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AREA Community Conversations seeks resident input

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
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Posted 9/17/22

The socioeconomic differences of area families — and the impact those disparities have on their children’s education — are some of the biggest concerns facing the Rome City School District.

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AREA Community Conversations seeks resident input

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ROME — The socioeconomic differences of area families — and the impact those disparities have on their children’s education — are some of the biggest concerns facing the Rome City School District today, district Superintendent Peter Blake explained.

“Some people think race is a big issue, but it really isn’t here,” Blake said. “We have bigger issues that aren’t related to race. Social diversity is a big issue for the district.”

Now, the district is inviting community input on those issues. Its Equity Task Force has partnered with ACCESS Global Group to host monthly AREA Community Conversations to address diversity and equity in the district and the quality of learning for all students.

AREA is an acronym for the goal of the conversations — to build Authentic Relationships, which will ultimately lead to Equity for All. The discussion will highlight life experiences of the most marginalized members of the Rome City School District community.

“As a teacher with 20 years of experience nothing is more important than educational equity,” ACCESS Global Group Founder and President/CEO Shanelle Benson Reid said. “Equity is the first step to a quality education and we want to make sure all voices are heard to make sure that equity is involved.”

In an authentic, open and honest dialogue, the conversations are designed to look to a better future by considering the different perspectives and experiences of all community members. All district residents are invited to share their own experiences and hopes.

Benson Reed started the Syracuse-based ACCESS Global Group in 2010 shortly after earning her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, to focus on improving relationships and organization practices and enhance the learning experiences for all.

“Our goal for the community conversations is to bring all voices in the community together through a community-led conversation on whatever equitable discussion the community would like to have and see,” Benson Reid said. “We want to create a space where all points of view can share their ideas and input.”

AREA Community Conversations will be Thursday, Sept. 22 at RFA High School, 95 Dart Circle; Thursday, Oct. 20 at Strough Middle School, 801 Laurel St.; Thursday, Dec. 1 at Denti Elementary School, 1001 Ruby St.; and Thursday, Dec. 15 at a location to be announced. All meetings will be from 6-7:30 p.m.

In addition to attending the discussions in person, participants can register and share their own thoughts in advance at https://rb.gy/eeqigl or by email to: info@theaccessglobalgroup.com.

Blake said the AREA Community Conversations started three years ago and the district is a leader in New York State for the outreach. Their last meeting was a productive one in October 2021 at Denti Elementary School, he added.

“We had a great conversation there and I look forward to them starting again,” Blake said.

Benson Reid said she hopes to hear from as many district residents as possible.

“We are looking forward to working with the Rome City School District to create a safe space for all stakeholders to share thoughts on the educational process, to bring varied ideas through meaningful conversations, because at the Rome City School District we are stronger together,” she said.

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