Formal complaint filed against Rome City School board VP

Conduct while watching district basketball game triggers report; board officer denies yelling at player

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ROME - Superintendent of Schools Peter C. Blake and Board of Education President John Nash have confirmed that two formal complaints have been filed with the district regarding alleged violations of the district standards of conduct by board Vice President Tanya Davis.

While the source of the other complaint has not been confirmed, Jackie Nelson, president of the Rome Branch of the NAACP, has confirmed that the branch has filed a complaint about an incident at a boys basketball game in question.

“The Rome NAACP has requested the Rome City School District and Board of Education perform a thorough, transparent and fair investigation regarding complaints we have received concerning an incident at a basketball game on Jan. 25, 2022,” said Nelson. “The fact that this school district appears to be ignoring the incident is alarming. Every parent within the school district should be expected to follow the rules of conduct, whether they serve on the school board or not.”

Davis is alleged to have yelled at the RFA coaches during the game, against Charles W. Baker High School of Baldwinsville, expressing her disagreement with their handling of a situation involving a player on the court.

She is then alleged to have shouted at the player himself.

Davis has denied allegations that she directly shouted at a player, including the suggestion that she called the player a derogatory name.

She has not denied yelling, while stopping short of agreeing she yelled directly at the coaches, but “in general.”

A witness seated in Davis’ vicinity at the game – confirmed to be behind the RFA bench, has characterized her as clearly yelling at the coaches. 

Davis’ son is a member of the varsity basketball team, so – her role as an officer of the Board of Education notwithstanding — as a parent her conduct would be governed by the spectator and parent standards of conduct per the district handbook, which parents of athletes are required to sign.

Spectators at RFA sporting events, per the district handbook, are not permitted to shout anything but positive encouragement to coaches or players at district-sanctioned athletic events. If a parent disagrees with the conduct of or a decision made by a district coach, they are invited to express that disagreement but obliged to do so in a private setting and to wait at least 24 hours after the event that raised such issue, which is a customary guideline for many athletic leagues and organizations colloquially known as “the 24-Hour Rule.” 

According to Blake, he received a report from the district Athletics Director, Michael Stamboly, shortly after the alleged incident that a member of the Rome Board of Education had engaged in conduct at the Jan. 25 game that he considered serious enough to compel him to share it with the superintendent.

Blake confirmed that the report included four accounts of the alleged conduct. 

The details with regard to what was shouted, and by whom, remain at issue. Determining those details will be the aim of an investigation that both Blake and Nash confirm will now be conducted.

Blake said that, upon receiving Stamboly’s report, he consulted with the district counsel and contacted Nash to inform him of the report.

Per guidance from counsel, Blake then shared Stamboly’s report with the full board, including Davis, during an executive session on Jan. 27, preceding the regular meeting of the board that evening.

During that executive session, Nash confirms that Davis was permitted to share her account of the incident and that he contacted another parent who was sitting with Davis at the game in order to solicit her account. It is unclear who identified that parent to Nash as a witness and provided him with her contact information, but that witness confirms receiving a call from Nash on that evening about the incident and that she did share her recollection of it with him. Davis stepped out of the room to permit the remaining eight members to discuss the issue outside of her presence.

When contacted last week regarding what the next steps the Board would take with regard to the incident, Nash confirmed that “there was an alleged incident involving Tanya at a recent basketball game” and that the board had met in executive session to “discuss this matter.” He went on, however, to state that it was his belief that “there was enough conflicting information” to call into question what actually took place.

Nash initially shared that the board had decided on “taking internal measures to resolve matters going forward.” He also confirmed that the board did not intend to share with the public what those measures would be. Upon confirming that the complaints have also been submitted by members of the community, he said a more formal inquiry into the events will be initiated.

Blake confirmed that all four accounts of the incident shared by Stamboly were consistent; there was no “conflicting information” contained in them. The only other accounts of the incident that Nash confirms were considered were the accounts of the accused member and the other parent who was sitting near Davis in the stands. 

As of the filing of the complaints on Friday, February 11, no effort had been made on the part of the board to solicit the accounts of the incident from the coaches or the player who were alleged to have been yelled at, while at least one coach account may have been among the four advanced by Stamboly.

While Blake viewed it to be his obligation to share Stamboly’s report of the incident with the board, he added he has no purview over what action the board may or may not take. He does, however, have purview over violations by a parent and/or spectator of the district standards of conduct when attending an RFA athletic event. Blake stated that the report from the district athletic director did not constitute a “formal complaint” and so did not feel he could initiate an investigation into the incident, where – if such an investigation confirmed violations – consequences would be imposed that typically involving banning the person for a prescribed period of time from district property or from attending district-sanctioned athletic events. 

On Monday morning, Feb. 14, Blake confirmed that a formal complaint regarding the incident was received by the Rome City School District and that, as a result, the issue “will take on a whole different light.”

Blake confirmed plans to consult with the district’s legal counsel on Tuesday of this week to seek guidance as to how such an investigation should be appropriately conducted, with regard to his concern of the discomfort of district employees he anticipates were they asked to participate in any way in the investigation into a member of the board, saying he was aware of “people being concerned to file a report or speak up due to fear of retribution.”

Prior incident reported other coach

Davis was reported to be involved in a prior incident on June 29 of 2021, where she is alleged to have verbally accosted Guy Calandra, the head coach of the RFA boys varsity lacrosse team, after the team banquet at the Franklin Hotel.

