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Teacher evals: It's not over yet

Everybody seems to be breathing a little easier now that the teachers union has approved the 2011-12 evaluation plan for teachers at six schools, which State Ed then, just a few hours later, officially signed off on.

But wait.

It's not over.

The district and the union have until July 1 to reach another agreement -- this time, on teacher evals for 2012-13, for teachers across the Buffalo Public Schools.

And the plan is to have teachers and administrators meet for four days the last week of June to hash it out. That's right, the last week of June.

Phil Rumore told me he doubts four days will be enough time to get it all figured out.

But he's not concerned. He says State Ed told the district that July 1 deadline isn't firm -- that the district "just needs to submit something" by then, but really, it doesn't have to be in final form until Jan. 17, 2013.

Well, let's unravel this a bit.

The district is dealing with two sets of deadlines for its 2012-13 eval plan.

The first is the deadline that was established in the law that was passed in the spring. That law applies to every district in the state. It says that districts need to have their 2012-13 evaluation plan submitted to State Ed by July 1 -- unless there are some issues that still need to be resolved through local negotiations at that point. The drop-dead date is, in fact, Jan. 17, 2013. If districts don't meet that deadline, they forfeit their increase in state aid -- which is more than $30 million for Buffalo.

So in terms of securing next year's increase in state aid, Rumore is correct. There is wiggle room with the July 1 deadline.

But there's another deadline that Buffalo has to worry about.

And that deadline is July 1 -- the deadline the district and the union agreed to when Buffalo submitted its school improvement plans for 2012-13. The six schools using the transformation model (those are the six that needed an eval plan for the current school year), plus any schools using a restart model (which involves hiring an outside educational partnership organization to run the building) must have that evaluation plan in place by July 1, according to Commissioner John King.

That could involve as many as nine schools. (At this point, it's not clear whether the School Board will move forward with restart plans for East and Lafayette, seeing as their EPO, Johns Hopkins, backed out a month ago, because the lack of an eval plan meant funding for the coming year was not a certainty. It's possible the board will decide to go with a turnaround plan for those schools instead, meaning teachers would have to be moved, but no eval plan is required.)

That means somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million is at stake, riding on the district reaching an eval agreement for 2012-13 by July 1.

When I talked to King recently, he confirmed that July 1 deadline.

In terms of Buffalo meeting that deadline, there seem to be two likely trouble spots.

First, of course, the district and the union are waiting until the last week of June to start working on the 2012-13 eval plan. And Rumore himself said he doubts the four days that have been set aside will be enough time.

Second, there seems to be a difference of opinion regarding which set of rules the eval plan will have to conform to.

Rumore told me that State Ed told the district the eval plan would have to be put together under the old law, which was passed in 2010. But King told me in no uncertain terms that the eval plan would have to conform to the 2012 law.

What's the difference?

Well, one key difference is that under the old law, the classroom observation portion (worth up to 60 points) could consist of one observation, which the teacher is told about ahead of time. Under the new law, there must be at least two observations, and at least one of them has to be unannounced.

When I told Rumore that King said the evals must comply with the 2012 law, Rumore said, "Well, then we'll just have to litigate."

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/MaryPasciak    mpasciak@buffnews.com

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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 | djgee@buffnews.com


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 | tlankes@buffnews.com


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 | stan@buffnews.com


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 | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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