Sunday, September 29, 2019

Let's Get Outdoors...

One of the most common comments that I hear from my parents and people over the age of 40 in general, is related to the amount of time that kids of today spend on their electronic devices. There is no debating that electronics (video games, tablets, phones, etc.) are taking over the universe! As a kid, I can remember spending time playing the latest Nintendo games to pass the time or when it was raining. But, the second a friend called to get outside and do something, it seems like the entire neighborhood was out there. Recently, I happened across a video on YouTube (HERE) where three generations of families are asked what they do/did for fun as a kid, and the responses are not that surprising. But, they may be disheartening. Essentially, are youth are spending less and less time outdoors and more and more time in front of a screen. While there is an added value to electronics, too much time and/or time spent on the wrong things can create concerns. There are plenty of apps and programs that exist that are educational, improve fine motor skills, and stimulate thinking. On the other side, there are also programs that promote violence, aggression, and harm. In my own household, it is becoming increasingly difficult to help our kids realize and understand that video games are not real and that something as serious as death is permanent in real life. If you get hurt in real life, you aren't going to turn into a ghost and have another life in a few seconds. Encouraging our kids of today's generation to get outside more frequently and be creative, play games, run, etc. is vital to helping our kids develop a healthy and balanced mind. One of the best part about going to youth athletic events (even as old as high school students) is seeing kids being active. Kids are still kids and they enjoy the outdoors and they enjoy being creative, using their imagination. Yes, at times the neighborhood is not what it once was when we were kids. But, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't get our kids outdoors and play with them. There is any number of activities that we can all do with our kids to get them outdoors, being active, and using their imagination. The next generation of parents will all thank us if we can continue to raise our kids with the simple element of outdoor fun that we all grew up. So, as the nice weather begins to be less common, get them outdoors so they can run off some of that energy and stimulate their brains in a different way!!

Congrats RFA Athletes

This past week, the athletes of Rome Free Academy were awarded with the NYSPHAA Sportsmanship Award. Our student athletes' effort on the field, in the gym, and in contest once again brought positive recognition to our school and community. Rome Free Academy was one of just seven schools in all of Section III that were recognized with the exceptional effort in sportsmanship this year. Congratulations and thank you to our RFA athletes for representing yourselves, your school, and your community with such distinction!

Celebration of Education

The 14th Annual Celebration of Education, which is sponsored by First Source Federal Credit Unionwill take place on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at Hart's Hill Inn in Whitesboro, N.Y. Each year, the Celebration of Education recognizes outstanding educators and programs throughout the Mohawk Valley that are positively impacting our students, schools and the community. The program includes k-12 schools, area colleges, and organizations that are working in these institutions. If you feel that there is an adult in your child's school(s) or program that works with your children in schools that is worthy of nomination for this awards event, please contact your child's school so that we can submit the nomination paperwork.

Foster Parenting

Did you know, that more than 500,000 children nationwide are living without their birthparents? Foster parenting is a growing need in our country and if you are interested in learning more, there is an opportunity to do so locally. The Rome Family YMCA, in conjunction with Fostering Futures, will be hosting an information session on becoming a foster parent on Tuesday, October 1, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. More information is also available by visiting

NYSPHAA Official's Day

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) is proud to announce their first ever Official's Appreciation Day on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019. This is a day where student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans are encouraged to thank the officials who make interscholastic athletics possible. Being an official is no easy task and this coming Wednesday, we all have an opportunity to say "thank you". On behalf of the Rome City School District, we say thank you to all officials who take the field with our kids!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

We Can Help...

