Sunday, December 18, 2016

Happy Holidays...

It's hard to believe that we are already 4 months through the 2016-2017 school year!! It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting in a full auditorium at RFA and welcoming the staff back to school for the year. I can remember all of our munchkins coming to school on opening day as well, as if it were yesterday. During these 4 months, we have had many ups and downs, but through it all we have continued to remain focused on our goal. Thanks to the support of our community, we have begun the work of developing collaborative relationships to move the ship in a new direction. At times, patience has worn thin and stress has overcome the process... but we move forward. I hope that everyone in our community has an opportunity over the coming 2 weeks to enjoy some family time, reflect on the past in hopes to create a better future, relax and recharge, and most importantly have some fun and create memories that will last a lifetime!! I am very thankful for the large family that I have inherited and I wish all of you the most wonderful holiday season and the hap hap happiest New Year since Bing Crosby danced with Danny Kaye (this is a PG blog gang)!!! Be well everyone and I will see you in 2017!!

Thank You Staff and Students 

I would like to take a brief minute to thank all of the students of the Rome City School District, as well as our amazing staff!! This year to date has brought with it many changes to some basic operations and expectations; but our students and staff are handling them well and truly working to understand a new vision and direction, despite differences of opinion at times. Our high school students have managed increased expectations exceptionally well and the time for rewarding that behavior is coming. Teachers, administrators, and staff all throughout the district have been adjusting to new expectations since August and continue to perform their duties beyond expectation. I truly appreciate all of the effort put forth by our staff and especially our students to date. After all, they are the fuel that makes the Rome City School District what it is. Thank you all and have a wonderful holiday season!!

School Messenger - Texting

We have noticed in recent weeks that many of our families are not utilizing the text message feature of our automated school messenger system. Unlike the email and phone call portion of the system, the texting feature is something that you need to actual subscribe to through a text message to the system. Since texting has become one of the quickest and most widely used methods of communication in our society today, we are going to work on increasing our participation with this tool. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for information related how to subscribe to this service as it can be one of the most valuable tools we have.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A 900% Increase...

My blog this week is not a philosophical thought, rather an attempt to inform our community about a reality and a concern for our youth. What has increased by 900% recently you ask? E-cigarette use among high schoolers has increased 900% in the past 4 years. This past week, the Wall Street Journal and many other major media outlets of reputation have released articles in relation to the surgeon general's most recent comments. One of the most alarming things about these devices is that people still do not realize that they contain nicotine. Our children are become more and more addicted to nicotine through the electronic cigarette than our older generations ever were to the traditional cigarette. I strongly urge our parents to do some more homework on the e-cigarette prior to thinking that it is a safe alternative for anything. The e-cig has become the gateway drug to more serious things, has shown to stunt brain growth in teenagers, and falsely advertises their product on most occasions. Research is showing that 4-times more teenagers are using e-cigarettes than other forms of tobacco products and on average 40% of high schoolers have at least tried smoking them. Of greater concern that isn't discussed as much about e-cigs is that sellers are constantly finding ways to 'lace' the syrups with other products that are much more addictive, altering, and dangerous than nicotine. The Wall Street Journal article can be found here: I urge you to take a moment to do some reading to learn more about the most significant health concern facing our youngsters in our society today.

2016 Fall Scholar Athletic Teams 

The NYSPHSAA has released the list of scholar athletes and teams for the Fall 2016 season. Our Scholar Teams for the Fall 2016 season include: Girls Varsity Field Hockey coached by Mackenzie Williams, Girls Varsity Cross Country coached by Matt Downs, Boys Varsity Cross Country coached by Ty Knamm, Girls Varsity Soccer coached by Bill Tagliaferri, and Girls Varsity Tennis coached by Karen Gaesser. In total, across all sports, we had 107 students achieve the Scholar Athlete distinction. Team awards are given to teams that have 75% of the roster achieving a GPA of 90 or better. 

Rome Rescue Mission

'Tis the season for giving and the Rome Rescue Mission is currently conducting their holiday collection drive. As with every community, ours is no different in terms of wanting to help those in need. Below is their flier and I encourage you to join with our schools to help those in need this season. Every school, as in years past, continues to develop service projects geared toward helping others and building a sense of community. On behalf of the schools, our students, and our staff; thank you for your support of our community!!

Safe Schools Positions

Safe Schools Mohawk Valley (formerly Utica Safe Schools) is looking for After-School Program staff to work with school- aged students (grades K-8) at Bellamy Elementary in Rome and Strough Middle School in Rome. The positions are 15 hours a week during the afternoons from 3:00-6:00PM or 2:00-5:00PM, depending on location. You MUST be available to work those hours; reliable transportation a must. Posting will remain open until all positions are filled (14 positions available). Rate of pay $10/hr. Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check per New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

Job responsibilities include:
- Responsible for safety and supervision of a group of 10-15 youth.
- Work with supervisor in planning and implementation of programming.
- Assist students in homework, escort students to clubs and groups.
- Facilitate group activities.
- Complete required paperwork and training.

