Developing a referendum proposal for a capital project for Rome Free Academy and Staley Elementary School, plus Board of Education election races for three seats, are on the 2019 agenda for the Rome school district.
Among some other key topics for the district as it enters the new calendar year will be additional school improvement projects, along with compiling the next district budget and implementing updated educational standards, said district representatives.
• RFA and Staley public bonding referendum — The district is seeking to work out the costs and details of the proposed project so it hopefully can be on the ballot to seek voters’ approval in the district’s annual May 2019 election, said school board President Paul Fitzpatrick, adding “that’s the goal.”
District Superintendent Peter C. Blake similarly cited work in the early part of 2019 “on the development of the referendum for public vote,” as one of the district’s “major points of focus” for the new calendar year.
Under a proposal presented in early December by Blake, a new Staley would be built at the Turin Road site where RFA formerly was located and a new athletic complex including a stadium would be built behind the current RFA facility at Griffiss park.
Fitzpatrick projected the process to firm up the proposal’s details would “probably go into February;” community meetings and forums are then to be held prior to the May vote. It is a “pretty aggressive timeframe” overall, he commented.
• Board of Education elections — Board members Paul Hagerty and Lawrence Posselt, whose current three-year terms expire June 30, 2019, have not yet decided if they will seek re-election.
Also up for election will be a seat vacated by Richard Hitchings, who resigned effective Oct. 1 and was in the final year of a three-year term that also expires next June.
The three seats all involve new three-year terms beginning July 1, 2019.
Hagerty, in his sixth term and his 18th year on the board, said he still needs to “assess whether I have the motivation” to run again. He observed “hopefully I like to think I’ll run because I can contribute....I have to make that judgment.”
Posselt, in his first term on the board, said major factors in his decision on whether to run again would include “the time required to participate....The negative effect on my businesses from being on the board.... Can I effect change continuing to move the district forward.”
• School improvement projects — The district will “continue to improve our network infrastructures and increase devices for student uses....,” said Blake.
Also, an EPC (energy-performance contract) project that includes RFA “is still on the docket for 2019,” Blake remarked. The school board decided last February to move forward with an approximately $4.9 million EPC contract involving C&S Companies of Syracuse, for work at RFA and the current Staley site including energy-system improvements geared to generate annual cost savings.
Blake also said “we will be working to ensure that all of our gymnasiums throughout the district have refinished floors.”
• 2019-20 school district budget — Blake said “budget development is a major part of early 2019;” a proposed spending plan that the school district will compile for 2019-20 will be decided upon by district voters in the May election, and would take effect July 1, 2019.
The budget development will include “seeing...things we need” as a district while weighing those needs in relation to overall expenses and revenues, said Fitzpatrick. The process also will involve evaluating such factors in the current $117.9 million budget for 2018-19.
A related consideration, remarked Fitzpatrick, will involve reviewing proposals for state financial aid which is the budget’s biggest revenue source. He observed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce aid amounts for school districts in January.
The aid totals typically are revised in state legislator reviews before the next state budget takes effect in April.
• Implementing standards — Other 2019 points of focus that were emphasized by Blake include “the full implementation of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)” and “development and implementation of the Next Generation learning standards.” Work is currently ongoing for both, he said.
ESSA overall involves such aspects as plans and goals geared to improve school performance, plus accountability by schools including measurements of progress being made.
Next Generation learning standards, meanwhile, will succeed the Common Core standards. Full implementation is scheduled by September 2020. Common Core standards have been redesigned by the state under the Next Generation name, including adjustments to help students better understand them, Rome district Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christopher Brewer said in November.
• School visits — In January, board members will visit district schools including stopping by classrooms and spending time with building administrators, said Fitzpatrick. They may do so again in the spring, he added.
The board made such visits last year, said Fitzpatrick, calling them “a really good thing” for seeing education “in action.”