BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation say they are insulted by the Buffalo School District’s latest contract offer. They carried their message directly to the school board using picket signs before the board’s monthly meeting.
Teachers from across the district gathered to hold signs and walk in front of the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts on E. Ferry St. at 3:45 Wednesday afternoon. They called the most recent proposed deal “insulting and degrading.”
“When it becomes the politics of it and the kicking back and forth and all of that, it’s annoying,” James Healy, teacher at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, said.
Federation President Phillip Rumore addressed Interim Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams and the Board of Education directly during the public comment portion of the meeting. He says he submitted a new resolution to the board and wants to return to the negotiating table.
“They say it will cost tens of millions of dollars to put us where the other teachers in other school districts are. Well, what does that tell you? That’s how far behind we are from the other school districts. Shame on you,” Rumore said.
The Union has not successfully negotiated a new contract with the district since 2019. They claim teachers in Buffalo are making less money than surrounding districts. In their resolution, they add teachers are behind their colleagues in the “Big 6” school districts in the region.
“Nobody goes into teaching to get rich. You do it as a calling and it should be recognized,” Healy added.
Buffalo Public Schools says negotiating this deal is critical, but they claim the Federation canceled three negotiating sessions and demanded to return to mediation. The district is also handling another contract dispute with the custodial staff.
“I expect that we are going to have vigorous, hearty, and productive discussions about what it is going to take,” Nate Kuzma, general counsel for Buffalo Schools, said.
Education officials say this deal will be an investment, but the district has priorities and so do teachers. The delay is frustrating.
“We’re ready to come to the table with whomever is at the top. It would be nice to see if it can get done with this interim Superintendent. We’re just hoping for progress,” Ellen Malone, post-secondary assessment and advisement instructor at Buffalo Schools continued.
Negotiations are set to resume with a mediator on Thursday. Attorney Kuzma says he hopes to get this deal done in a month.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.