Skills / Requirements:
- Must be 18 years of age or older.
- High school diploma or equivalent required.
- Previous experience with diverse populations a plus.
- Experience working with and supervising children (does not need to be formal).

- Skills that can be brought to the program a plus (dance, art, music, etc)

If you are interested, please email cover letter and resume to
Employment application can be downloaded at

RFA Travel Club Breakfast With Santa

It's official!! The RFA Travel Club will be hosting their 2nd annual Pancake Breakfast With Santa. The event will be on Saturday, December 17th from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in RFA's cafeteria. The cost is $6 per person with kids 5 years old or younger being free. Tickets can be bought from travel club members before the event or at the door. For more information, please contact the RFA travel club at 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Knowing The Role...

One of the most challenging elements of any organization is getting everyone involved to understand their role, understand how their role relates to the organizational structure/mission, and how to work within their role to affect positive change. The other week, I had the privilege to visit the BNY Mellon facility in Oriskany and was immediately impressed by the organization and their employees. It was an environment where all parties were working together and people were able to work within their comfort zone, making the entire organization much more effective. Schools historically have struggled with this concept because quite frankly, every individual in our society has spent time in a school in some way shape or form. We all think that we are the experts because we've been there. Think about other walks of life for a moment. We may get a second opinion from a doctor or an attorney, but generally we don't challenge their opinions and professional diagnosis. When we are at the store and don't get the sale we wanted or they are out of something we wanted to buy, we don't immediately threaten to sue them because we think we are entitled to something, in an attempt to invoke fear. Those are not common place responses/actions in our general society, however they happen more times in one day with schools than they do in other factions of society in an entire year. What's the point of my message? It's time to start trusting our PROFESSIONALS when it comes to schools as well. We all need to remember our role and start working together, instead of constantly assuming hidden agendas and the worst. I admit that sometimes our hunches are correct and questioning is good. However, it's the manner in which things are conducted. We can work together as a school organization and as a community at large to make things better, instead of constantly pointing fingers. By knowing our role and more importantly, understanding how we can affect positive change within our organization, we can accomplish anything. I urge you to please reflect on how you fit within our school structure and what you can do to work toward improving things for CHILDREN; not to improve for us our ourselves.

Winter Concert Season 

'Tis the season for concert after concert!! Our Winter Concert schedule can be found at the following website: ROME WINTER CONCERTS . You can also contact any of our schools to learn more about their concerts, including which groups are performing when and where. As always, we appreciate all of the support that our students in the music program receive from the community throughout the year!!

RFA Travel Club Breakfast With Santa

It's official!! The RFA Travel Club will be hosting their 2nd annual Pancake Breakfast With Santa. The event will be on Saturday, December 17th from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in RFA's cafeteria. The cost is $6 per person with kids 5 years old or younger being free. Tickets can be bought from travel club members before the event or at the door. For more information, please contact the RFA travel club at 

Dialogue Events Continue

Over the past few weeks, I have been hosting dialogue events in our schools to help provide the community with information that they may seek. This coming week, we will be at Denti on Monday and Joy on Wednesday. While these are the schools that I will be speaking at, any event is open to the entire community and the dialogue is not meant to be school specific. So, if you've missed a chance at your home school and really have some questions you would like to ask, please come by another location. For a full listing of dialogue events, please visit

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black Friday Free For All...

'Tis the season where you can go to the store to do some fun shopping and enjoy some time away from the house and end up leaving the store wondering what in the world has happened to our society? I know Black Friday has become a national event where we can literally save hundreds and thousands of dollars shopping. But, it has also become an event where many people seem to think that all rules of human decency don't apply anymore. I for one enjoy being in the mall and shopping on Black Friday but I found myself asking what people are thinking in our world today. On a minor level, people leave food waste, empty drink containers, and other trash wherever they want. What ever happened to a trash bin, which by the way is only a few 50 feet away? On a major level, people are being shot over parking spaces, trampled because of coupon give aways, and fighting over television sales. Is this really what the season is all about? More specifically, is this what mankind has really become in America? I'd like to think that with all of the growth and questioning we have done as a society over the past 50 years that there is still some room for good old fashioned manners and chivalry. After all, the root definition of 'chivalry' dates back to medieval knighthood and we are the Black Knights. So, this holiday season, please remember that the spirit of the holidays (and everyday) is about helping others and patience. Our society was built on kindness and under the pretenses that we help each other to succeed. For once let's not think about "I or me" and instead think about "You or we." Our whole society will be better for it. Happy Holidays everyone!!

Redistricting Presentation 

On Tuesday, November 29th at 6:00 p.m., the Board of Education will be provided with a public presentation by Castallo & Silky Educational Consultants discussing possibilities for redistricting. After discussing the topic internally and with colleagues throughout the state, we feel it is best to look at long range solutions that can prevent us from having to re-draw residence boundaries every year. The flexible zoning method does provide temporary relief, however over the course of time can lead to compounded problems. We are hoping that by doing a true study that is geared toward sustainability that we can develop a redistricting plan that works for everyone and for the long term. The presentation will be occurring at RFA in the library on the evening of November 29th.

