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Plan to move City Honors teachers still on hold, back in court next week

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A legal fight between the Buffalo Public School District and Buffalo Teachers Federation over a plan to transfer teachers from City Honors will return to court next week, when the district will file papers challenging a restraining order obtained by the BTF.

Both sides met with State Supreme Court Justice John O'Donnell behind closed doors Thursday morning.

"What we agreed to in chambers today is that we will submit an answer to their order to show cause by next Wednesday," said Nate Kuzma, general counsel for the school district. "They will then respond, the BTF, by Friday and then we will receive a decision from the judge on the request for an injunction, in relation to the moving of the 5.5 teachers from City Honors."

Under the district's plan, five teachers would be transferred from City Honors to other schools and one guidance counselor's hours would be reduced. School officials say the moves are a budgetary necessity to cover the cost of the court-ordered hiring of 16 teacher aides.  

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phillip Rumore disputes the need to move teachers to accommodate teacher aides.

"The district has a billion-dollar budget," he said outside the courtroom Thursday. "They've been funding these positions, the teacher aide positions, for many, many years. Certainly they could find a way to funds these teacher aide positions, which we think are too many, for the rest of the school year and not disrupt the students' lives."

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Nate Kuzma, General Counsel for Buffalo Public Schools, speaks following Thurday morning's closed-door meeting with State Supreme Court Justice John O'Donnell regarding a disputed plan to transfer five teachers from City Honors.

Both sides insist they've reached out to the other to reach a resolution. 

"I made several proposals to the BTF, to continue to try and dialogue about this, " said Kuzma about the Thursday morning meeting. "One of those is that we sit down as early as next week to try and negotiate a resolution to this. The district remains committed to resolving this particular issue."

Also disputed by both sides is the district's desire to require teachers at City Honors perform what their peers in other schools must do: work non-teaching assignments including monitoring of hallways, locker room entrances and study halls. The BTF is trying to uphold a previous agreement that gave City Honors teachers an exemption from those roles.

"I don't think any teacher should be sitting out in the hall," Rumore said. "I don't think any teacher should be doing what we call locker room duties, sitting in front of a locker room. I don't think the teachers should be doing non-teaching duties, period, anywhere in the district. I think they should be able to spend the time with the kids."

Rumore stated several times that this is a fight the union did not start.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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