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Board receives updates on facilities, educational programs

Cara Dolan Berry
Staff writer
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Posted 8/12/22

Following Monday’s meeting of the Rome City School District board of education, board members are turning their attention toward developing community support on an approved plan to restructure …

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Board receives updates on facilities, educational programs

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ROME — Following Monday’s meeting of the Rome City School District board of education, board members are turning their attention toward developing community support on an approved plan to restructure the district’s elementary schools to K-4 buildings and create a separate grade 5-6 intermediate school to house all of the district’s students in those grades.

“My first choice (the 5-8 model) was defeated, but the 5-6 stand-alone was my second choice,” said board member Anna Megerell. “I am hopeful our community will move forward together for what is best for all students in our district, not just some.”

Like Megerell, board member Karen Fontana’s primary concern was seeing the K-4 elementary school model pass. While the 5-8 ‘twin middle school’ approach “was and continues to be” her first choice – the grade-banded 5-6 intermediate school was also her second choice and she felt that a vote in favor served the “need to move forward.”

Board member John Nash and Board President Joseph Mellace believed that ‘past is prologue’ and that the vote was a failure to learn from the district’s recent history with a 5-6 school at the now closed Staley Elementary School.

Earlier during the ad hoc meeting Mellace said, “From a historical aspect, why would we go back to a model that failed?”

Nash echoed Mellace’s concerns – also shared with certainty by Superintendent of Schools Peter C. Blake, but went on to express that, now that the decision has been made, he will “work towards making it successful.”

Board adopts safety plan

The final two resolutions to be moved and unanimously approved by members adopted a District-Wide Safety Plan for the 2022-23 school year and established a Safety Committee, as well as approved its members, to include: Kelly Carinci, board of education; Danielle Lubecki, board of education; Christy Colangelo, OHM BOCES safety office; Jessica Fletcher, OHM BOCES safety office; Christina Freeman, nurse; Carolyn McMahon, nurse; Dr. Stephen Hampe, parent representative; Tracy O’Rourke, principal (Strough Middle School); Robb Mezza, assistant superintendent for operations and management; Alex Rodriguez, director of facilities; Paul Yanik, security; Tom Waldron, transportation; and Jack Angrisano, MO BOCES representative. 

Updates on facilities, educational programs

During the Work Study session, Alex Rodriguez gave an update to members on issues to do with the district’s facilities, including the hosting of officials from FEMA and New York State for a tour of the Staley school building and grounds in connection with the process for approval of state and federal aid. Rodriguez also reported that required testing for lead levels in the water sources in the school buildings was 90% complete with only one failure reported – the girls locker room at Rome Free Academy – which the district will work to remediate.

Chris Brewer, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs, also updated members, including his report that of the district’s four elementary schools not considered “In Good Standing” per New York State Education Department standards, where the district is thus required to submit an annual set plan to the SED reflecting strategies for improvement, those plans for Ganesvoort and Denti Elementary Schools – both at Level 1 and in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) have been approved by the state.

“Joy is in the hopper and we hope to receive that approval next,” said Brewer of the district’s third elementary school at Level 1 CSI status.

Bellamy Elementary School, which is considered at Level 2, ‘Targeted (for) Support and Improvement,” also requires a set plan, which – while it doesn’t require state approval — it must be approved by the Board of Education. 

Bellamy is not ‘identified’ (meaning Level 1 CSI), but could be identified,” clarified Blake.

Brewer also shared that district is working with Griffiss Institute and the National Science Foundation Grant program in connection with building a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Ecosphere in Central NY.

Other Board business

In other Board business, the Consent Agenda passed without objection, an easement to allow access to gas lines and other facilities located on district property was granted to Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.

The People Operations Committee, chaired by Member, Elena Cardwell-Reddick, moved and passed 14 resolutions with no opposition and only one abstention, from Nash, who had a family member involved in the action item appointing advisors to extracurricular clubs.

Among the resolutions passed was a unanimous vote to approve the agreement between the Rome City School District and the Rome Teachers Association. Members also voted, with regret, to accept the retirement of Christopher Whitmore, Director of Food Service, effective September 30, 2025, allowing the district time to hire and train a successor.

“Congratulations to Chris. We’re lucky to have him for three more years,” said Blake, who characterized Whitmore as “fantastic” in the role. “Probably one of the best food service directors in the state.”

Upcoming meetings

Upcoming committee meetings include the People Operations Committee at 3:15 p.m. Aug. 22, the Educational Programs Committee at 4 p.m. Aug. 24, and the Policy Committee at 9 a.m. Aug. 26. The Finance Committee, chaired by Nash, will hold scheduling their first committee meeting pending a presentation to the Board by Dave Dreidel, director of business and finance for the district, expected at the next regular meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 29. All committee meetings are open to the public and held in the district offices at 409 Bell Road unless otherwise specified.

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