Harrison School Superintendent Pushes Education Reform

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School superintendent Louis Wool and Harrison Board of Education members Dennis DiLorenzo, and Amy Mendelsohn discuss education reform Wednesday.
School superintendent Louis Wool and Harrison Board of Education members Dennis DiLorenzo, and Amy Mendelsohn discuss education reform Wednesday. Photo Credit: Patrick Stapleton

HARRISON, N.Y – Harrison school superintendent Louis Wool offered three tips to help the public education system succeed when he testified in front of the Governor's Commission on Education Reform on Monday.

Wool gave a report on his testimony and frustrations with the state system during Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

“What I’m hoping is that they’re going to try and narrow their focus and stop trying to give us advice on how to run curriculum or how to evaluate teachers,” he said. “And give us the tools that we need to do the work and then get out of the way. So that really is funding and the ability to reward or remove teachers.”

One of his strongest recommendations was to scrap the newly implemented Annual Professional Performance Review, which looks at how teachers are performing. Wool believes in a renewable five-year tenure.

“I think the APPR is not only foolish, but it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, and it’s completely inefficient,” said Wool. “I believe strongly in the importance of accountability, particularly around teacher performance. Our district has been recognized as an exemplar in that area. Provide me as a CEO the same opportunity that every CEO in America has and that is to control the quality of one’s workforce.”

But tenure serves an important role, he said.

“I think a balance between tenure and protecting people [teachers] from local politics is a fair one and would go further in improving local performance than trying to measure everybody against a test score,” he said.

Although he was given only three minutes to speak in front of the commission, he also concentrated on unfunded mandates and the funding structure of education.

“The idea of equity of opportunity for all kids across the state of New York is not a reality, and it would require a dramatic reform of the way funding is provided to all schools across the state of New York,” he said. “That has to do with property values, that has to do with whether or not you are taxed on real estate and or income. My recommendation is a formula of both and a statewide reevaluation. And also establishing a minimum baseline for a sound basic education for all children.”

An aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Wool on Tuesday to talk about his comments, but he was unable to take the phone call, and hopes to speak with her Thursday.

“Those are things that would matter,” he said of his recommendations. “Those are things that would be dramatic. No disrespect meant to the committee, I’m not interested in their ideas on how to improve my curriculum. I am interested in having the tools and the resources necessary to implement the vision of this school board in this community to ensure effective instruction for our students."

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