Sunday, February 11, 2018

We Come Together...

I've mentioned many times before how impressive the Rome community can be as it relates to the amount of philanthropy, support, and care for people. Having been part of many different organizations and school districts throughout my career, it is always a pleasure to be involved with a group who can come together in the face of anything at the drop of a hat. Part of being a leader, and a leader of a large organization, is you rarely hear positive thoughts from anywhere; but field a ton of complaints and are always privy to negative news that affects the organization. Along with that comes the responsibility of delivering negative news quite frequently and this weekend was no exception. However, I have yet to have the experience of delivering negative news without the receiving party asking what they can do to help. It doesn't matter the context of the news or the location of the news, people all throughout our organization and community come together frequently to support each other. Regardless of the circumstance or who is involved, there is never a shortage of people willing to help in a time of need. As we keep down the road of improvement, I hope that we can get to the point where we come together all the time, not just in the face of adversity. Many people, including children, are facing adversity on a daily basis that is just not as obvious as when something tragic happens. We need to remember that everyone has a story and each person's individual story has positives and negatives. For children, the factors involved with building a story are much greater because they have very little direct influence of the major factors involved with their story. If we can constantly come together in the face of the adversities we know and see, let's improve our ability to come together in the face of adversities that we don't see. We are a team, we are a community. Let's keep growing to show that support for everyone. Let's come together at all times. 

American Heart Walk/Run

On Saturday, February 24th, from 8:00 am to 11:00 am, the American Heart Association will be hosting their 16th annual walk/run event at Rome Free Academy. The indoor walk also includes an outdoor run! Besides the walk/run, they will be holding a Heath Expo and several “Sydney’s Circle” events taking place in the gym. The American Heart Association has been very active in the Mohawk Valley and in Rome, providing support for many many people over the years. Let's get behind this fantastic cause and show our support. For more information or to register your team for the walk/run, please visit www.uticaheartrunwalk.org.  


RFA Travel Club


On Tuesday, February 13, the RFA Travel Club will be holding an informational session to gauge interest for their 2019 international trip to China. The meeting will be held in room 1310 at RFA beginning at 6:00 p.m. Students currently in grades 8 through 11 are welcome to attend, along with families and Rome staff. The Travel Club takes their international trip each year during the school break in April and more informational will be available at the meeting.

Mid-Winter Recess


Just a reminder that the week of February 19 through February 23 is the mid-winter recess and all schools will be closed for the week. Activities throughout the week will continue as scheduled in the buildings, usually these would be either athletic or music activities. Enjoy the week off everyone as we prepare for our longest stretch.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Powerful and Powerless...

Paulo Friere is one of the world's foremost social rights activist who made a career in South America attempting to liberate individuals who were perceived to be underprivileged and oppressed. His work is strongly and closely intertwined with the world of education because Friere firmly believed that fair and equitable education was the key to ending oppression throughout the world. The majority of his philosophy is steeped not in traditional civil rights mentality that many of us in America are used to, but more in the difference between those who have power and those that do not. His philosophy is about all of us having equal power through education, not through laws and regulation. In Friere's world, ignorance was the barrier that continued the cycle of oppression. Lack of knowledge and ignorance prevented his society and community from maximizing their potential. Traditional societies don't seek out knowledge nor care to learn however, they live on ignorance which becomes the downfall. Friere fought for decades to encourage learning and educational equality. How does this relate to education? A Friere quote: "Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not the transfer of information." American education has been nothing by the transfer of information. Our whole system is built to oppress students. Our children are powerless. The tide has shifted some over recent decades, but it's not where it needs to be. Adults throughout the country still speak down to children, push the buttons that they know will upset them, and make comments that can make students fearful of adults. Our job in education is not to fill heads with thoughts and information, our job is to make it possible for students to become themselves. Most importantly, education is not limited to those that work in schools. Education is the responsibility of a community. All adults need to be cognizant of language, how we treat children, the example we set for them by how we treat each other. After all, the children are our future. Education is the learning of behavior through experience. It's time to stop using our power to oppress our youth and time to use our power to empower our students to be themselves. 

Strough Musical

On Thursday, February 8, all Strough Middle School staff and students will be going to Rome Free Academy Auditorium to watch the Strough's Drama clubs performance of “My Son, Pinocchio Jr.”. The public performance for “My Son, Pinocchio Jr.” will be held at the Rome Free Academy auditorium on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, February 8, 9 and 10, starting at 7:00pm. Tickets will be sold at the door for $.5.00. Pre-sale tickets will be sold at Jervis Library in Rome for $4.00 until Friday, February 9th.  If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this event, please contact Strough Middle School.


