District begins search for new marching band director

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Rome Free Academy marching band director Jacob Meiss is involved in finding a new director for the 2019-20 school year effective July 1, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said in response to concerns about the position.

Meiss will be the director through June 30 including ongoing responsibilities for developing the band, and is working with district Director of Fine Arts and Engineering Technology Andrea D. Falvo regarding a person to seek the position, said Blake.

Blake discussed the matter during the Board of Education meeting Thursday night, after a marching band booster expressed support of Meiss but also urged that a replacement decision be made soon due to the situation preventing Meiss from remaining director.

Meiss, the marching band director for about nine years including for a state championship in October, will not apply for and will not be appointed as director for 2019-20, as part of a settlement agreement approved by the board on Dec. 6 that involved disciplinary actions; it was signed by Blake, Meiss and Rome Teachers Association President Robert Wood. The agreement also included Meiss receiving a letter of reprimand, and called for him to participate in professional development opportunities involving student management and interpersonal skills.

Addressing the board about the issue and in support of Meiss was Rome resident and parent James Pike, an RFA alumnus and a marching band member during high school who is a band booster and road crew member. He said he attended most of the band’s competitive events in the 2017 season and all in 2018, noting “we were on buses to and from competitions. With the band and staff before, during and after competitions and football games. We were present for Mr. Meiss’ critique of each show.”

The road crew includes “parents who are also teachers, administrators, nurses, policemen, firemen and coaches for most of the youth sports in the community, scout leaders and religious education teachers,” Pike told the board. “These roles require us to be trained in creating and maintaining a safe environment for children, a means to report inappropriate behavior, and a mandate to do so.

“Many of us met on Saturday evening, and discussed the recent events. We had not witnessed any actions by Mr. Meiss that did not meet reasonable conduct expectations. We support Mr. Meiss in his position as marching band director,” Pike added.

But Pike also said he was “not here to discuss the agreement” that affects Meiss’ marching band director position. It is “an agreement on a private personnel issue which I have no need to discuss,” he commented.

The booster group is “concerned regarding the 2019-20 opening,” Pike said. The time commitment is significantly more than the first semester of school, he remarked, adding “the band needs to fundraise, the director needs to select and prepare music selections, performance commitments need to be made, members recruited, and band camps during...June, July and August.”

A replacement decision “needs to be made promptly to allow these RFA students the opportunity to participate and defend their state championship title,” said Pike.

In response, Blake emphasized Meiss is “the band director through June 30,” including responsibilities for building the band “for next year.” He also referred to the process for a replacement director.

Blake after the meeting noted Meiss’ working with Falvo in seeking a replacement. The position opening by contract needs to be posted and a new director needs to be formally approved, he explained. When asked whether the position would involve a Rome district teacher, Blake said it could be or it could also be someone from outside the district, such as what can occur with coach appointments.

The board meeting did not include any discussion of an online petition seeking to restore Meiss as marching band director for 2019-20. The petition, started at www.change.org, had over 810 signatures as of this morning.

School board President Paul Fitzpatrick said today he had anticipated the board might be presented with the petition at Thursday’s meeting, but no one did so. He added that as far as he knows, the petition has not otherwise been presented to the school district. There is “nothing to react to” regarding the petition, he said, and the process is moving forward in seeking a replacement band director.

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