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From the Principal

Welcome to "Notes from the Principal," an online newsletter to the community from A. A. Gates Elementary School Principal, Julie Podolak. To receive these notes as they come out, please click here.

Dec. 15, 2017

On Friday, December 22, we will be conducting our annual early dismissal drill. According to state regulations, the emergency drill must be tested at least once each school year. As part of the early dismissal drill, students will be transported to their Emergency Go Home location that was listed on the student census packet at the start of the school year.

One of the purposes of practicing the drill is to ensure students have an emergency plan of where to be transported in the event the school had to be closed down or evacuated. Students should know their emergency go home location, and this drill allows them to practice going there.

Additional information will be sent home with the students next week. If you have any questions in regards to the address you provided, please call the elementary office at 315-776-5728 ext. 1050.

Upcoming Events:

12/21 - Kindergarten Breakfast with Santa
12/22 - 1st grade Special Person's Day - 9:30 a.m.
12/22 - Emergency Go Home Early Drill
12/25-1/1 - No School

Julie Podolak


Dec. 8, 2017

What did you do in school today? I'm sure many of you ask this question to your children on a daily basis and remember being asked this question as a child. I even catch myself asking my daughter, who is nearly two years old, the same question even though I know I'm not going to get a detailed response.

When I pick up my daughter from daycare, I get a sheet with a summary of some of the things she does during the day. She played with Play Doh, ran around the gym, sang songs, read books, practiced her colors, and completed some art projects this week. This little list helps me have a conversation with her at home because I can ask her to tell me more about the activities.

Teachers send home calendars, schoolwork, newsletters, and notes to keep families up to date on some of the things going on in school. Another way to stay up to date with what's going on in school is to connect to our Twitter feed @AAGatesPBCS. We try to post a variety of things that happen in our school.

Here are some that have been shared in the last couple of weeks:

- Preparing women history project
- Receiving PAWS incentives across the grade levels
- Being physically active
- Spreading holiday cheer
- Attending a field trip
- Performing a science experiment
- Preparing for a holiday concert
- Learning about the Haudenosaunee with Merry Go Round Theatre
-  technology into instruction
- Learning how to code

You may want to consider following @AAGatesPBCS on Twitter, so you can stay up to date with other things students are doing in school too.

Concert Reminder -

On Tuesday, December 12, there will be an elementary concert for grade 2 and 5th & 6th grade chorus at 6:30 pm in the High School Auditorium. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the 6th grade band will not perform in this concert. They will perform at the Winter Concert on Tuesday, February 6. The chorus members should arrive in concert dress (white on top and black on the bottom) at 6:10 pm. Those students should report directly to the chorus room. Second graders can sit with their families in the auditorium until Mrs. Bartlett Morse calls the students to the risers. We hope to see you there!

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, December 12 - Elementary Concert for Grade 2 and 5/6 Chorus - 6:30 pm - High School Auditorium

Have a Fantastic Weekend!
Julie Podolak


Dec. 2, 2017

Eating healthy meals throughout the year can be challenging for some families. This can be due to lack of resources or knowledge of what is considered healthy. When our students are in school, they can take advantage of two free meals a day. Our breakfast and lunch programs provide students with all of the components of a healthy meal, including: grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. However, on weekends and vacations, some of our students struggle to maintain a healthy diet.

Are you or someone you know in need of food for your families? The Port Byron Community Food Pantry provides assistance to low-income families. They are affiliated with the Food Bank of Central New York and are a non-profit, volunteer-run pantry. They can provide additional meals for each member of your household and can be utilized each week.

The Port Byron Community Food Pantry is located within the United Methodist Church, 8510 South Street, Port Byron. They are open every Wednesday from 12-2 p.m.

In conjunction with the Port Byron Community Food Pantry, our school offers a backpack program for eligible students in need of food for the weekend. If you need further information, please contact our school social worker Mrs. Robinson at 776-5728 ext. 1325. She can help you with the food pantry or the backpack program.

Concert Reminder -

On Tuesday, December 12, there will be an elementary concert for grade 2, 5th & 6th grade chorus and 6th grade band at 6:30 pm in the high school auditorium. The chorus and band members should arrive in concert dress (white on top and black on the bottom) at 6:10 p.m. Those students should report directly to the band or chorus room. Second graders can sit with their families in the auditorium until Mrs. Bartlett Morse calls the students to the risers. We hope to see you there!