The Rome Community and the Rome City School District are fortunate to have one of the fastest growing and most connected community schools initiatives in the country, with the Connected Community Schools initiative (formally Rome Community Schools). The partnership between the Rome Alliance for Education, Safe Schools Mohawk Valley, CNY Health Homes Network, and the Rome City School District has blossomed into more than anyone could have imagined in the past 3 years. The Connected Community Schools group has developed a system to support students and families of our community, referred to as LINK. The LINK model provides access to our students and families to over 50 agencies that can support families in need of anything from basic accounting/banking issues to something as serious as access to mental health agencies. Through our school counselors and the agencies case workers, LINK works to partner students and families with the resources that we have in our region to provide the support that is needed. Further, the LINK model is being presented throughout the country by the Connected Community Schools team as a premier model of community schools and connectivity to community resources. Rome is fortunate to have some of the most community orientated and solutions based people developing our community schools model. As mentioned previously, not only do we have LINK to provide families and students access to resources that may be needed, we also have two community marketplaces in our schools (Bellamy and Gansevoort) that provide products to students and families that may be in need. The main products of the marketplaces are food related, however, each location also has general household items and clothing for students and families. Beyond the marketplaces, all of our schools work to have general needs for families and students. Access to anything that may be needed by a student or family can be found by speaking to your school counselor or principal. From there, we will get a student or family connected to the best resource to fill the need. Finally, this year, in collaboration with the Connected Community Schools, the Rome City School District is launching an initiative to support students transition from grade 6 through to grade 10. These 4 years of schooling are vital to sustained success in high school and beyond. The community schools team, along with the district, will be working to reduce chronic absenteeism of students in these grades. Along with this, the team will work to help every student find a connection to school, which also leads to long term success. The menu of items that are available to our students and families is growing by the month, and we are fortunate to have the Connected Community Schools initiative in Rome! If you would like to follow them on Facebook, they can be found here: If there is a need that you or your family has, we can help! Please contact your school counselor for more information on what the next steps are to begin making the connections that you need.

Emergency Preparedness Training

Oneida-Herkimer-Boces along with Citizen Prepared Corps is hosting a two-hour training session to provide residents with the tools and resources needed to prepare for any type of disaster. On Thursday, September 26, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the OHM BOCES in New Hartford, residents can receive a training and a free disaster preparedness kit. For more information, please visit and to register, please visit

RFA PBIS Test Drive Event

Come test drive a Ford, courtesy of Steet Ford of Yorkville, and Ford will donate $20 to Rome Free Academy. Steet Ford is bringing vehicles to RFA during its Open House on Thursday, September 26, from 2:30 - 7:00 p.m. for the test drives.  Any driver 18 years of age or older with a valid driver's license and proof of insurance is encouraged to come test drive a Ford to help raise money for our students.  Ford will donate $20 per test drive, up to $6,000!! No purchase necessary! *Limit one donation per person and one donation per household.*

Foster Parenting

Did you know, that more than 500,000 children nationwide are living without their birthparents? Foster parenting is a growing need in our country and if you are interested in learning more, there is an opportunity to do so locally. The Rome Family YMCA, in conjunction with Fostering Futures, will be hosting an information session on becoming a foster parent on Tuesday, October 1, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. More information is also available by visiting

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Capital Project Menu...

On Wednesday, September 18, our district's capital improvement project team will be presenting an update on possible capital project ideas for this year in Rome Free Academy's small auditorium. While many of the things that will be presented/discussed, there are some adjustments from the presentation that was held for the Board of Education in August. Most notably, since that time, the State Education Department (SED) Office of Facilities Planning has once again shifted course on the district. After directing us last year that they would no longer aid repairs for our current stadium facility, they have changed course and informed us that they will continue to aid this facility, meaning there is no need to move it from a financial perspective. With this news, the team has edited this item of the project to maintain the stadium, track, and field at the current sight. This adjustment alone will save our community a tremendous amount of money and we are hopeful that SED will continue to have this opinion of aiding our projects well into the future. A second major difference to be presented this week is a new proposal to add 4 classrooms, enlarge the gymnasium, library, and cafeteria at both Ridge Mills and Stokes schools. The project was already in the planning phases to be brought forward in a few years, however after discussions with the Board of Education, it became obvious that we should at least investigate the cost and possibility of this project moving forward now. The remaining concepts that will be presented are similar to the previous presentation: addition of space at Clough school to replace the current Staley, improvement to all elementary school entrances to make them more secure, general building condition survey items at RFA, and athletic complex improvements at the current RFA sight. At this point, the district still has not received potential aid figures from SED, which will make most of the discussion this coming Wednesday somewhat superficial if we don't have the ability to provide concrete financial figures. However, it's still important to discuss what could be done and what the worst case scenario financial impact could be. During the presentation, the goal is not for anyone to make decisions, but simply to hear what needs to be done district wide and begin to prioritize what can be done in the immediate future. The process is truly one of presenting a menu of options, and determining which ones need to be done, can be done, and/or should be done. We also anticipate that the referendum vote will also be conducted in a similar format. Finally, one of the largest differences between this project proposal and projects of the past is that our new team is attempting to start the cycle where each project provides something of improvement to every building in the district for maintenance purposes. Instead of waiting 20 years to do maintenance and then needing to renovate an entire building, we are trying to get into a cycle where general maintenance is done on every building on a more frequent schedule, ultimately over time consuming less resources for the district to keep state of the art resources. 

