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Here's what the Buffalo Board of Education did on Wednesday when it voted to go ahead with the involuntary transfers of 54 teachers: It did its job.
The School Board has many obligations, but first among them is to see that Buffalo's students receive - at a minimum - the sound, basic education the New York State Constitution guarantees them. Yes, it has other responsibilities, as well - to teachers, to principals, to taxpayers - but none is as fundamental as its critical mission to educate Buffalo's underserved children.
That's why it was important for the district to appeal an arbitrator's decision on teacher transfers. It was the right move, and it was a hopeful sign to see the board and superintendent work closely on this.
"We know 80 to 90 percent of the students in these schools have failed for years, and that's not an acceptable proposition to the board or myself," said Pamela C. Brown, the district's new superintendent. She is correct.
The problem revolves around a recent ruling by an arbitrator who found that while the district may be able to involuntarily transfer teachers, the process it followed violated the district's contract with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
On Wednesday, the district decided to appeal that ruling. In doing so, it pursued the only avenue that will allow it to serve the district's students while also remaining eligible for more than $5 million in federal school improvement funds.
The union is complaining about the contract violation and, according to BTF President Philip Rumore, that it will "cause great anger among the teachers of Buffalo." That could be true, although Rumore is famously well-practiced at the art of creative exaggeration.
True or not, the day when the adults framed and gamed the system to advance their selfish interests has to be past. As Brown noted, the students of Buffalo have suffered too long under current arrangements. It's time for the adults - the School Board, the administrators, the principals, the teachers, the parents and the union - to put the students first.
One way or another, that appears to require the transfers of these teachers. In order to claim that $5 million-plus in federal funds, the school district has to adopt one of four models for eligible schools.
As a practical matter, only two are available: the turnaround model, which requires the teacher transfers; or hiring an outside group to run each of the three schools in question - Drew Science Magnet 59, Futures Academy and Bilingual Center 33. But that option couldn't be implemented for months, costing students yet another year of substandard education.
What is more, the BTF's foot-dragging on implementing a teacher evaluation system prompted one of those organizations - the Center for Social Organization at Johns Hopkins University - to cancel its plans to help turn around two of Buffalo's most troubled schools - Lafayette and East high schools. If the BTF cannot be a hindrance in one way, it finds another.
Enough. We understand that the union's interest is in its members, not the students, but we believe its members want to do the job for which they enlisted. The union's obligation, and the district's, is to find a way to implement a plan in these schools now, not next month and not next year. The kids have suffered enough because of the adults. It's time for the adults to grow up.