Hamburg teachers Tuesday accused the district of threatening teachers with their jobs if they do not vote in favor of a teacher evaluation plan.
The Hamburg Teachers Association and district administrators both said they were on the brink of reaching a long-awaited agreement on a state-required plan for evaluating teachers when talks broke down early Tuesday afternoon.
Union President John Mrozek said a small group of teachers was meeting with an administrator on another subject in another room. Union members at that meeting told the contract committee the administrator told them they were not mandated staff, and if the plan went down, their jobs would be affected.
“It put us in a position where we had to say enough is enough, you can’t be intimidating our membership and threaten our membership with jobs,” Mrozek said. “We can’t continue to have our members targeted in that way.”
The state is requiring plans to be submitted and approved by Thursday, or districts will lose state aid. It would cost Hamburg $450,000, Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch said. Both the union and School Board must approve the plan.
Achramovitch said he believes the agreement was “minutes” away Tuesday afternoon when the allegation was brought up by the union.
“At this point we don’t have any conclusive evidence that occurred. We have to do our investigation to see if that occurred,” he said. “We need to have evidence that there was actually a threat as they told us at the table.”
Mrozek said after the union verified the story, it brought the matter to the administration and invited the district to respond.
“They indicated indeed it did happen,” Mrozek said. “They claimed it was not meant to be a threat, not intended to be a threat – and yet, that’s exactly the way it was perceived.”
The union said the district’s actions and comments “have a chilling effect on our members’ rights to freely participate in the affairs of their local union.”
After negotiations broke down, the School Board canceled Tuesday evening’s meeting on the budget.
The Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR, is a state requirement that more closely links teacher ratings to student growth on assessments and to classroom observations. While many aspects of the teacher evaluation are required by New York State, each district must negotiate some details with unions.
Hamburg teachers rejected the first proposed plan, 217-82, on Friday, and the two sides went back to table Monday and Tuesday.
Hamburg is one of only a few districts in the state that has not submitted a plan. About 99 percent of the state’s unions and school districts have reached agreement on evaluation plans, according to Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers.
Mrozek said the union is waiting for the administration’s response and corrective measures. “It’s in their hands,” he said. “We’ll listen to what they have to say.”
Achramovitch said the district wants to continue to meet.
“If we did something wrong, we’ll look to how we need to fix that,” he said.
If an agreement is reached, it must be presented to teachers, who then must vote on it. Then the School Board would have to conduct a special meeting to approve the plan before it could be sent electronically to Albany.
Is it too late for that to be done?
“It’s not too late until midnight on Thursday the 17th,” Achramovitch said.