RFA Travel Club


On Tuesday, February 13, the RFA Travel Club will be holding an informational session to gauge interest for their 2019 international trip to China. The meeting will be held in room 1310 at RFA beginning at 6:00 p.m. Students currently in grades 8 through 11 are welcome to attend, along with families and Rome staff. The Travel Club takes their international trip each year during the school break in April and more informational will be available at the meeting.

Athletic Roundup


With the winter athletic season winding down and heading into the post-season, our teams across the board are completing fantastic seasons. Both bowling teams roll into sectional competition this weekend as a force to be reckoned with and the girls' team is the undefeated TVL champions. Also undefeated and TVL champions is our boys' swim team as they enter sectional competition. Our girls volleyball and basketball teams continue to grow and show improvement with each contest as they approach the post season. The hockey team tore through the month of January with 6 straight victories and this young team is looking to do some damage in the post season. Both of the girls’ and boys’ track teams head to sectional competition as TVL Champions. Finally, speaking of victory streaks, the boys' basketball team has won 15 straight and continue to show their poise and commitment to each other with multiple overtime and late game wins. It's going to be a great postseason for RFA winter sports, good luck to all!!


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trend Du Jour...

One of the growing topics of conversation in the media lately has been the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers (commonly known as a vape) amongst youth and teens in our society. This is not a new topic as the onset of the devices occurred roughly a decade ago and they began to be used regularly by teenagers nearly 7 years ago now. Unfortunately, society at the time was not sure of the implications and the devices and substances used in them were loosely regulated, despite research that showed concerns relative to children using electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. Fast forward to today, the devices have been banned on school property through New York State law, there have been increased regulations about the age at which people can purchase or possess a vape (currently the age is 18), and the level of research has grown tremendously. As a parent, it is important to know that the syrups that are used in a vape do contain small amounts of nicotine, which causes the addictive nature of vaping. The industry was able to get around the listing of nicotine as an ingredient when the trend began because a.) they were not required to list the ingredients initially and b.) once regulated, the amount of nicotine in the syrup was so small that it was not required to be listed. Also, people have found ways to liquify marijuana and will lace the syrups with more hard core substances that could be more damaging for children. Finally, current research is showing that vaping has become the new gateway drug to cigarettes and other smokable drugs that are less healthy. While the choice of smoking or vaping is something that adults have the right to do, it is important to know that it is illegal for minors and highly unhealthy. Before allowing your children to venture into the world of vaping, I highly recommend that you take time to review the current research and literature about the outcomes and effects of the devices. More information can be found by visiting the sites below:


Strough Update

The Strough project has been the subject of much debate recently. I had the pleasure of visiting the sight this week to get a boots on the ground idea of where we stand. I can say that the amount of progress relative to my previous visit is simply tremendous. The roof is on, the new library is enclosed and studded, hallway tile is almost complete on all floors, flooring is going into rooms, cabinetry is being installed, ceiling grids are roughly 90% in with some ceiling tiles being installed, painting is complete throughout almost all three floors, and bathrooms are ready for fixtures. Our design team and clerk of the works have maintained that they are certain the project will be complete for the opening of the 2018-2019 school year, and based on what I have seen, I would have no reason to believe that we cannot complete the building this summer. As long as the job continues to be staffed appropriately by all of our contractors and the plan is organized and followed, our community will have an amazing middle school come August. Below are images of the hallway tile, a completed classroom, and the new library space with 1/4 of the space behind the picture. I will provide continued updates throughout the coming weeks. 


RFA Volleyball Dinner


On January 30th, the Rome Free Academy volleyball program is hosting a chicken riggie dinner fundraiser in conjunction with the girls’ basketball senior night. The dinner will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the RFA cafeteria. Tickets are $10 for dine in or take out. The public can reserve tickets through nnatishak@romecsd.org. Basketball senior night ceremony will begin at 6:45pm. Stop on by to enjoy a nice riggie dinner before cheering on the Lady Knights!

Griffiss Institute Internship


Griffiss Institute’s Summer Internship Program at the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, is currently accepting applications. The internship opportunity is a paid internship, and while it is geared toward students who are currently enrolled in an accredited college or university (freshman through PhD level), high school students can gain entrance if the application is strong enough. The majority of students selected will be majoring in technical fields, however some other fields (accounting, finance, marketing, etc.) may also be selected. The application deadline is January 31, 2018 and more information can be found by visiting https://www.griffissinstitute.org

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Open Up Narrow...

