The Oneonta Mentor Network Initiative (O.M.N.I.) is a consortium of several networks of teacher/mentors in the areas of science, mathematics and technology education. OMNI mentors are experienced classroom teachers who provide opportunities for the professional development of their colleagues across New York State. In addition to professional development, OMNI mentors also serve as vital communication links between the New York State Education Department and teachers in the field. NYSED has made extensive use of the expertise of OMNI mentors in designing Core Curricula to meet the MST Learning Standards, in revising Regents Reference Tables and, in constructing new Commencement Level assessments (Regents Examinations).
OMNI began in 1988, when members of the former Science Bureau of the New York State Education Department encouraged SUNY Oneonta to consider hosting mentor networks for Physics and Earth Science. At that time, a new Regents Physics syllabus was being implemented and the 1970 Earth Science Syllabus was slated for revision. These networks were intended to provide professional development opportunities for teachers and to help them promote problem solving, inquiry and other "student-centered" modes of instruction. The fledgling mentor networks were supported by a Dwight D. Eisenhower Title IIa grant to the college. The program was directed by Dr. Reuben James of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, with assistance from Dr. James Ebert of the Earth Sciences Department.
In 1997, a mentor network for Mathematics was added to OMNI under the direction of Dr. Virginia Harder, Department of Secondary Education. A network for Technology Education was added in 2000, with Dr. Paul French, Department of Physics and Astronomy as director. In 2000, the networks were no longer funded by DDE grants. Instead, funds from BOCES, city school districts and a generous grant from the New York State Legislature, through the office of Senator James Seward, supported our activities. Since 2001, there has been no financial support of OMNI from the State of New York or from multiple potential corporate sponsors that were contacted. Recently (October 2003), State Education Commissioner Richard Mills made reference to the mentor networks in association with professional development connected with problematic Regents examinations and by extension, the yet to be implemented Part D's. Apparently, the Commissioner is aware of our existence and the vital role that we can play, but has not seen fit to fund these endeavors.