Davis was in attendance at the banquet to support her son, a member of the team.

A witness to the incident had sent a letter to every member of the board per email addresses provided on the district website, prior to the annual reorganization meeting, called to order on July 7, 2021. That same witness had been invited to attend that meeting and expected to be further deposed, but was instead given a public comment card to fill out.

Davis read a public statement of apology to Calandra and for her actions that evening and then, minutes later, was re-elected as the board’s vice president.

During the public comment portion of the regular meeting that immediately followed the reorganization meeting, that witness read her letter in its entirety and later expressed disappointment that it was not considered prior to the election of the officers.

In this former case, as with the current one, any measures the board may have taken were internal and not disclosed to the public.

Status as officer

With regard to whether Davis will continue to serve as vice president of the board, or to serve at all, pending the outcome of the investigation, Blake confirmed again that he has no purview in that regard.

“As far as I am aware, there is no change with regard to Ms. Davis and her position,” said Blake. “Again, only she and/or the board can act on her service.”

Nash, when asked whether there would be any change in Davis’ status in light of the pending investigation, responded to say that, “at this point, since there has not been a complaint filed by individuals who were not present at the game, I feel it is best to let the process work itself out.” 

Comments not aimed at student, VP says

Davis stated that the incident was “thoroughly investigated by the board” and focused her remarks on her unequivocal denial that she made any derogatory statement to the student-athlete.

“The board discussed this matter and determined that the accusations were unfounded,” said Davis. “I did not make a derogatory statement to that student.”

Brenda McGonagle, the parent of a member of the RFA boys varsity basketball team who was sitting with Davis when the alleged incident took place, corroborates Davis’ account.

“She did not say anything to the player,” confirmed McGonagle.

Davis shared that the environment around the game in question was chaotic. She admits to shouting a comment in general – she asserts “not directed at a particular individual” – borne of her frustration at inequities in the way she feels players are disciplined and afforded playing time; a frustration she said has grown throughout the season. 

While the exact words and the target of them remain at issue, sources confirm that Davis shouted a comment accusing the coaches of responding differently to the behavior of a particular student-athlete in real time than they would have to other players, who would include her son.

Davis said that the board had determined that “the accusation was unfounded” and that she had not violated her oath of office or code of conduct as a member of a district board of education. It is unclear what consequence the board would be empowered to impose, should a now formal inquiry reveal any wrongdoing.

The Daily Sentinel has requested copies of the formal complaints received by the district, arguing it is a matter of public record. Blake has responded to say that he would consult with district counsel promptly to receive guidance as to whether the complaint can be so released.

Complaint process

When a member of the Rome City School District community witnesses what they believe to be violations of district standards where they feel they are compelled to report those alleged violations, there is no specific form to be filled out to report the issue or incident, district officials said.

What the district has considered “formal complaints” in this – or any case – would be a letter under the cover of the filer detailing the issue or incident. Such complaints or reports can be addressed to the principal of a given school building, the superintendent of schools, the president of the board or any combination of those three.

The report or complaint can be submitted in person, via email or via U.S. mail. The district office is located at 409 Bell Road, Rome NY, 13440 and every member of the board, including the sitting president, would be reached by any email sent to asktheboe@romecsd.org.

Transparency

The frustration reflected by members of the community engaging on this issue seem to be as much or more focused upon a perception of lack of transparency in the manner in which the board disposes of such matters as it is on this specific incident.

Nash shared that the process the board now finds itself tasked with following is “new territory” for himself and the present board, and he said he wants the community to be assured that “the board took these incidents very seriously.”

Both the district and the Board of Education are seeking guidance as to the appropriate process for conducting their investigation into the events that transpired on January 25 and promise to share that process as soon as it is confirmed.

Sportsmanship

Sources share that shouting at players and coaches is considered customary at RFA basketball games, but recently RFA Principal Brian LeBaron shared in a status report to the Board of Education that he was working specifically to change that culture and sow a spirit of sportsmanship.

One parent expressed that, if rules against yelling at coaches were enforced, there would barely be anyone left to watch the games.

This incident is the latest in a string of incidents involving local parents and sporting events.

A segment of the city’s Pop Warner Youth Football season was cancelled this fall after a group of parents charged the field and engaged in a physical attack on an official, reports said.

Less than one week ago, the Rome Youth Basketball League, serving third- through sixth-graders, abruptly canceled the remainder of their season, citing a February 12 incident with a parent but confirming that it reflected similar incidents mounting throughout the season. According to city officials who oversee the league, two coaches in the program had resigned as a result of parent conduct.

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  • Crazybeautiful2186

    I was sitting right there during the situation because my husband does the books for the games! She ABSOLUTELY said something the the player AND to 2 other girls WHO WERE SITTING WITHOUT A PARENT, instigating the whole thing! She then stood up and walked across to the other side of the court to speak about the situation to another man making exaggerated body movements pointing to our direction. I even went up to the two the girls and asked them if they were okay, because NO ONE should speak to someone else’s children the way her and her friend were. She was NOT speaking to the couch they were speaking directly to the player!! And I will say that under oath! Please reach out to me directly smille49@icloud.com and I will give you THE REAL FACTS about that situation!

    Saturday, February 19 Report this