Upcoming Events:

Thursday, December 7 - PTA Meeting - 6:00 pm - Elementary Library

Tuesday, December 12 - Elementary Concert for Grade 2, 5/6 Chorus, and 6th grade Band - 6:30 pm - High School Auditorium

Mrs. Podolak


Nov. 17, 2017

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's not one of the holidays that is overly advertised and commercialized. It doesn't require gifts to purchase or wrap. It's nice to give thanks for all the things in our lives and spend time with family.

In Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, the students are thankful for many of the common things: families, friends, school, toys, and animals. In my travels around the school, our youngest students are always thankful for other unique things too. Here are some of their responses:

Red feathers to decorate
Being 5
Clean house
The world
Playing outside

I hope this inspires you to be thankful for the simple things in life, too.

Upcoming Events:
Monday, November 20 - No School - Parent Teacher Conferences
Tuesday, November 21-Friday, November 24 - No School - Thanksgiving Break

Julie Podolak


Nov. 9, 2017

The end of the first marking period is November 9. That means that parent teacher conferences are right around the corner. Did you receive an invitation from your child's teacher or did you request a conference? Either way, it is important to meet to discuss your child's progress in school.

Sometimes parents feel a little worried about meeting with their child's teacher because they may not know how their children are doing in the classroom. Occasionally, a parent teacher conference is one of the only times a teacher meets with the parents. A recent article on the Parent Today website,, shared some simple questions parents can ask to build a better connection between home and school. Below are some of the questions to consider:

- What is the best way to contact you?

- What can I do to support my child's academics?

- Are there any social/emotional concerns that you have based on classroom interactions?

- Do you have any resources that are appropriate for me to use at home in support of your instruction?

- How is technology used in the classroom to support or enhance instruction?

- How can I get my child to tell me about his or her school day?

Hopefully, some of these questions will help guide your conversation at the parent teacher conference. Don't be afraid to ask questions, so you can better understand how your child is performing both academically and socially.

Upcoming Events:

Friday, November 10 - No School - Veterans Day
Monday, November 20 - No School - Parent Teacher Conferences
Tuesday, November 21-Friday, November 24 - No School - Thanksgiving Break

Julie Podolak


Nov. 3, 2017

It seems like just yesterday that our students received access to their own technology with our 1:1 iPad initiative in grades 3-6. All students, UPK-6, have access to computers, Chromebooks, or iPads in their classrooms and computer labs. It is important to remember that these are used as academic tools. Just like students were responsible for textbooks many years ago, they have to be responsible for technology too.

It is very important that students understand how to appropriately use and care for this technology during the school year. Please review the following with your child as a reminder of the expectations.

- All iPads, Chromebooks, and computers (devices) are properties of Port Byron Central School District and are available to the students as a learning tool.

- All devices must be returned at the end of the school year or upon withdrawal/transfer.

- Students are expected to bring their assigned device to school each day fully charged unless instructed otherwise by their teacher.

- The device is to be treated as a valuable object. It should not be thrown, purposely dropped, or hit. It should never be left unattended at any time while at school, on the bus, in a car, or at any other public places.

- The device should never be used near water, household chemicals, or other liquids that could cause damage to its electrical component.

- Never remove the device from the protective case provided by the school.

- Students may only use pre-loaded applications on the device. Other applications or accounts are NOT allowed to be added or created. The school reserves the right to remove or disable any application installed by students.

- Students should not change settings on the device unless instructed to do so.

- Students should not use the device to access social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), text, or other online chatting such as Facetime.

- Off-topic web surfing is not permitted.

- Parents are responsible for supervising student internet use while at home.

Upcoming Events:

Monday, November 6 - After School Program begins

Friday, November 10 - No School - Veterans Day observed

Monday, November 20 - No School - Parent Teacher Conferences

Tuesday, November 21- Friday, November 24 - No School - Thanksgiving Break

Mrs. Podolak


Oct. 27, 2017

We are very excited to inform you that we will again be having the After School Program for all students in grades 3-6. This is a free program for your child. It is one offering through the school that assists in our efforts to keep the children of Port Byron safe during the after school hours. We will be providing a compliment of recreational, educational, social, and cultural activities, along with a daily snack.

We believe that it is imperative to have a fun and interesting, yet educational program for your children to participate in. The program will be held every day from 3:20-5:10. A late bus will be provided each day at 5:10.

Please note that Fridays are reserved for special events. Each Friday, there is something different scheduled. Students sign up to attend two Fridays each session. More information on that will be available upon acceptance to the program.

