Sunday, December 16, 2018

Enough Already...

Two of education's predominant phrases for why students should be doing what they are doing in schools are: "It worked for me" and "because I said so". Obviously, if you read this regularly, you know that I am not a fan of either phrase as I encourage our staff and students to challenge the status quo every day. More importantly, in the wake of our regions second high school tragedy within the past month; I am really concerned about when we are going to become an institution of acceptance rather than an institution of compliance? A current topic that is all the rage is bullying. Over the past several years, our society as a whole has made an attempt to diminish and rid itself of bullying. 40, 50, 60 years ago; bullying was an accepted part of society and no one questioned it. It was a normal "rite of passage" in most communities throughout the world. The civil rights movement is another example. It should not require the murder of great civic leaders or teen suicide rates on the rise for the rest of the community to recognize that it's time to live in an age of acceptance, rather than compliance. Public education was developed over 100 years ago in a very compliance rich society and in an extremely compliance rich way. I would also argue that public education is the one profession that most closely resembles what it looked like 100 years ago, despite our standards being completely different, knowledge base being expanded, technology flourishing, and society shifting drastically. Have you ever thought to ask yourself if the way we used to do things was really the right way? Certainly, the way things were done in the past were not the best; hence the concept of evolution. Being better does not mean that the past was bad; it simply means it can be improved, evolved. The problem is not the kids. The problem is all of us adults that refuse to see that the world has changed around us and that the world our children ARE living in and WILL grow up in, is not the world that we knew. It most likely is not the world that we would prefer for our children either. However, attempting to make the world and society into something that once was 30 years ago is not the answer. The answer is acceptance. Accepting that society has evolved and we need work within that society is crucial. Even when adults use social media in an attempt to connect with our youth, the large majority of it has become sharing negative thoughts and feelings about topics and others (in essence, bullying). If we as adults can't learn to be the role models our kids need; we are dooming them to a lifetime of solitude. Our children need us to accept them for who they are and what THEY want out of life. So, if you can give only one gift this holiday season; I would ask that you give the gift of effort. Give the effort to try and understand someone, a lifestyle, a group, an activity; anything that you normally wouldn't agree with it. Accepting is not agreeing. Accepting is understanding that those that are different than ourselves have the right to live their life the way that they want to live it. Acceptance is understanding differences are normal and respecting differences without prejudice, hate, or violence. Our children need us more than ever as our whole society has evolved into a world where people are encouraged to question the norm, ask 'why' something is the way that it is, and told to change the world. We need to accept that our kids are going to someday, run our society. It's time we listen to their needs and attempt to understand what they are telling us. It may not make sense at first, but forced compliance only hurts our children. It's enough already. Time for compliance to become extinct, and the age of acceptance to be born!

RTA/RAE Holiday Drive

Through the Community Schools Initiative, the Rome Teacher's Association and the Rome Alliance for Education have partnered together to assist in making the holidays a bit brighter for our families in need. RAE has joined Operation Sunshine, the majority of families that are in need of assistance are assisted by the Salvation Army, as well as, Catholic Charities in the Rome area. However, every year families may miss the registration dates or are at the "last minute" finding themselves not prepared.  The RAE has agreed to come into the mix as a safety net, providing any families that are not being assisted by those two agencies (or other sources) to be assisted by our school community. Items of need include:
  • Gifts for ANY ages - toys - games - arts and crafts - big or small
  • Food - no perishable food - think breakfast cereals - can goods - snack items
  • Hygiene products - this may be shampoos - soap - toothbrushes - tooth paste - deodorants - feminine hygiene products - diapers
  • OR a financial donation - if this is just simple for you - it also works for RAE! They can purchase at a much lower rate with our partners for these goods, if you would like to write a check, make it out to Rome Alliance for Education, if you need a tax deductible receipt, RAE can provide that as well. 
If you have any questions, concerns or would like to help with distribution/organization of items; please feel free to email RAE Director Melissa Roys at: MelissaRoys@RomeCommunitySchools.com

Thank You Rotary

This week, the Rome Rotary and the RFA Rotary Interact Club sponsored their annual Christmas celebration for elementary students. Complete with lunch, stories, caroling, crafts, and a gift bag; the Rotary truly demonstrates the spirit of the holiday season for our children. The experience is truly a wonderful one for both our elementary students and RFA students who participate. Thank you to the Rotary of Rome, as well as, to the students in the Rotary Interact Club for your time and generosity this week!



Rising Stars 

Rising Stars is a fun learning experience that teaches stage and life skills through games, activities, individual coaching, and actual performances on the Capitol Stage. The program focuses on developing the students' own creativity, building self-confidence, improving reading comprehension and speaking ability, accepting responsibility, and teamwork. Students will learn stage movement, character development, how to audition, and a whole lot more! Skills developed will better prepare students to compete for roles in school plays and other local stage productions, as well as interacting with confidence during pageants, interviews for college or jobs, and in everyday dealings with teachers and peers. For the first time this winter, there are two options: the regular sessions and the advanced classes. For more information on either class, please see their flier on our peachjar: ADVANCED CLASSES or REGULAR CLASSES






Sunday, December 9, 2018

More Than a Facelift...

