When the members of the Education Council of the City of Rome School District walked out of the executive session on Wednesday July 7 to hold its annual reorganization meeting and its first regular meeting of the new school year, Vice President Tanya Davis , after calling the meeting to order and leading the Pledge of Allegiance, took a moment to “make a statement.”
“I would like to apologize for my recent actions,” said Davis, referring to an incident at the Rome Free Academy boys’ lacrosse banquet, which was held June 30 at a local restaurant where Davis reportedly publicly. confronted the team’s head coach, Guy Calandra. .
“I acted emotionally as a mother,” Davis continued. “This in no way reflects my level of commitment to the school board or this community. Davis went on to say how genuinely she was sorry to Calandra, her fellow board members and the community for what she called “an error in judgment.”
Tricia Rutkowski spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to say that she, her husband and stepmother witnessed the incident as they left the banquet. Rutkowski said she was so upset that she couldn’t sleep that night. She went on to defend Calandra, who has just completed her 19th year of lacrosse training at the Rome Free Academy and other coaches who work in the district.
She shared that she had seen Calandra for years encouraging kids of all “shapes, sizes and demographics” to try lacrosse, offering to provide them with the equipment they needed if that was a barrier. She pointed out that district coaches bring a lot of passion to their jobs, beyond the extent to which their allowances compensate.
“To see the way you loaded him – to see the way this man couldn’t even cross the street?” And knowing that you’re the vice-president of the school board, “Rutkowski told Davis directly,” makes me sick. “
Rutkowski shared that Davis’ confrontation with Calandra was so fierce that her husband, a former law enforcement officer, was there, believing the Rome Board of Education officer was about to physically strike. the high school coach. Rutkowski added that his mother-in-law, who had dined with the couple at the Franklin restaurant that evening, had traveled to Rome from Florida to visit the family. “And she got to see a board member attacking a faculty member in our district,” Rutkowski said. “It was embarrassing.”
Jacqueline Nelson, executive director of the Rome branch of the NAACP, also made a statement. She opened to clarify that she was speaking on behalf of the NAACP and its board of directors and initially expressed her expectation that Davis would be elected chairman of the board at the reorganization meeting. She said she was surprised to see Davis open the meeting and nominate John Nash as chair, a motion that was passed unanimously.
“We were concerned that the leadership of the school board would take a turn in which the NAACP would not be accepted as part of the community,” said Nelson. “We have come a long way working with the school district. We have formed many partnerships with the school district. And we want to make sure, with the new management, that this continues and that it is not ruled out, because some of you may have different views on how things should be with regard to the equity, diversity and all the things that concern us.
Nelson went on to say that she appreciated Davis’ apology and expressed her hope that nothing like the incident would happen again. “It’s a distraction this school district doesn’t need,” Nelson said.
Nelson addressed Nash and the new members present to say that she hoped they would work with the NAACP; kiss them. “We just want to make sure that what’s written on this wall applies to all the kids in the school district,” Nelson said.
Nelson was referring to the mission statement of the City of Rome School District, the words of which are painted on the walls of the room where the Board of Education meets, along with pictures of various students, which reads as follows:
“We are a diverse and innovative educational community that believes in the words and actions that all students can learn and be successful. We provide continuous academic and social growth from Kindergarten to graduation to ensure that students are lifelong learners, productive citizens, and members of the global economy.
New officers confirmed
Making his statement regarding the events of June 30, Davis asked a volunteer board member to serve as interim clerk to preside over the appointment of a board chair. Joseph Mellace agreed and Davis appointed John Nash as chairman of the board. The motion was quickly seconded and unanimously carried. Davis thanked outgoing president Paul Hagerty “for a great year” before Nash and Hagerty ceremoniously change their presidents.
“Thank you all for the nomination and for the vote of confidence in me,” Nash said. “I want to thank Paul for his leadership over the past year. It has been a difficult year, but he has led us well.
Nash welcomed the two new board members in attendance, Elena Cardwell-Reddick and Anna Megerell. Craig Ferretti, the third newly elected member, was not present. “I just want you all to know that my only program for the future is this district and our students,” Nash said. “This is our main goal.
Megerell then appointed Tanya Davis to continue as vice president with a second from Dr. Karen Fontana. The measure was passed with only Mellace opposed. Fontana was appointed and unanimously confirmed as clerk of the board.
The board then approved a number of measures, delegating tasks and authorizing the hiring of legal advisers, tax service professionals and other reauthorizations.
New COVID guidelines
Superintendent Peter C. Blake shared what he presented as positive news regarding COVID-19 restrictions. New guidelines sent out by New York state now allow school districts to process summer programs under the same guidelines for summer camps, namely that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks , whether inside or outside. Unvaccinated people can wear a mask, but it is not mandatory.
Blake confirmed that these new guidelines will not extend until fall 2021 and that updated guidelines will be released to districts by the state in late August. Blake also noted that state guidelines allow individual school districts to implement more restrictive mask guidelines at their discretion.
He clarified that he simply shares the state guidelines and that the district has yet to make any decisions regarding a review of the state guidelines.
“I am awaiting legal advice on the new information before I go ahead with any changes,” Blake said. “If there are any changes, they will be announced next week.”
Blake shared his initial concern that students in summer programs who may have unmasked themselves may then be forced, once again, to wear a mask when school begins in the fall. “We just don’t have any information on what to expect in September at the moment,” Blake said.
Blake said during his remarks to the Council that, for students under the age of 12 participating in summer programs – who are not yet allowed to be vaccinated – the less restrictive mask requirements were “good news. “.
The board approves new recruits, positions
Motions presented by the district staff operations committee that included hiring, time off, retiring, selling or disposing of obsolete assets and other sundries, were all passed. The motions included confirmation of the positions and salaries of four math teachers, six AIS elementary math teachers, eight reading teachers and five social workers.
In response to a member asking why so many math instructors were being hired, he was informed that the openings were created by resignations and retirements that the committee was able to “jump early” because these were. known in advance. It was also confirmed that one position was a long-term replacement at Strough due to maternity leave.
The motion to approve math positions was passed unanimously with nominations for Brendan Woodward (Strough) at a salary of $ 56,440; Felicity Jones (Strough) $ 46,639; Brianne Kent (RFA) $ 46,639; and Athena Hoffman (Strough) $ 52,940.
The request for the creation of five school social worker positions and eight elementary reading positions was linked to the allocation of federal ESSER and ARPA funds. During discussions among members, it was confirmed that there are currently five district-wide social worker positions. Four are currently filled and one is vacant due to resignation. Thus, four of the five positions would be newly created. Further discussion ensued as to when the board would clearly determine whether the team of social workers was sufficient to meet the needs of the district. The motion, however, was carried.
In response to the motion to add eight elementary reading stations funded by ARPA’s federal funds, Fontana, while noting that she was not against hiring more teachers in this discipline, said that more discussion and data was needed to understand the effectiveness of the current district policy. reading program was.
Davis added that the district had just fired several AIS teachers, but is now hiring more AIS teachers? She expressed concern about the district’s ability to support and retain the best teachers and was unsure whether it could support the approval of eight positions. She stressed that federal funds will expire in five years, although positions are based on current level of need, and also questioned whether, in the current hiring climate, the district could identify a total of eight qualified candidates. The motion was carried 5-3 with no votes from Fontana, Davis and Cardwell-Reddick.
The resolutions for social workers and AIS teachers were about the creation of positions and did not include the appointment of specific staff proposed to fill them.