting to hear from Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut, as well. Anna plans on pursuing a degree in finance, and she hopes to run her own business in the future. She is also a standout performer on the varsity volleyball team that recently advanced to the second round of this year’s sectional playoffs. Anna is the treasurer for the Student Government Association, and is also a member of Panther Press Live, the jazz band, and the National Honor Society. She was also selected as first-chair for all-county band, and was selected to all-state band for the oboe. Congratulations Anna!

Below is the entire Top 10 for the class of 2020:

  1. Jenna Mapley (Valedictorian)
  2. Anna Vincent (Salutatorian)
  3. Rileigh Gray
  4. Sophie Redmond
  5. Ava Mills
  6. Rileigh Luste
  7. Michaela Allen
  8. Gabriella Atchinson
  9. Chloe Skutt
  10. Lillian Svitavsky

Student rank is based on their weighted grade point averages. These students have taken the most rigorous courses we offer, including several advanced placement and college courses. We are very proud of their accomplishments, and we look forward to hearing about their successes in the future.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

February 7, 2020

The past couple of weeks have been busy for students and staff members. The start of the second semester brings minor changes to schedules, so this particular transition to the new marking period can take a little extra time for everyone to make adjustments. All of the kinks seem to have been worked out, and it’s back to business as usual within the building.

During our grade level meetings, Mr. Brown and I re-emphasized how important it is for students to do their best academically. For students who are high honor roll or honor roll, we encouraged them to maintain their focus and keep up the good work.  For those students who are struggling, we reminded them to take advantage of the supports they have available to them here at school.

While our class meeting with students focused on making sure the rest of this year is successful, many conversations have begun taking place regarding next year. Over the next couple of weeks, Mr. Brown and I will have several conversations with the guidance counselors and teaching staff about the classes that will be available for students next year and beyond.

We are able to offer many incredible learning opportunities for students as they progress through their secondary education. There are multiple pathways to graduation that students can take advantage of while they are on their journey through high school. The conversations we are having now help ensure that we are able to provide our students with as many options as possible. We are well aware that declining enrollment will impact programming in the high school, but we believe we can still offer students opportunities to take a full range of courses in all of the different disciplines we have had available to students in the past.

Mr. Barber and Mrs. Pirozzolo have already started to meet with students to get an idea of what classes they will want to take next year. We use the information we collect from students to help determine the number of sections we will have to offer for each course. Once we’ve determined the number of classes we are offering, we can start to build a master schedule. While this may sound simple, it is a long process, and building the master schedule each year is like putting together a giant puzzle.

Please talk to your child about the courses they are choosing for next year. One of our goals is to increase the number of students who receive a Regents diploma with an “advanced” designation. Doing so requires students to take specific courses over the course of their high school careers. Encouraging your child to take challenging courses can help prepare them for life beyond high school.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

January 31, 2020

With half of the school year in the rear-view mirror, recognizing one’s “position” is always worth reflecting upon. With frigid temperatures the norm and daylight improving only ever-so-slightly, the winter months can appear to last longer each year. Add to that an academic load for our students which is slightly past the midpoint, as it pertains to material covered for end of the year exams. Yes, there is still much to be learned before the month of June appears on the calendar.

However, one aspect of the educational process that cannot be overlooked is the mental outlook one has on the day that lies ahead. During passing time, you will see teachers who stand outside their door to greet students and share a short exchange before they enter the class. These small interactions are anything but insignificant. Those few seconds give the adult in the classroom an opportunity to gauge the type of day the student is having. 

As administrators, Mr. Jorgensen and I make it a priority to be in the halls as much as possible throughout the day. Again, an opportunity to observe student interactions and possibly decipher whether or not a student is experiencing a pleasant day, or one that has them preoccupied with other facets of their life. I mention this because the importance of “checking in” with your child has enormous benefits. As the father of two children, my four-year-old being the oldest, I routinely ask my daughter how preschool was on that particular day. I cherish these interactions, as it allows me to ascertain how she felt during the day. Her response always paints a pretty descript picture. I’m hopeful you and your child/children share in these experiences as well, and that the picture you discover will provide significant insight.

Another form of recognition take place here at Port Byron in the coming days. As the winter sports season winds down, “Senior Night” will be held for the following sports: Wrestling, volleyball, and girls’ and boys’ basketball. Senior Night is an opportunity to show appreciation to the outgoing seniors for all the hard work and dedication they have put forth toward finding success in their sport. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention parents, who are also recognized, as their unwavering support has been significant in the development of their son or daughter. Wrestling seniors (Gabe Newton & Mitchel Tanner) were recognized on Jan. 15. Volleyball seniors (Mandy Aldrich, Gabby Atchinson, Rileigh Gray, Alison Grudzien, Cassie Nolte, Sophie Redmond, Anna Vincent) were recognized last night. Girls’ basketball seniors (Rileigh Luste, Jenna Mapley, Ava Mills, Chloe Skutt, Jenna Waite, Sabrina Westmiller) will be recognized on Feb. 6, while the boys’ basketball seniors (Jarrett Fronce, Mason Helmer, Connor Lillie, Ryan Namisniak) will be honored on Feb. 10. A time-honored tradition here at Port Byron, where a simple “thank you” to our senior athletes is the least we could do when recognizing the sacrifices they have made for Port Byron Athletics.