Foster Parenting

Did you know, that more than 500,000 children nationwide are living without their birthparents? Foster parenting is a growing need in our country and if you are interested in learning more, there is an opportunity to do so locally. The Rome Family YMCA, in conjunction with Fostering Futures, will be hosting an information session on becoming a foster parent on Tuesday, October 1, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. More information is also available by visiting

Food Pantries

Bellamy Elementary, and now Gansevoort Elementary, both have a community marketplace for families to receive goods that they may be in need of. Both marketplaces contain food, clothing, and other household items that may be needed. Each marketplace is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:00 - 2:00 p.m., and are available to any family in the community. In order to enter the building, please make sure you have photo identification, and someone will assist you with accessing the marketplace. 

After School Bowling

King Pin Lanes, located on East Dominick Street, will be providing after school bowling opportunities for students and families throughout the fall. The program will run from October 3 through December 5 and entails bowling on Thursdays from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. The cost is $7.00 per bowler and the pricing includes two games and shoes per week, a pizza party on the last week, and participation medals for all who participate. For more information, you can check out King Pin on Facebook at or via email (

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Back in the Headlines...

Vaping (or Juuling) is once again making headlines throughout the country. However, this time, it is not the school systems attempting to bring information forward for people to understand the epidemic, it's health agencies, governments, and the medical field reporting significant concerns over the products. On almost every news media website, you can find numerous stories on health concerns and deaths related to vaping or vaping products. Michigan, this week, became the first State in the country to official ban the sale of flavored vaping syrups. The movement for requesting regulation and banning of these syrups has been ongoing for many years. In fact, two years ago I was honored to speak at an event with Senator Schumer calling for the very same restrictions that the medical field is finally coming to the table about. The conversations are not new, they are just becoming more serious. In New York, the Public Health Commissioner is asking residents to suspend use of the products due to the recent rash of illness and death occurring throughout the country, while the medical field takes time to learn more about the products. Our local media has (WKTV) has done numerous stories and has links to many more from around the country on vaping and the dangers specifically to teenagers. Recently, the CNY Poison Control Center has also been doing work in the area of educating the public on the health risks. What does this all mean, it means that if vaping (JUULing) is something that you or your children are doing or want to do, please take the time to understand the associated risks. Signs are starting to trend to being one of the most harmful products that we could put into our bodies. As I said several years ago in another blog on vaping, we all have the right to use whatever we want as human beings, however, being educating and understanding the harms associated with various products is important. Most importantly, for our children and teens, these products are dangerous and they are causing serious illness and even death. I urge you all to take the time to research the industry before allowing your kids to use the products, or if they are already using the products. Below is a link to a WKTV story on the topic, as well as a copy of the blog that received the attention of Senator Schumer to provide you avenues for resources. 

(January 2018) One of the growing topics of conversation in the media lately has been the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers (commonly known as a vape) amongst youth and teens in our society. This is not a new topic as the onset of the devices occurred roughly a decade ago and they began to be used regularly by teenagers nearly 7 years ago now. Unfortunately, society at the time was not sure of the implications and the devices and substances used in them were loosely regulated, despite research that showed concerns relative to children using electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. Fast forward to today, the devices have been banned on school property through New York State law, there have been increased regulations about the age at which people can purchase or possess a vape (currently the age is 18), and the level of research has grown tremendously. As a parent, it is important to know that the syrups that are used in a vape do contain small amounts of nicotine, which causes the addictive nature of vaping. The industry was able to get around the listing of nicotine as an ingredient when the trend began because a.) they were not required to list the ingredients initially and b.) once regulated, the amount of nicotine in the syrup was so small that it was not required to be listed. Also, people have found ways to liquify marijuana and will lace the syrups with more hard core substances that could be more damaging for children. Finally, current research is showing that vaping has become the new gateway drug to cigarettes and other smokable drugs that are less healthy. While the choice of smoking or vaping is something that adults have the right to do, it is important to know that it is illegal for minors and highly unhealthy. Before allowing your children to venture into the world of vaping, I highly recommend that you take time to review the current research and literature about the outcomes and effects of the devices. More information can be found by visiting the sites below:

NAACP 20/20 Census

On September 16, 2019, the Rome NAACP will be hosting a census event, "Census 20/20, We Count." There will be a representative from the US Census Bureau who will give an hour seminar on the importance of the census and then take questions. The event will be held at MVCC, Rome Campus, 1101 Floyd Avenue beginning at 6:00 p.m. ALL are invited. Please plan on attending and spread the word!! Any questions regarding the event, please contact branch President Jacqueline Nelson at 315-271-7703.

