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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What's the Answer...

My question is simple this week; why do so many students feel that resorting to violence is the solution to their problems? Often times I ask myself and others questions that just basically confuse me. This past week, we had a few physical altercations in our schools and every time kids do stuff like that I've always wondered why. It's the same thing when you meet someone as an adult and they brag about how many fights they were in or they think it's funny to talk trash and intimidate people. I just don't understand the purpose of it. In a society where we are supposed to be working to get along and end hate; it seems to me that we simply have too many people perpetuating the problem. Or is the issue really that more and more of our kids are growing up with anger management issues? Or, maybe nothing has really changed over the decades, but because of social media and technology everything has become magnified. I wish I knew the answer to this one as there is nothing more depressing than seeing kids resort to violence as a means to an end. As a society and as adults, we owe our children better. We have to continue to strive to find the answer so that we can help our children find other ways to resolve their problems. The answer is out there, we just need to go and find it.

Class Sizes

Throughout the past week I have received several messages regarding class sizes throughout the district. Currently, our kindergarten, first grade, and fourth grade numbers are higher than usual and overall our enrollment is roughly 200 students more than last year at this time. We have been working this week to determine how to move forward with regard to new registrations, and I am fairly certain we have a good solution in place. For kindergarten, we are also looking adding 2 sections throughout the district to ease the numbers. This is a task that is easier said than done though. Adding a section in one building also means trying to adjust the schedule for the encore subjects. When we start looking at adding a section in 2 buildings, it really complicates things. Regardless of the complications and the challenges, I am confident that our principals, teachers, and staff will deliver the best education possible to our children, regardless of the class size. We will continue to work diligently to solve this concern this year, but most importantly, work to plan ahead to avoid this situation in the future. 

RFA Homecoming 2016!!

This coming Friday, September 23, 2016 is RFA's Homecoming. The week is capped off with the RFA Homecoming Dance on Saturday night and of course the football game on Friday night at home against West Genesee. All throughout the week students in the district will be going to school in various outfits to participate in spirit week. For a listing of what school is participating and what each day of the week represents, please visit your school's website. Should be a great week and a great night for game. Let's go Black Knights!!

'Love Where You Learn' Campaign Wins Award

The Rome City School District 'Love Where You Learn' brochure has won an award form the New York School Public Relations Association Communications Contest. The brochure received the recognition of 'Honor' in the category of Special Purpose Publication. Congratulations to everyone who played a role in developing this fantastic brochure, especially our public relations director Jill Pekarski. Part of bringing more positive attention to our district is accomplishing things like this. It is a true testament to our district to have received such a distinction.

Lead Testing in Water

Throughout our schools this week we will begin testing for lead in our water supplies to make sure we are in compliance with the Governor's new bill. We will begin with our elementary buildings throughout the remainder of September and work on the secondary buildings in October. I do not anticipate any delays or barriers to completing this task on time. If and when more information that is pertinent to the community is available, I will let you know.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Welcome Back...

Not much more needs to be said besides "Welcome Back!!" It was so great to hear the voices of the kids and staff in our hallways this week. Seeing the smiling faces, the high fives, the hugs from friends that haven't seen each other much in the past 2 months, and much much more about opening day!! Throughout all of our buildings, the staff was eager to get back to work and it was evident. There was an overwhelming sense of team work as everyone worked together to help kids find their classes, open lockers, meet new friends, and get back in the swing of things. All in all, it was a great opening week. The challenge lies ahead as everyone knows that it's easy to get excited and energized for the start of something and the end of something; however getting from point 'A' to point 'B' is never as easy as desired. I encouraged our staff on Friday to keep the teamwork momentum going and I encourage the community to do the same.  There's no reason not to work together, we all want the same thing. Keep the train rolling in the coming weeks everyone and welcome back!!

Thank You Betsy Ross Nursing Home!!