Boys & Girls Choir of Harlem

The YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley is presenting the Boys & Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble on Friday, December 16th at 7:00 p.m. at RFA. The choir will also be performing for some of our students during the day. If you are interested in attending to enjoy some holiday cheer, tickets are on sale at and cost $20 each.

Winter Sports Season

Now that we have gotten past the Thanksgiving holiday and are headed for December, the winter sports season is in full swing. Already the boys ice hockey team has competed in a tournament and our other teams will begin their competitive schedule this week. You can view a full schedule of all athletic events HERE if you wish to attend this season. Our student athletes dedicate a lot of time and effort to representing our community well, the least we can do is get behind them and attend some of these events. Good luck to our winter teams and athletes!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Time for Thanks...

This is the week of the year where most Americans enjoy a short week of school/work, some food with their family and friends, maybe some shopping, and hopefully remembering what it's all about. This is the week where we are thankful for everything that we have as individuals and as a community. I'm sure that we have all had our struggles this past year, but through it all, there is much to be thankful for. On a weekly basis I find myself involved in putting out fires between someone on the school staff and someone in the community. Often times, when playing referee, I realize that both sides of the equation are actually right and justified for the feelings and thoughts. The problems arise when people overreact and make a situation worse because they didn't want to listen to the other side. Far too often, people become defensive immediately when trying to solve a problem together instead of truly taking the time to hear each other out. I believe that we would find far more often that we are seeing eye to eye. So, during this week of thanks; I am thankful that I work in a community that cares about education. I am thankful that the teachers, staff, students, parents, and community care about education enough that they aren't afraid to try and make the system better. I truly believe that through listening to each other and working together, we can achieve great things. I wish you all well during this Thanksgiving week and I hope this finds you and your's safe, healthy, and happy to begin this holiday season!! 

Redistricting Presentation 

On Tuesday, November 29th at 6:00 p.m., the Board of Education will be provided with a public presentation by Castallo & Silky Educational Consultants discussing possibilities for redistricting. After discussing the topic internally and with colleagues throughout the state, we feel it is best to look at long range solutions that can prevent us from having to re-draw residence boundaries every year. The flexible zoning method does provide temporary relief, however over the course of time can lead to compounded problems. We are hoping that by doing a true study that is geared toward sustainability that we can develop a redistricting plan that works for everyone and for the long term. The presentation will be occurring at RFA in the library on the evening of November 29th.

Boys & Girls Choir of Harlem

The YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley is presenting the Boys & Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble on Friday, December 16th at 7:00 p.m. at RFA. The choir will also be performing for some of our students during the day. If you are interested in attending to enjoy some holiday cheer, tickets are on sale at and cost $20 each.

Genesis Awards

The Genesis Group of the Mohawk Valley honors various educators and programs each year through their Annual Celebration of Education. This year, 2 Rome educators were honored by the Genesis group for their contributions and commitment to the field of education and Rome City Schools. Both Mr. Leonard Gratch and Colonel Ken Field have been recognized this year by the Genesis Group as distinguished educators. Congratulations to both individuals and thank you for all of your service to the students and community in Rome!!

RFA PBIS Spirit-wear

The RFA Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team is currently running a spirit-wear to help raise funds to offer rewards to students who are creating a positive atmosphere at RFA. Gear, included decals, drink containers, bags, and more; can be purchased through PBIS is a program that requires a teacher a vote prior to implementing the system in a school and RFA is one of few high schools around the region to have a successful program. The staff and students work very hard to improve their school climate and every little show of support is always welcomed.

3-8 State Testing

This past week, Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia have announced that the state will maintain current grade 3-8 testing protocols for the spring 2017 exams. They left the door open to changes in 2018. The announcement means three-day testing periods will remain in place for each of the math and English language arts exams and the exams will continue to reflect changes introduced for the 2016 tests, which were untimed and included fewer questions. Initially, a different plan was presented. On Monday, the first of two days of November Regents meetings, state officials announced that the exams would remain the same through spring 2018. On Tuesday, Rosa read a statement saying the six-day testing period would remain in place for 2017 but the commissioner and the board would be "absolutely open" to changes in 2018.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fail It Forward...

One of education's most feared words is FAIL. Think back about going to school and what the fear of that word did to your academic performance, or being told that word. How did it make you feel? How often were we told by our teachers it's okay to fail because true learning occurs when we make mistakes and someone shows us where we went wrong and how to fix it? I would venture to say that not many of us were taught that failing is a method to growing when we were kids. I know I wasn't. Fast forward to today and I can think of countless skills that I have learned simply from trying to achieve something that I knew nothing about, but the power of trial and error has taught me so much. Everything from opening and closing a pool, electrical work, cooking, flooring, and tying a bow tie. Trial and error teaches us so much more than a skill though, it teaches patience. In the end, almost everyone is successful because they don't give up. That perseverance is because we aren't afraid to make a mistake as adults. Sure things may take longer than we want, but the outcome is gratifying because we not only accomplish a task, but we have learned along the way. That's all our children want in life/school, to learn. This is all part of shifting the mindset in education. Instead of using the word 'fail' to portray an act of defeat, we need to use the word as a positive chance for our kids. Failing is an opportunity for learning and growth. After all, learning is not a finite task or a tangible thing. It is an ongoing pursuit of knowledge that best occurs when we make a mistake and can understand that mistake. We owe it to our students to Fail It Forward and help them understand that failure is nothing more than an opportunity. 

