Sunday, March 26, 2017

Madness is Abound...

This is that time of year where people in many schools are looking at each other and saying, "Weren't we just saying yesterday that March is such a long month and how are we going to get through it?" And then here we are, at the end of the longest month of the school year and on the doorstep of April, which hypothetically marks the beginning of the end. April is to the school year as coming around the last bend is to horse racing. In schools, we are in the thick of scheduling for secondary schools, budget planning for next year, recruiting potential vacancies, State testing is on our doorstep, and none of that mentions the myriad of activities that are going to occur in the coming weeks within our schools that everyone is busy planning for now. The NCAA calls it March Madness because of the unpredictability of each individual game; schools experience March madness simply because there is always something going on as we move into the home stretch of the school year and it certainly feels like there is never enough minutes in an hour! What's most important during this stretch is not maintaining sanity (I will assume that everyone has that covered), it's maintaining momentum and staying true to our mission. At the end of most bicycle races, the last portion of the race is downhill so the racer can "coast" to the finish. Our finish needs to be more like the horse race where we are sprinting to the finish while attempting to increase our pace and finish strong. Many of us have always heard the cliches, "Every minute counts" and "Work until the bell", now it's our turn to live it. As we finish our month of Madness and turn into the home stretch, let's make it count and know that our kids will only benefit from it in the long run!

National Technical Honor Society 

This past week, 43 students from around the region were inducted into the Madison-Oneida BOCES National Technical Honor Society (NTHS). The NTHS is an honor society recognizing excellence in career and technical education. To join the honor society, students must be nominated by their teachers, carry a minimum 3.0 grade point average, demonstrate excellence in their CTE program and participate in extracurricular activities at BOCES and/or their home school. NTHS membership is a distinction achieved by only 3-4% of CTE students nationwide. Our Rome honorees for this year include: Ashely Roux, Auto Body Repair; Halim (Kyle) Abdelhak, Computer Programming; Grace Newton, Cosmetology; Rebecca Stone, Cosmetology; Michael Wittman, Criminal Justice; Joshua Thayer, Criminal Justice; Angeliah Ratley, Criminal Justice; Cassie Shue, Culinary Arts; Joshua Finn, Culinary Arts; Taylor Perron, Culinary Arts; Jennifer Ivey, Equine & Animal Science; Lydia Richards, Graphic Design; Alexandria LoGiudice, Health Related Careers; and Doh Soe, Health Related Careers. Congratulations to all of these students on this wonderful accomplishment!!

Advantage After School Program

The Safe Schools Mohawk Valley organization is currently accepting students for after school programs at Bellamy Elementary school and Strough Middle School - Linden Street. The program is free and provides transportation home following the after school program. Bellamy hours are 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and the Strough program runs from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. To enroll your student, please contact the school building and request an enroll form. Any questions can be directed to Alicia Mangino (Bellamy Program Manager) or Samantha McCarthy (Strough Program Manager).

Observer-Dispatch Teen All-Stars

Each Spring, the Utica Observer-Dispatch recognizes outstanding high school seniors for their contributions to their school and community. The nomination period for the 2017 Teen All-Stars is now open. If you would like to nominate a student, you can access the nomination form at Once there, click the 'nominate' link and follow the prompts. Nominations require a completed application form, a letter of nomination, a list of the nominee's top 10 school/community activities, and a statement describing one accomplishment the nominee is most proud of. All applications are due by noon on Wednesday, April 5.

RFA Travel Club

The Rome Free Academy Travel Club will be having a meeting on Monday, March 27, at 6:00 p.m. to gauge interest in their 2018 trip to Italy and Greece. The club is open to all students and families that would be interesting in attending to learn more about this anticipated trip. The meeting will be held in the RFA Small Auditorium.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Apple or Kodak...

In the past few weeks, I've been doing a lot of reading about organization leadership and innovation. Almost every educational text that speaks about leadership in our current literature references the rise and sustained success of Apple, one of the world's foremost innovators of technology. In today's society, you almost have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Apple or to even understand what a difference they have made on the world of technology and how we live our lives. However, I would argue that many may not understand just how they were able to create such success. Every book that I have read that references Apple didn't go into much detail on this topic either. They talked about taking chances and risks that other companies weren't willing to take. Personal computers, digital music, and revolutionizing the phone industry (not the cell phone). That is until recently when I came across literature that explained WHY Apple became so successful to begin with in the 1970's. Their mission wasn't to make money, build computers, or even to revolutionize the industry. Their mission was a simple belief and philosophy to change the way people viewed the world. They believed that if they could build a personal computer that was affordable to consumers, that people would be able to do things from home that were once only available through businesses. And they were right!! They challenged the status quo, in a big way, and won. Whether it be the creation of the Apple 1 in the 1970's, the iPod in the 1990's, or the iPhone shortly after that; Apple has continuously maintained a driving force of trying to help people see the world differently. It is almost the polar opposite mindset that Kodak had when they were first presented with the idea of digital photography and elected to believe that film was going to be the future of photography; so they decided to pass on the digital age. I think we all know how that worked out for them? The courage of the Apple corporation and the story of focusing on what does the world need instead of thinking about what they want is a perfect example of the crossroads that education has been in for a while now. Are our kids being taught in the same fashion that we once were? If the answer is yes, then our classrooms need a revolution. We need risk takers. We need teachers that challenge conventional instruction. We need schools that recognize that our kids have access to information unlike ever before. Don't be a Kodak, our kids don't need stale instruction. Be an Apple, try something new. Someone has to take the lead on revolutionizing schools, why not us?

