Rome School District Staff, Capital Plan Discussion Dominates Meeting

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Members of the Rome Board of Education reviewed major resignations and approved a $21 million investment project at their regular meeting on Thursday, January 27, along with public comments regarding community views on the redistricting and a harrowing account of students facing acute racial discrimination in Rome. city ​​schools.

Further discussions on the redistribution are expected when the school board’s ad hoc committee on redistribution holds its second meeting tonight at 5:00 p.m. at district offices. Among the points discussed or approved on Thursday:

People operations

Human Operations Committee Chair Joe Mellace presented eight resolutions to members, including hiring Cynthia Marchione as a reading teacher at Stokes Elementary School for a pro-rated salary of $57,829, effective January 11, 2022, and Jennifer Wolak for the district. -expanded role of speech-language pathologist at a pro-rated salary of $65,810, effective March 7, 2022.

Cristin Checchia has been proposed to fill the position of Acting Director of Supported Learning, with a pro-rated salary of $119,000 effective November 5, 2021, to accommodate the resignation of the current Director.

Other hires subject to board approval included a teacher’s aide, a teacher’s aide, two school nurses and three extracurricular counsellors. The creation of the post of clerk (40% of the time) was also proposed to the members.

Mellace also proposed a resolution to accept the retirement of Mary “Carol” VanCourt, senior Medicare account clerk, effective August 1, 2022, and Barbara Richards, special education teacher at Strough Middle. School, starting June 30, 2022.

All popular operations motions are passed unanimously.

Capital project

The board considered a SEQRA and recital resolution—requiring a 3/5 majority—regarding approval of $21,608,018 in repairs and upgrades to district facilities.

Both resolutions carried 7 to 1, with Karen Fontana opposed on both counts. Fontana read a prepared statement and promised it would be the entire dissent because she knew the motions would pass, but said the issue was close to my heart. As she has always expressed, she called the athletic facility additions and improvements a “want” rather than a “need” in the context of the difficult decisions facing members and constituents regarding the redistricting of schools in the city ​​of Rome. She also objected to approval to use up to $4 million of district reserve funds, if needed. “It’s money that I think should be saved for future use,” Fontana said.

Tanya Davis expressed respect for the role Fontana had played in the ongoing debate and the perspective she represented. Davis shared that she herself was “on the fence about it” and didn’t disagree with many of Fontana’s objections.

“But we have a lot of work to do in this district,” said Davis, who indicated his vote would be in favour, “very cautiously” and hopes his remaining questions will be answered.

Paul Hagerty cited his decades of service on the board having exposed him to “a lot of discussion” on the issue over the years. He recalled concerns about the ability to develop the property behind RFA when it was considered new construction. He recalled that many Romans believe the majority of sports facilities should be on FRG grounds, while an equally passionate cohort supported keeping facilities at the FRG stadium, where a lot of investment has recently been made. to redo the football field and install a new track. Hagerty cited a recent presentation by district architects on the feasibility of RFA’s current site as influential to the stance he planned to take on the investment.

“All our schools need work, and it’s not just related to the sports complex. I believe the way it will play out over time is we’ll look at what can legitimately be done in the back of the school,” Hagerty said, “but I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ll never nothing nor will we get anywhere if we do nothing.

Hagerty has expressed urgency over the past few months to take steps to address the issues, particularly in the district’s elementary schools. “We need to funnel money to our elementary schools. It’s not everything, but it’s shorter term and the redistricting is in three or four years,” Hagerty said. “A larger, more comprehensive project may come from a realignment, but that does something short-term. So I will support him. »

Nash also expressed being impressed with the presentation made by the architects. “What really sold me was the architects themselves and their knowledge of New York State funding policies,” Nash said. “Their professionalism really impressed me.”

Education and athletics

Joe Mellace, who has always taken a position in favor of upgrading the district’s athletic facilities, respectfully disagreed with Fontana that upgrading them is a “need.” “The main focus is education and I don’t disagree with that,” Mellace said, “but that education includes socialization, diversity, equity and inclusion, and you see that playing out on sports grounds more than anywhere else.”

Mellace urged members to consider their facilities in comparison to neighboring districts, such as VVS or Whitesboro, and called Rome’s fields “super substandard.”

“We’re at the back of the pack,” said Mellace, who reminded colleagues that the district’s athletic facilities engage students, both as participants and spectators, and serve to attract new families to the district.

Mellace also recalled that “98% of it will be state-assisted, with 2% a local liability” and he relied on the council’s recent history with district architects, who came below of the budget on the recent sod project, allowing the district to “do things that weren’t expected.”

“We can do that and the instruction piece – it’s not a choice,” Mellace said. “I think we can do both.”

Davis pointed out that improvements to the district’s athletic facilities accounted for only a portion of the allocated funds, but Fontana was quick to confirm that those improvements still reflected the majority of spending. She recalled that she had hoped the building improvements could be separated from the sports facility improvements, but that was not the case.

Peter Blake noted, “There is no final approval of the plan as to the details of how the deal is going to look. Everything is preliminary in terms of the outline.

Mellace recalled visiting the new turf and track at the RFA stadium. “How proud people were, how excited the athletes were to go out there,” Mellace said. “I think we’re going to see that same pride.”

The bylaws require the district to hold a special meeting of qualified voters where a resolution of obligation will be voted on. This meeting and this vote will take place on March 22, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. The proposal will seek approval for the obligation and discretionary use of $3.14 million of district reserve funding.

In other miscellaneous matters, the board considered whether to issue a request for proposals for a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, proceeding to vote to end the services of Access Global Group, which was almost halfway through its third year of providing this service. The vote was unanimous to seek to put another consultant in place and move forward with the preparation of an RFP for this purpose. The next regular meeting of the Rome School Board will be Thursday, February 10 at 6 p.m. All regular Board and Committee meetings are held at the District Offices, 409 Bell Road, unless otherwise specified.

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