New York State School Boards Association

How 19 minutes cost one district $46,000

by Eric Randall

On Board Online • February 25, 2013

By Eric Randall

The Harrison district in Westchester County was 19 minutes late in submitting the required signature of its board president with its Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan. Although the plan won approval five days later, the district lost $46,000 in state aid.

Blame brinksmanship. When state officials refused to approve one of Harrison’s metrics, Superintendent Louis Wool insisted they get a second opinion. Wool altered the plan at the 11th hour under protest, but a crucial signature was missing.

“I find it sadly ironic that the reason for our so-called late application was my unwillingness to relent to lowering our standards for evaluating the high school principal,” said Wool, who was state superintendent of the year in 2010.

“Harrison had one of the most respected and widely recognized teacher evaluation systems in the state,” he said. “In fact, NYSSBA recognized it as a best practice in 2002. So Harrison had something to lose by complying with the low standards being put forward by the state.”

While a state guidance document suggested the principal evaluations could use the number of credits students are earning between ninth and 10th grade as an indicator of college readiness, Harrison wanted to use the percentage of seniors admitted to four-year schools.

“Every single member of the state education review team agreed that it was a reasonable metric, but they felt compelled to deny it because it was not in the guidance document,” Wool said.

While state officials including Gov. Andrew Cuomo have proudly noted that more than 99 percent of districts now have approved APPR plans, Wool said the state should put a higher priority on ensuring that APPR plans are rigorous measures of performance.

King has said districts will have the opportunity to refine APPR agreements in year two. But that’s easier said than done, Wool said, noting districts must win union agreement.

Meanwhile, Wool is trying to get state officials to approve Harrison’s original plan retroactively, which would restore both aid and the district’s preferred metric. He said he’s been promised an answer by Feb. 25.

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