Rome school board sets goals for superintendent

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Developing a 2021-22 Rome school district budget with at least a 10% expense reduction, plus accelerating student academic growth and achievement, are among goals for district Superintendent Peter C. Blake in his annual evaluation by the Board of Education.

Some of the other superintendent goals for the current 2020-21 school year include increased classroom visits and feedback on staff, increased student ownership of learning, plus organizing a discipline committee and developing a new code of conduct.

A resolution to accept the goals was recently approved by the Board of Education.

The goals, developed by Blake in collaboration with the board, are part of his annual evaluation by the board that includes an overall rating at the end of each school year. Blake said of the 2020-21 goals, “the board developed a draft, and then from there we worked together to finalize them.”

Among initiatives and targets:

• Creation and passage of a 2021-22 budget with at least a 10% reduction in overall expenditures from the 2020-21 budget — The district administration has compiled a first draft for 2021-22, and an initial draft budget will be discussed publicly with the board probably in late February, Blake said Tuesday. It would take effect next July.

When asked how difficult the expense reduction would be, Blake said “it will obviously be difficult to make those reductions, but it’s going to be necessary with an anticipated large decrease in revenue.” Blake has said potential financial aid cutbacks to school districts are projected, including for state aid amid statewide impacts from COVID-19, and in his Nov. 15 online blog said the Rome district faces a loss of $20 million in revenue this coming year.

The current 2020-21 district budget of $122.6 million, up about $5.9 million from 2019-20, included maintaining programs with no staff layoffs plus it allocated about $11.9 million from the district’s fund balance/savings and reserves to cover a projected deficit.

Blake has said of the 2020-21 budget that it sought to support the community during COVID-19 uncertainties by including no local property tax levy increase, and to limit stress on district staff from the situation.

• Student growth and achievement — For grades 1-8, goals include a 5% increase in ELA (English Language Arts) and math scores as demonstrated on assessment measures through a program called Star.

Another aim is for, with the exception of ELA Regents, at least 80% of the Regents subjects to show an increase of 5% in passing grades from the 2018-19 grades.

Growth will be measured, if feasible, through district local exams if Regents exams are not given.

A separately listed goal is for 80% of the students receiving additional tiers of literacy instruction to show growth in Star assessment scores as measured on the final reporting period.

• Increased classroom visits and meaningful feedback — An aim is for at least 80% of teachers to receive two feedbacks from building administrators as reflected in walk through evaluation data, according to the goals document.

The superintendent is to conduct at least one walk through with documented feedback on all classroom teachers providing core subject instruction, and 75% of remaining staff is to receive at least one walk through with documented feedback, the document also said.

• Student self-evaluation and student ownership of learning — Based on walk through data, the document said, student reflection and self-assessment indicating ownership of their learning are to increase from 11% to 50%.

“Student ownership of learning is a form of classroom assessment that is measured through classroom observation,” Blake said. The concept involves getting students to be more deeply engaged in their learning, according to online documents including edutopia.org.

• Organization of a discipline committee and development of a new code of conduct including considerations toward equity, inclusivity and diversity, to be implemented in 2021-22 — This was reworded from a goal last year. Efforts to achieve it were affected by COVID-19, former board President Stephen P. Hampe said last June.

• Increased visibility within the district, including documenting building visitations and sharing regularly with the board — This too was reworded from a goal last year; school buildings closed in mid-March due to COVID-19 for the rest of the 2019-20 year.

In his overall evaluation by the board covering 2019-20, Blake was rated as “effective” for the third straight year.

It was the second highest among four rating levels of “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” and “ineffective.” Blake, superintendent since July 2016, had been rated as “proficient” after his first year on the job based on a different evaluation system.

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