The administration staff at Southwestern Central School can sit back and relax, for now.
On Tuesday, the Board of Education approved the district's teacher and principal Annual Professional Performance Review plans. Upon submission, the New York State Education Department will review the plans and respond to the district. The APPR plans were compiled as part of a state mandate that requires an agreement between the teachers' union and the principal's union regarding a yearly evaluation process.
The state mandate is rooted in the federal Race to the Top program, which granted New York state with close to $700 million in funds. Roughly half of the money has been allocated to individual school districts in order to implement the regents reform agenda and its distribution is performance-based.
The Race to the Top program, which was announced by President Obama on July 24, 2009, is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It has since received its fair share of criticism from several parties and the funding it provides to individual school districts has been described as minimal.
"We hope that the payoff from this process is going to make it all worthwhile," said Daniel George, superintendent of schools. "I'm not convinced that it will. It's going to be very difficult for the administrators in the future because we're pretty small in terms of staffing and they're going to have to devote a considerable amount of time to this APPR process."
Southwestern, which is slated to receive $362,000, must have its APPR plan approved by the Education Department by Jan. 17. According to George, the submission of the plan is only the first step, as the approval process is very rigorous.
"In all likelihood (the state will) find a number of places where they think it doesn't meet their standards," said George. "Then they'll tell us what we need to do to make it reach that. But then we'll have to turn to the administrators and teachers again to negotiate those changes."
In the interest of timeliness, the board also approved a motion that will allow James Butler, the president of the board, to approve the expected adjustments to the presented plans. This will prevent the board from needing to call special meetings and save countless amounts of time and money that would have been otherwise spent in negotiations.
On Wednesday, the APPR plans and the Memorandum of Agreement between the principal's and teachers' unions were submitted to the state Education Department. The review process is expected to take four to six weeks.