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Superintendent targeting January for substitute teacher contract agreement

Mike Desmond

Buffalo's substitute teachers cannot come to an agreement over a pay increase with the school district. Now the union president is starting to talk about - some day - not showing up for class.

The pay issue has two faces: a general hike and additional pay for additional hours in schools where the day has been lengthened in the quest for better student achievement.

There are around 1,000 subs, although the total is unclear because this year the union is not being allowed to see a list of new hires. Union President Stephen Hicks said that is a violation of their long-expired contract.

"You haven't allowed us to see the new people that have been hired by us, so we don't know who are members are. That's really a serious breach," Hicks said. "We won't cry about that. We will still be coming to work. We filed our complaints and we are going to carry this process out and I'm not going to encourage our teachers not to come to work, like saying don't go to work no more. Just don't go to work for one day and we know what would happen."

Hicks said members are concerned talks have not led to a contract agreement, but they continue to show up for class as bargaining drags on because of the students.

"It is an often challenging job and I'm going to tell you that the only reason I haven't encouraged our substitute teachers to not come to work one day and show you how this thing is," he said. "We care about these students, too. Those are our kids. I come up in this school system. I grew up in the City of Buffalo. We can't do that. We can't do that in good conscience. They say that we're under the Taylor Law. I don't care about no Taylor Law. We want to get paid."

Hicks said the subs know more about what is going on in the buildings because they are there every day.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash praised the desire of subs to show up every day and teach.

"Particularly struck by Mr. Hicks comment about we won't do a work stoppage because we see the children as ours. We care about the kids and we won't do that," Cash said. "I will say that I was serious about needing to present to the board the status of our substitutes."

Cash said he is trying to get his ducks in line with the board so he can re-start talks in January and potentially reach an agreement next month.

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.
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