Sunday, June 18, 2017

Congratulations and Happy Summer...

With the dawn of summer upon us, there is much to be excited about. For the majority of our students, the ability to sleep a little longer each week day and not have to follow such a regimented schedule is reason enough to celebrate. For roughly 350 of our students, the reason to celebrate is much greater. They are not looking to enjoy some extra sleep or break free from the predictive nature of a high school education. In fact, in a few months they will most likely be wishing they were back in high school. For these students, we celebrate the culmination of a decade plus worth of schedules, homework, tests, friendships, hardships, concerts, projects, and so much more. Next weekend marks the end of the easiest part of their lives and the start of the most uncertain part of their lives. Our graduates are ready to tackle whatever life throws their way in the coming months, but they also need our support. As easy as it is to believe that life is pre-determined, it's just as easy to create our own destiny. In the coming years, our graduates will be developing technologies that do not yet exist and creating harmony amongst various groups around the globe where harmony was once not possible. Our graduates will need our support and encouragement as they embark on this tremendous journey called life. To the Rome Free Academy Class of 2017, congratulations and may all of your wildest dreams come true. You are prepared to take on whatever you choose and can certainly be successful with whatever life throws at you. For the rest of us, thank you for a great year and I hope that the summer is filled with memories to last a lifetime!! Have a great summer everyone and enjoy!! 


RFA Graduation


This year's graduation ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 24 at 10:00 a.m. at the Rome Free Academy Stadium. Please note that the processional of students begins promptly at 9:45 a.m. In order to ensure that you are able to view the entire event, it is crucial that you arrive to the Stadium no later than 9:30 a.m. as parking is at a premium. Rehearsal for the event will take place on Friday, June 23 at 9:00 a.m., also at the stadium. Detailed information regarding tickets, rain date, indoor arrangements (if needed), and participation will be available through the students. All questions related to graduation ceremonies and/or participation should be directed to the high school main office. 


Graduation Walk


On Monday, June 19, the Rome Free Academy Class of 2017 will be participating in the first ever Rome City School District Graduation Walk. Graduates will visit each of the 7 elementary buildings in their caps and gowns and proceed through the hallways for our littlest learners to see the culmination of their academic endeavors. It is a nice tribute to all of the elementary staff as well, who are instrumental in the success of all students and often forgotten about once a student reaches high school. Students will visit the following schools at these times, if you are interested in viewing the graduation walk:


Bellamy - 9:30 a.m.
Staley - 10:15 a.m.
Gansevoort - 11:00 a.m.
Denti - 11:45 a.m.
Ridge Mills - 1:00 p.m.
Joy - 1:45 p.m.
Stokes - 2:30 p.m.

District/Superintendent Evaluation


As mentioned last week, we are seeking input and feedback from families regarding this past school year as we continue preparations for next year. A link to the 2016-2017 feedback survey is below if you are interested in providing feedback to the District. The survey will be completely anonymous and should take roughly 5 minutes to complete. The survey will be open from now until June 23 at 5:00 p.m. Please take the time to provide us with your thoughts so that we can continue to improve our organization for kids.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

What's the Job...

SERVICE. That's it, it's that simple. This could be the shortest blog post of all-time if we left it at the plain terms. The reality is that all of us that work in a school setting work to serve children. On a daily basis, you can hear people mentioning that kids need to be at the center of every decision/action or that we want to do what's best for kids. The phrase has certainly become the latest in a long line of buzz phrases that people use because it not only sounds good, but it's actually the truth. We all start in the business to make the lives of children better. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, some of us lose that vision. Our profession is unlike any other in the world in that our purpose is to serve children but the vast majority of our discussions and dealings are with adults. Between the funding stream mainly coming from taxes and the conversations about progress and discipline occurring with parents, it's easy to forget that the kids are what matter. The whole set up is kind of crazy if you sit back and reflect for a moment. Taxpayers want what they want, regardless of how it effects kids; and some staff members and/or parents want what they want regardless of the best interest for ALL kids. The bottom line is that we all live and work in profession of service. Our job is to serve those that stand to benefit from our mission. In this case, our clients are children who are not paying the taxes, are most times not mature enough to help steer the decision making process, and more often than not they aren't interested in being involved or understand the value of their input. As we come to the end of the year, remember that our kids are the reason why we have a paycheck. It's not because of the parent that we try to satisfy. Remember that the 'stuff' you have to work with belongs to kids and that we have it good with resources because of kids. Let's strive to truly make kids the center of our organization by remembering that SERVICE, is our job.

