NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Two months ago I asked a simple question: what happened to the roughly $250,000 allocated in the budget for Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education? I have yet to get an answer.
I asked because, the last time a position like this was left vacant, the money was quietly and in my view illegally divided up among the rest of the cabinet.
I searched BoardDocs and found no record of what happened to the money or the title, but did learn that the title Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education has a specific legal role with regard to the cornerstone of the state's educational reform plan — New Rochelle’s APPR plan — that the person holding this title in New Rochelle must have completed training from BOCES in order to conduct the evaluations of elementary school principals. There is no such person currently working for the district.
That appears to leave Dr. Osborne responsible for this role, so last month I asked whether Dr. Osborne was certified as a lead evaluator for principals. This is totally distinct from whether he possesses certification as a School District Administrator or Superintendent. Again, I have yet to get an answer.
I obtained records from Southern Westchester BOCES which do not list Dr. Osborne as having taken the required training, so it appears from the records the answer is "no".
Last night, having never gotten answers to my questions, a curiously-timed resolution was presented to the board and passed without discussion. It amended a prior resolution from 2015 declaring that Dr. Osborne is a certified lead evaluator for principals. In journalism this is known as a “row back”, an attempt to correct an error without actually acknowledging the error.
In this case, that effort fails for four reasons. First, New Rochelle’s APPR plan, as approved by the New York State Education Department, requires the completion of BOCES specific training which, according to records obtained from BOCES, Dr. Osborne has not undertaken let alone completed. Second, amending a prior resolution does not change the fact that for the past two years Dr. Osborne was not a certified lead evaluator for principals. Third, the New Rochelle APPR plan requires that the person performing the evaluations hold the title of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education which no one currently holds. Fourth, as we will see, the big question is not simply that Dr. Osborne was not certified as a lead evaluator for principals but whether elementary school principals have been evaluated since the position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education was vacated in December 2014.
“Principal evaluators will participate in BOCES Principal Evaluator Trainings. Re-certification will be in conjunction with the lead evaluator trainings. They will attend the following sessions offered by SWBOCES.
- Regents Reform Agenda Pillars and exploring the ISLLC standards One half day training Participants look at ISLLC standards as they identify effective principal practice. The workshop also focuses on Data Driven Instruction and Common Core Learning Standards as they relate to Great Teachers and Leaders.
- Gathering Evidence for Principal Evaluation One half day training Using a case study, teams look at evidence as it relates to principal evaluation. Districts explore their chosen rubric and practice aligning evidence.
- Components of the APPR with a focus on the growth measure One half day training Participants look at district priorities in crafting Student Learning Objectives in their districts. A focus on clarifying the growth measure is a part of this work. A global approach to the integration of the components of the APPR is explored.
- All District principal evaluators will also participate in a one day MPPR Framework workshop, focused on inter-rater agreement and inter-rater reliability.
In the records obtained under a Freedom of Information request to Southern Westchester BOCES, there is no record that Dr. Osborne participated in any of this required training.
The attempted row back of a resolution does, however, serve to confirm that Dr. Osborne was not certified as a lead evaluator for principals.
Here’s the point: if no one holds this title and Dr. Osborne was not certified, then the principal evaluations cannot lawfully be done.
In fact, based on discussions with my sources around the district it has been common knowledge that over the past 14 months the required observations and evaluations of elementary school principals have not been done.
What makes this particular distressing is that having discussed this matter with the New York State Department of Education General Counsel’s office, someone submitted 2014-15 APPR scores for New Rochelle despite there having been no evaluations.
The evaluations make up 60% of the principals' scores so no elementary school principal can be rated “effective” or “highly effective” in New Rochelle with this portion of the evaluations incomplete. They would all be rated “ineffective”. The APPR ratings for New Rochelle will be released to the public over the next two months.
For most readers, this may sound to many like a minor technicality, like "inside baseball”. They need to understand that this goes to the heart of what School Board President Lianne Merchant so often says about her board — "that the business of this board is education."
I have published many investigative reports on serious matters ranging from an administrator sodomizing students, to contractors stealing large sums, to employees showing up drunk at schools, but none of those terrible stories compare to this matter because this matter goes to the core of the integrity of the educational mission of this school district.
What all of this means is that none of our elementary school principals are being evaluated - not critiqued for improvement, not mentored or trained, not scored for APPR, not given due process to dispute a negative review.
This creates two very serious problems:
First, as a result, none of the four principals completing their probationary period over the past two years could be denied tenure.
Second, someone appears to have filed falsified APPR records with SED for all of the elementary school principals.
The implications of the second point is obvious - it's a crime!
The first point raised a series of questions: On what basis were two principals granted tenure in 2015? Two principals are up for tenure in 2016, so the same question arises for them?
Could the district possibly deny them tenure without risking a highly embarrassing lawsuit for denial of due process?
There is important case law on this point that is well-known to the principals' bargaining unit because the head of that unit's own brother was an attorney in the case.
The board is well aware of this issue. In fact, while voting to appoint Dr. Osborne as a certified lead evaluator for principals the board was also voting on a personnel tenure resolution that speaks directly to this issue.
Generally speaking, this is another example of why the district needs to hire its own in-house counsel to act as Chief Compliance Officer.
