Rome Board of Ed. discusses facilities, approves personnel resolutions

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ROME — During last week’s regular meeting of the Rome Board of Education on Thursday, Feb. 10, members heard public comments regarding insight into reasons why the district suffers a substitute teacher shortage, including the $100 fee for fingerprinting, and an impassioned statement from a former Rome Free Academy faculty member about bullying in the district, believing “discipline and accountability” needed to be given an acute priority. 

During the meeting, board President John Nash, also chair of the Finance Committee, moved two resolutions: the first to appoint Christine Sullivan as district deputy treasurer and the second to accept the Internal Risk Audit for 2021-22. Both motions carried by a unanimous vote of the Board.

Facilities

Paul Hagerty, chair of the Facilities Committee, had no action items to move and shared that the committee had not met recently, but would be meeting next Tuesday to cover energy improvement projects and the final phase of the capital improvement project.

He also shared that they would plan to “talk a bit” about redistricting as it “closely relates” to what the committee is doing around district facilities.

Board Vice President, Tanya Davis, reminded that RFA spring sports would commence next month and wondered if it was known how the track had “endured the winter?

“Will we be ready to do that?” asked Davis, who added, “It is also important to discuss the facilities at the stadium being ready for next fall.”

Regarding RFA Stadium, Hagerty responded to say, “that’s a little more expensive?”

Davis pushed back to say that it was a conversation that needed to be had, so “we will be ready.”

Education programs 

Board Clerk, Dr. Karen Fontana, also had no action items to put before the Board but provided a brief update on the committee’s work and her takeaway from a recent workshop hosted by Albany.

She noted that committee members attended a virtual webinar (sponsored by the New York State School Boards Association), “The School Board’s Role in Curriculum Adoption.” 

Fontana shared that the program focused on curriculum development and how to handle all the changes that are taking place, “not just in our district.” 

Said Fontana. “It was very informative – information that will really help us fine- tune our curriculum and inform redistricting.”

Davis commented that she had been “blown away” by the Superintendent from the Albany City School District, who she felt brought up important initiatives, including student surveys that probed what “kids want to be learning, need more of and need to know more about.”

People operations

Joe Mellace, the People Operations Committee chair, advanced 12 action items for approval by the board, which were all approved unanimously by members.

The first four resolutions approved the hire and/or transfer between schools monitors, food services helpers, nurses, teachers aides and teachers assistants. School Psychologist, Christopher Wiehl, who had been performing duties at both Bellamy and Strough Middle School, is now approved to be dedicated to Strough. The following two resolutions revised a previously approved resignation date and amended two employment contracts to clarify that benefits based on longevity would rely on years of service to the district, not years served in a particular role.

The board approved the appointment of Amber Presky as an ECP Senior Office Assistant at a salary of $34,221.17. “Amber’s been in this position; she was a senior office assistant at Staley, and moved when previous assistant came back. When Staley shut down, she came over to help out,” shared Brewer. “When that senior office assistant left, she was an obvious choice and she does a great job for us.”

A resolution saw the approval of an increase in part-time hours for two district food service workers.

The members then approved, with regret for the loss of their service to the district, the retirement of William Houser, social studies teacher at RFA (effective June 25); Philip Hughes, a custodial worker at RFA (effective March 18); and Felicia House, a teacher assistant at Denti Elementary School (effective Feb. 1).

The next two resolutions sought to create a principal account clerk position in the district business office and to abolish the position of senior account clerk in the district maintenance department. It was clarified that the elimination of the role was effective immediately and that no one is being terminated; the position had been vacated and was simply not being re-filled.

Finally, the board approved seven extracurricular advisor roles and salaries, all in connection with the RFA spring musical, with terms running from February 11 through June 30 and salaries ranging from $700 for costumes and set construction coordinators to $2,500 for the director of the play.

Mellace shared that 11 candidates had applied for the position of director of supportive learning and that he “hopes to have that position filled very soon.”

Mellace referred to remarks made by a community member during public comment that candidate for substitute teaching roles being asked to pay a $100 fee for fingerprinted before beginning work was prohibitive. 

“The earlier public comments were timely – serendipitous,” said Mellace “If people cannot afford the fingerprinting fee, we would now pay it up front and allow the employee to pay it back from their paycheck over time.”

Mellace appealed that it would be “helpful” to get openings in the district’s business office filled and shared that employees had been taking advantage of the district’s credit reimbursement policy, but at a recent savings to the district.

“The district has narrowed the scope of what courses employees can take over time,” offered Assistant Superintendent Chris Brewer, who shared that the expense of the program to the district was down 60% over three years. “Individuals are still developing professionally, but not doing so in a manner that may have been somewhat arbitrary.”

Appeal rejected

The board voted to determine the rejection of a written appeal by a student in a disciplinary matter, which was considered by the board during its January 27 meeting. Nash confirmed that the family would be advised of its remaining avenue of redress to the State Department of Education and that, in the interim, the student would continue to be provided all services as appropriate. The resolution passed with eight votes and Fontana abstaining, as she was absent from the January 27 meeting.

The next regular meeting of the Rome Board of Education is scheduled for Monday, February 28. All board and committee meetings are held at the district offices, 409 Bell Road, unless otherwise noted.

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