As I was listening to some good tunes this week, a jazz classic from trumpet legend Bill Chase came on the playlist: Open Up Wide. Chase was fusion jazz trumpet player who led a small group of trumpets with a rhythm section. Those that don't appreciate trumpet players playing sounds that are into the stratosphere may classify his music as cats being swung by their tails. Regardless, the title of the tune made me reflect on some conversations I've had recently about the direction of the education profession as a whole. Education is the one profession where literally every person in a community has some experience with. Educational professionals are frequently questioned about whether or not they know what they are doing by a community because every member of the community has been in a school. We don't often question the dentist about their plans if we have no experience with dentistry. Or our personal trainer, mechanic, contractor, lawyer, etc. We listen to their judgement because they are the professional. Not in education, everything is second guessed because everyone else knows better. Another issue facing education is the drastic change in demographics and needs for future job skills. Did you know that major engineering colleges are already removing mathematics from their curricular requirements citing that engineers don't need to know how to do math, they only need to be able to understand the concept behind the math. That will have significant implications on public education down the road. Regarding demographics, our children from all walks of life are coming to school with needs that many educational professionals have not experienced in their lifetime. This makes it challenging to understand and relate to these needs, but we have to find a way. The age old saying, "it worked for me when I was a student" or "that's the expectation I have for my own kids" simply isn't relatable in today's world. The types of issues that our own children may face when not in school most likely are not the same issues that our students are facing when they leave school. And how about that comment, "it worked for me.."; I would ask: Did you ever have to come to school hungry? Did you ever have to wear the same clothes 3 days in a row? Did you ever fail a test? Did you ever not have time to do your homework? I could go on and on and I would imagine that 97% of educational professionals throughout the country would answer every question with, "NO." The world has changed. Society has changed. Education has not. We are as narrow minded as ever and if those of us that are charged with providing a future for our children and society don't open up our minds... in a wide way... our children have lost. It's time to worry more about getting to know kids and what makes them tick, than to worry about teaching the x's and o's. It's time to open up the narrow mind.


RFA Regents Week

Rome Free Academy will be having Regents Exams Monday January 22-Thursday January 25th. If students are not scheduled to take exams they do not have to attend school those days as regular classes will not be in session at RFA. RFA BOCES students will have morning and afternoon transportation to attend their respective programs Monday January 22-Thursday January 25th as their classes are still in session. For more information, including the exam schedule and transportation schedule, please visit http://www.rfa.romecsd.org/ or contact an RFA administrator.


Evening of Arts


Our annual Celebrate the Arts event will take place on Friday, January 26, in the large cafeteria at Rome Free Academy. The art gallery, with work created by our art faculty, and appetizers will take place from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Following that, a concert featuring the talents of our music faculty will occur from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. There is no admission fee for this event, however donations are welcome and will go toward funding a scholarship for one Rome music student and one Rome art student who plane to continue their education in the field. The more money raised, the more that goes to the students! The Rome City School District is the only local district who does an event featuring their faculty like this! Please join us for this unique event and SPREAD THE WORD!

RFA Volleyball Dinner


On January 30th, the Rome Free Academy volleyball program is hosting a chicken riggie dinner fundraiser in conjunction with the girls’ basketball senior night. The dinner will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the RFA cafeteria. Tickets are $10 for dine in or take out. The public can reserve tickets through nnatishak@romecsd.org. Basketball senior night ceremony will begin at 6:45pm. Stop on by to enjoy a nice riggie dinner before cheering on the Lady Knights!

Griffiss Institute Internship


Griffiss Institute’s Summer Internship Program at the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, is currently accepting applications. The internship opportunity is a paid internship, and while it is geared toward students who are currently enrolled in an accredited college or university (freshman through PhD level), high school students can gain entrance if the application is strong enough. The majority of students selected will be majoring in technical fields, however some other fields (accounting, finance, marketing, etc.) may also be selected. The application deadline is January 31, 2018 and more information can be found by visiting https://www.griffissinstitute.org


Monday, January 15, 2018

Seventy Years Later...

