BUFFALO, N.Y. — Representatives from the Buffalo Teachers Federation and Buffalo Public Schools met with an arbitrator Thursday, the latest step in the months-long dispute over teaching positions at City Honors.
The BTF presented then rested its case first after calling two witnesses, including a City Honors teacher and BTF President Phil Rumore.
"I didn't see anything unexpected. I think the district knew what our position is and we knew what their position is," said Rumore. "I'm glad we're getting to the end of this. I don't think we should be here in the first place, but the quicker we get this over with, the quicker we get to some resolution."
"I'm pleased that we finally have the opportunity to sit down and talk about these things before a fair and neutral arbitrator," said Nate Kuzma, Buffalo Public School District legal counsel. "The board and the superintendent have the management right and discretion to make budgetary decisions as it relates to our school buildings."
The District will present its side of the case to the arbitrator on June 17.
The dispute between Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation centers around whether the district can cut 5 ½ teaching positions and hire aides to perform non-supervisory roles. As stated in a former agreement, teachers there don't have to do that.
Union leaders say the district is retaliating against the teachers, while the district says the cuts are needed to balance the building's budget, as the aides hired to perform those supervisory duties cost an additional $571,000. The teachers were supposed to be let go earlier this year before the union filed a temporary restraining order.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation has asked the Buffalo Public School District to clarify its proposal for a second time to end the dispute over City Honors. District leaders said Thursday they did respond in writing and is now waiting for the BTF to review it.
School leaders say despite the distraction, the labor issue is not theirs to get involved in.
"It's something that needs to be sorted out and it's certainly been noticeable for our students, and for our teachers, but it's not going to deter us from our mission," said Dr. William Kresse, City Honors principal. "So my job here is to make sure that, regardless of what's going on, on that front, that our students each and every day receive a quality education."
A judge is keeping a watchful eye on the arbitration, however has still yet to rule on whether to keep the temporary restraining order in place.