The program will begin on Monday, November 6 and will end on Friday, April 13. It is broken into three separate sessions so your child can take part in a variety of academic and activity sessions. Children may take one, two or all three sessions. Information on dates for each session will be provided after your child has been accepted into the program.

We may have a limited space after the success we've had in the past! Therefore, enrollment will be on a "first come first serve" basis. So please enroll your child as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact us. We will be happy to explain the program further. We hope that you see the many benefits a program like this can offer the families of our community.

Registration paperwork was sent home with all the students. They are also available on our website and in the elementary office. If you haven't done so already, please send in the paperwork as soon as possible.

For more information, please contact Mrs. Mosley ( or Mr. Tomkiewicz (

Halloween Reminder:

The Halloween Parade will begin at 1:30 on Tuesday, October 31. Students in grades K-4 will start lining up outside the elementary school at 1:20. Let's hope for a great day!

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, October 31 - Halloween Parade - 1:30 pm.

Thursday, November 2 - PTA Meeting - 6:00 pm. - Elementary library

Mrs. Podolak


Oct. 20, 2017

Officer Ryan, our School Resource Officer, approached me recently with some suggestions on how we could make dropping off students more efficient and keep our students safe in the morning. The safety and security of our students is a top priority for us. We teach and reteach safety procedures and expectations to our students all the time.

If you are dropping off your child in the morning, the curb area in the parking lot is for students who are getting out of the car and walking in by themselves. If you plan on walking your child to the front door, please make sure you take a parking spot.

In order to keep the building secure we need to have the family members drop their children off in the hallway outside the main office or in the vestibule area outside. Families (parents, grandparents, and caregivers) are not allowed to walk their children to the classrooms. This ensures there are no visitors in our building that are unaccounted for. If you need something delivered to the classroom, please stop in the elementary office and we can have someone take care of it.

As a reminder, the school day starts at 8:40 and that is when students go to their classrooms. Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this. Please share this information with anyone who drops your child off to school.

Halloween Reminder:

As you and your child get ready for Halloween, please keep the following ideas in mind as you plan your child's costume with him/her.

- Choose costumes that your child can put on without help.

- Children should not wear their costumes to school. Rather, they should bring them in a bag and put them on during the designated time.

- Weapons may not be a part of costumes.

- Costumes should be free of fake blood. Additionally, aerosol cans containing makeup/hairspray/hair color may not be brought to school.

- Horror masks/costumes (i.e. Scream, Freddy Kruger, Slasher, etc.) cannot be a part of our parade.

- We encourage costumes that honor heroes (ex. sports, firefighters), storybook characters, and other theme characters that would be typically appropriate for school.

Also, please remember that all of the students in grades K-4 are a welcome part of the parade. It is therefore important that we remember the above points so that our younger A.A. Gates students are not overwhelmed and frightened. As always, we appreciate your support in helping to care for all of our students.

The Halloween Parade will begin at 1:30 on Tuesday, October 31. Students in grades K-4 will start lining up outside the elementary school at 1:20. Let’s hope for a great day!

Upcoming Events:

Friday, October 27 - Activity Night Sponsored by After Prom - Grades 4-6 - 6:30-8:30 pm. - Cost is $5

Tuesday, October 31 - Halloween Parade - 1:30 pm.

Julie Podolak


Oct. 13, 2017

This week, we had volunteers from all of the local fire departments present to the students on fire prevention and safety strategies. Some of the firefighters came with all of their gear and put it on for the students to see. This is an important step because it could be scary for students if they ever were in a fire. To conclude the week, the fire departments brought their apparatus today (fire trucks, ambulance, etc.) for students to see and learn more about their features. I can't thank the volunteer fire departments enough for sharing their time and knowledge with our students.

On another note, members of the Weedsport Lions Club will be providing free vision screenings for students in UPK-2 next week. The Lions Club with be using a handheld Welch Allyn device which evaluates a child's eyes for abnormalities that may cause vision problems. The exam takes less than thirty seconds per student.

If any abnormalities are found, the school nurse will be provided with the information and she will contact you if further examination is required by a qualified eye care professional.

The Lions Club offers financial assistance for follow-up examinations/glasses for families in need. Requests for assistance should be coordinated through the School Social Worker's office - Michelle Robinson ext. 1325.

We are so appreciative of our outside organizations that are here to help students be healthy and safe. Thanks again to the Port Byron, Conquest, Montezuma, and Throop Fire Departments for teaching our students fire safety and prevention and to the Weedsport Lions Club for providing free vision screenings.

