City, Union Hit Road Block on Teacher Evaluations

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Talks between the teachers union and the city went nowhere Tuesday, just two days ahead of the state's deadline to get an agreement on new teacher evaluations.

Union president Michael Mulgrew said he asked a mediator from the state's Public Employment Relations Board to attend Tuesday's negotiating session because of what he called "issues both sides have dug in on." But he claimed the city refused to participate. He declined to say which issues were left to resolve.

"We could still go forward but mediation is just a person assigned to help you get to a final agreement," he told Schoolbook. "When one side refuses to sit in front of a mediator it's not very helpful."

But Chancellor Dennis Walcott blamed the union for messing up a scheduled negotiating session just as everyone was about to meet.

“Since the UFT agreed to come back to the negotiating table last Friday, after refusing to meet for more than two weeks, I have designated my senior leadership team including our Deputy Chancellor for Labor, Chief Academic Officer and General Counsel to lead negotiations and we have made steady progress on outstanding issues," he said in a statement.

"The UFT’s call for a mediator is designed to insert issues into the deal outside of the evaluation's scope. Mr. Mulgrew should allow his team to negotiate directly the few remaining issues necessary to reach a teacher evaluation deal.”

The city stands to lose $250 million in state education aid if it can't reach a deal with the union by Jan. 17 on a teacher evaluation system that relies on both classroom observations and student test scores. Just a handful of school districts are still without an agreement.

Teachers in Hamburg, in Western New York, rejected a teacher evaluation plan last Friday but continue negotiating.