Figure Skating Club

The Clinton Figure Skating Club will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary this year! In kicking off the celebration, they will be hosting a registration event on Friday, September 20th from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. The club has Learn To Skate opportunities for everyone of all ages and all styles. For more information, please visit their website at

After School Bowling

King Pin Lanes, located on East Dominick Street, will be providing after school bowling opportunities for students and families throughout the fall. The program will run from October 3 through December 5 and entails bowling on Thursdays from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. The cost is $7.00 per bowler and the pricing includes two games and shoes per week, a pizza party on the last week, and participation medals for all who participate. For more information, you can check out King Pin on Facebook at or via email (

Monday, September 2, 2019

Welcome Back September...

This year, September seems to have snapped into place with the snap of a finger. Summer weather is giving way to cooler, more fall-like temperatures (which are great to open school) and the fall athletic season is underway. We enter the 2019-2020 school year filled with optimism for the growth of our children, like we do every year. We also enter this school year with more uncertainty than we ever have from the legislative level. In New York, our State Education Department (SED) currently has several senior leadership vacancies (including the commissioner's position), we face the full implementation of ESSA, and we begin the year with new Federal financial reporting requirements that could require schools to involuntarily shift resources from one school to another if the government does not deem there to be equity. More than ever, the "business" of education is taking the focus off of children and the responsibility that our staff has to helping kids grow. As we enter the new year, it is imperative that we maintain our focus on students and their growth toward becoming productive members of our society. The worst part of education is that the main consumer has little influence on their industry and most often is not aware of the forces that are exuded on our system from governmental agencies. Education of the past may have had elements that by today's standards are barbaric, however, the one thing that they had correct was that teachers had the freedom to be the educational artists that they are trained to be. Every day, teachers and parents work magic with children in teaching them not from a script, but from the heart and mind. Thinking like a child, remembering what is to be a child, and working to relate to our children is the magic that create learning. During this year, while there are so many forces attempting to deter the mission, I hope that you and your students can retain the focus of learning and being a child throughout the year. Have a great year everyone and please find the kid in you!!

NYS Kindergarten Learning Standards

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has released A Resource for School Success for the New York State Kindergarten Learning Standards. This resource was developed by the New York State Education Department’s Offices of Early Learning and Curriculum & Instruction and consolidates all learning standards for kindergarten students into one document.  It is intended to be used as a reference tool by teachers, specialists, and administrators responsible for designing programs for kindergarten students. Each Tip sheet covers one area of learning, and provides developmentally appropriate strategies and activities that can be done at home, and additional resources. A link to the tip sheets and kindergarten learning standards is here:

Parent Portal

Parent Portal is an online method for families to access our student management system, SchoolTool. We will once again be utilizing Parent Portal this year for the communication of progress reports and ongoing grade reporting. Once you log in, and a report has been published, you will easily be able to view these reports in your portal. If you do not already have an account, and would like to sign up for an account, please contact your child's school.

Peach Jar Program

Once again, the Rome City School District will be working with a vendor to electronically distribute fliers that are typically copied and sent home through backpacks. Beyond just the distribution of fliers, the program can also allow individuals to register or sign up for events online; allowing building staff's to have a better handle on attendance figures prior to an event. If you have not already signed up for the program, you can do so by visiting our website at You can register for the program by clicking "My Account". 

2019 - 2020 Immunization Requirements

This year, the New York State legislature passed a law that no longer allows for the religious exemption for school vaccinations. This law took effect immediately and any student who held a religious exemption must be vaccinated this year for school attendance purposes. The link below will take you to the State Education Department website that outlines the required vaccinations. In addition to vaccination requirements, New York State requires several other health related items for attendance in public school. Some of these items 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 any requirements.

Here Comes the Bus

One of the best new features we have available this year is a software GPS mapping system called, Here Comes the Bus. Thanks to the technology available with GPS navigation, you can now follow your child's bus from the convenience of your home or smart phone. For more information about the program, including how to download the app and register for the program, please use the link below.

Back to School Information

This time of year always brings with it a certain level of stress, anxiety, excitement, and questions. There is a lot of information to process and a lot of new things for our kids and families alike to start any school year. While there are many places and methods to receive information, we have developed a page on the website that has everything you would need. Orientations, open house, transportation routes, calendars, supply lists, and more can all be found by following the link below. Beyond the website, Facebook and Twitter are both good electronic means of information sharing that the district utilizes regularly.