Sunday, April 29, 2018

Down the Stretch...

With the Kentucky Derby looming just one week away, it seems appropriate to refer to the beginning of our last 7 weeks with a racing reference. Although it doesn't feel like the start of May, here we are. Unfortunately, our golf, baseball, and softball teams have not been able to get their seasons off and running yet due to the weather, which will only add to the hecticness of the month of May for those students. For the rest of the student body, whether they are in kindergarten or twelfth grade, the end of the school year always brings a flurry of activities, stress, and excitement. During any given week you can find an athletic event, awards ceremony, concert, picnic, or class celebration to attend. Above that, students in the secondary level are priming for their final exams, AP exams, and Regents exams while our elementary students finish the final leg of New York State assessments. Staff members are also feverishly working to ensure students are prepared to be successful at the end of this year while planning for next year. Time never seems to move slow enough at this time of year, and when the weather finally begins to feel like Spring (hopefully sooner than later), it makes the ability to focus on the task(s) at hand that much more challenging. So, as we exit the bend and approach the home stretch of our year, make sure to take the time to enjoy the atmosphere, camaraderie, and events that come along with the end of a school year. It can be very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, or caught up in the stress of the end of the year. Taking a few moments to enjoy your classmates, teachers, families, and events is a must. For many, these opportunities only happen once in a lifetime and you don't want to look back in 20 years wishing you had enjoyed the experience as much as you were focused on the job at hand. After all, the stretch run is short and it will be over in the flash of an eye.  

Official Budget Hearing

During the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on Thursday, May 3, 2018, the District will be presenting the annual 2018-2019 budget hearing. A copy of the presentation can be found HERE, which will be described in greater detail during the hearing. The annual budget hearing is an opportunity for the Board of Education and the community to hear details about the 2018-2019 proposed budget, along with a question and answer session following the presentation. The Board of Education meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the District Offices located at 409 Bell Road.


Griffiss Institute Summer Camps

This summer, the Griffiss Institute is celebrating their 10th year of providing summer STEM camp opportunities to students. In 2018, there will be six camps offered in the areas of LEGO Robotics, Engineering, Drone, Cyber, Arduino, and ROPES. Registration for the camps opens online on May 1 and will remain open until all spots are filled. Registration spots for these camps fill up quickly, so I would recommend registering ASAP if you are interested. For more information about any of the six camps, please visit the Griffiss Institute website at https://www.griffissinstitute.org/who-we-work-with/afrl/stem/summer-programs 



Student Dismissal Reminder

Just prior to the break, there have been several incidents during dismissal of our elementary students where parents arrive at the school well before the dismissal time and want to simply wait inside the building for their children. Unfortunately, allowing groups of parents into the buildings at the end of the day is not only an unsafe measure for all students, it is also causing disruptions and distractions in the buildings. Several buildings have been adjusting their dismissal procedures in recent weeks and some of the changes include not allowing families into the building prior to the actual dismissal of students. While I understand that this can be upsetting to families, please understand that it is the safest practice possible and is necessary to maintain a safe environment all the way until the end of the day for our students and staff. Also, please be reminded that students should not be signed out early from school without a valid reason in compliance with NYSED regulations. Finally, when signing students out of school, you should be required to provide identification so that the school officials can ensure that students are leaving school with an authorized adult. While we understand that some adjustments in these practices can be cumbersome and 'annoying'; please know that we work to constantly improve our safety measures and adopt best practices related to student safety. Thank you for your understanding.










Sunday, April 15, 2018

Making A Choice...