Early Childhood Grant 

For those that have not heard yet, the Rome City School District was awarded an Early Childhood grant in the amount of $1,147,527 by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past week. This award is the second largest grant provided in the State for this program. The funding will be utilized within this school year and must be used to begin a 3-year old program here in Rome. Having the opportunity to provide pre-school service to our 3-year olds will only benefit the district and community in the long run. I would like to thank our Director of Early Childhood, Nancy Kristl, for all of her effort and dedication to preparing this grant and getting it submitted. It was her vision that resulted in our youngest learners having this opportunity. While there are still many details to be worked out with regard to where the programs will be housed, it is expected that we should start seeing programs begin before February 2017. 

Centennial Partnership Award

This week, our Art Department was awarded a Centennial Partnership Award for their efforts in building strong community partnerships and involvement with the National Parks Service Centennial and 40th Anniversary of Fort Stanwix last summer. The visual art teachers of the Rome City School District are constantly going above and beyond the call to both provide a quality experience for our students, but also to help them learn about the power and appreciation of art. Frequently throughout the year, you can find our students' artwork on display throughout the city as our teachers are always looking for ways to partner with the community and community organizations to promote our student work. Thank you to our art teachers and the National Parks Service for making this award possible. Congratulations artists!!

Lead in School Drinking Water Testing

We have completed all of the testing on our buildings throughout the district and are awaiting the results. To date, we have only received the results of the testing conducted at Stokes Elementary School. Of the 72 samples taken, only 2 locations in the building came back as non-compliant with the State requirements. As the results from our other buildings become available, we will be notifying families by letter and on our website as to the results of the tests. The test results can be found at for anyone that wants to follow all of the district buildings. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thank You Veterans...

The end of this week marks the official designation for 'Veteran's Day'. A day when we pay tribute to all of the men and women who have served our country over the years. Our community, and school community, has several military veterans who dedicated a portion of their life to protecting the rest of us. Whether it be in times of combat, or in times of so-called peace, these individuals have made sure that the rest of us can live a life that is free of worry from attack on our home soil. When you are in the military, there is no time of peace as you are constantly working to prevent those throughout the world that wish to do harm from actually doing it. It's safe to say that almost everyone probably knows someone who served in our nation's military, if not had a family member serve. Personally, I still enjoy reading my grandfather's field journal from France and Germany from World War II. Take time to thank these individuals and more importantly, learn their story. Our history and their dedication are both things that we need to cherish. So this week, when the rest of us civilians have a day off from school becuase of the courage and bravery of our veteran's, please take the time to simply say "thank you." It is the least that we can do for all that you have done for us. On behalf of the Rome City School District, thank you to all of the veterans on our staff and in our community. We appreciate you and Happy Veteran's Day!!

New SchoolTool App 

This week, the Rome City School District has been able to confirm the successful release of the SchoolTool application for your smart phone. The application is not directly connected to the Rome City School District, but you can connect with our platfrom by simply logging into the app. Having used SchoolTool for almost a decade myself, the app is much more user friendly and powerful than the web based version on the phone. To download the app, simply visit the iTunes App Store (iOS devices) or the Google Play Store (android devices) and download the SchoolTool app. Once downloaded, the login screen will ask for your district's URL which is: From there, you simply enter your normal username and password. The app provides you with an option to remember this information so you never have to do it again. It is a very powerful tool for on-the-go people and staff/parents alike. I highly recommend it!!

Kiwanis Craft Show at RFA

This coming weekend, the Lake Delta Kiwanis Club will be hosting their annual craft show at RFA on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Among the highlights of the craft show is that the Rome Police Department will be on-site to provide families and the community the opportunity to participate in a free Child Identification Program. The craft show is open to the public and is always an enjoyable community event. Please support our local chapter of the Kiwanis, they provide many opportunities to our students throughout the school year.

School Closings

It is unfortunately that time of year where we have to begin talking about potential school closings due to weather. In the event of an emergency closing, parent/guardians and students are notified by means of announcements on local radio, television stations, automated phone calling system, social media (Facebook and Twitter) and the District website. The decision to close is based upon several criteria – wind speed in combination with temperature, present and predicted precipitation, and overall road conditions. Also, keep in mind that the Rome City School District is 72 square miles and overall road conditions might not be the same in one part of the district as in other areas.

