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February 18, 2012

Reporter's Notebook: Sidney youth lauded for contributions to Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club of Sidney named 12-year-old Ragan Knowles as its "Youth of the Month," according to a media release. The award is presented to a member to recognize outstanding contributions to their family, school, community and club.

Sidney resident Ragan has been a club member since June 2009 and is in seventh grade at Sidney Middle School, where she is on the honor roll. Besides spending time with friends at the club and playing in the game room, Ragan is a junior staff member who volunteers at the club's sign-in desk almost daily.

The Sidney club provides after-school and summer programming to more than 550 youths annually between the ages of 5 and 19. It is a charter member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. More information on the club is available at www.bgcsidney.com.

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Following an agreement between state and teachers' union officials on a teacher and principal evaluation system, New York State School Board Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a media release he was hopeful it would bring greater clarity to the issues remaining. This would bring the state closer to its goal of improving student achievement.

There may be "many thorny issues" still to be negotiated between school administrators and bargaining units. But with the lawsuit now settled between state Education Department and the union, "a better framework is in place for resolving some of those issues."

These include state Education Department-approved evaluation measures that should help ensure school leaders can negotiate rigorous evaluation criteria, he said. Having the Education Commissioner approve a local evaluation program is also an important step.

Being able to deny tenure to poorly performing probationary teachers and principals during an appeal is "a key victory for school districts and students," he said.

Concerns that remain include strict deadlines for review, approval and implementation, which could put school districts in danger of losing state aid if there are prolonged local negotiations.

"School boards agree that the evaluation system is, first and foremost, about sharing the teaching methods of exemplary teachers and providing developmental opportunities to those who need it," he said. "This will best serve students in the long run."

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