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Orchard Park teachers, parents, students protest education reforms

Teachers, parents and students took aim at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s approach to education reform, picketing outside Orchard Park Middle School before a meeting of the district’s School Board Tuesday evening.

“Stop attacking public schools!” read signs carried by the picketers, who circled outside the school’s entrance.

The crowd filed into the building, helping to fill about 100 seats in the auditorium as some took turns expanding on their complaints about Cuomo’s proposal to tie school funding to new regulations for assessing teachers based, in part, on student test scores.

“This is educational malpractice,” said Craig Dana, a middle school math teacher, to a standing ovation.

He related how he earned a low 2 out of 20 score on the new evaluation system that factors in student test scores. The rating, he said, was the lowest of the 30 assessments he’s had over a 15-year career.

“I am not perfect, but I know in my heart I am not an ineffective teacher,” Dana said.

“My first negative evaluation,” he said, inviting anyone to come observe him in class. “You will not see ineffective teaching.”

Teachers in the region’s school districts are conducting similar protests throughout the month, said Adam Ziccardi, president of Orchard Park’s teachers union.

“This is a convenient spot,” he said of the teachers’ decision to show up for the Tuesday night board meeting.

School Superintendent Matthew McGarrity also addressed concerns about state aid to school districts.

“Since 2010, $20 million has been withheld from the Orchard Park district,” said McGarrity, who directing attendees to the school’s website. “I’m asking you to please help advocate for Orchard Park by contacting the governor.”

Bob Mahany, a district parent who also teaches at Lake Shore High School in Angola, complained that his son, a student in Orchard Park Middle School, was getting less teaching attention than his older brothers because of all the new testing.

“We all know this is the dark ages of education,” said Mahany. “I want to know the cost of implementing all these exams. ... You can’t evaluate a teacher on a test score.”


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