Sunday, January 27, 2019

Capital Project Update...

As you may know, our team that has been working on the capital project plans (architect, construction management, and financial advisors) made a visit recently to the State Education Department (SED) to discuss our thoughts and plans relative to the project. Unfortunately, the meeting did not go as well as anyone would have hoped for, in large part due to the SED representatives not being prepared. Despite the district working for several months to prepare to information and documents for them, and having delivered the information a month prior to the meeting; the SED staff had not taken the time to review the information that had been provided. While we were not able to receive the information from SED that we were hoping to obtain, we were able to learn a lot about the process, expectations, and determine a better strategy to maximize our needs. While the group at SED was understanding of the need to improve Staley, and agreed that most likely a new building was needed; they were not convinced that a full building was needed. Their philosophy is always to aid as little as possible, which is common sense. Our job is to get as much aided as possible. So, they are working on the data relative to class sizes throughout the district and determining if we should move students from Staley into other buildings to minimize the cost of a new building. From the SED standpoint, the average k-6 class size should be between 25-30 students. Along with this, our team has decided to research an alternative plan for Staley which would still provide a new structure for the students, however would be located at the site of the current Clough building. We will develop a plan to be able to compare the concepts to determine what is most sensible for our community. Beyond the Staley site, the only other information that came from the meeting is that SED will not fund any improvements to the current athletic site on Turin Rd. because the complex is not attached to a school. The formulas and regulations are complicated, but essentially, aid is driven by the number of students in a building combined with a series of designations for room types, etc. With no students permanently at the site, there is zero dollars assigned to it. Therefor, if we want to keep it there, it would be 100% community paid for. If we move the complex to RFA, it can be covered 100% by what is known as the maximum cost allowance for a given school. In the end, now that we know their game, we can develop a game plan that both allows our students and community to have the best/state of the art facilities, while meeting the requirements of SED to maximize aid for the tax base. With all of this planning going on, we have also decided to not hold a referendum vote this spring because we do not feel that the voters will have enough detailed information to make an informed decision. In the coming weeks, we will be developing further ideas, returning to SED, and presenting information to the Board and in the community. As the plan develops, we will continue to welcome conversations from the community. The anticipated vote timeframe is currently set for December of 2019. 

Go Red For Women

On the first Friday of every February, which is designated as American Heart Month, the nation comes together, igniting a wave of red from coast to coast. From landmarks to news anchors and neighborhoods to online communities; this annual groundswell unites millions of people for a common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke. Friday, February 1 marks the kick off event of this National movement; Go Red For Women! Please join me in supporting this great cause by wearing RED on Friday, February 1!!

Rhapsody Collegiate A Cappella Showcase

On Saturday, February 2, Rome Free Academy's Rhapsody will be hosting their annual Collegiate A Cappella Showcase. Beginning at 7:00 p.m., come on out to RFA to enjoy an evening of amazing music. With collegiate groups from across the Northeast in participation, including our very own Rhapsody, it is a night of music sure to entertain!! For more information, please contact the RFA music department.

American Heart Association Run/Walk

On Saturday, February 9th, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, the American Heart Association will be hosting their 17th annual walk/run event at Rome Free Academy. The indoor walk also includes an outdoor run! Besides the walk/run, they will be holding a Heath Expo and several “Sydney’s Circle” events taking place in the gym. The American Heart Association has been very active in the Mohawk Valley and in Rome, providing support for many many people over the years. Let's get behind this fantastic cause and show our support. Registration opens at 8:00 a.m. For more information or to register your team for the walk/run, please visit  

Pre-K Registration 

Registration for the 3-year-old and 4-year-old 2019-2020 pre-K programs will be held from March 4 through March 8 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day. An evening registration event is also available on Wednesday, March 6, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For more information, including required documentation for registration please follow this link:                  PRE-K REGISTRATION INFORMATION

BOCES Family Welcome Center

The BOCES Consortium of Continuing Education (BCCE) has received a federal grant to create a Literacy Zone in the City of Rome and operate a Family Welcome Center at its Rome ACCESS Site. It is the third Literacy Zone that BCCE operates. Literacy Zones are reform initiative intended to help close the achievement gap in communities with high rates of poverty and low levels of literacy. Literacy Zone providers offer or coordinate services to help address literacy deficits in their designated community, including high school equivalency preparation, family literacy support, English as a Second Language programs, workforce development program, interagency connections, transition support for veterans, out-of-school youth and adults leaving incarceration settings, and support for senior citizens, individuals with disabilities and families living in poverty. A calendar with a schedule of community presentations is on the wall at RAS and most students have been attending most of the events, Sebastian said. Topics have included smoke detectors in the home, parenting support groups, healthy relationships, flu shots, properly using car seats, nutrition, transportation, financial literacy and a variety of other issues. For more information, please follow this link: BOCES FAMILY WELCOME CENTER

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tribute to a King...

