Board president hails schools efforts, personnel

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Aiming to “counter some social media negativity about teachers and administrators being ‘on vacation’” with schools closed, Board of Education
President Stephen P. Hampe is citing multiple Rome school district functions during the COVID-19 situation.

The points were in his letter to the district community that Hampe read aloud at the board’s meeting last week. Among his statements:

• “Teachers were asked to, pretty much in a day, abandon their planned lessons and activities and change the entire means of educational delivery. Yes, there have been some missteps and stumbles. But the teachers have soldiered on.”

• “With guidance and support of Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Chris Brewer, Directors of Elementary Programs Dana Benzo and Secondary Programs Jen DePerno have provided professional development to the faculty daily.”

• Brittany Gaffney and Carl Manganaro of BOCES “are leading the support of teachers with Google Classroom, and the building principals have ramped up their support of their staff in addition to their own outreach to families.”

Those educators plus district-wide support staff “have devoted hours upon hours not just adapting to online education but also joining other activities to help bridge the gap — posting videos of morning announcements or read-aloud stories, making home visits, helping at the Community Schools food bank, facilitating students sharing their ongoing work — to continue to show their devotion, compassion, and support of their students and their families.”

• Highlighting the work of Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Management Robert Mezza Jr. and Director of Business and Finance David Dreidel, “payroll and bills still need to be processed and paid. Banking needs to be done.

The budget for next year which is, quite literally, a moving target these days still needs to be finalized....”

• “Director of Facilities Alex Rodriguez, along with Mechanics & Grounds Supervisor Mark Luczak and Custodial Supervisor Rich Randall, have continued their work with the facilities crew keeping the buildings operational and prepared for eventual reopening.”

• “Chris Whitmore and the entire Food Service Department continue to work daily, making sure our kids are fed, now shifted from an in-house to a take-out system.”

• “Patrick Sullivan and the IT team have been the backbone of getting needed tech to support the online course delivery.”

• Executive Secretary Patti Brementhas been instrumental in managing logistics of Chromebooks distribution, on top of triaging calls, and helping with whatever else is needed....”

• District Superintendent Peter C. Blake “has been putting in 12-hour days at a minimum. He still has to run everything that he did before on top of all the pandemic issues.”

When schools were closed through county- and state-level mandates, “it then fell to him to figure out how to make it all work. New edicts and guidance arrive daily — sometimes several times daily. He is in constant communication with other superintendents and the state Education Department troubleshooting and problem solving, while still managing his staff, and fielding questions from the community often seeking answers for questions that quite simply cannot be answered.

This district, its students, faculty, and staff, are fortunate to have such an educational leader at the helm — particularly in these uncertain times — and I want to personally thank him for his expertise, diligence, and devotion to our community.”

• Hampe praised the efforts of “our partners” at the Connected Community Schools program which has been operating a food distribution for the community on Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Gansevoort Elementary School. The initiative also recently expanded to the Waterville school district.

“Beyond the food pantry, their Community Response Team Help Line has assisted and triaged over 800 phone calls from within the connected community....”

The program is “actively accepting any donations for nonperishable/shelf-stable food products and hygiene products, as well as monetary donations (checks can be made out to Rome Alliance for Education, or they can be found on Venmo). Donation information can be obtained by calling 315-292-3250. To date they have received over $6,000 in donations from the community and countless food donations, all of which goes right back to those in need faster than they can write thank-you notes.”

• “Rest assured, Rome ... no one here is ‘on vacation.’ We are all in uncharted waters and these are trying times.”

Hampe concluded “let’s begin with the presumption that people are doing the best they can dealing with new and changing information. The devotion to benefit the students and families of the Rome City School District is continuing without interruption.”

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