PORT BYRON | A conference room in the Port Byron Central School District office was packed with nearly 30 teachers Wednesday afternoon during a brief meeting at which the school board approved an Annual Professional Performance Review agreement.
The teachers, members of the Port Byron Teachers Association, were perturbed by what the union's president Angie Hargreaves said is a serious problem with the process the board used to approve the agreement.
The Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR, is a new state mandate that will evaluate teachers at public schools across the state. Student performance will be one component of a teacher's score on the review, and the law makes it possible to remove teachers who get "ineffective" scores on their reviews for two consecutive years.
Hargreaves said the board approved the agreement Wednesday without her signature, which she said is illegal. Under the law, both a district and its teachers union must approve the APPR agreement before it is sent to the New York State Education Department for review and approval.
"This is anything but standard procedure," Hargreaves told the group of teachers after the meeting. "It has not been negotiated. It has not been agreed to. It has not been signed."
Robert Ringwood, a labor relations specialist with the New York State United Teachers, agreed that the board should not have approved the APPR plan without approval from the union.
"They have voted on a resolution just now that has not been agreed on," he said after the meeting.
Hargreaves said the school board has approved things before without her signature when her signature was required, so she is skeptical.
Port Byron Superintendent Neil O'Brien said he would not comment on collective bargaining issues such as APPR.
"I don't want to negotiate in public," he said. "There's a process and procedure to negotiation."
O'Brien said Monday's resolution, which was approved unanimously by the quorum of four board members present, was not a unilateral imposition of APPR, but was merely the board's approval of the plan meant to expedite the process. He said he understands that the union must also approve the agreement and hoped that a deal would be reached at a scheduled 4 p.m. Wednesday mediation session.
The state is threatening to cut aid increases to districts that do not have a completed and state-approved evaluation plan in place by Jan. 16, 2013, and O'Brien said the actual deadline for districts to have their plans submitted is earlier because the process of having it approved by the state can be time-consuming. O'Brien said he was advised by the state to have the APPR plan submitted by Dec. 1.
"We're already past the last day the commissioner of education has advised (for) districts," O'Brien said. "We're on borrowed time."
O'Brien said the district stands to lose $670,000 in state aid if the plan is not approved on time.
"(It) would be a significant shortfall that would require the district to take significant steps in the budget to fill that shortfall," he said.
Hargreaves said she understands the time crunch, but doesn't want the process to be done illegally.
"We're all hoping we can settle everything today," she said. "We have done nothing to delay the process."