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Hamburg School District stands to lose up to $450,000 in State aid

As much as $450,000 in State Aid will be lost by the Hamburg Central School District after the administration and the Hamburg Central Teachers Association was unable to reach a settlement by Thursday's (Jan. 17) deadline, set by the state.

As a result, the Hamburg Central School District released the following statement on Friday (Jan. 18):
"As you know, the District and the Hamburg Teachers’ Association (HTA) were unable to come to agreement
on an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan prior to the deadline of January 17, 2013.  This
is unfortunate, because after significant discussion, revision, and agreement, we were minutes away from
having an agreement on Tuesday.  We had resolved all of the issues and were prepared to begin work to have
this plan approved by the parties. However, that did not happen and the parties were unable to come to a final
resolution. Based on the deadline that passed last night, and the inability of the parties to come to agreement,
approximately $450,000 will be deducted from state aid due to the District in March.

Through the negotiations process, the District and the HTA reached an initial tentative agreement on June
12, 2012 and awaited the approval process of the Association. As time progressed, we understood there were
some concerns regarding the APPR document and continued to try to resolve the issues. The parties met on
December 21, negotiated and resolved the issues, and came to another tentative agreement. However, this
document was not approved to move forward by the teachers and we went back to the table again to continue
negotiations.  On January 4, we reached a third tentative agreement that was put to vote by the teachers on
January 11 and, unfortunately, it was defeated.  The District and Association communicated over the weekend
and came back for further negotiations on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  Unfortunately, negotiations
between the parties did not result in a final agreement.

The District is now continuing to review options to adjust this year’s budget with the loss of these state aid
funds.  The options to adjust our budget are expenditure reductions, utilization of reserves and fund balance,
or a combination of both. Our goal through this process is to have as little impact on students and staff  as
possible.  At our next regular Board of Education meeting we will be discussing these options with the Board
and making recommendations for the remainder of this school year.  At this time, we will not be recommending
a reduction of teaching staff or other employees. We will look for expenditure reductions in areas
that do not immediately impact students and program. 

We regret that we could not reach an agreement on the APPR process.  The District is committed and ready
to continue our negotiations with the HTA and reaching an agreement on this process as soon as possible.
Despite this loss in revenue, we are committed to providing the excellent programs and services to our
students for which Hamburg is known."

A district plan pertinent to receiving state aid, thought just a few days prior to be quite passable, turned out to be anything but routine after results released last Friday (Jan. 11) revealed a 73 percent voter disapproval among members of the Hamburg Central Teachers Association.

The disapproval vote being revealed at Friday’s special meeting of the Hamburg Central School Board also sparked some animosity between Board Member Sally Stephenson and other district officials, as argumentative bantering took place following adjournment of the meeting. It was stated that HCTA members voted 217-82 against the Annual Professional Performance Review Plan, with the evaluation having to be submitted to the New York State Education Department by Thursday (January 17) for the district to maintain about $450,000 in state aid.

If a quick turnaround agreement cannot be reached between the district and the HCTA, it was further stated that other areas would have to be breached to bridge the district’s financial gap, including the possibility of double-figure staff cuts, to go along with other revenue and expenditure reductions. District Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch said a spending freeze had already been placed upon the district, including in the area of supply purchasing. The superintendent added that although the APPR plan voter rejection comes as a disappointment to the district, it is expected that new talks will immediately take place with union representatives in an attempt to pass a plan that would result in Hamburg getting the aforementioned state aid.

“We’re committed our resources (toward the APPR plan and budgeted state aid),” said Achramovitch. “The hope is we have a response (from HCTA representatives toward a new plan) this weekend and into next week.”

It was further noted that reductions could be sought beginning in February- the start of the second semester in district schools- if an APPR plan is not approved by the Thursday (January 17) deadline.

Stephenson said it is her belief that the lateness and particulars of the submitted APPR plan to district teachers factored into the voter rejection, adding that she herself received a copy of the revised plan for the first time on January 3.

“A 75-percent (voter disapproval), that’s measureable. They don’t trust you,” Stephenson said to Achramovitch, in reference to the standpoint of the HCTA members. “This wasn’t even a close vote. (The plan) was slipped in (late). It’s home driven. It’s a one-sided deal for Mr. Achramovitch.”

It was stated that a major snag as part of plan approval came in the form of the proposal’s language that would have given Achramovitch the final voice on any teacher appeals of their ratings. Further parameters were said to have included an appeals panel consisting of two teachers and two administrators to reveal the aforementioned appeals. Achramovitch could have hypothetically had the tie-breaking vote as part of the appeals process.

At last Tuesday’s (January 8) school board meeting, board members voted 7-0 to approve the APPR plan with the Hamburg Administrative Council. It was also stated at the meeting that Hamburg school officials had indeed submitted the APPR document to the state Education Department on January 4, with the district’s intention of expediting the process of receiving state aid.

Upon Stephenson’s remarks made Friday to Achramovitch and district officials following the meeting, Achramovitch responded that Stephenson needs to “get her information correct,” while Board President Dr. Joan G. Calkins stated that the APPR plan’s voting down was “too bad,” and that the plan was one that was “worked hard upon.”

It was stated on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 15) by district officials that another vote of the HCTA on the APPR plan would take place the following day (Jan. 16), with results coming too late for the Sun’s deadline.

Other district officials’ sentiment included a statement that initial APPR submission to the union took place in June, with various plan revisions and review taking place since that time. Such dated information was said to be verified on the district’s Web site through an Article 7 Committee minutes listing, and it was also stated that the plan had been reviewed by two separate union committees over the time process. The submitted plan’s parameter of the superintendent having the final vote during the appeals process is one that is said to be common in most districts across the state in regards to APPR guidelines. Additionally, any plan that is currently accepted or rejected by union members is one that covers just the 2012-13 academic year, encompassing simply the year-to-year basis of APPR.

If the revised plan was not passed Wednesday, it was said that the district would lose the aforementioned state aid payment for March of $450,000, an amount that is stated as being paramount in need for the current year’s financial parameters in the classroom. Budget planning would thus be brought to an even more tightened tense from a financial needs standpoint, with an exploration of means thought to be undesirable by taxpayers to fill in budget gaps.

It was acknowledged that a valid point of contention from the viewpoint of the HCTA could be in staff not having some necessary tools or proper direction to deliver state-mandated instruction regarding additional testing and student evaluations to accompany the daily classroom instruction. However, it was reiterated that plan guidelines had been given to all involved parties in a manner that provided proper notice for union members. The mulling over of the plan was said to in general take a lot longer than anticipated, with the already budgeted state aid amount- in danger of being eliminated with another APPR rejection- in its half-year stage of 2012-13.

Administration is described to represent 8 percent of Hamburg’s total expenditure budget for 2012-13, an amount that is said to be above the national average but also one that has shrunken considerably over the last five years in the district. Staffing is noted as being already at a mainly bare-bones level. A removal of the $450,000 in state aid would present the district with a hardship in terms of maintaining certain programs and administrative levels during budget planning. The impact over the long term was said to be just as adverse.

Hamburg High School’s graduation rate was noted as being at 94 percent in 2011-12.


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