Montauk school board OKs teacher evaluation plan

The Montauk Public School building. (Aug. 20, 2012)

The Montauk Public School building. (Aug. 20, 2012) (Credit: Ian J. Stark)

The school board of the tiny Montauk district, the only one on Long Island that has not submitted its teacher-evaluation plan to Albany for approval, Tuesday night unanimously passed its blueprint for annual job performance ratings.

Teachers are scheduled to vote on the draft plan Thursday. Approval is expected, a local union representative said.

"It's a relief," board president Diane Hausman said after the 5-0 vote.


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Jan. 17 is the deadline for districts to obtain approval from the state Department of Education or risk loss of state financial aid. Administrators and the union in the East End fishing village's district have been in a protracted contract dispute.

"It's the best we can do," Colette Clancy, president of the district's 43-member teacher union, said of the evaluation plan. Of nearly 700 districts statewide, Montauk was one of nine that the Education Department identified recently as lacking evaluation plans.

Such a public spotlight is a rarity for the close-knit community at the tip of the Island's South Fork, where most disagreements regarding schools are handled quietly.

Jack Perna, the district's longtime superintendent, expressed satisfaction that evaluation issues had been resolved. He added, however, that some state requirements for annual evaluations clearly are not designed for small districts such as Montauk, which has 345 students in preschool through eighth grade.

For example, Perna himself must be evaluated in his other role as principal of Montauk's lone school. To meet this requirement, Perna said, the district must pay a regional BOCES official to visit the district periodically and observe his work.

"There are parts of this I find ridiculous," he said of the evaluation system.

Perna has worked in the district 39 years, starting as a fourth-grade teacher, and is a popular figure in the community where his family has operated eating establishments since the 1940s.

The old union contract expired 18 months ago. Neither Perna nor Montauk's teachers have disclosed which issues remain unsettled.

Under pay provisions that remain in effect, local teacher salaries range from $50,395 for beginners with bachelor's degrees to $130,700 for veterans with at least 22 years' experience, master's degrees and 90 additional college credits.

Montauk, like most other districts, faces new fiscal pressures stemming from a state cap on local property taxes. At the start of this school year, the district cut prekindergarten classes from a full day to a half day, saying it could not afford to staff an extra full-day class that would have been required by increased enrollment.

Negotiators on both sides of teacher-evaluation talks said that finding time to work out the complexities of classroom observations and other evaluation techniques can be difficult in a small district, where staffers perform multiple roles.

Clancy, the teachers union president, works full-time in third grade, unlike some union leaders in larger districts who get time off for union duties.

"Frankly, I don't think the state gave everybody -- especially small districts like ours -- enough time to digest this [evaluation system]," said Clancy, a Montauk teacher for 23 years.

Albany authorities said more than 680 districts statewide have submitted plans so far. New York City, the state's largest school system, also is among the nine whose plans had not been submitted to the state as of last week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and representatives of the city's 200,000-member United Federation of Teachers union have accused each other publicly of intransigence.

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