Principal's Newsletter-October 2022

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,

It was so nice to see so many parents at Back to School Night and to have the chance to chat with you in person.  It’s hard to believe, but we have just about reached the middle of our first marking period.  Students should be finding that their school routines are being more firmly established and at this point in the year should know when their teachers are available for office hours and extra help if needed.

October is also a month to highlight safety.  After meeting with all of our students in September to review safety drills we have already begun practicing building evacuations.  October will see the start of drills intended to practice “hold in place,” “passing time evacuations,” and “lockdowns.”  Unlike the past few years while under covid rules, we will move back to “live drills” and more importantly unannounced drills.  We have continued to partner with Mt. Pleasant Police during these drills and they will continue to assist us and provide feedback on operations and post-drill analysis.  Our intent is to continually improve our practices and provide students with an opportunity to think and react in a variety of different scenarios.  To that end, we may purposefully block a stairwell during evacuation to teach students how to respond to unplanned situations.  Again, this will all be unannounced, so our faculty, staff, and students need to react in real-time.  As always, I appreciate your support in reinforcing with your child how important it is for them to take these drills seriously and to listen to the adults giving directions in an emergency.

On a much more somber note, over my years at Westlake, I have taken the time to alert parents and students to significant health and safety-related topics.  What I am writing to all of you about today is beyond simple health and safety, it could save someone’s life.

As parents of teens, we have all, myself included, spoken with our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. While that should be a routine practice, new information regarding the specific drug fentanyl is something we all need to be talking about.  You may have heard news stories about how this illegal substance is finding its way into the hands of students across the country.  The shocking truths about this drug need to be shared and discussed; it just may save a life.

Facts from the DEA:

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin!
  • It is a primary cause of overdoses and overdose deaths in the U.S.!
  • 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a potentially lethal dose!
  • 1 kilogram of fentanyl can kill 500,000 people!
  • 42% of pills tested for fentanyl contained at least 2 mg of fentanyl!

Please take a moment to read the information found on this link:   Facts about Fentanyl

While the facts are helpful, it is important to also note that fentanyl is being mixed into illegal drugs to increase their potency.  People taking these drugs have no way of knowing that the drugs they are taking have potentially lethal doses of fentanyl mixed in.  The DEA has cited that overdose deaths in the 12-month period from January 2020 to January 2021 involving synthetic opioids (fentanyl) rose 55.6%.

Additionally, the introduction of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills, designed to look like candy, has now become commonplace and has caused accidental overdoses to some who thought it was candy.  Cases have been reported of students buying what they thought might be prescription painkillers only to overdose on what really was fentanyl pressed into a pill form to look like a prescription painkiller (e.g., Percocet or Vicodin).

We will be working with our PTA and Mt. Pleasant Police to get additional information out to parents and students.  I implore everyone to have this conversation with their children and ask what they have heard, what they know, and what they have seen on social media.  Ask if they are aware of just how deadly this drug is.  It just may save a life!

October is always an exciting month with a variety of activities.  

  • Westlake High School will be holding PSAT testing on Wednesday, October 12 for all 10th and 11th-grade students interested in taking this practice exam.  Information has been sent to households from Mr. DiPaolo in his Guidance Newsletter.   Mark your calendars as the sign-up deadline of October 7 is quickly approaching. 
  • October has always been linked to Spirit Week and Homecoming celebrations.  This year Spirit Week will run from October 11-15 with home games for our Varsity teams throughout the week.  Spirit Day themes have been announced for each class during the week as well as our traditional hallway decorating on Thursday, October 13 from 2:30-5:00 and our in-school student Pep Rally on Friday, October 14.  Student Council will also be running an evening pep rally on Thursday, October 13 from 5-6:00 pm out on the main athletic field.  I hope everyone comes out to support our teams and enjoys the culminating events on Saturday evening with a half-time fireworks display.  I want to extend a huge thank you to our Student Government E-Board Officers:  Francesca DeMartino, Korey Zheng, Sophia Remo, Alexandra Gjokaj, Julie LoMurno, and their advisor, Ms. Lauren Cody as well as the class officers and advisors for all the planning that goes into making Spirit Week such a success.  Thank you to Ms. Pirro for her planning and organization of all the athletic events, lighting, and music.   Most importantly, I want to recognize and thank the Westlake Athletic Club for covering the costs associated with so much of what makes homecoming so special, most notably our half-time fireworks show!

College Credited Courses

If you are enrolled in one of our college credited courses, the deadline for registering and paying for those credits is fast approaching.  Please check with your teacher of that course for further registration information.  

Driver Education

Typically, at this time of year, I am sending information regarding sign-up deadlines and dates for a Driver's Education program.  While I hope that in the near future this may very well be the case, I wanted to share some updates as to where we are right now.

We started our process in June to find a new classroom instructor that is certified and capable of delivering in-person classroom instruction at WHS.  After over four months of searching, we are close to finalizing the hiring of a new instructor.  Given the recent changes to our program, we also need to send new program paperwork to NY State Ed for processing and approval; a process which the state tells us takes approximately four weeks to approve.

Given our current timeline and assumptions that our program and personnel will be appointed, we should be able to offer a session starting in early January and running through mid-May.

As we get further information over the next several weeks, I will send out additional updates.  Thank you in advance for your understanding as we work through what has become an increasingly more difficult program to staff and run effectively.

I look forward to seeing you at one of the many events during Spirit Week!

October Events:

Monday, October 3:               WHS Senior Portrait Makeup - Auditorium

                                                        WHS Financial Aid Night 7:00 pm - Auditorium

Wednesday, October 5:        School Closed - Yom Kippur

Friday, October 7:                   Calendar correction - School is OPEN 

Friday, October 7:                   WHS Quarter 1 Midpoint

Monday, October 10:             School Closed - Columbus Day

Thursday, October 13:           Hallway decorating 2:30-5:00 pm

                                                         Pep Rally 5-6:00 pm - Main Athletic Field

Friday, October 14:                  In-School Pep Rally

Saturday, October 15:            Homecoming 7:00 pm kickoff - Main Athletic Field



Keith Schenker