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School prinicipal, regents chancellor differ on conversation about Cuomo and teacher evals [updated]

Merryl Tisch addresses social studies teachers at the

Merryl Tisch addresses social studies teachers at the Hilton hotel in Melville where a meeting was held. (Dec. 8, 2010) (Credit: James Carbone)

A Long Island Republican has posted on the Internet video from a forum this week on the Common Core academic standards and teacher evaluations where a Hudson Valley middle school principal relayed a conversation she said she had with state Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, touching on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

In it, the principal says Tisch told her the governor pressured the chancellor, in no uncertain terms, to make the new teacher and principal evaluation system work. A spokesman for Tisch says the story isn’t true.

Here’s how it unfolded:

Karyann (Katie) Zahedi, principal of Linden Middle School in Red Hook, told the panel of Assembly members Wednesday night that that she and other educators strongly expressed their concerns to Tisch.

“She was frustrated that we were so critical,” Zahedi, speaking of Tisch, told an audience that included parents and educators.

“She said to me: ‘How would you like to be in my position?’” Zahedi continued. “This is what she says: ‘I’m at the governor’s mansion and he shouts at me that if you don’t get this done, if you don’t get this through, I’ll put three geniuses in a room and I’ll force it down your throats.’”

Zahedi concluded: “At that point, I said to her: ‘If you need someone to talk to him, I’d be happy to.’”

At that point, one of the Assembly members hosting the forum jumped in.

“This is a prime example of how this governor operates,” said Assemb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke), a frequent Cuomo critic who is considering a gubernatorial run. “He operates in a thuggish, boorish manner all the time. … He shoves everything he wants down people’s throats.”

Another Republican who sponsored the forum, Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) posted the conversation on his Facebook page Thursday. “It’s nice that this has come out,” Graf said in a brief interview about posting the video.

A Tisch spokesman said the exchange between the chancellor and the educators as presented at the forum wasn’t correct.

Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said: "The story is not accurate. The chancellor has had a great relationship with the governor for more than 20 years and they've never exchanged an angry word."

A Cuomo spokesman deferred to Tisch.

[UPDATE: In an email, Zahedi said her description of the conversation centered on teacher evaluations rather than the Common Core.]

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