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State approves Buffalo teacher evaluation plan just before deadline

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Buffalo: State approves Buffalo teacher evaluation plan just before deadline
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The Buffalo Public School District secured more than $30 million Thursday afternoon when the State Education Department approved a new teacher evaluation plan. The district cut it close to the midnight deadline.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Teachers Federation and the School District worked late into Wednesday night to submit a revised teacher evaluation plan to the state.

"There was trust, which was the most important thing," BTF President Phil Rumore said. "We could've disagreed but then we tried to find a common ground."

The state asked for several more revisions Thursday morning but approved the document Thursday afternoon.

"I think if you spoke to every single board member, staff member, teacher, principal in the district, we'd all say that we are very relieved and pleased that we can move on now," BPS Board Member Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold said.

For the second straight year the district was under the gun to get a plan approved on time.

"We're all in this learning curve and I think when you're in that process there are starts and fits and it's difficult to have a smooth progressive process," Seals Nevergold said.

But this evaluation plan is a two-year agreement. The superintendent said in a statement Thursday, without the distraction of negotiations, the district will be able to focus on other important things next year.

"That's a pleasure to know that, that we have the agreement in place," Nevergold said.

With the approval, the district secured a $33 million increase in state aid. But that total could be closer to $50 million after additional grants are factored in.

"The money is absolutely critical to the school district; otherwise, we'd be cutting programs, but it's really a shame that they hold students hostage by withholding money and force us to do something that really isn't going to help them learn," Rumore said.

The president of the teachers union said he's pleased to have the process over with but fundamentally disagrees with the idea of evaluating teachers and students based on standardized testing.

"Although we have to do it and it's a federal and state law, I almost feel like I'm an accessory to a crime," Rumore said. "But we have no option right now."

The agreement still needs to be ratified by district teachers but the union president doesn't expect that to be a problem.

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