Announcement of school/closings are made through the news media and automated phone calling system, generally beginning at 6:00 a.m. In some instances, it may be necessary to make announcements as late as 6:30 a.m. Since decisions on closing have to be made very early in the morning and weather conditions sometimes change drastically before students actually begin traveling to school, the ultimate decision on safety of travel conditions for students rests with the parents/guardian.
Delays, cancellations and early dismissals are all announced on the following stations, The Rome City School District Facebook page and Twitter:
TV: Ch. 2, 3, 9, 10, 11     
FM: WLZW-98.7; WFRG-104.3; WBGK-99.7/101.1; WMCR; WKRL-100.9;
WOUR-96.9; WSKS-97.9; WODZ-96.1; WZUN-102.1; WUMX - Mix 102.5
AM: WIBX-950; WMCR - WFBL 1600

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Trick or Treat...

This is one of those weeks where there isn't a whole lot grinding my gears... that makes writing a blog every week challenging! With the Halloween holiday upon us, it's hard to believe that we are facing November and the winter athletic season. Last week, our leadership team met to discuss snow watch and the process for canceling/delaying snow due to weather. It's hard to believe that we are already at that point in the year. As the first marking period comes to a close in our schools, please take the time to chat with your student about their year thus far. Ask about what is going well and what their challenges have been. Knowing kids, most children won't want to talk much about it, but we need to keep extending that branch. If not for anything else, it shows that we care. During my visits to our buildings, I have had many opportunities to see our kids engaged in fantastic learning experiences and I have seen our staff members working together to create the best possible experience for our students. All of this combined has led for a year filled with more treats than tricks. I hope you all enjoy Halloween this year! Dress up, have fun, and be safe. And as we move into the winter, lets keep the treats coming as we continue to strive for the best!!

Strough Middle School Project

As you know by now, we are embarking on a $20 million renovation project at Strough Middle School during the next 2 years. Over the summer, our staff spent many hours working to empty the building and prepare alternate sites for the next 2 school years. Also this summer, our architects worked diligently to re-draft some plans due to changes in State Ed. leadership that resulted in part of the project needing to be redesigned. Recently, we have begun the process of securing a bid, which began a few weeks ago with developers walking through the building to determine if they wish to bid on the project. To date, we have had almost 50 companies walk the building and we are expecting a very competitive bidding process based on the feedback we have received. The project moves forward on November 9th when we open the submitted bids on the project. Certainly going to be a nice way to kick off winter!!

Every Student Succeeds Act

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend a feedback session related to New York State's submission for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), at our regional BOCES. ESSA is the most recent federal legislation that will guide States with regard to educational requirements and expectations. While there are not many substantial changes to the guidelines we currently work under (No Child Left Behind), there are some items that can be a cause for concern and others that seem like we are moving in the right direction. Of concern, there is still the requirement for 95% participation in testing, an added element connecting chronic absenteeism and suspension rates to various aspects of schools, the potential for requiring schools to balance their staffing budgets by building so all buildings have a similar budget for staff salaries, and the traditional fear of unfunded mandates. On the positives, there is more support for English Language Learners, the possibility of removing grade 8 testing for those students who are taking Regents level courses, and an increase in graduation pathway options for students who desire an alternate method of achieving a high school diploma. We will know more in the Spring regarding which way New York plans to go with ESSA, but for now it's good to have a finger on the pulse. If you would like more information, the following blog has some information for you. 

Dialogue With The Superintendent

In the coming weeks, we are going to be hosting a new event called 'Dialogue With The Superintendent'. This is a series that I hope to use every year and for this first year, we are going to host an event at every school to provide the best opportunity for our community to attend as possible. Our first dialogue will be held on Monday, November 14th at Bellamy. Each event will run from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and the format will be a question and answer session where members of the community will have the opportunity to write questions down on cards and I will respond to the questions, sight unseen. This format will be anonymous to provide people comfort in asking questions that they may not want others to know that they asked. The full list of events is below:

Bellamy - November 14
Staley - November 16
Ridge Mills - November 21
Stokes - November 28
Denti - December 5
Joy - December 7
Linden - December 12
Gansevoort - December 14
RFA - December 19
Early Childhood - January 4

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Recognition Week...

This coming week marks the week where we celebrate and recognize our Board of Education during the statewide Board of Education Recognition Week. Those of us who have committed our careers to education know that being a member of the Board of Education is often times a thankless job. On top of their own busy lives, Board members put in countless hours of meetings, conversations, research, and visits to help ensure that our children are provided with the best resources, facilities, and opportunities possible. The compensation for being a Board member comes in the form of student smiles, "thank you's" from us, and a general pride in working toward a greater cause. With the constant onslaught of State and Federal mandates, the concept of remaining focused on learning and children is becoming increasingly difficult for most Boards. Yet through it all, they find a way to remain focused on improving the opportunities and experiences for our children. So when you see a Board member this week, make sure you take that extra moment to say "thank you." Or maybe send them a note of thanks or invite them to your room/building. Regardless of how you do it, taking the time to show that you recognize what they do on an ongoing basis would be appreciated. On behalf of the entire Rome City School District (students and staff), I would like to say "thank you" for the work you have done, and continue to do to help our community provide a solid education for all!!

