Hamburg Central School District is trying to save about $620,000 in state aid that is in jeopardy.
If it is not successful, the district will have lost $1.09 million because the administration and teachers could not reach an agreement on a teacher evaluation plan by the deadline of this Jan. 17.
A plan was not approved by the teachers and the School Board until mid-April, and it was not approved by the state until May 6, said interim Superintendent Richard Jetter. The plan requires several observations and evaluations of each teacher.
The Annual Professional Performance Review 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.
“It would be physically impossible to carry out the integrity of the APPR plan with the number of walk-through observations that are needed, especially during state testing time,” Jetter told the School Board last week.
“That was the primary difficulty they faced,” said Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Donald Ogilvie. “Obviously labor relations, in the judgment of many, were not going to permit anything but a very strict adherence to what had been negotiated.”
In other words, evaluations would not be performed until the agreement had been reached and approved by the state, he said.
The increase in state aid is linked to the implementation of the evaluations. Last school year, districts had to have a plan approved by Jan. 17 to receive an increase in aid. In order to get aid this year, each district must certify to the state that, to the extent practicable, the plan was carried out.
Hamburg will make the case that its plan was not implemented because there was not enough time, not because it was ignoring the requirements for evaluation.
Ogilvie said he has talked with state education officials on Hamburg’s behalf.
“There is recognition that Hamburg’s circumstances are unique. The late approval was certainly problematic,” he said. “There exist no remedies for this.”
He said the district probably will need state legislation to be passed and signed by the governor to receive the aid increase for this school year.
State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said the state had little choice but to withhold last year’s aid. State law enacted in March 2012 as part of the 2012-13 state budget provided for districts to lose their state aid increase if they didn’t meet the deadline. The state originally planned to recoup the funds, which total $427,000 for Hamburg, in March, he said.
The state held off on following through when a judge issued a stay after a New York City parent sued for the aid there.
“Once the stay was lifted, in May 2013, the state was legally obligated to recoup the state aid increase,” Burman said.