Monday, March 9, 2015

Throwdown in Upstate NY*

It appears that some board members of the Kennmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District (generally known as the Ken-Ton district) have had enough.

The district is located north-ish of Buffalo, NY, and serves roughly 75,000 residents. And tomorrow night, board president Bob Dana wants to fire a shot across the state capital's bow.

The story has just been picked up by the Buffalo press in the last hour. In that piece, Dana is plenty clear:

“Enough is enough. He’s slowly bleeding us away,” Dana said of Cuomo on Monday. “I have never been a conspiracy theorist. But every time I look at the things that are getting proposed and where they’re coming from, they’re not fair, they’re not legal, they’re not right.”

He has two resolutions drafted and ready to go.

First, a resolution that protests both the current 20% system and the proposed 50% for counting standardized test results in teacher evaluations, and demands that both be abandoned. The resolution calls for a representative council drawing from many of the states educational professional groups to develop a fair and equitable teacher evaluation system. If those demands aren't met,

The Board of Education of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda UFSD will, upon the approval and acceptance of the KTA & KAA, seriously consider eliminating using student test data as part of our teachers and administrators evaluations. Furthermore, it would be expected that the KTA & KAA would be receptive to recalculating the remaining portion of their evaluations to a total 100%.

Second, a resolution that the governor stop holding school funds hostage and comply with the court-ordered return to districts of the money owed them by the state of New York. If the state won't do so, the district will

seriously consider not administering standardized testing in grades 3-8.

In other words, Dana would like to tell Andrew Cuomo to "go get stuffed." I'm paraphrasing.

While some district folks are calling on parents to support the board by submitting opt-out letters, not everybody is feeling feisty. The district's superintendent Dawn Mirand has sent out a statement that basically says, "I feel your pain. Everybody is frustrated and school boards want to watch out for their children and districts, but it would really be better if we didn't go do something crazy that would earn us a serious spanking by the state. I will keep working within the law to do something about the state's mess of dumb regulations, but in the meantime, the law is the law and let's not volunteer to be made an example of. Vote no on this thing." I'm paraphrasing.

The meeting of the five member board is tomorrow (March 10). It looks like it could be quite the adventure. Granted, a resolution to seriously consider possibly doing stuff leaves the board a lot of wiggle room, but if nothing else, it marks the frustration level in the outskirts of Cuomo's domain. Stay tuned. [Update: The account of how this meeting turned out can be found here.]

*All right. I spent five minutes debating the intricacies of New York geographical subdivisions. I had this argument forty years ago in college with residents of what may be either "Western NY, " "Upstate NY," "Buffalo-area-the-rest-of-the-state-is-really-East-of-Us NY" and other variations I have since forgotten. I mean no malice toward anyone who does not care for my geographical designation. I had to locate it somewhere.


  1. Thanks for the shout out to Upstate New York! Things are "heating up" out here, so to speak! Stay tuned as the plot thickens!

  2. Dawn Mirand needs to read Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail because she is exactly the type of nice liberal he is addressing. The type that is more concerned about protecting (a) her own backside and (b) the status quo than she is about protecting the people (kids in this case) who are being oppressed and persecuted. Let's just wait, move slowly, work within the law, everything will work out in the end. Nevermind the suffering along the way.

    If all the superintendents who claim to care about kids and to understand the problems with overtesting would get off their behinds and do something rather than uttering and writing a bunch of pretty words, we could be a long way toward overcoming this evil. But then, that would involve putting themselves at risk. Can't have that.

  3. At least you didn't place Kenmore in "Central New York", 'cause that would be just Wrong!

    Things are indeed heating up here in *Upstate*, where awareness of and rebellion against education reform have been a long time in coming to our suburban and rural areas. Thanks, Andrew Cuomo, for helping that along! But, of course the Kenmore superintendent needs to advocate for the rule of law. I just wish she had been able to put a winky face somewhere in that document.

  4. Also see this letter signed by (just about everyone in a leadership position in) the West Genessee school district (in central New York):