Sunday, February 26, 2017

Time for the Grind...

It's hard to believe that the past week has felt more like mid-spring than mid-winter with the weather around Central New York, but it has! The only unfortunate part about it is that it was mid-winter recess which comes to end not only with the winter temperatures returning, but the school year entering what I refer to as The Grind. The next several weeks equate to the longest stretch of consecutive school weeks for the year and is historically when the most progress is made by students. Adults throughout education feel the pressure to take advantage of these consecutive weeks as we all know that after Spring break, the summer fever hits (and it doesn't just hit students sometimes). Following Spring break comes the AP exams, homestretch for scheduling, final exams, graduation stress, and honing the skills at the lower levels to make sure students are ready in the Fall. Also during these next weeks are the State assessments which are always at the center of controversy. I have made no secret that I encourage all parents to have their students participate in these assessments. The State has done a lot to adjust the tests and make them much more student centered and information rich. Our students are prepared to be successful, let's be the State leader in increased participation rate so our children can show everyone just what they are capable of!! The most important part of The Grind though is attendance. We all need to be here, as much as possible (staff and students). As I mentioned, the most growth in students can occur during the next several weeks, simply because of consistency, frequency, and perseverance. Encourage your children/students to be present so that they can reap the benefits of our talented staff. Together, we can survive The Grind. 

Kindergarten Registration 

Kindergarten registration for the 2017-2018 school year will be held this week, Monday, February 27th through Friday, March 3rd from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. All Kindergarten registrations (except the evening event) will take place at your child’s home school, which is determined by your address. For questions about which school your child will attend, please call Central Registrar Office at 338-6569. All Pre-Kindergarten registrations (both for 3 and 4 year olds) will take place at Clough Early Childhood Programs, 409 Bell Rd. (other side of district office bldg.) On Wednesday, March 1st, the district will be holding a late afternoon/evening registration event for all locations from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Clough School Early Childhood entrance, 409 Bell Road, Rome, NY. The following must be provided at the time of registration: Original Birth Certificate (Your child must be 5 on or before December 1, 2017 for Kindergarten, turning 4 on or before 12/1/17 for UPK-4 and turning 3 on or before 12/1/17 for UPK-3), record of current immunizations, and proof of residency (rent receipt or lease, recent National Grid or phone bill, etc.)



School Messenger Text Messages


For anyone that is interested in receiving text message updates from the school district, similar to receiving a phone call delays/closings, simply text the message 'Y' or "Yes" to 67587. The district continues to look for ways to minimize mailings and utilize digital technologies. We are hopeful that with the roll out of the new website later this year, we can be more interactive to provide information to the community in a timely fashion. More information about texting service is available on our website at www.romecsd.org.  



SMART Schools Bond Act


In the coming weeks, we will be re-holding a public hearing for the SMART Schools Bond application of the district. You may recall, last year the district developed a plan to utilize the grant money from the state ($6.2 million) to upgrade technology systems and implement a 1:1 computing program from grades 5-12. One concern with the previously approved Board plan was that the district was responsible for putting the money down to complete the project, then be reimbursed. This would've meant a $6.2 million purchase from this year's budget, which was not sustainable. Our new plan is to upgrade our technology infrastructure for roughly $1.5 million and then utilize the reimbursement to sustain the remaining upgrades over subsequent years. The goal is still the same, a 1:1 computing program for students in grades 5-12, just a different pathway to obtaining that goal. In order to move forward though, we will need to have a public hearing, comment period, and Board of Education approval. This process will begin in the next few weeks, please stay tuned.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Dream Continues...

