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Buffalo schools appeal arbitrator's decision

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Mike Desmond/WBFO

Buffalo schools are committing to a long court fight with the Buffalo Teachers Federation over involuntary transfers of 54 teachers out of three of the city's academically worst schools.

After a closed-door session with lawyers, the board says it will appeal an arbitrator's ruling the district violated the union contract in the way it chose teachers to be transferred out of Schools 33, 37 and 59.

The arbitrator ordered them sent back to the schools.

The decision goes to State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Whalen Thursday morning. He could reject the decision or he could accept it.

If he accepts it, Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown says it will be appealed, if necessary all the way to the Court of Appeals.

Brown says the district is caught in a legal bind to improve education.
"We feel is in the best interest of the students. We have to comply with federal and state regulations and so we are in an interesting position here," Brown said.

"We understand what the arbitrator's ruling was and we respect that. But, at the same time we have an obligation to comply with federal and state regulations and to do what we think is best for the students."

Besides that, not following through with the "turnaround" plans for the three schools would cost the district millions of dollars it needs to improve those schools.

Right after the announcement of an appeal, BTF President Phil Rumore spoke to the board.

"I ask you which is more disruptive: moving them (teachers) back to the schools and being with the children that they know and the programs they know, or plucking them and moving them to a school where they don't know the students, they don't know the programs and most of them are teaching in grades that they have never taught in before?"

Schools officials aren't clear on where the transferred teachers went, potentially to another troubled school.

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.