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Teacher evaluation 'side deal' causing controversy

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Buffalo: Teacher evaluation 'side deal' causing controversy
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A side deal between the Buffalo School District and its teachers concerning evaluations has Governor Andrew Cuomo crying foul, but the head of the teachers union said there was no wrongdoing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The President of Buffalo Teachers Federation said before the union agreed to a new teacher evaluation deal, the district promised this year and last would be a trial period.

"Most districts did it," Phil Rumore said. "They said look, it's not fair to try and bring teachers up on charges for an evaluation plan that no one's ever tested before."

Rumore said with new testing standards on the way, terminating teachers based on evaluations would defeat the purpose.

"It's not supposed to be to fire a teacher, just to find a way to fire a teacher," he said. "It's to say look, these are the good things you're doing. These are the thing you need help in."

But on the "Capital Pressroom" radio show Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed concern the district was circumventing the law.

"If they made a side deal that was contrary to what they certified to the state, that's right on the line of being a fraud in the ethical and possibly legal sense," he said.

The district is drafting a letter to the Governor's office reiterating its commitment to the process.

"We will comply with education law 30-12-C and any other applicable laws, rules and regulations," Superintendent Pamela Brown announced at Tuesday's board meeting.

Rumore said, according to state law, a teacher may face termination after two successive evaluations of "ineffective," but it's not mandatory.

'We think what we've done is fair," Rumore said. "What we've done is legal. If they want to start posturing, that's fine. But the bottom line is nothing's happened."

The school district secured tens of millions of dollars when the state approved the evaluation agreement.

"If the state, if the commissioner and Governor try to take the money back, believe me, they'll be in for the fight of their lives, because the bottom line is, it's wrong," Rumore said.

Cuomo did not specifically say whether the state will try to withhold money from Buffalo but did say the goal is to educate children, not fund a bureaucracy.

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