Let’s always take time to recognize.

All the best,

Mr. Brown

January 24, 2020

Earlier this week, there was an article in the newspaper regarding graduation rates for all of the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES component school districts. Our graduation rate for the Class of 2019 (92%) was highest it has been in recent memory, and once again exceeded the overall graduation rate (83%) for New York State. The success of this group of students is the product of many people working together, and we should all take a moment to celebrate this success.

Last year’s senior class deserves much of the credit. Our students took advantage of the many opportunities they had in Port Byron to meet NYS graduation requirements (22 course credits and passing scores on five Regents exams).

We also have an incredibly supportive and caring staff who are willing to be flexible with course offerings, credit recovery opportunities, and their availability in supporting students at different times throughout the day. Parents, community members, our board of education, and all other stakeholder groups also play a role in helping students reach the “finish line” of their high school careers. Their continued support helps our students to be as prepared as possible for whatever they choose to do in the future.

While our overall graduation data looked great, there will always be areas where we can improve. The percentage of students graduating with an Advanced Regents designation dropped from 40% in 2018 to 33% in 2019. To earn an Advanced Regents designation, students must fulfill a world language requirement and have passing scores on eight different Regents exams. While earning the advanced regents graduation designation is a more difficult journey than the standard Regent’s diploma, students who earn this designation expand the educational opportunities for themselves after high school. We will continue to look for ways to help students navigate this more rigorous pathway to graduation.

I also wanted to say “thank you” to the students, parents, and community members who have offered their support regarding the board of education’s letter that addressed the succession plan for the school superintendent position following Mr. O’Brien’s retirement in December 2021. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last six years in Port Byron, and look forward to spending many more years here in the future!

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

January 17, 2020

This week, several of our high school band students were selected to represent Port Byron at the Cayuga County Music Educators Association Spring All-County Festival. This is a great honor, and one that rewards students for their hard work and dedication to performing an instrumental or vocal performance. Students were selected based on performance on last year's solo festival scores and/or past experience. 

The following students will travel to Cato-Meridian High School on March 27 and 28 to rehearse and then perform in a concert with other high school students from Cayuga County. The concert proper will be held on Saturday, March 28 at 2 p.m. at Cato-Meridian High School, and will feature a junior high chorus and senior high band.  Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for students. 

Students were selected for All-County Senior High Band:

  • Anna Vincent
  • Jenna Mapley
  • Morgan Brown
  • Ike Svitavsky
  • Erick McCarty
  • Max Noga
  • Braden York

Students selected for All-County Junior High Chorus students:

  • Bethany Jump
  • Jenna Jump
  • Samantha Taylor
  • Brooke Brambley
  • Sydney Baran
  • Gabriella Turo
  • Erin Allen
  • Abigail Rice
  • Matthew Howell 
  • Dylan Howell

Congratulations! We are proud of this great accomplishment.

January Regents Exams are also being held next week. Students in the Jr.-Sr. High School will follow their regular schedules. Most of the exams are administered to only a handful of students, with the exception of the ELA exam. All members of the junior class will be taking the exam on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 8 a.m.

Please contact the guidance office if you have any questions regarding Regents exams.

Have a great weekend!

-Mike Jorgensen

December 20, 2019

Where did the last several months go? I cannot believe we are wrapping up the calendar year, and that 40% of the school year is just about over. Our students and staff members have been working hard right up to the holiday break. The next two weeks will be a great opportunity for everyone to recharge and prepare for a strong finish to the first half of the school year.
January Regents exams are quickly approaching (Jan. 21 – 24). The West building will continue to operate on its regular schedule during testing week, but many of our students will be attempting to get “passing” or “mastery” scores on the different New York State Regents exams. In past years, January exams were only taken by students who had not passed their exam from the previous year. We also had students use the January offering of the Regents examinations to raise a grade form a previous exam with hopes to bolster their high school transcript.
Just like last year, we are having our entire junior class take the English Regents exam. Having all students take the exam in January can help them in a number of ways. First, it increases the number of opportunities for our students to have success. These exams are not easy, and taking the test with the knowledge that it is not your only chance to demonstrate what you have learned should provide a sense of comfort for students. Moreover, those who achieve a mastery score will not have to take the exam again in June. If students have to take the exam twice, the higher of the two grades will be the one that counts towards meeting their graduation requirements.
Another benefit of taking the exams in January is to help us make sound instructional decisions for the second semester. We will find ways to provide additional support for students who do not pass the January exam. The data reports we receive give us an opportunity to provide targeted instruction to help improve the chances students will be more successful on their second attempt.
Taking the Regents exam in January also benefits students who perform well on the test. Instead of using the second half of their English 11 class to prepare for the exam, Mr. Bastian can give students additional time to enjoy classical and contemporary literature and further develop the skills that will help them become lifelong readers and writers.
Regents review classes have been scheduled for all courses throughout the month of January. Students can pick up a copy of the review schedule from the guidance office, or they can view it from the Dana West page on the district website.
Happy Holidays!
Mike Jorgensen

December 13, 2019

The cold winter temperatures combined with fewer daylight hours can make it tempting to get home each night and curl up on the couch to binge-watch your favorite series on Netflix. Doing so, however, can make a Central New York winter feel like it lasts an eternity.

