By Philip Rumore
The Buffalo News’ placing blame on Buffalo teachers for holding up negotiations to secure funding increases is analogous to blaming the district for refusing to agree to the demands of a teacher who has not only refused to honor his contract but also demanded that he be allowed to continue violating that contract and then incredibly asking the district to agree to provide that teacher with additional benefits. I am sure the superintendent and School Board would certainly agree to that!
The superintendent’s “offer” not only required that the contract continue to be violated but also that we agree to two unacceptable teacher evaluation documents. One contains no adjustment for student absenteeism, students speaking little or no English or students with disabilities. The other had no adjustment for student absenteeism.
This “offer” was received on a Friday afternoon with a response due that Monday by 10 a.m.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation advised the superintendent and the board more than a year ago that in addition to the forced movement of 50 percent of the teachers from the three schools being an educational disaster, it was a violation of the board’s contract with us.
We also suggested that the Educational Partnership Organization option be utilized, thereby incorporating into the three schools an outside organization with new ideas and solutions.
Instead, the superintendent and board chose the educationally unsound option that violated the contract.
Weeks before the start of school, we suggested arbitration to determine if the contract was being violated. The superintendent and board refused.
The BTF then went to court seeking an injunction and an expedited arbitration on the issue. The superintendent refused arbitration until finally relenting upon being directed to appear in court.
Before the beginning of the school year, on a schedule agreed to by the superintendent and board, the arbitrator ruled that the district had violated the contract and ordered the district to rescind the transfers.
The superintendent and board then went to court to overturn the arbitration. The court refused.
The superintendent and board have now appealed the court ruling knowing full well that it is almost impossible to overturn an arbitration decision since both sides agreed to abide by it. Yet, we are now to trust that the superintendent and board will abide by an evaluation/grant proposal they agree to!
Since there is no trust, all we have asked is that the superintendent and board abide by the order of the arbitrator and the court to honor the contract we both agreed to and we will again work cooperatively with them to ensure that no funding is lost.
Is that too much to expect? I would hope not.
Philip Rumore is president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.