Mrs. Podolak


Oct. 6, 2017

Last weekend, I stopped at a store to get some groceries and couldn't help but notice all the decorations for the upcoming holidays. Halloween costumes were in one aisle with some Thanksgiving decorations. Another aisle was full of Christmas decorations. It's hard to believe it is only the beginning of October, and we are thinking about the holidays already.

The Port Byron Community has many programs to offer families in need of support during the holidays and winter months. Many of our students participate in these programs, so we are thankful they are available.

- The Federated Church of Port Byron is having a coat giveaway and will be open for coat distribution to the community Sunday, October 22 from 12-3pm.

- The Christmas Angels and Christmas Elf programs both offer assistance to families with holiday gifts for their children. These programs are open to children age 18 and under who are currently enrolled in school. The application for the Christmas Angels program is due November 10th.

- The Port Byron Food Pantry offers Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets for those families who meet the income eligibility guidelines. They are located at the Port Byron United Methodist Church, 8310 South St. Rd. (315-776-5156).

As a school, we always try to help out the local organizations. Within the next couple of weeks, the elementary student government will be hosting a food drive to help stock the food pantry. The Food Pantry has asked us to collect boxes of brownie mix to go into their Thanksgiving baskets.

Please reach out to Michelle Robinson, school social worker at 315-776-5728 x1325 if you are in need of assistance over the holidays.

Upcoming Events:

- Monday, October 9 - No School - Columbus Day
- Tuesday, October 10-13 - Fire Prevention Week

Mrs. Podolak


Sept. 29, 2017

Today about 150 elementary students participated in a very special celebration! The celebration was for any student who completed the summer reading challenge. Co-sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the students were able to exert physical activity in bounce houses and were treated to a special snack. The students had a great time celebrating with others who accomplished the same goal!

In order to be eligible for the celebration, students had to read 500 or 1,000 minutes over the summer, based on their grade level. They had to document their reading on a log and submit it during the first week of school.

This is the third year of the reading celebration and it has grown tremendously over the years. The first year there were only 25 students who participated. It's great to know that 150 of our students were immersed in books over the summer!

Upcoming Events:

Monday, October 9 - No School - Columbus Day
Tuesday, October 10-13 - Fire Prevention Week

Mrs. Podolak


Sept. 22, 2017

We are very excited about the upcoming curriculum night on Thursday, September 28 from 6-7:30 pm. We have updated the format of the night, so parents and guardians can attend the grade level presentation and have more time to discuss the curriculum expectations with the teachers.

As we know, educating a child is a challenge that is easier to obtain with a partnership between school and home. Curriculum night is a way to start forming this partnership. It will provide an opportunity for you to learn what your child will encounter this year and how we can work together to facilitate your child's education. The night will allow you an insight into your child's education, a chance to sign up for November parent conferences, visit your child's room, and see some of their work. Another exciting reason to attend is that many clubs and organizations will be set up in the elementary gym so you can sign up for extra-curricular activities.

This night is for parents only, if you are unable to attend because of childcare or transportation issues please contact us at 315-776-5728, and we will try to help facilitate a solution.

The agenda for the evening allows time for you to hear curriculum presentations by the grade level teachers. There is also time built in the schedule for you to visit your child’s classroom. The agenda for the evening is as follows:

Grade Level Presentations
6:00 - Grades UPK & 6
6:20 - Grades K & 5
6:40 - Grades 1 & 3
7:00 - Grades 2 & 4

Presentation Locations
UPK- Elementary Cafeteria
Kindergarten- Elementary Gymnasium
1st Grade- Room #10
2nd Grade- Elementary Cafeteria
3rd Grade- Room #25
4th Grade- Elementary Library
5th Grade- Room #207
6th Grade- Lehn Library
Clubs/Signups- Elementary Gymnasium
AIS/Sunrise Scholars - Elementary Gymnasium

This is a great opportunity to have all your questions answered about your child’s school year. We look forward to seeing everyone!

Upcoming Events:
Thursday, September 28 - Curriculum Night - 6:00-7:30 pm

Mrs. Podolak


Sept. 15, 2017

In last week's Friday newsletter, I wrote about the social emotional lessons that have been taught so far this year. As I stated, those lessons will continue during the year to teach our students to be respectful, responsible, honest, and safe.

One of the ways we are accomplishing this is by teaching a curriculum called Second Step. The program teaches the children techniques to gain confidence, set goals, make better decisions, collaborate with others in work and play, and navigate the world more effectively. These skills will help the students at school and in life.

