With less than a week to go before a state deadline is reached, teachers in the Hamburg Central School District Friday overwhelmingly rejected a teacher evaluation plan. The vote was 217 to 82.
Chris Cerrone, corresponding secretary for the Hamburg Teachers Association, said the membership was frustrated with district administrators’ unwillingness to meet earlier in the school year to hammer out the details for an evaluation.
“As an association, we had a committee ready to go at the beginning of the school year,” Cerrone said. “If the district had not waited until the final weeks to negotiate an agreement, the evaluation may have been approved.”
School districts across the state must have an approved evaluation plan in place by Thursday, or they will lose their share of this fiscal year’s increase in state aid, which in Hamburg’s case is about $450,000.
A major sticking point for Hamburg teachers is language in the proposal put forth by a 12-member district committee that would have given Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch the final say on any teacher appeals of their ratings. Cerrone said the proposed agreement called for an appeals panel consisting of two teachers and two administrators to review those appeals. In the case of a tie vote, Achramovitch would serve as the tie-breaker, which the membership of the teachers association found to be untenable.
“New York City teachers haven’t approved their plan yet, but they did approve a 50-50 on appeals panel, only with a neutral arbiter breaking the tie. Something along those lines would be more acceptable if a teacher were found to be ineffective or developing,” Cerrone said.
He said last year the teachers union had a temporary agreement with the district on an evaluation proposal that affected only third- through eighth-grade English and math teachers in the district. That pact has since expired.
“Basically, that was done to see how the system would work. However, the state changed numerous items, and the old agreement would have to have been reworked significantly,” Cerrone said.
At a meeting on Thursday, School Board member Holly Balaya had urged teachers to consider the plan, and if union members were unhappy with it, seek to make changes next year. Cerrone said that could put teachers in a bind.
“Two ‘ineffective’ reviews over two consecutive years and a teacher can be dismissed,” he said.
“Teachers want to have a system with fair and valid evaluation to ensure the excellence of the Hamburg teaching staff continues, but are troubled by policies that raise the importance of state assessments. The high-stakes testing movement has brought educational and financial harm to our schools,” Cerrone added.
Meanwhile, Achramovitch late Friday said he was disappointed by the union vote.
“We negotiated a plan in good faith, and we felt we had a good document moving forward. I did not hear [the concerns] about the appeals process from the union,” he said.
Achramovitch has been in contact with Teachers Association President John Mrozek and expressed his willingness to meet “at any time to discuss any outstanding issues.” The superintendent had submitted the unapproved teacher evaluation plan to the state.
“We don’t have the signature pages included with the document,” Achramovitch said.
The superintendent has told The Buffalo News that the state will not formally review the unsigned plan, and still wants the final, approved version.
Hamburg is one of only a few districts across the state that has not submitted a plan.