This week marks the annual anniversary of honoring and remembering one of our nation's greatest leaders and role models, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of the most impressive things about Dr. King's leadership is that he was not an individual appointed to a leadership position, or elected, or managing a company like a CEO. He was an ordinary man who firmly believed that good could triumph over evil. He believed those words in our Declaration of Independence when our nation's creators wrote that, "All men are created equal." He believed that no matter what walk of life you came from, you were worthy of greatness, liberties, freedoms, and happiness. It was Dr. King's ideals, passion for advocating for others, and his positivity that built his legion of followers. That's what made him a leader. It was his vision and undying desire to make the world around him a better place. Fast forward all these years and our nation is still clouded in the veil of racism and inequality. Despite all of the growth that our society has experienced, largely as a result of Dr. King's vision, we are still working to provide equity for all men... and women. The civil rights movement may not be as strong and visible as it once was, but it still exists. Every day people from all walks of life are struggling and fighting for equal rights. Beyond just the ability to have equal rights, the ability to be treated the same in our communities is still ongoing. So, on this day of remembrance for Dr. King, let us work to improve our actions and views of others. Being positive toward each other is not a difficult thing to do. Sure, it's tougher to be positive than it is to vent or complain. And generally, others like to listen to people vent and complain than be positive. But, what good is ill will? What society has ever advanced due to ill will and suppression of others? There have been some golden eras that held these ideals, but ultimately those civilizations have fallen due to the citizens understanding that there was a better way. While our lives are certainly better than those times, we all have room for improvement with how we treat each other and the attitude we carry each and every day. On this day of honoring a King, I ask you to find more positivity, optimism, and hope in your daily life and in the society that we live in. Our children walk around with uncorrupted smiles and pure joy on their faces. If you don't believe me, simply find a child in a moment of fun and you will see the pure happiness in their eyes. We owe it to our children to strive to be a more positive, accepting, and helpful community. There is no better tribute that we all can give to the reverend Dr. King, than to attempt to embody the ideals that he promoted all those decades ago.

RFA Exam Week

Rome Free Academy will be having Regents Exams this week, Tuesday, January 22 - Friday, January 25. If students are not scheduled to take exams, they do not have to attend school those days as regular classes will not be in session at RFA. RFA BOCES students will have morning and afternoon transportation to attend their respective programs throughout the week, as their classes are still in session. Morning exams begin at 8:00 a.m. and afternoon exams begin at 12:00 p.m. For more information, including the exam schedule and transportation information, please check HERE or contact the high school.

National Compliment Day

The power of a compliment is pretty remarkable: Either giving or receiving one can boost your happiness and confidence — making it a win-win. So on January 24, celebrate National Compliment Day by going all out with your complimenting. Created in 1998 by two women from New Hampshire — Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman — National Compliment Day is a fun day (filled with great vibes) that can include everyone.

Winter Gear Giveaway 

The Rome Rescue mission will be holding a winter weather gear giveaway on Monday, January 21 at four different locations. They anticipate to be providing coats, gloves, and mittens during their Mobile Mission Winter Gear Giveaway. There will be sizes that vary and they can't guarantee having the exact size that may be needed. This event will be held at Liberty Gardens (200 N. Levitt St.) between 12:00 p.m. and 12:45 p.m.; Park Drive Manor (430 Park Dr. Manor) between 1:00 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.; South Rome Senior Center (112 Ridge St.) between 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.; and Valentine Apartments (152 Turin St.) between 4:00 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the Rome Rescue Mission. Thank you to the mission for everything that they do for our community and our schools!!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Time to Opt In...

