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Cash says City Honors teachers vs. aides case could be 'landmark'

Mike Desmond
The Buffalo School Board reviews City Honors' unique dilemma.

As the fight over transferring teachers out of City Honors slow-walks through the court system, the Buffalo School Board on Wednesday was briefed on why 5.5 teachers being transferred out requires 16 teacher aides to replace them.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
City Honors Principal William Kresse

State Supreme Court Justice John O'Donnell has agreed to step away from the case. Another judge, who will have to be brought up to speed, will be appointed.

Basically, the issue is that City Honors teachers do not have as many non-teaching duties as other city school teachers. Instead, aides are completing those duties.

City Honors Principal William Kresse says much of the problem lies in a vast building and addition with lots of quirks.

"Smart solutions to supervising students in an efficient way," Kresse said. "And then, when we added the new annex, it created all sorts of interesting angles where the two buildings come together and it creates a lot of what we call un-owned spaces between that original building and the new building. These are spaces that are difficult to monitor. There's not a lot of eyes on them naturally."

Kresse said that varies from a front entrance that has to be monitored because the office is down the hall and around the corner, a cafeteria that requires intensive monitoring because there are so many sections to it and nearly 100 surveillance cameras that are not usually monitored. The City Honors principal said the students are good kids, but they are teenagers.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said this dispute needs to be resolved.

"This is a really sort of a landmark case, colleagues. If we don't get the equity piece of this staying clear, staying in the forefront, you're going to go down a really, really slippery slope," Cash said. "You're going to open up the gate for all across the rest of this district and then, you talk about what you want to pay for inequity for the teachers, you're not going to be able to afford it. You can't afford this."

That is a big issue right now because the school system is preparing its budget, with the potential of additional state aid not meeting the additional costs of the new year. Cash said City Honors actually has 31 aides because the others work in special education classes in the building.

Board Member Paulette Woods said the teachers are a major part of the problem and teachers have to resolve it.

"We are getting paid more money. We have a contract and I respect it and the cooperation, hopefully, will be built by parents and teachers at my school," Woods says. "My students are crying and I hope teachers will come together to help us to hear those students cry."

Part of the meeting turned into an old standard of school board meetings - attacks on Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore. Woods said this needs to be resolved because the budget is being put together, things are getting tighter, and if the City Honors teachers win, other schools will ask to be relieved of out-of-classroom duties.

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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