Student Vaccinations

This year, the vaccination requirements have changed slightly for students, especially in grades 12 and 7. Our nursing staff has been working tirelessly communicating these changes since last Spring, however we are still experiencing large volumes of students who do not possess their required vaccinations (or have not provided the district with vaccination records). Beyond the grades 12 and 7, there is also a new vaccination requirement for grade 6 students. Below is a listing of requirements for these students that we have a significant concern about:

Grade 12 - Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (2 doses)
Grade 7 - Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (1 dose)
Grade 6 - Tetnus & Diphtheria and Pertussis Vaccine Booster

Please make sure that your school nurse has a record of all vaccines that your child has to date. We need these records to be current on or before NOVEMBER 4 or we will not be able to allow your student to attend school beginning November 7 by regulation. For a full listing of vaccination requirements, please visit

RFA Hosts Hypnotist

On Saturday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m., RFA will be hosting hypnotist Jack Hirsh. The event is a community event that is fun for the whole family. If you have never seen a hypnotist work, it can be an enjoyable and funny experience. Tickets are available at the door the night of the performance for $10. Pre-sale tickets are available for $8. Please contact Rebecca Ciotti (, Paula Come (, Brenda Brockway (, or Kaila Hoskins ( for more information. There is no doubt that it would be an evening you won't soon forget... unless you are a participant!!

Fall Events Abound

The past week and the coming week are filled with events all throughout the district. Last week, both Strough and RFA welcomed new members into their Honor Society organizations. Congratulations to all of those students, nearly 150 in total!! The RFA marching band is entering it's final week of the season with a community performance at the stadium this coming Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. followed by their State Championship performance next Sunday night Carrier Dome. Athletics are still moving forward strong as well. The girls field hockey and the girls soccer teams both compete in the Section III semi-finals for their respective sports this coming Tuesday, 10/25, with the field hockey team competing at home beginning at 5:30 p.m. Our individual/team sports (cross country/swimming/gymnastics) will also be coming to conclusion in the coming weeks with their Sectional meets. Ridge Mills is hosting their Trick-or-Treat event on Tuesday 10/25 as well. Staley Upper Elementary School will be hosting their Fall Harvest event on Wednesday, 10/26, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Early Childhood Program is holding their Trick-or-Treat event on Friday 10/28 and Gansevoort wraps up the week with their Halloween Craft Event on Saturday 10/29. As you can see, there is not short coming of activities and events to attend in the coming week. Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Positive Deviance...

Following the Vietnam War in the 1970's, the Vietnamese government spent millions of dollars trying to solve childhood malnutrition throughout their country. After many failed attempts, 20 years later in the 1990's researchers from the United States determined that poverty was not a cause of malnutrition, however the manner in which families utilized resources was. They approached their research from the standpoint that someone among the Vietnamese people must be flourishing despite challenging living conditions. What they found was simply that families whose children were nourished well were feeding their children on a regular basis and in portions that were suitable for kids, while those who were malnourished were eating on the schedule of an adult and for portions like an adult. The concept of 'Positive Deviance' was born. Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers. Positive Deviance is a concept that can allow an organization to utilize their resources from within to solve a problem or better a situation. In schools and our local communities, Positive Deviance is not used enough. For every problem or concern, more than likely there is someone else within your school or community that has the answer or can show you how to tackle the situation. Sounds a lot like collaboration, huh? Seems like common sense, huh? It is!! But we still don't take advantage of our colleagues like we can. Maybe we keep hearing about the need to collaborate more because in reality, we still aren't collaborating. Or maybe we don't understand the definition. Regardless, be a Positive Deviant in your building. Find creative and unique ways to improve your room, building, and community!!

Cell Service at Joy

Over the past few months, there have been many concerns about the spotty cell service at Joy School. I know that many people feel this is a Rome City School District issue with the building or the WiFi, but it is not. Please remember, cell service and WiFi service are not related. The District has attempted to install cell service boosters to the building to improve the signal, but they did not work. Our WiFi is running and is running well. There should be no connectivity issues through the WiFi system and we have taken steps to ensure that students and staff that have medical concerns requiring connectivity have been connected and that devices are running. The only way to improve the cell service at Joy would be for one of the major cell carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.) to install a tower closer to the building, which is not something that the district can control. I thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work to find ways to improve the situation and the service.

Thank You Nye Automotive!

This past week, the Nye Automotive Group made a $2,000 donation to the Rome City School District as part of their back-to-school promotion in the month of September. We will be able to utilize the funds to help our students with enrichment activities and after school programs. On behalf of the students, staff, and members of the Rome community, I wish to thank the Nye Automotive Group for their support of our children and community!!

High School Equivalency

Some of the requirements surrounding high school equivalency exams are changing. In the past, there were essentially 2 options: the TASC (formerly the GED) and the National External Diploma Option (NEDP). The major change is that recently, there has been a shift in the general age at which people are able to utilize the NEDP option. This option was generally reserved for individuals who were 28 years of age and older, however recently this has changed. Now, the TASC and the NEDP are options for all individuals interested in obtaining a high school equivalency diploma. There are still differences in the options and there are differences in the process/eligibility for the 2 options; however age is no longer a barrier. For more information about these options, please visit Also, Rome has a resource center that you can gain more information from by calling 334-8000.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Back to the Future...