As we move through the winter months, our students and teachers begin to gear for the traditionally dreaded State assessments. However, these assessments were not always traditionally dreaded. It was a very unfortunate event when the State connected them to teacher evaluation, made them longer, and placed significant constraints on them all in exchange for federal dollars to help solve a fairly large financial problem for New York. Prior to that event (roughly 10 years ago now), the State assessments were common place and had been occurring for decades without any concern or complaint. The entire narrative changed in that single moment when the assessments were connected to teacher evaluation, and rightfully so. However, since that moment, many things have changed regarding the assessments, but the narrative remains the same. They are no longer counted toward evaluation, they are untimed, and they are two days long instead of three. Also, they are written by New York State teachers which means the assessments are in alignment with our standards and can be a better measure of our progress than before. What has also changed is the importance of a district's participation rate. Unfortunately, under ESSA, a district's participation rate can significantly cripple the operations. While on the surface, you won't see any data that directly says "participation rate" as a factor for improvement designations; you will learn through homework that participation rate is interwoven into almost all other factors. This can make a huge difference in a negative way for our kids and staff. In subsequent years from this years, schools could be required to develop plans to improve participation rates. This could divert important time and money away from our mission of educating our children, and push it to areas that have nothing to do with the classroom. Further, under ESSA, it is possible for the State to dictate to a district where their staff must be assigned, where resources must be allocated to, undergo reviews where "experts" tell our teachers what they "should" be doing in classrooms to improve our scores on State assessments, and require our buildings to develop plans that take significant time and energy away from a classroom. This can all occur simply due to a low participation rate. Regardless if whether or not the assessment data meets the benchmarks, this can and will occur in places. For that reason, it's time to opt in. The narrative has changed regarding these assessments and the negative impact on a community financially is not worth the game of chicken that we are all playing with these assessments. Being stubborn because of the past does not help our children or our schools anymore. Beyond the financial impact, students are losing the opportunity to learn and experience what a formal assessment is like. This will cause a wave of students who could struggle on Regents exams which are required to graduate high school. The State has listened to the teacher's unions and the parents. They have made necessary and demanded adjustments to the assessments to ensure that they are beneficial for schools and children. It's time that we hold up our end of the bargain and have our children participate in the assessment season. The benefits and the long range positive impact on our children and our school systems far out weighs the small, short-term gratification of playing hard ball. It's time to opt-in my friends. For our children, our schools, and our communities. The time is now to have our children taking the assessments and showing them through data that schools are working and that our teachers are amazing!!   

Winter Gear Giveaway

The Rome Rescue mission will be holding a winter weather gear giveaway on Monday, January 25 at four different locations. They anticipate to be providing coats, gloves, and mittens during their Mobile Mission Winter Gear Giveaway. There will be sizes that vary and they can't guarantee having the exact size that may be needed. This event will be held at Liberty Gardens (200 N. Levitt St.) between 12:00 p.m. and 12:45 p.m.; Park Drive Manor (430 Park Dr. Manor) between 1:00 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.; South Rome Senior Center (112 Ridge St.) between 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.; and Valentine Apartments (152 Turin St.) between 4:00 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the Rome Rescue Mission. Thank you to the mission for everything that they do for our community and our schools!!

Breakfast of Champions

The Rome Sports Hall of Fame is partnering with the Rome City School District to promote and create opportunities for all girls in grades 7-12! We want to celebrate athletic participation and provide some opportunities to learn a sport and encourage them to continue participation through their high school years and beyond! In recognition of this endeavor, the Rome Sports Hall of Fame is hosting the Breakfast of Champions for JV and Varsity female athletes in grades 7-12 on Saturday, March 16, 2019, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Lake Delta Inn. The Rome Sports Hall of Fame wants to promote participation in all athletics by celebrating with our High School and youth in honor of National Girls & Women in Sports Day! The organization recognizes the extraordinary progress sparked by Title IX and the ongoing effort to ensure access to sports for girls and women. Research demonstrates that girls who play sports have better health, higher self-esteem, stronger leadership skills, greater academic achievement, and economic opportunity. Let’s work together through NGWSD to get these girls in the game and expand their opportunities both in sports and in life. ( The Rome Sports Hall of Fame invites  YOU to come celebrate with us and to be treated to a full breakfast and have the opportunity to hear about what athletics has done for successful women. Come hear about how sports changed their lives!!