Mrs. Elia, our school counselor, has been teaching additional lessons focused on child protection and bullying prevention. She is scheduled to teach lessons for all students in the elementary school this year. Her proactive approach will help students learn skills to interact positively with one another.

We have also continued with our commitment to the PAWS program. PAWS stands for our school wide expectations: Practice Respect, Accept Responsibility, Work Honestly, and Safety Matters.

Our PAWS program has been re-developed over the summer, thanks to a team of teachers and staff members. Students participated in a school-wide assembly last Friday to kick-off the program. They have been completing missions to learn the expectations in various areas around the school (playground, cafeteria, hallway, bus, etc). The PAWS expectations are reviewed daily with the students.

We are committed to developing the whole child, including supporting them with their social emotional learning. If you think your child needs further counseling or your family needs access to more supports within the community, feel free to reach out to us. Mrs. Robinson, our school social worker, can help you navigate the process. She can be reached at 315-776-5728 ext. 1325.

Upcoming Events:
Thursday, September 28 - Curriculum Night - More information to come

Mrs. Podolak


Sept. 8, 2017

Do you ever wonder what goes on during a typical school day? School is not just about the reading, math, English, science, and social studies lessons going on everyday. Our teachers and staff have the privilege of teaching students social emotional skills that will last a lifetime.

Learning that fair is not always equal was a lesson that went on this week in fifth grade. The teacher helped the students understand that some students will need different supports during the year, so they can learn the curriculum. She did this by posting a dollar bill on the wall, out of reach to some students. Some students could reach it, others had to jump, and a few needed a stool to get to the dollar. The students got the supports they needed to get to the dollar bill. The supports were not all equal.

In third grade, students learned the expectations for eating lunch in the cafeteria. You may be thinking that the students would already know those skills. Students need to be taught the behavioral expectations explicitly throughout the school year, especially at the beginning of the year. This includes: how to go through the cafeteria line to get their food, how to sit properly at the table, what to do with their garbage when they are finished, and what to do with their time that is left over.

In a kindergarten class, I saw students learning how to say goodbye at the end of the day. The teacher asked the students if they wanted a hug, handshake, or high five to end the day. Each student had the opportunity to choose the greeting that worked the best for him/her. Saying goodbye is one way to show respect to others.

The students will receive a lot of social emotional lessons during the school year. As a school we made social emotional learning a priority this year. We will continue to teach the skills to be respectful, responsible, honest, and safe students.

Upcoming Events:

Thursday, September 14 - 6:00 pm - PTA Meeting

Mrs. Podolak


Sept. 1, 2017

Summer is winding down and our school is spotless and ready for students again. The beginning of the school year seems to start with the UPK Orientation and K-6 Meet & Greet! That is when our building fills back up with students. It’s always an exciting time of the year to meet all the new students and greet the returning students. September 5, our first day of school, will be here before we know it.

If you are new to the district or to receiving the weekly enews, welcome. Each week, I will write about what is going on in the elementary school. The elementary school also has a Twitter account that you can follow @AAGatesPBCS. These are great ways to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening at our school.

This year we have a school social worker in the elementary school. Michelle Robinson has joined our school and is eager to meet students and families. Her office is connected to the elementary office, so she will be easily accessible to students and families. Below is a message from Mrs. Robinson:

"Hello Everyone! My name is Michelle Robinson and I am the new School Social Worker at A.A. Gates Elementary! This is a new position here at A.A. Gates, and I am very excited to introduce myself to everyone and share with you what my role will be. I will do my best to make a connection with every student in the school and communicate with families to help provide support and a positive connection to the school. These connections for may be for simple things or more in depth needs that a family or student may have. I will also be able to help families connect with community resources. This means that I will be the contact person when a family is in need or has concerns; big or small. I promise to be welcoming and easy to talk to and hope that I get the chance to speak with each student and their family this year. I am looking forward to a great school year and becoming part or the A.A. Gates family!"

Another exciting change for this year is that we were able to purchase the majority of the school supplies for students. The students will have what they need in their classrooms when they arrive on the first day of school. Hopefully, we lessened the burden on purchasing the normal back to school supplies for families. This will also eliminate any competition students feel about making sure they have the "right" supplies.

The summer reading program will also end on September 4. Please have your child fill out the reading log that was sent home at the end of last year. All logs have to be submitted to the elementary office by Friday, September 8 to be eligible for the Summer Reading Celebration. The reading celebration will take place towards the end of September. I hope there were many students who read over the summer!

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, September 5 - First day for students!

Julie Podolak