In one corner for the Buffalo Teacher Federation presidency is Phil Rumore, the incumbent running for a 17th term to maintain the union’s current path.

In the other is Marc Bruno, a history teacher at Riverside High School and longtime member of the union’s governing Council of Delegates, eager to forge a new relationship with the school district and articulate teachers’ needs

About 3,500 active teachers have had ballots mailed to them, and they must be mailed back to the BTF by Saturday, when a computer company will tally the results.

“At the end of the day, who represents teachers is their decision,” said Sam Radford, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. “But in a lot of ways, whatever direction the teachers go is going to be the direction the district goes.”

Bruno, at 38, is just over half the age of Rumore, who is 70 and began serving as BTF president in 1981. Bruno said Rumore has become a lightning rod and outlived his effectiveness.

“He’s so polarizing now. Maybe that’s not all of his fault, but when he walks into a room, a lot of people don’t want to talk to him,” Bruno said. “Maybe we need a fresh start, a fresh face to try and change that and be able to work with this new board.”

Bruno said Rumore had failed in explaining to the public the multitude of problems confronting the school system.

“We look at schools when everyone went to school, when everyone spoke English, came to class on a regular basis, and there was parental involvement and discipline in the schools. That’s not the world we live in, in the City of Buffalo, and I want to help educate the public on the real challenges,” Bruno said.

“I feel I’m speaking for teachers. He’s been out of the classroom for 32 years.”

Bruno also blames Rumore for nasty campaign fliers that smeared several School Board candidates the BTF opposed in the recent election.

Rumore has denied that he or the BTF was involved, but Bruno doesn’t buy it.

“I guarantee those fliers that were passed around Buffalo – that was my union money spent on those. It was a miserable failure; it was disturbing, and I’m very angry about it,” he said.

Rumore, who began his career teaching special education for 13 years, said he loves challenges and is ready to roll up his sleeves again to meet them head on.

“My whole life has been spent fighting for teachers, and I’m not tired of doing that. I think I’m even more invigorated in doing that now,” he said.

“If the perception of me is negative because I do not only fight for teachers but for students, whether people believe it or not, so be it,” he said. “I make no apologies.”

Rumore said Bruno is a relative novice who has not shown much commitment to the BTF over the years, citing the few committees that his opponent ever volunteered for.

Conditions have improved to try to hammer out a new teachers contract with the district, Rumore said, and the union would be far better served with his experienced hand at the helm.