RFA Graduation


This year's graduation ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 24 at 10:00 a.m. at the Rome Free Academy Stadium. Rehearsal for the event will take place on Friday, June 23 at 9:00 a.m., also at the stadium. Detailed information regarding tickets, rain date, indoor arrangements (if needed), and participation will be available through the students. All questions related to graduation ceremonies and/or participation should be directed to the high school main office. 


13 Reasons Why


Many of you (or your children) may be learning about or engaged in the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. The series is based on a book where a student learns about the suicide of a classmate through pre-recorded messages that the student left behind. The story has been opening eyes across our nation and gives us a deeper understanding of the struggles that students face everyday in schools. The story has been a tremendous resource for helping others gain an understanding of the needs of students in our schools. However, some experts are saying that the TV series may be having the opposite effect. With more young people having access to the story, there is concern about the message that the show is sending in some circles. I would encourage parents to either speak with your children about the show, or watch it with them if they are interested in the story. There is much to learn from the story and a lot of positive can come from it; but the message needs to reach our children correctly.

District/Superintendent Evaluation


As mentioned last week, we are seeking input and feedback from families regarding this past school year as we continue preparations for next year. A link to the 2016-2017 feedback survey is below if you are interested in providing feedback to the District. The survey will be completely anonymous and should take roughly 5 minutes to complete. The survey will be open from now until June 23 at 5:00 p.m. Please take the time to provide us with your thoughts so that we can continue to improve our organization for kids.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Finish Strong...

It is that time of year where many schools, teachers, and students want to "coast" to the finish line. A lot like that NFL team that has their playoff birth locked up weeks before the end of the season so they start resting players to avoid potential injury as the regular season comes to an end; some schools have traditionally modeled this mentality. Difference being is that we are in a race, not a season. In a race, if you let up at the end, your final outcome/product will suffer. Even if you are in first place in the race, you don't slow down as you approach the finish line do you? You don't see the jockey on the thoroughbred pulling on the reins so that the team doesn't set a time record. Those thoughts would be unthinkable. So why do we pull up the flaps at the end of the school year on our kids' learning opportunities. Yes, the weather is nice. Yes, it's been a long year. Yes, we've just made it through State testing and AP testing. But, we only have 10 months out of the year to work with our kids to help them progress. Seems like it would be silly to waste one of those 10 simply because it's been a long year. The best athletes, the best organizations, they never slow down. Being great isn't good enough, being the best isn't even good enough. They are working toward perfection and becoming the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). That should be our goal, that's what our kids deserve. Every moment that we take it easy between now and the end of the school year is a moment where our kids will start next year with a gap in learning. We have all worked hard over the past 9 months to get to this point, don't take the easy route out and slow down now. Keep pushing our students to obtain their very best and keep pressing them to work harder and be stronger than even they expected that they could. Our students will do amazing things, but only if we provide them with the opportunities to do such. There's no reason why you can't be the GOAT or develop one of your students/children into a GOAT; but we have to finish strong!!

Restructuring Update


During the past week, we have been working to finalize the staffing for Academic Intervention Services, Special Education, Teaching Assistants, and Special Area's staff. While I believe we have things to a point where they are fair and sensible, we continue to work with the various unions to make sure that the reconfiguration is in alignment with contract language. 

Transportation and special permissions continue to be the main concern that we are hearing from the community. As we finalize the transportation grid, we are giving consideration to having students who need special permission due to child care be transported from their child care provider back to their catchment area home school. All of our building projections are based on where a residence is located and it's impossible to project current or future enrollment impacts on a building when students are attending schools other than their assigned school. Also, we continue to hear many families openly telling us and others that they will lie about their residence or need for child care to ensure that their child goes to the school that they desire. Once we have finalized the regular transportation routes, we will be reviewing the process by which special permissions are allowed.

Our final piece that we continue to work on is the master schedule. Our administration is working closely with the special areas staff to ensure that we develop a schedule that provides students with the amount of learning time necessary to increase their skills in the arts and physical education. Of importance with these schedules is the addition of instrumental music into the elementary schools. Regardless of the challenges, we still anticipate to have the master schedule developed earlier than in previous years. 

DimensionU Successful Again


As in years past, the Staley DimensionU team has proven successful again at displaying their talents in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Abigail Bates, Jacob Cosentino, Santino Campanaro, Gwen Caro, Cooper Engelbert, Collin Gannon, Caden Giardino, Micah Humphreys, Richard LaTour, Collin Mummert, Jacob Premo and Jacob Swavely, took first place in two out of three Mixed Grade Division categories at the 2017 DimensionU Department of Defense Math Games held at the Griffis Institute last week. Our students competed against 3 other schools from around the country to display their knowledge and ability to work as a team. Congratulations to the students and staff involved with this accomplishment!!

District/Superintendent Evaluation


As mentioned last week, we are seeking input and feedback from families regarding this past school year as we continue preparations for next year. A link to the 2016-2017 feedback survey is below if you are interested in providing feedback to the District. The survey will be completely anonymous and should take roughly 5 minutes to complete. The survey will be open from now until June 23 at 5:00 p.m. Please take the time to provide us with your thoughts so that we can continue to improve our organization for kids.




Monday, May 29, 2017

Time for Remembrance...

This is a time of year where we should all take a moment to pause, reflect, and say thank you to all of our proud men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom. As a society, we have been trending more and more toward the concept of entitlement in recent years. Unfortunately, entitlement is not the concept that our fine nation was built upon; nor was it the intent of everyone that has come before us. Our ancestors (some of whom are still alive today to share their stories) believed in hard work, dedication to your task/role in the world, and commitment to your fellow American. These ideals are what made America great during the 20th century because regardless of your heritage, our country bonded together. Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing trend of what can I do to avoid working hard, or taking responsibility, or helping a neighbor/colleague simply because it's the right thing to do. We have lost sight, as a society, of the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood and that we are all working together for the same goal. Even in this age of constant news cycles and social media, as we enjoy our safe lives here at home; there are women and men all over the world putting themselves in harms way to ensure our freedoms and we don't even know about it. Worse yet, most people don't even care. The least we can do on our end is to work hard, be committed to each other, and be committed to producing excellence so those that do sacrifice for us, have a quality country to come home to. So, in this Memorial Day, I thank all of our service men and women who have sacrificed for our country and continue to sacrifice. Thank you to all of the current members of the Rome City School District who have served in the military prior to rededicating their life to serving children. Finally, let's take a moment on this day to reflect on what we have lost sight of and re-engage the concepts of working hard and doing the tough task because it's the right thing to do; not because we want an extra buck. Happy Memorial Day everyone!! 

Congratulations Utica O.D. Teen All-Stars


Congratulations to Rome Free Academy seniors Emma Gilroy and Tommy Weir for being the recipients of the 2017 Utica Observer-Dispatch Teen All-Star award. The Observer-Dispatch initiated the Teen All-Stars program in 1992 to recognize the many talents of our local high school students. Each year, dozens of local seniors are nominated by friends, family, school officials and members of the community with a final panel of 25 students being selected as Teen All-Stars who excel both academically and in their extracurricular activities. This year, we are proud to be represented in our community by both Emma and Tommy. To read more about their individual stories, please click on the links below. Congratulations and thank you to Emma and Tommy for representing RFA and the entire Rome community!!

District/Superintendent Evaluation


Each year, part of the growth process for those of us in eduction is the evaluation cycle/process. Last August, we did a survey to determine some feelings of the community in regard to their thoughts/perceptions of the District. Now, I will be sending an evaluation link to our community members via email for the same purpose. I have had the opportunity to lead the District for 11 months and our team needs to solicit feedback with regard to the perceptions and feelings of our families and community. The survey will be completely anonymous and should take roughly 5 minutes to complete. Please take the time to provide us with your thoughts so that we can continue to improve our organization for kids.


New Opioid Concern for Parents


Police in the Elmira, NY area have issued a public health warning about a new narcotics trend in the area that could pose a danger to children. Candy-like drug tablets have been found in the Elmira area and they contain a mix of Xanax, fentanyl and heroin; but are disguised to look like SweetTarts candy. The drugs even have a small letter "S" stamped on them that mimics the SweetTarts logo, making it more challenging to decipher the candy from the drug. While we have not received any confirmed reports of the drug being in our region, we are receiving multiple warnings from our local substance abuse/prevention centers to help spread the word to be on the lookout. 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Thank You Community...

As you know, the Rome community successfully passed the 2017-2018 school budget this past week with a 78% approval rate. On behalf of all of our students and staff at the Rome City School District, I want to thank you all for your support. We are very appreciative to have a community that values education and wants the best for their children. The district is dedicated to ensuring that our students are receiving the very best instruction possible with the most appropriate resources available for learning. Our high school already carries a course load that provides students the opportunity to graduate with a year of college under the belt and we continue to develop programs and outlets to provide an equivalent experience for those that want to enter the work force following high school. Our middle school continuously evaluates their programming to ensure that we are providing the absolute best opportunity for student success as the prepare to enter high school. And the elementary program has experienced quickly improving math scores while they have turned their attention this year (and into the future) on early literacy efforts to ensure that students can read on grade level. All of these efforts are made possible because of the support of our community. When you work in a community and environment that is support of children and growth, it makes the entire system better. We appreciate our community and once again, on behalf of our children and staff, THANK YOU for your support!!

Internet Safety Panel Discussion


In partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Rome Police, the New York State Police, Bryant & Stratton College, and the City of Rome; the Rome City School District is proud to host: Internet Safety and Social Media: What All Parents Should Know. The event will take place on Tuesday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m. in the Rome Free Academy cafeteria. We expect the event to last roughly 45 minutes to an hour and it will address the following topics:
  • What are the most common websites, apps, or social media platforms that students are using? What is the general purpose of each app?
  • What are some of the issues students are experiencing when using and communicating through these technologies?
  • What are some of the misconceptions of communicating through these websites or apps.
  • Why should parents and students be concerned with their digital footprint?
  • What are some guidelines to keeping students safe online?
 Protect Your Child’s Digital Footprint for the Present and Their Future!

Video Highlight of the Internet Safety Discussion


ESSA Public Meeting


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama and is a reauthorization of the nation's national educational law. ESSA retains many of the core provisions of No Child Left Behind (the previous reauthorization of ESEA) related to standards, assessments, accountability, and use of Federal funds. However, ESSA does provide states with much greater flexibility in many areas, including the methodologies for differentiating the performance of schools and the supports and interventions to provide when schools are in need of improvement. To meet the requirements of ESSA, New York will also be required to submit a new state plan to USDE for the use of a wide array of Federal grant programs, including Title IA (Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies, Title IB (State Assessment Grants, Title IC (Education of Migratory Children), Title ID (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent or At-Risk), Title IIA (Supporting Effective Instruction), Title III (Supporting Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students), Title IVA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants), Title VB (Rural Education Initiative), and Title VI (Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education).


There will be a public meeting on ESSA this Wednesday, May 24, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Henninger High School in Syracuse. The commissioner and our local Regent will be in attendance at this public hearing. It is expected that New York State will adopt the draft ESSA plan later this summer. For more information about ESSA, please click on the link below:



Restructuring Update


This past week, the District was able to determine 130 of the 139 general education staff assignments needed for the restructuring. This is the first step in the process of setting each building staff. This week, we hope to have a clear picture on teaching assistants, special education staff, and special areas teachers (art, music, PE). Also, we have been working on the master schedule to ensure that buildings have the necessary staff. Principals have been busy reviewing their buildings and the space available as they will begin the process of assigning classrooms. Teachers have begun the conversations related to sharing materials with their colleagues that they no longer will need and some newly developed grade level teams have already begun meeting together to discuss the curriculum and plan for next year. Our next steps for the week include developing an electronic form for special permissions and communicating to each student where their assigned school is for next year.  





Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why Are We Here...

Those that know me know that one of my favorite words in the entire dictionary is 'why'. I believe that growth and learning occur most frequently when anyone is provided the opportunity to ask 'why', but also explore 'why'. Even when the answer to the question 'why?' is my most hated answer of all time (because that's how it's always been done), I still find value in what follows that response. Today, I ask, "Why are we here?" I mean, why do we all have jobs in education and in the Rome City School District? What is a school district? Why do they exist? Well, I know that the answer isn't (or shouldn't be), "because that's how it's always been." Simply put, the answer is small: KIDS. We exist because of kids. Our purpose is to SERVE kids. Without kids, we don't have employment. Without kids, we don't have a school district. Without kids, we don't have a future. I pose these questions and share my thoughts because on a frequent basis I find more and more people in our profession (both inside our organization and outside) forgetting our purpose. It's very easy to forget that in our business, our clientele are pretty much under the age 18. In the retail market, the industry caters to their clientele to ensure that their profits improve and thus making the organization more healthy. In our organization, our clientele number roughly 6,000 and they are young. Sometimes, they don't know what they want or need in school. They have questions that aren't relevant to the curriculum, but are to their life. Sometimes, they act in ways that concern us, but do we take the time to ask "why?" Our kids bring with them extraordinary ability, talent, vision, and hope. Let's give our clientele what they deserve. Our first rate experience that is catered to develop their future, for the betterment of our future.  

School Budget Vote


The school district 2017-2018 budget and Board of Education member elections will be held this week on Tuesday, May 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. More information regarding the proposed budget can be found here: SCHOOL BUDGET DETAILS

Voting locations are as follows:
First Ward: Staley Upper Elementary School – 620 E. Bloomfield St. 
Second Ward: Staley Upper Elementary School – 620 E. Bloomfield St.
Third Ward: Lobby at City Hall – 198 N. Washington St. 
Fourth Ward: Gansevoort School–  758 W. Liberty St. 
Fifth Ward: Denti Elementary School - 1001 Ruby Street  
Sixth Ward: St. Paul’s Catholic Church - 1807 Bedford St.
Seventh Ward: Rome Towers – 1625 Black River Blvd. 
Eighth Ward: Stokes School – 9095 Turin Rd.
Ninth Ward: Stokes School – 9095 Turin Rd.
Tenth Ward: Westernville Library – 9172 Main St, Westernville.



Board Meeting Change


Due to the need to certify the budget vote and Board of Education elections, the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting that was to be held on Thursday, May 18 has been moved to Wednesday, May 17 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Strough Middle School Cypress Campus.

Restructuring Update


This was a frantic week in the world of restructuring. The teacher's union, administrator's union, and District have reached an agreement to determine how best to staff the schools and we hope to have this process completed by the end of next week. Our principal's have begun the process of working together to provide student records and build class lists for next year so that students and families will not have a different year end experience than prior years. The transportation department and Birnie Bus are working diligently to update their mapping programs and we expect the process of building bus routes to begin in the next 2 weeks. Walking zones and potentially transporting every student continue to be the priority of this research. This coming week we begin the process of looking at furniture movements/need with our buildings and grounds department. We also have our architect and a team of engineers visiting Staley to determine needs for the building and to begin to develop the plan to make necessary improvements in the most timely fashion possible. Finally, we have completed the necessary documentation that the State Education Department needs to make sure our schools are listed and categorized correctly, which is a giant completion in the process. As more information is available, we will continue to provide updates.

Summer STEM Opportunity


The Griffis Institute has 5 summer camp opportunities for students to experience STEM activities during the week. Each camp lasts 1 week (Monday-Friday) and costs $100 per week. Students can participate in individual weeks throughout the summer. More information can be found by visiting their website: http://www.griffissinstitute.org/who-we-work-with/afrl/stem/summer-programs. Some programs are already sold out of space so if you are interested, I would encourage you to sign up soon. 







Saturday, May 6, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week...

Every year, the first full week of May marks TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK across our country. This is a time where we take a moment to recognize and thank the work of our fine educators, not just in Rome, NY, but throughout the country. Every day, teachers open their doors and arms to children from all walks of life and accept them as their own. While many want to believe that teachers have a switch that they turn on and off at the beginning and ending of each day, we do not. Teaching is a 24/7//7 profession. Not a day goes by where we do not take our work home, thoughts home, concerns home, and achievements home. Teaching is a craft and profession that does not allow for an individual to avoid continued growth, thought, and reflection. Beyond just our classroom teachers, we need to recognize our entire community, as we are all teachers in some way, shape or form. Whether it be clerical, custodial, maintenance, driving, food service, coaching, or assisting; if you work in a school, you are teaching our kids. We all do this together for our children and that is what breeds success. Finally, I thank all our children's first teachers, the parents and family members. Having a foundation of learning at home is a tremendous benefit to our children and we thank our community, family members, and parents for partnering with us on this educational journey. Please take a moment this week to recognize your child's teacher(s) and on behalf of the entire District Administration, I thank our faculty for everything that they continue to do on a daily basis for the betterment of our schools, community, and lives of children!!

Award of Excellence


At the Section III meeting on May 3rd, Athletic Director Mike Stamboly accepted the Award of Excellence on behalf of the Rome City School District and Rome Free Academy. “It’s big congratulations to all of our student athletes, coaches, athletic program, and community on receiving this award of excellence. The award is presented annually to members’ schools of NYS Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) each year for exemplary display of sportsmanship, ethics, and integrity.  Schools that complete all three sport seasons without a player being ejected/disqualified get awarded this certificate. This is not an individual or team award,” said Athletic Director, Mike Stamboly. Congratulations to RFA and all of our student athletes and coaches for representing our school and community with integrity!!

Celebrate the Arts


On Wednesday, May 10, the Rome City School District Art and Music faculty will be presenting their annual evening of art and music. Celebrate the Arts is an evening showcase of our talented artists and musicians. By day, they educate our children; by night, they hone their craft. From 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. there will be an open gallery of artwork featuring the work of our outstanding art faculty in the Rome Free Academy main lobby. Beginning at 7:00 p.m., there will be a a formal recital featuring performances from our music faculty in the Rome Free Academy auditorium. It is sure to be an outstanding evening of the arts!!


Internet Safety Program


In partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Rome Police, the New York State Police, Bryant & Stratton College, and the City of Rome; the Rome City School District is proud to host: Internet Safety and Social Media: What All Parents Should Know. The event will take place on Tuesday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m. in the Rome Free Academy cafeteria. We expect the event to last roughly 45 minutes to an hour and it will address the following topics:
  • What are the most common websites, apps, or social media platforms that students are using? What is the general purpose of each app?
  • What are some of the issues students are experiencing when using and communicating through these technologies?
  • What are some of the misconceptions of communicating through these websites or apps.
  • Why should parents and students be concerned with their digital footprint?
  • What are some guidelines to keeping students safe online?

 Protect Your Child’s Digital Footprint for the Present and Their Future!


2017-2018 School Calendar Released


This past week, the Board of Education approved the 2017-2018 school calendar. You can find a copy of the calendar by clicking the link below.