Instead of “hibernating” this winter, please take advantage of the many different activities that are going on at the school. With the exception of the two weeks during holiday break, you can attend a sporting event at the high school on multiple nights each week between now and mid-February. Our winter sports offerings include boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and wrestling. We also have athletes participating on the merged Union Springs/Port Byron bowling and indoor track teams.

All basketball (Lehn Gym), volleyball (high school gym), and wrestling (high school gym) contests are hosted on campus. Admission to all regular season events is free, and affordable concessions are available at most games. Updated schedules can be found on the internet at the following address:

In addition to the regular season games being played, there are a couple of exciting tournaments where you can support our student athletes. On Dec. 26 and 27, the Port Byron Central School District is hosting the 47th Annual Cayuga County Holiday Basketball Tournament. Boys and girls (junior varsity and varsity) squads from Port Byron, Union Springs, Weedsport, and Southern Cayuga will compete for the title of County Champions.

On Jan. 4, we are hosting the annual Port Byron Mid-Winter Wrestling Tournament. Sixteen teams from New York State will come to town to participate in this day-long event. There is an admission fee for both the basketball and wrestling tournaments that are being held over the holiday break.

Our student athletes and their coaches work hard to prepare for their contests, and we hope that you’ll come out and provide some positive support over the next couple of months. I look forward to seeing you here! Go Panthers!

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

December 6, 2019

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to take a few days off over the Thanksgiving holiday and spend some quality time at home with my family. In addition to enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, we went to the movies, played card games (“Apples to Apples” and “Old Maid” are our favorites), and picked out our Christmas tree. During the break, one of the things I noticed was how much my youngest daughter’s imagination has developed. Like many other 3-year old children, Sophia loves to play with her “babies.” She dresses her dolls, carries them around in a baby seat, feeds them, changes them, and puts them to bed. She sets up picnics and tea parties. While she is playing, her interactions with the dolls is often quite humorous. She often mimics things she has heard from Krissy, her sisters, or myself.

Her wild imagination is on full display when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. She often tells us she is never growing up, and she wants to stay little forever. But, there have been a handful of times when she is willing to play along. One time, Sophia said she wanted to be a cowgirl. She has a bouncing bumblebee that she used for her horse, and she hopped around the house shouting “yeehaw!” over and over again. Just last week, after watching Frozen 2 at the movie theater, she was going to grow up and be Princess Elsa. She ran around the house singing and “using her magic” to freeze and unfreeze us for the remainder of the evening.

Discussing future plans with a 3-year old is often fun and quite humorous. Discussing “growing up” and career opportunities with our high school students is also fun, but it can also be unsettling and cause anxiety for some students. One of the things we worked on over the years is finding ways to broaden our students’ understanding of the different options they will have available to them post-graduation.

A few years ago, we started participating in the A.C.E. (Accessing College Education) Program through Cornell University, Ithaca College, SUNY Cortland, and Tompkins County Community College. We also have many juniors and seniors who spend a portion of their school day at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES for Career and Technical Education.

This year, we are working with Michelle Walker (Work-Based Learning Coordinator for Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES) to provide job shadowing experiences for students in the junior class. Over the next few weeks, Mrs. Pirozzolo will be visiting 11th grade classes to administer career interest surveys. We will be using the information to coordinate job shadowing experiences based on student interests. All job shadowing opportunities will be scheduled within the school day, and school transportation will be provided for our students. We are hoping to schedule all of these opportunities during the month of March.

Students will have an opportunity to “see” what a particular career may look like. They will also have a chance to interact with the different professionals who have chosen career paths in areas that the students may be interested in pursuing in the future.

We believe this year’s job shadowing project will be beneficial for our students. Hopefully, we will be able to expand this opportunity over the next few years to provide students will multiple job shadowing experiences throughout the course of their high school career. If all goes well, these experiences should help reduce some of the stress and anxiety that can be caused by conversations with students about their future plans, and help them pursue a career (though, not as a “magical ice princess”) that will lead to success beyond high school.

Have a great weekend,

Mike Jorgensen

November 22, 2019

A couple of weeks ago, the staff at Dana L. West High School decided to raise funds in order to provide families in our school district with meals for the Thanksgiving holiday. In less than a week, we were able to raise over $1,200! We received donations from teachers, teacher assistants, teacher aides, office staff, BOE members, and school administrators. We even had a student donate the cost of a meal!