Every day I am engaged in conversation with a colleague, parent, service provider, vendor, or even a student where when boiled down, the premise of every conversation comes to the need to make a decision. Most conversations are built around information sharing to help someone make a decision about something. However, even conversations that may be one-sided venting sessions are also steeped in the need to make a decision. Being an adult is certainly one of the most challenging tasks in life, but being an adult in the educational industry is perhaps the most challenging profession that one can enter in today's society. Every day is littered with decisions that are made in a split second that will effect a child in some way or another. Whether you are an administrator, teacher, custodian, teacher assistant, secretary, etc.; you are required to make decisions each day. What makes the decision challenging is that the world around you thinks they know what the correct decisions should be. As I've said before, every member of American society has experience within the walls of a school and therefore believes that they have the knowledge necessary to make a school/classroom work. Working in a school today is challenging because every decision made by anyone in the school is met with scrutiny, from someone. Social media has created a world where people think they can say anything they want about a topic, most often with having less than 10% of the real information they need to support their commentary. What is the result of that? People making more work and problems for others simply because they want to vent. In my daily conversations, the people that I converse with often will bring everything back to the question: Do you want to be a part of the solution? Everyone knows that there are things wrong with every faction of society. However, is complaining and venting about everything without having the best information or at least providing an alternative that could be better the answer? I often hear the phrase, "Be a part of the solution or get out of the way." I guess that's easy, but is it fair? Everyone has their own right to make decisions and choices, and if an individual chooses to be negative and not agree with things, that's their right. But, do they have the right to attempt to bring others down around them or spread misinformation? I'm not sure about that. What I am sure about is that every day we are all faced with the opportunity to make a choice. Regardless of what choices we made yesterday, each day brings with it the opportunity to be a part of the solution, or perpetuate negativity. Regardless of the choice you make today, tomorrow is another opportunity to make a better choice! 

Student Dismissal

In recent weeks, there have been several incidents during dismissal of our elementary students where parents arrive at the school well before the dismissal time and want to simply wait inside the building for their children. Unfortunately, allowing groups of parents into the buildings at the end of the day is not only an unsafe measure for all students, it is also causing disruptions and distractions in the buildings. Several buildings have been adjusting their dismissal procedures in recent weeks and some of the changes include not allowing families into the building prior to the actual dismissal of students. While I understand that this can be upsetting to families, please understand that it is the safest practice possible and is necessary to maintain a safe environment all the way until the end of the day for our students and staff. Also, please be reminded that students should not be signed out early from school without a valid reason in compliance with NYSED regulations. Finally, when signing students out of school, you should be required to provide identification so that the school officials can ensure that students are leaving school with an authorized adult. While we understand that some adjustments in these practices can be cumbersome and 'annoying'; please know that we work to constantly improve our safety measures and adopt best practices related to student safety. Thank you for your understanding.

Career Fair

On Tuesday, April 17, the Rome City School District in conjunction with the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a Career Fair for students in grades 9, 10, and 11. The concept, born through discussions of the Chamber Educational Committee, aims to provide our students with opportunities to learn about careers as they enter a phase in their lives when they need to start making decisions about what students want to do and need to know more about how to get there. In total, over 50 local industries will be represented at RFA to provide their insights to our students. Thank to the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and all organizations that have helped to make this opportunity a reality for our students.




Stokes Fundraiser

On Tuesday, April 17, Stokes Elementary School will be holding a fundraiser at Texas Roadhouse in New Hartford. The fundraiser is an effort to help students attend a field trip in Niagara Falls. Patrons at Texas Roadhouse that evening simply need to mention that they are supporting Stokes Elementary school and Texas Roadhouse will donate 10% of all proceeds back to the students. The offer is good for dine-in and take-out orders. Thank you in advance for supporting the students of Stokes!


Unused Contingency Day


Each year, schools are required to meet a minimum of 180 school days (5 of which can be Superintendent's conference days and the Regents Rating Day). Our current calendar allows for 185 staff days and 180 student days scheduled. Within that calendar, one day at the k-6 level was designated for parent/teacher conferences and one day at the 7-12 level was designated for additional professional development. That leaves us with a total of one less student day than desired. Due to the full day conferences and additional professional development at the secondary level, the District began the year with a total of 4 contingency days in the event that there was a need for closure due to weather or emergency. Having been through the worst of it, we still have one unused contingency day, which we are not required to use, but most places do. This year, as long as there are no more weather related closures prior to the date, we plan to use our last contingency day on Friday, April 20. Traditionally, these days may be taken in May, however there are students taking AP examinations through most of the month, so we are opting to use our day in April. A detailed letter will also be sent home this week. 


Go Home Early Drill

Each year, schools in New York State are required to conduct what is called a "go home early" drill. In our region, schools attempt to have this event occur on the same day to minimize disruptions for our local BOCES. This year, the go home early drill will be occurring on Thursday, April 19. For this drill, students will be dismissed from school 15 minutes earlier than regularly scheduled. Please make sure that necessary arrangements are made for students to arrive home from school earlier on that day.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Answer Is...

