Davis draws criticism at board of education meeting

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ROME — At the regular meeting of the Rome City School District Board of Education on Thursday, Feb. 28, the board was faced with criticism of the handling of Vice President Tanya Davis’ actions at a Jan. 25 varsity basketball game.

Davis, is alleged to have shouted her disagreement with decisions being made by RFA varsity basketball coaches during a home game vs. Baldwinsville on Tuesday, Jan. 25, as well as yelling at a player, including calling him a disparaging name, though she has unequivocally denied doing so.

Opposition to the board’s handling of a similar incident at the end of June 2021, where Davis was accused of verbally harassing the RFA varsity lacrosse coach in the presence of several witnesses outside of the Franklin Hotel in Rome, where the team’s annual banquet had just concluded. Following that incident, Davis opened the annual reorganization meeting a week later with a brief statement of apology and then was promptly nominated for vice president and voted almost unanimously to fill that role — with the only dissenting vote from board member Joe Mellace.

An online petition with almost 800 signatures was referenced at the Feb. 28 board meeting, calling for Davis to either resign or be removed from the board of education (which the board does not have the authority to do in response to an incident such as this). A formal investigation into the incident is being conducted by the board’s legal counsel and is still in progress, district officials said.

Rome resident Dennis Perfetti, who identified himself as a member of the Rome community who did not have a student in the district currently, said “772 signatures, Tanya, asking you to resign. You can’t keep doing this,” appealed Perfetti. “It’s hard enough to get taxpayers in this city. But you have to worry about a board member when you’re walking across the street?”

At this point during Perfetti’s comments, Nash interrupted him to say, effectively, that no comments could be made about “the incident under investigation.” In fact, the guidelines governing public comments do not prohibit comments about any topic, as long as they are made respectfully.

“I’m talking about all the incidents,” retorted Perfetti. “Nobody knows because you’re shoving it under the rug. Enough is enough, don’t you think?”

Said Perfetti, “All this stuff going up on the base. If you’re moving in and read the reviews on all the school districts. You won’t move to Rome because of stuff like this.”

“We all get heated at basketball games. Let them sort it out. Let the coach sort it out. You hired a coach. Don’t like how he’s doing his job? Fire him,” said Perfetti to Davis, “But you can’t verbally abuse him from the stands. Enough’s enough. It’s time for you to resign.”

Emily DiBari, Rome resident and mother of two children, one a third-grader at Ridge Mills Elementary School, provided the members with a handout that was a primer on the board of education member code of conduct, directing their attention specifically to “Policy 10-26.”

“My son is a third-grader who loves playing basketball and he got really excited to play his favorite sport for his favorite school,” shared DiBari, who referred to a recreational basketball league for grades 3 through 6, “but the league was cancelled for inappropriate conduct by parents at games.”

She then appealed to the parent in each member when she shared her task of explaining to her son why he could now no longer play basketball, not as a consequence for what he or his teammates or opponents had done, but for what the grown-ups had done.

“This district has a long standing set of expectations for conduct on school property and at school functions,” DiBari reminded the board.

DiBari clarified that Davis is accused of calling a student-athlete “the name of a genital” in front of hundreds of witnesses.

“Witnesses have seen the behavior before,” said DiBari, “but fear coming forward because they work in the district.”

DiBari also indicated that RFA students have signed a petition being circulated to ask that Davis either step down or be removed because they either “witnessed the bullying or had been a victim of it.”

“It violates the code of conduct and it has no place on the board” said DiBari of the behavior of which Davis has been accused, “We will not be bullied or called bullies for standing up for teachers, coaches, employees and especially students.”

While she acknowledged that she had not planned to speak that evening, Jackie Nelson, the president of the Rome Chapter of the NAACP, requested the courtesy of adding some spontaneous remarks and it was so granted.

“A few weeks ago, you and I had a conversation about some of the shenanigans that have been going on. You said to me, the community will decide ... will have a say,” said Nelson, primarily to Nash. “Well, the community is here tonight so I hope you will consider … the board member, your comments, grade-banding. I really hope you are taking this seriously tonight.”

As Nelson’s comments were met with applause from the gathering, Nash replied, “we certainly are.”

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