On Monday, we will be delivering 31 Thanksgiving meals to families in our school district. I cannot thank our staff enough for their contributions.

Our students have also been incredibly generous with their donations to the food pantry during the “Panther Pantry Duel”. The food pantry reached out to us seeking soap, toothpaste, and shampoo. They were hoping to get 100 of each item. Our student government worked with the members of National Junior Honor Society to organize a contest to collect the items the food pantry was seeking for their holiday gift baskets. The response from our students was incredible; we collected 155 bottles of shampoo, 147 tubes of toothpaste, and 266 bars of soap! Our students’ generosity ensured the food pantry will be able to deliver over 100 gift baskets to local families during the holiday season.

These are just two examples of what makes our school district such a wonderful place to work.  Over the next week, I will take some time to think about everything in my life that I am thankful for. Like many of you, I am thankful for my family, my health, and all of the other blessings I have in my life. I am also thankful for the opportunity to work in a community with incredible children, caring staff members, and supportive parents.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Mike Jorgensen

November 15, 2019

Yesterday, I officially became a parent of a teenager as our oldest daughter, Ella, celebrated her 13th birthday.  It is really hard to believe that so much time has gone by since we brought her home from Community General Hospital in 2006.

Just like all of your children, Ella recently finished up the first quarter of her school year. Her grades were great for the past 10 weeks. Krissy and I have used SchoolTool regularly to make sure she is staying on top of her assignments, while balancing the extra-curricular activities she is involved with.  She played modified soccer in the fall, and she just found out earlier this week that she made the JV basketball team for the winter season. We are very proud of the young lady she has become!

At the same time, both Krissy and I are very nervous about helping her in the next phase of her life. In an earlier eNews, I discussed the decisions and choices she will need to make when she’s approached to vape, drink, and/or smoke. We try our best to know who she “hangs out” with and where she is at all times, but we also know we cannot control everything she does. The fact that she has a smartphone makes our job as parents even more difficult. Keeping an eye on the apps she uses and the people she messages - while also giving her some measure of independence - is very hard balance to strike.

I recently received an updated document from Mrs. Carberry, our health and physical education teacher, that outlined many of the different apps teenagers ask to download to their phones and/or other devices. Mrs. Sayre, our licensed mental health counselor, also has a couple of documents she shares with parents who want to know more about the “digital world” we currently live in. One of these documents outlines some of the signs to look for to see if your child has an addiction to their electronic devices. It also includes electronic addiction prevention tips and intervention strategies that parents can use to help students who are addicted to their phones and/or tablets. The other document is similar to the one Mrs. Carberry shared with me; it is a guide to the different apps we should know about as parents of teenagers.

We are using our school messenger system to push out these documents to all parents of children in grades 7-12. You will find PDFs of each document in your email inboxes sometime this weekend. If you do not have an email account linked to SchoolTool, we will be reaching out to you over the next couple of weeks to make sure that we can contact you by email.

Please take the time to review the documents and have conversations with your children about the different apps they have on their phones. Many of the issues we deal with at school are related to a message sent to another student, a picture shared with others, or a comment made on a social media application. Krissy and I deal with some of the same issues at home with Ella. Understanding who our children interact with and the applications they use to do so has been incredibly helpful for us. We know we have made several mistakes as parents, and we will make many more as Ella, Ava, and Sophia grow up. But, we also understand that the better informed we are, the better prepared we are to raise our daughters. I hope you find the documents as helpful as Krissy and I did.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

November 8, 2019

Last night, the Port Byron Drama Club held the opening performance of their fall play, “Crazytown.” The cast and crew were amazing!  Crazytown, by Jonathan Rand, uses a fictional evening WOMG newscast as the vehicle to lead the audience through one of the craziest, dysfunctional towns in America. The comedy pokes fun at the political debates, police interrogations scenes, silly infomercials, and sports broadcasts we have grown accustomed to watching at home on our television sets.

It is always fun to see so many of our students stepping out of their comfort zone to perform in front of large audiences. The cast and crew put in countless hours to make sure their lines are memorized, the set changes run smoothly, and the lights and sound work without issue. Almost 50 students (between cast and crew) were involved in the production, which was led by the drama club advisor and director, Mr. Jeffrey Chaloux.

Our incredibly talented cast and crew will be performing Crazytown two more times (Friday and Saturday) this weekend. Both performances will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. We hope to see you there!!

And just a reminder…

The “Panther Pantry Duel” (toiletry drive) has started! Grade levels are competing against each other by bringing in items needed at the local food pantry for the holiday baskets that will be distributed to families in the area. We are collecting shampoo (Grades 7 and 8), soap (Grades 9 and 10), and toothpaste (Grades 11 and 12) now through Nov. 20. 