Redistricting Update 

This past week, I presented to the Board of Education a proposal for redistricting. You may be aware of some of the proposal through our local media and/or word of mouth, but I wanted to provide some highlights of the plan with you so you read them directly from me. The most important part of the proposal is the elimination of the grade k-4/5-6 configuration and implementing 7 full scale k-6 buildings in our district. Along with this idea is the creation of an alternative education program for grades k-5, a new schedule for elementary special subjects to provide more time for art, music, physical education, and recess/lunch, and a dedicated learning space for our instructional coaches to provide professional development to our staff. If the district goes in this direction, there is still much work to be done in the area of transportation, staffing, special education program and overall planning. In the coming weeks, our team will be working diligently to develop more detailed plans and ideas in the hope that the Board of Education would like to move in a new direction for the 2017-2018 school year. There will be general discussion on the topic at the April 6 Board of Education meeting and we will be posting the presentation on the district website this week. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions/feedback as the only way to be successful is if we do things together. 

Dental Clinic

SUNY Canton’s dental hygiene program is looking for volunteer patients who have not had a cleaning in at least 6 months to come visit their students for preventative dental care. Located at the VA Rome Hospital (125 Brookley Road), the services provided include:

  • Oral Cancer Screening and Cavity Check
  • Dental X-Rays When Necessary
  • Cleaning and Polishing of Teeth
  • Fluoride Treatments

There is a small fee to defray the cost of supplies:
*$10.00 per child 18 years of age and younger
*$15.00 per (adult 19+)
* Free for veterans
Days of services are Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:30 a.m. (Appointments are approx. 2.5 hours)   
*since we are a teaching clinic, you may need to return in order to complete care.                      
Please call Rene (315) 532- 2432 or Nicole (518) 572-9755 to schedule an appointment.

Strough/RFA Progress Reports

Strough and RFA third quarter progress reports were scheduled to be mailed late last week. Due to the weather last week, the deadline date for submission was extended until Friday, March 17 for all teachers. They will be mailed on Monday, March 20 for arrival at home by mid-week. We thank you for your patience and understanding with the delay.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Budget Season...

Last week, the Board of Education met for several hours to sift through and discuss the proposed budget as we prepare for the May school budget vote. As you may have seen in the paper, the Board is discussing many options to provide a balanced proposed budget. I want to emphasize the word proposed budget as a lot can change at this point in time. On the table to be removed from the current operating year include the current utilization of the Tutorial Center for suspended students, pre-k transportation, and some additional requested positions in the area of Special Education and support services. Along with this, the Board has agreed to allow for a 1% increase in the tax levy to help balance the current proposed budget. Throughout the budget, we have removed a lot of funds allocated to "things" such as supplies and materials since I have frequently stated that we value people over things. As with many organizations, we can operate differently and better if and only if we have the people to provide the support for our kids. Another adjustment to the budget for next year is a lot of money removed from overtime costs and substitute costs. These are both management areas where we can do better as leaders. As with any budget, we have allocated the same portion of fund balance that we have been allocating in past years ($6.5 million). This is money that is there to help balance the budget and be used if needed. For the current fiscal year, we are projecting a $1.4 million deficit; however, are also awaiting $1 million in reimbursements from the County and another $600,000 in building aid from the Joy project. If those monies arrive, then we will have a slight surplus for 2016-2017. That right there is the perfect example of the challenge with public school budgeting, everything is always a projection. There are no certainties on the revenue side and as you probably know, health care cost projections for the future are not favorable. Some things that affect the budget from now until the vote include the Governor's State budget and foundation aid allocations, the approved tax levy (increase or decrease), and possible retirements. Our official budget adoption and presentation meeting is scheduled for April 6, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office.

RFA Announces Top 10! 

Congratulations to the Rome Free Academy Class of 2017 Top Ten!! While all students have spent the past 3 1/2 years working diligently toward graduation; Thomas Weir (valedictorian), Julia Rizzo (salutatorian), Kristi Boardman, Christopher Copeland, Bella Esposito, Mira Esposito, Emma Gilroy, William Linderman, Zuzanna Pociecha, and Tyler Schoff have found a way to rise to the top. These students embody the meaning of perseverance, determination, and dedication. Our entire community is grateful for the work that they have accomplished and for the future work they are going to perform as graduates of Rome Free Academy. Congratulations again, to our Top Ten!! 

Redistricting Presentation

On Thursday, March 16, I will be presenting a redistricting plan to the Board of Education at their regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the RFA cafeteria. The presentation will follow the grades 5-12 Character Initiative Awards and will include a presentation to Board and the public. At the conclusion of the presentation, there will be a question and answer session for members of the Board. Depending on the outcome of this meeting, we will determine the next steps of the process. 

Albany Update

I had an opportunity to spend 3 days in Albany last weekend meeting with various BOCES Superintendents, District Superintendents, Assemblymen and women, and Senators regarding the upcoming Governor's budget and subsequent school budget season. While many feel that we can expect additional foundation aid above the Governor's initial projections, there is not much optimism surrounding other initiatives. Some of the other initiatives that are being discussed that have an impact on schools include the extension of the Millionaires Tax, adjustment to BOCES aid cap, adjustment to the tax cap formula, Governor control of mid-year budgetary adjustments, and the elimination of APPR. Hopefully, we will see an on-time budget from the State so that we can continue to move forward with our budget planning.