Rome Board of Education approves retirements, new hires

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At its last regular meeting of 2021, the Rome Board of Education addressed several resolutions concerning the ongoing drafting of the district’s new policy manual, as well as People Operations matters, including the retirements of Patricia Wheeler, teacher’s assistant at Clough, and Linda Froio, typist at Strough, as well as the appointment of Jodi Marchone as the interim principal at Clough Elementary School.

At the meeting, held Dec. 22, the board received a presentation by district architects and financial consultants, proposing options for addressing repairs and upgrades as part of capital project improvements during a work study session.

They also heard from several local leaders and community members during the public comment segment of the meeting to express frustration over the suspension of the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion contract with Access Global Group, a DEI consultant amid its third year of providing services to the district when the Board voted to terminate those services in November.

Facilities

The members unanimously approved the Consent Agenda and then heard an update from Facilities Committee Chair, Paul Hagerty, who devoted his time for the second consecutive regular meeting to express the urgency he feels faces the Board with regard to the acute concerns with regard to the closure of Staley, issues around busing, the imbalance between district catchment areas and the cry from families and faculty alike to address class sizes too large to ensure effective instruction.

“My biggest problem is that I don’t know how bad things are in the elementary schools right now,” said Hagerty.

Hagerty urged his colleagues to prioritize devising a short-term solution pending the longer-term redistricting proposals still in progress. Board Vice President Tanya Davis proposed the scheduling of a dedicated Facilities Committee meeting to address the issues around proposed capital projects and redistricting plans in addition to chairing the first meeting of the redistricting ad hoc committee in January.

The next scheduled Facilities Meeting – planned for January 18 – was postponed in light of conflicts with upcoming budget retreats.

Finance

During discussion of finance issues, the members confirmed that 2022-23 Budget Retreats, which are work sessions not open to the public to discuss facets of the school budget that will be recommended to district voters in May, will be scheduled for January 12, 19 and 26. The members will also participate in Board Governance training on the January 19. The Board will also discuss the superintendent’s evaluation during an executive session on January 13.

People Operations

Joe Mellace, chair of the People Operations Committee, advanced a total of 12 action items, where Resolution #11 was deleted, as it duplicated Resolution #10. Resolutions to approve probational and non-instructional personnel carried unanimously. 

Resolution #3, seeking approval of extracurricular personnel for Ski, Production Crew, Jazz Band and the National Honor Society – with salaries ranging from $700 to $1200 - inspired some discussion.

Board President John Nash expressed reservations with regard to some of the clubs, but would not vote nay so as not to interfere with the benefit to the students going forward. Member Craig Ferretti echoed both Nash’s concerns and intentions. None of the members contributing to the discourse were specific as to the activities or concerns in question. The resolution was approved by all voting members, with Davis abstaining due to a conflict where one of her children was a participant in one of the clubs.

The Board went on to unanimously approve resolutions appointing extracurricular sports and winter coaching personnel. They also approved an updated job description for the newly created role of “student support specialist” and approved the hiring of two student support specialists, one dedicated to each of Strough Middle School and Rome Free Academy, both at an annual salary of $42,000 and both to start work in January.

“On behalf of the board, we are happy to see these positions filled,” said Nash.

Board Clerk, Dr. Karen Fontana, invited the new staff members to join the equity task force, noting that their doing so would serve to fulfill a request of Jackie Nelson – president of the Rome chapter of the NAACP and a member of the task force – to include staff “more representative of the Rome student body.”

Members unanimously approved the granting of tenure to Nikiya Pomponi, a district ENL (English as a New Language) Teacher, effective January 7, 2022, with the Board’s expressed thanks and congratulations.

With due regret, the members unanimously approved the retirements of Patricia Wheeler, a teacher’s assistant at Clough, and Linda Froio, senior office specialist at Strough, with both retirements commencing after the conclusion of the school year on June 30, 2022.

Said Nash on behalf of the Board, “thanks to these two ladies for their service to the district.”

The Board considered a request to approve a “Team of One” that would see freshman, Isabella O’Rourke, compete on behalf of Rome Free Academy in Alpine Skiing. O’Rourke would train with the Camden High School Alpine Ski team and be supervised, as required, by a coach appointed by RFA – in this case – Melissa O’Rourke, mother of Isabella, who has agreed to perform the services while waiving any salary or stipend. The arrangement is consistent with the rules of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association for the winter 2021-2022 season.

The Board also unanimously approved the appointment of instructional personnel, including Sarah Sorge-Elacqua, a science teacher at Strough, at an annual salary of $61,910, and Kristine Moskal, a reading teacher at Ganesvoort, at an annual salary of $56,910.

Finally, members approved the appointment of Jodi Marchone as the interim principal at Clough Elementary School.

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