One of the most common things that people on the inside of the education profession refer to as the greatest factor of change in our society over the decades is the evolution of collaboration with families. Collaboration is a word that has become a mainstream 'buzz' word in both education and industry. The fact is, collaboration has always existed and more importantly; trust existed unconditionally between adults. Somehow, over the decades, this has taken a dramatic turn to the point where the general society has a feeling that if something doesn't go their way, it's wrong. In essence, we have become a society where the word 'no' has become a ticket to throw a temper tantrum, argue, complain, slander, threaten, etc. until someone gets their way. Rather than taking time to listen and discuss what the prevailing points and facts of a situation are, we as a society are quick to engage in confrontation. When I was a student in school, if the teacher or worse yet an administrator called home, the consequences at home would far surpass any school consequence. This is a similar experience for most any adult right now. However, times have changed to where adults no longer have respect of youth. Every week we experience parents asking for help because their own children won't respect them. On an increasing basis we find adults disrespecting other adults in front of their children, which simply fosters a belief that it's acceptable behavior to treat another person this way. If you visit the doctor and the doctor delivers you bad news that you don't like, want to hear, or would prefer not to believe; the first and immediate response is not to argue with the doctor or yell at them trying to get them to change their mind. Instead, the general response is conversation about moving forward and trying to fix the problem. School systems used to look like this decades ago where we all worked collaboratively and the general response to the word 'no' was not anger. Our youth today are growing up in an environment where they crave instant satisfaction and worse yet, do not know how to handle disappointment and negative responses. Individuals in sports world call this the 'everyone gets a trophy' movement. It is important that we teach our children that resilience and not always getting their way, is not a bad thing. The word 'no' does not have to be a negative word, especially when 'no' is the proper and real response. Our society is increasingly become filled with conspiracy theorists and accusers, rather than collaborators and optimists. It's time to shift the tide and bring back a society and community where collaboration builds strength, compassion, and trust. The answer is simple. The answer is us! 

RFA's AIDA

The RFA music department is proud to present their 2018 musical production, Aida! Students will be performing Aida this week; Thursday, April 12, Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14 all beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Rome Free Academy. Advanced sale tickets are available at Jervis Library for $7 each, while tickets will be available at the door each night for $8. If you're looking for some great entertainment and a night out, you can't beat an RFA musical!!


Board of Education - Open Seats

This year, there are three (3) open seats on the Board of Education. All three of these seats will be available on July 1, 2018. The term limit for each open seat is three years, expiring on June 30, 2021. Interested candidates must submit a petition to the District on or before April 25, 2018. Completed petitions must include at least 100 qualified signatures and should be returned to the business office of the District at 409 Bell Road. Petitions for the available seats are also available in the Business Office of the Rome City School District. Any questions regarding the Board of Education open seats can be directed to the District's business office, or Board of Education President, Mr. Paul Fitzpatrick.


Unused Contingency Day


Each year, schools are required to meet a minimum of 180 school days (5 of which can be Superintendent's conference days and the Regents Rating Day). Our current calendar allows for 185 staff days and 180 student days scheduled. Within that calendar, one day at the k-6 level was designated for parent/teacher conferences and one day at the 7-12 level was designated for additional professional development. That leaves us with a total of one less student day than desired. Due to the full day conferences and additional professional development at the secondary level, the District began the year with a total of 4 contingency days in the event that there was a need for closure due to weather or emergency. Having been through the worst of it, we still have one unused contingency day, which we are not required to use, but most places do. This year, as long as there are no more weather related closures prior to the date, we plan to use our last contingency day on Friday, April 20. Traditionally, these days may be taken in May, however there are students taking AP examinations through most of the month, so we are opting to use our day in April. A detailed letter will also be sent home this week. 


Go Home Early Drill

Each year, schools in New York State are required to conduct what is called a "go home early" drill. In our region, schools attempt to have this event occur on the same day to minimize disruptions for our local BOCES. This year, the go home early drill will be occurring on Thursday, April 19. For this drill, students will be dismissed from school 15 minutes earlier than regularly scheduled. Please make sure that necessary arrangements are made for students to arrive home from school earlier on that day.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spring Has Sprung...

