COMMUNITY SCHOOLS PROGRAM GROWING — The Rome school district’s community schools program is expanding with help from a grant through the Rome Teachers Association (RTA), including at Gansevoort Elementary School. From left: Gansevoort Principal Wendy Waters; Rome teacher Joseph Eurto, one of the overall program’s organizers; district Director of Counseling Services Amanda Jones; Rome Alliance for Education Executive Director Melissa Roys; RTA President Robert Wood; Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo; Rome district Superintendent Peter C. Blake. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Schools program to expand

Published Nov 6, 2018 at 12:00pm

The community schools program in the Rome school district is being enhanced financially, plus its achievements are being recognized by a regional organization.

A $100,000 grant that will help the program expand into additional Rome schools was announced Monday by the Rome Teachers Association (RTA), which received the funding through the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Meanwhile, the Rome Alliance for Education and Rome Community Schools next week will receive an outstanding program award as part of the annual “Celebration of Education” event by the Genesis Group that
recognizes Mohawk Valley educators and programs.

• The community schools program, which includes schools acting as “hubs” providing on-site links for local agencies to help meet various student and family needs, was praised by RTA President Robert Wood in the grant announcement at Gansevoort Elementary School.

Gansevoort, aided by the grant, soon will have a site coordinator to help launch its involvement in the program. School Principal Wendy Waters said she has been aware of its success at other sites, and “we’re thrilled” to be participating.

The program was started in the Rome district during the past two years with an assist from two prior RTA grants through the AFT, and so far has been focusing on Bellamy and Staley elementary schools. A collaborative agreement between the Rome Alliance for Education and Central New York Health Home Network was announced in July, and there are two full-time site coordinators at Bellamy and Staley.

“We are anxious to expand,” said Rome Alliance for Educator Executive Director Melissa Roys, who noted efforts that are involving all district schools. The alliance is a non-profit organization that is helping to coordinate the program.

“In the near future you will hear about some exciting news at Staley...including work with trauma-informed care” while Bellamy will soon open a Giving Tree Pantry to “help serve all of the families in the district with food and hygiene products,” said Roys.

She also cited a new LiNK (Leaders in Network and Knowledge) system in which the site coordinators are working as “liaisons from the entire school district to identify community resources that will benefit student or family, such as mental health services, food and shelter resources, advocacy, support and case management services.”

Rome Community Schools on Nov. 14 will host a Thanksgiving dinner at Bellamy from 4:30-6:30 p.m. that is open to all Bellamy families, Roys added today. It is a partnership with the Rescue Mission of Rome, which will be cooking the meal, she noted.

Wood observed the needs of many students extend “beyond the classroom...,” including emotional and behavioral factors. The AFT grant allows the local teachers union to “give back to our community,” he commented, adding “so much of what we do as teachers extends beyond the books. The RTA is focusing on items outside the classroom that give kids additional supports and options to help them cope and help them succeed.”

Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo, present for the announcement, said the community schools concept is “one of the most exciting programs happening in the city.” The city seeks to supplement it through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, she added.

Teacher Joseph Eurto, one of the organizers of the Rome district’s community school efforts, said the AFT has “recognized the hard work that many people have put forward to fund another year of community schools in Rome.” He said afterward that grants from other area funding sources may be sought in upcoming years. He also mentioned RTA efforts to help involve teachers in the program at various schools to further boost its growth.

Rome district Superintendent Peter C. Blake expressed appreciation for the efforts of Roys and the RTA. He added district Director of Counseling Services Amanda Jones has worked with Roys to help get “things set up in schools.”

• The Genesis Group’s 13th annual “Celebration of Education” event will be Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at Hart’s Hill Inn in Whitesboro.

Regarding the Rome Alliance for Education’s outstanding educational program award, it was selected because “it is making a difference with schools in the Rome City School District,” said Genesis Group Executive Director Raymond J. Durso, Jr. The program “brings together community partners to make strategic, coordinated investments that are positively influencing the lives of Rome’s children and families,” he added.