As most of you know, February marks Black History Month in our country and this week is the perfect confluence to keep Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive. This week we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday (who also had a dream for our country that we continue to struggle to achieve), Valentine's Day which is meant to be about love, and Black History Month celebrations abound. I bring this up because there is subtle irony in these things since they all require one common thing to even be remotely possible; respect. All of the anger in our existence can be rectified with a simple showing of respect, which leads to kindness. For eons, humans have had conflict and disagreements, but it is the lack of respect that leads these conflicts to become violent. Disagreement is a normal life event; however, disagreement without respect leads to conflict, which leads to hate, which leads to violence. The unfortunate thing about all of this, is that history at times paints a picture that is not 100% factual and is based on the bias or favoritism of the individual sharing the history. The reality is, we are still struggling for equal rights for every human being in our country; black, white, brown, yellow, female, male, tall, short, special needs, or general education. The struggle is real and it will never end if we aren't willing to realize that equity does not mean equality. I don't profess to know the answers, nor do I think the solutions are simple. They also can't happen overnight. However, if we begin with a simple concept of respect for each other and understanding of the perspective with which each individual comes from. If, at the very least, there is a common respect for all individuals; our differences become less and less intense and violent. Solutions are bred out of respectful disagreements and it's our responsibility to make sure that the dream continues. 


RFA Athletics Round Up 

If you have been following our winter sports, you would know that all of our teams are experiencing success this winter. The girls bowling team took home a victory in the recent Tri-Valley League tournament and the boys bowlers also rolled to a winning season; boys swimming and diving competes in sectionals this week; the wrestling team takes a 6-2 team record into sectionals later this week; boys indoor track and field had a Section 3 champion with Ryan Swavely winning the 25 lb. weight throw; girls indoor track and field continues to impress with another Tri-Valley League championship, a Section 3 relay championship, and Tekitha Posey-Barry becoming the Section 3 champion in the 55 meter; the ice hockey team has earned their way to a home sectional game this Friday and a #2 seed in the tournament; and the boys basketball team has trounced their way to a 17-2 overall record and already sealed the Tri-Valley League Championship as they close their season this week to prepare for Sectionals. Congratulations to all of our student athletes and good luck throughout Sectional competitions. 



Redistricting


This past week, the Board of Education met as a committee of the whole to discuss the budget and redistricting. During the discussion, which was an extension of several other Board discussions, the Board has decided that they would like me to develop a solution to space concerns housed within our district. If you have been to any of our dialogue events, then you are aware of a few of the ideas that have been discussed and/or gone through my head. One of our goals is to have a plan before March 15 so there will be a presentation for the Board of Education at their regularly scheduled meeting on March 16. At that point, the Board will discuss what they are presented with and make a decision about what direction to go from there. 




Digital Learning Environments


On Monday, February 13, we are planning to host a partnership meeting with the Oriskany School District and Holland Patent School District to discuss what we can do to improve the digital learning environment and experience within our school districts. As has been a topic of recent budget conversations, how can we move away from the use of astronomical amounts of paper and outdated textbooks in our schools and move toward an environment that is more in line with what colleges and the professional market are utilizing. Online textbooks, research experiences, and activities are no longer a thing of the future; in fact they are becoming a thing of the past. The goal of our meeting is to see if the districts can develop a partnership together to benefit all students and reduce costs/waste in our communities.





Sunday, February 5, 2017

Time for Compliments...

This just happens to be one of those weeks where in the words of Peter Griffin, “Nothing is grinding my gears.” That is a good thing, right?! So, I am going to take this opportunity to compliment the fine employees of the Rome City School District. Our district is quickly moving in the way of PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports) which is a model that believes that complimenting and highlighting good behavior has better and more sustained effects on children than consequencing and highlighting negative behaviors. In honor of many of our schools moving this way, I want to publicly thank our staffs for everything that they do on a daily basis. On any given day and in any given building of our district you can find people from all walks of life and all specialties coming together in the best interest of kids. In August, I challenged our staff to become the district that every other district in New York State looks to as the standard and to change the negative perception that seems to cloud our community. As I've said and will repeat, it takes a while to turn around an aircraft carrier if you don't want to lose the contents on the deck. Change is tough and change is slow, but our staff is well on their way to making our goals a reality. By working together and promoting a "family" feel, they are on their way to being the pace-setters in our State. We have work to do and we won't back down from that work; but to see the smiles, enjoyment, and learning of our kids on a daily basis is simply amazing!! Today, I thank all of the employees who work every day to make our mission a reality and our goal attainable. Without all of you, our children would not have the opportunities that they do. As they say at RFA, "Knights Take Charge!" and that's exactly what our staff is doing!!