By now, you may know that the District has recently released some information about an upcoming Capital Project referendum. You may also recall that for the past few years, we have been working on determining the best way to correct some of the structural issues at Rome Free Academy. During the two years of developing some ideas (as well as making sure needed work such as the roof at RFA, flashings that were omitted from the original build, electrical issues in the auditorium, and underutilized spaces due to changes in education over the years gets addressed); we have successfully hired a new architect, hired a construction management firm to help manage the project, and begun to work collaboratively to develop an educational and project plan that is both innovative and cost effective. Staley is our last elementary school to be renovated, and unfortunately, it needs more than a renovation. The building rests in a federal flood plain and as you know from the fall, it is completely saturated with water from years of flooding. The interior walls of the building do not meet current building codes (which could be why the District hasn't given the building a full renovation in 60 years). In order to do any work inside the building, the entire building would have to taken down and rebuilt. To rebuild on the current site, it could require the District to raise the entire property by 5 feet (so it is no longer in a flood plain) and then build the school. Other Districts in New York that have had to do this recently have spent roughly $75 million on a similar project. Since that amount is not even reasonable for us, our proposal: Build a new elementary school on the site of the former Rome Free Academy (Turin Road). A new building on this location could incorporate the existing structure which already has the most un-aidable spaces in any school (gymnasiums and cafeteria). This would all be contingent on the aid-ability that would be approved by the State Education Department and with their agreement that Staley is not worth the investment, in it's current location. 

Moving the elementary school would also require a new approach for our athletic facilities. Currently, the stadium complex where it is located is not an aid-able facility because it is not connected to a school and utilized for instruction. Therefor, any improvements made to the Turin Road site could require 100% funding by taxpayers or the general fund; if the State Education Department is not willing to provide any support. We know that the turf and track need to be replaced, and the stadium itself is reaching the end of it's useful life. During our last building condition survey two years ago, our former architect noted that the physical structure itself was failing and was in need of either demolition and rebuilding, our jacking up and reinforcement. Our proposal: Build a brand new, state of the art, athletic facility/FABLAB at Rome Free Academy. This facility would include a new stadium (football, soccer, field hockey), new baseball stadium, new softball complex, refurbished tennis courts with lights, an athletic office facility with new RFA Hall of Fame, and an indoor field house for athletics and drone engineering. The project would also include increased parking at RFA. Again, the entire proposal is contingent upon SED approval and aid-ability. There is a lot to determine before knowing for certain what can happen.

While we don't know if the State Education Department will approve our thoughts, or if it is something that will fit within our allowances; we have begun the work to improve our two facilities in most need. To date, we have had preliminary meetings with SED and hope to meet face to face in the next two weeks so that we can work our the financial elements on our end. We will have a completed scope of work for the public before the end of January (which may be very different than these proposals depending on SED and affordability). Once we have that information, we will also begin the public hearing phase and provide continued updates so that we are all aware of what the project entails and will cost. 

To view renderings of our ideas, and to see the slides from this week's Board of Education meeting, please click the link below:


Scholar Athletes/Teams

Congratulations to all of our Fall sport scholar athletes and teams! The NYSPHSAA has released the list of scholar athletes and teams for the Fall 2018 season. Our Scholar Teams for the Fall 2018 season include: Girls Varsity Field Hockey coached by Mackenzie Welker, Girls Varsity Cross Country coached by Ty Knamm, Boys Varsity Cross Country coached by Nicholas Jeror, Girls Varsity Soccer coached by Bill Tagliaferri, Boys Varsity Soccer coached by Chad Reese, Girls Gymnastics coached by Kevin Perrone, Girls Swimming coached by Michelle Browne, and Girls Varsity Tennis coached by Peter Smith. In total, across all sports, we had 120 students achieve the Scholar Athlete distinction. Individual awards are given to any student who has a cumulative GPA of 90 or higher; while team awards are given to teams that have 75% of the roster achieving a GPA of 90 or better. 

Wreaths Across America

The Rome City School District and Rome Free Academy have received the honor of being asked to host a Wreaths Across America transfer event at RFA on Monday, December 10th beginning at 3:30 p.m. Wreaths Across America is a national event where donations of wreaths are made and laid at Arlington National Cemetery (as well as many other cemeteries nationwide) for our fallen soldiers of conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. This particular exchange event is sponsored by Walmart as they have four truckloads of wreaths traveling the country on their way to Arlington, Virginia. The event at RFA will honor local veterans and involve our own RFA JROTC unit. We are grateful that Walmart has requested RFA as a location to perform the truck exchange so that our students and community can be a part of an amazing event. Please feel free to stop by! For more information, please see the flier HERE.


Painting Class Fundraiser 

On Friday, December 14th, the RFA Junior Class is hosting a painting class fundraising event in conjunction with Kts Art and Design of Rome, NY. From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. you will have the experience of creating a masterpiece that you didn't know you were capable of creating. Reservations are required and the donation is $45 per painter. For more information, including information on how to register, please see the image below. 


