Sunday, January 29, 2017

Grit or Grits...

One of the most recent hot topics in education today is the discussion about 'grit'. Unfortunately, I am not talking about the food 'grits' as some may wish; but instead talking about the most recent effort in education to define the word, 'grit'. As we know, grits are a popular food from the Southern United States which have spread throughout the country over the years. Or, as you may not know, Grits are also a political party from Canada. However, for the topic of this blog, I am referring to 'grit' from the psychological standpoint which is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. In education, there is new research and trends claiming that our students are lacking grit in the educational setting. In fact, it is an emerging practice to provide opportunities for students to struggle with their work in the classroom with the belief that it develops a student's mind and patience, along with the desire to achieve. Over the years, our society has developed into an arena where everyone must be successful at everything. Even in sports, the concept of the participation trophy is debated yearly. In education, our students need to learn the concept of struggle, conflict, perseverance, patience, and success. Yes, some successes come easy and quickly. And yes, many successes come at the foot of hard work and perseverance. If we are continuously providing opportunities for our kids where success comes easily, then we are not providing a well rounded education. There is no exploration, critical thinking, or struggle with easy success. However, if everything we do in education is a struggle, leads to frustration and tears, or ends with students feeling unworthy; then we are defeating the very purpose of education. Like the grits from the South, consistency is everything. Our educational grit must be a perfect mix of challenges and rewards, opportunities and successes, struggles and achievements. If the grit is mushy: bad news. If the grit is too thick: Goldilocks still won't eat it. But, if the grit is just right... learning will occur!! Let's make the perfect grits...

American Heart Association 

On Saturday, February 25th, from 8:00 am to 11:00 am, the American Heart Association will be hosting their 15th 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. Along with this, Friday, February 3rd is national 'Wear Red' day. Wear Red day is sponsored by the American Heart Association as an awareness to heart disease and strokes in women throughout our nation. 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. For more information or to register your team for the walk/run, please visit  

RFA Girls Indoor Track

Following an impressive and standard setting 2015-2016 season, the 2016-2017 RFA girls indoor track team has decided to raise the bar!! In recent weeks, the team has continued to create their historic season with one of the relay teams setting a new Tri-Valley League record as well as breaking a 22-year old RFA record in the 3200 meter relay event. During the course of the season, the team has broken 7 Tri-Valley League or RFA records. As the season draws to a close, take a chance to get out and see these ladies!!

Block 'R' Club Cereal Fundraiser

Just a reminder that from now until winter recess in February, the Block 'R' Club from RFA will be accepting donations of boxes of cereal at all athletic home games. This similar fundraiser in just a week's time last December brought in over 150 boxes of cereal for people in need over the holiday recess. In the coming weeks, please bring a box of cereal to home athletic contests in support of the Block 'R' Club.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

We Are Family...

In what seems to be an all too often occurrence in our school district and community, we have suffered another loss. This weekend, veteran RFA science teacher Daniel Fronzcek lost a long and hard fought battle with cancer. While I did not get to know Dan as well as many others, I learned quickly that he stood for everything right in education. His students came first, his colleagues second, and everything else next. He went out of his way to ensure that his students always received the best on a daily basis. Despite his ongoing battle this fall, he never once allowed his health to impact the learning of his students. Visiting Dan's classroom was like walking through educational utopia. Students were always smiling and he was always making the learning fun. It is moments like this that put everything into perspective for our entire community. For the RFA students and staff, this is the second loss this school year and once again we rally together as family to persevere the sadness. While we can't bring back those that we've lost, we can honor their memory by doing the simple things that they would want. I can't think of a better way to honor the memory of Dan Fronczek than to commit to always putting students and each other first. Together, as a family, we will continue to move forward serving our school the way that Dan always has. 

Regent Hakanson Visits Rome 

On Thursday, January 19th, the Rome City School District was fortunate to host our representative to the Board of Regents in Albany, Elizabeth Hakanson. A retired teacher from the Syracuse City School District and new to the Board of Regents, Mrs. Hakanson spent 2 hours visiting Rome. During her visit, she visited with students and staff and discussed educational philosophy and the future of education in New York State. We discussed easing the standards for grades k-2 to provide for increased time to build social skills through play, the need to bring citizenship back into our curriculums to help students understand civic duty, and what we can do as a educational leaders to help both teachers and communities have a better understanding of the Common Core. At the end of our visit, Regent Hakanson was excited to hear about the direction that we are hoping to go in Rome and is eager to see our progress. 


Redistricting Update

During the January 19th Board of Education meeting, the Board of Education spent roughly 45 minutes discussing the topic of redistricting. Several perspectives were shared by the members as the district continues to look at what may be the best decision for the long term. Of the topics covered, the Board discussed hiring a consulting firm from out of state, waiting a year to contract with the local consultants that we have met with, discuss reconfiguration of our schools, or leave things as they are and increase class sizes. Board of Education President, Paul Fitzpatrick, has recommended a special Board committee to determine which option is the best way to go. It is anticipated that the committee will meet in the coming weeks with a decision to be made by the first Board of Education meeting in March.

