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City Honors teacher transfers in State Supreme Court Thursday

Mike Desmond

After an afternoon protest and an evening school board meeting, the fight over pulling teachers out of City Honors School is in State Supreme Court again Thursday morning.

The meeting was moved from the cramped board room to the Common Council Chamber, expecting the large crowd that turned out for the fight. Almost every speaker attacked the plan to take six teachers out of the school to pay for 16 teacher aides.

The meeting featured student musicians, claims of dozing aides, attacks on the school system, the Buffalo Teachers Federation and Principal William Kresse. This is a fight that has been brewing since a grievance in 2010 over City Honors teachers not being forced to do jobs like hall monitor.

Parent Susan Stephens said the teacher cuts will cause disruption across the school.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Students perform during Wednesday's Buffalo School Board meeting.

"This decision will disrupt the Pathways to Success for the eighth graders taking Regents math, the ninth graders taking Regents English, the sophomores and juniors taking IB English," Stephens said. "Teachers have spent all year committed to hard work of these advanced classes, just as the Education Bargain states commitment and hard work. This will disrupt the hard work of those in the Guidance Department, the Instructional Coaching Initiative."

The judge will be asked to delay his decision until the end of the school year to let the district and the union take another crack at resolving a dispute. That would let everyone finish the school year, with the teachers in their classrooms and music rooms.

On Wednesday, State Supreme Court Justice John O'Donnell issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the district from transferring the six teachers to vacancies elsewhere in the district. The district had already notified the teachers, with Feb. 27 as the date when the transfers would be final.

Student Zoe Crapsi said students are caught in the middle.

"Our English teacher is being transferred right now, in the middle of our IOPs, which are 15 percent of our IB English grades," Crapsi said. "We have no information on who is replacing him. We do not know what is going to happen. We do not know who is going to be grading our IOPs, which again, are 15 percent of our IB English grade. We cannot retake the IOP."

Board Member Larry Quinn said the current fight is a plot by the BTF.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"This is a prior claim that was brought before we had this new contract, before we paid bonuses, before we made raises, before we made a whole series of concessions," Quinn said. "It was timed and brought into the courts in the middle of the school year to create exactly the response we are getting, 'You're hurting kids.' They're wrapping themselves around you and saying, 'Do this for the kids.'"

Quinn said the board made an offer which he opposed to settle the situation and it was rejected without the teachers being polled. He wants the judge asked to delay a decision so there can be more talks to settle the fight and have it take effect after the end of the school year.

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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