If you are at the grocery store this weekend, we hope you’ll consider picking up one or two of the items we’re collecting to send in with your child.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

November 1, 2019

As we flip our calendars over to November, we are reminded frequently that the winter holiday season is approaching. For many of us, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are happy times spent with friends and family. For others, the holiday season is incredibly stressful; trying to make ends meet during the winter season puts an incredible strain on many of our families.
A few months ago, I shared some of the different things we do at school to help support members of the community. One of the events I did not mention was the annual food drive to help support our local food pantry. This event has been organized by our student government organization for many years. This year, the members of National Honor Society will be assisting the student government with the food drive.
The food pantry is seeking specific items ahead of this year’s drive, to ensure that they are able to deliver over 100 gift baskets to local families during the holiday season. We are going to make sure we do our part to get them the items they need!
Starting Nov. 6, junior and senior high school students will be challenged to bring in items for the food drive, and grade levels will be competing against one another to see who can reach their goal the fastest! The winning grade levels will get to choose the “Music Friday” playlists for the months of December and January. Each grade level will be asked to bring in specific items of need:

  • Grades 7 and 8 – Shampoo
  • Grades 9 and 10 – Soap
  • Grades 11 and 12 – Toothpaste

Please help your child participate in this event! Their efforts over the next few weeks will go a long way towards helping families in our community.
Have a great weekend!
Mike Jorgensen

October 25, 2019

Instead of focusing on one topic for this week’s eNews, I instead thought I’d share a few highlights from the past week’s events from the high school.
On Oct. 22, students from Mr. Chaloux's Advanced Placement United States Government class attended Cayuga County's 2019 Student Government Day. In an effort to provide students a window into local government, the Cayuga County Legislature opened up its session to area high school seniors. Students were given special access to the District Attorney's Office, the Health Department, Social Services, the Sheriff's Department, the County Clerk, and the Office of Planning and Economic Development. Additionally, Ava Mills had the chance to work alongside County District #3 Representative Ben Vitale during a legislative meeting. Afterward, the students were treated to a luncheon at the Springside Inn, where Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck spoke about the importance of civic participation.
On Wednesday evening, the girls’ varsity field hockey team won their sectional quarterfinal game against Sauquoit Valley in dominating fashion, 9-3, extending what’s been another strong season for the Lady Panthers. Coach Gilbert and the rest of the girls will go on to battle their crosstown rivals, Weedsport, on Sunday afternoon in the sectional semifinals. The game time and location are still TBD; check the website for updated information on the game. Let’s go Panthers!!!
In other athletic news, Braden York finished first in the OHSL Patriot League Cross Country Championship meet on Wednesday evening. Braden and the rest of his teammates labored through some tough, muddy conditions. The boys ended up in third place overall in the Patriot Division, while the girls finished in fifth place overall.  Congratulations to Braden, Coach Hermann, and the rest of our cross-country runners!
The girls’ soccer team’s successful season ended on Tuesday night. They lost a tough game in sectional play to Susquehanna Valley, 4-1. There were several Port Byron students who were members of the merged program hosted in Union Springs. Senior Ava Mills led the team in goals. Over the course of her varsity soccer career, Ava has scored more goals than any player (girls or boys) in Union Springs Soccer history. We are very proud of the way Ava and her teammates represented our school as members of the Union Springs/Port Byron soccer team.
The varsity football team and varsity cheerleaders ended their seasons on Thursday evening with a crossover game in Tully. Members of both teams worked hard, both on and off the field, throughout the entire season. The teams performed in front of a huge crowd homecoming weekend. They also honored dozens of veterans of the armed forces during halftime of their military appreciation event.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us at school.
Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

October 18, 2019

When people discuss the different programs offered at school, their conversations are often centered around academic programming. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory tells us our students are unable to reach their fullest potential academically if their basic needs are not being met. With that theory in mind, we have been creative and innovative when trying to find ways to make sure our students’ “physiological” needs (food, clothing, warmth, sleep) are being met.

Over the past few weeks, I have had multiple parents from neighboring school districts ask me about some of the programs we offer to our families that are not about academics. They are impressed with all of the different ways we help ensure our students’ basic needs are being met. One of the conversations I had with a parent was about the partnership we are starting with the Port Byron Community Health Center. Mr. O’Brien has shared information about the program through the mail, and in one of his previous eNews letters. We hope this partnership will help some of our students receive the medical attention they need when health problems arise.

Another parent recently asked me about the “Panther Closet.” We have been providing students in need with clothing for a while now, but the “Panther Closet” has really evolved over the past couple of years. Students are able to visit the closet to find gently used (and sometimes brand new) name-brand clothing. There is no limit to the number of items a student may take and keep. Through generous donations, the closet has expanded to include apparel for every season, clothing appropriate for more formal occasions (interviews, employment, etc.), and several prom dresses.

The “Port Byron Backpack Program” is for students and families that are in need of a little extra food for the weekend. Every Friday, students in need are given a bag with items such as fruit cups, macaroni and cheese, popcorn, oatmeal, etc. The program is supported through generous donations from the community. If you are in need of the Backpack Program, please contact one of the counselors in the Elementary School or the High School. 

