Although it strongly objects, the Southold school board has agreed to comply with new state education department procedures for assessing teacher performance.
Board members said they’re not necessarily opposed to teacher assessments, but see the state requirements as unproven, time-consuming and an attempt to garner federal Race to the Top program funding rather than as a valid means of measuring performance.
During the last school year, Southold bowed out of the Race to the Top competition, deeming it too time-consuming without enough merit to contribute to improving education.
Scott DeSimone, the sole board member to vote against the teacher assessments, said the many hours of training superintendents and principals are required to undergo to conduct the reviews constitute too much time away from district business.
“We don’t know how effective it’s going to be,” Mr. DeSimone said. Many state mandates require “incredible amounts of time to implement,” he said, but could be proven ineffective in a few years.
“The school board will comply because we’re not in the business of breaking the law,” board member Judi Fouchet said. She agrees with Mr. DeSimone that the new system is unproven and very time-consuming.
“We’re doing good things here and it’s too bad we have to interrupt to comply with this,” Mr. DeSimone said.
Despite the intensive training required, Superintendent David Gamberg told the board, “Some of this is actually good.” It will result in paying more attention to improvements, he said. He is in discussions with teachers and their union about implementing the assessment system.
“My job is to ground us,” Mr. Gamberg said. He promised to use the reviews to “keep us doing the right thing for kids” and not as a weapon against teachers.
The aim is to identify gaps in student achievement and figure out what’s going to help them, Mr. Gamberg said.
Board members also discussed student testing, concerned that those state assessments may be receiving too much emphasis.
“It’s not all about testing,” Ms. Fouchet said.
“A student may just have had a bad day,” added board president Paulette Ofrias.
“We’ll continue to do what we do in Southold — to provide students with a good education,” Ms. Fouchet said.