No highly effective teachers at SOTA? Something is not right.

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John Gabrielle

• October 7, 2014

Yesterday, like many, I was surprised to read that last year not one teacher at the School of the Arts was classified as “highly effective.”

See democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/10/05/downgraded-sota-teachers-protest-state-ratings/16781117

At SOTA, I have worked with nothing but top notch educators in the arts, humanities and sciences. Coincidentally, yesterday I was asked to serve as the P.E. instructor (my favorite class). Between fitness tests, I showed students the article. They too were startled. I asked about SOTA teachers, and one name was consistently mentioned, music teacher and choir director John Gabriele.

For the last 33 years, Gabriele has arguably been the heart and soul of SOTA. Since joining the school upon its inception in 1981, he has inspired thousands of students and led innumerable choirs performing in countless venues throughout Monroe County and beyond.

Gabriele has written District texts for Music Theory and Piano. For the last three years, his choir has been on WXXI, last year winning $5000 in a statewide contest. He helped bring SOTA and other District musical groups to the Lilac Festival.  See Flower City student musicians set to bloom at Lilac Festival on Friday. He has been a mentor teacher since 2012.

Yesterday, students had nothing but praise for Gabriele.  Thiery Haynesworth described him as, “very wise and driven in his love for the piano.”  Katelyn Santiago said he was, “the best teacher I’ve ever had,” always willing to give his own time for students.  Kathryn Davis called him a “large disciplinarian in a really good way,” known to stay at choir practice until 9pm if necessary.

Yet, in all those years, Gabriele has never been classified as highly effective.  In fact, last year, under the new system, he was only barely rated effective.

I won’t recapitulate the various ways the state evaluates teachers.  Read the article for more in-depth details. But if this system never determines that educators like Gabriele are highly effective, something is wrong.