The Board of Education’s new president for the 2019-20 school year is Stephen P. Hampe.
Hampe, who was vice president for the 2018-19 year that just concluded, was approved by board members to be president for 2019-20 during the board’s annual reorganization meeting Monday night.
In addition, Leigh Loughran was approved as the board’s new vice president and Jonathon Matwijec-Walda was approved as the board’s new clerk.
Among several other items during the meeting, the board approved a scheduling of meetings for 2019-20 that will be similar to 2018-19, following a lengthy debate. The board also voted 6-2, with one abstention, to eliminate three of its five sub-committees and have those categories instead addressed through administrators’ reports at full board meetings.
For the topics:
• Hampe, who was elected in the 2017 public vote to a three-year term on the board, was nominated for the president position by Paul Fitzpatrick, who had been president for the past three years and said he felt Hampe “will do a wonderful job.”
Hampe said later that becoming president is part of a “natural progression,” noting he also had served as board clerk prior to becoming vice president. He also cited his involvement with New York State School Boards Association, including being appointed for the second straight year by the Rome board as a voting delegate to the state association’s annual meeting. He said he is ready for “a bigger role” on the Rome board.
The president position is considered the board’s leader and spokesperson, presiding over meetings while also working with the school district superintendent to review topics to be addressed by the overall nine-member board.
Fitzpatrick, when asked later about not seeking to continue as president for a fourth year, said it was time for someone else to have the position. He added “three years is enough.”
• The 2019-20 meeting schedule for the second straight year will include having board meetings every three weeks on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the school district office, 409 Bell Road, unless otherwise indicated.
Among comments during an extended discussion prior to the vote, newly elected board member Tanya Davis referred to the prior schedule that included board meetings twice a month, with one monthly session from September to June at a district school; the meetings at schools usually began with student performances or recognition programs, with parents and many other family members in attendance. She said of the current schedule, “it just seems we’re furthering the distance” from schools and later added that the board has to “work on our relationship and our presence.”
Some board members agreed there are benefits to having meetings at schools. But drawbacks that were cited included the additional expense of having schools host the meetings, plus the additional time for school staff to prepare presentations and arrange for students to be there.
In addition, board members including Hampe and John Leonard mentioned there are other more beneficial opportunities for board members to be at schools, such as concerts, plays and community walks. Hampe also said being at a board meeting table in a gym is “not the same” as visiting a classroom and talking to a teacher, for example.
Board member Joseph Mellace said the board can continue discussing “how best to become more visible,” adding that the resolution for the current board meeting schedule does “not preclude us from that goal.”
• The revamping of board committees will include no longer having committees for buildings and grounds, instruction and services, and personnel. Continuing will be committees for finance, with Hampe as chair, and policy, with Davis as chair. The committees typically involve three of the board's nine members.
Voting against the changes were Davis and board member Paul Hagerty. Abstaining was new member Lisa Herbowy.
For topics involving the eliminated committees, administrator reports will be part of the regular board meeting agendas, plus there will be opportunities for board members to seek further information. District Superintendent Peter C. Blake said policy and "to some degree," finance, were the only committees to feature direct board involvement as opposed to simply being information sessions.
Among factors in the changes were to reduce time spent by administrators during the day in frequently lengthy committee meetings that draw them away from regular ongoing work. Mellace also referred to information "sometimes lost in translation" when two committee members report to the full board with differing interpretations. He and Matwijec-Walda noted it can be better to hear information directly from administrators.
Davis and Hagerty, though, expressed concern there would be less opportunities for discussion and review of topics.
But Fitzpatrick said 'I think we should try it....I think we'll like it." If the board finds the arrangement does not work, it can "vote to change it," he added.