Back to school/Rome district

(Submitted by the Rome City School District)

The Rome City School District is gearing up for the new year with curriculum, technology and building changes that students, teachers and parents will see this fall.

¿ Orientation Schedule for grades 5-9: Staley Upper Elementary — 5th Grade & new students, Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Strough Middle School — 7th Grade & new students, Aug. 30, 6 p.m.; Rome Free Academy — 9th Grade students, Aug. 29, 6:30 p.m.

¿ Open Houses: RFA, Sept. 27; Strough, Sept. 26; Staley, Sept. 25; Elementary schools — Bellamy, Oct. 2; Denti, Oct. 4; Gansevoort, Oct. 3; Joy, Sept. 18; Ridge Mills, Oct. 1; and Stokes, Sept. 24; Early Childhood program at Clough building, Sept. 4.

¿ Instructional update: Teachers will return to school for Superintendent’s Conferences on Sept. 4-5. Students return on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Teachers have been busy this summer involving plans to implement the State Education Department’s education reform agenda. These plans include development of an improved teacher evaluation system to comply with state requirements. This system will ensure that effective teaching and learning is happening in all classes throughout the district.

Additionally, teachers across the state are required to implement a new Common Core curriculum in ELA and Mathematics. Teachers spent several days in August reviewing the changes within the curriculum and what they mean for students. Teachers are also developing student learning maps that will help students and parents better understand what they need to do at each grade level. The Common Core curriculum will require students to read more carefully and write more explicitly in ELA in all grade levels. In mathematics students will need to master and become more proficient. The district anticipates that teachers and principals will provide more information on the Common Core curriculum at school open houses this fall. The student learning maps will be available to view on the district website at

The district is also implementing AIMS Web as a universal screening and progress monitoring tool to help better monitor student learning.

¿ New at schools: RFA — This year all RFA students will be issued a Student Agenda Book. In addition to bringing back the Environmental Science and Forestry class, RFA is now offering an AP Biology course. The school is restructuring the way it offers Academic Intervention Services for Integrated Algebra. RFA will be implementing a pilot of a new Physical Education class that includes curriculum for a Health class elective called "Wellness." The school will be piloting some additional strategies regarding student grouping in Physical Education and how the swim requirement is met. All these initiatives will continue efforts to improve graduation rates.

Strough — It will assemble a multi-disciplinary team for the 2012-2013 school year made up of a core group of district leaders, school leaders, teachers and support staff to collaborate on strategies to improve the academic achievement of all students at the middle school level. The team will focus on Curriculum Development and Alignment; Teaching and Learning; Assessment and Evaluation; Infrastructure for Student Success; Data Collection, Analysis and Utilization; Professional Development and District Support.

Staley — Its dedicated school improvement team has worked to create four houses (red, white, black and silver) with common planning time to better serve students. In conjunction with its Comprehensive Education Plan, Staley will continue to focus on literacy. Priorities include increasing reading proficiency and improving writing skills. Energy and enthusiasm will also continue regarding the STEM (Science, Math, Engineering, and Mathematics) partnership with Griffiss Institute and Air Force Research Lab. Incoming 5th graders will learn how to use Dimension Universe software. All Staley students will use this interactive video game to inspire a thirst for learning and knowledge, and strengthen foundational math skills necessary for success. The Staley PTG has planned monthly activities to promote school spirit and increase parental involvement.

Elementaries — A math program aligned to state Common Core Learning Standards will be piloted this year in the elementary schools. The My Math program is geared toward kindergarten to fifth grade students with emphasis on promoting problem-solving and increasing student math skills.

Teachers attended a workshop at Madison-Oneida BOCES to learn effective teaching strategies in the instruction of a Close Reading. This is another important shift of the new common core. It requires teachers to help students become more independent readers. It requires students to read more carefully to obtain deeper understandings. Teachers are also paying attention to balancing an equal amount of fiction and non-fiction reading.

Bellamy — It will continue to work on improving student scores in literacy and math. Parent and student workshops will be held throughout the year to familiarize families with the new common core and to strengthen the home-and-school connection. Bellamy will hold a Fun Family Saturday once a month for five months, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Students and parents choose two participatory activities related to literacy, math and exercise.

Bellamy will continue its "One School, One Book" program. In the beginning of March each family will receive the same book. They will be encouraged to read a chapter a night with their child. Each morning students answer trivia questions from the prior night’s reading. The end of the month will feature a movie of the book they read that they will watch together.

Gansevoort — It will unveil a newly renovated building on Aug. 22 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Families will have the opportunity to tour the building.

Gansevoort staff will be receiving professional development in use of iPad carts and new interactive technology that will be available in the renovated spaces. Gansevoort has developed an After-School Program at Liberty Gardens to provide intensive literacy instruction to children served by the Weed and Seed community revitalization effort. The program, a collaboration between the Rome City School District, the City of Rome and Liberty Gardens, is made possible by a Development Block Grant through the City of Rome, and is supported by 4th Ward Councilor Ramona Smith and Kathy Stockbridge from the Rome Housing Authority.

