Lancaster Central School District

Centers of Learning and Growth

Dr. Michael J. Vallely
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Lancaster Central School District
177 Central Avenue
Lancaster, NY 14086
District Clerk/Secretary:
Sandra Janik
Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...
One component of the Lancaster Central School District logo is the phrase, “Centers for Learning and Growth” under the image of a tree. I am excited to tell you about a project that will support learning and growth for our students at every grade level.
Last spring, high school assistant principal Terry Adamec and science teacher Christopher Riley began a districtwide effort to grow seedlings into mature trees to be transplanted at schools around the district. Although still in the early stages, in a few years all Lancaster residents will be able to see the progress of the trees.
Last year Riley, who teaches AP environmental science, came to me asking if the greenhouse at the high school could be made operational again. It had not been used for many years, but he said he felt that the greenhouse would be an excellent “lab” for his class to conduct experiments and have real world experience, even during cold Western New York winters. Maintenance staff, specifically Nate Mason, Tim Andrews, Jim Budzynski, Kevin Carr, Chris King, and Robert Park, were up to the task and quickly brought the greenhouse back into service.
After using it for plants and experiments throughout the year, last spring Riley received more than 120 seedlings from the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District shrub and seedling sale. Riley and his students selected a variety of species that flourish in this area to care for in the newly renovated greenhouse. Combined with the seedlings that James Kotarski, our crew chief, receives each year from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a total of almost 200 seedlings were planted. Under the attentive eye of Kotarski and Brian Lorentz, the seedlings were watered along with our existing landscaping.
Two obstacles that we have encountered in the past when trying to plant trees are Western New York winters and deer. The greenhouse will support the small seedlings until they are hearty enough to withstand winter. In October, a 70-by-40 foot enclosure will be built behind William Street School so that the trees can be transplanted when appropriate while keeping them safe from deer. After approximately five to eight years of growth, the trees will then be moved to their permanent locations at the schools around our district.
We have two main goals for the project.
The first is to educate students from kindergarten through senior year about trees and the environment. While in the greenhouse, the seedlings will be cared for by environmental science students as a part of their curriculum. Once the trees have matured enough, our hope is that classes and clubs in the lower grade levels will take on the care of the maturing trees. One thing we have learned is that many students do not know what environmental science is or why it is important. Through this project, they will learn about trees in general, what varieties are best for this region, and how best to care for them. By taking accountability for the trees, students of all ages will begin to learn about environmental science and be part of this districtwide project from the beginning. I hope that they will take pride in seeing the trees they helped to nurture when they pass by our schools for years to come.
The second goal is to beautify the grounds of the school district. Purchasing mature trees can be very expensive, sometimes thousands of dollars for a single tree. Seedlings, on the other hand, are donated or can be purchased for just a few dollars each. By being patient and growing trees from seedlings, the district can see a significant return on a small investment, which will save taxpayers money while involving students in a fairly unique project that beautifies our grounds. The hope is that the program will continue to grow larger each year. Riley has applied for grants to allow him to buy even more seedlings, at no cost to the district. This will allow even more environmental science students to see the progression of growing seedlings and help to expand the reach of the trees.
One of my favorite things about the project is the fact that the impact will last for years to come. Generations of students will view the trees and experience their beauty and benefits. I look forward to seeing this project grow and hope that all residents will enjoy the trees for years to come as this initiative takes root in our schools.
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools