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Union members wary of teacher evaluation deal delay vote

Uncertainty and anger among Buffalo Teachers Federation leaders has stalled approval of a teacher evaluation agreement signed off on Thursday in Albany.The union and the school system finally came to an agreement late Tuesday night on an evaluation deal which is supposed to let more than $33 million flow to the district, which already has the money in the current budget.

Union President Phil Rumore had signed off on the deal, subject to teacher approval. That was expected to start Thursday night with approval from the union's Council of Delegates.

But the council stopped the process, saying they needed more details. They agreed on a final vote by March 14. The delegates are expected to get e-mails Friday containing specifics of the deal Albany approved.

Discovery School teacher Linn Diagostino is one of the teachers angry at a system which decides their careers based on test scores.

"It's a choice. If you want to be a teacher, this is what you have to put up with. It's getting more and more difficult every year. If this is what the president and Arne Duncan and [Andrew] Cuomo think is going to make better teachers, he's sadly mistaken because what is happening is these kids are coming out of college they're not going to come to be beaten over the head. They will find a different career," Diagostino said.

Teacher after teacher interviewed after the meeting in the Hearthstone Manor in Cheektowaga complained about being judged on students who don't show up or don't speak English for salaries which haven't risen in years.

Union members also dislike the evaluation system. The anger extends into top levels of the BTF, with President Phil Rumore and others deriding a system based on standardized test scores.

"For us, the big concern is fairness and when you take a look at the APPR from last year, there were teachers in specific buildings, one in particular that every single teacher was rated either developing or ineffective. How can that be that over 70 teachers are ineffective or developing?," said Kevin Gibson, a Social Studies teacher at Hutch Tech and union secretary.

It is unclear whether the $33 million can start flowing if the union hasn't approved the deal.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.