Joy — The school’s staff will make a concerted effort to work on 15 critical vocabulary words. These words that are already in the elementary curriculum will come from all subject areas including language arts, science, social studies, math and the encore subjects. Joy staff will focus on one word for two weeks. Students will hear, see and use these words. They will be encouraged to create poems, stories, drawings and other products to express their understanding of these essential words. Both the native English speaking students and ESL/ English as a Second Language students will have opportunities to learn these words in different languages.

Denti — Students and staff will move to the former Fort Stanwix school for 2012-2013, while the Denti building is being renovated. The school will continue to emphasize Character Education, promoting positive character qualities and encouraging respect for all. A "Bucket filling" theme reinforces good choices. "Bucket filling" comes from the book "Have you filled a bucket today" by Carol McCloud. It is a positive approach for students and staff that encourages kindness, respect and compassion on a daily basis. Denti continues to teach children about bullying and provides assemblies to reinforce the importance of being a bully-free school. The school is exploring the Peaceful Bus Program and will implement activities that help to improve behavior on buses.

Stokes — Christopher Hill is the new school’s new principal. Hill brings 15 years of educational experience and leadership to Stokes. His previous position was Elementary Principal at Westmoreland Central School District. Other administrative experience includes Director of Curriculum and Instruction as well as Assistant Principal at Westmoreland CSD. Hill is a lifelong resident of Rome/Lee Center and currently a resident of the Stokes community.

Ridge Mills — It has developed grade level and building goals that reflect the rigor of the new Common Core Learning Standards. The School Improvement team will continue to plan school-wide non-fiction writing challenges for students. Teachers collaboratively review student writing, and many children have opportunities to share excerpts of their work on the morning announcements. The common core for math emphasizes a deeper understanding of fewer concepts at each grade level. Teachers are focusing on the required fluency at their grade level to ensure greater student understanding. Classrooms across grade levels are instituting more non-fiction writing in all subject areas.

The new technology that came with the Ridge Mills renovation has been a tremendous asset for teachers who incorporate many interactive lessons into their instruction. The addition of a PC Specialist has forged many collaborative projects with classroom teachers. Students have prepared Power Point presentations, created brochures on New York history, witnessed through live web-cam the habits of penguins, and Skyped with classmates in other countries. Staff and students are excited about the addition of an I Pad cart to enhance learning and technology skills.

The Ridge Mills teams along with district teams will continue to implement the common core standards to provide skills of critical-thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication for all students.

¿ Building improvements: A total renovation of Gansevoort is complete, and students and staff will be moving back into their building on Sept. 6. Improvements include a new bus loop, an island with walkways and landscaping, entrances that are handicapped accessible, increased parking, improved traffic flow, restoration to the building exterior, a new roof, new windows, ventilation and electrical system upgrades, asbestos abatement, improved security and a new playscape. Site improvements include storm water management system upgrades as well.

Newly renovated classrooms are air conditioned with improved ventilation systems, computer upgrades and improved storage. The Library and Computer Lab are on the second floor of the 1914 (original) building with new technology infrastructure built in. Music and Art rooms are on the ground floor and receive all-new storage cabinets and finishes. Improvements to the gym include a new stage and an elevator making the entire facility ADA accessible. The kitchen layout was modified to improve service areas, and new equipment designed to accommodate service. Administrative renovations relocated the main office and principal closer to the main entrance for improved security assurance and accessibility. Nurses Office, Guidance, Psychology and Staff Lounge area are centrally located to the front offices nearest the bus loop.

Elsewhere, in addition to the Denti renovation, a renovation of Strough could begin as early as 2013.

¿ Information technology: The re-opening of Gansevoort brings a new technology, the Epson Brightlink Interactive Projector, to create an interactive workspace. Also each Gansevoort teacher will receive a laptop and the building will receive a cart of 30 iPads. It will have all new technology infrastructure ensuring high-speed access and wireless connectivity to the district server farm and Internet. 

The Information Technology department continues to upgrade the district’s technology infrastructure with the planned expansion of wireless technology at Stokes school. The district will continue its expansion of mobile technology with iPad carts in each elementary K-4 school this year. The Enhanced Education Through Technology grant through Madison-Oneida BOCES will supply RFA with 30 iPad carts. RFA technology consists of new classroom and lab computer. The security system will be upgraded using internet protocol video cameras.

¿ School Lunch program: Over the past few years the district has moved the school lunch program in a healthier direction. Menus include more vegetables, less processed meats, more fresh fruits, whole grain products and 1 percent and skim milk.

The USDA has placed a more immediate and higher emphasis on nutrition. Many new regulations will be taking place this year. Most changes reflect a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables while at the same time limiting portions on grains and proteins. Hopefully, with these new regulations the country will begin to move forward in a healthier more positive direction.

Under the USDA guidelines, the district has been instructed that lunch prices will be changing again this year due to the Reauthorization Act of 2010. Prices for full-paid students will be: K-4 elementary schools, $1.65; Staley, Strough and RFA, $1.75; and breakfast for all paid students, $1.25. The reduced rate for both breakfast and lunch will remain 25 cents. Also, milk prices have not changed; it will cost 50 cents per carton if bought separately.