It's hard to believe that the civil rights movement, led by Dr. King, began roughly 70 years ago. I say this because we seem to be still striving for the same things that he once advocated for. In fact, in some regards, we may have regressed as a society in recent years. The concept of equal rights has been around for centuries and in today's era is most commonly referred to a social justice. While rights are something that are bestowed upon an individual, that doesn't simply mean that all things are equal. Social justice is the concept by which the equality of rights are being exercised consistently across all groups of people. While rights can be equal on paper, our society still does not unilaterally view people as equal. It's up to society, made up of human beings from all walks of life, to ensure that all humans are considered valuable. It shouldn't take catastrophic events for communities to come together and support each other, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Last week, one of the world's all time great football coaches, Nick Saban, won his sixth college football national championship. His philosophy is simple and is also the reason he struggled in the professional ranks. As an NFL head coach, he once said in a press conference, "I don't care about winning and losing, I care about doing things right." If you take a step back and think about those words, it's a simple concept. If everyone in a society or organization simply did what was right and expected of them all of the time; the society or organization would be wildly successful. Hence, Alabama football. In 2018, the message is the same as it was seventy years ago as Dr. Martin Luther King attempted to get us all to understand. More importantly, the message is simple. JUST DO WHAT'S RIGHT. If every one of us were to value life, humans, and society... we would finally have turned the corner down the correct path of social justice... just seventy years later.

Lost and Found

As I walk through our elementary schools, the piles and piles of clothes, jackets, shoes, hats, gloves, etc. are growing exponentially. This is the time of year where everyone's lost and found tables/piles seem to become uncontrollable. Each year, schools end up with bags full of clothing that is left behind throughout the year. Please take time to review your child's belongings each day and if you notice that they did not come home with something that they went to school with, please contact the school and have the student check the lost and found. With amount of changing and layers that kids come to school with in the winter, it's understandable that little ones often forget something. Another tactic would be to use a permanent marker to write your child's name inside all clothing items, so that if something does get lost, we can return it without having to wonder who it belongs to. Winter clothing is important, but also can be costly; we want to help to make sure that our families and students are not losing much needed items and/or spending additional money on items if we can locate them.

Thank You Key Bank/YMCA


Thank you to Key Bank, who has donated $15,000 to fund the Strategic Teen Enrichment Program (STEP) for Rome City School District 7th and 8th graders at the YMCA of Rome. The grant will also be used to bring outside agencies to the YMCA to present specific subject matters that will help the students with important things they will encounter as they get older. Some programs will include: Job readiness, money matters, addiction, relationships, real estate, whether it’s a house or shopping for an apartment, and careers and college readiness discussed by instructors from MVCC. The STEP program is a successful and established partnership with the YMCA for RFA students, and we are beyond excited to be able to offer the same experience for our middle school students. Thank you!!


Evening of Arts


Our annual Celebrate the Arts event will take place on Friday, January 26, in the large cafeteria at Rome Free Academy. The art gallery, with work created by our art faculty, and appetizers will take place from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Following that, a concert featuring the talents of our music faculty will occur from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. There is no admission fee for this event, however donations are welcome and will go toward funding a scholarship for one Rome music student and one Rome art student who plane to continue their education in the field. The more money raised, the more that goes to the students! The Rome City School District is the only local district who does an event featuring their faculty like this! Please join us for this unique event and SPREAD THE WORD!

Community Concert Opportunity


The Clinton Symphony Orchestra of the Mohawk Valley will be hosting a concert on Sunday, January 21, 2018. They will be featuring guest artist David Kim, who will make their Steinway piano come alive while performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20. Also on the program will be Tchaikowsky's Symphony No. 6. There will be a special pre-concert program scheduled for 1:30 p.m. with the concert beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and a grant has been secured by the organization to allow students to attend as guests. Enjoy an afternoon of music at their amazing theatre! The concert will be performed at the Clinton Central School Performing Arts Complex and for questions, please call 315-404-2016.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

'K'-Coins Abound...