Best Tech Practices

In advance of Education Law 2-d, the Rome City School District has been one of the first Districts in the state to appoint an information security analyst to help in protecting our networks and data. As part of this process, our information technology department has begun to help educate folks on things related to technology and the cyber world that could be common occurrences or mistakes that people make online. This month, their first tidbits are related to malicious email issues that are some of the most common methods that hackers use to gain access to your information. During the holiday season, malicious email activity spikes. In an effort to help you stay informed, please see this brief information page on what to be looking for as it relates to malicious emails.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

It Can Be Done...

This week, I read one of the more inspiring stories involving a child that I have read in recent months. The story involves basketball icon Steph Curry and a 9 year old California girl who used the power of social media in a positive manner. For those that haven't seen/heard of this yet, the story can be found here, but the lowdown is that the young girl wrote a letter to Steph Curry; simply asking why his new shoes weren't available on the Under Armour website for girls. What happened from there, you can most likely figure it out. The amazing thing is that a 9 year old was able to take to Twitter in a positive way to simply advocate for young girls everywhere and make a simple request to a powerful person that she had never met or spoken to. The outcome was positive for everyone, including those just using social media to stay in touch. In a society where most adults use social media to bash others, criticize, and put people down without maybe knowing them or without having details; a 9 year old was able to understand social media and use it correctly to benefit many. The old concept of getting more with honey than vinegar, is alive and well in California. Social media, as evidenced by this simple story (and there are many more occurrences of positive social media than just this one), can be an amazing tool for children and adults alike to work together for positive change and support of each other. Many feel that social media has simply become an arena for bullying and negativity, which causes many not to use it. However, it can be utilized in a positive manner and we simply have to want it to be used that way. Rather than taking to social media to complain, criticize, and bash Steph Curry and Under Armour; this young lady chose to ask why the shoes weren't available and asked for the basketball star to talk to the company about making them available on the girls' section of the website. The result was a multi-BILLION dollar company making an adjustment to their sales pages within minutes. Beyond just that, the collaboration and learning that took place far outweighs the simple fact that a young girl made a difference. It can be done people... we just need to choose to want social media to be a positive tool rather than a cesspool of hate and intolerance. Follow her lead, and it can be done.

Strough Holiday Craft Bazaar

On Saturday, December 8th, Strough Middle School will be hosting the Strough Holiday Craft Bazaar from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the school. It's a great opportunity to get some homemade holiday trinkets for either yourself, or as gifts for family and friends. For more information, please see their flier HERE. We hope to see you there!!


Breakfast with Santa

On Sunday, December 9th, the RFA Travel Club will be hosting a Breakfast with Santa fundraiser from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in the RFA cafeteria. Tickets for the event are $6.00 and can be purchased at the door. Children ages 5 and under eat free and all proceeds benefit the Travel Club and their upcoming trip this Spring. For more information, click HERE and we look forward to seeing you for a great pancake breakfast on December 9th!


Painting Class Fundraiser 

On Friday, December 14th, the RFA Junior Class is hosting a painting class fundraising event in conjunction with Kts Art and Design of Rome, NY. From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. you will have the experience of creating a masterpiece that you didn't know you were capable of creating. Reservations are required and the donation is $45 per painter. For more information, including information on how to register, please see the image below. 


Christmas in the City Event

Life Church of Rome, NY will be hosting their second annual Christmas in the City event this coming Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8, from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. each evening. The event will be held at the former NYS Armory, located at 1110 Black River Blvd. During the event there will be an interactive Christmas village, live caroling, local artisans, food trucks, treats, and live animals. Christmas in the City is a FREE event and for more information, please visit their website at www.lifechurchny.com/christmas


Wreaths Across America

The Rome City School District and Rome Free Academy have received the honor of being asked to host a Wreaths Across America transfer event at RFA on Monday, December 10th beginning at 3:30 p.m. Wreaths Across America is a national event where donations of wreaths are made and laid at Arlington National Cemetery (as well as many other cemeteries nationwide) for our fallen soldiers of conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. This particular exchange event is sponsored by Walmart as they have four truckloads of wreaths traveling the country on their way to Arlington, Virginia. The event at RFA will honor local veterans and involve our own RFA JROTC unit. We are grateful that Walmart has requested RFA as a location to perform the truck exchange so that our students and community can be a part of an amazing event. Please feel free to stop by! For more information, please see the flier HERE.


RFA Class Holiday Window Competition

In conjunction with our local JCP, who is a tremendous supporter of our local education, families, and students; each of the individual RFA cohorts has decorated a holiday window display at the local JCP as a fundraising event. The window paintings will be on display throughout the holiday season and you can vote for your favorite window in the store. The winning class will receive a $200 donation from JCP. Thank you to JCP for sponsoring such a fun event which brings the school and community together during the holiday season.  Students from each class volunteered their time and creative ability to design the best windows for Rome, so make sure to get out and vote for your favorite!