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While school budget passes, fight continues over superintendent

The Buffalo school board kept busy Wednesday night, fighting through rancor and angry disputes to pass a budget while continuing the battle over how to find a new superintendent.

One argument featured Board Members Larry Quinn and Sharon Belton Cottman going at it over the process to select a new schools superintendent, with Belton Cottman looking for one by January 1 of next year;  Quinn says there might be a new superintendent by July 1. It's part of an ongoing debate over the hiring  process ,and even over the qualifications for the job.

Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie announced an item the board could agree on, hiring lawyer Terry O'Neill as the labor negotiator.
"The intent in hiring Mr. O'Neill is to bring a person with specialized expertise in the issues that we face and a new set of eyes. We have been without a bargaining agreement for 11 years. During that time, eight superintendents have served."

Ogilvie says the new contract has to have major changes in work rules and costs and has to pay for itself. With the BTF counting ballots on Saturday in its presidential race, the board also wants immediate changes in the work day to allow for hiring 48 more gym teachers in the new budget which will require a longer day.

Quinn says BTF President Phil Rumore wants those gym teachers.

"Phil Rumore was here three meetings ago and folded his arms and stood up and said can't we just provide physical education to the kids. And, I took his request seriously. There will have to be and I'm sure it's not simple but what we don't want to do is cut into instructional time to provide phys ed."

While the union might not agree to a longer school day, making that change would require most school buses in the district to change schedules and potentially change work shifts of unionized cleaning workers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.