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Recommendations to improve future Buffalo teachers contract

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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A new report issued Thursday makes recommendations for a future Buffalo teachers contract.  City school teachers have been working without a new contract for more than a decade.

StudentsFirstNY, a statewide education advocacy organization; and TNTP, a national nonprofit committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality, presented the report at a news briefing at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

The report noted a number of outdated provisions and hiring rules. Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY said many of contract items 'don't put students first.

"We still have smoking rooms mandated in public school buildings. We also not this contract mandates pay phones in public school buildings," stated Sedlis.

The report also pointed to the controversial cosmetic surgery provision for city teachers.

"Makes Buffalo famous for the work reasons.  Your contract provides for cosmetic surgery for teachers," said Sedlis.

Dan Weisberg, Executive Vice President of TNTP said a new teachers contract fir Buffalo teachers should include longer school says  "Buffalo has a shorter school day then most larger urban districts across the country," noted Weisberg.  "Only six hours and 50-minutes."

The study recommends a higher starting pay for teachers of $45,000 and a change hiring based on seniority, not performance.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is endorsing the recommendation.

“A strong teachers’ contract is essential for turning around our failing schools and ensuring excellence in the classroom,” said Buffalo Niagara Partnership President & CEO, Dottie Gallagher-Cohen. “The governance, leadership and direction of the Buffalo Public Schools is of vital importance to the business community due to its impact on the Buffalo Niagara economy, workforce preparedness and climate for recruitment.”

The recommendations from the report are being embraced by a Buffalo parent. Buffalo District-Parent Coordinating Council First Vice President Bryon McIntyre appeared at Thursday's news briefing.

“Enacting a modern teachers’ contract that honors the important work of teachers and makes student achievement the top priority is essential to improving the quality of education in Buffalo, and these recommendations pave the way for a strong and fair contract,” said McIntyre. “Parents deserve a teachers’ contract that creates a win-win for teachers and for our children.”

"This is not about anti-union or pro-union, this is about a fair contract for teachers and students," noted Gallagher-Cohen.

TNTP carefully analyzed the current agreement between the Buffalo Board of Education and the Buffalo Teachers Federation—including the actual collective bargaining agreement and 29 supplementary memoranda—for opportunities for improvement, which resulted in a series of recommendations based upon five key areas that have been identified as driving progress in school systems across the country:

  1. Give Principals and Teachers Flexibility During the Hiring Process;
  2. Increase Starting Salaries and Reward Great Work in the Classroom with Higher Pay;
  3. Offer Teachers Meaningful Feedback on Performance in the Classroom;
  4. Create a Supportive Environment for Teaching and Learning; and
  5. Reduce Unnecessary Processes and Costs.