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.