Hamburg Central teachers and administrators have tentatively agreed on a teacher evaluation plan, 2½ months after negotiations broke down and put the district in jeopardy of losing state aid.
The two sides reached an agreement Wednesday, and the union’s contract committee overwhelmingly approved the plan Thursday, allowing a vote by the rank and file. If the Hamburg Teachers Association ratifies the plan, the School Board will meet to approve it, and the plan can be sent to New York State for approval.
A key section of the plan deals with teachers who have been found to be ineffective for two consecutive years. In the new plan, the teacher can appeal his or her rating to a panel consisting of three teachers and two administrators that will make the final decision.
“There is a built-in appeals process that is incredibly reasonable,” union President John Mrozek said.
Hamburg and three other districts, including New York City, failed to meet the Jan. 17 deadline for state approval, and the state said they would lose the increase in state aid promised them for this school year. That amounts to about $450,000 in Hamburg.
Parents in New York City obtained an injunction against the state for the loss in aid. The state has not withheld money from Hamburg, pending the outcome of the New York City lawsuit, according to Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch.
In January, Hamburg teachers rejected a proposed plan. Then the two sides returned to the negotiating table and were minutes away from an agreement when talks broke down after some teachers said an administrator had threatened their jobs if the plan was not approved. The district denied the comment was meant as a threat, but it was too late to submit the plan to the state for review and approval.
Teachers will be given copies of the new plan, and it will be presented at a meeting April 11, Mrozek said. A ratification vote is to be conducted April 18. The superintendent said the School Board probably would schedule a special meeting April 19 to approve the plan. Only then can it be sent to the Education Department.
“We will have everything set to go,” Achramovitch said.
The state review could take several weeks, and the state often returns the plans with recommendations for changes before final approval is given.
But Hamburg should not have to worry about jeopardizing future state aid. The governor and legislative leaders have agreed that if any of the four districts that still need to get a plan approved do not have a plan, the state will impose a one-time binding arbitration process, with State Education Commissioner John King acting as the arbitrator and imposing an evaluation system.
Mrozek said teachers don’t mind being evaluated but have a problem with a process that relies heavily on testing as one of the criteria.
“We came up with a process that is fair across the board so every level is being consistently looked at through the same lens,” Mrozek said.