Lancaster School Superintendent Michael J. Vallely went out of his way this week to let the district know its teacher evaluation plan had been approved by state education officials.
Even though approval was expected by the district, it was still a big deal. If the state had not approved of the annual professional performance review for its teaching staff, the district would have risked losing between $750,000 and $800,000 in state aid.
Lancaster officials wanted to avoid the situation of Hamburg Central Schools, which lost nearly $500,000 in state aid because the administration and teachers could not reach an agreement on a teacher evaluation plan by the deadline.
“That’s very good news,” Vallely said. “If it was not approved, the district would have lost $750,000 to $800,000. For this community to come up with $750,000, it would be very hard-pressed.”
The new teacher evaluation plan – which he said contains some modifications from the original one – had to be reapproved before Sunday.
“I didn’t expect it not to be reapproved, but it’s a confirmation for the community that we had a good agreement and can move forward,” Vallely said.
The issue of common-core testing standards also dominated the board meeting this week. Vallely said the district will not back away from its support of the controversial common-core testing standards that in some districts are drawing grass-roots criticism by parents and others who feel the standards are unfair to students and teachers.
“The grass-roots people should not attack school boards and state regulations” on the standards, Vallely said. “The Lancaster School District will not fight state Education and the commissioner.”
Two residents spoke at the board meeting about the negative impact of common-core standards on students.
One resident, Herbert Hough, said school boards unable to buck federal and state mandates on common core is similar to what the German people encountered in “Nazi Germany” before World War II.
That led to heated exchange between Hough and board members Kenneth E. Graber and board President Marie MacKay, who found Hough’s comments offensive and insulting.
“It’s illegal not to do what we’re told,” said Grabe, remarking generally about Hough’s criticism of common-core standards. “Certainly, dollars matter, but it’s also the discipline that goes with it if you don’t follow the law.”
Hough insisted he had not meant any harm with his comments, but Graber, who is Jewish, insisted afterward that Hough had accused the board of being “Nazis.”
Graber said Hough “crossed the line” by getting personal.
After the meeting, MacKay told Hough such comments would not be tolerated in the future.
Board member Patrick Uhteg talked about his concerns about common core, as both a parent and teacher.
“I have the same reservations with common core,” Uhteg said in response to comments made by a retired teacher and longtime resident. “I share your concerns, especially when it comes to the outcome of common core tests and it’s link to teacher evaluations.”
Uhteg noted that test scores are down dramatically at area districts, which was expected. “I feel your pain directly and indirectly,” he said.