On Thursday, September 8th, representatives from the Betsy Ross Nursing Home in Rome stopped by our District Office to drop off school supplies for students in the Rome City School District. Judy Pawlikowski, Activity Leader and Kelsey Flint, Director of Activities represented the nursing home staff that collected items, along with some residents who also helped out. Supplies included binders, composition notebooks, paper, book backs, pouches, crayons, and pencils. On behalf of all of the students and staff of the Rome City School District,  I want to thank the Betsy Ross Nursing Home and all of their residents for thinking about our children and lending a hand for those that need it. Thank you!!

What's This Twitter Thing?!

I have been asked a lot recently about Twitter. What is it? Why do people use it? Who cares? Twitter is an easy way for schools, teachers, leaders, and others to simply share with the community at large what is going on. It is very similar to Facebook, however Twitter has evolved more into a professional social network, where Facebook is more of a personal social network. For teachers and other professionals, there are all kinds of resources, articles, ideas, group conversations, professional development opportunities, networking, and just general information about the world. For parents, it is an opportunity to see what is happening in our schools on a daily basis, get updates about sports and activities, as well as to network with other groups. It's an easy way to get information and share information. Beyond that, our kids are using Twitter and other social media markets and as adults we need to make sure that we are learning these tools so that we can understand what potential dangers are out there for our kids. I encourage you to try social media, Twitter specifically, because I will be doing a lot of communicating there. We do plan to provide professional development for parents this year to help get acclimated so don't fear. Get on there and start by following me @pblake_RomeCSD. Let's build our own social network right here in Rome!!

Cuomo Signs Lead Testing Bill

You may have heard or read about a new bill that was signed this past week by Governor Andrew Cuomo that requires schools to provide testing results of lead tests on their water supplies. Rome was planning on conducting these tests last Spring, but the tests never happened for one reason or another. The bill provides requirements that are more stringent than the State health department requires and carries a very tight time frame to complete the sampling. We are currently working with our regional BOCES to make sure that we have a full understanding of the requirements as well as to find a vendor to complete the water sampling. Samples must be collected prior to September 30th and results reported to the State Education Department before October 31st. There are also some layers to the bill that require different things for K-5 buildings than for 6-12 buildings. Either way, we will get this done and I will be reporting out through the Board meetings, Twitter, and here once we have all of the information in place. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's Time...

Well everyone, it's time!! The time has come for us all to set the alarm clock a little earlier, set out the clothes the night before, step out the door, and begin the next adventure. What lies ahead, nobody knows. But that's what makes education and school so great! Every day is a new adventure, just like pretty much every children's cartoon known to mankind. It's time to open our minds to new and creative thinking. It's time to be compassionate and understanding of our fellow school members (staff and students alike) and seek to be the best person we can be. It's time for learning, it's time for creating, and it's time for the impossible to become possible. As you begin your school year, try to remember that feeling of getting on the bus for the first time of the year. Or that feeling of walking into the class for the first time of the year. As adults, the world and memories are so different than what they probably were back then. With this new year brings with it opportunity. This new school year provides us all with the opportunity to re-start, re-build partnerships, re-engage, and remember what it feels like to love education. It's time Rome... are you ready? 

Thank You Front of the Class!!

On September 1st, President of the Front of the Class Charity, William McCormick and his family delivered 232 backpacks to the District to help students in Rome (160 backpacks are for elementary students and 72 are for middle school and high school students). The backpacks of school supplies include composition notebooks, filler paper, pencils, crayons, sharpeners, rulers, glue sticks, erasers & 3 folders for the elementary schools; three notebooks, composition notebook, filler paper, 3-ring binder, pens, pencils, compass, highlighters & 3 folders for the middle and high schools. The donation was made possible through the Front of the Class General Account, The Dorothy Griffin Charitable Foundation, the Jim and Julie Boeheim Foundation and Chatham Street Advisors. On behalf of the entire Rome community and all of our students, thank you to the Front of the Class charity organization for once again helping our students succeed!!

Open Houses!!

During the first few days and weeks of school, most all of our buildings will have their parent open houses. If you haven't received correspondence from your child's school regarding their open house, I would urge you to look into this soon. Some schools are holding their open houses as soon as Tuesday, September 6. For a more complete listing of our school open houses, please visit our website at