Staley Internet Safety Class

Staley upper elementary school will be offering an Internet Safety Evening with presenter, Wendy Fical, the Program Director for the Ride for Missing Children organization.  Ms. Fical will be showing parents how to monitor what kids are doing and how they are doing it on their phones.  Ms. Fical will also be coming to Staley to talk to students about Cyber Safety and bullying. Their first Internet Safety Evening will take place January 31, at 7:00 pm in the Library.  There is limited space available so we will be offering seats to the first 30 respondents.  If there is a significant response, there will be another night offered in March 2017. If you are interested in attending, please call Mrs. Doria, by January 27, at 338-5300 to reserve your spot.  We only ask that if you reserve a seat and a conflict arises, please call so we can offer a seat to another person.

Block 'R' Club Cereal Fundraiser

From now until winter recess in February, the Block 'R' Club from RFA will be accepting donations of boxes of cereal at all athletic home games. This similar fundraiser in just a week's time last December brought in over 150 boxes of cereal for people in need over the holiday recess. In the coming weeks, please bring a box of cereal to home athletic contests in support of the Block 'R' Club.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Get Tested...

 'Tis the time to start talking about one of the most fun topics in all of education in today's society... testing!! We often hear the phrase "21st century learning" and "21st century skills" as common language within public education today, however, we ironically continue to urge people to opt their children out of state testing that is used to measure a schools implementation of the common core learning standards. Whether we like it or not, standardized testing is in and of itself a 21st century skill. It's also a 20th century skill, 19th century skill, 18th century skill, and so on. Unpopular to many people is my support of standardized testing and I urge Rome as a community to get on board with increasing our participation rate. While I personally feel that families were given bad information at the onset of the common core and the "standardized testing era" leading to the massive opt-out movement, I also respect a parent's right to make this decision. But let's make sure we have the right information. Standardized testing amounts for 1% of the testing your child does throughout the school year. Standardized testing is NOT tied to Academic Intervention Services anymore. Standardized testing is NOT tied to teacher evaluation anymore. Standardized testing DOES provide the school with a measure to determine if our instructional methods and beliefs are working (if enough students are participating). Over the next few weeks I hope to help our community have a better understanding for the need to increase our participation rates in the NYS standardized assessments, including providing reasons why this program is beneficial to our kids and to our community. With that, I say, "Let's get tested Rome!"

Elementary Report Cards 

During the past week, we discovered an error in our student management system scheduling component as the end of marking period 2 approaches. Due to this error, we have decided to change the report card release date for elementary schools for marking period 2 to January 26, 2017. I realize that this date may be different than a previous communication that you may have received from the building level, however, as a district we are moving forward with the January 26 release date for all k-6 report cards. Thank you for your time and understanding with this adjustment.

Kindergarten Registration

The kindergarten registration period for the 2017-2018 school year has been set. Registration for students intending to enter kindergarten in September of 2017 will occur from Monday, February 27 through Friday, March 3. This registration period runs concurrently with the pre-k registrations. More information regarding times and locations will be available as the registration period approaches. Please stay tuned.

RFA Auditorium Update

During the past week, we have had multiple professionals and perspectives presented to us regarding the RFA auditorium. We have been able to replace the fan system that keeps the electrical unit cool while in operation for roughly $500. This is a temporary fix to the auditorium as the control panel that communicates with the fans and the units is still not operating correctly. In the current state, we can operate short performances/rehearsals in the auditorium as we pursue a permanent fix for the room. At this time, we will conduct rehearsals for the Strough and RFA musicals in the auditorium at RFA while we investigate the potential need to hold performances in other locations. As always, any official decisions being made will be made through the district and communicated through the district and myself. Until such notice, any rumor that you may hear should be treated just as that, rumor. This is a very challenging issue to work through and we appreciate your understanding with regard to planning a course of action.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Social Media...

