In January 2013, Rome Teachers Association President Rob Wood and Secretary Joe Eurto attended a conference in New York City sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the national union. The conference focused on labor-management relations. However, as fate would have it, Rob and Joe began a conversation with Shital Shah from the AFT Educational Issues Department who shared some impactful information about the community schools model. Rob and Joe spent the train ride back to Rome, N.Y., reviewing the material and dreaming about the possibilities that community schools could provide in Rome.
In 2016, the Rome Teachers Association (RTA) was one of three unions throughout the country to receive an AFT Innovation Grant; the AFT recognized RTA as a leader in bringing together the school district, the city of Rome, and the community. As a result of the grant and with additional funding provided by the Rome City School District, in January 2017, the Rome Alliance for Education (RAE) was created as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to launch Rome Community Schools. Bellamy Elementary was the first pilot school to run an array of programs and activities that engaged, educated and assisted students, teachers and families. An initial needs assessment identified priority areas such as food insecurity, housing instability, employment, after-school and school-break activities, and access to mental health and healthcare services.
“I was making the decision to pay my electric or buy extra food because we weren’t making it to the end of the month – and I work a good job. I just go into the school now and get some extra to get us by. I even have saved money with school supplies and clothes they have here. I love this new community school.”
– April M.
– Grandmother of a student at Gansevoort Elementary
We had a simple idea
and were given a path to get there.
If we were able to bring together the entire community, including agencies, services, organizations, businesses, places of worship, individuals, teachers, administrators, union members and leaders, investors and other people with the same mission, could we help students become successful, productive and engaged healthy citizens?
I believe the desire to help is contagious. I also believe that anything anyone is in need of is already here and available, but some need assistance getting it. If we were to add a little fun and a few exciting educational experiences along the way, and invite families into our schools for dinners and celebrations, would we see some positive transformation and a fresh sense of belonging to this new community—a community that works collectively, collaboratively and not competitively?
It has worked. We are improving students’ lives on many levels and seeing family struggles dissipate. Needs were discovered and addressed. Experiences were shared. Knowledge was passed on. Doors were open, and arms have been outstretched to embrace.
We haven’t solved all of the world’s or area’s problems and struggles, but daily we are seeing results; and we did it as a community, and we will continue this work as one large connected community.
Rome Alliance for Education
CONNECTED Community Schools
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