It's hard to believe that we are here, at the beginning of Spring and April. Most people know that the completion of March in a school setting is a major milestone. It signifies the end of the longest month in a school, and the beginning of the home stretch for our students. The next two and a half months bring many events, opportunities, and potential stresses to our students/staff. Particularly in the secondary setting, students are building schedules for next year, others are preparing for AP exams and Regents exams, the SAT and ACT administrations are coming up which could impact a student's future, some are looking for summer jobs, and that doesn't even begin to take into account athletic events, musicals, concerts, proms, balls, awards ceremonies, field days and class trips. As you can see, there is a lot going on. Generally, when people get busy, they also get tired and stressed. This is no different for our students as it is for us as adults. The next two months are a whirlwind for everyone. Some of the events that occur will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for students and parents. Moving through the final weeks of the school year, please take time to soak in the events and opportunities that our students, staff, and families have. While grades, homework, and assignments are important; I have met very few people who when asked to recall their memories of school, speak of these things. Our responsibility in education is to help people grow. Growth comes in many forms and the bottom line is that growth is growth. Our students are going to remember the humanistic things that we do to help them become better people much more than they are going to remember our best social studies lesson. If you don't believe me, sit for a moment and think about your favorite teacher from school and then the reasons why they were your favorite. Compare that to your least favorite teacher and the reasons why they were your least favorite. The exercise is easy, but it's important and telling. Almost everyone's most favorite teacher provided memorable experiences for them that were not directly related to academics and report cards. If we spend the next two months providing once in a lifetime experiences each day, we are ensured that our children will grow exponentially! 

2018 State Assessments

The 2018 New York State (NYS) assessments for grades 3-8 are quickly approaching. Each year, for the past several years, the State Education Department (SED) has been making drastic improvements to the assessments and process based on the feedback provided to the department from schools, parents, and students. Worthy of note for this year, the assessment administration has been reduced by one day from 3 to 2, for the first time ever the questions are being written by NYS teachers, the assessments continue to be untimed, and the results of the assessments have no impact on teacher evaluation and/or student academic performance in the classroom. What the assessments are aimed to do is help students understand the concept of standardized assessments (a world that they will live in as teenagers and young adults- even a driver's test is a form of this assessment) and they are there to help schools measure their curriculum to determine if there are weaknesses in the local curriculum compared to the measures that assessments are making. There are additional resources for parents, complied by SED, available online. An updated handout and FAQ with information about the 2018 assessments, including details about the reduced number of testing days, can be found here: Office of State Assessment.  The content of these documents was informed by SED's work with parents. 

Unused Contingency Day

Each year, schools are required to meet a minimum of 180 school days (5 of which can be Superintendent's conference days and the Regents Rating Day). Our current calendar allows for 185 staff days and 180 student days scheduled. Within that calendar, one day at the k-6 level was designated for parent/teacher conferences and one day at the 7-12 level was designated for additional professional development. That leaves us with a total of one less student day than desired. Due to the full day conferences and additional professional development at the secondary level, the District began the year with a total of 4 contingency days in the event that there was a need for closure due to weather or emergency. Having been through the worst of it, we still have one unused contingency day, which we are not required to use, but most places do. This year, as long as there are no more weather related closures prior to the date, we plan to use our last contingency day on Friday, April 20. Traditionally, these days may be taken in May, however there are students taking AP examinations through most of the month, so we are opting to use our day in April. A detailed letter will also be sent home this week. 


2018-2019 Health Information

Each year, New York State reviews their health screening requirements and on occasion will make changes. For the 2018-2019 school year, there are changes to the immunization requirements and health screening requirements. For a copy of the updated immunization requirements from the Department of Health, please click the link below. Other changes to health screenings include:

Health Examinations required in grades pre K or K, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
Vision and Hearing Screening required within 6 moths of entering school and in grades pre K or K, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
Scoliosis Screenings are required for females in grades 5 and 7, and for males in grade 9.

Please speak to your school nurse or family physician if you have any questions regarding these new requirements.




Utica OD Teen All-Stars


Who's your Teen All-Star?

The O-D is currently accepting nominations for its 2018 Teen All-Stars! Each year, dozens of local seniors are nominated by friends, family, school officials and members of the community.
Teen All-Stars is an annual awards program created by the Observer-Dispatch to recognize local students who excel both academically and in their extracurricular activities.
The nomination period will be open from Sunday, March 4, until Wednesday, April 4.
To nominate a local high school senior, please fill out this form in its entirety. The nomination must include:
* A letter of nomination (no longer than 500 words)
* A list from the nominee of his or her Top 10 school/community activities
* A statement from the nominee describing one accomplishment he or she is most proud of.
Additional requirements and details can be found on the form.