Show Choir Festival 

Looking for a night of outstanding music and entertainment? This coming Friday, January 18, the RFA Show Choir will host their annual Show Choir Festival at RFA beginning at 7:30 p.m. Each year, show choirs from all around the region come together to perform an evening filled with top notch vocal entertainment, combined with visual artistry that is second to none. Stop on by RFA this Friday for an evening of music you won't soon forget!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Heroes Needed...

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2019!! January marks National Mentoring Month in our country. As you may know, Rome City Schools has one of New York State's strongest organized mentoring programs through the State government. Over the past 4 years of developing the program, we have evolved into a model program for the State and are mentioned consistently as a community that others should model. Why is this? It is due to the massive amount of individuals that give their time each week for our little ones. Beyond just the individuals that work with our kids through this program, our community is filled with individuals that give their time, money, and care for others within the community. More than ever, our children need mentors, idols, or heroes. Let's face it, when we are all growing up, the person we looked up to the most was considered a hero to us. The unfortunate part is that most of us have never met our hero because we chose someone famous from another part of the world. Even more unfortunate is that there was most likely a more suitable hero for us all right within our own communities, and we just didn't notice. Most people think that role models or heroes need to have fame or fortune or do something amazing to get large recognition. The reality is that a hero/role model needs to be no more than a mentor. Someone who is willing to sacrifice their own needs and wants to help someone else. Fact is, heroes don't have money. Heroes don't have fame. Heroes have compassion. Heroes have a positive attitude and outlook on everything. You don't recognize a hero because they don't want recognition. They simply want to help others enjoy life in a way in which they may not otherwise know. It's not hard to be a mentor and it's not hard to be hero. A lot of society however has lost their way with regard to the concept of setting the example for our children. As adults, we are all free to live our lives however we want, do the things we want, say the things we like. However, that doesn't mean that all of those things are always appropriate for our children. Things as simple as speaking respectfully to each other, holding a door for someone, ladies first, and many more common place etiquette actions are disappearing. So, this month of January, I challenge you to be a mentor. Be a mentor without even having a mentee. Simply demonstrating a positive attitude and being kind to others is all it takes. Our children will notice, and although you won't know it, you will be hero to them!

Face Off Against Colon Cancer

The Rome Free Academy hockey team will be hosting the 7th annual Face Off Against Colon Cancer benefit game (played in memory of Coach Peter Mastracco) on Friday, January 11th at Kennedy Arena, where RFA will face off against Cazenovia at 7:00 p.m.. The RFA Ice Hockey Booster Club set up a fund in honor of the late Mastracco, who passed away from his battle with colon cancer in 2015. Please support your RFA Black Nights as they continue their messaging of “Get Checked From Behind”. Cancer is a disease that has greatly impacted our district and community in recent years. Supporting our students in their quest to support us all is the least we can do. RFA will Face Off against Cazenovia on Friday, January 11th at 7:00 p.m.

Mentors Needed

As luck would have it, we are in need of 3 mentors ourselves for our elementary school mentoring program. Three of the 66 mentors who are volunteering this year have had to withdraw from the program due to re-location or medical reasons. Mentoring sessions are held once a week from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. One mentor is needed for Bellamy School on Tuesdays; one is needed for Stokes School on Wednesdays; and one for Ridge Mills School on Thursdays. The program will run once a week from now until mid-May. If you are interested or need more information, please contact Amanda Jones (Director of Counseling: or myself.

Peachjar Update 

Thank you to all of our community members and staff for embracing the Peachjar concept. To date, we have saved almost 300,000 sheets of paper (32 trees) in just 4 months of operation!! Our community and district has become a flagship area for Peachjar due to our diligence on this initiative. If you consider what a benefit this program is to our environment, and then compound that over the years that schools have sent home paper flyers to families; it truly is amazing at the work we have done together in a short time to help our environment. If you are not receiving your school fliers or district fliers by email from Peachjar, you can view the fliers HERE and can sign up to receive the updates by email. Thank you once again for embracing this initiative this year!

Best Tech Practices

Our information technology department continues 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 tidbits are related to password issues that we all encounter when utilizing technology.. In an effort to help you stay informed, please see this brief information page on what to be looking for as it relates to passwords.