Perhaps one of the world's greatest communication and networking inventions ever, has fast become one of it's most aggravating and concerning inventions ever. As a person that enjoys social media for the value that it can add to our profession, I am having a growing concern with the ways in which our youth are utilizing it (which is to some degree spurred by the way in which some adults and unfortunately many of their idols use social media). As a kid, it was easy to ignore that comment that your foe made to you in school because you walked away, spent time with your friends, and went home never to deal with it again. Today, the comments can be constant making that much more challenging for our kids to avoid. My other concern is the influence that our children are receiving through social media. Growing up, I can remember my idols Wayne Gretzky, Don Mattingly, and pretty much anyone on the Dallas Cowboys. However, back then, we only knew what our role models were doing when we chose to want to know about it. Today, every second of every day is broadcast over social media for the world's most iconic figures, making it difficult for our youth to understand the difference between right, wrong, indifferent, sarcasm, and to some degree, the law. With the events broadcast this past week over Facebook with relation to teenage suicide and harm, the level of concern grows even greater. As adults and parents, we need to monitor our children's social media use even more. Research tells us that most adolescents have multiple accounts; one for their families to see and one or more that are hidden from their families so that they can feel the freedom to explore the world of social media. It is important to speak with your children regarding the things that are on social media and it is more important as an adult to become a social media guru yourself. Gone are the days of being able to turn your head and say that you don't believe in technology and have no interest in learning it. We have to learn it!! Our future society depends on us guiding our youth to a better place. Please stay tuned in the future as we will be developing parent social media classes to help our community learn more about this challenge that we face. In the meantime, get on there and learn. Your future kid will thank you for it!!


During the break, the district received some unfortunate news that the educational consultants that we were hoping to work with on a redistricting study, had to withdraw their participation due to other school districts officially contracting with them first and not being able to commit the time necessary to doing the study with fidelity. The Board of Education will be discussing what avenue we would like to explore next. As has been the case in previous years, the capacity of our buildings, total enrollment of the district, and class sizes for our youngest learners is a top priority for the district moving forward. The challenging part about this issue is that in order to provide a viable solution that is sustainable, it takes time. Time, as you know, it is not necessarily on our side. Regardless, we will continue to pursue the best possible option/solution with regard to our building enrollments to ensure that our children have the best opportunity to learn. 

RFA Auditorium

You may have heard or read by now that there are some significant concerns with the RFA auditorium. At a recent event, the lighting system in the auditorium began to fail and upon further inspection of the situation, it appears that the wiring and equipment has reached the end of it's life. In it's current state, the electrical system that powers the lighting in the room can only be used sparingly without presenting a safety concern due to overheating. Our engineers believe that events of roughly an hour and a half are safe, but the auditorium should be used extremely minimally until the issues are completely resolved. Currently, the district has located a company that may be able to repair the system, however a complete replacement may be the only solution. Please stay tuned as this development is changing by the day. We will work to provide the most cost effective and sustainable solution for the building.

3 Year Old Pre-K Registration

The Rome City School District is currently accepting registrations for the new 3 Year Old Pre-Kindergarten Program, which is a free developmental Early Childhood Program. The 3 year-old UPK program is open to all age eligible (3 years old OR 3 prior to 12/1/16). Children whose parents live in The Rome City School District should call 334-1250 for information or to obtain an application packet. Full and half day classes offered at a variety of locations.

Clough School; 409 Bell Rd., Rome, NY
January 4th thru January 13th (9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)
Bring: Proof of residency, birth certificate and shot record 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year...

Welcome to 2017 everyone!! I wish everyone out there a very happy and wonderful New Year!! Hopefully the past 10 days have provided many memories, enjoyment, rest, and time with family. As we look forward to the remainder of the school year, we have Regents exams upcoming for our high school students, musical season, the remainder of the winter athletics seasons, and of course the development of the 2017-2018 budget. None of that even involves the myriad of outstanding events and activities that occur in the Spring. As we enter into the second half of the school year, I look forward to continued collaboration with the community and our stakeholders, as well as the continued growth within our individual buildings. One of the greatest concern for every parent and student within today's society is the amount of testing that our students face during the course of their schooling. I'm not so sure that there is more testing than when we were all students and that the testing phenomenon isn't just a bunch of 'media hype', but it is a concern and I will continue to urge our teachers to find alternate methods of assessment and checking for understanding. After all, more than 95% of all testing time is school district imposed; not due to standardized testing. I challenged our faculty in September to think outside the box and become New York's leader in innovative educational practices, and I stand by that today. Our kids deserve our best effort every day, let's give it to them in the second half!! Have a safe, happy, and healthy 2017 everyone!!

Dialogue Events 

The Dialogue with the Superintendent events will be wrapping up in the coming week with 2 more events scheduled (Wednesday, January 4 @ Early Childhood and Monday, January 9 @ Ridge Mills). These events are district wide events so if you missed any of the previous sessions, please do not hesitate to attend one of these final two evenings. Or, if you have attended before and want to attend again to ask more questions, please feel free. Both evenings will begin at 6:00 p.m. For more information, please contact the district office.

Continued Communication

During my first 6 months on the job, one of the things that I have enjoyed has been the level of communication coming from the community to the district office. Most of the communication is in regard to concerns or issues, but that is good. We cannot address things that are not reported. Beyond just the fact that the community is bringing concerns forward, those same individuals have been extremely helpful in reaching positive resolutions in each situation. The level of collaboration that we have seen has been great. Please continue to communicate with us as we want to continue to move forward with all initiatives.