No, I am not blogging about my new attempt at an internet sensation to replace the bitcoin. Actually, a 'K'-coin is an initiative started by the RFA PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Support) team several years ago as a method to provide students and staff with compliments. PBIS is a program that we have adopted in the Rome City Schools that works to compliment people and recognize positive behaviors, rather than the traditional method of noticing negative behaviors in schools. The 'K' stands for Knight and individuals at the high school are awarded with the 'K'-coin randomly by either staff members or fellow students. The entire PBIS program has been very successful throughout our region and it can be monumental in shifting the needle from negatively treating each other, to seeing the positive in everything. With this blog, I want to send out my own 'K'-coin kudos to our entire district. The past week (and through this weekend with the cold) has been an extreme challenge on our buildings and grounds department. Our custodians and maintenance staff have worked tirelessly to keep snow and ice clear of our lots and walkways, while others have worked to ensure that our boilers are functioning through the extreme cold. Our staff has done a wonderful job and maintaining focus on learning and students as we are faced with the constant uncertainty of winter. The clerical staff always deserves a tremendous K-coin for always being our front line and taking many negative calls throughout the days. It is challenging to remain positive day after day when people feel that they have a privilege to be able to curse at our clerical staff and call them names. Finally, our students deserve a some 'K'-coins for through all the potential negative that can exist out there (especially on social media), for answering the call to rise above negativity and learn to utilize social media in a positive light. Winter is not an easy time of year for public schools because we are always under scrutiny by people that think that have a small clue about the reality of public schools, but our organization is off to a great start this winter. Thank you everyone for remaining focused on the goal of making Rome the best school district in New York and off of the distractions. 'K'-coins for all!!

Strough Art Show


Strough Middle School is currently holding an art show at the Rome MVCC campus. The show opened this past week on January 4 and will close on Wednesday, January 17. The student art work is on display in the Plumley Complex commons area. The staff are excited to share the work of our students with the community and I encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to walk through the art show and enjoy the great work of your young artists!


CFLR Partnership


The Rome City School District is pleased to have been able to develop a partnership this year with the Center for Family, Life, and Recovery (CFLR). CFLR is a local organization that provides many benefits to families and children throughout our community who struggle with a myriad of potential life altering concerns. Their specialties span from social emotional concerns, mental health, to substance abuse and addiction. Our school district currently has an individual available to work with students and families that may be experiencing some challenges related to these things. If you feel that your student may benefit from speaking with a professional in this area, please contact Amanda Jones (Director of Counseling Services) at the District Office for more information.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Welcome 2018...

The ringing in of the New Year always brings a sense of newfound hope, energy, and optimism for many throughout the country and the world. Turning over the calendar is a nice symbolic way to close a chapter and begin anew. A year is made up of 365 days and today brings with it the first opportunity to make 2018 a better year than the previous one. In fact, we all have 365 opportunities to make 2018 special. It would certainly be nice if a simple changing of the calendar and a new number at the end of the year would be enough to make the world a better place. If only it were that simple to create a different outcome or scenario. Unfortunately, for many people in our community and country, real world problems are a fact of daily life and simply changing a date can't take away the concern, fear, and uncertainty that they face. While there isn't much that many others can do either, we can continue our work of treating each other with respect, dignity, and honor. We've all heard the phrase that you never know what someone is dealing with until you've walked a day in their lives. Our society in general has become one of pessimism and negativity where individuals feel that lashing out and putting others down is acceptable and appropriate. The unfortunate outcome of these actions is often unseen by those issuing the verbal attack, as they generally have no comprehension of the reality in which others live. This is something that does not have to be the norm if we all take a moment to think before we act and care more for others than we do ourselves. It's an age old concept that can lead to tremendous growth. As we enter 2018, I look forward to the challenge of continuing our work to make Rome the most prestigious location for education in New York State. The challenge is great, the road is long, but our children deserve innovation and opportunity. Let's contribute to the opportunity by setting the example of how to treat each other in 2018. Our children are counting on us in 2018, are you going to welcome the challenge? 


RFA Scholar Athletes

Each athletic season, Section 3 Athletics recognizes student athletes and teams that achieve either a combined 90% academic average as a team, or 90% academic average as an individual. This fall, Rome Free Academy had 110 student athletes from 12 teams achieve the status of scholar athlete. Along with this honor, our Girls' gymnastics, soccer, cross country, swimming/diving, and tennis teams all received the scholar team award. On the Boys' side, our soccer and cross country teams were honored with scholar team award. Congratulations to all of the athletes who represent our school and community. Keep up the great work!! 


RFA Cabaret


On Saturday, January 6, 2018, the RFA music department will be hosting their annual student and alumni cabaret. The Cabaret is an annual event that brings together the current music students of Rome, with alumni from all walks of life. The concert will be held in the RFA auditorium and will begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information about this event, please contact the RFA main office.




RCSD App Now Available


Dove tailing with our website redesign this past summer, our technology team has also developed our first mobile application. Available through Apple's App Store or through Android's Google Play Store, you can download the app to your device and customize as you prefer. Some basic features include allowing you to set the app for your child's school to receive messages/information about that school only. Simply search for Rome City School District in the store and you will find our app with the District logo.