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Setting the record straight: Buffalo's deadline for a teacher eval plan

It's disconcerting to see how much incorrect information is floating out there today regarding the situation on Buffalo's deadline for submitting a teacher evaluation plan to Albany.

Channel 7 reported that the district had to submit a plan by the end of Thursday. Channel 2 reported  that the teachers would be voting today on a plan. So did Channel 4.

Here's what I know:

- The district had a hearing scheduled for Thursday regarding the suspension of its school improvement grant funds. (That was after the district had requested an adjournment from its original hearing date in February.)

A State Education Department official told me that the rescheduled hearing could be held no later than March 23. "Buffalo's hearing was originally scheduled for 2/22; however, Buffalo requested an adjournment. Our hearing procedures explain that 'in no event shall the hearing be postponed or rescheduled more than 30 days from the date of the first scheduled hearing date.' Per those procedures, the hearing has to be rescheduled on or before 3/23," Dennis Tompkins wrote to me on March 2.

Nevertheless, State Ed granted Buffalo a one-week extension, scheduling the hearing for March 29.

- The purpose of the hearing is to give the district an opportunity to make the case that the state violated a federal or state law or regulation when it suspended the SIG funds.

The opportunity for the district to resolve its teacher evaluation agreement is prior to that hearing -- not during the hearing.

Here is what the state regulations governing hearing procedures for the suspension of federal school improvement grant funds say: "The parties are strongly encouraged to resolve the issues causing the suspension of SIG funding prior to the hearing. A district may submit evidence to the Office of Innovative School Models that it has cured its SIG grant award deficiencies on or before four business days before the scheduled hearing. No further submissions will be considered by that office after that time." [emphasis added by SED, not by me]

By my count, four business days before a hearing next Thursday would put the deadline today.

- Keep in mind, these are the same state regulations that the State Education Department ignored when it granted Buffalo a one-week extension on its hearing. They outline a process for requesting an adjournment, but then state: "In no event shall the hearing be postponed or rescheduled more than 30 days from the date of the first scheduled hearing date."

Which, of course, was what Tompkins cited in explaining to me that Buffalo's hearing could be held no later than March 23.

Obviously, the state set those rules aside with regard to the hearing.

Will state officials decide to hold fast to the deadline for submission of a revised teacher evaluation plan? That remains to be seen.

- In one of my most recent conversations with BTF President Phil Rumore, he said anything related to teacher evaluations would have to go to the teachers for a vote.

Teachers tell me they will be voting on the evaluation agreement on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |