Although Rome school Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons is confident of a teacher evaluation agreement in time to ensure a state aid increase, he says a "worst-case scenario" could include mid-school year layoffs if the deadline is missed.
The state has "established an aggressive timeline and the clock is ticking with significant work remained to be accomplished" for a new agreement, Simons said Thursday.
Simons’ preference is for the district and Rome Teachers Association union to agree on a local plan to submit to the state Education Department by July 1 to seek approval by Sept. 1 for a new school year. Otherwise, the final state deadline to have an approved plan is Jan. 17, 2013. Districts that do not do so will not be eligible to receive state aid increases allotted for the 2012-13 year; at stake for the Rome district is up to $3.7 million in aid increases, said Simons.
The district has 500 teachers.
A district APPR/ Annual Professional Performance Review committee including administrators and teachers has been meeting frequently on the new evaluation plan, with six more sessions scheduled this month, Simons noted.
But Simons said he has informed the Board of Education, "I will not recommend using reserves and fund balance to offset...loss of state aid should the RTA and the district fail to achieve an agreement and SED (Education Department) approval of a revised teacher evaluation system by Jan. 17, 2013."
Simons added, "under a worse-case scenario, should an agreement not be reached and the board choose to accept my recommendation to keep reserves available for the 2013-14 budget, the district could be forced to implement teacher and other staff layoffs after the school year commences." The district cannot project a number of teacher layoffs at this point "due to contract provisions that vary based on the timing of the layoffs," he said. A $101.2 million budget for 2012-13, containing no teacher layoffs and maintaining current programs, was approved by 70 percent of district voters on May 15.
However, regarding a scenario including layoffs, Simons remarked "I do not anticipate that this will become necessary as I have confidence in the teachers and administrators serving on the APPR committee and believe that revising the teacher evaluation system in time to ensure we maintain our aid increases is an important priority of the RTA leadership."
RTA President Robert Wood said the district and union "are working on the construction of an eventual ‘replacement’ APPR." He added the RTA "does not presently have a projected timeframe, we are keeping focus on a quality evaluative system — but I know that the task, and the expected finished product, is of great significance and major magnitude."
The local discussions follow a mid-February agreement between state officials and statewide teacher unions that settled a stalemate over the evaluation system. Under the statewide agreement, 60 percent of evaluation is to be based on subjective factors primarily involving classroom observation; 20 percent from student performance on state tests; and 20 percent from measures of student progress that are locally agreed upon through collective bargaining.
The Rome district’s APPR committee "has come to some decisions regarding components of the evaluation system," said Simons, and "thoughtful discussions are occurring with an emphasis on improved instruction and student learning." He mentioned "a number of decisions remaining for the committee’s determination," adding "once the committee recommends a plan, the district and the RTA officers still need to formally negotiate and agree" to it.