The upcoming holidays can be a time of joy, but also can put additional stressors on families. The Port Byron Central School District has partnered with community groups, generous individuals, and local churches to assist families with the “Christmas Angels” program. The Christmas Angels provide families in the Port Byron School District with gifts during the holiday season. The first priority will be warm clothing for the winter, but the group is also able to buy toys and/or other items of interest for families.

There are many individuals who play a part in making sure this kind of support exists for our students and their families, but these programs would not be able to continually evolve and improve without the amazing work done by our school counselors. Kevin Barber, Tracey Pirozzolo, and Maggie Sayre spend countless hours reaching out to families in need, organizing clothes, filling backpacks, wrapping gifts, etc. The “behind the scenes” work they do to make sure our students are fed, have warm clothes, and/or get a chance to enjoy the holidays is worthy of high praise.

If you are in need of assistance and feel that your family would benefit from any of the programs described above, please contact the High School Guidance office at 315-776-5728 and they will assist you.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

October 11, 2019

Each of us have our own perception of what a “typical” school day is like. Our perceptions are based on our personal experiences in school when we were students, the stories we hear from our children, the articles we read online, and the stories we see on the evening news. And though I spend my working days in a school, my perception of what a “typical” school day looks like changes often. On Thursday alone, several of our students participated in experiences that I never had the opportunity to experience myself, when I was a student. And as an educator, each of these experiences helps to change my perception about what takes place at school each day.
In global history, Mrs. Kanuck brought her classes to the library to use our MakerSpace. There, Mrs. Kanuck, alongside Mr. Dingman and Miss Davies, helped our students use virtual reality headsets to explore Versailles, France. In class, the students have been learning about King Louis VIV of France and the Age of Absolutism. The VR headsets provided students an opportunity to take a virtual field trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and experience a 3D rendering of the Palace of Versailles.
Earlier that morning, two different groups of students left school to take actual field trips. Mrs. Pirozzolo brought a group of 17 students to SUNY Cortland for one of our ACE (Accessing College Education) field trips. There, our students were able to explore how their current academic and personal interests can transition into a college experience. Throughout the day-long trip, students took a tour of the campus, heard stories from current college students, and ate lunch in the dining hall.
This same Thursday, Mr. Barber loaded up a group of 10 ninth grade students onto a bus and headed to the NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse, for the 2019 Central New York Construction Career Day event. Our students had an opportunity to learn about all the different careers in construction they could pursue after graduating from high school. Various contractors and construction labor unions sent representatives to provide hands-on learning experiences for our students. I was in the office when Mr. Barber returned with the group, and seeing the smiles on their faces as they walked back into the building was a surefire indicator that the trip was worth taking.
Traditional teaching and learning are still a necessary component of what we do each and every day in Port Byron, but it is also fun to highlight some of these incredible experiences our students have that were not available to their predecessors. It is even more exciting to think about all of the amazing things we will be able to do in the future!
Have a great weekend!
Mike Jorgensen

October 4, 2019

Today marks the midweek point of the first marking period. Though technological advancements (SchoolTool, smartphones, etc.) have made it much easier to monitor student progress, the five-week mark is nevertheless a great time to take a snapshot of where we are for the 2019-2020 school year.
First and foremost, your child should have enough individual grades entered in all of their classes to give you an idea of how they are performing to date. Grades can fluctuate in either direction during the first few weeks of the marking period. As your child completes additional class assignments, homework assignments, projects, quizzes, and tests, their overall average provides a more accurate depiction of what classes are going well, and where your child may need some extra support.

If things are going well, please encourage your child(ren) to continue the same work habits and study habits that you put in place to start the school year. They are working! Celebrate the successes and keep up the good work!

If your child’s five-week grades aren’t where they need to be, this is a great time to make some adjustments to help improve his/her academic performance. At home, it may be necessary to set aside a specific time and place where your child completes their homework. It would also be beneficial for you to reach out to your child’s teachers to get a better understanding of why they are struggling.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of turning in assignments. A great score on a unit test can be quickly wiped away by a few “zeros” for missing classwork assignments. Other times, it maybe that your child needs some extra support with the content being covered in class. In the latter case, we have built several support times into our daily schedule to help our students. Teachers are available to help students most days during advisory period (8:17 – 8:42 a.m.). Teachers are also available to help students during tenth period (2:30 – 3:00 p.m.) each day. Your child’s guidance counselor would be more than willing to adjust their advisory schedule or help create an “afterschool” schedule to ensure he/she is getting the support they need at school.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at school.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

September 27, 2019

When I started working in the elementary school a little over five years ago, I occasionally used this space to connect things happening at school to the different experiences I had at home as a parent. At that time, Krissy and I had a daughter (Ella) in second grade and another daughter (Ava) beginning kindergarten. Whether it was the importance of reading to/with my daughters each night (my favorite) or the challenges of setting a consistent bedtime (epic failure), my life outside of school provided me with plenty of fodder for my weekly eNews.

Jumping ahead five years, my life at home is very different. Krissy and I welcomed Sophia to our family a few years ago. Sophia started preschool this year. Ava is now a spunky fifth grader, and Ella is in seventh grade. Now that Ella is a junior-high school aged student, for the first time in a while, my work life and home life are connected in several ways. In a lot of ways, it is very helpful.

Ella plays modified soccer. Because of our sports merger, when I go to her games, I also get to watch some of our Port Byron students play with her as teammates. Academically, I have a pretty good idea of how things look from both the school perspective, and then from the parent/student side of things. As a principal, I understand why teachers assign homework, have high expectations, and want things to be submitted in a timely manner and completed to the best of our students’ ability. As a parent, I also get to help my “almost” teenage daughter learn how to juggle schoolwork, athletics, friends, and family time.

Having a secondary school-aged child at home while working as a Jr.-Sr. high school principal can also be helpful when trying to plan parent events at school. Like many of you, I worry about some things that I have not had to worry about in the past. We cannot pick up a newspaper, watch television, or listen to the radio without hearing something about the vaping epidemic in our country. We also worry about the social pressures our children will face now and in the future. Discussions about drugs, alcohol, working through peer pressure and relationship issues are all things Krissy and I will be “parenting” through for the first time, and I am sure we often share the same worries.

On Oct. 8, from 4-6 p.m. we are partnering with the Cayuga County Drug Free Community Coalition and Prevention Network to offer parents a unique learning experience that will help us be better prepared to raise our preteen and teenaged children. The event is called “Hidden Mischief.” A representative from Prevention Network will set up a simulated teen bedroom in one of our classrooms. In this simulated bedroom, there will be different objects that could be found in a typical teenager’s room and often overlooked, but can sometimes be drug paraphernalia or references to drug and/or alcohol use. Parents will be able to walk through the simulated room and relay any questions to both the representative from the Prevention Network and to Maggie Sayre, our school’s Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

Many of you will already be here during that time frame on Oct. 8. Whether you are here to pick up your child from practice or to watch them participate in their athletic contest, please take a few minutes to stop in and be a part of this event. I know I will be there, not only as the school principal, but as a parent, as well.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

September 20, 2019

The first few weeks have gone by quickly, and we are already right in the thick of the first marking period.  One of the best ways to have a successful school year is by making sure you get off to a good start. Over the past few years, we have worked hard to improve our systems to support students academically. Please review those support options below, and talk to your child about ways to help them continue to develop the skills and strategies that will help them be successful at school and beyond.

All students have a scheduled advisory period, often referred to as “2L.” During advisory period, all teachers are available to support students with the content covered in their classes. Students are assigned to one of their teachers each day, but they can get a pass from another one of his/her teachers, if needed. If students are struggling in a particular class, or multiple classes, we adjust student schedules to make sure they are getting the support they need.

Another great time for students to get support is after the “regular” school day ends. Many of our students board their buses at 2:24 p.m., but we also have a number of students who work with their teachers during 10th period (2:30 – 3 p.m.) We occasionally have meetings that could limit teacher availability on Thursday afternoons, but otherwise the teaching staff is available to support students.

In addition to advisory period and 10th period, we also encourage students to use their time wisely in study halls. Almost every student has at least one study hall during their day, and we encourage them to complete any class assignments during their study hall periods.

One of the best ways to monitor your child’s progress is to download the SchoolTool app on your smartphones. The app provides you with updated grades as soon as a teacher scores an assignment. If you need help with the app, please reach out to us, and we can walk you through the process.
Each week, I work with Mrs. Pirozzolo, Mr. Barber, and Mr. Brown to review grades for all of the students in grades 7-12. When we take a deeper look at students who are struggling in school, we often notice it is due to not turning in work. Please remind your daughters and sons to stay on top of their daily assignments. A few “zeros” in a teacher’s gradebook can have a negative impact on their overall grade.

In addition to the supports and suggestions mentioned above, you can always reach out to individual teachers, the guidance counselors, or the building administrators if you want to discuss specific ways to help your child be as successful as possible at school each day.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

