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Harrison School District Appeals State Aid Penalty

Harrison Central School District Superintendent Lou Wool is hoping the New York State Department of Education will return the $46,000 in state aid.
Harrison Central School District Superintendent Lou Wool is hoping the New York State Department of Education will return the $46,000 in state aid. Photo Credit: File Photo

HARRISON, N.Y. – Harrison Central School District Superintendent Lou Wool is hoping to recover $46,000 in state aid that was lost when the district’s annual professional performance review plan was submitted after the Jan. 17 deadline.

After putting “time, expertise and money” behind an evaluation plan for teachers and administrators, the district submitted the plan on Jan. 18, 19 minutes after the deadline.

The holdup came when the state education department objected to what Wool called a “very high standard for evaluation of the high school principal,” then refused to accept the revised plan because Wool could not get a proper signature on the plan before midnight.

“Harrison was in a very confounding circumstance,” said Wool at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday night. “We did not want to implement a new plan that was inferior to the one that we had, or worse, that was unfair to the professionals that work here.”

Wool said the three metrics for the evaluation system of the high school principal were that all students should achieve a Regents diploma; that points would be assigned to the principal based on the number of students who had at least taken or participated in an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class; and for the number of students admitted to four-year colleges.

The state did not agree with the last metric, saying that it was not in its guidance document, which Wool said was incorrect and that it is not only there, but encouraged.

“It was the ludicrous idea that, because the state mandated we diminish the standards we were requiring for the high school principal, that they were also demanding a second signature at 11 at night,” said Wool.  Board President Dennis DiLorenzo had signed the original plan but was unavailable at 11 p.m. for another signature. “I appealed that decision to the commissioner through the deputy commissioner because, quite frankly, we’re not pleased with the approval. We don’t think it makes any sense for a state that’s trying to raise standards to mandate districts to lower theirs.”

Wool has vigorously supported the Harrison schools evaluation system, which was recognized as exemplary by the New York State School Boards Association in 2006. He said at the meeting what the Harrison Central School District was “being asked to do was irresponsible and reckless on the part of the state of New York.”

“We think it’s counterproductive,” said Wool. “If the state wants to advance its mission of ensuring college readiness, rather than taking rigor out of our standards, they should be supporting us and not only instituting it, but continuing to set a high bar for teachers and administrators.”

A state education department spokesman said the decision on whether to reinstate the $46,000 would be up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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