Southold School District

Gamberg calls gov’s education reform ‘the worst’ in NYS history

Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg .
Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo, file)

Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg is criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to ratchet up the importance of student performance on state assessments when it comes to teacher evaluations.

He said it could devastate the faculty and, thus, the students of Southold.

The governor has proposed a teacher rating system that would base 50 percent of an instructor’s evaluation on student performance on state tests — an increase from the current 20 percent.

“If this plan were to become law, I will provide the board with direct, accurate evidence of [the teachers] who will get swept up — that should not get swept up — in this metric to the detriment of the students of Southold,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I think it would be the highest irresponsibility for our school district to just sit by and allow it to happen.”

The governor has said the change is needed because less than one percent of teachers were rated ineffective (the lowest category on the rating system) last year, yet much more students continued to “lag behind in performance.”

During Southold’s school board meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Gamberg said he believes the governor’s plan will negatively impact programs and services being offered to students because “it falsely represents [teachers] as being ineffective.”

“It can not go through because it is, without a doubt, the worst construct of improvement in public education that has been enunciated in the history of New York,” Mr. Gamberg said.

When asked after the meeting which teachers he believes the proposal would affect the most, Mr. Gamberg said the district is “still analyzing what the impact will be.”

Southold has been among the more outspoken local school districts over the state’s direction with education. The school board has passed several resolutions expressing displeasure with high-stakes testing.

Most notably, Southold denied it’s total portion of Race to the Top funds in protest of the mandates.

If the Legislature passes the proposed education reforms, Mr. Cuomo has said he’ll approve a 4.8 percent increase, or $1.1 billion, in school aid for districts throughout the state.

School board president Paulette Ofrias described the move as holding school budgets “hostage.”

Since the governor’s office has reportedly argued that it would be premature to release any aid projections, since he won’t approve aid increases without the reforms, Ms. Ofrias said it will be difficult to develop a budget in time for the May 19 vote.

In addition, she said school districts are required to submit a proposed tax levy to the state comptroller’s office by March 1 in order for the state to calculate the district’s proposed property tax cap figures for the next school year.

The New York State teachers’ union did not endorse Mr. Cuomo in his bid for re-election last year and has fought his reform agenda in recent years.

“I know he’s doing it to get back at the teachers, but the bottom line is it hurts the children in New York State,” Ms. Ofrias said about the governor’s latest plan. “It’s just deplorable and disgusting.”

[email protected]