September 13, 2019

Spirit Week is here! This exciting time is comprised by a week of “themed” days that students and staff get to participate in, offering a little insight into who roots for what team, or what fashion statement fits a specific personality. Spirit Week themes are: 
  • Monday: Sports Day (support your favorite sports team by wearing sports attire)
  • Tuesday: Tourist Day (dress in your stereotypical tourist attire)
  • Wednesday: Patriotic Day (dress in your most patriotic attire)
  • Thursday: Throwback Thursday (dress in attire from any era…60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, etc.)
  • Friday: Maroon & White Day (show everyone your panther pride)
 **Homecoming Dance (Friday, 9 p.m. – 12 a.m.)**
During the final two periods of the day on Friday, all students in grades 7-12 get to participate in the pep rally. The pep rally caps off a rousing week, in anticipation of the evening’s 7 p.m. varsity football contest versus Cato-Meridian at Alberici Field. The band will perform, the modified and varsity fall teams alike will be recognized, and students can try their hand at several games to see whose skills rise to the top! I’m sure many of you can remember a pep rally or two from your high school days. Other teams taking the field here at Port Byron during Spirit Week are JV & Varsity Field Hockey, Varsity Boys’ Soccer, and Modified Girls’ Soccer. Without question, this is a week that has been highlighted on the calendar for many students and staff.
A message that is present during Spirit Week that is rarely discussed (at least outwardly) is the connection that can be built when something as simple as “theme days” are utilized. Just by observing what a student wears to school, one can immediately decipher if a student connection is present. That likeness may lead two students, who may have little social interaction with each other, to offer a simple comment such as “Nice jersey,” “Did you visit that place?” or “Now that’s an outfit from the 80’s.” Simple things that spark a connection can lead to positive feelings towards school and those who walk its halls. So, I ask this: What’s your connection to school? If you know the answer, great! If not, speak with your peers, strike up a conversation with your parents, or engage an adult in the building and I’m certain you will find something extra that suits the persona you embody.
As we conclude week #2, I want to acknowledge the terrific start to the 2019-20 school year. Smiling faces in the halls, as students pass from class to class. Engaged students in the classroom, as dedicated teachers present the day’s lesson. And interactions between students and staff that suggest a mutual level of care which far surpasses the singular notion of one’s academic well-being.
Mr. Brown

September 6, 2019

This past Tuesday marked the start of my 19th year working in public schools. I started as a K-1 multi-age teacher at Cayuga Elementary School in 2001. I still remember taking extra precautions to make sure everything was ready the night before opening day. My clothes were ironed and laid out for the morning, my lunch was packed, and I reviewed my lesson plans for the umpteenth time. Regardless of how prepared I was, I still tossed and turned most of the night; worried about making sure the first day of school went well for my students.

All things considered, my first day of school as a teacher went really well. There were a few tears from kindergarten students who had left their parents for the first time, but by dismissal time we had completed enough fun activities and built enough rapport that everyone (including myself) decided that coming back for Day 2 (and beyond) wasn’t a bad option. The best part of that day, and every day after that, was getting to work with the amazing students I had in my classes over the years.

Reflecting on the past 18 years, I can have a little fun comparing where I was in 2001 to where I am presently. Professionally, there are several differences. My job responsibilities are different, I am working in a different school district, and the students I work now with are much taller than the students I worked with at Cayuga Elementary School.

Personally, I have changed in a lot of ways, too. I was not married in 2001, I am blessed to have three amazing daughters now, I have put on a few pounds, have less hair, and the hair that I have left is definitely a different color now (gray) than it was then.

That being said, there are many similarities between opening day 2001 and opening day 2019. I spent a lot of time getting everything prepared for the first day of school, and no matter how many emails I answered or how neatly I laid out my clothes, I couldn’t sleep on Monday night (full disclosure…partly because of “first-day jitters” and partly because my three-year old still struggles to sleep through the night!).

More importantly, this past Tuesday was similar to my first day of teaching because, overall, it went extremely well. Students arrived with smiles on their faces, and were in turn greeted by warm smiles on the faces of our staff members. By 7:35 a.m., all of our students were in their first period classes. There were a few hiccups. Schedules needed to be adjusted, a few students had trouble finding their new classrooms, and a couple of locker combinations needed to be reset. But by the end of the day, our students and staff were successful enough to decide to return for Day 2.

I will finish with one more difference and another similarity from the opening days of school in 2001 and 2019. One difference is that I am not assigned to a class of students in Port Byron; I have an entire school of students I can interact with each day. The similarity is that the group of students who walk through the doors of Port Byron each day are just as amazing as the one I worked with almost 20 years ago.

Have a great weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

August 30, 2019

It is hard to believe that we have reached the final weekend of the summer. I hope everyone had an opportunity to relax and recharge their energy levels in advance of the upcoming school year; one that I am looking very forward to!

Throughout the year, I will use this space to share all of the great things that have happened in our building. It is also a great resource for upcoming events that are going to take place in the West building.

Our teachers have already been in the building modifying curriculum, planning for the upcoming school year, and participating in professional development workshops. Maintenance staff has been working hard to make our building shine, and Ms. Pelc, Mrs. Slayton and Mrs. Clark have been busy in the offices preparing for the start of the year.

Even though the school year has not "officially" started for our students, our fall sports teams have been practicing hard to prepare for their upcoming seasons. There is a little extra “spring in their step” as they get closer to playing in their first athletic contests.

If you have a child at home who is worried about finding their lockers or classrooms, the building will be open on Labor Day form 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. if they’d like to stop by and test things out. If you are unable to come in on Monday, we will have plenty of staff members out in the hallways on day one to help your sons and daughters on Tuesday morning.

As always, if you have questions or concerns do not hesitate to reach out to us at school. We are here to help and we look forward to supporting our students throughout the school year. 

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Mike Jorgensen

Superintendent: Neil O'Brien
Phone: 315.776.5728
Fax: 315.776.4050
Address: 30 Maple Avenue
Port Byron, New York 13140