Strough Musical 

Looking for something to do this weekend? How about attending the Strough musical Singin' in the Rain at RFA!! The musical will run on Thursday, February 9; Friday, February 10; and Saturday, February 11 with all performances starting at 7:00 p.m. On Thursday only, there will be a family special admission price of $12 a family. All other performances will be $3 for students and $5 for adults. The students and staff have been working hard to make the magic happen and now it's almost time for curtain. Come on out and enjoy some great student talent!!




Committee of the Whole


The Board of Education has scheduled a meeting of the whole to be held this coming Thursday, February 9 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the District Office. The purpose of the additional meeting is to hold a finance committee meeting to discuss the 2017-2018 budget and to discuss which direction the district is going to go with regard to redistricting. The meeting will be broadcast via our website at www.romecsd.org as our regular Board meetings are usually broadcast.


SMART Schools Bond Update


You may recall that last school year the Board approved a plan called the SMART Schools Bond Act. This act provides the district with roughly $6.2 million in funding from the State to upgrade technology and/or pre-k facilities. The initial plan that was submitted to the State last year under the previous administration expended the entire $6.2 million in one shot and included a plan to implement 1:1 technologies for students in grades 5-12. One of the problems with that plan and the act is that the district has to front the money for the project and then be reimbursed by the State. Upon reviewing the plan, we withdrew to begin from scratch which allowed us to use various phases and change the plan to remove antiquated technologies from it. Currently, we are planning to move forward with the proposal and public presentation of phase 1, which will be an infrastructure upgrade throughout the district to handle more wireless devices at faster speeds. Once this phase is complete, the district will then use the reimbursement monies to fund the future phases of actually purchasing the student devices. This means instead of paying out $6.2 million of our money up front, we are expecting the budget impact to be roughly $2 million in the initial phase. In the end, we will still move toward improved classroom technologies for teachers and 1:1 devices for students. Stay tuned for the announcement of the exact date of the public hearing which is expected to occur in March or April of 2017.



RFA Auditorium Update


During the past several weeks, we have had multiple consultants in to review our concerns with the lighting system in the RFA auditorium. From electricians to theatre experts, we have narrowed down the issues and have been able to plan a course of action. Fortunately, it has been identified that there are no safety concerns in the room which is the most important aspect to rule out. Due to this, we are able to continue running events within the auditorium. While we have been able to get the system fully functioning, it has been determined that our light board has a mind of it’s own and will sometimes work and other times not. Replacing/repairing that is something we will take care of. The larger issue is that one of the three electrical racks (circuit breaker panel boxes for layman’s terms) appears to have a non- functioning module. This rack controls the house lights which means that the only way to turn them on and off is at the breaker. The good news is that we've been able to repair the fans that keep the breakers cool so they won’t trip. The bad news is that the module is roughly a $40,000 replacement. In the end, fortunately for us it is not the worst case scenario yet and it is safe to hold events and our students. I want to particularly thank our middle school and high school music staff for their patience and understanding as we sort all of this out. Their programs have been the most disrupted and they've been amazing at working through this together!!


Block 'R' Club Cereal Fundraiser


Just a reminder that from now until winter recess in February, the Block 'R' Club from RFA will be accepting donations of boxes of cereal at all athletic home games. This similar fundraiser in just a week's time last December brought in over 150 boxes of cereal for people in need over the holiday recess. In the coming weeks, please bring a box of cereal to home athletic contests in support of the Block 'R' Club.