Not only one of the classic movies of my generation, Back to the Future can define education in my opinion. If you ever have an opportunity to speak to veteran teachers, you will hear over and over again how educational initiatives are cyclical and that so many of the latest "trends" were concepts used in education back in the 1980's and 1990's. I would argue however that the reason for this feeling is that we all know kids and what kids need, but we keep reinventing the wheel because no one has found the holy grail of education to this point in our history. I had the opportunity to attend a technology summit this week and the key note speaker was amazing. He spent the entire time talking about how we are not utilizing the power of technology and students' own devices to enhance learning. Rather than embracing the opportunities that technology provides us, we tend to look the other way and pretend that it doesn't exist. It's almost that Back to the Future mentality. We want to hold onto the past so much that we can't see the opportunities in front of us. One of my favorite phrases when doing professional development myself is about the growth mindset. Growing and learning does not mean that you are discrediting the past or past practices. It simply means capitalizing on the past and what was learned. If we truly are existing in a state of cyclical evolution, then our education system is doomed forever more. I tend to believe that we are somewhere along the continuum, but attempting to break free of the cyclical behavior and create a new normal. In Rome, we are fortunate to have outstanding educators, veteran and neophyte, that are wanting to think outside the box and bring learning to life for our kids. The one thing we need to avoid though is going Back to the Future. Embrace the opportunity that we have before us. You can't move forward if you are stuck in the past.

NYS Draft Standards

As I have mentioned earlier, the NewYork State Education Department has released draft standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics for the public to review. Also, as part of the process, they are accepting public comment on the draft standards until November 4th. In ELA, one of the most significant changes relates to the learning of our earliest students in grades Pre-K through 2. The State has decided to focus on these grade levels as a result of the feedback received during the first 5 years of the Common Core Learning Standards. For math, one of the biggest additional elements was the creation of a glossary of terms to help those of us who are not math teachers better understand the terminology that our kids are learning. All of these edits to the standards are also bringing about some reform with regard to standardized testing, which I will address down the road as more information there becomes available. Please take a moment to review the draft standards by following the link below and provide the State with your commentary. Now is the time to let your voice be heard.

Ridge Mills HOGS

During recent weeks, the Ridge Mills students and staff have been reading 'The Mouse on a Motorcycle' by Beverly Cleary as part of their One Book, One School month. Combined with this reading project, the school community collected toys and books as part of a community service project. This past week, members of the Erie Canal Chapter of HOGS (Harley Owners Group) visited to school to accept the donations from the Ridge Mills community. The HOGS organization is a local group that raises money and awareness for a variety of great community causes. As a result of this effort, the HOGS will be delivering the toys and books donated by Ridge Mills to the Neighborhood Center. Thank you to the students, staff, and families of Ridge Mills and to the HOGS for collaborating on this valuable learning experience for our children!!

RFA Football Helps Rescue Mission

On Saturday, October 1st, members of the RFA football team spent the day at our local Rescue Mission assisting with a benefit to help raise money for the Rescue Mission. The student athletes spent the day setting up for the event, serving food throughout the benefit, assisted in preparing the food, cleaning the Rescue Mission throughout the day, bussing tables for those that attended, and breaking down all of the special decor for the benefit and resetting the Rescue Mission for their next day's work. Thank you to our players for giving back to our community and thank you to Coach Swavely for providing our boys with opportunity to learn more about community service!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Raise the Bar...

One of the most common phrases that I hear both in education and in society is, "Back when I was a kid..." and then fill in the blank. If everyone seems to think that things were better during a past era and many of us claim to have answers to making things better, why are so many people complaining about the current state of affairs in society? While I can't say I agree that everything was better in an era of the past, I can say that people of older generations and society in general had higher expectations for their children, their community, and the human race in general. In short, our younger generations are getting soft. People seem to want to work less but obtain more. The majority of society is looking for the shortcut. Instead of asking ourselves, "What can I do to make my community/organization better?"; we tend to ask ourselves (and others publicly at times), "What is my organization/community going to do for me?" The concept of 'selfishness' seems to be waining with every passing generation. So, I pose the question... Why don't simply raise the bar? If our expectations for our youth AND for each other are higher, won't things naturally improve? After all, no one came along and said, "Hey, let's all be lazy and see what happens." This digression started with a few individuals cutting corners and others jumping on the bandwagon. Eventually, we landed here. Low expectations, excuses for everything, and mediocre being good enough. Well, I'm driving a new bandwagon. It's not an easy wagon to move because it has square wheels. But, I learned from a generation where education, success, and community mattered. We worked to achieve these things and were not simply given them. It won't be easy, but if our entire community decided it was time to raise the bar... the bar moves and people will reach it. Research has proven time and time again that children will always rise to the occasion, it's the human way. Just as humans will slack off if they are allowed to. I'm raising the bar... I hope you will join me!!  

