The Buffalo Teachers Federation on Friday made a tentative pact with the Buffalo School District to compensate teachers who were involuntarily transferred at three low-performing schools in the district. A major sticking point in reaching an agreement between the district and the BTF on a new teacher evaluation plan had been the transfer of teachers at Futures Academy, Drew Science Magnet and Bilingual Center 33.
BTF President Phil Rumore on Friday said the union agreed to accept a deal in which those teachers will each receive $3,500 from the district in compensation. The BTF had fought unsuccessfully to get a court order blocking the transfers until the case was resolved, even though an arbitrator agreed that the transfers violated the union’s contract with the district.
“The district agreed to withdraw the case and abide by the arbitration, which it should have done back in October,” Rumore said late Friday.
In addition, another 53 teachers across the district who sought transfers that weren’t approved will each receive $2,500 in compensation.
School district spokeswoman Elena B. Cala released a statement Friday evening saying the agreement brings closure to litigation by the teachers federation against the district.
She added that that part of the agreement now smooths the way for the district and the teachers union to resume negotiations on other aspects of a teacher evaluation plan that the district must submit to the state Education Department in order to avoid missing out on $33.4 million in state aid.
“Now that we have managed to remove what was perceived to be a barrier to the continuation of the Annual Professional Performance Review negotiation process, it is extremely important that the district and the BTF demonstrate a mutual commitment to reaching an expeditious agreement on an approvable plan in time for New York State Education Department approval,” Cala said.
The Education Department has set a Jan. 17 deadline for approval of the school district’s teacher evaluation plan. That is the same deadline that has been established for all public school districts in the state, more than 500 of which already have had their plans approved.
Previously, the BTF fought unsuccessfully to get a court order to block the transfers until the case was done.
School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, in an Oct. 12 letter to Rumore, offered to give $2,500 to each of the 53 transferred teachers, as well as the 53 top teachers on the voluntary transfer list who might have been denied positions in their preferred schools because of the involuntary transfers, if the teachers union dropped the lawsuit.
“The offer was ridiculous,” Rumore said Friday. “I got it on a Friday and I had to respond to it the following Monday.”
The district submitted a teacher evaluation plan in July, but the state Education Department rejected it. The state’s primary objection to the plan, according to both Brown and Rumore, involved awarding extra points to teachers with a relatively high percentage of students who are chronically absent, have disabilities or do not speak English as their native language.
Under the plan submitted by the district, some teachers never could be rated ineffective.
Agreement by the teachers union and school officials on a plan to evaluate teacher performance in the district will allow the district access to up to $33.4 million in state aid that was in jeopardy of being withheld if the district failed to meet the Jan. 17 deadline.
Under the state law, any district that misses the deadline will lose this year’s increase in state aid.