Specifically, we now face what is known on Wall Street as "double convexity", the district will be stuck longest with the people it wants least and, unlike a bad teacher or security guard or groundskeeper, here we are talking about building leaders, the people most responsible for the day to day performance of our teachers and staff, the quality of education afforded to children, men and women who are the primary public face of the school district for parents and students. I submit to you that this is yet another example of the disturbing pattern of deception and lies which have become the hallmark of our school board and administration.
As with the denial of the existence of the Orifici report, the filing of a false instrument with the Committee on Open Government, the false claims about the BCS report in the bond newsletter, this is yet another example of a disturbing pattern of deception.
UPDATE: Having had a chance to look at the board resolution last night I sent the following email to the Board Clerk seeking clarification:
From: Robert Cox <[email protected]>
Subject: RESOLUTION No. 16-232-21
Date: March 2, 2016 at 4:54:52 PM EST
To: Liz Saraiva <[email protected]>
Cc: Brian Osborne <[email protected]>, "Jeffrey A. Kehl" <[email protected]>
Last night I had prepared remarks based on questions I had asked over the past few months and research I had done. I still have NO answers to my questions.
That said, having come prepared to talk about the issue of who holds the title of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education and whether Dr. Osborne was a Qualified Lead Evaluators for Principals I flipped through the resolutions shortly before I was to speak and saw RESOLUTION No. 16-232-21 which appeared to be an attempt to retroactively certify Dr. Osborne (and Mr. Williams and Ms. Massimo) as Qualified Lead Evaluators for Principals. I then hastily amended my remarks.
In looking at the resolution more closely the day after I note that while the resolution title says "2014-2015 LEAD EVALUATORS - DISTRICT-WIDE” and references principals and applies to three cabinet members who would be likely to be Qualified Lead Evaluators for Principals, the resolution otherwise applies to Qualified Lead Evaluators for Teachers not Principals. It appears to be a hybrid resolution like it was slapped together at the last minute by someone who was not paying attention.
I can see no reason why Dr. Osborne, Mr. Williams and Ms. Massimo would be Qualified Lead Evaluators for Teachers as this would be a job for the Principals not Assistant Superintendents or Superintendents.
Further, I can see no basis for retroactively adding Dr. Osborne, Mr. Williams and Ms. Massimo or anyone else to a list for the 2014-15 year.
Also, the resolution says the list they are being added to is "Qualified Lead Evaluators of teachers for the 2014-2015 school year”. It is now March 2016!
The resolution also says they "successfully completed the training requirements prescribed in 8 NYCRR §30-2.9(b)”. The APPR agreement makes clear that in order to be a Qualified Lead Evaluators of Principals a person has to take specific BOCES training. I have requested under FOIL every single sign-in sheet for the SWBOCS training going back to January , 2013 and of those I was provided Dr. Osborne is not among those records (Diane Massimo and Joe Williams ARE on those sign-in sheets).
It was not my radar at the time but as I now look back at Resolution No. 16-109-29, adopted on September 8, 2015 I can also see that all of the people listed as Qualified Lead Evaluators of teachers for the 2014-2015 school year were being added months AFTER the end of the 2014-15 school year so the original resolution is questionable too.
Can you help me understand the resolution from last night? from last September?
As it stands now I see no resolution that says ANYONE is a Qualified Lead Evaluators of Principals at this time. That being the case it seems impossible for the district to be in compliance with its own APPR plan.
Separate from this, I see no person who was ever assigned the title Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education since January 1, 2015 until present and THIS title and only this title is permitted to evaluate principals. So, even if Dr. Osborne was a Qualified Lead Evaluators of Principals he could not evaluate elementary school principals (not could Mr. Williams) because they were never assigned that title since it became vacant in December 31, 2014.
Talk of the Sound
RESOLUTION No. 16-232-21
AMENDMENT OF RESOLUTION No. 16-109-29
2014-2015 LEAD EVALUATORS - DISTRICT-WIDE
RESOLVED, that Resolution No. 16-109-29, adopted on September 8, 2015, be amended to include the staff members listed below are hereby certified as Qualified Lead Evaluators of teachers for the 2014-2015 school year having successfully completed the training requirements prescribed in 8 NYCRR §30-2.9(b), including:
1. The New York State Teaching Standards, and their related elements and performance indicators/the Leadership Standards and their related functions;
2. Evidence-based observation techniques that are grounded in research;
3. Application and use of the student growth percentile model and the value-added growth model as defined in 8 NYCRR §30-2.2;
4. Application and use of the State-approved teacher rubric selected by the school district for use in the evaluations of teachers, including training on the effective application of such rubrics to observe a teacher’s practice;
5. Application and use of the assessment tools that the school district utilizes to evaluate its teachers, including, but not limited to structured portfolio reviews; student, parent, teacher feedback; professional growth goals; building teacher improvement goals, etc.;
6. Application and use of the State-approved locally selected measures of student achievement used by the school district to evaluate its principals;
7. The scoring methodology utilized by the Department and the school district to evaluate a teacher under 8 NYCRR Subpart 30-2, including:
a. how scores are generated for each sub-component and the composite effectiveness score of teachers, and
b. application and use of the scoring ranges prescribed by the Commissioner for the four designated rating categories used for the overall rating of teachers and their subcomponent ratings; and
8. Specific considerations in evaluating teachers of English language learners and students with disabilities.
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