RFA Marching Band

The RFA marching band has been on fire this season so far. To date, they are undefeated and compiling one of the best competitive seasons that the school has had. You can catch them in action in the coming weeks on 10/15 at New Hartford, on 10/22 at Norwich, on 10/25 at the RFA Stadium for a community showing, and finally on 10/30 at the New York State Field Band Conference Championships at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Make sure you take an opportunity to see this group, the kids have been very hard at work. It will be an experience you won't forget!! Keep up the great work RFA!! 


I want to take a minute to inform everyone of some changes in past practice that have recently come to my attention. In the past, I have found that we have been transporting kids throughout the day on individual bus runs if they have missed the bus, been suspended from school and need to go home early, or become ill while in school. Please know that these privileges are going to be significantly reduced this year. It costs the district roughly $52 for every individual transportation trip we make and on average we have done 12 a day. This adds up to $100,000 a year, at the least. If your child wakes up in the morning and you feel that they are sick, please do not gamble and send them to school to see what happens. 9 times out of 10 they are not well enough to make it through the day which leaves the school in a bind to find transportation home and brings the potential to get more kids sick within the building. If your child is suspended while attending school, please know it will be the families responsibility to transport the child home. I cannot reward students who are violating the code of conduct to a degree that warrants a suspension. Finally, if your student misses the bus in the morning, it will be the responsibility of the family to get the student to school. I know that in the past the district has made numerous extra trips throughout the day and it is something that we need to reduce. We aren't teaching our students anything about responsibility if we are constantly dropping everything to cater to their needs. Everyone needs to try to see the big picture that it's about an organization and a community, not about themselves. 

Must Be Present To Win It

In previous years, the Rome Teacher's Association and the Rome Administrator's Association have worked in conjunction with the district to promote an attendance initiative to acknowledge students throughout the district with exemplary attendance. This year, they are currently working to rekindle this initiative and the district will be working with the 2 organizations to help promote the initiative. Please stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and months and as always, continue to encourage attendance at school. More than just being in school, being on time is becoming more of an epidemic than missing school. The RCSD, RTA, and RAA are committed to continuing to improve our attendance rates and this initiative is one way that we can support those that are excelling in this area.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Uh Oh, More Standards...

Since the inception of the Common Core Learning Standards, I have been obsessed with watching the world of education react to all of the coverage. For all of the angst and concern regarding the CCLS, no one can argue that they have caused our country and communities to bring the discussion of education to the forefront. Recently, the State Education Department has released some new information regarding updated standards. Ironically, not much is drastically different. It appears that NYSED is listening to those in the field who are asking for more streamlined, sensible, and understandable standards. Included in that is the need for more support. Based on these initial drafts, it seems as if people are being are heard. Nonetheless, standards remain nothing more than standards. They are the benchmarks that we expect our children to reach at certain points along their path to graduation. It is still incumbent upon our teachers to move the bar and get our children to reach these standards, and I have the utmost confidence that they are up to the challenge. For a review of the updates to the learning standards, please visit the NYSED website to read about them with this link: 

Community Schools

You may have seen or heard through social media that the Community Schools movement, that Rome has been working on in the past year, has received a national grant from the American Federation of Teachers this past week. The grant is for $270,000 over the next 2 years and will be utilized for the district to hire a Community Schools Coordinator, as well as to work on building our STEAM initiative and project based learning opportunities. I want to congratulate the Rome Teacher's Association and the Rome Administrator's Association for all of their efforts regarding community schools. The concept is nothing but beneficial and we are more than lucky to have this opportunity here in Rome. Finally, Rome was one of 3 school districts nation wide to receive this honor. It doesn't get much better than that!! Thank you Community Schools Task Force and congratulations Rome!!

RFA Athletics

For those that have not been following, the past weekend was an amazing weekend for RFA athletics!! Our team sports ruled the fields and our individual sports dominated as well. All of our fall sports athletic teams are representing our district extremely well, both on and off the field. This weekend was probably one of our best weekends of the year, capped by the cornerstone victory of our football team during the homecoming game. All of our scholar athletic teams remain in the hunt for sectional competition and I encourage you to get out and support them in the coming weeks!! #RFApride

Code of Conduct

During the first 3 weeks of school, we have seen too many significant violations of the code of conduct. Please be reminded that accidentally bringing a pocket knife to school or joking about bombing a school is not going to be tolerated or taken lightly. While no intent may be true, the school can't predict what any other student may or may not do based on either of these situations. We have seen a few students bring pocket knives to school and I need to remind everyone that this is a significant violation to our code of conduct. All it would take is for that knife to wind up in the hands of the wrong person and we could have major issues. Likewise, the going joke so far this year is that kids are saying they want to blow stuff up. I ask that you please discuss the code of conduct with your student and have a discussion about unintended consequences of actions. In life, there are always unintended consequences of our actions and it's becoming more and more important that our children understand this at an earlier age, unfortunately.