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City teachers await contract talks

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WBFO News file photo
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The Buffalo Teachers Federation will hold more informational pickets later this week and rally on Wednesday outside City Hall prior to the school board meeting. Teachers have been working without a new contract for more than a decade.In this Focus on Education report WBFO's Eileen Buckley says the school district is waiting for fact-finding information before negotiations on a new deal begin.

"The things that stick in my mind, number one, ten years without a contract -- which in my estimation -- unprecedented," said Interim Schools Superintendent Don Ogilvie. 

The District held mediation about a year ago, but failed to produce a new deal with the union. Ogilvie is hoping to  receive a fact-finding report in the next two-to-three weeks to begin negotiations.

"And we will use that as an agenda to explore how quickly we can get to an agreement," said Ogilvie.

The union says issues surrounding a new contract is not just about teacher pay.  Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore has outlined class size, sufficient support for English Language Learners and Attendance teachers as other major topics.  Ogilvie tells WBFO News it will be complex...

"You're dealing with comparatives and your dealing with capacity," said Ogilvie.

But will union contract negotiations and on-going pickets be a distraction for teachers and principals? We put that question to Highgate Heights principal Galye Irving-White and Highgate teacher Gregelle Fulcher.

"I wouldn't say distractions, because our job comes with distractions. We have to be flexible as teachers anyway," said Fulcher.  "It is about the kids."

"You know I think my teachers are able to separate that. They are part of a union. They're going to do that part of it, but then they are going to leave it outside and come inside. It's not going to impact the students," said Irving-White.
 
Superintendent Ogilvie says the District's theme is 'Restart--gains through change'.  In referencing past difficulties with the union as the district prepares for future contract talks  -- he says it's time to 'take a deep breathe and move on'.