Lawsuit filed against Rome City School District, officials

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ROME — The Rome City School District, its superintendent and the vice president of its board of education have been named in a lawsuit filed last week by former Rome Free Academy Boys Varsity Head Lacrosse Coach Guy Calandra.

On Wednesday, April 6, the suit — formally an order to show cause for expedited relief — was filed in Oneida County State Supreme Court by Calandra, naming the district; Superintendent Peter. C. Blake; and Tanya Davis, vice president of the board of education as respondents.

The Oneida County Supreme Court Clerk’s Office has confirmed that this case has been filed and is now pending before the court; confirmation that all respondents have been served is pending from the Oneida County Clerk’s office.

Blake responded to a request for comment on the matter to say that he is not at liberty to comment on legal matters in progress.

The district Board of Education President John Nash, who is currently out of state, was unaware of the issue prior being asked to comment and stated that he did not feel he should comment prior to convening and discussing the lawsuit with the full board.

Davis did not respond to requests for comment prior to press time.

The lawsuit appears to stem, at least in part, an incident between Davis and Calandra outside a local restaurant following the 2021 lacrosse banquet. According to individuals who claimed to see the incident, Davis, whose child played on the team, confronted Calandra regarding grievances she had with the coach.

Davis addressed the issue directly at the board’s 2021 organizational meeting on July 7, 2021, after board members emerged from a closed executive session preceding the regular meeting. Davis, after calling the meeting to order and leading the Pledge of Allegiance, took a moment to “make a statement.”

“I’d like to apologize for my recent actions,” said Davis at the July 7 meeting and referring to the alleged incident at the banquet, held June 30, 2021. “I acted out of emotion as a mother,” continued Davis. “This in no way reflects my level of commitment to the Board of Education or this community.” Davis went on to say how sincerely sorry she was to Calandra, her fellow board members and the community for what she called “an error in judgment.”

During the public comment of that July 7 meeting, Tricia Rutkowski spoke during the public comment portion to share that she, her husband and her mother-in-law witnessed the incident as they were leaving the banquet. Rutkowski said she was so upset that she was unable to sleep that night. She went on to defend Calandra, who has just concluded his 19th year coaching lacrosse at Rome Free Academy and other coaches who work in the district.

“To see the way you charged at him – to see the way that that man could not even cross the street? And to know that you are the vice president of the school board,” Rutkowski said directly to Davis, “makes me ill.”

Rutkowski said Davis’s confrontation of Calandra was so ferocious that her husband, a former law enforcement officer, was standing by, believing that that the Rome Board of Education officer was about to physically strike the high school coach.

Last month, in an unrelated matter, an investigation by the district’s legal firm found that Davis, violated the district’s codes of conduct during an incident at a varsity boys basketball game. However, the district cannot remove Davis for the incident at the Rome Free Academy gymnasium on Tuesday, Jan. 25, according to the district counsel’s report.

The formal investigation followed accusations that Davis had shouted at the RFA coaches from the stands during that event to express her disagreement with how they were handling a situation involving a team member in real time.

Davis had also been accused of shouting directly at the student athlete with whom the coaches were actively engaging, allegedly calling the student a derogatory name.

The board statement on that investigation said that while the investigation found Davis violated the parent athletic code of conduct, “the evidence gathered with respect to the allegation that Board member, Tanya Davis, called a player on the RFA boys’ varsity basketball team a derogatory name was inconclusive.” 

Davis has denied those allegations, including that she shouted at the student and called him a derogatory name.

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