Rome Free Academy music teacher Jacob Meiss has received a letter of reprimand, among disciplinary actions in a settlement agreement with the Rome school district.
In addition, Meiss, who has been director of the RFA marching band including for a state championship in October, will not apply for nor be appointed as marching band director for games or competitive field band for the 2019-2020 school year, the agreement says.
The agreement also calls for Meiss to participate in professional development opportunities involving student management and interpersonal skills. It refers to the school district having “concerns relating to recent conduct by Mr. Meiss involving his adherence to the Dignity for All Students Act (New York State Education Law Article 2, ‘DASA’), his interaction with students and other staff members, his demeanor, and his professional judgment....” The document later cites misconduct relating to those issues during the first semester of the current 2018-19 school year.
DASA , according to the state Education Department, seeks to provide “public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.”
The Board of Education at its Dec. 6 meeting voted 6-1 to approve a “settlement agreement with a tenured teacher,” following a closed executive session during the meeting. Voting “no” was board clerk Paul Hagerty, who had requested the closed session to discuss the topic. After the meeting he would not comment when asked about reasons for his vote.
The Daily Sentinel obtained a copy of the agreement after filing a Freedom of Information Law request with the school district. The agreement was signed by Meiss, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake, and Rome Teachers Association (RTA) President Robert Wood. Meiss is a member of the RTA and in addition to being a tentured teacher, he has been appointed to serve as an extra-curricular advisor, said the agreement.
Meiss “has previously accepted a disciplinary penalty for misconduct,” said the agreement before also citing the district’s concerns relating to his recent conduct. The agreement noted “the district believes it has just cause for disciplinary action against Meiss,” and said Meiss “has indicated a willingness to resolve the matter” by agreeing to terms and conditions in the settlement.
The district “agrees to refrain from preferring disciplinary charges” against Meiss regarding the misconduct, and to “waive its right to seek Mr. Meiss’s termination therefor,” said the agreement.
For disciplinary actions, the document added, Meiss “will accept the letter of reprimand” which “shall be placed in his personnel file.” It said he also “agrees that he will not apply for, and will not be appointed as, the marching band director, either for games or competitive field band, for the 2019-2020 school year.” Meiss “agrees that he may apply for these and any other extra-curricular appointments in the future, but understands that his appointment to future extra-curicular positions is within the sole and absolute discretion of the Board of Education,” the document said.
The RFA marching band, called the Marching Black Knights and directed by Meiss, in October finished first in the Large School Division 3 category in the New York State Field Band Conference championships. Meiss became the band’s director about nine years ago, and in 2011 it began performing competitively.
The settlement agreement for Meiss further said he was to present the school district with “options for professional development in the areas of student management and interpersonal skills.” It said the district “reserves the right to reject professional development options suggested by Mr. Meiss and designate the professional development” that he will receive if the district is unsatisfied with his recommendations.
Meiss will be granted leave to participate in the professional development, the agreement said. In addition, he shall “attend a three-hour, in-person Dignity for All Students Act Certification Class, which shall be paid for and designated by the district.” Meiss will not receive compensation for attending the class, the document added.
The agreement is “based on unique and compelling circumstances and shall not serve as a precedent with regard to bargaining unit members in the future with circumstances similar to Mr. Meiss’s,” said the document. It said Meiss acknowledges that he had the opportunity to consult a representative of his choosing and that he chose “to be represented through these deliberations” by the RTA.